Sips and Gulps

The last few weeks in Istanbul has been sunny and the days have been long, making it an ideal time to enjoy the city with long strolls through its backstreets and along the water, sketching and catching some sun on a han rooftop, and stopping for a daily çay or two to cap the evening. Since knowing that this year in Istanbul would be my last for the time being (I'll be back in the US next year, finishing my MS), I've been trying to make time to savor my favorite parts of the city while I'm here, at times taking big gulps of experiences that I want to hold close, and at others sitting back to take it in sip by sip.

Istanbul is the kind of place that embraces you when you open yourself up to it and withhold judgment. Maybe it's like that with any place-that once you stop wishing it were more or less than what it is, you can start to see the interesting sides and the beauty that lies in its idiosyncrasies.

A week ago, I found myself once again on the roof of Büyük Valide Han, using one of its small domes as a backrest while sketching the view- one of the most stunning in the city. Soon after I sat down, the call to prayer started first from one mosque and then from the dozens of surrounding mosques in the area and I was in the eye of a whirlwind of sound. The effect was as otherworldly as a siren's call.

I sat back, looking at the domes and buildings and wondered if it would be my last time doing so before I leave this summer. There have been a lot of these types of thoughts in the last couple of weeks- is this my last time on the Asian side? Last bal kaymak? Last Bomonti flea market gözleme? Along with saying goodbye to places and experiences I've loved here, comes the more difficult moment of saying goodbye to friendships, or at least putting them on pause for a while. Knowing my departure is imminent has pushed me to savor each moment and be more purposeful with my time. The experience has been akin to walking through each room of a long-inhabited house and trying to absorb and memorize each room before turning out the lights and wishing it a final goodnight.

One big goodbye came last weekend with the abrupt ending of my beloved jewelry class. It was meant to go for a few more weeks, but at the end of class, my teacher announced it was the end, which caught me completely off-guard. I started studying with my teacher during my first fall in Istanbul five years ago, when I'd first arrived and was very much out of sorts. The consistency and community of the jewelry class was something I came to rely on as a source for joy and creative outlet in my time here. I will miss it dearly. My teacher was nice enough to let me come to another group's session so that I could finish the pieces I was working on. I have been on overdrive these last few weeks, trying to finish as many things as possible, while I still have the tools and most importantly, the guidance and expertise available.

Still, I've been trying not to feel too stressed about departure, knowing that it is impossible to do everything and experience everything I would like to before I go. I've been walking down the hill to the Karaköy tea houses after school to sketch. There, I linger and look at the amazing view that I will miss very, very much, and take it in sip by sip.

Arap Camii

Arap Camii

Back on the rooftop of the han

Quick sketch at the Karakoy cay bahcesi

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