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.

Road Trip, Part 1. Çanakkale and Gelibolu Yarımadası

Fishing boats in Çanakkale Limanı.

Fishing boats in Çanakkale Limanı.

For our first solo road trip outside of Istanbul we chose the Dardanelles Straits and the Aegean Coast. We drove from Istanbul along the European coast, crossing to Çanakkale on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles Straits to visit the battle grounds of Gelibolu Yarımadası (Gallipoli Peninsula).  We love little local hotels, and stayed on the Çanakkale harbor in the Limanı (Port) Hotel. The Limanı is not a family hotel and actually has a sister hotel on the island of Bozcaada (also recommended as a wonderful place to visit).  We had a comfortable, attractive, though small, room facing the harbor. Kahvaltı (breakfast) is always included, and Turks make a big deal of that meal.

Limanı Oteli is the grey and red building overlooking the working harbor.

Limanı Oteli is the grey and red building overlooking the working harbor.

Even in the most modest of travelers’ hotels, breakfasts typically include freshly cut cheeses, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, assortments of breads and cakes and so on. There are rarely packaged foods, maybe only jellies and butter. The kahvaltı at the Limanı was special, including large assortments of each category of foods, nothing packaged, special items like eggplant jam, eggs to order and filter coffee, not Nescafe. Here, Turkey trumped its own renowned hospitality.  The pièce de résistance of the Limanı kahvaltı was arriving at my seat with my plate of food our second morning, to find my kahve and warm milk, prepared just as I had requested the day before, awaiting me.  The little Limanı Hotel on the Dardanelles, in off-season.


Çanakkale’s population is a bit more than 100,000. It is a colorful town with a small tourist core.  Locals directed us to the proper path, from which we intentionally strayed…allowing us to discover the city’s charm.



When Mama spied my interest in her kitten and its bed she stalked over, got into position and glared at me.

When Mama spied my interest in her kitten and its bed, she stalked over, got into position and glared at me.

It was originally the Ottoman fortress of Kale-i Sultaniye, which later became known for its pottery.  Çanak kalesi  “pot fortress”,  became Çanakkale.  The area also has distinctive rug motifs.  We have a rug from mid-20th C. Çanakkale (although it doesn’t follow the motifs I see in my book on tribal village rugs), and some Çanakkale-style pottery.

Top is 19th or 20th C. in a private collection in Athens Greece.  Bottom is Adil Can's interpretation, which we purchased from his shop in Iznik.  Jim is partial to seals...

Top: 19th or 20th C., in a private collection in Athens Greece. Bottom: Adil Can’s interpretation of the style, which we purchased from his shop in Iznik.  Jim is partial to seals…

Our mid last century rug woven in Çanakkale.

Our mid-last-century rug woven in Çanakkale.

We booked a tour to visit the battlegrounds of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Çanakkale gets tourists from Australia and New Zealand who are visiting the graves of the fallen ANZAC (Australian/New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers during World War I.

Cold and grey Aegean Sea,  but gorgeous.

Cold and grey Aegean Sea, but gorgeous.

The Ottoman Empire, considered the “sick man of Europe” prior to the war, commissioned and paid for two battleships from Great Britain.  At the onset of the war, Britain requisitioned those ships for their own use, so the Germans stepped in and provided two cruisers.  The Ottomans allowing those ships to pass through the Dardanelles violated international law as a neutral party, and the Ottoman Empire became allied with Germany.

In Black Sea “exercises” with the new ships, the Ottomans attacked Russian ports. The British and French seeking a route to Russia and to attack the Ottoman capital of Constantinople fought the Ottomans on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Early in the war, a month before the Battle of Gallipoli, the Allied sea campaign to sail up the Dardanelles failed.

We asked Australians on our tour why Australians and New Zealanders would be fighting at Gallipoli?  They said the young kids volunteered for the adventure and to see the world.

Basically, the peninsula was a slaughter ground for the ANZAC and the Turks.  ANZAC held the high ground for just two days, before the founder of modern Turkey, a young, smart General Mustafa Kemal, later called Atatürk (Father of Turkey) defeated them.

Cemetery at Anzac Cove

Cemetery at Anzac Cove

The tour stopped at ANZAC Cove first.  It is a beautiful knoll overlooking the sea, with colorful flowers among the gravestones.  Understanding that the soldiers were there voluntarily, I was dismayed at the sentiments on the markers.  Of course, the families choosing them had to live with the reality, and I viewed the day through the filter of my politics.  I hate war.  I believe it largely unnecessary, but it is the obvious and often profitable route to gaining power and dealing with differences.  I also dislike the multi-leveled rationalization that inevitably goes along with it.  Unfortunately, I also don’t think it will end, certainly not in my lifetime.  I am afraid war might be integral to the human species, its weak link.


These boys from faraway VOLUNTEERED. Such a waste of young life.

At Johnston’s Jolly, named for Australian Brigadier General George Johnston, fighting occurred in April and May, and then again in August.  The no-man’s land was narrow, the space between opposing trenches was close.  When not fighting, soldiers from both sides shared food and provisions by tossing them back and forth between the trenches.

There was another story of cooperation, at the same location.  On May 24 2015,  there were so many rotting corpses on the battlefield from previous days’ fighting, that a truce of  9-1/2 hours was called, to bury the dead.

This is Johnston's Jolly.  The trench in the foreground is Turkish, the 2 lane paved road was no-man's land, right at the end of the road began the Allied trenches.

This is Johnston’s Jolly. The trench in the foreground is Turkish, the 2 lane paved road was no-man’s land.  Allied trenches began at the edge of the road on the other side.

Words from those who were there…

“This whole operation was a strange experience – here we were, mixing with our enemies, exchanging smiles and cigarettes, when the day before we had been tearing each other to pieces. Apart from the noise of the grave-diggers and the padres reading the burial services, it was mostly silent. There was no shelling, no rifle-fire. Everything seemed so quiet and strange. Away to our left there were high table-topped hills and on these were what looked like thousands of people. Turkish civilians had taken advantage of the cease-fire to come out and watch the burial. Although they were several miles from us they could be clearly seen.

The burial job was over by mid-afternoon and we retired back to our trenches. Then, sometime between four and five o’clock, rifle-fire started again and then the shelling. We were at it once more.”  [Albert Facey, A Fortunate Life, Ringwood, 1984, p.268]


“The time was taken up by making friends with the Turks, who do not seem to be a very bad sort of chap after all. After today most of our opinions on the Turks were changed …”[De Vine, quoted in Bill Gammage, The Broken Years, Ringwood, 1990, P 104]  

Climbing back on the bus at Johnston’s Jolly, disgusted at the idiocy, violence, waste and irony of it all, I said  “aptal savaş” (stupid war).  Heads nodded.


A strangely protruding cast of Atatürk’s head affixed to the memorial at Anzac Cove.   His 1934 statement:                                                                                                                                                         THOSE HEROES THAT SHED THEIR BLOOD, AND LOST THEIR LIVES …
…is inscribed on the large stone monument that sprouts this head.

All over the peninsula are memorials built and exquisitely maintained by the international Commonwealth War Graves Commission.   Our guide, Bulent, went into great detail about each.  For me, though, one memorial looked like the next.  The weather was grey and, despite my new coat, cold.  The scenery of the peninsula and the Dardanelles is beautiful, but at the stops that didn’t promise different pictures,  I stayed on the warm bus and practiced my Turkish with the driver. He was a good teacher, who told me that since I’d been here for a year, my Turkish wasn’t good enough and I should get a new Turkish teacher.  I told him it wasn’t Elif’s fault, that I didn’t do enough studying. (The driver did not speak English.  So, clearly my Tarzan Turkish is somewhat serviceable).

Another ironical memorial to the inhumanity of two sides who developed a fondness for each other, but kept doing their job of war anyway...This Turkish memorial of the Unknown Soldier refers to an incident where in a lull in fighting, a Turk carried an injured British soldier over to the Allied trench, and then returned to his own.

Another ironic memorial to the absurdity of enemies who had developed a fondness for each other, but kept doing their dirty job of war anyway…This Turkish memorial of the Unknown Soldier refers to an incident where in a lull in fighting, a Turk carried an injured British soldier from the Turkish trench, across the battlefield to the Allied trench, gave him to his compadres, and then returned to his own.

Çanakkale is at the narrowest point of the strait and the tour involved short ferry rides across the Dardanelles between it and Eceabat. Once back in town we had a truly excellent seafood dinner at Yalova Restaurant and got up the next morning to drive to Assos.

This scenery comforted me in the midst of battlefield stories.

This scenery comforted me in the midst of battlefield stories.

Traveling in Turkey is very easy to arrange.  There are highly suitable hotels everywhere. Driving in Turkey is challenging because many roads are under construction, directional signage is poor and maps, including GPS and Google, are inadequate.  Plus, Turkish drivers have their own way of doing things…sort of like those in Boston, and one has to stay alert. In the future we will seek to combine drivers and guides, all readily available and of reasonable price, as we seek to explore this fascinating country with its deep history of humanity.

Turkey is delightfully Eastern and exotic, yet very familiar and comfortable too.  It reminds me in many ways of the US.  There is a great variety of terrain and culture, some of it very dramatic, a lot of it just gorgeous and interesting.  I’ve seen amber waves (not on this trip), purple majestic mountains and spacious skies.

I will describe the rest of this road trip in another post.

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Lessons Being Learned

I have many half-written posts for this blog.  Some will eventually make it to these pages…this time, though, I’m borrowing from another blogger…

Ten Important Life Lessons You Learn From Living Abroad ( got me thinking.  I love living away from my country and wish I’d done it a long time ago. Here is my experience from the perspective of Whitney Cox’s 10 important life lessons…

1.  How to get used to almost anything.  Whitney mentions cultural littering in Vietnam…also a habit here.  There is a big seaside park across the street and three stories of steps below our apartment. It is a mess of trash each evening, with the municipal workers out each morning cleaning up.  The trash pickup does employ people.  And, in fairness, there are few trash receptacles available.

Despite the scofflaws in the US, picking up after one’s dog is understood to be required. Not here.  Jim and I are religious about it, just to set the example.  Maybe because of the Olympics bid, parks are being refurbished, including numerous trash bins.  I’ve also noticed many smaller new trash cans on the streets – they come in handy when I am setting my good example. Being unable to read newspapers, I may be unaware of a scolding campaign in action.

The lesson’s point is about stretching one’s comfort zone.  It is not a stretch living in Moda, life is easy for us here. Less so for Lucy who is traumatized by the mean street dogs. We’ve also had a very mild comfortable summer weather-wise.  Moda is like a non-yuppie Carmel, California.  People stream in during the weekends and evenings to dine, saunter and slurp ice cream cones.  Lucy and I get in our 10,000+ steps in the evenings just wandering around Moda and Kadıköy.  Shops are open late, restaurants later, and the streets are full.

Gözde Şarküteri -- the name means favorite delicatessen...and it is.

Gözde Şarküteri — the name means favorite delicatessen…it is ours.

2.  How to cook.  We miss having an outdoor grill, but we’ve adapted.  This summer our go-to meal is meze…little plates of appetizers that fish restaurants (and others) present on a huge tray for you to choose from.  We’ve found our favorite “deli” in the Kadıköy Çarşısı for meze to take home. We know what we like to order… Sos Hamsı–pickled fresh anchovies in an olive oil tomato sauce, and Patlıcan Salatası–smoky, roasted mashed eggplants. We have a few other favorites, and then we are always handed forks of something new to try.  I wasn’t too keen on the chunk of cooked liver I popped in my mouth the other day.

We are of a different mind than Whitney Cox.  We aren’t trying to recreate foods we miss; we are trying to use the ingredients we have here to make foods we like.  I’ve cheerfully substituted my favorite California summer lunch of Insalata Caprese for Çoban Salatası (Shepherd’s Salad).  Çoban Salatası is ubiquitous, consisting of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet green peppers (not bell), and sometimes onions and parsley. Mine includes the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, plus fresh basil and mint from my window garden.  I’m very happy using Nar Ekşili Sos instead of balsamic vinegar, although Italian balsamic is available and in my pantry.  Nar Sos is a sweet/sour pomegranate sauce…SO good in salad dressing.

The food category zeytinyağlılar — cooked vegetables like green beans, eggplant, artichoke hearts, zucchini, in various combinations and mixed with olive oil served room temperature — is our other summer staple. There are many local places that prepare them beautifully, so we take out. We love to cook, but don’t have to here.  Our kitchen is hot in the summer too.

Our samovar and cezve.  We are prepared to serve tea to a group for hours, and make Turkish coffee.

Our samovar and cezve. We are prepared to serve tea to a group for hours, and make Turkish coffee.

3.  The importance of sharing a meal.  Yes.  Given that there are 6, maybe 12, restaurants per block, sharing meals is what we do.  I am looking forward to creating a Thanksgiving meal…it won’t taste quite the same as it does at home, and that will be the fun of it!

4.  How to ask for help.  This is one of the most humbling (in a good way) parts of living in culture where I don’t speak the language.  Turks will often see a perplexed look on our faces and step right in and help us in English.  Frequently, no English is spoken.  Jim, somehow, gets what he needs by plunging in with English, even to non-English speakers.  His stubbornness, however, has also had him bring home margarine instead of butter – literally and figuratively.

I am lucky not to have Ms. Cox’s problem of too-big feet. Turkish shoes are beautiful, and I love buying them.  Unfortunately, some of my American guests size-out.  It is hard to find larger than a Turkish 40, a US 9-10.

Our Turkish isn’t good enough to solve problems by phone, so we found our window screen guy, for example, by walking by his shop and seeing that he offered what we needed.  I’m in need of a glass table top, and watch for a cam (glass) shop in my travels.

There are really good expat networks here, especially for women.  I’ve made friends, and can pose questions on the listservs.

Acquiring stuff, see #6.  This kitsch belongs in Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence.  I couldn't help myself.

Acquiring stuff, see #6. This “antique” kitsch belongs in Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence.  It was a moment of weakness.  If Jim had been with me, it wouldn’t be on our shelf now.

5.  How to question the status quo.  Ms. Cox says all is culturally relative.  True.  Some of what we’ve had to get used to is delightful.  Like, why do all of the waiters DISAPPEAR when it is time to bring the check?  If you’re an American in a hurry it can be annoying…but I always found being pressured by an establishment trying to turn tables way more unpleasant.  Here, one can nurse a glass of çay all night if they want to. There are too many goodies on the menus to stop at çay.

Another amazing thing…if you don’t want to just split a check…the waiter will patiently walk to each person with the overall bill and total up an individual amount.  Imagine!  I’m always cool with splitting the check, but often a large group doesn’t want to do that.

Another thing I like…kuruş means cents…little change.  If the total is 10.12 TL, the shop doesn’t collect the 12 kuruş.  For 51.25 TL, the shop may not collect the 1.25, especially if they know you.  If the total is 9.93TL, they keep the 7 kuruş.  I remember noticing in New York when the bill was $x.98 and a restaurant automatically rounded up on my credit card.  It seemed sneaky to me, and it never went the other way.

There are the it’ll-be-funny-later humiliations…we visited a new friend in a lovely apartment with a large marble foyer.  She met us at the door, casually but fashionably dressed from head to toe.  It wasn’t until I crossed that foyer ¾ of the way through our visit that I realized Jim and I HADN’T TAKEN OFF OUR SHOES!  It dawned on me when I saw shoes of other guests (we had arrived first), and a basket of little blue shoe baggies sitting near the door.  Aargh.  I apologized profusely, and I hope we get invited back.  Our hostess’ shoes matched her outfit, and were indoor-only shoes.  This city is very dirty and dusty…I’m sure the homes stay cleaner leaving street shoes at the door.

A problem with taking off shoes is wearing the slippers you are offered. That night, rectifying my faux pas, I stepped out of my cute little beaded sandals into big black chunky mules.  The look was a “Glamour Don’t”.

It’s also humorous…our Turkish guests know we don’t remove our shoes…so when they come we tell them they can if they want but don’t have to.  One of them laughed and said she wasn’t prepared to, because she knew she wouldn’t have to…holes in socks maybe, or maintaining the integrity of her outfit? Or maybe they think our floors are so dirty they don’t want their feet on them?  I laugh.

There is  a laundry list of un-good things; particularly done by the cuckoo leaders which prompts questioning the status quo as well. I automatically compare what I see (but maybe don’t understand) to practices in my country.

Standing back and taking the long view of the US is illuminating.  I think what I see here wouldn’t occur in the US until I see a crazy example, like the Californian who may receive a JAIL sentence for vandalizing the sidewalk in front of B of A in protest…with chalk!?

6.  How to have fun anywhere.  Istanbul is a capital of fun.  However, Cox’s point is when no longer on vacation, we have to look for fun in a new place…because being unmoored from our home culture and friends; it often doesn’t come to us.  Jim and I stayed busy studying 3 months of intensive Turkish and setting up our home.  We had to shop a lot.  We worked at making friends, but were distracted by our to-do lists.  Then we had about 8 weeks of non-stop US visitors.  Then Ramazan and summer arrived and people, including some of our new friends, left Istanbul.  Our apartment building is very quiet – ½ of the families have gone to their summer homes.  So here we are, on our own, finding new things to do.  It is pretty easy and fun, and we look forward to when people return to town.

The results of our "nesting" adds up to stuff, unfortunately.

The results of our “nesting” adds up to stuff, unfortunately. The ornament on the top of this lamp represents a stylized Ottoman lale (tulip).

7.  How to throw stuff away.  Uh oh.  See #6 above.  We didn’t do a good job of tossing things in California…except into storage.  Our 8 initial suitcases and stuff we shipped wasn’t enough.  Furniture, dishes, lamps, and rugs from the Caucasus and Çanakkale…We love indigenous ceramics from Palestine, from Iznik in Seljuk and Çanakkale styles. We have Suzanis from Uzbekistan, pillow covers from Palestine — we have done it again! Turkish homes we see of people our age tend to have formal European style furnishings.  Our younger friends like more unadorned neutrals, or IKEA contemporary. We love the faux Ottoman inspired colorful lights and inlaid tables.  I’m dismayed at how American-ly acquisitive I am.  Now I have a house AND an apartment of stuff!  Help me.

Stuff: rugs (this one from Çanakkale), ceramics, and those colored mosaic lights found in the tourist shops in the bazaars…yabancı (outsider) decor. The big coffee table is our landlord’s. Tape on the sofa is protection from Rita, see #8.

I’m not thinking about leaving, but do like the author’s idea of giving things away as “something to remember me by”.

8.  How to talk to strangers.  This is the most fun of being an expat.  And, I’m counting on a lack of understanding of cultural references in my blog, so if I am being watched for comments critical of you know who, here and on Facebook, it will be lost in translation. (sounds paranoid, but locals are being jailed for what they write on social media)  Turks often act like we are a novelty — Americans living in Kadıköy– and love to engage with us, and we feel the same.  While all may not be understood, that both sides leave smiling is enough for us.

Our kedi (cat) got out, and the kapıcı (doorman) rang our apartment one night asking if the gray cat that flew out the main building door was ours.  Rita is outrageously shy and spent 24 hours hiding outside.  We found her 3 buildings away crouched behind a prickly hedge, only because she answered Jim’s call.  The day we were looking for her I saw Doḡan on the street and said “kedi yok” (no kitty).  Today I saw Doḡan and updated him, “kedi var, kedi mutlu” (we have the cat, the cat is happy).  He laughed and called the good news in to his wife.  It is the little things.

An original rooster pitcher by Adil Can Nursan of Iznik, based on Seljuk designs. I want to return and buy the hen pitcher.

9.  How to handle peer pressure. Cox talks about becoming aware of what you really feel/believe by being able to compare your home values to what the norms are here. Subversive behavior amuses me sometimes, and I find dumb rules annoying. I assume (erroneously?) here that if Turks aren’t following our laws, those laws don’t exist, and while maybe they should, it feels freeing that they don’t.

Like litter laws, see #1 above.  And traffic. Istanbul traffic signs are mere suggestions.  Jim has driven once here, I haven’t yet.  He was stressed at the inattention, the phoning/texting while driving, the lane creeping, etc, etc.  The street in front of our apartment is marked one-way, but Lucy was clipped (gently, thankfully) by a car going the wrong way. Turkey has high accident rates. I think non-texting laws here are needed and should be enforced.

I loved the pan banging at 9pm at night as political protest.  It has stopped. Laws can be put into effect within 24 hours here. Laws were written making it illegal.  People have been fined $5,000 for doing it.  Surreal, no?

New wide, easy to walk on sidewalks.  The side the man is walking was all angled parking before.

New wide, easy to walk on sidewalks. The side the man is walking was all angled parking before.

Recently the belediye (municipality) dug up what looked like perfectly good streets and replaced them, widening sidewalks and removing parking spaces as they went.  Cars are kept off the walks by 2 foot high barriers spaced 5 feet apart.  I joked that the bureaucrat who ordered this project must own the parking garages (he might).  Parking is a big problem, so a number of those stanchions have been removed and temporarily screwed into place to SAVE a parking spot (on the sidewalk) until later.  Many have been backed into and broken – they are made of a composite which breaks.  The new sidewalks are really nice, smooth and I trip a lot less. The stanchions look pretty ratty already.


10.  How to empathize. “Living abroad puts you on the outside looking in.”  I recently realized that this is my first experience of being a minority.  I’m privileged, but I don’t know the boundaries of my rights.  I watch the violent repression as the paranoid current party scorches the earth trying to double down its power.  As a white educated affluent person in my own culture, although of ‘lesser’ gender, I was not marginalized.  I don’t feel marginalized here either in the day to day…unless I’m reading the inflammatory statements made by politicians about foreigners.  It may be as a foreigner I will be treated better than a Türk…not sure.  Certainly, as someone over 40 (++), I am treated better than I would be in the US.  Here, I am offered a seat on all public transportation.  I’ve come to count on it   🙂

Another Adil Can Bey design.  His atölye (workshop) in Iznik is a place of wonder.

Another Adil Can Bey design. His atölye (workshop) in Iznik is a place of wonder.

We chose Moda to live in through research, not luck.  We have learned of additional benefits, however.  It is the center of the opposition party’s supporters, very secular, and there haven’t been any TOMA (water cannons) or brutality at the protests here.  That is a relief, even though we aren’t protesting.  Here in Moda, during the long days of Ramazan, restaurants continued to serve food, people who weren’t fasting were enjoying their meals in public…it is comfortable.  I wouldn’t have minded experiencing the challenges of a broadly fasting society, it is part of why we live in a foreign place…and I’m getting a workout  just trying to speak Turkish!

My relationship with Turkey and Istanbul was like the romance where early on you are thinking maybe this can be forever.  There were many unanswered questions, and I wasn’t sure how I could cope without my friends of 30 years from Northern California…but it was enticing.  While we were in the police state of Israel in May, I felt separated from and was yearning for the beauty and freedoms of Istanbul.  I was happy that for the first time I could leave a place in the Middle East for home and still shop in an “Oriental” souk.

And then, the object of my affection, Turkey, showed a different, deeply disturbing side. The place didn’t, but the government did.  Just two weeks after I joyfully returned home, I was reminded of the type of discomfort I felt in Israel. Turkey might yet be forever, but my disappointment has been sobering.  It doesn’t change my appreciation for the experience, nor my enjoyment of the place (too much), but the extra dollop of blind honeymoon excitement is finished.

Another sunset on the Marmara Sea.

Another sunset on the Marmara Sea.

I still love what I love:  the cultures that are mashed together over the eons, the people, and their music, and their food, and their art. It is one of the beautiful places on earth.  It has the best weather I have ever lived in.  I am depressed about the violence and misuse of power, not only here, but in the region.  I’m glad I traveled in Egypt while I could, and hope to return. I didn’t realize the extent to which the craziness was here in Turkey too, even though I had heard all about it. Time will tell how it plays out…meanwhile; I’m continuing my dondurma (ice cream) research.

Istanbul Landings. Uprooted. Jet-lagged. With Pets.

Ah, what a jumble it all is!  There are mosques all over the place, but we rarely hear the call to prayer.  There are Christmas trees and Santas, and English language Christmas carols everywhere, but Turks, 98% of whom are Muslim, decorate with them to celebrate the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, one friend’s brother is dressing as Santa Claus, complete with bag of gifts.  It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas to me this year…a nice long season that we usually slide into beginning with Thanksgiving,then decking our halls and entertaining while avoiding shopping and gift-giving. Our Christmas Eve ritual includes carol singing and reviewing the Christmas story at church.  It is odd, watching it all, the lens feels distorted–which, after all, is the purpose of this adventure!


Cascading lights on Istiklal

This past Thanksgiving, we had a wonderful dinner with friends with enough utensils remaining in our kitchen to make pumpkin pies to take, but the house was generally a shambles for the six weeks prior to our move.  It was a very difficult job to heave all of the stuff we’ve accumulated for 29 years out the door, some into PODS, some to be shipped to Turkey, some to be tossed, some to be donated.  We frantically continued that dance until the day we left – having to leave the dry cleaning we almost forgot to pick up in my station wagon as it was parked in storage for two years.


Living in chaos, strangled by our stuff.

We have learned what Lucy and Rita are made of – and in some ways they had the worst of it, because we couldn’t clearly warn them of what was in store.  For weeks prior we were trying to warm Lucy to her traveling kennel. After a 7 hour car ride to LAX (for a non-stop to Istanbul) we tossed cat food into the crate (unable to locate her food bag, we hoped she’d see Rita’s kibble as a high value treat), and pushed her in, locking the grate.  She was checked as excess baggage and carried away to the cargo hold, emerging on the other end 15 ½ hours later.  Rita was with us in the cabin.

They are troopers, both of them.  Lucy loves her three daily walks, enthusiastically marks the territory along the way, tries to terrify the renowned Istanbul street cats, which unfazed,  look right through her as she passes.  What we knew of Rita, our four-year-old cat was that she didn’t like people nor the indoors much.  We’ve learned she travels well in the car, not a normal cat trait, by seeking comfort next to Lucy. Here in Turkey, maybe she senses that she’d be out of her league outside, or she’s just become domesticated overnight…she’s still not a lap cat, but she hasn’t missed a meal and she’s not complaining, with the exception of one meltdown where I offended her dignity by changing too many things at once.


Road trip, Rita is Lucy’s pillow.

In order to bring the pets, we got international health certificates, updated their rabies shots and inserted ISO compatible microchips.  We collected Lucy, as happy to see us as we were her,  from over-sized baggage, loaded her onto the porter’s cart along with our 8 suitcases and walked through customs.  The paperwork was inspected, we had to pantomime what “killed virus” (the contents of the rabies injection) meant on the rabies certificate and we were out the door.


Along the mighty Bosphorus — Lucy’s first visit there!

So many things…Jim and I are back in a city, and we love it.  We are staying in a small flat in Cihangir on the European side of Istanbul.  It feels 1980s Greenwich Village-y to me…cobblestones, sort of gritty, and, because it is all so old, and the days so short…dark.  There is an amazing amount of street life up the hill at Taksim Square, but all of the steep streets and staircases we’ve climbed to get there are quiet, populated with orders of magnitude more cats than people.


Our neighborhood, Cihangir.

Our location is extremely convenient, a five minute stair-climb to Taksim Square and Istiklal Caddesi – the main shopping promenade on the European side.  Saturday evening, Istiklal was as crowded as Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at noon. Suburban Lucy “heeled” like a champ in her first foray into a jungle of mostly blue-jeaned legs.  It was rainy, and Istanbullus dress quite casually, probably because so many of them are young. Five minutes downhill brings us to the Bosphorus, and the Fınklıkı station of the tramvay (no “w” in Turkish) which takes us two stops to the ferry to Kadiköy.  The stop in between is Tophane and the Istanbul Modern museum where yesterday we saw the last day of the First Design Biennial in Istanbul.  I will write about that in a later post.

We will be living across the water on the Asian side near Kadiköy in Moda.  I plan to set up an art studio mid-year, and am eyeing Tophane as a location.  I’ll need to find an artist to share it with, and Tophane is really dark and gritty, but friendly and real – a mix of rundown buildings, hip new hotels and galleries, light industry and work-day cafes.  By then, hopefully, I’ll speak enough Turkish to cope.


Here, an opening in the crowd on Istiklal, enough that I could drop back to take the picture.

One last impression in this initial jumble of things…Starbucks is ubiquitous here (surprise?!).  And, we’ve ended up in them frequently because they are an easy meeting place.  I met a couple of American women for coffee on Sunday in a swell hotel on Taksim Square.  English was spoken at the counter and through the sound system playing Christmas carols.  I think (nothing unusual registered with me) I poured ½ and ½ — although I’ve heard expats lament its unavailability – into my coffee at the sugar station. Jim and I had two more Starbucks rendezvous that same day.  Then, this morning in Kadiköy, after the 20 minute ferry ride I told Jim I’d never get tired of, they spoke Turkish-tinged Starbuckese, had no milk where the sugar lived,rather they gave me hot foamed milk in my brewed coffee, and I shared a wonderful little warm cheese filled black sesame sprinkled bread packet called a talum paynirli domatesli poğaça.  Ah Istanbul, we love you.