The time has come. We are leaving Istanbul for good, and returning to Texas. I've spent the past few weeks in complete denial, hoping for a reprieve, but ultimately, I've come to accept that we are indeed leaving.
The past few weeks have been a series of long goodbyes amidst various social gatherings. For in an expat society, every year sees the departure of those we've all learned to call friends. When living overseas, far from loved ones, friendships are forged much more quickly and often, more deeply, because you don't have the luxury of time. When leaving, I never know who it's harder on, the person leaving or the person being left behind. And even though the world is growing smaller, you know your chances of seeing most of your friends again, is in fact, very small.
I found myself the Sunday School Coordinator of St. Esprit Catholic Cathedral this past fall. Despite the uncertainty I felt about taking on the job, I gained so many new friends that when June came, I was able to watch with pride during the First Communion Mass, and the Confirmation Mass. Most Priests have seemed distant figures to me, but in our small English speaking community I've gotten to know and dearly love each of our priests. I will miss the intimacy at St. Esprit, plus the feeling of being truly needed. Goodbye Father Jacky, Father Nicola, Father Andreas, Jenny, Albert, Hermes, Lynda and Laura.
My PTA circle of friends has grown wide over the past couple of years. IICS is well known for it's welcoming community, and anyone who steps forward to volunteer is welcomed with open arms. So it was for me. Although, I hate wasting a day with long, talky meetings, we had a great group of women who were genuinely positive and professional, and I usually came away invigorated and energized. Our last board meeting was held at the Four Seasons overlooking the Bosphorus, and I will long remember gazing around the group, sipping white wine, knowing that was a moment that would never come again.
Goodbye Judy, Sydney, Gesa, Robyn, Sally, Mariette, Susi, Dora, Patricia, Laure, Paula, Karin, Jill, Edwena, and Sue.
Through my participation in the IWI, (International Women of Istanbul) I met several other women, that I probably wouldn't have met any other way, as well as new experiences. Beki Erikli's "Angel Therapy" workshop, Laure & Patricia's French Cooking class, Ayse's Turkish cooking class, and various museum and sightseeing trips all led to my feeling more comfortable and at home in a foreign country. Goodbye Alina, Ayse, Susanne, Stephanie, Nalini, Margot, Shakila and Anjali.
I met my 4 best buddies from my Turkish lessons at the Ciragan Palace for high Tea on Monday afternoon. These were the women that I probably spent the most time with for 6 months last year; every Monday and Wednesday, from 10:00 to 12:00. Elisa, Martina, Lise and Viktoria, gave me the encouragement to continue each week, through their laughter and support. It was a lovely afternoon, again, overlooking the Bosphorus, and tears were in my eyes when I had to say goodbye.
Then, there are my Istinye Park friends, my book club buddies, with whom I've spent so many evening drinking a glass of wine, giggling over another crazy Turk story, commiserating over their sorrows, or sometimes even discussing the book. It's funny how just a simple, but regular get together can result in such closeness and connectedness. Our Trick or Treat evening is still considered the best Halloween celebration in Istanbul. Goodbye Tara, Nilgun, Jo, Margie, Tricia and Elisa and Jamila.
Tomorrow another last goodbye will take place at the American Consulate, when Boy Scout Troop 1453 meets for the last time this year. Jim will be Master of Ceremonies, as one young man attains his Eagle Scout Badge. Scouting is not always easy or convenient, but a bond was forged between all of us adults as well as boys, as we all worked together for the same purpose- to see our sons become fine young men. My especial thanks to Pat, Vicki and Sarah, who have kept the troop going through all the scoutmasters who have appeared and disappeared over the past several years. Goodbye Pat, Vicki, Sarah, Stacey, Martin and Becky.
Then there are other dear friends that don't fall under a particular category, but whose compassion and kindness and sense of fun have meant everything to me. We have so many precious memories and good times to recall. Goodbye Trish, Leslie, Jennifer and Joan.
I shall dearly miss the Bosphorus. To sit watching the boats sail by, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, was always my favorite way to spend time.
I'm going to miss the Grand Bazaar, with all their crazy Turkish salesmen, trying out different sales pitches, offering up endless cups of tea, and calling me "my friend". I'll miss the beauty of Arneveutkoy, with it's old Yalis and crooked streets. I'll miss the Aya Sophia, with it's fading mosaics and soaring spaces. I shall miss the privileged lifestyle that the ex pat wife is lucky/doomed to lead. Pick your word, either can fit, depending upon your outlook. I, however, consider myself a very lucky woman to have experienced life here.