I was wandering around the backstreets of Istanbul's Cihangir neighborhood last week with two fellow USF alums when one of them commented on the improbability of such a meeting, in a city over eight thousand miles from home. Then I got to thinking: a year ago, would I have imagined that the three of us (who all studied the Middle East with one favorite professor) would be spending time together now in Turkey? Maybe I didn't foresee then it but I can say now that our shared passions for new experiences, travel and culture have undoubtedly led us to this point in our lives and it makes perfect sense for us to be here, living out those passions. And when I think of my other friends doing similar things, not necessarily living abroad but definitely pursuing exciting things that they love, I feel both lucky to have this opportunity and inspired by them to continue exploring new ones.
I was reminded a lot of San Francisco during that week in Istanbul. Of course, there are major differences between the two cities, but the fact that they are both hilly, surrounded by water, have similar architectural styles and are full of art galleries as well as inviting cafes was more than enough to stir up some nostalgia for the Bay. There was also the Bosporus Bridge, very similar in structure to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the cable car line that runs from Taksim to Tunel Square, reminiscent of its iconic counterpart in San Francisco.
I don't know if many people who have visited both cities found their similarities so striking but it is undeniable that they have both inspired numerous poets and artists with their beauty, often layered beneath a grimy urban exterior. What I really love about both places is that they're not really like anywhere else. And they certainly instill a very unique pride in their residents, whether temporary or permanent. Maybe that's why it's so easy to fall in love with either one of them.