Last Thursday I was sunburned on an afternoon spent at the beach in Kilyos, about 90 minutes north of the heart of Istanbul. Well worth it, of course. The water was warm, the company was cheerful, the lack of finals to concern about was exhilarating. Summer was here. The end of the semester was near. Not a f—- was given, as they say.
The burn turned from pink to red to peeling.
I’m peeling, shedding, which is such an obvious metaphor for the way things change that I feel gross even mentioning it, the way someone says, “Oh that must’ve hurt” after you tell them about the time you broke your leg in a skiing accident. But still, here I am, using the metaphor anyway. So f—- you, skiing accident guy.
I’m peeling away remnants of Istanbul. Both the skin that Istanbul burned and the feeling of living in Istanbul for four months. I have to. I’ll never forget the place or the memory (or the 450 tumblr posts I uploaded about it), but here I am in South Korea and the fact of the matter is: change isn’t meant to be resisted. I’m learning the alphabet. Jenny’s teaching me about the subway, the neighborhood, the downtown area and about local Korean foods. I have a transit card. I eat with chopsticks, clumsily. I dry my clothes on a metal rack. I sleep on a thin, yet surprisingly comfortable mat on the floor. I am careful about my recycling/waste habits. I’m eating more rice and vegetables now.
Istanbul prepared me for a life of traveling.
It gave me fantastic friends, amazing memories, and one final sunburn.
But as the sunburn peels, so does the past. New skin comes in. New memories form. Life goes on as it always does and we learn from our experiences and we seek to create new ones. What to expect from Korea, I still have no idea. If I hadn’t already experienced an entirely new culture / language / time zone / weather system, then I could see how this transition would’ve been trickier. But it’s not. Istanbul has changed me forever, and no amount of peeling will remove that fact. It is in me. Because of the past four months, I am unafraid. I am open to change and I embrace the unexpected.
When the peeling is done, I will be, as the saying goes, the same same but different.