This may be my umpteenth time in Ankara, but it’s my first time in the city [relatively] alone. I may still be staying with E’s family, but I have time during the days to wander, to take the city in, and ponder more on what it would be like to really live here.
Ankara does have bad rush hour traffic (the many, many hills and huge sections of land in the center of town fenced off for the military don’t help) but, as long as we aren’t driving around to five different offices processing documents in one day it is quite doable. Ankara is a livable city, large enough to offer everything, small enough to not feel overwhelming. It is a place I could see us raising kids, and raising kids without worrying (as I most likely would if we resided in a similar-sized city in the US). It’s a city with plenty of parks and public playgrounds and dance classes and yoga and art studios and live music and museums and funky cafes and pedestrian streets clogged with students after school; a city with enough of a mix of people from different backgrounds and different viewpoints, where you can see Berkley hipsters in billowing blouses and miniskirts step past suave women in trim suits of New York black with their dyed blond hair and shocking red lipstick on the same street as sweater-clad grandmothers and other women in full hijab.
It’s a city where my mother-in-law knows all of her favorite produce sellers at the weekly farmer’s market by name, and where minibus drivers chat with longtime passengers about their family and the weather, where people, by and large, know [and trust] their neighbors . It’s a city where you can stroll to the bazaar or the local fresh-fish seller for groceries, and head to a normal modern mall for clothes and cosmetics and imported peanut butter and international best-sellers from the bookstore, where we have both locality and convenience.
It’s a city where people complain about the traffic, their bosses, cleaning up after the two-year-old niece the umpteenth time, their workload or this or that irrational thing somebody did at work, the rise in prices at the market (even though a kilogram of oranges is still $0.40) – in short, rather normal things. And when I look around at dinner I realize that, even though we are eating soup and salmon and salad, there are still as many people present as there were at half of my childhood Thanksgivings.
It might not be a city that will steal my heart – but it’s livable, functional.