Turning 30 in Istanbul

I wasn't sure what to expect when I hit the third decade of my life. Maybe some kind of celebration, although over the years birthdays have generally passed me by without a lot of fuss. Turning 30 in another country seemed momentous. I would come one step closer to mature adulthood, while living out the dream of being abroad I'd been hatching for a long time. Jeremy told me he'd planned a surprise. "It won't take long," he said, "We can go and get dinner afterwards." For weeks I racked my brain, thinking of what this spark of a surprise could be. A raki tasting? A turkish delight degustation? Nothing I could think of actually seemed to fit in the confines of "short." I continued to wonder on the endless bus ride to Taksim, where Jeremy and I had agreed to meet.  Never in my life did I expect this:

My brother was in Istanbul! Jeremy had flown him out!! I was truly surprised and couldn't have been more excited. For the next five days, we toured around Istanbul in spite of the rain. We danced to a cover band's 90s tunes with colleagues in Taksim and had beers on a crowded rooftop bar. We tasted delicious Armenian dishes at Jash and had one of the most delicious sweet spreads at breakfast I've ever had (if only I could remember the name of it) at a brunch spot in Cihangir.

On Saturday, we all went to an ebru class with a handful of my colleagues at Les Arts Turcs. The workshop was wonderful- so relaxing and soothing on an overcast afternoon. As always, the artists were inexhaustibly gracious and warm. Our tea cups were never empty and there was an abundance of delicious cookies and good conversation. Although it was his first time doing it, Laurent made some beautiful prints. Even the artists were impressed and insisted he was a natural!

An ebru star is born.

I taught him everything he knows ;)

 Jeremy wasn't so bad himself!

Aquatic Jackson Pollock

Time flew and we ended up staying way over the time we were meant to. While we waited for our prints to dry, we hopped over to the art center, where I've been taking my jewelry class, to have a coffee and chat. It started to rain and they sat us in a cozy room dimly lit room with an egg shaped brick ceiling. We were giddy from the day and giggly, telling stories, and following my friend Kate's instructions for telling fortunes from our coffee grounds. Flip the cup onto the saucer, let it cool while the sludgy bottom slips away, turn it back over to decipher the hidden fincan futures. Our fortunes were mostly murky and absurd involving gnomes in flippers, ant farms, and ogre-eating babies. We laughed until it got dark and it was time to pick up our prints.

On Monday, I played hooky to hang out with Laurent. We took a walk on the Asian side in Üsküdar- a neighborhood with as many mosques as there are seeds in a pomegranate. We had our Lonely Planet guide, which had outlined a 2.5 hour walking tour of the neighborhood's mosques, but somehow Laurent and I got terribly lost (we blame the poorly labeled map in the book) and 2.5 hours turned into 5... and we only got to the 3rd stop on the tour (there were 7 in all)! It is true, however, that sometimes getting lost is a blessing in disguise and I have to say that I enjoyed every minute. Due to the prolificity of mosques in the area, we did come upon quite a few by accident. We were constantly hopeful that we'd found our path as we followed the minarets between rooftops winding through and around the same deceptively twisting streets, like a religious treasure trail.

We got to the third mosque on the tour- a beautiful Baroque building, right around 4 o'clock: minutes before prayer time. We were welcomed in and quickly ushered to two stools in the back. Our host told us to wait until after the prayer to take a look around at the architecture. And so, again by a happy accident, Laurent and I attended our first Muslim prayer service. It was beautiful to hear the melodic prayers in such an intimate and calm place, where the Arabic words and Islamic designs decorated the walls and windows, like a dance.

After retracing our steps multiple times and mysteriously ending up at the first mosque we'd stopped in, which just happened to be by the ferry terminal, we decided that the universe might just be giving us a hint. So we jumped back on a ferry to Europe, leaving the sites we'd been unable to find for another future day of exploration, content with the adventure.

Having Laurent come to visit was truly a blessing and made 30 a birthday I'm not likely to forget anytime soon. Thank you, Jeremy :)

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