Big Blue Building

I finally paid the water bill for my newish flat for the first time today. I had received three so far and was maybe even missing one or two but procrastinated because 1) I know everyone does and it isn’t a huge problem and 2) I was never in the right mood to face the possible confusion and chaos of the water bill place which I’ve never been in but which has been pointed out to me.

The thought of having to figure out how to have my water turned back on because I waited too long and they turned it off finally spurred me to work up the courage to try to pay the bill. In reality, I was still procrastinating because I have been told I can pay the bill at a bank, but the bank I went to a few weeks ago told me no. So today I decided to try a different bank, one that is listed on the back of my bill (as was the other one). I assumed I would have no luck again but could then go home feeling good about at least trying, while still having avoided the big blue water company building.

I went into a branch of Vakif Bank which, again, is listed on the back of the bill as a bank where I can make payment. I walked up to a teller, thankful there were no other customers around, said hello in Turkish and pushed my bills at him. He looked at them, said some Turkish, then handed them back saying something I didn’t understand. Just then a man came in with HIS water bill and handed it to the teller who looked at them, released more Turkish and pointed up the road upon which the man nodded and left.

I sheepishly approached the window again, still holding my bills. Then I shrugged my shoulders and made a little circle with my hand, fingers pointing at the ground, my international gesture for “where is”. The teller answered and pointed, I repeated the sounds that appeared to be a place name and he nodded. I walked out and up the street in the direction he pointed, hoping to see something that corresponded with the sounds I had just made. A few meters up the road I did, another bank, one I’m unfamiliar with and have now forgotten the name of.

I walked in and immediately a security guard asked me what I needed. I waved the bills at him as I walked toward the teller but the guard kept talking and then gestured at a machine for generating numbered slips of paper. I took number 822 and started looking for the board which shows which number they are on. I found it because it immediately bonged as my number came up which made me laugh. There was no one else in the bank. The guard had enough of a sense of humor to laugh too as I walked the three steps from the machine back to the teller and presented him with my bills. I waited nervously as he looked them over, wondering how much it would cost since I was so late and was possibly missing bills. Wondering if I could even really pay here. After a minute, he asked for 17 liras. I thought I must not be remembering my Turkish numbers properly the number was so low, equivalent to about ten dollars, but I gave him a 20 and he gave me three liras in change.

So, one more thing is taken care of, one less thing to worry about. I feel silly for procrastinating so long. I do still wonder about that big blue water company building though. I’m told it has a big fountain inside but, ironically, the water in the fountain has been turned off. So people sit on benches around it, waiting, eating their lunches and staring at the place where the water’s supposed to be.

I'm home!

More than six weeks ago I moved into my cute little house. Here's a peek at my courtyard garden. If you look at the seating area waaay in the back you will see Chloe, my Maltese, observing the garden. Which should not be confused with Chloe guarding the garden. She just looks with amazement, boredom or disinterest, depending on her mood, at the feral cats which periodically invade us. More on that later...

Moving: Part 2

It's been an interesting two weeks, but hopefully I will be sleeping in my new home tomorrow night.

I spent my first week of homelessness with a friend in Tarabya, a pretty little village on the Bosphorus which is part of Istanbul but feels like a a sleepy little town of its own. Unfortunately I was quite ill so I spent most of the week sleeping and sitting and not walking and exploring the area as I'd hoped.

This week, I moved to stay with another friend in Etiler. I was feeling better but my dog promptly got sick. I won't go into the gory details but can assure you it was gory. Not something you want to subject a friend to and it was a challenge to keep her from making a mess all over his apartment. Mostly I contained her (and the unavoidable mess) to my room. Now we are both feeling better but I'm going to uproot my poor little dog again. She's pretty adaptable but I think I am really pushing her limits.

Once I move in to the new place I intend to pretty much hole up there for awhile; I'm feeling very domestic and looking forward to having a place to unleash my domestic urges on. I'm also looking forward to checking out my new view. It was endlessly fascinating to stare out at my old panorama, and even though the new place doesn't have such a big view of the sea I'm sure my new surroundings will have quite enough to hold my interest.

The next post will have photos of my peaceful, pretty little new house!

Moving: Part 1

Well. I am moving. My landlord is turning my building with the fabulous Marmara Sea view into a hotel, so out I go.

The good news is, I found an adorable tiny house down the hill from my old flat. The bad news is there are two weeks between when I have to be out of my old flat and can move into the new house. On Sunday I moved my things into my old landlord's basement and took one much too heavy suitcase, one very confused small dog and my laptop to stay at a friend's place in Tarabya.

It's been stressful because moving always is, and being rootless for two weeks is bad for me. I need space of my own to retreat to and for two weeks I won't have it. But I am fortunate to have generous friends who live in nice places so I'm hoping to play the tourist a bit and walk a lot to see new parts of Istanbul and use up my restless energy.

My new house is so so tiny but has a courtyard and a rooftop terrace. Essentially it is three itty bitty rooms stacked on top of each other with a terrace on the roof. I'm looking forward to taking full advantage of the terrace and courtyard for growing plants, eating meals and generally plan to live my life outside for as long as the weather allows. Even though I will have an entire house the space is MUCH smaller than my old flat but I am gaining a washing machine and, strangely, have two bathrooms! I also discovered that I own ten carpets. Why someone who had a three room flat (plus kitchen and bathroom) needed 10 carpets is a good question. Of course the answer is that someone with a three room flat doesn't NEED ten carpets...

Below is a list of things I discovered I own/don't own. Interesting what you acquire, or don't, when you move to a new place with only your clothes. Of course you must remember that my flat was partially furnished. So for instance I had spoons and forks but no knives when I moved in.

1. 10 rugs (can't quite get over that one. And I haven't mentioned the stack of other textiles I have).
2. Lots of bowls, no plates.
3. An ottoman. My only piece of furniture.
4. Knives, no spoons or forks.
5. All coffee related accoutrements.
6. Fewer clothes than when I came as I have lost a lot of weight, got rid of the old clothes and haven't bought many new ones.
7. Still more shoes than most people own, yet still not enough for me.
8. Books, speakers for my Mac music, no television.

The Omnivore's Hundred

This week I am posting something a little different. I ran across this in a blog I read and thought it would be fun. It's kind of related to life in Istanbul I suppose, some of these things can be found here. And some of them really can't. And some of them I had to look up because I didn't know what they were, but the verygoodtaste blog wisely has links to Wikipedia so it was easy to look them up. I don't know how to do crossouts on my blog, but that didn't really matter as there is nothing I won't try once! Wait-- fugu. I won't try fugu or any other food that involves the possibility of death.

Here are the instructions from the blog

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake


I have now been here for one year. My anniversary prompted me to think about the random things I know now which I didn't know a year ago. Here they are, not necessarily, but maybe, in order of importance:

1. Ben and Jerry's ice-cream can be had at the Kanyon movie theater. Including my favorite flavor, New York Super Fudge Chunk.
2. Being without running water for a day or two is really not a big inconvenience.
3. Baby wipes are genius. See number 2.
4. I love old things made in Uzbekistan.
5. Social ties here are very strong. The good side of this is that people will help you-- whether you ask for it want it or not. The bad side of this is that people will help you-- whether you ask for it want it or not!


I've been here almost a year now, but I find there are still new things to notice and learn. Here are today's new things:

1. Despite the fact that Turkey has a very high incidence of male pattern baldness (if I had more time I would research incidence rates), I have yet to see a comb-over. The men here seem to embrace their receding hairlines and wear them proudly, often going so far as just shaving off whatever is left (if I had more time I'd take photos, just shoot out any window to prove my point).

2. The Turkish word for cheesecake is... "cheesecake". Convenient for me. One less word to memorize.

3. Today, as the clouds rolled in, the taxi driver taught me the word for rain. I can say it but not share it as I have no idea how to spell it and it would seem to involve those Turkish letters that I have no idea how to insert.