Student in love with Istanbul

By JOI HOLLIES

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOI HOLLIES  Joi Hollies gets excited for her new local team at a football match between Turkey and Azerbijan for the EuroCup qualifier. Turkey won the game.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JOI HOLLIES Joi Hollies gets excited for her new local team at a football match between Turkey and Azerbijan for the EuroCup qualifier. Turkey won the game.

I ended my three-year relationship with New Orleans this past August. I have had flirtations with other places, but whenever I was done it was New Orleans I came back to.

I know I am not the only one New Orleans is committed to, but regardless, every time I was welcomed back with open arms.

On Aug. 28 though, we called it quits for our longest separation yet: four months. A fling in Greece was just the beginning. The real change was the possibility of a new love: Istanbul, Turkey.

I have never been on a blind date, but I am sure the feelings of anxiety, insecurity and even fright are very similar. What if they don’t like me? Should I have worn something else? What if they’re hideous? How do I get out of here without them noticing?

The initial meeting was, as expected, very awkward—new city, new country and a new language. The thrill of the honeymoon period was great; I loved everything about every new place. I was eager to spend time exploring my new home.

However, the honeymoon period ends, and you get frustrated with the lack of pork even though you do not eat it, no English, and the stares you get for being obviously out of place. You are homesick for the familiar, but in relationships you do not just give up at the first sign of trouble.

At least that is what they tell me, I would not know from experience. My longest relationship was with a place, and despite my first comment, I did ditch at the first sign of trouble. Life is about growth, and I will get it right. I just decided to root somewhere else for a little while.

I enjoy Istanbul, though. The nightlife is reminiscent of a former love, but the culture is unique.

Turkey as the “bridge between two continents” is amazing. I can have breakfast in Europe and dinner in Asia. I have been to the palaces of sultans and places of worship that service Christians and Muslims alike. I remember walking into Hagia Sophia and gasping because the sight was breathtaking. I enjoy taking the dolmus (a share taxi) to Sariyer, a neighboring town, to grocery shop.

I am proud to be able to recognize Turkish words and places, even if the only words are “what,” “thank you,” “please,” and food names, and even if the places are the locations of dance clubs and shopping malls.

I am forced to think about what I do and say. I am constantly on alert, and though it is exhausting, it is necessary. New Orleans and I were falling into a routine, and when New Orleans becomes dull, it is obvious you need to make a change.

My time here has helped my love of New Orleans grow stronger. Friends and I challenge each other with fun facts about our home cities, and so far I am up a few points with the “yes, you can drink alcohol on the street legally” argument.

I am committed to my new home and it is possible we will have an affair again in the future, but my former love can count on me returning at least for a little while. I just had to make New Orleans miss me.

Joi Hollies is currently studying in Istanbul, Turkey. She can be reached at

jahollie@loyno.edu

via Student in love with Istanbul – Life & Times – The Maroon – Loyola University New Orleans.

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