I’M NOT TURKISH, I don’t speak Turkish (much), and I don’t have ties to anything Turkish in the U.S.A. Yet when the plane touches down at Istanbul’s airport – my eighth trip so far – my heart still flutters as if it’s the first time:
1973. MY FIRST AIRPLANE RIDE, ever, landed me as a high school exchange student to Mustafakemalpaşa, a small rural town in western Turkey, into a Muslim family headed by a doctor and midwife, two brothers, two sisters. Tradition ruled.
I breathe in olive-soap-laced steam, as generations of women have breathed in before me in this historic turquoise-tiled neighborhood Turkish bath, Üsküdar Çinili. It’s out-of-the-way in an Istanbul neighborhood, but it’s mine.