He sat behind the same desk every single day, watching videos of motorcycles on Youtube. We saw him, starring intensely into the screen, every time we crossed into the hostel room.
Like the Persians on the movie 300, he was all stereotype. A black trimmed beard–just enough for military standards– and a slight limp on a leg, a recent accident on a bike (“I love Motorcross.”).
He listened to ACDC´s Thunderstruck through loudspeakers during weekends. He was young, like us, and in his free time, which was plenty, streamed pirated movies in Tukish. Oldboy. “Perfect.” Wolf of Wall Street.”Yes”.
We were standing next to him as he typed a Turkish word into Google Translator. “Kadiköy”he repeatedletting it trail off into a murmur as he pointed at the screen. A word was beeping to the right, “boring”.
Nevertheless, Saturday came and we were off. We left the hostel, crisscrossing through the backstreets of Beyoğlu on a cab, pass the skyscrapers of Şişli, in the distance we could see the Bosphorus, a mix of mist and fog.
And Traffic. Oh, my…
Then the promise of a bridge appeared. Pristine. Precise. And as the traffic cleared up we realized that, just like that, we had crossed into Asia.
Which, as it turns out, was more European than the European side. But, who cares, really? If geographical terms help conjure the image of a city between two continents, then so be it. But the fact is that all cities, like this one, are built out of words, stories that serve as maps.
And what does it mean, really, to live in a global city? Perhaps the term is a little misleading. There aren’t so many languages spoken here. Only Turkish, perhaps Kurdish. And although many europhiles speak English, German, French or Italian, the groups that used to speak other languages — Greek, Arab or even Ladino–no longer do, many are no longer around. But there are new languages, Senegalese French, for example, or Farsi, if you scratch.
But, what does it mean, really, to live in a global city? Perhaps it is the feeling of being out of context. Like when we walk out of our four story white building which might as well be in Tel Aviv and, although recognizing the letters of the alphabet, are unable to communicate , except through our hands. Or when we walk close to the Mediterranean shore, mistaking cats for rocks.
Or, perhaps, it is what happens when, after meeting friends from Vienna–dancers at the International Tango Convention taking place on the European side–we run into a friend from New York (the only other person we know in the whole city), in the very same bar.
Or finally, when, after some Raki and red wine, the Bosphorus starts condensing into a geographical limit, informing us that our last ferry to Asia, at 11pm, has sailed off.
It is then that we notice that we really are far away from home, that the separation is real, and that there’s plenty of time before we arrive.