Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Republic Day

Republic Day in Istanbul means...

.... lots of flags

...lots of boaty goodness ( with  flags)

...lots of police welcome wagons
In the afternoon I went to an end-of-kebab-season partay with colleagues. I decided to walk there with a fellow teach which obviously made us a pair of most impressive machines. Turks do not embrace the walk I find. 
It was actually a very enjoyable afternoon. Red wine, beer and baklava always help too.

mmm baklava

Turk at work...

Canadian sandwich

The whole motley bunch

hmmm would u really pay to learn from us???

Many red wines later some of us straggled down the hill towards Ortaköy to watch the fireworks...a mandatory celebration of any Republic Day.

P.S The Lucky Pirate remains in hospital so I still have no pictures. But here is her gorgeous brother I have named Herbey...because I am treating him for a similar sounding infection at the moment. He is a brave and beautiful boy who pluckily lives on his street with his mama but is now getting brave enough to let me cuddle him ( and inject antibiotics down his wee little throat.)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Lucky the pirate

Lucky the Pirate's sibling
I don't even know how to tell the following story especially since I still don't know its ending but I'll give it a go anyway. About ten days ago I noticed a mama cat with two kucuk bebek kedi ( little kittens) sleeping in a small grave yard that is by the mosque in my street. I couldn't reach them but I started leaving a little food through the wire.  Then I noticed that the little black one had a badly injured eye. Every day it got worse but I could never catch it  as these were true street babies who had never been touched by humans. I even went to the Eczane ( pharmacy) to buy special kedi ointment and talked with Kirim on how best to treat it. On Friday I finally managed to grab the baby (much to its great anger and fear) and one shredded hand later I brought it home to dress its eye. I could see on closer inspection though that this eye was well past drops as the swelling was now almost as big as the side of its tiny head.  I knew I would have to either take it to the vet or give it back to its mother but I simply couldn't leave it to suffer such a terrible infection so I took it ( swearing in a  shoe box) to my local vet. As soon as the vet saw the kitten he said she would have to lose  her eye ( for my pirate is a laydee, I discovered) if  she was to have any chance at life.  He was very nice and explained that plenty of street cats had good lives even with one eye and that it was fortunate I had decided to bring her in. Then he hit me with the cost of the operation and hospital stay and even though I knew I  really didn't have the money to spare I would have to pay it anyway. In between eye operations and my own health insurance dramas, Turkey has been a very costly experience for me. But I knew the moment I decided to pick up the baby our fates were entwined. The vet smiled when  I said yes ( not in a money bags way but more in a this-is-the-right-thing-to-do ) and my little one-eyed friend just swore and snarled.  They asked me to give her a name so I called her Lucky ( although D later suggested The Pirate). I joked that maybe she should have been called Unlucky but the vet said Oh no she is lucky.
That was last Friday. Today I went to visit Lucky at hospital. Her eye has gone and she has bright blue stitches across her eye lids. She is such a tiny thing it seems to take up all her face. She swore at me and hissed so I knew it was her. I haven't got any pictures of her yet. The only ones I have are of her mother and sibling but I figure I should wait until she is splendid once again. No one likes mugshots when they're sick.
mama and sibling
 I don't know what will happen next with Lucky. My flatmate barely tolerates Three-Paw so I can't see One-eye becoming a permanent fixture but these decisions can be made later. In the meantime I have decided to get mama and the other kitten used to being fed in a certain place so that when Lucky is better perhaps they will welcome her back. I really don't know what I will do but whatever it is I am sure it will be the right thing in the end. I know how much her mama would love to see her again. She is such a good protective mama.
I wish I was rich at times like this. I wish I could help all the cats of Cihangir and the people who help them too. For they are not rich people who help these cats,  just kind and generous-hearted souls.

So let's just keep our front paws crossed ( unless you're Three-paw of course) that Lucky grows strong and well in hospital and that I can find the right way for her.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Anigozanthos humilis

This is what happens if you plant some Anigozanthos humilis in a plant pot in Cihangir.

Aw - da Three-Paw

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Today I went to Asia ( I love saying that) and I had my first beer-garita.  I don't really like beer but I thought the garita would help. 
End result - a pair of spanking new, shiny red mock docks. They are actually a size too big for me but with some insoles and fat socks it's a perfect fit....and a rarver perfect price.
Happy face.

Later I took them along to some drinks with the teachers.

Me explaining to one of the teachers why I couldn't eat squirrel.  It's the face, Daryl. it's the face.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Hey stranger -beautiful friend

Last night I could not sleep. I could feel my heart in my throat and I knew as long as I felt like this I would not sleep. I got up for a while and went out on  Kazanci Street. I love my street in the middle of the night. Quiet  - apart from a few cats on their nightly jogs and a couple of teenagers having a kiss under the mosque. When I came back in I took solace from  the words of Orhan Pamuk, in particular The Museum of Innocence which is a book I love with such ferocity  that it deserves a blog entry of its own. Eventually I fell asleep only to wake a few hours later to the sound of heavy rain. I bolted downstairs to Three-Paw who rather gratefully let me carry her out of her plant pot across the road, which had become a flood, and into my room for some cuddles and warm air.
When I got up this morning I still felt weighed down but I worked on my writing  all the same. Then in the afternoon I bought myself a an eye pencil, the colour of which I discovered post-purchase is actually called eccentric diva. Oh dear. Not surprisingly this purchase did not cheer me up and I realised what I was missing was Hafiz. I have neglected him of late and sadly I do not even have his book here with me. Thank goodness for the internet though - and for Hafiz.

Be kind to your sleeping heart.

Take it out in the vast field of light
And let it breathe.” 


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Raki mittens

I was right about the weather. Today was miserable. Cold and wet. There is something about Istanbul weather that gets right into your bones. Even Three-paw balked at the idea of spending time on the street  and did a demented interpretative dance routine around my apartment which could only be understood as " Nooooo. Today I choose not to be a cat of the street. Tomorrow, however, I shall own it once again!!"
I would never recommend visiting Istanbul in the winter time. Sometimes you feel as if you will never warm up.

Raki helps though.

I was happy to see that Kirim ( Three-Paw's true daddy) was back from his Bayram holidays. He gave me apples from his parent's garden in Konya. I feel the cats are much safer when their daddy is back.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

And the winner is...

OK after very little deliberation I have decided that the Istanbul team of Besiktas is my football team for as long as I reside in Turkey.

Nothing whatsoever to do with its new head coach being Slaven Bilic or anything.

Heh heh - be still my beating heart.

The hunt for Bagdat

For the last couple of days I have been trying to get some writing done. I haven't done too badly actually, although a few late social ( shock/ horror) nights has meant that I have been getting up quite late. Still I have always tried to reach my scheduled target of writing hours - in between discovering if my oven works and giving Three-paw a bath! Yes my friends, she was briefly the shiniest cat in Istanbul . I wanted to stick her on a post and make her a lamp, she shone so brightly. A day later though she came back with black feet and a gummy tail.
Anyway today I decided I needed to go exploring especially since the weather is nice right now and soon I am sure it will not be.  So  down  I threw my mighty pen and on came my socks'n sandals instead. I decided I would go to Kadikoy and try and find the infamous Bagdat Caddesi (Street) which so many of my students have mentioned. I tried a few weeks ago to find the street and failed but this time I studied Google maps with the determination of a person who did not want to fail for a second time.
First of all, however, I went to take some food to a den of pretty much eyeless cats I discovered the other day but as I was walking towards them a silver, gleaming BMW suddenly turned up. Out popped a man in a suit with bags of food which he then started filling all the empty containers with. I nearly cried with joy as I watched him. The compassion I see on the streets here sometimes very nearly kills me.

I decided to take the ferry to Kadikoy as I love the journey. I love ordering a Cay ( tea) and sitting in the saloon watching the choppy waters which separate Europe from Asia.

Once there I began my bold march to Bagdat.
I did not succeed.
Somehow I ended up on a lovely stroll alongside boats and cafes instead. It wasn't a scenically spectacular walk but it was interesting and I liked seeing all the leafy boulevards and Asian cats. I eventually found a Kahve Dunyasi which I was able to appreciate though a mushroom fountain.  Kahve Dunyasi is the best friend of the coffee bean I do believe and they serve their cappuccinos with a chocolate spoon.

Buoyed by coffee I continued my hunt for Bagdat but ended up having to accept defeat once again. This leads me to believe that (a) it does not exist (b) Google Maps is wrong (c) I am wrong.
 I am pretty sure it is (c) actually. I just don't feel maps. I can feel the direction I need to go in but I can't read maps.
Never mind on my way back I stopped in the markets and saw some fish thrashing about in a bucket. I paused for a moment and seriously considered buying the whole bucket so  I could release all the fish. But then I had no idea where i was going to take them all and I also realised be there is always one more bucket. There is always one more cat, dog, bird, cow, goat etc.
Sad face.
I decided to head back to the ferry terminal instead which is when I realised I was being followed by a very shady looking man. I knew he was following me because he saw me across the street and as I crossed he started heading with purpose directly down to where I was. The thing that disturbed me was when I looked at him he looked straight back and he seemed determined. I ended up standing next to a family at some traffic light with my bag on their side while he came up next to me. The lights turned green to walk so I paused for a second while he marched straight forward. By the time he turned round to see if I was walking I had raced off to the left into a thick group of people (thick in size of course not mentality!). I could see him searching around the crowds trying to work out where I had gone.  It gave me a chill.
 Now though I am safely home. It was a good day really. Eclectic all the same.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Today the streets were empty. Quiet. Like Christmas Day in Switzerland when everyone is at home or with their family and friends. I saw Ozman ( who runs the Kahve next door) with his family, all dressed in smart suits, walking up the hill. They looked lovely. It made me smile. I also had an ex-student text me to tell me they had just cut a cow. This made me smile less. I felt kind of booby-trapped though. I mean what is the correct response to this sort of news!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Iyi Bayramlar

This coming week is Kurban in Turkey. Kurban means ' animal sacrifice'. That is probably a sufficient enough explanation of what the festival entails. Fortunately I live in Cihangir, which is a boho sort of area, so the chances of coming across any kurbaning is quite low. Some of  my students wrinkle up their noses at the sacrifice aspect of the holiday although they are rightfully proud of the charitable outcome. I imagine if you asked a chicken or a turkey they would have similar feelings about Christmas.  My plan is to avoid any such uncomfortable scenarios by fraternizing solely with all the cats on my street  and maybe the odd passing dog.

Actually, it is going to be very nice to have the week off work and most of Istanbul empty. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Exit strategy...better microchip the cat!!

So we have been instructed  not to engage in any classroom discussions or show any opinion on the following topics: religion, politics, Atatürk, the current government, Gezi Park etc. This follows an incident this week at school with a teacher who unintentionally found himself embroiled in a discussion about Atatürk under the topic  'the price of success'. You know it could have easily been me who ventured into the wrong area as students often  express opinions and look to you for discussion as well. Some of them are genuinely interested but others are just trying to bait you or other students. Now my classes will all focus on the glorification of cats, the joy of mint ice-cream and whether there really is a moment of anarchy every time  a traffic light blinks from red to green.
To be honest the whole incident this week, and the way it was handled, has made me realise that perhaps it is time to start planning that exit strategy after all. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The last day of summer

Even the dawgies lapped up the last of the sun!
Last Sunday ( Pazar) was the end of summer. I didn't know it was the end of summer (that's what hindsight is for: that and wishing you hadn't drunk all that Chandon like it was water!) but it was such a perfectly lovely day I should have known Istanbul was trying to tell me something.
I started my morning with a walk along one of the quiet leafy streets behind my street. Cihangir really is the most lovely of quarters and as I walked the street every single cat seemed to leap out from their posts to say 'Top-of-the morning-to-you-fine lady'. And these were not cats from my possè. These were newbies all out sunning themselves with grins on their faces and swishes in their tails. At the end of one particularly lovely street I found a cafe with a slight identity crisis (Kalimera Kahve - which is basically a combination of Greek and Turkish and means 'Good morning Coffee'). It made the best coffee though. Greek style with cinnamon on top. And as I sat their enjoying the taste I admired the bunch of white flowers an old man had given me in the street. He actually lives on the corner of the street with about a 1000 cats and a few dogs but he was so happy to hand me this ( slightly wilted) bunch I couldn't help but smile.
After my coffee I wandered for a bit longer and stumbled across a park and the most wonderful view of Istanbul. How could I have not known about this! Right in my own neighbourhood. Cok ayip! (Great Shame!)

That was last Sunday. Now it is grey, cold and the streets have that dark, wintry feeling to them.
But what a lovely end.