30 November 2010

The never ending and overwhelming madness of the Istanbul bus system

Spacial issues. Not an "issue" topping my list my first few weeks in the city, although I'd been warned that compared to American Spacial Bubbles, (which are like...................this) Turkish Spacial Bubbles are like...this. This only become apparent my third Sunday in Istanbul as I attempted to make my way to Taksim Square. Not being able to blame Bayram for the non-existent shuttle service on Sunday's, I learned the hard way that the only way to get into the city at noon on the weekends is to take bus 48 (not to be confused with 48A) and pray that the person next to you remembered to at least apply the ineffective watery roll-on deodorant that so many unfortunately sweaty people seem to wear.

Taksim Square. A large breath of pedestrian fresh air.

I took bus 48A (yes, the wrong bus) from Kemerburgaz. The bus was as crowded as a sardine can when I boarded, the next stop saw 10-15 more people climb aboard, and the next stop just as many, if not more, without a soul hesitating to clamor onto the humid, smelly bus and sweat out the hour long ride to Eyüp with one hundred and fifty of their closest cousins and neighbors. A crotchety old Turkish women had it out with the bus driver as her kinsmen squeaked past her, the crush of bodies allowing for many to bypass payment amongst the confusion. The man in front of me, who's jacket I was pressed against, smelt of pickles and cigar smoke. Babes in back seats were crying with abandon. At this point, panic was rising in my chest and beads of sweat started breaking out on my forehead. No one else seemed to be suffering from the same crippling claustrophobia. One of my eyes may or may not have been twitching. The terrifying combination of motion sickness and nausea from the jolting bus ride, horrible road conditions and claustrophobia mingling with my impending panic attack forced me to elbow my way out of the bus only 20 minutes into my trip--as at least 10 more people were still waiting to board--leaving vapors of profanities riding on the smoky haze inside the bus as bewildered Turkish folk made way for the crazed American girl with a twitch in her eye and a sharp elbow to boot. 

Metaphorically called "The Heart of İstanbul"

Juice vendors galore.

I consolded myself with an apple, a packet of pretzel sticks (good for at least twenty mintues of mindless snacking) and an Aldeni bar (a Turkish confection that tastes like soggy biscotti covered in caramel and sütlü çikolata--milk chocolate) from the mağaza across the street and sat down to wait. I waited for a good hour and a half, and watched two more buses come and go, for one that was empty enough for this spacial issue ridden Western girl to ride in relative peace.This bus never came. I realized if I was going to go anywhere at all today, I had to suck it up, plug my iPod into my ears, and watch out the nearest window to keep the Albeni bar from exiting my already churning stomach. I was in obvious distress, and my fellow passengers knew it. One elderly Turkish man seemed so alarmed by the way my actions seemd to mirror a frightened wild animal, that he said something earnest to me in Turkish as he patted his shoulder and mimicked the swaying of the bus, seeming to be offering a shoulder to lean on should I topple over. Kindly fellow. I replied, tamam (okay) and went back to staring out the window. I made it to Eyüp (albiet the wrong destination, but finding my way to Taksim was a breeze from there) by some unknown force of the Universe that seriously had my back that day.

29 November 2010

I finally have a clubhouse-and I found it under the willow tree

Fishing for frogs in the marsh.

Our bi-weekly ritual of feeding the two ducks and single goose (yet to be named). Most times M is too slow with the actual Breaking and Throwing of the Bread, and will have it snatched out of her hands by Duck 1 and Duck 2 before she has time to think twice.

Upon arrival at our clubhouse under the willow tree

Our favorite ducky friends

25 November 2010

A very happy Istanbulian Thanksgiving

Celebrating Turkey Day in Turkey, without a turkey. Sounds like a riddle, tastes like Wagamamas, and ends without feeling overly stuffed or even remotely satisfied from the experience. Physical cravings for needing to loosen my belt after three slices of pumpkin pie aside, so remains my gratitude. Today has been a wonderful day of reflection for me.

Sitting around the table with my girlfriends here in Istanbul for our little makeshift edamame-and-tofu themed Thanksgiving lunch at Wagamamas, I realized how many gifts I have been given in life to travel, to teach, to learn and to see things that many won't have the opportunity to see. I am thankful for this. These girls are amazing, exactly the company I should be keeping, girls who dream big, live large, and don't wear their fears on their sleeves. I know that we all look up to each other and rely on each other for support immensely. I am thankful for them. I realized how strong and courageous I really am, despite my weak moments, and I am thankful that at the end of each day, I know I can trust myself and my intuition to always make the right decisions and to guide me in the right direction. I thought about how hard it was for my family to see me go so far away, and especially so near the holiday season. I am thankful for their prayers and for their support in this trip. I am thankful for my friends back home who are just in their reminder that snowstorms blown out of proportion are not as romantic as I might think, and that I shouldn't always think the grass is always greener on the other side, especially when the other side boasts 60 degree weather on any given November evening.

I am dearly thankful for Aaron and his undying support while I undertake this little adventure, short from pushing me out the door when I had my doubtful moments about coming here, he has been there every step of the way, and always with useful tidbits of advice on things like which American swear words I should teach the kids first--suggesting I teach  the Biblical ones, stuff the four years olds can handle, before I move on to the "hard stuff," geared toward the 11 and 12 year old range.

So while I sit here in a skyping-frenzy, using up the last few hours of my mid-week off day to keep up with the ups and downs of the bummer of a blizzard that did not leave Salt Lake City in a post-apocalypic state that was the most anticipated event of the holiday weekend, and the progress of the hatchery-born turkey's roasting in every oven across America, I find myself thankful for even the small things, things I normally would cuss and pound my fists over in a catastrophic fit of injustices played upon me on any given weekday but today. Things like the hilariously over-dramatic Turkish TV dramas that run from 16:00-24:00 nightly that turn any sour mood of mine into a gleeful, giddy one. The kalamata olives and honeycomb I get to eat every morning on toast with Turkish tea for breakfast. The stray cat in the neighborhood that Mira and I have christened Alice who follows us around everywhere as we go about our daily walks to and from the park. The two ducks that look like Jemima Puddle Duck and the loner goose who live in the idyllic pond with willow trees providing fantastic hiding places for tea parties that is right in my backyard.

The understanding I come away with, as many celebraters do, as this Thanksgiving Day of 2010 comes to a close, is that there are many, many little things, each day, I should take the time to appreciate, to feel gratitude for, and the people in my life who deserve my vocal appreciation of them more than just during the holiday season. So to all my friends and family in Utah, New York, and scattered across the world, and all the turkey's who so courageously gave their lives for 20 USD or even 80 TL to the millions giving thanks during the festivities today via engorgement of the belly, mutlu bir gün seni dilerim, a happy day I wish you.

19 November 2010

Day Trip to Ortaköy & Beşiktaş

Lauren and I spent the better part of Thursday morning winding our way through the village streets of Kemerburgaz standing up on the awkwardly filled public bus, trying to make our way into the city. Being it Bayram this week (a religious holiday celebrating the trials Abraham suffered when God commanded him to sacrifice his son, Issac. More on this interesting holiday later) the private shuttle from our compound in Kemercountry was not running. The shuttle takes 30 minutes, the public bus takes an hour an a half. We had to make due with what we had. We had a late start, what with waiting in the rain for the shuttle for the better part of an hour, before giving up running back to our houses for umbrellas and warmer jackets to wait for the bus, and didn't arrive in Ortaköy (Or-ta-coy) until noon. I purchased an Istanbulkart, a card that will let me have my fill of public transit, and made our way riverside to do some browsing and photographing. 

Birds flying over one of the many, many boats that make it's run up and down the Bosphorus each and every day. You will notice that boats will only run one direction, that is because they are only allowed to head upstream during certain time during the day, and downstream certain times.

 A seasoned fisherman and his kindly old fisherman pals doing what they've done best for the better part of the last century. (Assumingly.)

 The Grand Mejidiye Mosque in Ortaköy stationed imposingly on the water on this overcast, gloomy day.


The third floor rooftop terrace at the Adresim Cafe. You can see the Grand Mejidiye Mosque in the background.

The Adresim Cafe, where Lauren and I ate baked potatoes with black and green olives, peas, corn, cheese and sıcak sos (hot sauce) for 8 TL and Diet Cokes for 4 TL (over 3 USD!) We sat on the rooftop cafe overlooking the streets of Beşiktaş.

16 November 2010

Brunch on the Bosphorus

This morning brought on an unexpected excursion into Istanbul proper with Almira, my new abla, (sister) and my host family. We drove from Kemerburgaz through the winding, narrow streets of Bebek that find themselves sprawled over hill tops and along the Bosphorus River. Bebek, located on the European side of Istanbul, means baby, in Turkish. 

Sade Kahve, meaning "black coffee," the outdoor cafe where we ate brunch that looks out over the river and a massive, unsupported suspension bridge linking European and Asian Istanbul.

Right over our heads, high up on the hill sat the Rumeli Hisar Fortress. Before Constantinople was conquered by the Turks, the Rumeli Fortress was built by Mehmet II to prevent the Byzantine fleets from entering the Bosphorus straits. 

The Rumeli Hisar Fortress, as seen from the Bosphorus

Finally being in the city was a dream. I live for exploration and adventure, none of which can be found in Kemerburgaz, unless you are content comparing prices and trying to read the Turkish food labels at the local Macro Center. Interesting yes, do they put different thing in Dove sampuan (shampoo) here...? Guess we'll find out.

15 November 2010

The way Istanbul says hello: merhaba

Merbaha, from Istanbul! Written 11 Novemeber 2010:

I exited the plane this morning at 10 AM after a long and sleepless flight to Istanbul from New York. I was driven straight to Kemerburgaz, Istanbul along the coast line and through the city. I had no idea I would be going straight to my host family's house, I thought there might be a few days of rest and orientation awaiting me. Not so. Luckily, I ended up with a welcoming host family, a sure sign of luck since I'd never even spoken with them, only about them with my program coordinator. I fell asleep at 6 pm sans dinner and slept like one only can after traveling for 2 days. I have exhausted my cash resources for now due to the fact that I had to haul all of my luggage into New York for the night via taxicab and back again the next afternoon...I've taken the subway from the airport without four bags, and even then it was a hassle. There was no way I could've executed it cheaply. The ride was very pleasant, getting to see the night skyline of the city appearing from under the bridge as we drove to 86th and Lexington where my oldest and closest friend from my days in the city was letting me crash for the night. We had a rowdy good time chatting and catching up for the next few hours. The ride back to the airport the next day, (after I had spent a leisurely morning eating organic cheerios and drinking tea with Autumn, visiting my favorite painting, Springtime, by Pierre Auguste Cot at the Met, having lunch at my favorite soup hangout Hale and Hearty, lattes at Dean and Deluca, and generally enjoying strolling about my old stomping grounds on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on the most gorgeous fall day I'd ever seen the city offer) was equally the easiest and most pleasant trip to the airport I have probably ever taken. Must always budget for taxi rides whenever I am traveling with excessive baggage.

The flight from New York was incredibly comfortable and luxurious. It must have been good karma finally coming my way after the torment I had endured from the SLC parking enforcement crew throughout the entire summer. Somehow, with the Universe's blessing, I had my ticket upgraded to first class. Upon entering the plane and taking my seat, I was immediately offered juice or champagne. Before take-off, we were all handed the night's menu--and we sat back contemplating our first course options (a pepper-crusted tuna steak and feta cheese sampler with a soybean and seaweed salad, or a cream of lettuce soup with a spiced-lentil asparaguas and squash salad) as the crew readied the plane for our departure. Disclaimer: I will always choose the soup option, even if it is cream of lettuce. 

The first course was served and I sampled my first taste of cream of lettuce soup. Very...lettuce-y. I cant' say I would recommend it to anyone who wouldn't be craving soup in 100 degree desert heat the way I would. We soup lovers have to go through a lot to sustain our vice. The lentil-asparagus-squash salad was tasty and well-seasoned, but something about it was giving me a major headache. I forwent the rest of the veggie-bean salad in favor of a crisp green one made with baby spinach, dried cranberries, and pine nuts that was now being served with seeded rolls and butter. Much better. For the main course I went with a simple cheese ravioli and artichoke hearts. The artichoke hearts were the same ones from Costco that had been my job to separate anytime Aaron and I made pizza or spaghetti sauce. The artichoke hearts made me sad--the food started to lump in my throat and the immensity of what I was doing, where I was going, away from everything and everyone I knew began to really weigh heavily on me in a "no turning back now" kind of way.

I estimate that our meal was served over the course of three or four hours, as I dropped off to sleep with five hours remaining on our nine hour flight, somewhere over Nova Scotia.

I woke to light from the Turkish sky seeping through the cracks on the blinds that had been pulled shut throughout the night. I enjoyed a fruit and yogurt breakfast and tea while flying in low over hundreds of minirets as we began our landing in Istanbul. Collecting my visa that will sustain me legally in Turkey for the next 90 days before I have to get it renewed, and the line to have my passport stamped, was also some of the simplist "line-waiting" I've ever done. Things almost went too well for me traveling here. I have now been here one week, and haven't had a moment to collect my thoughts in a coherent, readable way until now. The adventure has just begun, more on Kemerburgaz, Turkish breakfast, and the local Starbucks to come!

12 November 2010

The way Salt Lake City says farewell

Before we begin down the epic portrayal of my journey cross-Atlantic, let us enjoy some photos from a wonderful Last Day Hike up the Mount Olympus trail. A and I collected many a rock, mine to serve as lame souvenirers from the Famous Rocky Mountains and A's for his monumentous snake cage he is building for his serpentine beauties. 

 A standing like only the true Dictator of the World could, or would. 

Not exactly the view from the top. 

'Twas windy.

08 November 2010

To the Mouths of New Yorkers From Your Humble West Coast Third Wife

From last week:

I'm back New York!

A little more domesticated and with better hair to boot. It's been a year since I've left, a whole year, and leaving didn't kill me like I thought it would. Instead, here I am, sitting in my sunny Salt Lake City kitchen brewing up a pot of tea with nothing weighing on my shoulders except the thought of a ten cent fine if I forgo returning or renewing the library books that are due today and the packing for Turkey that so desperately needs to be completed. A far cry from my life last year, oh the stresses of the city, how did I ever survive? Ah ha, but I return elated with life and world experiences and will pass through you again many times until I arrive again, standing on your bruised shoulders, and shout into the foggy sky my triumphant final return...and subsequently begin a temp job, probably.

06 November 2010

A call for last minute to-do's

It's my last weekend in Salt Lake, and I've plum run out of "one-more-time" visiting opportunities. I've gone to the Coffee Garden on 9th and 9th "once last time." I've fed the ducks at Sugarhouse Park, "one last time." I've collected necessities from Whole Foods (except for one last chocolate run). I've made "one final" trip to the Tea Grotto, Target, the Keihl's counter, Anthropologie, and hit up all my favorite local independent bookstores.

So what should I possibly do to amuse myself this weekend? I need use the mega-industrial scale at A's workplace to weigh my suitcase (forget about packing underweight...I'll be lucky to weigh in at 50 pounds flat) and I am still on the hunt for a USB cord so I'm not packing 10 lbs in batteries cross-Atlantic. I almost made a date with Rikki to catch the 50 year anniversary (!!!) of Goddard's Breathless showing at the Broadway theatre on 300 E., and then it seemed a waste of time spending hours in a darkened theatre with limited daylight left on my SLC roster. Jo also wants to have a piece of my time pie. Mother wants me to make the trek home for one last weekend. All things that take time, yet I don't have time, yet I don't have things to do. Catch-22?

What is the meaning of this post?

04 November 2010

delayed reactions

My flight, instead of departing on the first...two days ago...now leaves on Monday, 8 November. Finally...if my initial leave from Salt Lake is delayed any further I'm never going to get out of here!

I have been emailing editors from all the local papers asking if they'd be interested in picking up my story...it's a fair share of sucking up to them to tell you the truth. In my copy-paste haste I accidentally sent, "Dear Daily Herald news staff," to the staff at the Salt Lake Tribune. Whoops. Hopefully they'll understand how much of a hot commodity I am right now when they see how many other papers I am sending my story off to and they'll pick me up faster than a hotcake around the campfire.

In other local news, forgoing the endless hours I have been spending at the downtown library (the most beautiful building in SLC...I'll miss it terribly) I have tried my hand at "cleansing." You know, the lemon-maple syrup-cayenne pepper concoction that all your health obsessed friends drink 10 days out of every month. I made it to about 4 o'clock on the first day before I succumbed to the temptation of a massive salad from Whole Foods drenched in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I spent rest of the day snacking on dried cranberries, my reserve chewy pick-me-up that keeps me from eating an entire box of Welch's Very Berry Fruit Snacks. 

The Salt Lake downtown library...a massive light filled, five-story structure that can consume even the most wary of book and periodical readers.

01 November 2010

Not a doorbell shall be rung despite the porch light

It's Halloween night. Aaron decided to give the kids a break from all the high-fructose corn syrup and pass out pre-packaged delicious Famous Amos cookies. Despite this and the improved weather over last night, we haven't had a single trick or treater all night. We anticipated more last night, families tend to encourage Saturday night trick or treating in Utah if Halloween falls on a Sunday, as it did this year, but as last night brought on continuous bouts of stormy weather, we surrendered our treat-giving privileges to the indoor heated malls and their cheap bowls full of Tootsie Rolls and Smarties.

However much our sorrow at not being able to act like grown ups and stay inside on Halloween, we managed to drag ourselves to a dance with my sister and her friends for fifteen minutes before hitting up a late movie in our costumes. Karen (the sister) dyed her blonde hair black and bronzed herself three times over to achieve a tanned look for her Cleopatra costume. She constructed the dress herself out of a sheet and accessorized with some amazing antique store finds on jewelry. Can I just throw in a shout out here for all those who still believe in homemade Halloween costumes and not the store-bought, last minute variety? Thank you, I salute you! Aaron pulled some things from his closet (just happened to have a pair of black leather pants and genuine cowboy accessories lying around leftover from his childhood horse riding days) and became Jake the Cowboy. He shot off his cap guns all night. I donned my gypsy pants I found in Edinburgh over the summer and wrapped a beautiful shawl around my shoulders and was a Snake Charmer. At the last minute we decided to leave Athena (the Snake) at home because she looked so content curled up in A's pant leg.