Growing up, my home was very quiet. The neighborhoods where I lived were made up of similar kind of people. They were all full of white people or the rare Indian family. The houses were separated by yards; there were no apartment blocks. So, quiet. The sounds were predictable. My mother required that it be that way so she could rest, and I seemed to have inherited that trait as well. We spoke softly, we walked up and down the stairs in a careful way, we didn’t sit on our porch at night.
Here in Istanbul it is noisy. 17 million people or so making noises in the crowded streets, malls, and apartment buildings. I find that in Istanbul I can’t relate to sounds like how I used to. My unconscious reactions to sounds are often mismatched to the actual situation. Sounds that I instinctively perceive as threatening, like a raised tone of voice, could mean a variety of things. Someone could be in a fight with someone else. Or, they could be hard of hearing, or talking as they work near a loud machine. Or that’s just how they talk. A loud bang outside at midnight could be gunfire or some other kind of violence, but it’s probably one of the many trash collectors carelessly sorting through the nearest metal bin on the street.
So far I have lived in Istanbul for 6 years and I wouldn’t say I have adjusted. I manage. I am like a cat that was raised in a house and now manages to live outside. When I am out in the crowds on the street or public transportation my sense of hearing exists in an isolated dimension, with little shocks of adrenaline going into my body.
Sitting upon a ferry boat taking me across the Bosphorus, my eyes widen with concern upon hearing a loud voice that seems to be yelling angrily somewhere on the lower floor. The two women across from me take no break in their conversation to turn their heads and the man beside me sleeps an unbroken slumber.