Many of you have been reminding me to update this, and like many things, I knew I'd get to it 'eventually'. This eventually, became approx a year. So, I'll pick up at June this year.
We arrived back to Istanbul after packing up for a two week trip. In February. … three months later, we made our way back home. It gave me plenty of time to sense everything anew. While it’s nice to be home (even though that term is used pretty loosely these days), I had the day to ignore my urges to cuddle up on the couch with Central Standard time as my senses readjusted to life in Istanbul. I came up with a list of things I missed and things I didn’t.
Missed: My toothbrush. No foldable or gift from the dentist compares to the electric toothbrush I have in Istanbul, it's like a teeth massage, twice a day. The Bosporus. This city is hectic, chaotic and busy, but when you look out at the large body of water and it's simple rhythms, it's hard to not let that sink in. Bebek beagle. If you know me, you know that I have beagle-dar. I love the breed and the slightly overweight often panting beagle, who I connected the dots to conclude lives in Bebek. I smile every time I see him waddling along. Fresh bread smell. With many corner bakeries, it's hard to not pick up this smell. However, it's usually, bland white bread so it smells better than it looks. It reminds me of rowing up the Mississippi River on morning practices and smelling the bead factory that was along the eastern bank not far from our turning point. Sound of friend's voices on a local call. When away, I try to keep in touch with some of my friends, but with time differences and schedules, its hard to talk on the phone. So nothing compares to a real voice call. Bionic Dut. Dut means mulberry and I was born and lived in a house on Mulberry Street. Yes, I did receive many copies of that Dr. Seuss book, growing up. But I also love the fruit and am amazed at how big they are in Turkey. And this one in the photo was only the biggest one left, after I picked out all the mammoth bionic dut....
Things I Didn't Miss: Of course, there were a few things that I found didn't miss. Like the ezan. I know the call to prayer five times a day seems like something you can just tune out. But that is all dependent on how close you are to the speaker at the time of the fire drill. Downstairs dog, fighting samauri cats. The dog that lives in the apartment downstairs is programed to yip voraciously anytime it hears a decibel above that of a hairdryer on low- small dog complex. And the cats that get in street fights, anywhere, they sound like they are dying in combat or practicing horrifying operatics. At-my-convenience-service-model. That's all I am going to say about that. The micro-climates of big, bad city smells. This is mostly the trash that has been stewing in the sun, that you get a whiff of in passing. Always disgusting!
There is no pic for this entry- if I were to shoot a picture of a gray wall, I am not sure it would add any value. Back in the states, I painted a few walls what was called, as all paint lines have their own unique names for every shade – thank you Crayola, “dolphin fin.” This transposed itself after several conversations to “dolphin butt,” so from there on out, we referred to it as such. One day a friend came over, really liked the color and asked what it was, this friend wanted to possible paint a wall in their house the same color. Given we referred to it as dolphin butt, we later heard that friend went to the paint store and asked for it by name. I can only imagine what the salesperson was thinking about our creative nickname or the guy seeking the paint! I laughed again when I thought about this, because I am confident I have made several mistakes of the same caliber since moving to Turkey. When a particular one comes to mind, I promise to make an entry about it. Perhaps, my reaction to the word for vacuum cleaner in Turkish or one of the many assumptions I make for lack of full understanding of what is spoken. Stay tuned. Anyhow, I have taken it upon myself to paint two walls in the apartment and one of them was gray, the other yellow.
Last Saturday, in an effort to get some sun and prepare myself for becoming a turbo tourist while my little brother is here, I went on a Bosporus boat tour. The tour was on a municipality boat starting from Eminönü to Üsküdar and then to up past the second bridge, a little further north than Istinye and back. The tour was 10L and didn’t have a tour guide per se, instead just a brochure with a follow along on your own map. It was particularly fun on the way downstream as we watched the view from the water of the area along the Sahilyolu, that I run most days. The coolest part of the trip was just as we were passing Baltalimani, about to reach Bebek and we say 3 dolphins jump out of the water. It is a strange sight to see them that far up, because they don’t like the Black Sea to the north and usually have no business in the straight.
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On a walk the other day, I ventured north from my apartment along the seaside road - what might have been a routine walk gave way to a secret in the city. OK, not really a secret, but it seemed so tucked away and unexpected, this park. The entrance was gated by a big brick wall which span all around the park. The entrance has an attendant, to collect money from cars that wanted to drive through, though cars seemed scarce. The park was full of kids playing on the swing sets and running around and well-manicured flower beds. There were a few historic houses turned banquet halls, now government owned. Right in the middle of the park was a large fountain and lake with ducks. There were a few kinds of ducks – black, white, and black and white and a few mallard-looking mutts. From the top of the hill I was able to see out to the Bosporus. A stark contrast to the busy street I had walked to get here.
A description does not do much justice – but the other day in the metro, there was a little boy on the corner selling little chicks. These chicks, there must have been 20 or so in a small box – they were dyed all different colors- purple, pink, green, blue. The little boy was selling them for 15TL, about ten bucks. I was very tempted to pick one up. The problem was – what the heck would I do with it after the cute colorful fuzzy allure wore off. Also, I know it wouldn’t stay that size for too long. I guess I just wanted to tell someone I picked up a chick in the metro and witness the reaction! I also wanted to stick around and watch to see if anyone actually bought one.
I know I am long overdue for an update here....
Easter in a predominantly non-Christian country made for an adventurous tale. It was also the first time we had dinner guests – mainly because we haven’t bought several kitchen paraphernalia needed to make less-than-simple dishes. So, starting with the center piece seen here. I had to get resourceful since I had trouble finding: a bunny, egg dye, chocolate eggs or fake grass. Most of which, I am sure exist, I just haven’t navigated enough to know right where to go for such items, nor did I want to pay premium import prices on silly stuff like this. Here is a list of what you see in the centerpiece and how it was made:
Easter bunny- it’s a stuffed beagle (it’s the Easter beagle Charlie Brown!) white cardboard, from my fiance's dry cleaning box and pink post with transparent flower wrap to cover and wrap around the ears. Skewers pinned into the nose for whiskers.
Egg stand – a candleholder, gift from a friend, with a plate wrapped in green flower wrap.
Easter grass – the green flower wrap folded several times and ironed until crimped.
Easter eggs – Jordan almonds. Found different colors at the kapalı çarşı (grand bazaar).
Basket – folded strips from a Starbucks bag.
Egg dye – I tried to soak them in beet juice and vinegar. They basically just turned brown like natural farm eggs. The one in the middle that looks a little green. Well, that one got dumped in a cup or hot water with toilet bowl freshener. We didn’t serve that one. (I thought if our toilet bowl can be bright green….). Not one of my proudest accomplishments, but A for effort.
Pink eggs – send by my favorite coworkers in a “care package”.
Egg Decoration- Is simple scratched away white design complimented by my Sharpie.
Yesterday was my birthday, my first birthday in Turkey. It was a well-blended day of blessings and setbacks. I woke to a big pot of coffee, eggs and toast prepared by my fiancée. Yum! I got out of the shower and found that my hairdryer broke. It started smoking and smelled like burnt plastic. I told my cleaning lady today that it was trash and she said she would take it. I am not sure what she plans to do with it. Most of what she does and says is still a bit confusing for me... Anyway, back to birthday.
I went to class where my wonderful classmates brought a really good, chocolate cake. I blew out candles and everything! and we had cake for lunch:) My classmates are awesome! Then, as I was working on homework, using the dictionary, on my phone it crashed! I tried to reboot it, several times - nothing. (Can I have a phone with a hair dryer app for my birthday please?!) I had planned to run some errands after class, but of course some of those were dependent on a few phone calls and a Google map - all hidden behind a black screen with a little apple icon that decided to take the day off. There is no picture for this post, and that is why. So, I went home to troubleshoot my phone and let everyone know, I am alive - contrary to the death of what has become the equivalent of my external hard drive to my brain. I was close to restoring the phone to factory settings when I got a tip: "plug it in, that happens to me sometimes" Of course, I had already plugged it in, but I went ahead and plugged it in again and left it alone to catch up on email. About an hour later, after chirping and squawking what I thought was a beg for euthanasia, the home screen popped up! Whew. I added - write down important information from my phone, to my tomorrow's to-do list. On with the bday. My fiancée came home, we went for a run, meeting his brother hard way, we run along the water and returned home to quickly shower (and air dry hair!). For the evening, my fiancée took me to a sushi restaurant - one thing I really miss from the states!! It was a very romantic dinner and overall great birthday! Thanks for all the messages, calls and FB posts!
The first week that I arrived, I looked out the window to see six papağan (parrot) perched on the tree outside of our apartment. I thought to myself, parrots in Istanbul? This is impossible! Maybe they are some sort of green pigeon I never studied. I quickly took out the camera so that no one would try to suggest jet-lagged delusion. I told my fiance and he told his parents who, no one believed my until I pulled out the camera. They have since been back in 2's and 3's, but for the first time last night, I heard the story of where they came from. In 1998, parrots were loaded into a cargo plane and taken to Istanbul to be sold in a pet shop. On the way from he loading dock to the store, the truck got in an accident and the bird flew the scene. They have been successfully breeding since and can be found along the Bosporus in the more wooded areas. "I met your mother on a cargo plane after being captured and taken to another country" - what a story to tell the grand kids.
Thought I'd share this rookie mistake. It happened the first week, an oldie, but still good: When I got to Istanbul, one of the first things I did was get a phone. As a foreigner, I am only allowed to get a prepaid service, but anyway, it rings. The voice mail system is a little different that my AT&T plan in the US. First I kept getting promo texts from Turkcell and alerts reminding me of every little action I had just performed. So it was no surprise that my jerked reaction from this text was perhaps another unwanted solicitation. I got a similar text to this 3 times before I asked my fiancée, "honey, who the hell is Kim? Do you know a Kim? Did you give her my cell number?" Confused, he asked me the full name, "Kim Aramis. Honey does that ring a bell?!"
He gently broke to me that KimAramis means who’s call you missed… Even though I knew the word for who, I wasn’t able to connect the dots on my own given the context. An absolute blond moment. Have you ever done anything like this?
For the days I manage to wash my hair with conditioner and rinse with shampoo there are always the chorus of dogs in the neighborhood howling along with the ezane. (The mosques all have speakers attached to the minarets that play the song calling people to prayer.) Religious practice aside, the the song definitely appeals to the community of pets and stray dogs that roam the Istanbul streets. Whenever I am sitting at my desk and I hear the beagle-like howls wrap around the pitch-alternating melody I laugh out loud. I will not be surprised if during my assimilation period, I join in for a few notes...