Or, Things That Happen in Fener/Balat.
You know you’re having a local experience:
- You’re at a fork in the road, except the fork in the road has so many prongs it might as well be the Witch King of Angmar’s mace. Your own city-official map has resorted to a blank line, literally a white squiggle, for the few hundred meters ahead of you.
- You look up from your unintelligible map into a mouthful of laundry that’s drying on a line sagging over the street–turns out to be Turkish Papa Undershirt, Turkish Mama Undershirt, and Turkish Baby Undershirt. Even the Tide tastes Turkish.
- Neighbourhood kids chase you through the streets, begging you to use your magic machine on them and take their “PHOTO!”–of course, it takes a few minutes for each one to bring a friend and soon you’re the Pied Piper.
- The waiters of restaurants aren’t wolf-whistling and sweet-talking at you in English, French, Japanese, Korean–rather, they’re doing their best to ignore you completely (they’re just shy though!).
You’re surrounded by ancient Muslim women in headscarves in the upper story of the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, standing up like everyone else to prostrate in prayer–when you get slapped on the ass from behind by a wrinkly and indignant pilgrim lady for having your forearms showing in a sacred place. Well, that’s one way to break the language barrier.
- You see cats everywhere–having mad sex on fire escapes, catching birds on terraces, dodging taxis in the street–and kids playing with them everywhere. Is rabies not a thing here? A little girl at the Eyüp Mosque will defy her scolding mother, scooping up water from the holy basin, and cupping it over the marble courtyard in front of the sacred tomb to let a little stray kitten lap it up from her hands. A little boy will earnestly try to yank a dead sparrow out of the mouth of a cat, and bawl when he gets only feathers.
You grow a beard.