Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Our trip started out with Serhat arriving late to the airport. Which was perfectly ok with us, since our plane had also arrived late, so we had no idea that he was behind schedule. The problem was that Gözde's cat, Kömür, had basically committed suicide by jumping off of the 5th story balcony of her downtown apartment. Serhat heard the thump of the cat hitting the pavement on the street below, but did not realize that anything was amiss until his neighbours, recognizing the cat, started to shout at him. He quickly ran down the five flights of stairs (it's an old apartment, no elevator, but lots of potential for physical fitness!) to discover the cat with no obvious external injuries, was willing to mew when Serhat gave him a pat. A trip to the vet later, with full body scans and various other tests and the cat was pronounced fit to return home. Thus proving that cats really do have 9 lives (or 8 lives in Kömür's case).
This story of Kömür may have a more difficult ending though... Serhat and Gözde have recently rented an apartment on the 12th floor of an apartment in the "burbs" of Istanbul. According to the vet, once a cat starts jumping off of high balconies, they are likely to continue.
This new apartment is sort of an experiment for them. They both have previously been downtown living sorts of people. But with the advent of their marriage they decided to look for something slightly nicer than a rundown old apartment on the 5th floor of a building without an elevator. Their new apartment is actually cheaper than the old one... and it is best described as a real-life representation of a sim-city. They live in Avrupa. This is a fully gated community, complete with 9 feet tall fences with barbed wire and 24/7 manned security gates. So in the tumbled down disarray of Istanbul's breathing, bloated mantle of history, Avrupa is a fairly surreal experience.
Every morning a team of staff dressed in bright yellow shirts come in to groom the gardens, hose down the patios of the 7 identical swimming pools (each pool has a big pool for adults and a small Nikolai depth pool, a refreshment stand, loungers, sun umbrellas, you get the very pristine idea), sweep up the 5 identical playgrounds (creepily identical, right down to the exact orientation of the play equipment, gazebo and benches) and feed beautiful geese that were clearly imported just to ornament the clear pebble pond that surrounds the complex's only restaurant. The complex also has two whole strips of shopping (including a gym, grocery store, sweet shop, "organic" dry cleaners, lamp shop) and street vendors that only service people living in the complex, as no one can get in without the express permission of a resident. The architect definitely played Simcity as all the 32 apartment buildings are identical. The Avrupa brand permeates through out the complex in a way that is slightly too 1984 for my taste. Even their toilet paper dispenser was Avrupa branded, and Avrupa has 3 television stations, two that feature a shot of the playgrounds and pools (so you can watch your kids from home) and one that actually features Avrupa content. Apparently the Avrupa team won some sort of sports competition as the clip I watched featured them accepting a trophy.
Serhat and Gözde are definitely still undecided about the new digs... living out of the city has required them to buy a car for the 20-30 minute commute, and the restaurant in the complex definitely leaves something to be desired... even more so when compared to the plethora of delicious food choices available in their old "hood" of Nişantaşı. But saying that Avrupa is definitely more family friendly (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) than the crowded streets of downtown Istanbul.
Serhat's work place is also as pristine, and as secure. He is an Assistant Professor at the Kadir Has University, which is a non-profit, private University that likes to have an international flare. In fact Serhat is required to teach in English! So it was his Canadian education rather than his Turkish background that got him the job.
To get in to the campus, we were required to go through a metal detector and submit our passports in exchange for a temporary visitor pass (to be fair 6 of the 7 Universities in Istanbul have similar policies). It's located in an old tobacco factory, and has been beautifully restored. As a planner, I can honestly say that the campus is lovely, well-designed and has a plethora of zenful spaces. For a campus of around 4000 students, (Serhat, if you read this please correct me if my memory is faulty!) the school boasts of an archaeological museum (in an Byzantine cistern), 2 coffee shops, 2 restaurant style cafeterias and a sprinkling of art galleries and lush gardens. The best part about the campus is... like UNBC, you can get between all the buildings using passageways... though in Istnabul that's more for the air conditioning, than the -30 C weather.
The picture is the view from Serhat's balcony, with a zoom in to playground number 1.
***The Turkish characters look fine on my computer, so please tell me if they do messy things on your computer!***