August 23, 2009

Istanbul = Some love it hot. (Me).

When I first moved to New York in my young 20s, I felt like I went to a place I immediately recognized, but also a place that recognized me. Oddly, I felt the same way in Istanbul. This may be a strange thing to say because, after all, there is so much underlying religious and cultural dissonance between a girl like me and a place like Istanbul. I guess it comes down to personality. I am convinced that people and places fit because of their personalities. I have so many girlfriends in France who really really fit. I love France dearly now, but I still don't fit. Clashing personalities. So, despite our religious, cultural and language asymmetries, Istanbul and I: we fit. Reasons to follow (at least a few anyway).

1. Aesthetics: Chris and I had a good conversation about how personalities also drive aesthetic taste. Extroversion in my case may explain my relishing of bright colors and bold/intricate patterns. Introversion in his case may explain his fancying more subtle and minimalist design. One idea. Well, Istanbul was full of color, of pattern of boldness. Carpets, lanterns, domes, tiling, clothing, even the sky against the red roofs. A pastiche of mirth.

2. People: Warm. Affectionate. Unblushing. Inquiring. Outward. Ardent. Chatty. Jocular. Chris and I were invited at least 5 times to dine with people or to join them for tea. Countless times we were stopped in the street or pulled over by someone who wanted to sell us a rug, but really just wanted to talk to us. Our waiters made us laugh every night and by the end of the trip, they were sitting at the table joining in on our conversation. I am now friends with them on facebook. In some other countries, this just would not happen. I love this kind of open affection between human beings. I approach the whole world this way and sometimes get clipped. Sometimes people hate this about me. But here, I was right at home.

3. Weather: HOT. Love it. Skies: cerulean. Enshroud me.

4. Community: the sense of this was palpable when on our first morning at 5 am we were awoken by a haunting and beautiful voice - the first of many prayer calls we would hear while in Istanbul. When we talked to local people about the area our hotel was in, they knew the man who did the prayer calls there and spoke of his beautiful voice. When the prayer call starts, it is a constellation of voices coming from all sides, from all over the city and it reaches all ears. No one is disconnected. We were also there for the very beginning of Ramadan. Huge tents were being assembled in the city center near mosques for the great gatherings of people for meals after sun goes down. For a month people will gather together and eat. Over the enormous Blue Mosque, hanging in between two minarets, were words written in what looked like Christmas lights, reminding everyone in Turkish to reflect on the real meaning of the sacred month. We asked one of our waiters about it and even though he was clearly not devout in his practice, he spoke with reverence about the month in front of him and his people.

5. Chris: I must say that my loving Istanbul also had a lot to do with who I was there with. When I am with Chris, I am at essence comfortable. Chris is my friend from many moons past. I guess it was first at college, but then more fully in New York. Chris encourages and embraces my impetuosity. When I decided to move to Paris rather abruptly, Chris said to me, "Do it Emilie, for all of us who never would." Traveling with Chris was one endless, engrossing conversation. He asks rattling questions like, "Do you think you are exceptional and that you will do exceptional things with your life?" and then we would talk it over and dig into it and come up with ideas about American exceptionalism and his dad's dentistry practice and Monsieur Obama. Chris also makes me laugh. Hard. I spent most of this trip with a thick smile and laughter coming up like vomit - I couldn't help it.

Chris is also a photographer. He is first assistant to a rather prominent NY photographer. This is splendid on many levels. He sees and frames things beautifully, in and out of lenses. He notices light in strange and specific ways. Also, I had a bit of bad luck and Chris the photographer was my lucky charm. See, my camera relinquished life about halfway through Istanbul. I really like taking photos, especially in places I really like. I was calmed by the Canon 5D Mark II with its 28-105mm L IS lens decorating Chris' neck and the skills behind it. Many of these photos from Istanbul are consequently his.

This was the terrace at our hotel where we ate breakfast and often dinner as well. Killer.

Chris' boots were my favorite fashion piece throughout the trip. He wears them splendidly. The photo below was inspired by photographer Chris' directing skills, which included "bend over and flip your hair wildly into the wind". Desired effect achieved.


Jill said...

I've been anxiously awaiting this post and it did not disappoint!!!! I've read it three times already and I can't stop staring at the pictures.

What an amazing place! I can see from the visual feast you provided that this place does, most certainly, suit you. I love how friendly the people are. I would like that too.

And what a great traveling companion. I only met Chris once when you guys were in school, but now I wish I had gotten to know him better. He's very talented!

As far as you being exceptional and doing exceptional things... I think you are and already do. I'm so glad I know you. I love you and I love you blog!

Shelli said...

Hey, Emilie, I'm loving this trip of yours. I've only spent one day in Istanbul, many years ago, and very much want to go back. And the hotel rooftop looks great! What hotel was it?


Emilie said...

hotel nomade - really a wonderful place with great people working there...

Emilie said...

oh yes - I've had a few inquiries by email about xavier's status...he is working away. he is a busy french working bee. bravo xavier.

i suppose it might appear a bit strange to be traveling with some random dude, but chris is not random in the least and it is like traveling with a really good girlfriend. it is also wonderful to be with someone like xavier who is secure and happy with himself and his life so much that i am able to live all sorts of things with and without him.

Michelle said...

Mme Joly, I am beyond jealous. Fabulous, as office bound in England but the shots and narrative offer a charming view of this great city, you looked like you had so much fun. I am going to drink 10 litres of sulphur water to console myself....:) Can't wait to see where you will end up next!!:)

Julie said...


Two things:

1) Joyce saw the pictures of you and pronounced with a lot of excitement, "Emilie!" with no prompting on mom or I's part.

2) Loved the pictures. There are lots of Turkish students in my department and they are wonderful. One had a baby about 6 months after Joyce was born and it's always fun to talk to her about cultural ideas about raising babies. (What baby's first food should be etc.)

Xavier said...

I wish I were a NY photographer assistant sometimes ;-)

Husband approved.

Maria Petrova said...

oh how i love these photos........ esp the portrait of you with crossed arms.... !!!!

Emilie said...

michelle darling...slow on the sulphur water, i think chris has had some undesirable side effects from his 5 liters.

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