Blind Date With Istanbul

I wrote this for the newsletter of the American Women of Istanbul club about the love that brought me to Istanbul (and what keeps me here!) as well as the relationship we all have with the city, and the role of AWI in our lives. Many of you know me as coeditor of the Expat Harem anthology…but perhaps you recognize me for another reason: February marks my fourth blissful year in Istanbul.

From California and the Carolinas, Nova Scotia and New Mexico, I have always sensed that some form of love brought us all to Turkey.

Perhaps it was an attractive career opportunity, or the promising pang of cultural adventure. Or maybe it was your heartfelt devotion to a significant other. All three passions tempted me.

I met my Istanbul-born husband on a blind date in New York. When Burç called to introduce himself our conversation was so intriguing we arranged dinner that very night, even though we both had other plans. Minds had met, agendas were adjusted! After a run-in with a neighbor child I arrived with cherry candy stuck to my skirt. “But you are punctual,” my gentlemanly Turk insisted, “and perfectly charming.”

Later we held hands. Electricity! The kisses, later still, were transporting. Then the next day he was gone: to Istanbul on business. Within the week, on different continents, we threw 30-something discretion to the wind and professed our love.

Something was in the air, or the heavens. Burç happens to mean “zodiac sign” in Turkish, and there was a cosmic explanation for our mesmerizing attraction. A comparison of our natal charts revealed 15 planetary conjunctions, meeting places of inspiration and harmony. “According to the stars, it was just a matter of putting us in each other’s field of gravity,” joked Burç. “And then the laws of physics took care of the rest.”

We married in a fairytale spot (Istanbul, of course!), and later when tech business beckoned him, we moved to the alluring metropolis with its bridges and mosques and vibrant street life. My courtship with the city (and my cherished AWI membership) has spawned wonders, including an exhilarating career in my field of cultural writing and connection to like-minded people locally and beyond. Planning to stay two years, we are now clearly under the sway of Istanbul’s magnetism.

Sound familiar? Istanbul is an irresistible phenomenon for many AWI members. Even if the thought of life in this unknowable Turkish city seems at first a blind date, once you surrender to the enticing field of Istanbul’s gravity you’re quickly stuck on the place.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovers out there!