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
6 bottles of mineral water
3 pairs of socks
White lycra tank top (been looking everywhere for one!)
Bath gel
3 toothbrushes (forgot I packed 3. Oh well)

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


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.


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?”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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...

Pets, potty, and play-acting

By 11AM it's already been a mixed day. I got up, cleaned my bathroom, cleaned and fed my dog, showered, and was feeling pretty good about the day, even though I seem to have broken my toilet while cleaning it. A problem I solved by pouring a big bottle of water down when I needed to flush it, figuring I would deal with a permanent fix later. I showered in my nice clean bathroom, packed up my laptop and was on my way.

I decided to stop in the pet store across the street and scope out Chloe supplies. I need to find a dog food she will eat and would like to get her a bed and maybe some treats. The nice guy at the counter let loose with a whole string of Turkish words when I walked in. Mixed in there was "hosgeldiniz" (welcome). I just say "merhaba" (hello) and they all seem to get that I don't speak Turkish. After a lot of gesturing I managed to explain that I have a dog, and learned my Turkish word for today, "kopek", which is the word for dog. It's much harder than you would think to explain even simple things. I tried to explain that I wanted smaller cans of dog food, but I think he thought I meant cheaper because he handed me a can of Pedigree and, yes, it's the same Pedigree. Finally I pointed at the number of grams on the can of food and he got that I wanted a smaller can, which they didn't have. Not surprising as I've seen only one small dog so far, a shitzu.

I thanked him and left and, feeling brave and not wanting to cross the street and all the crazy traffic on what is usually a quiet corner, I decided to stop in a hardware store and see if I could find a voltage converter. Apparently I do not have the acting skills to act out either "voltage" or "converter". After another stream of Turkish words containing "hosgeldiniz" and my American "merhaba" the nice hardware man sent his young son to try and help me. The poor thing tried, but I kept ending up with different outlet adaptors, and I would point at the word "volt" on a package and he would hand me a light bulb. When I left I think they were as confused as I was. So, there will be no new pictures except those I can take with my Mac until I find a converter so I can charge the batteries on my digital camera.

Then I was on my way to the cafe, to make lists and plans, figure out my cell phone, and try to be somewhat productive. Yesterday I practically stumbled across the cafe but today I had to keep getting out my map. The streets in this neighborhood curve and wind and turn back on themselves. I kept passing things I knew I had seen before but wasn't sure if they were supposed to be on my left or on my right, if I should head uphill or downhill. Finally I asked a man who was sitting on the street for directions. The men all seem to like sitting on the street, often in front of their stores or shops, sometimes alone, often in groups. It's a little intimidating at first, but harmless, and after awhile I usually get used to it. The women never sit on the street.

I tell the man the name of the street I'm looking for in what I hope is a polite, inquisitive tone since I don't know how to say "where is". He produces a loooong string of Turkish, somewhere mixed in there is the name of the street I need, along with what I think are other street names and probably some "turn right"s or "turn left"s. Luckily he points and so I go that way, thinking I can ask again if I need to but I do manage to find the cafe.

Above is a photo I took on my last trip. I live very near this street, and when I get to it I know I am near the cafe where the ex-pats hang out.


Last night I had Dominos Pizza for dinner. I would like to be able to say it was exactly the same or soooo different from home, but the truth is I can't remember the last time I had a Dominos Pizza, and I rarely have any other kind of pizza either. I had planned to go find a cafe. It's too hard to cook in someone else's kitchen and Vivian's is not really equipped for much cooking, so I am resigned to going out often, especially for dinner.

But I did want to wander and find a small, cheap, neighborhood cafe. Once I was outside however, I was tired and not in the mood for aimless wandering and anyway lots of things were closed today because it was Sunday. And there was Dominos so I took the easy way out. So much for taking advantage of all that healthy, fresh Turkish cuisine.

However, this is spurring me on to make the calls, get in touch with the contacts I've been given. I can't WAIT to find and set up my own place. I like the apartment I'm in but it's not mine and I don't want to buy (and have to move) the furniture and kitchen stuff it's lacking in case I end up renting a furnished flat.

Stuff I can't figure out:
1. Where to put my trash.
2. Why the street I live on is on no map, and so, where EXACTLY I am.


Today I am having a weekend. I made breakfast which took awhile as I couldn't find the pots and pans. I almost went out to eat in frustration but I bought eggs and eventually would have had to find a way to cook them so I opened my laptop, found the instructions for the apartment that Vivian was smart enough to email me, found the pans and made my breakfast: Scrambled eggs with tomatoes and cucumbers and some of the lovely apricot-combo juice (don't really know, it is in Turkish, but it has pictures of several kinds of fruits).

Then I went to Kahvedan, the cafe where all the ex-pats hang out, to fortify myself with coffee because I really, really needed to get a cell phone, but don't like doing stuff like that. I hung out for a couple of hours, writing, thinking, looking at maps, long enough to run into Robin. I met her through a mutual friend on my last trip and she is a friend of Alex, the woman who I took my ESL class with and who has been a great help to me here. Confused? It's all rather incestual here, which is actually kind of nice.

Finally I wandered over to Istiklal Caddesi, the main shopping street in the area. Thankfully it wasn't crowded yet and I walked right up to the TurkCel counter where after a lot of gesturing, pointing, and rudimentary English from the salesman I succeeded in buying a shiny red phone, cim card, and kontour (kind of like minutes). Then I came home and called a few friends to make tentative plans for tomorrow.

The sun is beating down outside, but my apartment is always breezy. I had planned to clean and unpack but the breeze and my book are too tempting so I am lying in the breeze reading. I will put my iPod in Vivian's genius iPod stereo thingy (I think I must get one of those) and clean later.

I just got a note from my new Turkish friend. We met yesterday and she has already sent me the name of another friend who can help me find an apartment. Tomorrow I start calling schools to set up more interviews (I have a job if I want it starting in September, but I think I can do better time and schedule wise) and getting in touch with my apartment finding referrals.

But today is my weekend so right now I am going back to my book.

Things that are different:
1. The egg yolks are REALLY orange.
2. How could I forget? The call to prayer. This also counts as a thing that I love.

Things I love:
1. Unsweetened cherry juice. My new dessert.
2. Big 5L bottles of water we buy for drinking. No idea why I love them. No one here has been able to tell me why even the Turks don't drink the water although it is fine for washing, tooth brushing, etc. Everyone has a different theory. I think the most likely one is that the pipes are so ancient (Roman?) that who knows what deposits and erosions are washing along with the water. Which leads me to ask, why is it that ConEd can't prevent their pipes from blowing up swathes of New York City? But I digress...
3. The sounds of the ship's horns from the Bosphorous.
4. The shower heads you hold in your hand instead of the stationary wall-mounted ones.
5. My dog. She is being awfully good and has adapted well, although I have not been brave enough to take her outside yet.
6. Sitting in a cafe watching the old men leading their lives in the streets.

Lost and sound

My apartment keeps getting lost. I'm not lost, I usually know exactly where I am which is a huge triumph for someone with the non-sense of direction that I have. I am amazed at how much of what I can reach on foot I remember from previous trips and it's really nice. But finding my apartment is a challenge. There's a lot of wandering. I've passed it twice already without seeing it and I'm sure the guys in the surrounding shops must be getting a good laugh out of that as they don't seem to miss much that goes on in this quiet street.

Part of the problem is that the street I live on curves and does a sharp u-turn, and it's not the only one. It's surrounded by other little streets that jut and curve and twist up and down hills. The hills are incredibly steep, even giving way to streets made up of sharply ascending and descending stone steps which allow for amazing views of the Bosphorous through the crowded stacks of buildings. It's a good place for wandering, but if you're me and you really need a cup of coffee and can't find the cafes it can make for a cranky afternoon.

But now it's late and I'm safely home and just got up to investigate the funny tapping, falling sound outside my kitchen window. It turns out to be two men across the street. They have set up a table on the sidewalk in front of their shop and are playing backgammon. That explains that sound, but the one from this morning is still a mystery. I was almost dressed and ready to leave when I heard a strange sound, almost like a cuckoo clock. I tracked it down to a box near my door. There are three boxes near my door and I have no idea what any of them are for.

The box kept cuckooing and I kept staring at it and wondering what it meant and hoping it's not some kind of fire alarm. It's possible it was someone ringing a bell downstairs, but I wasn't dressed and didn't want to check. Next time I have a friend over I will have them ring the downstairs bell, assuming there even is one and see if that solves the mystery.

Things that are the same, things that are different

I am up early. As usual when I am in Istanbul I can not sleep late. I think it's something about the light which is clear and bright and I hope it lasts all year because I will be much more productive. But I must learn to go to bed earlier.

It doesn't feel like I live somewhere different when I'm in my apartment (I guess I should start calling it my "flat" but that still seems silly to me). When I venture out though, I feel like "foreigner". I'm sure that will fade a bit with time. Within a few days I always feel right at home, but I guess I will always look like "foreigner" to the Turks.

Last night I ventured out to find food, planning to find a cafe and sit and have a decent meal. Couldn't find the cafes. I'm sure I'm close, I remember this neighborhood and it is packed full of cute cafes, but I went the wrong way and everything was closed down toward the Bosphorous. The good news is I found the tram stop just a few blocks from my place, so now I know EXACTLY where I am. Today I will climb up the hill instead of heading down as I try to find my way to meet Gulten for lunch. Last night I ended up with a can of tuna and some really good juice from a little market across the street. These markets are kind of like the bodegas in New York. Small and they stay open late and have two or three of each item. Some of the stuff is fresh but if you pick up something dusty you know to steer away from that particular item.

Things that are the same:
The sounds of birds outside my window in the morning.
My dog waking me up before I'm ready and then sleeping soundly once I am wide awake.
My apartment never seems quite neat and clean enough.
The sound of helicopters flying far overhead.
There's not enough room for my clothes.
The internet looks mostly the same.

Things that are different:
The sound of cats outside my window at night.
I can see the Bosphorous from my window.
I live across the street from a Ducati dealer and a pet store-- how lucky I am I? No need to search far and wide for Chloe supplies and who knows, maybe I will buy a motorcycle. Or meet the Turkish Fonzie.
I have no idea what anyone is saying to me.
The blogger site is in Turkish. No idea why or how to change it. My 12-word Turkish vocabulary helps me only a little.

Hmmmm. So far more similarities than differences. Interesting.

Old friends and new friends.

I've arrived! I officially live in Turkey. Me, my dog, four suitcases, and my MacBook.

Chloe was a trooper, and so far my fears that the Turks would think I was a weirdo for having a fluffy white dog are groundless. Thanks to her, I met Mansour (about 3 years old) and his brother Selim (about 5) at JFK as we were waiting to board. They stayed a few feet away from her for awhile but couldn't resist and just had to pet her, and then I thought Mansour was going to climb in the bag with her!

The three Turkish men in my row on the plane were also interested in her, asked a few questions and then we settled in for a quiet flight, except for one gentleman's insistence that I start learning Turkish RIGHT THEN by reading the in-flight magazine which has Turkish on one side and the English translation on the other. I kind of flipped through it to pacify him (he was actually perfectly nice) and then dozed off.

When I arrived at Ataturk Airport I was a little confused about how to get a big cart since the little ones just weren't going to do, but then I found a porter who loaded my bags on the cart and started wheeling me to the taxi stand. After we passed the crush of people I heard someone calling my name and turned to find Adnan rushing toward me. He is the driver from the hotel where I usually-- used to?-- stay and was waiting for some hotel guests to arrive. We said hello and he asked what I was doing, wondering I'm sure why he wasn't meeting me, and I told him I'm moving but will come visit and he rushed back to find his guests.

When I got to my apartment I asked the driver to wait with my bags and ran up to drop off my dog and carry-on. Alexandra was there to meet me, as promised, and we both rushed down to get the luggage across the small cobblestone street. She took the first one up the two flights of the small spiral marble stairs leading to my sublet apartment while I maneuvered the other three bags to the sidewalk. Then the two gentlemen sitting outside the store next to my building jumped up, swung my bags on their backs and ran them up the stairs. They wouldn't take any money so I will buy them baklava.

I was surprisingly awake for awhile so Alex and I chatted and caught each other up. We may run some errands together over the weekend. But now I'm fading. It's 5:30 and I plan to sleep, take a shower, then venture out for food and water. I think that is challenge enough for my first day.