Lisa from Kadıköy
- Tell us about yourself
My name is Lisa Morrow and I was born in Sydney, Australia. I am a sometime English teacher and writer. I am currently finishing a new book "Turkey: Place of My Heart" and have recently had a book of stories called "Inside Out In Istanbu"l published in Australia. You can read one of the stories from the collection at http://journals.worldnomads.com/goreme1990/story/59721/Turkey/Babil-Sokak and you can buy a copy from me directly or go to http://www.bookshop.unimelb.edu.au/cbc/?IS.9781921775604 and order online. I love walking through Istanbul’s backstreets in autumn, Oriental dance classes and improving my Turkish by asking lots of questions about everything to do with the culture.
- What made you come to Turkey?
I first came to Turkey by chance, in 1990. I was living and working in London when I met up with a girl from Melbourne, and we did some travelling together. When she said she was going to Greece I followed, and then did the same when she came to Turkey. I arrived during the early days of the Gulf War and when she left with all the other tourists, I stayed. That first three month stay in Göreme was the start of a long term love of the country culminating in my deciding to live here permanently.
I live here with my husband Kim Hewett, but everyone else is in Australia.
- Can you compare your first days here with today?
When I first came to Turkey in 1990 I mainly stayed in Göreme, a village of only 2000 people. I was meant to be helping out in a pension but there were no tourists so I spent my days knitting, horseriding and drinking tea. The pace of life was very slow and there was no internet to keep in touch with the rest of the world. Now I live in Istanbul, a city of some 20 million people. More people speak English, bureaucracy is better organized, the internet makes everything available, and there are a lot more foreigners here. However, Turkish peoples’ desire to help and strong sense of community, have remained constant. I have always been open to anything Turkey and its people have to offer, so I have never felt culture shock, or homesick for familiar things while I’ve been here. In many ways I feel more at home here than in Australia, and it is only when I go back there that I feel out of place.
- Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
Life in Turkey has greatly influenced and changed my life. Life here is chaotic and forward planning is not a matter of course, so while I am a fairly organized person and I like structure, I have learnt to go with the flow more. A lot of things here (bureaucracy, cultural difference etc) are really difficult, so choosing to live here has made me think about what I want out of life, which I don’t think would have happened as readily had I stayed in Sydney.
- Turkish language?
The language is very difficult but I work on it every day. No matter how many mistakes I make, I am always rewarded by the responses of the Turkish people I meet who are so touched that I made the effort. It is really worth the trouble to be able to communicate without the need for help or translation.
- Let's talk about the region you are living in?
I am living on the Asian side of Istanbul. I love the street life here, the street traders, gypsies and repair men, and the way you can just blend in and observe all the goings on.
- Have you traveled in Turkey? Tell us your discoveries
I have travelled extensively throughout Turkey. Probably my favourite part of the country is the east. Due to many years of unrest not many tourists go there, but when you do, people are incredibly helpful and friendly and many of the landscapes are surreal. I am very sad about the earthquake in Van, where I once had a lovely snack in a pastenesi lined with fishtanks full of exotic fish. Travelling east of Cappadocia is difficult unless you speak Turkish, the roads are often terrible, but it is well worth the effort.
- What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?
I love their enthusiasm for living. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, Turkish people are quick to shake off the gloom and dance like there’s no tomorrow. They are wonderfully spontaneous and you feel anything is possible here.
- What was the annoying one?
That same wonderful spontaneity and belief in fate means most people never plans things in advance, so you sometimes are disappointed that a shared plan doesn’t come to fruition. That said, it has made me more spontaneous and joyous in my approach to life.
- Turkish Cuisine?
The best of Turkish cuisine is anything made by my Turkish friends or their mothers. The best yaprak sarma, spicy potato börek, gözleme and ezogelin I have eaten have been cooked in someone’s home. When I am out and about, I love being able to snack on things like nohutlu pilau or grilled corn, sold by a street vendor who conveniently stops at the corner.
- Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
Be open to what Turkey has to offer and don’t think about what you miss from home. It can be hard to feel at home here at first, but constant longing for what you left behind won’t help. Make an effort with the language because the least attempt will bring smiles and delight to the people you meet in shops and on the street.
- Any suggestion to people planning to visit your region?
Don’t just restrict yourself to the well trodden tourist paths of Sultanahmet, Istiklal Caddesi and Taksim. Catch a ferry across to Besiktas or Kadikoy and wander aimlessly for a few hours to get a feel for what it is like to live in this huge, overpopulated and marvelously dynamic city.
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