Out the window 2



















I spent hours yesterday looking out the window and chasing the birds and the smoke with my camera. Seriously, how lucky am I?

Out the window

A few days ago I was wandering down the hill from my house and noticed sheep in some empty lots, and behind the bars in the windows of an old gray wall bordering a roofless building, more sheep. They looked at me so peacefully, and even though I know where my food comes from and am not overly sentimental about it, it made me sad to see them looking at me so contentedly. So innocent and unsuspecting.

Because these are the Kurban Bayram sheep, the sheep that will be sacrificed for this holiday which memorializes God’s request that Abraham sacrifice Isaac.

I’m not really sure what to expect, I’m a bit nervous because even though I eat meat with no qualms I’m not used to seeing it slaughtered before my eyes. Many of the Turks I’ve asked about the holiday find the sacrificing offensive and archaic. When I ask how they will celebrate the holiday they wrinkle their noses and say, “I don’t know, maybe I’ll visit family or go shopping. I don’t really celebrate this holiday, it’s not good.” When I tell one of my students that I’ve started seeing sheep in my neighborhood he says, “I would prefer you stay home on Thursday. I would prefer you not go out.” This of course makes me more nervous but also morbidly curious.

Wednesday I run all my errands and go shopping for food and art supplies so I can stay home and entertain myself all day Thursday if necessary. Thursday is the first day of the four-day holiday, and I am up early. I turn on my music (I’m most nervous about what I might hear) and in my first act of holiday celebration make myself French toast. I look out the window and down the hill toward the sea, into the maze of streets that seems like such a self-contained village to me. So separate from the life at the top of the hill, with its rivers of tourist constantly flowing through the monuments and brightly lit shops.

I can see directly into the courtyards of Sokullu Camii, the largest mosque in the neighborhood. A tin roofed shelter juts into the courtyard from the other wall. I see men milling around under the shelter and in the passageway between it and where the sheep and cows are tied.

I make my breakfast, work on a drawing, looking out the window every now and then. I see the numbers of sheep dwindling and think this isn’t so bad, I can’t really see or hear anything, and I know that the meat is traditionally given to the poor and doesn’t go to waste.

After a few hours something new, there is blood covering the ground, and men with hoses washing it away. It’s not the blood that bothers me now, but the thought that the cows tied there can see and hear and smell what is happening, and the blood is at their feet. At one point I can hear them lowing, but whenever I look at them they look surprisingly calm.

I’m surprised at how long it takes-- all day; from early morning until evening I can see cows tied at the wall, waiting. I spend most of the day at home, but go out to dinner with a friend. We walk through the streets, which are very, very quiet, to a pub, and have meatballs. The irony doesn’t strike me until now. As we walk we see no signs of what’s going on inside the mosque anywhere else, just quiet, gray, cold, empty streets. A good day to stay home and stay in, drink tea, try to keep warm, and look out the window.

Uncivilized

















I have been busy, busy, busy! My teaching schedule exploded, and so did my temper as a result, but after a few weeks of pushing and arguing I have worked out a reasonable solution to my work schedule. So thanks for the concern, Judy! I am overworked and tired but otherwise well and hope to get back to writing more regularly.

Today I will leave you with a photo and a few brief lines. The photo is of my table in my usual café and shows my usual order with a slight variation. I always order a hazelnut cappuccino and water, but today was in the mood for a treat so I also ordered orange poppy seed cake. You will note that the cake came with a knife and fork, which illustrates a Turkish habit that I find very funny. If you order any kind of food it is always accompanied by a knife and fork. Order a sandwich, you get a knife and fork. Order a cookie, you get a knife and fork. I’ve been told once or twice that it is considered a little uncivilized by some to eat with your fingers, but I am not the only one who picks up her cookie to eat it.

I’ve tried a few times to use the utensils to eat something I normally would pick up to eat. But the last time I did that the pastry turned out to be a bit crustier than expected which resulted in a rather large bit of pastry cracking off and shooting across the table in a most uncivilized manner accompanied by the crack of my knife suddenly striking china. So uncivilized I may be, but I now use my fingers freely and manage to get most of my food into my mouth.

Winter?

Winter blew in a few nights ago; I think I actually heard it arrive. We have been having damp and chilly days for a few weeks, but still the sun would come out and warm us and it would feel like summer. But a few nights ago the wind started howling in an entirely new way around my windows. My apartment is on the top floor of a building that sits on a hill overlooking the Marmara Sea and there is nothing between me and any winds blowing in. In the summer the wind was strong, but these winter winds are different, almost brutal.

Even though I’ve visited in October and in February this is the coldest I’ve known it to be and everyone is saying we will have a cold and stormy winter. I don’t think the leaves change color here, so it’s rather gray when it rains, but some of the vines growing on the old stone city walls are turning bright red.

I’ve gotten so used to the flora (aloe, geraniums, squat palms) and fauna (feral dogs and cats, pigeons, huge ravens with gray heads) here that it’s strange to see something that reminds me of home. For example bittersweet grows abundantly across the street from the courthouse I pass every day. It soars high up the stone wall above the cistern, breaking away from the wall about 20 feet up and drooping heavily over the cobblestone street and sidewalk. The only bittersweet I’ve known grew along the fields and forests of eastern Pennsylvania and we used to have to climb through thick bushes and brambles to collect the few meager branches.

I was walking beside the Blue Mosque a few days ago, lost in thought as I looked for the station and the old train that runs along the Marmara. I wondered if I would be able to find the station and if I found it if I could figure out how to pay and get to the train I needed when I smelled summer. It was cold and I was bundled in my scarf with my cold hands in my pockets, but suddenly I smelled freshly cut grass and then heard a lawnmower. They were cutting the grass around the Blue Mosque and if I smelled that here before this it didn’t make an impression. On this particular day it seemed very strange because it was so cold and dreary and it’s a smell I associate with hot, humid weather and pounding sun. And it was strange because it’s not a smell I associate with any city but with American suburbs. Maybe that freshly mown grass was the last vestige of warm weather because the season seems to have turned for good.

I love all the changes of season and can’t wait for the first snowfall. Right now I spend a lot of time looking out my window at the sea, which is often iron gray, a color I hadn’t seen before the last few weeks. I watch the storms rolling in. One minute the sun is streaming in my window, warming my fluffy carpets and tile floors, but I know that will change in a few minutes because I can see the streaks of rain out over the sea, just beyond the ships in the harbor. The view from my window changes almost every week. Now I see choppy white waves that weren’t there before. I few weeks ago some small islands appeared, way out, that I couldn’t see in the haze of summer and this weekend a land mass appeared far behind them for the first time.

But just when I am mentally prepared to hibernate and find myself dreaming up new projects I can do in the warm comfort of my apartment while the winds howl outside, the winter retreats. Today I am sitting outside in the café without a coat. It’s sunny and supposed to go up to 68 degrees. So I have put aside my indoor activities for the moment and am enjoying the sunshine and warm weather while I can.

Out in the cold

It’s a quiet Sunday so the pedestrian walkway is quiet, the bazaar is closed so there is nowhere to “pedest” to. But I am at my usual table at Coffee World. It’s a huge café, seats for 40 outside and 40 inside on the first floor alone, but there are only six of us here now. I think we are outnumbered by the staff.

Which is OK, because the staff is busily scrubbing the walkway. It’s an endeavor that seems to demand quite an effort. There’s a scrubber with a long-handled bristly scrub broom, three guys carrying large watering cans and buckets of water from inside, and a supervisor, pointing.

It seems the idea is for the scrubber to scrub, and then the guys with watering cans chase the dirt down the cobblestoned hill, row by row, until the water flows into one of the planted areas that sprout in the center of the walkway. The supervisor seems to be pointing out areas that need more attention, although to be honest, they look like pretty clean cobblestones to me.

So here I am, wasting time, or filling time, or hoping for some kind of bolt of lightning that will tell me what I’m supposed to do with my day, and, oh yeah, my life. Instead of casting around for the thing I CAN do, maybe I should be thinking about what I WANT to do. It’s a gray day and I’m feeling dissatisfied and directionless. But I‘m easily cheered up, because I sneeze, and one of my nice waiters teaches me the Turkish equivalent of “bless you”, which is, spelled phonetically, “chok esha”. He tells me it translates to “much life”, and I teach him how to say and spell “sneeze” and “bless you”.

A few minutes later a new waiter comes out to ask me if I want to come inside, if it isn’t too cold for me out here. There’s such a fear of the cold here, the slightest draft is seen as an enormous risk to your health. One of my students was even concerned because I was drinking cold water when I was sick, she thought I was damaging my health by not drinking room temperature water.

This widespread fear of cold is somehow connected in my mind to the Turkish habit of never being alone. Actually, I can’t decide if it’s a need or a habit, because it seems to be such a part of the fabric of life. I never feel judged because I do things alone, there’s just sometimes a blank look of incomprehension when it comes up. An assumption that I live with someone, am going to that place with someone, that I must not have understood the question, or they don’t understand the answer, when I mention doing things on my own.

The problem is I’m starting to think they’re right, I don’t want to do everything by myself. I still need time alone to recharge and retreat and de-stress, but more and more I find myself envying the support system that seems to be built in to the culture here so that there is always someone to go shopping with or go to dinner with. Of course as my friends and I agree we already feel that if we died alone in our apartments our absence would be noticed more quickly here than at home in the US so maybe we are moving in the right direction.

Parade

I could write about going to get my residence permit last week, or the rooftop fish barbecue at my building or a dozen other things, but I’m feeling a little lazy today so I will just tell you what I see in front of me.

I’m sitting in “my” café, on the wide pedestrian boulevard leading to the Grand Bazaar. Lots of people are walking down the gentle slope that leads to the bazaar. They come in mobs and in trickles. The men who work in the carpet shops stand outside, some carrying their small glasses and saucers of tea, many of them smoking. Some of them sit at the tables around me. They watch what I watch, the people walking by.

I’ve noticed that the larger the group of people, the slower it moves. A family of three, all large, tall, pale, mother and father holding the hands of the daughter between them, moves much more quickly than the group of eight Japanese women who stop and start and seem to move back and forth as much as forward.

Men in suits travel in pairs, walking quickly, talking seriously. A man with two trays of food passes, it must be lunchtime. Two Turkish women walk quickly uphill, arm in arm.

A tour leader walks past, carrying her round paddle with its green and white insignia. She is followed by 30 people. Their heads swivel from side to side as they walk in pairs and threes behind their leader. Gray ladies in twos, a mother and daughter, retired couples.

I’m surprised at the number of large video cameras I see. Do people ever watch these movies they hang from their necks?

A father walks past, towed by his dark haired son. The mother follows behind, tugging their fair-haired daughter with her curly-frizzy braids. The little girl walks sideways in her mother’s wake arms stretched wide by the pull of her mother and the desire to linger and look.

As lunchtime approaches the crowds thin, the carpet shop men condense in the center of the walkway. Some of them look at me surreptitiously, curious about what I’m writing and how I can do it while I look around. I know, because one by one over the weeks they have asked me what I’m doing, what I’m writing, why they see me here everyday watching and typing.

An elderly man walks past pulling a big hand truck loaded with enormous boxes. He walks briskly, pushed down the hill by his load, smiling broadly, showing his missing front teeth and talking happily to the man walking beside him.

After a brief lunchtime lull, the crowds thicken again, the voices multiply, and the parade continues.

Going Native

It’s starting to feel like fall here and I’m starting to feel more and more like hunkering down and nesting. A couple of funny things happened this week that made me feel a little bit more like I live here and a little bit less like a visitor, although of course I’m sure that no matter how long I stay I will always be somewhat of a yabanci (foreigner).

I spent a few hours yesterday, on a gray Sunday afternoon, sitting outside in my new writing cafe drinking hazelnut cappuccinos. I come here often because I can sit outside when the weather is nice, and they have good cheap coffee and free wireless. I have a regular table in a quiet corner and I am strangely comforted by the fact that my regular waiter knows I want a hazelnut cappuccino and a water, and that I will need a second cappuccino later. When I went inside to buy some chocolates as a gift a few days ago the cashier said he sees me working here all the time, expressed his amazement that I type so fast without looking (it seems this is a rare skill in Turkey because I get comments about it all the time) and wanted to know if I am a writer. I told him I do some writing and have a blog and he said maybe one day I will mention them, so here is his plug: Kahve Dunyasi, or “Coffee World” in English, is a Turkish chain which competes with Starbucks. The stores are big and clean and the coffee is really good, on par with any I’ve had elsewhere. And I get my two cappuccinos and my water for less than I pay for a latte at Starbucks.

I walk the same route to and from my apartment every day, often passing an older gentleman who runs a car park in a small lot on a side street. For weeks we just kind of looked at each other, but soon we starting saying hello, and after the day I walked past with Chloe he started giving me big smiles and trying to talk to me. Of course I don’t know enough Turkish for us to have a real conversation, but it’s nice to walk past and get a big smile, a hello, and a “good morning” or “good evening”. And he always manages to ask how my dog is. There are some things that don’t require a common language.

After I pass the car park man I often come to the homeless man. He made me nervous my first few weeks here because I couldn’t tell if he was drunk or a little crazy. He would often be talking to himself, often quite loudly, and the fact that I couldn’t understand what he was saying made it even more disconcerting. But I never saw him approach anyone, and everyone else in the neighborhood seemed to take him in stride so I decided he was harmless, which a neighborhood friend later confirmed. I passed him Sunday afternoon on my way to the café, and for the first time he made a point of nodding at me politely and then held out his hands and made typing motions! I was amazed because I thought he was always in his own little world, and my café is nowhere near his usual haunts so I don’t know how or when he saw me working away. Later in the day when I walked past with Chloe he made a beeline for her and I picked her up so he could pet her. He was a little rough, but nice enough, and after a few pats retreated to his chair by the side of a building. This morning heading through the quiet streets I heard a loud “merhaba” (“hello”) from across the street and there he was, greeting me as he made his morning rounds.

I have also managed to get to the point where most of the guys in the restaurants on my usual route don’t harass me to come in and eat or drink. Some of them are really very sweet once you get to know them so I stop and chat with them and it’s kind of nice when they ask “how is my hocam (teacher) today”, or especially to hear, “my hocam looks beautiful today!” Even if it is part of the usual flattery it’s still nice to hear now and then.

So, these are my neighbors: the car park man, the crazy man, and the café guys. And I am probably the crazy American with the funny little dog.

Making things

Finally I succeeded in making something. This is an accomplishment because my “making implements” are mysterious.

I made a roasted chicken in my odd oven thingie. It sits on my countertop looking vaguely toaster oven-like but according to the pictures on it it can be used to make:
1. A sheep
2. A chicken
3. A shoe

Interestingly, the times underneath the pictures suggest it takes longer to cook the chicken. This reflects my experience because although I haven’t actually tried to cook a sheep or a shoe, it did take me at least four hours to cook my tiny chicken.

According to the book of instructions I found in the kitchen drawer and which I roughly translated with the use of my Turkish dictionary, my oven has three settings: roast, bake, and roast/bake. I decided to roast my chicken but after 90 minutes it looked a little rubbery and not at all roasted. So, I set it on roast/bake for 90 more minutes and that did the trick.

The chicken was nicely browned, the onions were carmelized and the quartered lemons I had added seemed to tenderize it. It was the best chicken I ever made, which was a good thing because after four hours of preparation it would have been very disappointing to toss the whole thing in the trash. Although the street cats would have been pretty happy with that outcome.

Next up: lasagna. I just have to find a baking pan, noodles, tomato puree, mozzarella, ricotta…

Mademoiselle Chloe

Chloe made her debut in Sultanahmet a few weeks ago.

I had been keeping her in my apartment because for one thing I was really busy moving and buying all those little things you need (towels, can openers, shampoo, knives that will cut a tomato and not just squash it) in a foreign language, as well as starting a new job doing something completely new to me. For another, even though I live about 2-3 blocks from the most touristy area in Turkey my immediate neighbors are rather traditional and I didn’t want to brand myself as that weirdo foreigner with the fluffy white dog. At least not right away.

But after more than a week in my building (she did get to travel four flights down to Musa’s atelier a few times) I decided it was time to take her out into the world.

First, she sniffed around in the street in front of my building for awhile. We started down the road, but true to form she balked after a few yards so I picked her up and carried her. I just don’t have the patience sometimes to cajole her into walking and there’s too much traffic on some of the streets to worry about her stopping in the middle of a road.

But the little bit of trouble I had getting her going was worth it because we had some interesting encounters.

I walked her through the Hippodrome which was crowded with Turkish families, mostly tourists from the towns outside of Istanbul. Dogs are becoming more popular pets here but are still not common, although it is common to see feral, but friendly, dogs in the streets. But tiny white dogs are almost unheard of so the reaction to a tiny white dog walking through the Hippodrome was what I might have expected if I had a giraffe on a leash. There was oohing and cooing, and children ran towards us. Toddlers either shrieked gleefully and ran toward her or, more cautiously, stood well back despite my encouragement and that of their parents, simply jumping up and down and flapping their arms but not daring to approach.

One girl in her twenties ran up and asked in Turkish if she could pet her, or so I thought, but when I nodded she picked her up and cuddled her, posing in front of the Egyptian column so her boyfriend could take a picture.

So I made my ways slowly across the park, through Chloe’s admirers, to my friend’s shop on the main street. All the guys came out to see her and one of them took her leash and tugged her toward the shop next door chattering excitedly and showing her to the guys over there. While the men at home make fun of my tiny, fluffy, white dog, the men here in Istanbul are enthralled. Anyone who has seen me walking her now asks me where she is and how she’s doing whenever I pass by.

After making the rounds I headed back home, and just as I was passing the last shop before entering the quiet streets of my immediate neighborhood the shop guys gathered around and started asking me questions about Chloe. They asked her name and then as usual my limited knowledge of Turkish hampered things a bit, but finally one of them said “mademoiselle…?” So I told them yes, she is a girl, “Mademoiselle Chloe”. I think it fits her.

But the last encounter was my favorite. As I walked her slowly down my very quiet street, four boys of about 12 years old or so were playing soccer in the street. After I walked past they huddled together for a minute and then walked toward me, sneaking looks. So I stopped and picked Chloe up to show her to them. They asked the usual questions (her name, age, sex) and stood talking to me for a few minutes. Some of them spoke English better than the others and would translate my answers into Turkish. They were very interested in Chloe and in me and wanted to know my name and what I was doing in Istanbul and where I was from.

I waited for them to get bored and go back to their game, it seemed funny that four pre-adolescent boys would be interested in my little dog and in me, but they really seemed to want to talk, and paid very close attention to everything I was telling them. One of them stood beside me with his hand on my shoulder the whole time and they were all very sweet and very polite. I finally had to break up our conversation or I think they would have kept me there all day.

So there it is, Mademoiselle Chloe, ambassadress to Istanbul.

Little Aya Sofia

It’s a warm and sunny day and I decide to take advantage of some free time by heading down to Little Aya Sofia. I’d never heard of Little Aya Sofia until I moved into my apartment and checked my map, wondering what that building with the small pink curves I saw from my window was. Little Aya Sofia is architecturally very much like the famous and enormous Aya Sofia, which is also in my neighborhood. The “real” Aya Sofia is known as one of the most famous, beautiful, and architecturally important buildings in the world. Little Aya Sofia is supposed to be very much like it, just much, much smaller.

I set off down the steep hill, winding my way toward the pink curves. On the way I stop for lunch at the Cesme restaurant, a small and friendly neighborhood café built in, on, and around the remains of an ancient fountain. There is a good fruit and veggie stand right beside the restaurant and I decide I will stop on my way back to buy figs, peaches, and some of the beautiful dark plums.

The call to prayer sounds as I approach Little Aya Sofia and I see men heading inside so this is an active mosque—I will have to pull out my scarf and cover my head. I walk through the gate in the stone wall surrounding the mosque and sit on a bench to wait, not wanting to go in during prayers, but not knowing how long they last either. I sit where I have a good view of the minaret, wondering if I can get a glimpse of the muezzin. I am curious about the men who call. Are they imams? What else do they do with their days?

A latecomer hurries down the steps and inside. A little boy wanders by, goes inside, comes out again and sits.

It is a pretty and peaceful spot in a quiet neighborhood. Through the gate I see there are a few tourists walking in pairs through the empty streets, looking at the small shops and restaurants.

The latecomer is the first to leave, rushing quickly away, then the others straggle out. They weren’t in there long, maybe five or ten minutes.

I never did see the muezzin come down. I always wonder if there really is someone in the minaret or if they just play a recording. Or maybe he spends his entire day in the tall thin tower of the minaret? I wait a few more minutes and go toward the door, tucking my hair and arranging my scarf.

A fast party

I've been busy, busy, busy with the new job, and even when I have free time I'm not near a computer so my urges to write have been frustrated lately. Today I thought I'd have hours to work on my lessons plans and do some writing, but when I came downstairs and stopped in Musa's atelier to say hello one of the weavers handed me a note that today is his birthday so there is a suprise party at noon.

Since lately my social opportunities are few and far between and because Musa is such a good guy, I will cut my planning short to be back in time for the party. It should be interesting because he is one of the many people who are fasting for Ramazan. For 30 days those who are fasting can let nothing pass their lips from around 5:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night-- no food, nothing to drink, no smoking, not even gum. I'm surprised at the number of people who do fast here. Life goes on pretty much as normal except that at 7:30 at night anyone who is fasting drops everything for Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast. This means I head downstairs with my class of four and we sit in the canteen to continue our lesson because one of the students is fasting.

You see people gathered in shops and hotels and every business place eating their evening meal. It's nice because everyone is understanding and it's not really a big deal (except I guess for the people who haven't eaten for 14 hours!) No one complains about the break, and the fasters will jump up and down to do whatever needs to be done during their meal if necessary. For example last night I headed into the laundry during Iftar and the proprieter came running from across the alley, chatted with me, gave me some tea, and popped in and out between the laundry and his meal across the street.

I find it interesting because I think in the US something like this would cause an uproar. Those not fasting would be annoyed by the interruption, those who were fasting would be defensive, companies would make policies about who could go eat when and for how long... Even though the lack of rules here can be confusing at times it can also be liberating.

Starting work- Part One

I think moving myself halfway round the world has finally started to catch up with me. I’m so SLEEPY, all I want to do is climb into bed most of the time. Yesterday I took my first nap since I arrived a month ago. I usually try to avoid napping but I think I would have fallen asleep where I was standing if I hadn’t decided to give in and take a nap.

I’ve started working—twice. It’s a long story, and could be part of the reason for my exhaustion. I started working last Monday, but on my very first day not a single one of my students showed up. My school had placed me in the corporate headquarters of one of their clients so apparently it’s not unusual for students to cancel if they are busy at work. So at 10:30 in the morning a car came to pick me up. Apparently this is usual, they have shuttles or send cars for teachers who are working in locations that are not near public transportation. As soon as I walked in the door of the office the administrative assistant looked up and told the Director of Studies my students had just canceled. I was supposed to have two one-on-one students for 2 hours each, so that was four hours of work gone. Then I was supposed to have a two-hour break before my next class, a group of five. They didn’t want to pay someone to take me home and bring me back, and when I suggested I would pay for a cab (six hours of sitting in a room with no windows was unappealing) they said the cabdrivers probably wouldn’t know where to go so unless I could direct them back to the office, I should stay. Trying to be a good sport on my first day I said OK, and tried to keep myself busy familiarizing myself with the scant materials they had and playing with my laptop.

I went to the canteen for lunch (free for teachers and company employees, any five items you want), and then had coffee with a few people from the school. I’m really happy with the school because all the teachers seem smart and personable, several have been with the school for a few years, and all have nothing but good to say about how they’ve been treated.

After some more creative time-wasting it was finally time for my evening class so I went to the room, set it up, wrote notes on the board, and sat down and waited for my students. And waited. After 20 minutes I went to see the director, telling him no one was there. He said, “You’re kidding. That probably means they’re not coming.” I waited another ten minutes and gave up, told him I was ready to go home, and asked how I get a car. At first he told me I would probably have to wait an hour or two since all the cars were out taking everyone else home. I tried not to freak out, as I had been sitting in this building doing nothing for about seven hours at this point. But he did manage to find me a car, bringing my first day of “work” to an end.

Tuesday they didn’t have any classes for me yet, but Wednesday’s schedule was supposed to be the same as Monday’s so I went back, wondering what would happen. Happily, my two students appeared-- finally I can say I have teaching experience! I liked both students very much and thought the lessons went fine, although of course I hope to get better and be more comfortable as time goes on. Right now the most difficult thing for me is estimating how much time each activity will take, and also coming up with activities for only one student as most activities are geared toward pairs and groups.

After my classes I did some more prep work for the evening class and 15 minutes before class was to start the director asked me to join a meeting with all the other teachers. I looked at my watch but he said, “don’t worry, it will be quick” so I went and joined them. He announced that our contract with the company had been suspended for six weeks—not the contract with the school, we were assured we still had jobs with the school—for various reasons. We were told we would all be placed at other locations but they didn’t know where or what the schedules would be yet as this decision had just been made late last night. Thankfully this school pays a monthly salary, not by the hour as some of the others do, and I asked around and all the teachers told me that yes, they will pay us, they are dependable. I know not all the schools are, so I am grateful to find that these teachers are all very happy and secure here.

Needless to say, my evening class for that night was canceled and we all packed up our laptops and personal items, made our way to the shuttles and off we went. Thus ended my first week of teaching, as no one had classes Thursday since we all had to be in the main office for training and then a boat trip up the Bosphorous.

Laundry

A few mornings ago I headed out with wet hair since I have yet to buy a hairdryer. Chloe looked at me so hopefully, I always give her treats when I leave so I feel terrible because I can’t find anything to feed her here that doesn’t look like plastic. I keep telling her she’s good, which makes her even more expectant. I think if I don’t find dog treats I will buy her lamb and cook it at this point, the poor little thing.

I carry a bag of laundry, also hopeful. I noticed a place near me recently added a sign in English saying they wash, dry, fold. I’m hoping they charge less than the place I went to earlier this week. That place did a good job and my laundry smelled incredible but they charged me four times what I paid in New York.

When I go into the new place the shopkeeper greets me in English and Turkish, which is a relief. His name is Bulent and he is very nice and friendly. He asks how I found him and when I tell him I saw the sign he is happy. It’s new, and he tells me proudly he just got it recently when they were added to “Lonely Planet”. I tell him it’s a great idea because I was unsure about coming in but the sign convinced me. We talk about the sign a bit longer, he's very proud of it and seems to be looking for assurance that it is effective. He is having tea with an American man, another New Yorker—Boerum Hill—, who tells me Bulent is reliable, he always uses him when he’s in town. It turns out he is an archeologist who is working at Troy, but when he is visiting Istanbul with his family they always use Bulent’s services. I wish I had more time to talk to the archeologist, his work must be fascinating, but maybe I will see him again.

Bulent and his wife do a good job so I will probably continue to use them, although they are still a bit pricey compared to New York. Maybe I’ll find a laundromat for heavy items. It wouldn’t be so bad to go once a week and I could do lesson planning. This being Turkey, I’m sure there would be a place for coffee and/or tea nearby. For now I’m glad to have found Bulent and Mrs. Bulent. It’s nice to know someone else in the neighborhood, one more person to greet on my walks to and from the hippodrome which is my gateway to the rest of Istanbul.

Dinner

Last night I was tired. I have been feeling a little limp and drained. I think the heat is taking it’s toll. I try to keep hydrated but still I feel headachy and tired and washed out. So I had fallen asleep and woke up around 8:00, took a quick shower and decided to go for a walk. I wanted to buy dog treats for poor Chloe but can’t find a pet store and the only dog supplies the local markets have is Turkish dog food which she does not like.

So I walked, and tried a few markets, and had no luck. I wandered some more but quickly tired of the crowded, tourist-packed main street. Finally I started to wind my way home and still feeling strange thought maybe I should have something to eat. I was really hoping for some of the red beans the Turks are so found of with maybe some rice, but as I stood outside a small restaurant trying to see if they were still open, the man beckoned me inside and I went. This restaurant is a very bare bones kind of place very near my apartment and I’ve been curious about how it is so I decided now was as good a time as any to check it out.

The menu has some English on it next to pictures of the food and I try to ask the young waiter what the “vegetarian food” is. The proprietor comes over to try to help but we can’t figure it out so I ask what is “guzel” which means “beautiful, pretty, nice”, a good all-purpose word for complimenting anything, and order what he points at.

I’m the only one sitting inside, under the bright, bright lights. There are only three tables inside and two on the street, both of which are occupied. I’m still tired, so I just sit, looking around. There’s not a lot of “stuff” in this place. Just a refrigerated case with a few uncooked kebabs on skewers and a marble topped counter at right angles to it.

The proprietor is behind the counter, his side to me, and I see that he has a small piece of dough he is kneading and slapping around. It’s about the size of a paperback book, less than half an inch thick. I think it might have something to do with my dinner, but I’m not sure. I look back again a minute or two later and the dough is gone, but he puts a huge paddle into the big brick oven then slides it out and looks at something, then puts a large sheet of paper on the paddle and pushes it into the oven. He’s adjusting the temperature. Then he takes two large branches and pushes them in too.

A few minutes later he pushes the paddle in again and brings out bread—one of those big puffy breads they serve here. It is about 18 inches by 9 inches and is puffed up about three inches high, the center hollow. There are sesame seeds on top. This is what he was making earlier and when they bring it to my table it is piping hot and really, really good. The color is very light but it’s crispy and I eat half of it before my dinner arrives.

I think my dinner came out of the same over. It is on a small iron platter and is still bubbling when it arrives. Tomatoes, peppers, bits of meat, with some French-fry like potatoes on top. It’s OK, but I think I would come back just for that bread.

Kedi cat

Returning to my apartment yesterday, thinking Musa had already left for his vacation in Konya, I went to the corner shop to try and ask the guys if they could help me. There’s been a cat crying on the top floor of the dorm building across the street for the last two nights. It’s trapped and I can see it trying to find a way off the balcony and it just cries and cries all night, sticking it's head through the bars and looking four floors down at the other cats doing their cat business in the street. It’s been a little disturbing because it’s so hot and I’m sure the poor thing has nothing to eat or drink. I think there’s a caretaker for the building but I don’t know him and don’t know who he is, but I’m sure the shopkeepers will.

Armed only with the Turkish word for cat, “kedi” I try to explain. The guy who speaks English best is not there and the other guy doesn’t understand. I keep saying “kedi, kedi” and pointing up to the balcony but he understandably doesn’t understand what I’m trying to tell him. He tries telling me that they are university dorms, and some other things I don’t understand and I try to tell him “trapped cat” and some other things he doesn’t understand.

Finally he calls someone from across the street, and I say “kedi” and point and he says “ah ah!” and nods and explains to the other guy. Now we are standing outside Musa’s window and it turns out he IS there so he gets involved. Apparently they discovered the cat earlier today and it has been rescued. Now everyone understands and I make crying cat sounds and they smile and nod and tell me it’s taken care of and we all go on our way.

I come inside to find that Musa’s daughter Shiva and Galip’s wife Deana have arrived. I walk in and Musa introduces me and Deana says “Oh! We’ve been talking about you!” I say “Uh oh” and she says, “Yes, we’ve been planning your life” to which I reply, “Good!” I guess someone ought to. It turns out they want me to help Shiva with her English so she can keep it up after her time in the US and I say it sounds like a great idea. She seems very sweet and personable and Musa says she and I can go places and do things and she can help me with my Turkish and I can help her with her English. It sounds like fun and while she is only in high school I’m sure she can show me fun things in Istanbul, someone suggests movies and all that sounds good to me.

I like Deana too and she invites me to go shopping with her. She has a small shop in the states and has to stock it and we compare notes and find that we probably go to a lot of the same guys in the bazaar, but that’s OK, I’m happy to have another shopping friend, and another friend in the building, especially now that Musa is going away for 10 days. By the time he comes back I will have started my new job and have my schedule worked out and he will set up my loom for me then.

Sleeping dog's eye

















I’ve decided to take advantage of one of my last non-working days by slowing down and relaxing a bit. Yesterday I was offered and accepted a position teaching English starting next week. In some ways I’m looking forward to getting started, but it has been awfully nice to only worry about my own agenda for the last few weeks.

Before heading out I took Chloe downstairs to visit Musa and the weavers. Musa was out, but the two American ladies were there, weaving away. As usual they were full of helpful information, such as that I should ask for a driver because my school is in the middle of nowhere and the schools are used to providing drivers but may not offer unless I ask. They also told me about a café where I can get my coffee fix and work away on my laptop, which is where I am right now. It’s owned by a Canadian woman and is very nice, large, and cool. I think I will be a regular here… So far I’ve met an American who is traveling around the world climbing mountains and was invited to go with the owner to a ceramic studio, but I turned that down. I really need to get my banking done and then want to wander to the nearby mosque and something called Kocuk Aya Sophia, a small building that is supposed to be very similar architecturally to Aya Sophia but much smaller.

In the photo above Chloe is modeling her new collar, compliments of Musa. It’s too big for my teeny dog, but I put it on her now and then because it’s cute and it makes Musa happy to see Chloe jingling around with her evil eye collar. It also helps me keep track of her because she is becoming much braver in his atelier, running into different rooms and out into the hall, and I’m not sure what his reaction would be if she does something naughty in his space. She might not be so cute and popular anymore…

Shopping all over

I'm tired, so this will be a lazy post. I spent all day today at the Akmerkez mall which is huge. I went there, by tram and then bus, because I heard they had wee-wee pads at the pet store and I haven't been able to find them in any of the neighborhood pet stores so far. They did have them, but they were expensive so I will have to do the math and see if it is cheaper to have them shipped from the US or buy them here.

I walked the ENTIRE mall because I didn't want to miss anything. There are several big malls here so I'm trying to get a sense of which ones I may want to go back to. This one was four floors, the top one entirely devoted to a movie theater and restaurants which included KFC, Burger King, Schotzky's Deli, and many Turkish fast food and cafe style places. Also a large Starbucks and Cafe Dunyasi which is a cheaper Starbucks competitor I have yet to try. There were many Turkish shops but also some I recognized such as New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Camper, Zara, and Marks and Spencer. There were some very cool home stores where I showed enormous restraint, and something called Microcenter which reminded me of Whole Foods. They had prepared food and packaged food and also a decent supply of housewares where I picked up a vegetable peeler and bottle opener since I had to open my mineral water last night by banging it on the edge of the counter which resulted in a nice mineral water bath for my floor.

Yesterday I wandered through the outdoor markets around the Spice Bazaar a bit and bought a few small kitchen items, but I just didn't have the patience to dig and find what I wanted in that maze and I don't like bargaining. I just want to go to Ikea and be done with it for all the little household crap I need. If I just needed one or two things it would be a different story. I did finally buy some food-- there are great fruits and veggies and dry goods, so that problem is solved, and I found the place in the Spice Bazaar that sells scented oils which are nice after the bath and instead of perfumes, so I got my girlie fix.

My most successful and productive trip was to my neighborhood Dia. These little stores are everywhere and are like a cross between a small grocery store and the bodegas in New York. Here is what I bought there for the equivalent of $27.87

Olive oil
8 resealable plastic containers (see post "A bad thing")
2 bars of Dove soap
Yogurt
6 bottles of mineral water
3 pairs of socks
White lycra tank top (been looking everywhere for one!)
Sugar
Salt
Bath gel
3 toothbrushes (forgot I packed 3. Oh well)
Pasta

Dia is great because you never know what they will have, other than the food basics. Witness the tank top. Of course, you can't count on them having what you want either, I still don't have dish towels. Maybe tomorrow.

Cafe life

ONE

Yesterday I sat drinking iced latte in "Coffee ‘me" on Divanyolu Caddesi. It’s expensive—6.50 YTL-- but when I had nothing smaller than a 10 lira note they brought me 5 lira back and said not to worry about it. I wanted to check this place out, I’m on a search for my next neighborhood café hangout as I’ll need somewhere to sit and work while I drink coffee. And I was curious about the iced coffee. I think it’s a new thing here. It was good and enormous but I don't think this is the kind of place you can hang out for hours working on your laptop. Like all the other cafes you are welcome to linger, though.

There’s a photo of Ataturk on the wall here, as there is a photo of Ataturk on every wall here. I think the man must have been photographed every minute of his life once he established the republic. There are so many pictures and not just the same picture over and over again. This one, for instance, appropriately shows him balancing a small cup of coffee and a cigarette in his left hand. The photo and the clouds of smoke are the only signs this is not an independent Starbucks competitor in New York.

TWO

Sitting in a café on Taksim Square waiting for Alex. I just had to explain to a young Saudi Arabian man the name of the square, and who that statue is, Ataturk of course, and who he was and that no, the statue isn’t 700 years old, maybe more like 70. It’s nice to know an answer instead of only and always being the one with the questions. Then he asks what they all do. Are you here alone? By now I know to say no, I’m here with friends. For all intents and purposes I guess that’s true.

I think that’s the strangest adjustment I have to make here. No one would ask me that at home and if they did I wouldn’t have to lie or feel strange saying yes.

Now I wonder what the reaction would be if instead of answering yes or no I were to say instead, “are you?”

THREE

Sitting in Starbucks taking the lazy way out today since I don’t have any food in the house yet. I’ve come for breakfast.

All the barristas speak English very well and the inside looks the same as new York. The only difference is the signs which at first glance look the same but if you look more closely you see that while the item names and categories are in English/Italian, the descriptions are in Turkish. The other difference is that there is a slightly denser mix of languages around than in most parts of New York, but New York being New York if you head to one of the tourist areas you will hear a similar mix.

There is no smoking inside which is mildly surprising for Turkey, but I do see that there are a good number of tables in the covered area out front and heaters for year-round smoking comfort.

This Starbucks is highly air-conditioned, another attraction today. I left the house earlier than usual, decided to wander slowly and take my time and try to maintain my cool but already my back is damp. I guess I just have to resign myself to sweating for a few more weeks.

A bad thing

Last night I did a bad thing.

I spent much of the day in my old neighborhood (old-- I’ve been here 16 days!) of Cihangir. Cleaning up a bit in that apartment, doing laundry, having lunch, a bit of window shopping. I packed a few things up in shopping bags to bring back to my new place, had another adventure with another cab driver, and finally arrived in apartment number 2 in Sultanahmet. It was later than I thought, so I decided to buy myself dinner since I still haven’t figured out where in this neighborhood to grocery shop.

I headed down the hill instead of up towards the main street and tourist area. It was a beautiful night; the nights here so far are all beautiful. The sun is strong and hot during the day, but so far I haven’t experienced any hot, muggy nights like we have in New York. At night it cools down and is very breezy, so it was nice to just walk and wander through the twisting streets.

I was surprised to find several nice cafes very close to my place, and recognizing the name of one as the place we used to order from at the hotel, I went inside and up to the third floor terrace. I ordered Coban salad, which I could absolutely live on for the rest of my life—tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, sometimes a few other things thrown in, and a squirt of lemon juice—and some sort of kebab, which consisted of pureed eggplant with small bits of meat with a tomato sauce on top. It was OK—maybe this isn’t the place we used to order from because that food was amazing. I’ll have to ask.

I had paid my bill and was waiting for change when the lights went out. The diners at the café and the café down the hill all applauded. The waiters leaned over the railing to see how far the outage went and then returned with candles. Power outages are not unusual so everyone pretty much just goes on as best they can when they happen. This is only my second, the first one having lasted all of five minutes during the middle of the day when I was sitting in Kahvedan.

I got my change, waited a few minutes, and then decided there was no reason to just sit there. I picked my way downstairs by candlelight and considered my options. I could go back to my building and climb the four flights of stairs to my apartment by the light of my cell phone where I could watch a DVD on my fully charged laptop. Strange the mix of old and new here-- I can entertain myself when the ancient infrastructure fails with my electronics. Or, I could head up to the hotel where they have a generator and maybe even have tea and dessert…

I decide it’s best to learn out how to deal with this stuff now, and head back to my apartment. On the way I pass Birol, a rug dealer who is nice enough, but a little too over-eager to help and be my friend. I say hello and he tells me he was watching a movie upstairs but came out when the power went off. I ask if there’s anyway to tell if it will be off for an hour or a day and he laughs and says no. So I ask if there’s anyplace where I can buy candles. He takes me into the shop a few doors down (no one here will tell you where anything is, they insist on taking you. Resistance is futile). He tells the shopkeeper I’m a new neighbor and helps me buy a box of candles and a few boxes of matches. I pay what seems like a lot, hmmm, and am on my way.

When I reach my door I open the candles, unstick one from the box, fumble to open the matches, and light the candle. Before I can get my key out, it goes out. I fumble again, light it again, it goes out again. I get out my cell phone and flip it open. I will use the candles in the apartment but plan to stumble upstairs by electronic light. I unlock and open the door to my building and the motion detector light snaps on. Either Musa has a generator or the outage didn’t go this far. The ladies across the street must think I’m nuts, lighting candles on the sidewalk if the power never went out here.

I make my brightly lit way upstairs and decide to unpack my candles and put them somewhere easily accessible for when I do experience an actual outage. And there it is. A roach. On my candles. I completely freak out. There is a ROACH in my new apartment. I try to pick up the paper it is on and shake it out the window, yipping and yelping the whole time but it falls off just inside the window and scurries behind the radiator. I spend many unsuccessful minutes trying to find it and make it come out. Finally I give up. I hope it dies old and alone in my apartment. If there’s only one, they can’t reproduce, right? I look at the box of candles and think I will have to toss the box, but maybe I can keep the candles. But what if there are roach eggs on the candles? And then I see that there are three more roaches in the box. I look at the matches which are shrink-wrapped so probably OK, but I just can’t have any of this stuff in my apartment. I have to get it out NOW. I briefly consider running down four flights of stairs—with roaches running up my arms from the bag. I can’t help it, I pick up the shopping bag which contains the box lid, a few candles, and the roaches and toss it as far out the window as I can. Bad, bad neighbor. It falls for a surprisingly long time, bag whistling and fluttering, and then thuds as it lands somewhere in a yard below. I look at the remaining candles and matches on my table, poke and prod them and then toss everything into my trash and run downstairs and down the block to the dumpster.

I feel like a terrible neighbor, but I just can’t stand the thought of roaches in my spic and span, immaculate apartment. I will never buy anything from that shop again. I will have to remember to buy more candles, but know I won’t buy anything in a box. I will sit in the dark if necessary, basking in the light of my electronics, before I bring any more roach candles into my home.

Settling in... again

I slept in the Sultanahmet apartment last night. I slept very well and slept in until 10:30—my first real sleep-in since I arrived two weeks ago. Of course I was exhausted having been up until 2:00 in the morning, cleaning and rearranging the apartment. I arrived at 9:00 last night, later than expected due to a taxi dilemma, and had to go see Galip right away so he could set up my computer for the wireless. The wireless is another thing I don’t understand. When I asked Musa if it is possible for me to get wireless in my apartment he said Galip was getting it and I can just use his. Of course I offered to pay part of it but Musa shrugged me off. So either it is free, or Galip will tell me my share when the bill arrives. Either way is fine as I would have gotten it myself and now that is one less thing I have to do.

This apartment really is an embarrassment of riches. I don’t have to set up the gas or electric or cable, buy furniture, deal with the internet set-up, or any of those things which call for deposits and time spent running from place to place. I don’t even have to clean, but I prefer to do my own cleaning and not use the cleaning woman Musa arranges.

I just came back from hours in a café eating, drinking coffee, drinking tea, and watching the Sultanahment café guys try to talk tourists into their cafes. Then I stopped to see Erkan and ask him where in the neighborhood I can buy cleaning supplies, and after he finished up with some customers, including the governor’s wife and her security woman, he walked me to the store. I felt like a charwoman walking back, through the crowds of tourists, past the Blue Mosque with my bucket and mop and rags.

I greeted the nice shopkeepers down the block who stayed open for me last night when I was desperate for water and juice and manage a few Turkish phrases. They wanted to know what I’m doing with the mop and bucket and I have some trouble explaining. They ask if I’m staying in the hotel and don’t understand when I say, no, a house beside the hotel. Then I say “Musa” and they get it.

On my way into the building I pass Musa on his way out. He is heading to his weekend house for a few days. This morning when I came down his atelier door was open so I stopped in to say hello and he asked me to bring my dog down to meet him. He was thrilled with her and wanted her to run around and explore and I told him when she is more comfortable with him she will dance for him. She was a little subdued by finding herself in yet another new surrounding and probably wondering if I was going to move her into yet another home.

Musa gave me some of those yummy peppers they serve with everything here. They are long and thin and green and mildly hot, and he grew them in the garden out back. I like them in salads or served lightly grilled with meat and now that I have fresh homegrown food I’ll have to get busy figuring out how to cook here. He wrapped them up in a paper cone for me, which made them seem even better somehow.

I walk into my apartment and it’s so nice. The light is good and the air moves through. All the windows are open and I’ve had to prop all the doors open so they don’t blow closed. Even now at 4:00 it’s quiet, just a few children playing outside in the street and the workmen still working a few blocks away. I go into the kitchen to put my things away and the floor is really hot under my feet from the sun.

The wind blows so hard through here that it has blown all my scarves off the dresser and onto the floor. Even the sheets have been turned back by the wind, and after I smooth them they are immediately turned back again.

The sun is still high, but I think soon it will start sinking toward the sea and I may have to close the windows and turn on the air conditioner as the sun is very hot and strong today. I’m looking forward to watching the sunset from my windows. It's funny, I was so worried about finding an apartment here and now I have two perfectly lovely places!

From my window















Above is a photo taken from my computer with my laptop. I haven't gotten the camera thing figured out yet, so these photos don't really do justice to my view, but it will give you an idea. This scene is from my living room window which is in the back of the building looking out over the Marmara Sea. Istanbul is built on seven hills, like Rome, and you can see that this area, Sultanahmet, slopes sharply down to the sea. In fact, the windows in the back of my building are at least two times higher than those at the front. I'm not exactly sure of the height because I can't see the ground since the streets are very narrow and the buildings close together.

It looks like a lot of construction and repair is going on around me, but there are still several old, wooden, Ottoman style houses falling into ruin in this neighborhood. Some are just shells and some are occupied in spite of their extremely decrepit condition.

You can see a mosque to the left in the photo. I'm not sure which one it is yet. There is another quite small mosque I can see from my bedroom windows too, along with the girl's dormitories for one of the universities. It is extremely quiet here, although I am very near the Blue Mosque and all the tourist craziness. It's rare that a car goes by on my street and the only sound I hear at the moment is a saw a few blocks away on a rooftop.
















Another view showing more of the ships and the sea. When I sit on my sofa all I can see is the sea and the sky and the ships. I just counted 46, not counting the small boats I see docked in the distance. It's pretty fantastic to have this same view from my kitchen window as well.

More later, including my adventures with cabdrivers, but now I need to run out and buy cleaning supplies and assorted household goods.

Cell phone success

Early today I experienced unexpected success. Last night, after the interview, after talking to Musa, after going home to see my dog was still not feeling well and being unsure what to do about that, I had to go, hot and tired as I was, to the Turkcell store. I turned my cell phone off for the first time since buying it for the interview and when I turned it back on it asked for a PIN. I tried a few likely and incorrect codes and then it locked me out.

So I went to the help desk in the store and the girl started speaking Turkish. When I asked if she spoke English she said yes, and I explained and showed her the problem. She asked me for a GSM number and I said “what?” not knowing what that meant, and she asked again and I said “what?” again and she said, “Do you speak English?” I said yes, and finally figured out that the GSM number is my telephone number. So then she started doing stuff in her computer and asked for my identification. I was a little confused again (tired, hot, exhausted, worn out), but pulled out my New York driver’s license. She said, “I need something else, something with your father’s surname…your identity papers.” That always sounds scary to me, like I’m in a communist country, or Nazi Germany or something, but my Turkish friend did tell me Turks carry some kind of identity card. I said “like a passport” and she said yes. When I said I didn’t have it she said “why?” This was going nowhere. Finally she said OK, and wrote down a phone number and said, "Call this number". “I don’t have a phone”, she said, “when you get to another phone”. I asked, "If I come back tomorrow, do I just need my passport, is that enough?" She said yes. I left, tired, frustrated.

This morning I got up, fed Chloe, who seems a little better and finally ate and stopped shaking, dug up my passport and went back to Turkcell. The same girl was there, but she had me talk to the guy beside her. He asked for my cell number, then my name. He looked confused and said the SIM card wasn’t in my name. I told him I bought the phone and SIM card in their store and showed him my paperwork. He said that was for the phone not the SIM card. Hmmmm. Then he took my phone, pushed buttons, handed it back, working fine. I asked him for the PIN and PUC numbers, and he said OK (he wasn’t going to give them to me until I asked, for some reason), and off I went. I didn’t show him any form of ID at all and have no idea whose name my SIM card is in, but I do have the receipt, and my phone is working so that is enough.

Interview

Yesterday I went on a job interview. I took the metro to Levent and it was so fast I had some time to take a quick look around the mall it dumped me into and to have a coffee at the Starbucks there. Starbucks was packed and I'm not sure but I think the seating inside the store was for non-smokers and the seating outside was for smokers. I sat with the smokers because I wanted to look around at the mall and the passing people. This mall seems even nicer than the one I went to last week and I think I will come here to shop for the clothes I need to round out my wardrobe since I didn't bring much with me.

I headed off to my interview down the highway, climbing through a construction site with the other pedestrians and crossing some scary, busy highways. Finally I found the school. It's really nice and occupies several stories of a small building. I think the interview went well and that they are really interested in me and I am excited about this job. This school seems much more like a well-though-out business than some of the others I've been in touch with. They don't seem like they just want to keep shuffling students and teachers through the same boring routine. They've given some thought to developing and expanding their business. They work mostly with corporate clients, often tailoring the classes to the needs of a specific company, but they also have open classes. Classes run for 6 months so there would be some stability to my schedule. They offer full insurance, free Turkish lessons, and help with work and residency permits and the pay is the highest I've heard of so far. I would get a monthly salary, not one of those hourly-we'll-pay-you-when-and-if-the-students-show-up schemes.

They are interested in my coaching and business experience because they want to expand into coaching and mentoring their business clients. Apparently now those clients pay a fortune to bring consultants in and the school would like to fill that need since they are already in the door and teaching business English for the most part. As with the other schools I've spoken to they ask me where I'm living so that they can try and place me somewhere that will be convenient for me. It turns out they have a medium-sized school in Bakirkoy which would have been a little far out if I was staying in Cihangir, but it should be convenient for Sultanahmet. Of course I will probably have to master another form of transportation-bus or maybe train. I tell my interviewer I'm working my way through the public transportation methods but so far only know the metro, tram, and of course, taxi. He laughs and says he did an activity in one of his classes where they counted up the modes of transportation in Istanbul and got up to 20!

We have an interesting discussion about the Turkish business culture and the culture of schools, schoolwork, and training in Turkey.

I'm really excited about this job, it just feels better than the others. I will probably be working evenings which is fine, and will have at least two full days off, possibly weekends, possibly during the week. Either way is fine for me. That will leave my days free for Turkish lessons, art, photography, writing, whatever I want to do. I'm very tempted by Musa's weaving lessons and those are Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I can finally see my days starting to shape up.

I take the metro back and head over to Sultanahmet to tell Musa I'm going to take the apartment. He is happy, I am happy, everybody is happy except Galip who I think is a little perturbed that I'm getting the top floor although I don't think he's holding it against me personally. He tells me the downside is that I have to climb four flights and I tell him that after two weeks scaling Cihangir those flights are NOTHING. They laugh because they know what I'm talking about.

As soon as I walked in Musa told me his friend Tania wanted to talk to me and he dialed her up and put her on the phone. He wasn't sure why, he thought she might have some job prospects for me. It turns out she doesn't, she just wanted to “meet” me and find out what I'm doing and how she could help. Her husband is the headmaster of a very well-known and respected private school. I think it's kind of like a prep school and because it's difficult to get into the good Turkish colleges, good private high schools are a big deal here.

We chat and she tells me about an American Women's group I haven't heard of so she promises to send me some information and she also mentions her friend who runs a book exchange which I just read about in TimeOut. I'm sure I'll meet Tania eventually, probably next week. Musa tells me I can move in tonight (!) if I want. He is asking me to pay for the place starting in September but since it's empty he says I can move in anytime. He stresses that he's not my landlord, only friends live here and it's like a community. I tell him that's why I decided to move in before I even got home the night he showed me the place! Even though I've paid for Vivian's place through September 5th I see no reason to wait it out there. I might as well move this weekend, before I start working, and get settled and start exploring my new neighborhood while I have lots of time.

My place

I will warn you that this post may be both over the top and rambling because I AM SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED because I just found my apartment. And I found it in the best way possible, through my most trusted, reliable, and beloved Turkish friends.

I’ve been feeling kind of unmoored lately, looking for an apartment, being in a strange city, not understanding the language, and I think the fact that I have so much time on my hands at the moment makes matters worse so I decided to go buy some big paper and start drawing. I know it will make me feel better.

I took the tram across the Golden Horn to Sultanahmet (I just like saying that, it sounds so exotic and also like I know my way around but it’s actually the easiest thing in the world) and stopped by the hotel just to say hello. Mike was the only brother I saw on my visit last week so today I confused the other two brothers. They all assume I’m on vacation and staying at the hotel and get very confused when I just wander past on the street. So I explained to Alp and he asked me where I’m living and I told my story. He asked how much I wanted to pay and next thing I knew he was on the phone, then he was drawing me a map and then I was standing in a palatial (only slight exaggeration) apartment with a panoramic view of the Marmara Sea.

The best part about it is that when Alp’s friend Musa opened the door I knew him! He manufactures the new kilims the brothers sell (they have too many thriving businesses for me to even begin to explain, they need their own blog for that). I’ve seen him around the hotel quite a bit but we never really spoke. I do remember that last time I was visiting Istanbul I was sitting outside the hotel in the café when Musa arrived and Mike said, “Do you want to see the best carpet in the world. No, really". And we went inside where Musa showed us an amazing rug made of baby alpaca wool, dyed deep red with natural dyes. They take 6 months to make. It was gorgeous. So I remember Musa.

He explained that he works on the bottom floor and the top three or four he rents to his friends. He bought the building years ago so his friends from outside the city would have a place to stay when they were visiting or going to the hospital, and now he still rents it out as a guesthouse for friends. He takes me to the top floor apartment. It’s big and I love it right away. It has it’s own personality but it fits me. Musa walks over to the windows, says “wait, Kelly, look” and when he pulls back the curtains I am so overwhelmed I don’t know what to say. The view is spectacular. We are looking out over the Marmara Sea. The houses descending down to the seaside are not old and decrepit and picturesque like the ones where I am now, they are beautiful. And there is nothing obstructing the view of the sea at all. You can LITERALLY see for miles out over the Marmara Sea, dozens and dozens of ships. He jokes that he keeps an eye on how well the economy is doing by counting the ships.

The place itself is spotless, the building is well kept, stairwell lit, it’s completely quiet. It’s furnished and I was looking forward to the fun of furnishing my own place, but he’s a textile guy so he has WAY better stuff than I could afford. The price is high, but only a tiny bit higher than the very depressing places I looked at this morning in Cihangir and it comes with a refrigerator, oven, air conditioning, and well, Musa, none of which are included in other places so I will save thousands. I don’t have to buy so much as a sheet, towel, or spoon.

We go downstairs to his workshop to talk and I can’t help laughing. It turns out he makes all the beautiful kilims that I have spent hours and hours looking at as they were shown to customers and friends at the hotel. Life really is amazing sometimes. Musa weaves some of these kilims himself and some are done to his specifications by women in the villages. They are made of silk and have a very distinctive and unique tulip design-- tulips are native to Turkey and are one of it’s national symbols.

He has also designed some very beautiful and abstract rugs, some of which are familiar to me and some of which are new. During the conversation I tell him I draw and he tells me I should design something for him and if he uses it he will weave one for me and one for him. He teaches weaving on Tuesdays and Thursdays to women from the consulates and Robert College and offers to teach me to weave. When I tell him I know how to knit, but only a little bit and only scarves he says, “scarves? Do you know I make Mike’s scarves?” This is really all too much. Apparently Mike gets the fabric from Uzbekistan and Musa dyes the scarves, the familiar Mike scarves that only he has, or so I thought until Musa pulls out his stash.

He is a master dyer and explains some of that to me. I have always been fascinated by that for some reason and he promises to show me his workshop. We start talking about what the natural dyes are made of. The most fascinating is the purpley-pink color that comes from cochineal, tiny bugs from South America. I’ve heard about it, but Musa has containers filled with cochineal, and madder root, and buckthorn. He gets small tea glasses filled with hot water and starts dropping the powders and creatures in them and the colors come right away. I ask if he thinks I could paint with it and he says “why not?” I’m getting really excited by all this.

He asks if I can wait a few minutes because one of his other tenants is arriving soon and he wants us to meet, and we spend the time looking at pictures of his 15 year-old daughter who is in Seattle studying English for the summer. He obviously adores her and says he misses her and can’t wait until she gets home. It’s very sweet and she is gorgeous.

Eventually Galip comes in. He is one of the other tenant’s and has just come from Seattle. He travels back and forth between Seattle and Istanbul and Musa’s daughter is staying with his wife. When Musa introduces me and says I’m taking the apartment Galip says, “the top floor? I want the top floor and you would never give it to me!” and Musa says, “Well, I like her.”

I’m looking forward to meeting the other tenants and assorted friends they discuss. They are all connected to consulates and colleges and embassies here, and Galip says his friend who is on the board of Stanford is coming soon so they will have a party on the terrace so that Musa's daughter can meet her and discuss Stanford. There is a terrace on the top floor that Musa uses as a retreat but he told me if I want to have a party I just have to tell him and he will give me the key.

I have to get going. Musa invites me back, he wants me to meet the weaving women but this week I think I am busy at just those times. I tell him I will come as soon as I can.

As I leave my head is spinning, but the more I think about it the more I know I am taking this apartment.

As I’m heading back to the tram I pass the hotel again. Alp is gone, so I will have to thank him later. As I come to the travel agency up the block the owner kisses me on each check and says, “You’re back AGAIN?!” He always teases me about how often I come so I tell him I finally had to move, it was getting too expensive to travel back and forth. I tell him I am going to be his neighbor because Alp helped me find a good place and he says, well of course, we think of you now as “la familia”, you are not a guest anymore at the hotel.

A customer comes in so I head off with a big, stupid grin on my face. I finally feel like I’ve found my place.

Biker cat

Istanbul is filled with street cats. You see them everywhere and it seems that people make an effort to take care of them. It’s not uncommon to find piles of cat food and minced meat lying on sidewalks and especially late in the day you see the cats crouched around them.

The café I go to has a café cat. It has a favorite chair next to the window and the first two days I was there I was amused to watch a couple of people come in, head for that table, see the cat, and turn to find a different seat. When the waiters offered to shoo the cat the customers refused, saying, no, no, don’t disturb him. One of the waiter’s even picked the cat up, somehow managing to keep him in his sleeping position, and rocked him back and forth. The café cat barely opened his eyes.

As I wind my way through the streets to the café I always take the same path. In front of one of the buildings I pass a motorcycle is always parked in the same spot, and sleeping on the motorcycle seat is always a little gray and white cat. The first time I saw her I thought she had just chosen a funny place to sleep that day, but by the third time I realized this was her regular spot. She is always deep in sleep. Sometimes there is black cat lurking around the motorcycle but the little gray cat is the only one who sleeps on it. I look for her now so this morning as I passed the spot I noticed the motorcycle was missing. As I approached I saw that she was sleeping in the spot where the motorcycle normally parks! On my way back I saw the motorcycle was still out and about in Istanbul, so she was sleeping on the trunk of a car next to the motorcycle’s parking spot waiting for her ride to return.

Spinning the web

Since yesterday was Saturday I decided to head up to Istiklal Caddesi (“caddesi” means “street”). Istiklal is a very, very busy pedestrian shopping street, and I really hate crowds but figured if Istanbul is at all like New York everyone will sleep in on Saturday so the crowds wouldn’t hit until later. It turns out I was right.

I found a café near Taksim square looking out onto Istiklal, so it was good for people watching, and ordered scrambled eggs with mint (sounds a little strange but it was yummy) and a latte which turned out to be very good. Then I walked toward an English language bookstore I found on my last trip hoping to pick up the teeny mini Turkish/English dictionary everyone seems to have. On my way I heard shouting and started seeing police and a small crowd, but luckily I didn’t have to go through the crowd to get to the bookstore. When I went in I asked the clerk what was going on and he laughed and said he didn’t know, but every weekend there is some kind of demonstration and no one really pays any attention. He didn’t have the teeny dictionary, only a huge one so I headed back the way I’d come, stopping on the way in some clothing stores, the Swatch store, and the MAC (makeup, not computer) store to browse and see what’s available.

When I reached Taksim Square I bought a copy of TimeOut Istanbul. Maybe I will finally go out and do something one night instead of being such a homebody.

Heading down one of the steep, twisting streets I decided to stop in a salon and finally have the pedicure I so desperately needed. The word for pedicure looks the same as it does in English so I pronounced it the same but they looked confused so I pointed to my feet. I feel like an idiot many times every day because I am always enthusiastically and vigorously pointing at something to try to explain myself as if great amounts of energy will make it clear. But it worked and I was taken to wait beside another woman who was having a pedicure.

I was waiting patiently when the woman having the pedicure started talking to me and asked where I was from. When I told her New York she looked surprised and said she thought I was Russian, which was new for me. Often I’m mistaken for French or British. She said she had been trying to speak to me in Russian but I ignored her and so I laughed and apologized. She was very friendly and so we chatted and she would ask me some questions and then confer with the other two women in the shop and we would talk some more. She really wanted to know why the British (for some reason she kept saying “British” and “English” even though I’m sure she understood I was from the US) were so white and I really didn’t know how to explain that other than that we just are, genetics and all that. We really didn’t have enough language skills between us to get into a discussion of gene pools and the evolution of skin tones!

After my pedicure I headed down to the tram for the 30 minute trip to look at an apartment on the other side of the Golden Horn. It is in a neighborhood called Capa and was HUGE, at least by my standards, and the rent is the equivalent of about $650 a month. The space made me drool, there was a decent sized entryway, a narrow but adequate kitchen, a large bathroom, three additional rooms, and a balcony. Lots of windows and light and one of the rooms would make a fantastic studio or I could rent a bedroom out to someone else. The man who was showing the place, Ertan, has just returned from living in New York for eight years, so we had a nice talk. He kept telling me there were no foreigners in the neighborhood-- fine with me-- but it is safe and there are lots of conveniences which was obviously true as he made it a point to take me the long way round to the place so I could see the shops.

I really like the apartment, and it is near the tram line but I’m afraid it’s a little far from the center of things and the people and places I know. I think I’d rather commute to work and live near my social life than have to commute to my social life. Later that night I look around Vivian’s apartment and wonder if I care that it’s smaller. I don’t think so. Less to furnish. At least now I have two points of reference in my apartment search.

Ertan and I hop on the tram together as he is headed to a wedding in my direction. He says he can hold the apartment for a week (I assume this means he doesn’t have any other offers) and tells me I can call him anytime for help or advice, even if I don’t take the place and need help finding something else. Very nice and typical Turkish manners. We say goodbye and I climb off in Sultanahmet to visit a friend who owns a shop on the main street. I hadn’t heard from Erkan for awhile and assumed he was out of town, but it turns out he is here and he asks why it took me so long to visit. The Turks keep saying, “you’ve been here a week already, why haven’t we seen you yet?!” whereas I keep thinking “I’ve only been here a week!”

It’s nice to sit and chat and drink tea. He asks where I’m staying, what job prospects I have, what I need and I tell him. He knows and meets lots of people and I know he’ll help me out if he can. I ask him to read the electric bill I need to pay for Vivian and he does and then offers to pay it for me. Nice, but I tell him I need the practice so he offers to come with me when I go to pay it. I tell him I’m going to try it and see what happens, but I might take him up on it if I have trouble. THIS is why Turkey seemed so manageable to me, things are confusing but it is second nature for friends to help you out.

In the course of our conversation about getting settled and what I’ve been up to I mention Alexandra, so he asks about her and what she does and his mouth drops at the same time it dawns on me and he says “ and why haven’t you brought her to meet me?” Oops. I feel silly for not thinking of it. She’s a designer, he manufactures and sells clothes. I will get on this right away. Finally something I can do to pull my weight in spinning the web that holds this city together.

Rhythm

There seems to be some kind of natural rhythm here. I don’t know if it’s from the sea or the sun, but the winds blow and stop blowing at predictable times of the day and night. Around 7:30 in the morning birds start circling and wheeling and shrieking outside my window. They rush in big sweeping arcs that curve from right outside my window, over the center of the block, past the buildings that fall down toward the Bosphorus. They sweep back toward my windows and fly so close I see their shadows cross my curtains and I’m afraid they’ll fly in the open window. They chase each other round and round, chattering excitedly. I don’t know what they are, they aren’t pigeons, they’re smaller. It’s a little disconcerting to see their shadows plunging across the curtains. For some reason I think they’re starlings, although I wouldn’t know a starling from an emu. Whatever they’re doing I get the sense they’re excited about it. Although they chatter frantically they seem more exhilarated than distressed.

It’s relatively quiet in the morning. A faint hum of traffic, a few quiet voices in the street. The cat that cries every night has stopped. Last night one of my neighbors tried to quiet it. It would cry, she would give a sharp “sh”, it would stop. It would cry, she would “sh”, it would stop. Over and over. She gave up before the cat did.

The rhythm of the place affects me too. I wake up at 7:00. Wide awake, not like in New York where I have to drag myself out of sleep, and would never wake up at that hour on my own. Around 8:30 one of my neighbors, I don’t know who or where she is, will start making breakfast and the smell will make me hungry and envious. Today it will drive me out early in search of food and coffee since I have neither here at the moment.

Shopping in Sisli (say SHISH-lee)

Yesterday Alex needed to buy a new power cord for her Mac so I decided to tag along to see where my Mac would need to go if it gets sick, and also to see a new neighborhood.

We decided to meet at the metro station in Taksim Square, which is the main square in Istanbul. I live very close to it and have been winding my way to and around it ever since I arrived. But yesterday I took a different route, needing to check out a few of the shops on the way. I left my apartment, turned right, went downhill for about one block, then starting climbing a steep, steep hill. I'm at a loss to describe how steep this hill is, probably 45 degrees. I passed cafes, a hair salon, groceries, the rental agent recommended to me, and lots of other things I began to be too winded to notice or care about. I climbed and climbed and next thing I knew, I was in Taksim Square! No turns, no confusion of twisting streets. I would have laughed if I’d had any breath left to laugh with. I had no idea I lived this close to the square. The ascent is exhausting but there is good stuff on this street and it will be so much easier to go home this way. I feel like a complete dork for just figuring this out.

After flopping exhausted and damp into a hotel cafe for coffee and water and then running all around the square trying to find jeton (the tokens for the subway) I meet Alex and after a short metro ride we are in Sisli. Sisli is supposed to be a very nice area with cafes and shops, but we arrive in the middle of a lot of busy, wide roads. Following the directions Alex has been given we walk along a busy highway and finally see the Apple logo. We climb two flights to the small office where luckily one of the guys speaks English. He is very helpful and friendly so we chat with him for a bit. He is surprised when I can say his name properly. Finally a word I can say correctly, and a genuine compliment as opposed to all the compliments that come because people are sincerely pleased that you even try to approximate their language.

The only downside to our Apple fieldtrip is the expense. I have heard that electronics are expensive in Turkey. Alex pays about $160 plus 18% sales tax for her power cord and we are both shocked at the price. I find the same thing online for about $120.

We walk back in the direction of the metro and decide to check out the new mall, Cevahir. I have been wanting to go to a mall because they are apparently hugely popular in Istanbul and I am really curious to see what they are like. It turns out it's not so different from malls in the US. We do have to go through a metal detector and put our bags through an x-ray machine, but other than that it's a mall, but a nice one. Very bright with 5 or 6 levels of stores surrounding a sky-lighted central courtyard. There is a Cineplex and lots and lots of places to eat including McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Sbarro, but there are lots of Turkish restaurants too. I don’t recognize the names of most of the shops with the exception of Zara and Adidas, but I’m happy to find plenty of places where I can buy things like bras and brands of makeup I recognize. Of course I now know I can also just go to the Body Shop off Taksim Square as I did the other night, but it’s good to have options.

We shop for a bit. I need a white tank because I accidentally left a load of whites at the Chinese laundry in Brooklyn, so I also need to replace my favorite white fluffy slippers. Alex and I both find lots we like in a department store called Debenham’s so we browse for awhile and spend a good part of the afternoon looking there and in some of the smaller stores.

Finally, exhausted, we walk back to the metro for the short ride back and head our separate ways. I stop for take-out on the way home and then feeling like I’ve been too lazy spend part of the night unpacking and arranging my things and doing laundry. It’s very nice to clear some space and have my luggage out of sight.

Light

I’m sitting in my apartment, writing, writing, writing. Chloe is sleeping at my feet, at the foot of the bed. The sky is bright, clear blue and the light is luminous. I’ve opened the cream colored drapes but the sheers are pulled and they blow in the breeze and it is perfect. This is the kind of light that makes things glow. It’s almost brighter in here when I close the sheer, white curtains than when I open them. The walls are bright white and all this light makes me want to paint my new apartment white when I finally find it instead of the saturated colors I’ve been using for the last few years. This is water light. I keep expecting to look out the window and see an ocean or a sea. I have always thought of the Bosphorus as a river, but it is actually a strait connecting the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Now that I live within sight of it I’m starting to understand the Turks’ fixation with the Bosphorus.

The view out my window is sort of urban-Mediterranean. Bright light. Sand and tobacco and grey-blue buildings sharp against the clear blue cloudless sky. The buildings are four to six stories, plain, boxy, and they climb steeply up hills away from the Bosphorus, and are interspersed with trees. Laundry flutters, satellite dishes perch, birds fly and horns honk. Now and then I hear the voices of men conversing outside their shops, talking in the streets.

I hear the sound of the guys across the street playing backgammon and I rouse myself to make lunch—tuna and the best tomatoes I’ve had since I was 10-years-old.

Home away from home

Last night I took the tram across the Golden Horn to "my" hotel, my home away from home in Istanbul. It feels strange for me to be in this city and not be staying there. I'm having a great time but miss waking up and knowing everyone and of course they take very good care of me there, but I'm not on vacation now so I have to forage for my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner and make my own bed.

As I walk up the hill to the hotel the first person I see is Serdar. Serdar has always made me laugh and I'm glad he's the first one I see, standing out front and looking down the street at me. I give a little wave and he hesitates and gives a little wave back and I can tell he has no idea who he is looking at. So I am laughing as I approach and finally he realizes who he is looking at and he gets confused and asks when I arrived. I tell him Friday, knowing that will really confuse him. So we talk for a bit and I explain that I have moved and at first he doesn't believe me but then he asks me where I’m living and what it’s like and what about my apartment in New York and says he is looking for a place but he couldn’t afford Cihangir where I live but he is impressed when I tell him how little I'm paying. He asks how long I'll stay and I say probably a year, if that’s alright and he says he’ll get back to me. Then Kedir comes out and asks me how I arrived without passing him at the desk, and then Hassan, and Adnan, and Ismael say hello and now I am feeling at home. Nihat is also sitting in the sidewalk café and it is good to see familiar faces.

As I pass through the lobby I see a man I know must be Roger. He is wearing one of Mike’s scarves, so he can only be a good friend, and Alex told me she met someone named Roger the other night. I’ve heard a lot about Roger from Mike if this is indeed him so I consider saying “hi Roger!” just to freak him out a little but decide against it.

I walk upstairs and into the garden and look down into "the museum" and see a circle of people and Sucru in the middle throwing out rugs. I wave to Mike and he says “welcome to Istanbul!” I stay back a little, not wanting to walk through the circle and not sure if there are any seats on the other side, but Mike calls me over so I climb into a seat around the table. Coincidentally Trici, yet another American ex-pat, is here. I tell her Alex was just today showing me a picture of her at the cafe and calling her Theresa and I said "oh, TRICI! I know Trici from Mike's". For a big city (17 million or so) Istanbul can seem very much like a small town.

I’m so happy to see that they are looking at carpets. I see Mike put away his pointer so I know I’ve missed “the lesson” which is fun, but I’m glad to see “stuff”. He asks me if I brought my carpet with me and I say yes, of course. I know that when I find my own place here the first thing I will do is come right over and buy one of the big, plain, white, deep carpets. But as we’re looking at rugs I can feel my eyes getting wider and wider and my brain starts ticking—maybe I’ll need more than one… there is a beautiful red and blue and brown Kyrygyz rug I remember from before, he had it on the floor of the museum in February when I was here and something about it is calling me. You know you’ve found your rug when all the other ones that looked so amazing before are now so easy to dismiss. Maybe I’ll have the space and money for two rugs… No one asks how much it is but that is actually a relief as I can’t get it yet so am glad no one else is interested. I have seriously considered not having chairs and sofas if I can have great rugs to sit on, since I prefer the floor anyway.

Eventually food arrives but I've already eaten so I sit and chat with Roger in the sidewalk cafe while the others eat beside us or up in the garden. By 11:00 I am feeling sleepy and they are all still going strong, getting ready to go back up to the museum and look at textiles. I say goodnight to Roger and wave goodbye to Mike and as I slip away he asks if I know how to get back. I think "of course!" and am kind of proud of the fact that even with my non-sense of direction I do know where I am going. We'll just let it pass that when I stood up I had to think for a minute which way to go.

Mon(key)s

Well, I had my first tears of frustration yesterday. I could deal with being lost and not being able to mime "voltage converter", but not being able to get in my door did me in. I have struggled with this door ever since I arrived, but always manage to get it open eventually. Not this time. The keys work just fine, the deadbolts click just like they're supposed to, but then the stupid door just won't open.

I must have locked and unlocked it for 10 minutes, getting hotter, and stickier, and sweatier with every passing second. Then I started banging on the door (fruitless and unsatisfying) and pulling on the door knocker (which broke off, but I fixed it), and finally I had to go downstairs and next door to the Emlak. I think "Emlak" means rental agent, but they also do building stuff so maybe it means super, too. He's the guy you go to when there's a problem.

I went in and one of the guys who helped me with my luggage when I arrived, the older one, came into the front room and I started my mime performance. He stopped me and pointed to a door, the bathroom I think. Then he came over to me and started speaking Turkish and put his hand on his heart and kissed my hand and told me I am very pretty, two Turkish words I know, and something about "alme" which I just looked up and according to my dictionary it means "Egyptian dancing girl". I don't really know how to take that, but he seemed to mean it in a good way. He motioned me to sit, and calm down, and we had a short conversation of a sort.

Then the other guy came out of the bathroom, and I started miming away, but he stopped me and shook my hand, and said hello. I guess I was a little frantic and forgot my manners. Then we went upstairs and he noticed there is no doorknob on the outside of the door, and frowned and it took him about half a second to open the door with the key. We both laughed, and now I understand how to get in, you're supposed to turn the non-existent knob, but you can make the key do that job.

Later, after working away for hours, I felt confident enough that I could regain access to my apartment to go out for dinner. I wound through vaguely familiar streets, venturing off just a bit at the end to explore a new side street where I found a nice, friendly cafe called "Pan". It was busy enough, but not too busy. They gave me a Turkish menu and I recognized enough that I could order, but when the waiter came and started gushing Turkish I had no idea what he was saying so I had to admit I didn't speak Turkish and he went and found someone who spoke English. Having ordered successfully I was reading my book and enjoying my dinner (kofte, salad, potatoes, rice) when a convertible pulled up, the woman who translated my dinner walked over, they handed out a monkey on a leash, and drove away. No, this is not normal in Turkey, this would be my first monkey. It was teeny, wearing diapers that had to be for premies, and a teeny tiny red t-shirt. It hung out on her shoulder and head fascinating customers and passers-by.

After asking for the check and getting tea (he didn't understand that international check-mark gesture and so I had to say "check" and he thought I said "cay"), I paid up and started home with only a few wrong turns. I was feeling good until I came to the door. Again: turning, and clicking, and sweating, and swearing. I went downstairs to the Emlak's office where three young boys were hanging out at the desk. I mimed, they took my key. I took it back, we all said things. Finally one of them picked up the phone and a few minutes later the Emlak appeared. I shook my head and showed him my key. He went upstairs, turned it once, and the door opened. I closed the door and showed him it wouldn't open for me whereupon he made me pull the door knocker toward me, the latch unlatched, I tesekkur ederimed him profusely, he gave me his card, told me to call anytime, kissed me on both checks and off he went.

I really have to get these guys some baklava...