çay in the afternoon sun

The sound of the adhan, - the Muslim call to prayer - echoes from one of the multitude of minarets that dot Istanbul's city skyline. I sit here in the afternoon sun, drinking my tea; two şeker, extra dark. Aydan, the youngest boy, is napping, and his older brother Emre is at chess with his anne (Turkish for "mum"); I take advantage of this first opportunity to rest and reflect, the first since my arrival.

It's difficult to give a fair assessment of Istanbul, or Turkey, in such a short time. For one, I have only been here one week. But more importantly - and this is what I am currently struggling with the most - I have no context. For example, I was forming my first perceptions and opinions about Turkish elders during our tri-weekly visits to grandma and grampa's house; how they treated the children, their dress and demeanor, their thoughts and ideas about life... only to be told last night that they are not, in fact, Turkish. Heavens, no. They are most definitely not Turkish, but rather Kurdish, and I must absolutely learn to differentiate. (Admittedly, as little as I know about Turkish-Kurdish relations, I do know enough to know the heavy, sordid truth behind that statement)

Such context - proper historical, and cultural perspective - is essential in a city, a land, entrenched in dichotomies, mysteries, controversy.

I'm anxious to further explore the city centre, see Sultanhamet, spend my lunchtime with the old ladies who feed the pigeons in Taksim Square, spend long, lazy afternoons in Tea Gardens sipping çay with the best of them. Maybe, I'll even get to know some Alevi Muslims, and be able to experience their unique - and gloriously refreshing - worship firsthand.

But alas, all things come in time, and for now, my next glass of tea - my sixth of the day - is calling me...