Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Small World

Damascus street near mosque
Whenever I smell  nargileh I always think of Syria. Even though I am in Istanbul my heart returns to Damascus and the sweet fragrance of apple shisha wafting down the streets.I don't imagine the streets are so sweet these days.
So you can imagine my bittersweet joy when I ran into a market trader from Damascus when I was strolling near Taksim Square. I had just finished writing a letter and was enjoying the madness of Istiklal Street  when I heard a voice among thousands say: 'Hey I know you.' Excited that someone even knew me  at all I turned around and there was Samir a young guy who used to have a shop just beside the Ulmayyad mosque. I recognized him straight away as he did me and  I remembered how sometimes  I used to take tea with him and his friends under the vines. We would  talk about politics, religion, shopping, everything really. It was like greeting an old friend as we talked about those peaceful days. He was  with a couple of other Syrians so we spent some time walking through Istanbul talking about families left behind, their fears for the future and their beautiful old town with missiles overhead. It was a sad sort of walk even though there was something quite miraculous and amazing and special that even  after some time we still remembered each other. ( It just goes to show how sparse tourists were back then as I don't think I am that memorable.) Anyway now he works in the Grand Bazaar here though of course he longs for home. I have promised to visit him there and I will definitely do that. Samir reminded me of the kindness of the Syrians in that now lost and badly broken  land. Actually part of me wonders how we recognised each other. I feel like such a different person to the one I was then. I am sure he feels the same.

Monday, 25 March 2013


Yesterday the sun finally came out so I decided I should go on a short excursion (gezi). I started by giving Three-Paw a pat as I left my house. His/ her coat ( I really can't decide which) was lovely and warm from the sun and I could hear and feel his purr.

After our daily commune I went down to the tram and caught it to the port near the Spice markets. I had decided that instead of going on the usual Bosphorus type cruise I would take a boat up The Golden Horn instead.
First though I noticed a big tent outside the Spice Market with Cannakale written on it. Inside  was a small exhibition on the 1915 Gallipoli campaign. There were maps and diagrams and lots of shrapnel, personal belongings etc set out in glass cases. For the Turkish this was a successful campaign but as I wandered about the display with my fellow Turks all I could think was how stupid war is. A hundred years ago our two nationalities were at war and yet here I am years later working and living among these people...and possibly eating them out of lentil soup.
After I had finished paying my respects, I boarded a boat to Eyup which is at the end of The Golden Horn.

 I noticed The Mavi Marmara moored by the edge as we sailed down the channel which I found very timely given the recent apology by Israel.

Eyup is the last stop on the trip. The town has a very conservative feel to it. Very different to where I live.
I decided to walk through the complex of mosques and up through the cemetery.
One of Mohammed's friends ( after whom the town is named) is supposed to be buried here which makes it a very holy site.
I found the cemetery to be a very peaceful and pretty place. Half way up I saw the tomb of a professor who had been killed in a car crash in Australia. Instead of saying when he died it said he had "migrated to Allah" which quite liked..

At the top of the cemetery is a cafe where I had a cup of tea and ate a fresh simit.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Yemek yemek

I like that kek is Turkish for cake. It sounds great. I like that yemek yemek means eat food. I wish yemek meant every word and you just used intonation to show what you mean.

Yemek! No
Yemek :-) Yes
Yemek yemek yemek yemek? Where is the toilet? ( with hand signals.)

Then it would be much easier. I still haven't had any lessons so it is frustrating not being able to really communicate. I have a driver, Orhan, who takes me from school to the American Hospital twice a week. I like Orhan.  He has lovely long eyelashes and tried his hardest to teach me Turkish. Unfortunately for him I am a visual learner so it doesn't matter how many times he gets me to repeat a word I forget it the next minute.
Orhan takes his job very seriously as he knows I cannot be late for my classes. This means he sometimes sees red as green on traffic lights and is not afraid to drive the wrong way down a steep 45 ° street. Whenever he does things like this he turns to me, shrugs his shoulders, and says "Turkish driver."

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


I have the biggest bags under my eyes right now. I don't know if it is a subtle hint to me that I should be packing them full of belongings and heading someplace else.
 Or maybe I am just tired.
Either way I hope I won't get charged  extra baggage on the metro.
I can probably explain my current eye bags as I have been having quite  active dreams lately. Last night I dreamed I was doing a uni project with Quentin Tarantino.  A dream made even more peculiar by the fact I had just finished one with Justin Timberlake. Anyway Quentin and I had been working on the project for quite some time and surprisingly we had gelled quite well despite his desire to shoot everything. But then I called him " Quent" and he thought this was very uncool. I tried to make amends by calling him"QT" but I'm not sure how well that went down because I woke up.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cold hands Warm heart

D came to visit  last weekend. What a lovely treat.  The weather was not kind but joy can warm the coldest sky.
Of course I took him to my favorite lentil soup outlet  to taste the chosen meal. He must have enjoyed it because we had three servings over the weekend.
On Friday I had to work in the morning (torturing students on particle clauses - don't even ask!) but after we went to the Grand Bazaar together because there is a tailor there who cuts the perfect cloth for D. We also had lunch in the Bazaar which meant we got hit with tourist prices but it was a nice place to sit and eat beans.

Then of course there was shopping in the spice market...

We also bought Ottoman styled  sweets from one of the sweet-makers on the street. I love these sweets. They are gooey and chewy and a definite recipe for type 2 diabetes.

Regard the twirler!

After we sat and watched the sunset from the Galata Bridge with a glass of a Rose and a strong redolence of fish.

They even put on some fireworks.

On Saturday we strolled around Cihangir ( my stomping ground) to look at the antique stalls which were full of oddities ...and cats.....and the occasional dog.

It was bitterly cold though. I even bought a new thermal top. (NEVER visit Istanbul during winter!!) On Sunday the weather was just as cold but a cat in Ortakoy found a convenient way to warm up.

Finally we ended our day at the Pera Palace hotel. 

Another one of those glorious establishments from a bygone era which once hosted the likes of Agatha Christie, Ernest Hemmingway even that old rogue Ataturk

A couple of booze-hounds!!!

When I visit places like this ( and The Baron hotel in Aleppo) it reminds how I should write again. It reminds me that I can be happy when I write.

If I can just start. If I can forget things long enough to start. 

I was sad to see the weekend pass. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Comfort Shuddering

Sometimes when I lie in my bed I hear the horns of the great ships travelling down The Bosphorus. I like the sound. I find it comforts and terrifies me at the same time. The comfort lies in knowing I am snug in my bed. The fear comes from wondering what kinds of storms the ships have seen.  Big ships fascinate me but I have no desire to travel on one. I think Capıtano Schettino cured me of any dormant urge I might have to sail the seas. 

But I love looking at them and shuddering. 
Like constantly sniffing a bad smell even though you know it's wrong for you.

Today a big cruise ship was docked at the bottom of my hill so I had to inspect it from the shore. 

After I had shuddered enough I went for a stroll around the streets near my town.

I also met No-Tail who lives on my street as well. He is black and white like Three-Paw but less fluffy. I suspect they are relatives in some way. I am beginning to wonder if there is a cat out there made up entirely of lost parts. I shall keep you posted.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Sleep and the cıty

I work near the business district of Istanbul and today I saw some local workers taking their afternoon nap.

Obviously a hard morning in the office!
This cat, in particular, was very much out for the count and did not seem to care that he was kipping in a main thoroughfare. Fortunately all his two-legged co-workers were willing to accommodate him.

Not everyone was sleepy though.

I know I know. You are probably thinking "Oh dear, she is turning into that cat woman." But I would say "What's so bad about that!" 
Besides it is not as if I don't talk to people all day. I do. Students tell me all about themselves. Making friends comes later. In the meantime I just have to find ways to pass the time doing things that I love. Which reminds me yesterday I saw Three-Paw straddling a motorbike like he owned it. I am wondering if a love of fast bikes may have been the cause of his amputation.

I haven't written much recently because I have been facing some challenges. maybe I will write about it one day but right now I prefer just to keep finding my way...slowly!