Today I’m excited to welcome guest blogger and fellow author, Lisa Morrow, to my Roving Adventures to chat about her new book “Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul“, let’s meet Lisa and then hear more about book and the worthy cause it’s helping to support.
Let’s meet Lisa Morrow
As far back as primary school I’ve been writing stories, bad poetry and keeping a diary. I’d always wanted to be a writer, but by the time I entered Sydney University, more practical concerns such as making money, got in the way. I dropped out after first year and worked in numerous jobs – as a public servant, cleaner, sales assistant, waitress, bar maid and car counter – before going overseas.
Once there I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. My three month stay in the small central Anatolian village of Göreme changed my life. Turkey had stolen my heart and I felt more at home here than in my place of birth.
I eventually went back to university and completed a degree, but ended up teaching English as a second language for many years. This allowed me to live in Turkey, learn more about the culture and collect a lot of stories.
I continued to write and three years ago decided to focus on it more seriously, starting my blog www.insideoutinistanbul.com in 2013.
Now I describe myself as a sociologist, blogger and the author of three books about Turkey, most recently Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul.
I have a monthly spot on San Francisco Turkish Radio, have been interviewed on national radio programs in Australia, and am a frequent contributor to international websites, magazines, and blogs.
I’m determined to scratch away the seemingly mundane surface of ordinary Turkish life to reveal the complexities below, as well as getting as much enjoyment out of life as possible.
What is “Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul” about?
Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul tells my story of coming to live in Istanbul with my husband in 2010. It wasn’t the first time I’d lived in Turkey, but this time we decided to buy an apartment and bring over all our belongings.
I’d travelled extensively throughout the country and had already lived in both Istanbul and Central Turkey for a few years. As a result I wasn’t worried about making the transition. However, although Turkish culture seems easy to understand, you only have to scratch away the surface and the complexities can be overwhelming.
When we arrived in Istanbul I was still trying to overcome the effects of my mother’s death a few years before. It had really shaken my sense of self, and this was exacerbated by having to deal with Turkish real estate agents, bureaucracy and cultural difference, as well as friendships with Turks who seemed the same as me but were in fact very different.
The stress of getting settled was only just starting to abate when I had to rush my husband Kim to hospital, and soon after received bad news from home.
My dream of living in Istanbul had been shattered by gritty reality, and I had to make a choice. Turn tail and run or bravely face what life threw at me?
I chose to stay.
What inspired you to write this book?
My aim in writing about my life here has always been to take the reader right into the heart of Turkish culture.
Most books written about living in Turkey tend to show Turks as quaint two dimensional characters, with Turkey only present as a distant backdrop.
I want to go beyond the stereotypes of carpet sellers, kebab shops, Turkish Romeos and headscarf wearing women to look at the complexities and contradictions of the culture. Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom is the result.
Can you share a little about your Expat life in Istanbul?
Expats living in Istanbul have lots of options about where and how to live. More foreigners choose to live on the European side of the city, in fashionable inner city areas like Cihangir, Beşiktaş or Levent. There are lots of Western style shopping centres, the social scene is really full on and day-to-day life requires less interaction with people who only speak Turkish.
I’ve always preferred to live on the Asian side, because it’s a lot calmer and easier to get around. It’s also where my Turkish friends live. When I first lived there in 2000, there were very few other foreigners so my students became my friends. These days Kadıköy has a much larger expat scene, but it’s a very transient one so it’s important to have friends who are constant.
Whichever side you live on, Istanbul has a lot to offer, no matter what your interests. We regularly visit museums and art galleries, go to the movies, meet for coffee and read our fal (fortunes), plan epic excursions to Polonezköy for cake, to Şile for swimming, the Princess Islands for picnics and bike riding and Tuzla for fish lunches.
I love to go to Babylon nightclub in Beyoğlu when I feel like dancing through the night, and to Viktor Levi in Kadıköy when I want to kick back and solve the world’s problems with my friends over a few glasses of nice wine. I can go to Sureyya Opera if I want to listen to classical music or out onto my balcony if I want to hear the piano accordion being played by the gypsies who walk along my street.
By the time I have to get up for work on Monday morning I’m more than happy to go, because it gives me a chance to have a rest!
How does your book help Syrian Refugees?
One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in Istanbul over the last few years is the presence of Syrians begging on the streets. What began as a trickle has now become a flood, and I, like many of my friends here, have been doing what I can to help. I started by giving old clothes, food and water to a family who sat outside the supermarket around the corner from my house.
Now I want to do more, so if you buy a copy of any of my books in either paperback or as an ebook via Amazon, this February or March, I will donate AUD$1 of the purchase price to Small Projects Istanbul.
Small Projects Istanbul are an NGO working with Syrian refugees – getting kids back to school, older students into university and training women to make jewellery so they can earn a living.
You can get more information by clicking on the link. http://www.insideoutinistanbul.com/donation-to-small-projects-istanbul/