I hope you are all having a wonderful summer; I sure am experiencing the summer of my dreams. Every day, I discover something new. Every day, I become more and more grateful for the opportunity that I have received. To start off, a belated Eid Mubarak to my friends and family who were celebrating this past weekend.
This was the first time in my life that I spent Eid away from my family and friends in Canada. Seeing how people in a different part of the world celebrate Eid was a unique experience. There are both similarities and differences in the way both Canadians and Turks celebrate Eid. Here in Turkey, Eid-Ul-Fitr is called Ramadan Bayram or Seker Bayram. Bayram was a three-day holiday where the flow of life in Istanbul changed drastically. While many historical museums, monuments and archaeological sites were closed for the first day of Bayram, the streets were filled with both local and tourist families enjoying large feasts and street music. But as families were reuniting and travelling for the weekend, those of who aren’t from the city faced significantly more traffic and crowded areas than normal.
For Eid, my friends and I went to a peaceful park by the water. We enjoyed each other’s company throughout the day. I was mostly looking forward to being able to have more than one Turkish meal throughout the day. For dinner, we had a classic Turkish dish called Iskender. It is a combination of beef, and bread with a special sauce drizzled over it, eaten with plain yogurt. And for dessert, we had Turkish dondurma, icecream. Restaurants were filled with families all throughout the night. I really enjoyed spending the evening with my friends, it wouldn’t have been the same without their company. But I must add, there is something different about spending Eid at home with your family and friends, taking part in your yearly Eid traditions like gift exchanges, putting on Henna and enjoying multiple meals throughout the day. While I missed being at home, I’m grateful to have experienced Eid in a new place, with amazing new people.
Aside from that, the past week has been really great. I’m slowly starting to fall in love with this city and its culture more and more. On Wednesday, I went out with my Turkish interpreter, who I can call my friend, Elif. We visited a neighbourhood called Yusuf Pasa to kickstart some interviews for the story I will be working on here in Istanbul. The story is about a Syrian man who escaped the war in Syria and successfully opened a restaurant called Tarbus. Wednesday was the second-last day of Ramadan, and the restaurant was jam-packed with people enjoying their final Ramadan iftars with their friends and family. We were there to conduct some interviews and take videos of some the food, the atmosphere and the workers. I can say without a doubt, when you have a camera in your hand, you will get stared at from every corner of the street. But hey, we’re journalists, we should be used to that.
Anyways, when we were done shooting videos, we were very hungry so Elif suggested eating dinner at the Syrian restaurant. We ordered a beef and rice dish, some chicken strips and fries and the best hummus I have ever had. It was a unique experience for both of us, as both of us were trying a new dish for the very first time. We ate it very quickly considering how hungry we were, but every bite was tasty.
What I loved most about this experience was getting to learn about and enjoy the people I was surrounded by. The workers and families eating at the restaurant greeted us with a smile, gave us a chance to use our camera in the crowded space, and thought of us at the time of breaking fast as well. I was also able to spend a day with a local Turkish citizen, Elif and I enjoyed every moment with She shared with me her experiences in Turkey and what she loves and detests about the city of Istanbul. I told her about my life in Canada, what we do for fun and so on. We taught each other phrases in our languages and were able to learn about each other’s values and perspectives. Walking down the streets in Yusufpasa, we noticed the same strange occurrences and laughed about the same silly things. It’s amazing how you and someone from the other side of the world can have so much in common. That’s really the beauty of it, we tend to care about the same issues, we enjoy similar types of foods, and we love to learn from one another.
I can go on about my days here, but I will stop there for now, as I have to get back to writing my story. Let’s just say, each day, I’m starting to love this city more and more. The different sites, the culture and the people and our daily interactions spark all kinds of emotions within me. When you are travelling through a new city, there is something great to take away from every experience you have.