Abandon all expat fantasies, all ye who enter here

My current view of Istanbul

If you’ve been following my tweets or Facebook updates, you might know that since arriving in Istanbul, I’ve been living in an airport hotel. I wouldn’t say life here is hell (the hotel is nice and new, I don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning), it’s more like purgatory. The current situation is that H is working at a client site near the airport and after spending his first week in the business district of Levent over in the new city and taking $50 cabs to and from work, he was moved out here until more suitable accommodations can be found. There was a possibility of moving to an apartment in swish Nisantasi (sort of the Soho of Istanbul, full of designer shops and upmarket restaurants), but it would mean a killer commute for H who is clocking 12 hour days for the foreseeable future and more outrageous cab fares. Finding an apartment in a more convenient neighborhood could take awhile, as Big Company has to handle dealing with multiple vendors to set us up somewhere; I can’t just go on Craig’s List and find something. We did discover a few viable neighborhoods this weekend in seaside Yesilkoy and Florya, but we are stuck at an airport hotel for what could be days or weeks, in the middle of nowhere Istanbul, relegated to the inconvenient hotel shuttle bus and taxis. Life right now is sort of like Lost in Translation meets Up in the Air, in a foreign language without subtitles.

Since I’ve visited Istanbul before in December 2008, I’ve seen the major tourist attractions already, and with my mother visiting next week and more friends coming at the end of May, I’m holding off on seeing them again or checking out any I missed on my first visit. Given that I’m so unsettled (I don’t even want to unpack until I know where I’ll be for at least a week) and without a permanent address, I can’t really do any of the neighborhood/moving in type of things like find my local grocery store, dry cleaner, cafe, etc (not that those things exist out here). Nor do I want to buy anything that I have to repack and remove. Basically, this leaves me with wandering around the city (once I can get into it), riding the transit system all over the place, and hanging out at the hotel. The hardest part of expatriation is realizing you can’t recreate your former life. Last Monday, I had lunch at Peter Luger’s, hung out with some of my favorite NYC writers, went to a few fun bars, and got all around New York easily and independently. Today I ate some questionable “veal” bacon at the breakfast buffet, wandered around an industrial neighborhood by the hotel in search of civilization (epic fail, just office parks and Turkish truckers gawking at me), watched Glee on a crappy internet connection that costs 8 euro a day, and pondered which alternate airport-area hotels would be slightly less grim. But it’s not all bad, this weekend I walked along the Bosphorus beaches, ate Turkish ice cream with a knife and fork, and found a park with lambs frolicking. In a few weeks, I’ll look back at this time and laugh, but right now I just want to cry into my çay.

More on my first few days to come (I have gotten out, I swear!), along with some pix.

8 responses to “Abandon all expat fantasies, all ye who enter here

  1. Considering I’m currently in a Red Bank, NJ Courtyard Marriot, accompanying W on a biz trip of her own, questionable veal bacon in Istanbul doesn’t sound all that bad. Keep up the good work!

  2. Mommy dearest

    This is just wonderful! My favorite part was “Lost in Translation” meets “Up in the Air.” Good thing we have in spades the ability to Make the Best of Things. BE SURE to show me the frolicking lambs, should they still be at it when I’m there in about 10 days! Love you!

  3. Hi Meg, Sorry you are stuck in the hotel but before you know it you will have a fab pad and it will all be a distant memory! We miss you but I love reading about your time there so far. Looking forward to the next one….


  4. OMG, I have been uber curious about Turkish ice cream forever. I might make you ship some of the ingredients to me.

  5. hahaha your mom sounds like my mom, who comments occasionally yet encouragingly on my blog as “Mumsy”

    husband and I are currently considering taking a job in Brussels so I appreciated hearing the “other” side of this type of move. thanks for being honest with the world!

  6. Ugh – living in an airport hotel really is purgatory. I guess it could be worse – you could be paying for it!

    Hope you’re staying sane and eeking out a little enjoyment. Just think of all of us suckers stuck in our cubicles all day and sleep in 🙂

  7. Nice blog, found it through Sublime Portal:) Osmanbey,Yesilkoy, Florya – these sound nothing like expat places to live, but you guys seem to be very down-to-earth so I’m sure you’d enjoy living there. Plus they’re close to work, what else is there to wish for! I’ve lived here 4 years and I’m bound for Brooklyn in a few months. I guess both Istanbul and New York need some sort of balance: they release one prisoner and take another as a substitute:)

  8. Pingback: Hello to All of This: NY to NC | The Notorious M.E.G. blogs

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