Istanbul Gone


We spent most of 2015 deciding where to move and then doing it. We chose between Berlin and Barcelona, making our first reconnaissance trip to Barcelona in early January and to Berlin in mid February. The weather did not factor into our decision, but the fact that walking in Barcelona we found the neighborhood we wanted to live in, and we couldn’t find its counterpart in Berlin sealed the deal.

For an American, without an EU passport, getting a visa to apply for the residence permit is challenging. Especially when gathering all of the information from two countries while in one with poor mail delivery – even express mail (Turkey, it’s complicated.)

We travel heavy, and pets add complexity…the pets needed titer tests, a four month procedure, which I didn’t start until June…having missed that little detail earlier. So, though we’d found and rented our apartment beginning in June in Barcelona, we stayed in Moda until October 28. Meanwhile we had some painting and other minor renovation done in Spain.

We’ve been here in Spain almost two months now.  It is Christmas Day and we will be cooking dinner for new friends, who are also fairly new expats in Barcelona.

I know I’ve abandoned you, my readers.  And for bloggers that’s the ultimate offense.  I quit writing this blog because as things developed in Turkey, I found it inadvisable to publish what I really wanted to say, and that killed the joy of the process for me.  I’m sad about Turkey and its situation. Living there was an adventure of my lifetime. I took to it immediately and thrived. I miss a lot about it, and certainly my dear friends.

Here is a (very amateur) video I made in May in advance of our leaving.


I was asked often what I would miss about Turkey.  It was impossible to know the whole answer to that question before going, but I did know it would be the creatures.  As I rewatched the video I was filled with such nostalgia and longing.  The whole street animal thing combined with the city’s integration with the sea is special and unique in the world I think.

Yes, it was a wonderful experience.  We lived there nearly three years, and I am so glad we did.

I will migrate this blog in some fashion…to another name at least…but for now I’m limited to an ipad as my single device and camera, and so will publish here for the near future.

Happy Holidays!




Petra Backstage

We conceived our Istanbul adventure to include travel, and this is a great geography to journey from. With pet care under control, we are free to go, and recently we visited Amman, and Petra in Jordan.

A very deep canyon, made by a trickle of water a long time ago.

A very deep sandstone canyon, made by a trickle of water a long time ago.

Claude Monet was 68 when he first traveled to Venice, Italy.  He was leery of even visiting because he was afraid of repeating what painters had already captured.  Once there, though, he painted multiple versions of the gorgeous views in varied light.  I can appreciate his apprehension as I show these photos of Petra.


Most Americans may not have ventured to Jordan and Petra, but many have seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The images of the place are well-known.  And photos are no substitute for the glory of seeing Petra.

One of Petra's "crown jewels" the Treasury appears after about a 2 km. walk into the site.

One of Petra’s “crown jewels” the Treasury appears after about a 2 km. walk into the site.

We had a wonderful day at Petra, and one day was just enough for us.  Winter in this region has been warm and dry, and we had bright comfortable weather at the end of February.  We were about a week before the seasonal onslaught at the beginning of March.  The park was quite empty.  In season it gets 3000 visitors a day.

They are not on their way to school, rather to sell packs of postcards.

They are not on their way to school, rather to sell packs of postcards.  Fashion matters.

We walked the ten-mile round trip from the entrance, climbing 800 steps to the Ad-Deir (Monastery) and down again.  What we enjoyed most was engaging with the Bedouins who live and work in the park.  Once, many families lived the caves. Most have relocated to a modern nearby village, but some 30 families still live there, and host overnight guests, and satellite dishes are in evidence.  We learned the caves have internet, and air conditioning, powered by generators.  The Jordanian government supplies the site with water.

The men line their eyes with kohl.  Some of them had really beautiful features.

The men line their eyes with kohl against the glare. Some of them had  almost beautiful facial features.

Jordan has done a good job in supporting the Bedouins and operating the site.  There are many vendors, most with the similar merchandise, who ask for the sale…once. Unlike at the pyramids in Giza Egypt, they do not hector visitors.  In Petra, a refusal to buy is met with a smile or humor or both, and it is easy and comfortable.

We petted these babies on the way up...they were passed out on the way down.

We petted these babies on the way up…they were passed out on the way down.

The world comes to these Bedouins’ door.  They are attractive people and many are quite well traveled themselves. Some speak multiple languages, at least well enough to cater to tourists. Jim was shown President Obama on one’s cell phone.

Ahmad with Daisy (foreground) and Antonio.

Ahmad with Daisy (foreground) and Antonio.  Daisy is 7, about mid-life, and Antonio is 2-1/2.

Our friend Berin and I had a delightful 3 kilometer camel ride…I rode Daisy (a male), she rode Antonio, and Jim walked with Ahmad, who held the lead, questioning him about his life.  He is 28, his father has 23 camels, they live in the village nearby, and Ahmad has had a girlfriend in Holland for the last three years, who is in medical school. The Bedouin life here looked quite peaceful…it seemed natural and adequate at the worst, and affluent at the best. Ahmad was one of the more affluent.


One of the things we love in Istanbul is the urban wildlife…street dogs, cats, and birds,  We enjoyed the animals as well as the people at Petra.


Camels aren’t keen on sitting…but will reluctantly obey orders.

A beautiful part of the day was when all were heading home.  All quieted down.  We were in no hurry, and a lot of the park had emptied before we left. We captured the last long, golden rays of sun, before driving back to Amman in the dark.


Daisy offered me an interesting vantage point.

Women heading home.

Girls heading home.


The Treasury at sundown...sandstone gilded as gold.

The Treasury at sundown…sandstone gilded as gold.

Matching his environment

Matching his environment.


On the way home.

On the way home.

We had a leisurely, relaxed and stimulating day.  And now, we’ve been to Petra.

Learning Turkish

I love the whole experience.  The language is cool.  Our teacher, Hande, is adorable.  The class is even located in a great spot, Rincon Center in San Francisco.  We meet in a glass conference room jutting above the atrium.  Hande tries to converse with us about the weather, one floor above, and the public four floors below.  A sparkling day in March was Bugün hava çok güzel.  The next week, the answer to Bugün hava nasil? was yağmurlu.

 So you will know how I feel, as an illiterate,  I am not translating most of the Turkish I write here.

Some good news:  there are no genders in Turkish.  There are not a lot of grammatical exceptions.  The accenting is straightforward.  Roman letters are used, not Arabic script as it was pre-Atatürk.  There are many European loan words, like biyoloji, bisiklet, kaktüs, reservasyon…The Turkish alphabet has 29 letters, 23 of which we already know, and the remaining six are easy.  Music and food are great in Turkey, and the people are wonderful.

After that:  sentence construction does not resemble English. Sometimes it can be reverse of English, as in Istanbul’da köpek bakıcısı bulmak kolay mi?  The literal translation is: Istanbul in dog sitter to find easy is it?

We want to know the answer to this question because we are planning to take Lucy (our dog) and Rita (our cat) with us when we move to Istanbul at the end of this year, for two years, inshallah.

Inshallah is an Arabic word, meaning, “God willing”.  We are very aware that we don’t know the ending of this year, much less that of three years hence, but these are our plans.

We will need a dog sitter, because we want to travel within Turkey and the region.  Of course, our travel will be constrained by our ½ day Turkish lessons once we get there.

So, while I love this process, Hande, the classroom, the sound of Turkish, and even the way it is vaguely beginning to make some sense, my brain is exploding.  As I was digging into my Turkish homework for this week, and the textbook was taking us into vowel harmonies — of the “e” and “i” types,  and personal pronouns… complicated subjects that Hande has already broached with us…I hit a wall, one that seemed impossibly high at the moment.

I have the problem of not remembering – or maybe never knowing very well – English grammar.  Like, I had to look up what a preposition is…and when Hande talks about “present continuing tense”, I’m lost.  So, bilmiyorum – “I don’t know” – is really “know-not (or negative)-am knowing-I”.  This comes from my notes.  It might not be correct, although if I say “bilmiyorum”, I’m sure I’ll be understood.

Flexing my 60-year-old brain is a good thing.  I just hope I can untangle the knots I’m making in time to ask for kahvaltı when the time comes.

Before Jim and I arrive in Istanbul for our first reconnaissance trip in May, we need to get some more conversational phrases under our belts.  And, we need to learn how to construct sentences, so we won’t be mute bobble-heads, bouncing our smiling faces around, unable to speak.  🙂

Back to the homework.