I have a key!

I have a key. That key is to an apartment. After two days of walking up and down Uskudar looking at various apartments, I found one in most ways better than I’d hoped or expected. My Sketchers are dying (looks like I will need two new pairs of shoes), and my head is sunburned, but it has definitely been worth it. Here’s how it all went down.

apt2Day one of looking was mostly fruitless. Basically, what I would do was match up the location on the Sahibinden map to google maps until I found the spot the my target apartment was located. Target apartment 1 didn’t exist. I went to exactly where it was supposed to be and there was nothing there but a few vacant lots. Perhaps something will eventually be built and the landlord is getting a bit too ambitious. After going up and down a few dozen hills, give or take, I found myself at the location for target apartment number 2. Or not. I found myself right at the location of the emlak, the realtor. Most emlaks have 8-11 posters on the window promoting various for rent (kiralik) or sale (satilik) and one of those shown was the one I thought I was heading to. So I walk in, introduce myself and with my very (very very) limited Turkish make it understood that I want to check out my potential apartment. It is a few blocks away and as we are heading over, I get this brilliant idea to add the google translate app to my phone and use it. That app quickly becomes my best friend. On coming to the apartment, I quickly realize this is not the one. The pictures on the ad were clearly not for the apartment I was looking at.

apt1The day wasn’t a complete loss. This was the first time I had ventured out without having a predetermined destination and a plan (which quickly falls apart anyways) for how to arrive and return. Each time I have ventured out, I have gone a little further afield and gained more confidence in the going. Plus, I did find some beautiful non-touristy spots like this little park. I also found a new way to better communicate (g translate) and began to understand the strengths and limitations of google maps (it is good as a gps locator, ignore where it says any of the smaller roads should lead you).

Day two of my apartment hunting (Easter) went far better… but not at first. Once again, I ended up right at the emlak rather than the first apartment I planned to look at. Once again, this time the apartment truly was what the pictures showed, but I could see how the taking was very selective to hide away all they did not want me to see. This apartment also almost looked like there was still someone living there. If I were to guess I would say about 3-4 weeks back whoever had been living there had up and left, or were forced to leave, while abandoning almost all their possessions. It makes me wonder if I am looking at the human side of what this article hints at.

apt3The second apartment I found with ease. I was leery about going only off what I had seen in the ad, but the pictures clearly were taken from the fourth floor of the building I was looking at. So I called the realtor who spoke no English, then had a texting conversation with him (thank you g translate). We set out to meet about an hour and a half later so I could view it. Off for lunch I went. My favorite lunch has become lahmacun. They bring out a baked(?) pita that is sliced in two has some diced tomatoes, spices, and stuff on it so it almost looks like a pizza. Along with this comes a small plate of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrot shreds, and a lemon slice. I’m not sure I’m eating it right, but what I do is squeeze the lemon juice on it, add the veggies, then roll each half and eat it as a wrap. Love it.

After a relaxed, long lunch I headed back to my target apartment and arrived five minutes early. The emlak wasn’t there yet. Five minutes later, I texted him letting him know I was there (buradayim). People started noticing this stranger, standing around, loitering but not talking. A lady called to another lady from out the windows across the street. Then an older gentleman came out and over and asked if he could help me. (Boirun, but wrong spelling) I told him I was waiting for the emlak (emlak bekleyen). Before I knew it, it was a community project to find out exactly what apartment was available and where the emlak was. There were the two older ladies from across the street, a teenage boy calling down from a window, and two older gentlemen contributing (with a few others listening in from various windows) but not a sole spoke a lick of English. Finally another young man joined in, learned the situation, and called the emlak as my interpreter. Apparently the emlak was waiting at his office for me. The apartment I was looking at was only available for families. I’m not a family. Google translate is the devil.

This life saver, Ali, then drove me a good distance (about 5 miles) out of his way to bring me to this realtor. On the way I learned that he had a cousin who had studied at a small city in New York. Did I ever hear of Binghamton? It’s a small world after all. Once at the emlak I met Saigon. I doubt that’s how he spells it but he introduced himself as “Saigon, like Vietnam”. He is one of the coolest guys I’ve met so far and acted as interpreter between his boss (dad?) and myself. The confusion was quickly cleared up and I was shown the ad posting for another apartment just a little pricier than the range I was looking in. I was a little hesitant but since I had come all this way… why not.

I was so glad I did. Long story short, I saw it, loved it, and today I filled out the contract, dropped the money and got myself a new key. Here it is:

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