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A Story about the time it was really hot and no one could sleep due to the heat

August 18, 2010

Yesterday, Q and I lost ourselves in the warren of shops and stalls that is Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. It was disorienting: from every side, shopkeepers pressed in, stepped in front, entreating and cajoling, “Yes, please” “Hola, una pregunta por favor, are you Spanish? Speak Spanish? No, English? Let me show you something special” “Bitte schön!” “A nice mink vest for the lady?” (Bro, learn your audience. I do not look like the mink vest type. Also, it is August in Istanbul, and it is boiling. I am not trying to think about wearing fur.)

It was mostly the same few things, repeated endlessly: silver jewelry, gold jewelry, copper pots and things, Turkish water pipes, hanging glass lamps in bright colors, rugs, scarves, furs, tacky souvenir t-shirts, shoes, knock-off purses, leather. Over and over and over. Still, it was nice to spend the day out of the sun and the heat.

We walked past the spice bazaar, which seemed the similar to the Grand Bazaar only better because of the smells, it was saffron and dried nuts and dried fruits. I should go back and buy some saffron or something, but, to be frank, I can’t muster the will to hike back across the Galata Bridge (which spans the Golden Horn) and up the hill through the hot crowded streets; I don’t feel like picking my way through the people, the idea of haggling makes me anxious.

Mid-August is probably the worst time to visit Istanbul. It is a North Carolina summer (slightly less humid) with more traffic and more people and no air conditioning. I’ve moved to a different hostel, and my first night here, I couldn’t sleep because of the heat. There were 8 of us in the room. Three oscillating fans had been affixed to the ceiling and we had them all going, but the heat was too much. It settled on top of me heavy and metallic, it kind of burned the tops of my thighs and it pooled thickly against my neck, between my chin and my chest. The fans weren’t strong enough to push the heavy air, to make it move. So I stayed still on my back, feeling my sweat form a film over me, watching my roommates in their beds, wondering if they were sleeping or if they were awake, too.  The next night after dinner, when I came back to the room, the guys from Barcelona had packed their things and said they were leaving, to find a hotel, some room with more bearable sleeping conditions. The heat had been too much. After they left, we discovered that the HEATER HAD BEEN ON THE WHOLE TIME oh my god it must have been ninety degrees in our room. The heater was not on last night but it was still kind of hot. If you grew up without air conditioning and want to tell me about sleeping on hot nights, you can. I’ll listen and I won’t dismiss it as  a barefoot in the snow uphill both ways-tall tale.

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