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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.