I stumble upon my own feet on the cracked cobblestone streets of Istanbul once more. It would seem that my clumsiness follows me even across international borders. I pick myself up off the ground and dust myself off. My knee is bleeding. My host grandmother will not be pleased. I can envision it now: her clicking her tongue in disapproval and then the deep wrinkles around her mouth working together to form a smile as I attempt to apologize in my broken Turkish.
These past five weeks have been life-changing as clichÃ© as this may sound. I came to this strange country on a government scholarship to learn Turkish, but this itself has proved a challenge greater than any other that I have encountered.
Everyday proves to be more difficult than the last. Simply telling my host parents that dinner was delicious or trying to get directions on how to get to school tends to be one prolonged and complicated game of charades. Sometimes I wish that I can just scream in English and have someone understand me, but that would be a miracle in a sea of 13 million people. Frustrating though it may be, I relish in the joy of deciphering an advertisement on the street or being able to get the gist of a conversation between two Turks.
Since my arrival here, I have been seeing the world with new eyes. No longer am I seeing through blurred vision like seeing through milk in water, but I see with new light, as if I were able to see beyond what is really there. I see compassion. I see happiness, glory, opportunity. Istanbul is everything yet nothing. It’s the call to prayer at 10:30 PM. It’s the smell of fresh simit bread and freshly brewed tea in the morning. It’s crossing the highway on foot during rush hour. It’s humidity, heat, and breeze. It’s my host grandmother’s weathered hands and my favorite Turkish soap opera. It’s gypsy children begging on the streets and graffiti on ancient walls. It’s Istanbul, and it’s my home.
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