Saturday, May 2, 2009

Second Life

Late on Wednesday night we left Nova Scotia to fly to Heathrow and then to Istanbul. We knew it would be a big change as we entered the zone of air travel, that state you are in when you hand your information and baggage to the airline agents and put yourself in their hands until, hours or days later, you emerge into some other city or country or life, and this was/is a change, a big one, but not a difficult one; it is really a return to our “second life”.

When we moved back to Nova Scotia from Istanbul last summer we found ourselves falling into routines and patterns from five years earlier, when we had left. There were good friends we did things with, like meet for breakfast or coffee somewhere, sit in lawn chairs near a barbecue drinking cold white wine, chat at gallery openings, hang out, talk about important or trivial things, almost as if we had never left. And there would be acquaintances who would meet us at some place or event and say, Are you back to stay? How long were you away, was it two years? We would reply, Yes, we think so, we’re glad to be back here, and we probably will stay, or we won’t go for quite as long if we go again, and it was actually five years, and then they would say, Really, that long? Wow, how time flies, etc.

And we would drive in and out Purcell’s Cove Road, and maybe there was a new house or two, or different holes or cracks in the pavement, and a bike lane for part of the way, but it was still the same road we travelled at the same speed we had always travelled. In short, we fell back into familiar ways of doing things.

Istanbul was still there, and the life we had spent in Istanbul didn’t change, but, as Lorraine said, sometimes it could seem like a dream time, and sometimes it might seem as if it had never happened. There were reminders of course, like the sneakers I bought at Ayakkabı Dunyası down below the Real store in Kartal or the large Turkish pillows from Kapalı Carşı on our bed or the kilims and carpets on the floors and the evil eye over the door or Halım Bey’s huge panoramic photo of the Maiden’s Tower with the European side in the background hanging just over the stairs; they were tangible reminders of a time in a place, but the difference between the two worlds, Ferguson’s Cove and Istanbul, and the life lived in each of them, made it difficult to hold them both in your mind at one time. So from Ferguson’s Cove, Istanbul could seem like a wholly other and evanescent world.

I am in Istanbul as I write this. Outside the window of Gül’s apartment in Ulus I can see the ship traffic on the Bosphorus and the domed shapes of Aya Sofia, The Blue Mosque, and my favourite, Suleymaniye. Earlier today we drove to Seyrantepe and sat in the office of Halim Kulaksız, owner of DifoLab, Lorraine at a computer next to Halim Bey as they worked on an image and me in one of the leather armchairs talking to his son Coşar, all of us having fallen into the activities we always fell into when we got together. I said to Coşar that being there was like coming home and he kept saying, Thank you very much, and I told him that it was not just a compliment, but was actually a statement of fact. He talked about travel and living in another country, another place, and how it changes you inside, how he travelled 8000 km to the west to study in New Jersey only to find himself travelling 8000 km to the east as he discovered from there important things about his own country and culture and ways of doing things.

I have never had a Second Life character, no avatars or virtual existences, but being here is like a second life. We fall right into this life, navigating the demands of traffic flow, squeezing our rented Fiat into tiny parking spots, meeting and hugging old friends with tears in our eyes, and greeting the proprietors of bakeries and grills who ask where we have been; it is hard sometimes to explain that we were in Canada for the last nine months, off in our second life, our other life with our own house, our children, and our grandchildren, which from here can also seem almost like a dream.

Buradayım, a phrase from Gül’s work, means I am here, and here I am, İstanbul’da, in Istanbul, in my other place and my other (second) life, dreaming.