light gazing, ışığa bakmak

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


"There wasn't a hill, or a mountain, or even a slope in all of Copenhagen. It was a  narrow-hipped city, no breasts, no crown - a city level and straight, stripped naked, no mysteries to hide now or ever. Clean, organized, calm, and rich - it terrified me, me who'd just arrived from a city of simmering heat and the smell of figs, from late summer in Istanbul to early autumn in Copenhagen. Smells, colors, and sounds had disappeared: citrus sunsets, hawkers pushing wooden carts piled high with bunches of grapes and pomegranates, stray cats licking paws and haunches, lavender cologne, the pit-a-pat of Grandma's slippers, that strange song rising from the mosque in the seaside (I later learned that it was called the azan, the Arabic call to prayer), high windows framing ferryboats gliding along what I saw as an endless river, the Bosphorus, dust and laughter under the sycamore trees on those rare occasions Mother let me skid rope with the local kids... That I believed all of Istanbul lived as we did in Bebek, that all Istanbullu were wealthy. educated, and European, was not simply the product of a childish mind. Everyone cultivated this illusion, my entire family, my relatives, and my neighbours. But the dream was gone; it evaporated in Copenhagen, where they began treating us like Africans, Arabs, or Asians just as soon as they learned we were Turkish. They were astonished that my mother played Mozart, that my father had read Andre Gide in highschool, that in Istanbul we swam in the sea and walked on the beach in our swimsuits. And we were astonished in our turn, my mother, Nanny Kete, and me... Who were we after all? Why were we being treated like this?

I started primary school in Copenhagen, at an American school. For four years I spoke English at school, Danish on the street, Turkish at home and Kurdish with Nanny Kete, but the latter only when my mother, who worried that I would spoil my Turkish, wasn't around.
Ayahn had been as enticing as Istanbul, as full of promise."
Buket Uzuner, em I Am Istanbul.

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