Archive for the ‘Foreignness’ Category

Singing In The Dark

This is a pathetic beginning, but I must borrow a line and theme from a previous posting: A few months ago I wrote that the “Joys of Blogging do not extend to the province of absentia”. “Absentia” in our case, has been the eastern border regions of Turkey. We have been spending a considerable amount of time in Dogubeyazit, a town in the foothills of Ararat. After the first of the year we will split our time equally between these two extremes of Turkey.
With my frequent absences I have felt that my literary liability was exceeding acceptable limits and I am wretchedly apologetic. If you must protest, I will be happy to submit to your admonishment and forfeiture until you feel I have been aptly punished. Ouch. For the rest of you…lets get down to business.

A few days ago we visited the Basilica Cistern and were treated to a local university choir performing next to the Çay Garden. They deserved a much larger forum and audience than our few friends who had gathered…but it was an outstanding setting and performance. The manager said that there is a regular schedule for Turkish music performances at the Cistern each week by local universities and cultural institutions.
There is some truth to the rumor that if you approach the exit of the Cistern and request admission (without fee) to just the Çay Garden, you will be welcome to visit tariff free…depending of course on personality variables. Even if you must pay the full admission fee…these concerts and the setting are worth it.

Quirky Days

Awhile back I was sitting in my pirated office in Kazasker when an elderly man stuck his head in the door and asked me to follow him. Curious as to what was in store I left my pile of work (Çop Şiş and a pitcher of Ayran) and headed out in tow.
IMG_3677.JPG Another Day At The Office

He led me down the street, around the corner, across Minibus Yolu, and into “Taç”, one of a series of chain stores scattered throughout Istanbul…where I was introduced to his wife and children.
There was no pressure to purchase or peruse he simply wanted me to see where he worked, what he did for a living and to meet his family. After a ramble amongst the wares I realized that this unplanned textile tour of “Taç” had reached its captivating climax.
IMG_3679.JPG “Movin’ Out With Metin”

I made my exit amidst much hand shaking and cheek kissing and headed back to my office and my overflowing desk with an eccentric element of this little corner of Asia to ponder. “Quirkiness” seems to be an intercontinental trait.
IMG_3685.JPGA Brief Stop On The Textile Tour

Mental Machinations

Someone is messing with the way my mental machinations mesh. I had just made the shift to Winter wear, Winter wool, and Winter wit…when today dawned bright and clear. After spending the week convincing myself that Summer had simpered, and Fall had fled…waking up to April skies seems intentionally cruel. Time to step up to facts though…where’s my beach towel?
IMG_5140.JPG Waffling Weather

Winter Wit

The cold weather here in Istanbul seems to have thickened my literary sap and while the content is rich…the flow has tapered to the occasional drip. We hope to bore deeper this week and find a vein to tap. In the interim, it really isn’t all that cold outside (40 degrees F), and yet the snow is falling heavy in Kosuyolu, disappearing as it hits the ground.
From The Igloo
I am stubbornly refusing to capitulate access to my balcony office and am paying a “weathering” tariff for my obstinacy. In need of a compositional “by-pass”, I have spent the last few weeks with Turks who have plied me with pastries, leveraged me with laughter, and whacked me with wit. Istanbul seems to have a cure for all that ails.


After 3 weeks in the Turkish outback it is nice to be home again. Arriving just in time for Seker Bayram it was…as my kids say, “Sa-Weeet!”
We rolled into Istanbul and cold weather, cold showers, and the boilers down in our site. After our time trekking around (not up or over) Ararat and south to Van following several families of shepherds moving their flocks to lower pastures…it was good to see the City again and was soothing to our battered bodies and senses.
To hear the horns, the screech of tires, the touts, the Azan coming for several directions, and the roar of the Iftar cannons was music to our ears.

IMG_4971.JPG Long Way From Home

I love the Turkish/Iranian border regions; Mt. Ararat, the beginning of the Central Asia Steppe, Dogubeyazit and Kars, the forgotten villages clinging to the sides of the mountains, and the people of Eastern Turkey… But this City of Istanbul, the “City of the World’s Desire” holds a special place on our hearts. It is home to our crew of four, and its nice to be back.

Cleaning Up In Istanbul

Posted from Dogubeyazit….be back soon

I am a simple guy and it takes my meandering musings time to mesh. Since I need to work harder than most to ponder life, I need a place that allows me to do just that. My hangout is a little café on the corner here in Istanbul, called Cemre Kebap (frequent readers will remember this little eatery from earlier postings).
It seems that I spend a lot of my spare time in that little café because they now reserve a table for me and somehow it has become my official office…it has even found its way onto my business cards: Office Located In: Cemre Kebap, Corner Table, Istanbul.
I hold office hours on most Thursdays and the occasional Tuesday, the owners of the café seem to have some influence in our little village and often arrange, without my foreknowledge, appointments with those in the community they think I should meet. I never know how my day is going to turn out. Over the past few months I have met with decorated Generals, orphaned teens, Imams, crazies, and even a sitting member of the Turkish Parliament and a former Ambassador.
This day I had been given a reprieve from the usual parade of characters and notables, and had spent several delightful hours dwelling on pithy perceptions when Ann and the kids arrived, thus calling an end to an arduous day of contemplations.
Now that my office was officially closed, the two brothers that owned the café gathered around our table to chat. In the course of our conversation we mentioned that we were in the market for a washer and dryer. Fikret, the younger brother, walked across the street to a local appliance shop and brought back a catalog for us to peruse.

Shifting Climes

The arrival of Fall seems to be the climatologically contrived conundrum for contemplation of late. My sunny afternoon faded into a “fall like” afternoon with dark clouds and wind and it appears to be cooling down in Istanbul. Which, on the heels the A/C installation in our bedroom this week…figures.


Any change of weather is always a big deal with our crew. Since we hail from the land of “No Seasons”…living in a “4 season city” is big stuff. I am a T-shirt and jeans devotee….but today I found myself wearing a sweater and socks while working on my terrace. For this Southern Californian, “socks” are strange territory and a clear sign that something….is in the air. Stay tuned for changes in the local clime.

Tapped Out

Coming from our Southwest background…we know the value of water. At least we know how high the Southern California water bills can be. Rules governing the watering of lawns, running of fountains, or washing of cars are the norm.

Our Local Kazasker Water Stop

We haven’t been in Istanbul long enough to know the ins and outs of the aqua gods…but this city is centered on, around, and within, “things water”. We have heard some amazing tales, both historical and current, of the infamous water shortages that seem to be so common in this chaotic conurbation. Just a few days ago reports were dispatched of an upscale village close by that had been without water for 10 weeks. It seemed that it was only a matter of time before we faced the same predicament.
So…when the water pressure suddenly dropped while I was showering, I called out the alarm, and the crew sprang into action filling every available container with whatever they could eek out of the dwindling taps. I wanted to be a part of this familial effort to horde water….but, unfortunately, I had other, more immediate, quests to pursue (I had just reached the heights of sudsville when the water had begun to dwindle and was not looking forward to being stranded with soapy nethers). Ten minutes later the last droplets fell into the waiting containers and the taps gurgled, gasped, clattered, and then grew silent.

IMG_3456.JPG The Horde

Free of most of the lime that had been sticking to my form; I quickly dressed and headed out and up the hill to see if we could find a few extra bottles of drinking water at a late night Tekel shop. Arriving home with 3 gallons of water to spare, we were greeted by the sound of the same flowing freely from the faucets.
It seemed our shortage was only to last for an hour. Dripping wet from our hike to the shop I jumped back in the shower…surprised? Don’t be…It seems there’s plenty of water to go round.

Taxi Trends

Someday I am going to spend the time to taxi around “Taxis”. Istanbul’s Taxi fleet has got to have some of the best compositional cloth for commentary I have ever seen. There is a wealth of material to be worked on this subject.
Today, regrettably… I will procrastinate once again, and leave you with this unique tidbit to tease your thoughts.
Grabbing a taxi today I happened to get one of our newer models. The driver was proud of his car and watched us closely as we boarded with our parcels. He was pleased when I noticed the additional “Taxi” indicator he had mounted to the dash board.
He made sure that I was aware that he was the owner of “two such signs” one on the roof…and this one on the dash. It’s a nice sign, and the first one that I have ever seen installed on the inside of a taxi…..screwed firmly into place over a panel that has the words; “SRS AIRBAG“. Only in Istanbul.

Turkish Medicine

Being sick anywhere is a bummer….but my first malaise in Istanbul has opened new avenues through which I am ambling. I have been a bit under the weather the last few days…On Saturday I felt so bad I thought I was going to die…and by Sunday I was afraid I wasn’t. Since then it has leveled into a consistent state of misery with occasional bouts of despair…until today.
Our doorbell (a Duo Chime 2000) rang this afternoon and I heard the sound of a neighbor making her way past my wife and down towards my room. Before I knew it, she walked through my bedroom door with a mission to accomplish and armed with lemon cologne and an intimidating determination. Commanded to sit in a chair, I obeyed while she dowsed my cranium with cologne and began to compress the sides of my head trying (or so it seemed) to invent a new form of osmosis.
With her chin bearing down on the top of my skull, she began to use all 90lbs of her weight to press my temples together…I heard something crack (not a “good” cracking sound), my eyes bulged, and something snapped. This seemed to make her happy and she went to work pulling my hair out by its roots and wrapped up the whole process with successfully shifting the skin from my forehead to somewhere below my chin. She smiled, patted me on the back, packed up her bottle of cologne and headed out.
I don’t know what she did…but this little lady from Istanbul worked magic. While my feet are still not firmly on the ground, the tide has turned, the weather has changed, and I am smiling again….or will as soon as my lips work their way back to my mouth.
Yet again, these wonderful people called Turks…have saved me with their kindness.

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