Running With Scissors

My Dutch friend Merel is in Istanbul for three months researching her master’s thesis in cultural anthropology.  Most women here in Istanbul have long hair.  Merel and I don’t, and I asked her if she would be going back to Europe before she needed a haircut.  She said she would need to get it cut here, and we agreed we’d try to find a place specializing in shorter hair. Merel’s friend recommended Erkan at Maxi Salon in Etiler who “cut celebrities hair”, and gave her directions for taking the Metrobüs from Kadiköy.

There are great public transit options, some of which require more knowledge, or Turkish, to use than the ferries, trams and metros (subways) and local otobüses with obvious routes we’ve navigated so far.  Jim and I haven’t penetrated the dolmuş and minibus domains yet, neither of which use the Istanbulkart for payment.

We assumed the place was near Bebek, a tony town on the Bosphorus, to which we could go by ferry and shore road bus.  Merel, though, had different traveling instructions and we are game to master new transport forms so we caught the light blue minibus with “metrobüs” on the window at the Kadiköy meydanı which took us a short distance to the Kadiköy Metrobüs transport hub. We easily found the bus to Zincirlikuyu, swiped our payment cards at the turnstile and entered.  We each again swiped our cards inside the bus, out of habit – much to the dismay, or disgust, of the driver – as we’d now paid twice for the ride.  At 10:20am it was standing room only on the bus.  I hung on a strap and we linked elbows to give Merel stability. The ride was claustrophobic and stuffy.  As we entered the backed up Boḡaziçi Bridge I girded myself for a long ride until I remembered that the Metrobuses have dedicated lanes.  Exiting at Zincirlikuyu we caught a taxi to the salon.

Merel under the blade.

Merel under the blade.

We asked for Erkan.  There were black-jeaned young people milling about the small 4-station salon, and all gathered when the two yabancı women, one freshly young, the other of a “certain age” arrived. Someone phoned Erkan, another provided us çay.

My plan began with Jodie Foster.  My hair was longer and heavier than this.

My plan began with Jodie Foster. My hair had grown longer and heavier than this.

Chivalry is not dead in Turkey. In winter, wherever we go, wraps are ceremoniously accepted on arrival and genially held open upon departure.  On the crowded bus a man a few rows away graciously offered me his seat – this happens for both Jim and I on nearly every transport lacking an empty seat.  Being retirees in this society isn’t so bad.  We, however, are independent American Boomers, made socially invisible and persuaded to be ashamed of our years by our culture.  Each time, we must remind ourselves they are not slighting us for “looking old”.

I wanted to move closer to this.

I wanted to move closer to this, hair-wise.

Erkan swept into the salon like a rock star, rippling the air.  In Turkey, service has not been stripped of humans like it has in the US. Each stylist has an his own assistant – who does as many tasks as possible – the hair spraying, the drying, holding the dryer while the stylist styles…kind of amazing, actually.  New cups of çay appeared three or four times during our visit.

Merel and Erkan, it looked good.

Merel and Erkan, it looked good.

Merel was looking to keep her hairstyle, just shorter.  I brought a print of my plan, agreed upon with my stylist in California.  I was ready to move from Jodie Foster’s haircut to Meg Ryan’s, or somewhere between. Erkan wanted to cut Merel’s hair first.  She was nervous.  I wasn’t  because I could speak with my pictures, and as I watched her cut unfold I felt all would be well.

Here we go.

Here we go.

It was my turn.  Since my glasses are off, I never see the progress of a haircut, but what he was doing felt OK   It wasn’t   This is actually one of the worst cuts I’ve ever had in my life!  On the walk from the salon to lunch, I ran a wet hand through my hair to try to make it look better. Before going out to dinner, I washed out the hairspray, trying to style it so that I could walk in public without a hood.  I feel compelled to tell the few people I know here that I didn’t intend this.  I want it to grow out before I meet anyone else, so they don’t get the wrong impression of me.  Mostly, though, I forget it happened, until I pass a plate-glass window or mirror.

I HOPE I did not say  "çok güzel" (very pretty), but at that point I don't think I realized the extent of the damage.

I hope I did not say “çok güzel” (very pretty), but at that point I don’t think I realized the damage.

My dinner companion, an American married to a Türk, told me horrible first haircuts are a rite of passage.  Jim who’s away, viewed it on Skype and agreed it isn’t my best look. The next day Merel texted that Erkan undercut her hair making it way too thin and unmanageable.  I have thick hair, but most of it is now 1 inch long, with random longer sections that stick up like Lucy’s ruff. I laughed tears at Merel’s comments.

This haircut also derailed my plan.  Now I have to grow my way back to Jodie Foster.

Advertisements

We All Claim Rumi

Türks and Persians lay definite claim to the 13th century Sufi Muslim poet. He died in Konya and wrote his poetry in Persian.  And, hard to imagine, but he was named the most popular poet in the US in 2007.

DSC_1623ltnsm

I am waiting for my translation of Rumi writings and poems by Coleman Barks to arrive with our stuff being shipped.  In the East, Rumi is known as Hz. Mevlana (translated as “our master”).  I shared a Facebook post from my Egyptian friend Mustafa this week, one I hadn’t seen before, but I especially love:

The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.
~ Rumi

Making himself at home.

Making himself at home.

 

One of the reasons I moved to Istanbul was to “break” open my life.  Traveling to the Middle East North African (MENA) region over the last five years, then returning to reverse culture shock and the need to navigate the Islamophobic shoals in the US, has released in me the truth of this snippet of Rumi’s wisdom.  I’ve been reflecting on its insights.

Seb-i Arus, Kadidoy, December 15, 2012

Seb-i Arus, Kadikoy, December 15, 2012

Some of my friends in the region are quite spiritual.  Their practice of devotion resonates with my understanding of mystery.  I always love being present to their disciplines, be it sitting quietly in a mosque, or as we did this week, observing the Sema ceremony in the Yenikapı Mevlevihânesi (Mevlevi Lodge at Yenikapı, Istanbul). We yabancılar (foreigners) call the Semazen “whirling dervishes”.

Musicians at Yenikapı

Musicians at Yenikapı

Our friend Kamer had organized this experience, just as she’d secured tickets a month ago to the first Istanbul celebration of Şeb-i Arus — the anniversary of Rumi’s death – an annual commemoration held in Konya, Turkey.  I have seen the Sema now twice within a short time and have begun to recognize its seven ritual movements accompanied by musicians. Both times I had a camera in front of my face.  I want to go back to the Yenikapı Mevlevihânesi, which offers a weekly ceremony open to those who make reservations.  Next time, I will simply submit to the experience, and take no photos.

Yenikapı

Yenikapı

Şeb-i Arus, “The Wedding Day”, celebrates the joy Rumi felt in being united with his maker.  He said to his wife who pleaded he ask God for more time:

“Am I a thief?
Have I stolen someone’s goods?
Is this why you would confine me here and keep me from being rejoined with my Love?”

 

December 17, celebration of Rumi's death. Saturday night Dec. 15 at arena in Istanbul.

December 17 every year Rumi’s death is remembered.  This event was Saturday night Dec. 15 at  an arena in Istanbul.

The first Istanbul event was held in a HUGE new arena in Kadiköy.  The long program began at 8pm and featured poetry reading in Turkish and Persian.  Within the show was a part where the audience sang to songs it knew.  Jim and I guessed this was similar to a cultural/religious knowledge of Christmas carols, because that huge crowd would unlikely all be practicing Sufis.

Şeb-i Arus, Kadiköy

The Semazen came on last and it was quite late.  The event was highly produced, and the sound unbalanced in the arena.  Combining traditional ancient acoustical instruments, vocal chants and dance with large video screens, booming amplification and roving spot lights created some cognitive dissonance.

IMG_4211cropsmall

Şeb-i Arus, Kadiköy

Many people, including us, began leaving the arena while the Semazen were still performing their ritual.  The traffic outside was like a football playoff at home.  I loved seeing the happening, but something very fundamental felt lost in that venue.

IMG_4233cropsm

Şeb-i Arus, Kadiköy

We found what was lost in Kadiköy at Yenikapı. The Sema involved the same dance with traditional orchestra.  The lodge is a large open room with two floors of seating.  About as large as a medium-sized church, the exquisite space offers an intimate experience.

Yenikapı

Yenikapı

This was a spiritual ritual in a sacred place, but it was welcoming and inclusive.  Many in the audience knew and recited the prayers at the end of the program.   The performance was mesmerizing and holy, even from behind my camera.

Yenikapı

Yenikapı

Another reflection on the “ownership” of truth occurred when Jim and I attended a meeting this week in which a high-level politician from Iraq discussed the impact of US and Western foreign policy on his country.  That will be the subject of another post.

Yenikapı

Yenikapı

A House is Not a Home…

Until you figure out how to use the stove.  What is not straight-forward is how much propane remains in the tank. The flame sort of sputtered and I hoped I’d be able to finish cooking.  We’ve got to “speak” with Doḡan, the kapıcı (building superintendent) who is a lovely man, to know how to gauge the tank and get it filled when necessary.  He laughed with me when I wrote a sentence using Google Translate about transferring the electricity account to our name, but it got the job done.

Cabbages on steroids.

Cabbages on steroids.

 

A friend online mentioned cabbage soup, and the cabbages I’ve seen here popped into my head. It was raw and gray today, and I’m sick with a cold, so wanted the comfort of homemade soup.  I went to the store and crafted a cabbage soup.  We have at least another month to go before our shipment from California will deliver our big stock pot, knives, ladles, and other things that will give us a functional kitchen.  Right now we have a few kitchen furnishings to get by— pressing every piece into creative use as circumstance requires.  We’ve been using our glass food storage containers for soup/cereal bowls.  It works, but sets a weird table.

 

Easily 3x the size of California green cabbages.

Easily 3x the size of California green cabbages.

The scale and embellishment of our apartment and the furniture left here by the owner gives the place a bit of an Old (Europe) World feel.  Our matched paper towel placemats and napkins contemporize the formal dining table.

 

We might grow very fond of these extremely comfortable dining chairs.

We might grow very fond of these extremely comfortable dining chairs.

Composing my soup as I shopped, I bought the cabbage, potatoes, canned tomatoes and beans, eggplant, onions, and garlic.  This, however, was not going to interest Jim.  I’d had a sausage/cheese tost (like a grilled sandwich) for breakfast yesterday that I’d enjoyed.  So, I bought a packaged sausage from the meat section, having no idea what it would taste like, but deducing it was 100% beef.  I shopped at Migros, a Turkish grocery chain now owned by international private equity.  Their fresh spinach and other greens were unappetizing, so my soup is of limited hue (and corresponding nutrients).

Our pots look different here, but these actually cook well, as do the very hot burners.

Our pots look different here, but these actually cook well, as do the very hot burners.

I sautéed all ingredients, using some fresh tomatoes and carrots we had in the refrigerator, and ignored the beans I’d bought. Spreading it between two of our four pans, I added some dried herbs, and then my newest favorite replacement for Balsamic vinegar, Nar Ekşili sos – a sweet/sour pomegranate sauce.  At the end I added a little water and brought it to a boil, turning it into a stew.  The sausage is flavorful and quite spicy, while the cabbage and carrots retain crunch.  It was a healthy cold weather meal that inaugurated our kitchen.

Kadiköy çarşı is nearby everyday...I need to make its acquaintance.

Kadiköy çarşı is nearby everyday…I need to make its acquaintance.

I’m going to back-burner Migros. It is easy to fall into one of their many stores and I’ve been lazy. Shopping at the wrong place is a poor excuse to leave green out of my soup. It is time to familiarize myself with the everyday Kadiköy çarşı, and visit the Salı Pazarı (Tuesday market).  Within easy walking distance is magnificent food – no more Migros, except for whatever they do best.  I feel the same way about IKEA and Starbucks.

Old time candy shop.

Old time candy shop.

Many young Türks like the western stores; they are global and seem modern. They do offer a different experience and aesthetic.  IKEA products, for example, are dissimilar to those offered in Turkish stores.  American expats have told me they also like IKEA because it is cheap and familiar. We are looking for a solution for our guest room, liking the space usage of a sofa-bed, but wanting something comfortable for our friends.  IKEA seemed to have a good option, although not cheap, but it was unacceptably difficult to purchase because of the way they do business.  “Good, Cheap, Fast – Pick Two” is one way I judge value.  IKEA is 0 for 3 so far.  TepeHome our Turkish find continues to be 3 for 3 (see https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/of-the-season-shopping-part-1/ ), but a limited group of their products suit our taste.  We’ve about run the gamut of their offerings.  One of my friends hates the dishes we chose (https://2istanbul.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/shopping-for-basics-in-istanbul-part-2/ ), but she hasn’t seen how we are integrating it.  When she does see our place, she’ll understand, and we are liking them as we use them.

The Turkish friends who visited our temporary place in Cihangir which, like many tourist holiday apartments, was furnished broadly with IKEA products commented that the place looked very contemporary.  White on white on white is very popular here, at IKEA and in Turkish stores.  White isn’t our “color”.

I'd rather go Turkish!

I’d rather go Turkish!

Rather than continuing to meet people at Starbucks, I’m going to see what Kahve Dünyası (translation Coffee World) is like.  It’s a Turkish chain with many locations and if they’ve got good filtre kahve, that’s going to become my meeting place.  I’ll report back.

 

 

 

Shopping for Basics in Istanbul, Part 2

The push to move to Moda continued…

With our bed installed, we needed bedding and some dishes.  Müge, half of the dynamic female duo managing our Cihangir flat, is an expert on the Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar).  Jim does not conform to the male stereotype of being unwilling to ask – he is always one to seek answers, even if he can’t speak the language of the person he is questioning. (Somehow, he learns what he needs to know)  We needed stuff, why not check out the Grand Bazaar?  Jim called Müge and she led us to a leather shop (not exactly what we were there for) where he bought a shearling coat – he HAD been freezing, having brought coats that sufficed in Northern California — where one is mostly in and out of a warm car, but weren’t adequate for being outdoors in Istanbul.

We asked the leather shopkeeper where to find bedding, and he dispatched an assistant to lead us to Kürkçü Han, an interior courtyard of bedding, drapery and upholstery shops off of Mahmut Paşa Yokuşu, one of the lanes that radiates out of the covered bazaar. He was right when he said we’d never find it on our own.  These “hans”, derived from “khan”, meaning caravanserai,  exist within the Grand Bazaar too.  Some are areas containing specialized shops.

The interior court for bedding, draperies and upholstery.

The interior court for bedding, draperies and upholstery.

Our smart phones served us words for comforter, sheets and bedspread.  It seems Turkish beds come in just two sizes, single and double.  We had been competing for warmth in Cihangir, our comforter being barely big enough.   Once Lucy chose where she would plop, one of us was always left half-covered.  We knew the size of our mattress and tried to buy a duvet that was larger than that. We don’t yet have the hang of centimeters so our size assessments were definite guesstimates.

We came away with all but pillows, once again looking like yabancı (foreigner) pack mules.  No one else in the vast seas of humanity in the mall, metro station or meydanı (square) ever seems to carry more than a bag or two.  All of the pieces fit our mattress and each other…but we are still playing tug of war every night.  That said, the double seems like queen size in the US, and is comfortable for us.  Lucy, though, used to our king bed at home, likes to sprawl.  She puts us to bed, and then leaves for more space elsewhere.

The China “brand” is not popular in Turkey, and there are no labeling laws.  Chinese manufacturers know this and neglect to promote the provenance of their product.  Sometimes you’ll find a teeny “prc” printed…somewhere. I know there are very high and very poor quality Chinese goods.  I am unable to discern the difference. We always ask where things were made. We suspect we were not told the truth in the Kürkçü Han, even though we did enjoy the repartee with the merchants.  Asked where we are from, we always say California.  The two shopkeepers started joking about Arnold Schwarzenegger (this wasn’t the first time Arnold was the Turkish association with California) and they were riffing on Ah-nold’s movies. Once home, unpacking our bedspread, the smell of the fabric was our lesson in learning to look harder for that tiny “prc”.

We left laughing.

We left laughing.

Where I really draw the line on Chinese products is with dishware.  I’ve read horror stories about what might be imbued into my food.  We HOPE the dishes we bought are Turkish made.  The shop said they were, they don’t have “prc”, and the manufacturer’s website leads us to believe it.  Often, we’ve seen, clerks are reluctant to tell us things are made in China, they’ll call it “imported”, or from “outside”.   We also really want to buy Turkish ceramics and textiles – both of those industries produce high quality goods.

The Turkish aesthetic is very different from CA.

The Turkish aesthetic is very different from the one in the US.

Again, we had fun with the shopkeepers.  It was late afternoon on New Year’s Eve and we chatted with the woman, Özlem, who seemed second in command at the Gürpa store on Çiçek Pazarı Sokak.  An expat friend told us this area is basically the wholesale district for the entire city.  Because of Jim’s bargaining gene – which is very useful in this souk – he ultimately identifies the patron of each store. We’d been looking at a dish set and thought  the salesperson understood that we wanted it, however, as we waited it became clear they didn’t realize they had a sale.  Once they did, they beamed, sprung into action and the tea glasses came out.  Jim said no…and I said, yes – convincing Jim we might slow down and do it their way.

I  guess Özlem is 40 or so, and speaks good English.  Some people are attracted to say, elephants.  Jim digs skulls.  Özlem was wearing a skull-shaped ring and opened her cardigan to show another skull on her T-shirt. I told her we called that style Goth in the US.  She knew the term, and said she wasn’t exactly Goth.  We laughed together about how she paid a premium for chic, ripped clothing much to her mother’s chagrin.  We bought glassware, a toaster, and the “breakfast set” with a curious mix of pieces.  Our “breakfast” plates are 9.6 inches, a size Jim is really happy with, because he thinks it makes him eat less.  There are smaller plates, some small bowls (not soup or cereal size), egg cups (!), small tea cups and saucers, a creamer and sugar bowl, large teapot, salt and pepper shaker and napkin holder.  It’s a funny combination, with pieces we’ll never use. When we left, Özlem made us promise to stop in and visit for tea when we were on the street.  I plan to.  I use the egg cups as warming lids on the tall coffee cup I brought from home.

High quality blades of all kinds.

High quality blades of all kinds.

In the souk, we found a combination knife, tools and kitchenware store.  Anything with a blade can be found in that stall.  The inventory ranged from paring knives to hatchets, with a selection of quality kitchen utensils mixed in. The owner had taken over the store from his father.  He offered to sell us a bamboo knife, saying it would not leech vitamins from vegetables when cutting them, like a steel blade would.  Jim and I have noticed that some of the Turkish people we talk to are quick to believe marketing pitches.  We’ve become inured to them, not believing anything – and since we were both marketing professionals at one time, we kind of know what goes on in conference rooms lined with white boards,  Let’s just say, we actively, but not always successfully, resist becoming hapless marketing victims. I’ve searched the web on benefits of bamboo knives over steel ones, and haven’t found even a discussion about it.

Bamboo knives didn't make the cut.

Bamboo knives didn’t make the cut.

For days on end we shlepped back to Cihangir loaded with packages.  We are doing the same thing now in Moda. Once here we needed a mop, broom, laundry rack and so on.  At the little hardware/housewares store on Moda Caddesi, as is his routine, Jim requested a discount.  Arda nicely explained that bargaining is appropriate in the souk, but not here in Moda, and then gave Jim a discount anyway.  The next day Jim stopped back for an extension cord that was 12 lira.  Jim didn’t bargain and Arda gave it to him for 11 TL.  Arda has lived in Moda his entire life, and is its happy ambassador. His shop is our go-to place for house stuff.  He held our first pile of purchases for us while we continued shopping.  We arrived back laden with a floor lamp, a pillow, takeout dinner and some groceries.  I was carrying the brooms and mops, and was too wide a load for the skinny sidewalks. On the street I needed to find a notch to step into between parked cars each time a vehicle appeared.  Two days later I stopped back in, gave Arda a 50 lira note for a 48 lira sale, and received a 5 TL note back.  Shopping in Turkey!

It isn’t only the shopkeepers either. Last night I was in Migros, a chain grocery store.  We haven’t gotten around to submitting our Migros Money card application yet, so the woman in line behind me handed the cashier her card to earn me (or maybe her) the benefits (whatever they are) for my purchases.  I realized what she was doing and thanked her.

I believe the water is potable in Istanbul, but we use bottled water anyway.  We needed water for our new sebil, and walked by a tiny storefront 1½ blocks from the flat.  It was dark and we were on our way to dinner.  The clerk spoke no English, but we understood that 2 bottles cost 13.50 TL, and would be delivered.  She knew our building.  Outside, Jim and I debated WHEN it would be delivered.  I felt we needed to go home because it could be soon.  Unwilling to alter our course, he arbitrarily  decided it would come “later”.  I reminded him that NEITHER of us understood Turkish, therefore neither of us could know when the water would come.  The shopkeeper stepped outside and indicated that it would come now, and I went home to wait for it.  Very shortly there was a ring at our front door – the delivery man must have had a key to the building.  I pantomimed that Lucy was not a threat, paid him, then phoned and went out to join Jim who was investigating a gym membership.

Another thing I love about shopping in Istanbul is how like products are clustered and sold in distinct areas. I can tell you the street for hand tools — near the lower Tünel  station and T1 Karaköy tram station on Tersane Caddesi. Also, within the unruly wholesale souk there is rhyme and reason to shops’ locations.

Last  minute shopping for New Year's.

Last minute shopping for New Year’s.

On New Year’s Eve day, we learned that little old ladies are the same everywhere.  Hordes were last-minute shopping for the holiday.  The general demeanor of the souk was a tolerant, civil frenzy. At one intersection of two narrow cobble-stoned streets, there was utter pedestrian gridlock, which three four-foot early-octogenarians and their sharp elbows blasted open.  Gotta love them!  (Since I would never act that way, I’m relieved that I do not yet qualify as a little old lady!)

We have also found our “old lady” cart.  Arda, our source of Kadiköy protocol, however says such carts are only properly used in the pazar (local farmer’s markets), which may explain their everyday paucity.  We have not yet made it to the highly recommended Salı (Tuesday) Pazar in Kadiköy. Nevertheless, I loaded the cart with the fruits of last night’s errands, and appreciated its utility.  It saves on my elbow that stays sore from tossing Lucy’s ball (tendinitis) and as goofy as it looks, Jim agrees he will use it too.  Aye Yabancı!

Old-lady cart, circa Istanbul 2013.

Old-lady cart, circa Istanbul 2013.

This huge city is really a small town.  That is one reason it is so magnificent.  It is much closer to the farm and village than any city in the US.  I’ll explain in a later post.

Of the Season….Shopping, Part 1

We have been here since Dec. 5.  Eight days ago by crossing the Boğaziçi Bridge, Jim, Lucy, Rita and I moved from Europe to Asia, from Cihangir to Moda.  In reflecting on the past month, mainly what we have done is shop.

Symbol for Turkish Lira since 2012

New symbol for Turkish Lira in 2012. Replaced TL.

Arriving in Istanbul, we first had to find pet supplies.  Our landlord had just lost her cat, so she provided a cat box and ran around the corner to buy litter that first night.   We had pet food with us, so we gratefully addressed our travel exhaustion.  With Lucy in the cargo hold of the plane, I didn’t have a restful flight.

A very fat cat  in the souk-- NOT Rita...though staying inside is making her bigger.

A very fat cat in the souk– NOT Rita…though staying inside is making her bigger.

In Cihangir and Moda, there are many pet shops, but they all carry the same limited supplies. Rita, was an outdoor cat, and needs exercise – but we haven’t found aerobic pet toys.   She used tree trunks as scratching posts, now we need to train her to use the cat condo inside – so we went looking for catnip yesterday, hoping she’d attack the indoor twine wrapped post instead of the furniture.  Google Translate called it catnipli, which didn’t work to explain what we wanted….then we added “like grass”…it became catnipli ot gibi.  Still, no catnip.  Google Translate isn’t perfect…but usually it is close enough to get the idea across.  So, I guess, no dried catnip exists.  I’ll try a nursery next and try to grow it on the kitchen window sill.  Catmint is indigenous to this area.

New Year's Eve Santa in the souk.

New Year’s Eve Santa in the souk.

Four days after we arrived, we started shopping for apartments and grabbed the first place we saw in Moda on Mühürdar Caddesi.  In the year leading to this move I’d done a lot of surfing of Turkish real estate listings.  I knew two things, Mühürdar Caddesi was the place for a view, and rentals didn’t happen often on that street.  Now that we are living here, we feel unbelievably lucky that it was available, it was we who found it, and they would accept our pets. There is one kiralık (for rent) sign on the street, for a basement apartment.  I had assumed we would live on one of the many interior streets of Moda, and just determined it would be a quiet one.  It is reaffirming when things work out so well.

The stall for disco mirror balls.

The stall for disco mirror balls.

Apartments here come in various states of undress.  Often they are simply shells, with the tenant being responsible for adding appliances, even doing some renovation.  Prior tenants take their kitchen cabinets, closets — which are wardrobes they have purchased,  most or all appliances, light fixtures, even electrical outlets and air conditioners, leaving holes in the walls.  Our apartment, fortuitously, is partially furnished.  We began power-shopping for move-in necessities around mid-December.

The little prince -- a costume for the ceremony of circumcision.

I like his looks.  I think this is the costume boys don for their circumcision ceremony.  The souk was SO crowded I had to keep moving and didn’t get the context of the shop.

We needed to know these Turkish words, buzdolabı (refrigerator), bulaşık makinesi (dishwasher), çamaşır makinesi (washing machine), mikrodalga (microwave), elektrikli süpürge (vacuum cleaner), sebil (dispenser for bottled water).  Visiting a Siemens store in Kadiköy, we priced appliances, but there were no English-speaking salespeople.  After totaling the list, Jim asked for a discount.  Another man appeared, who spoke some English and Jim did some first level negotiating. Thanking them, we walked down the block to the Samsung store.  There, standing in the door, wearing a Samsung vest and saying “hoş geldiniz” (welcome) was the man who had just helped Jim negotiate at Siemens. Jim laughed and told him he knew the price he had to beat.  We bought all the appliances, plus a TV and they were delivered on Christmas Day, about 4 days later.

Here's the alley for bubble wrap.

Here’s the alley for bubble wrap.

To move in, we also needed a bed.  Two days before Christmas we selected some furniture, a bed and mattress at TepeHome, due to be delivered January 2.  In both cases, the goods came exactly when they said they would.  The customer service here, the short time frames and reliability amazes us!  The delivery people show up, they quickly install, they breakdown the packaging and cart it away.  Done!

Baking cupcakes?

Baking cupcakes?

Christmas Eve, our guests discussed internet and cable television options with us.  As we ate sweets from Elif’li and Hafiz Mustafa 1864 we called the provider, got an English speaking rep and ordered a package.  They said it would be delivered in eight days.  Two days later, Jim was at the apartment and the installer showed up.  It would have been completed, but we learned then that we needed our ikamet (residence visa) to set up the service.  It will take until 23 January for me to have the ikamet in my hand, so we bought Turkcell surf sticks (USB modems) for the interim.

Or cookies?  Stalls loaded with baking supplies.

Or cookies? Stalls loaded with baking supplies.

So, this is shopping in Turkey.   I find dragging around to malls and shops to be exhausting, but the actual transactions have been unbelievably easy. We made a number of research excursions to a few of the malls around to see what was available.  That, plus searching the web, helped us decide where to buy, and we did one-stop shopping for our white furnishings (appliances), white goods and for our furniture.  The people we interact with also make the tedious task of shopping a fun experience, see Shopping, Part 2.