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I’m off to Istanbul for the weekend!  I’m even bringing the real camera, so hopefully I’ll have some neat pictures to share.

BTW, thanks for all the hair compliments – I’m so thankful for all my awesome girlfriends!

 

Today I looked at more apartments. They’re beginning to all look the same, so I guess I need to make a decision soon. The apartments are falling into two groups: small, older and in a walkable area, or huge and more secluded and out there.
I also found out that only half of my stuff is here. They’re searching for the other two crates – uh oh!
For a pick-me-up and to kill some time, I got my hair cut. Nothing like visiting a beauty salon to feel better. Kuaförs are on every block, so I just walked into one – I haven’t found the Turkish yelp yet!
While I was waiting, a woman came over and started offering every service under the sun. Since I had time to kill, I asked for brows. After I thought she was done and they looked okay, she took out a huge spool of thread and went to work on my whole face! It didn’t hurt too much until she got to my lip area – ow! By the time she finished my eyes were bleeding tears. When she asked about the rest of my body, I think my look of horror convinced her that I was done. I’ve learned that Turkish ladies prefer to go hairless, and regularly wax most of their bodies to maintain this condition. So she offered a pedicure during my haircut and I went for it mostly just to see how that worked.
So next to the haircutting guy. I’ve always been nervous about getting my hair cut, and doing it in another language is even scarier. Although I guess there’s no better motivation to learn a language than to keep your looks!
Since I don’t know how to say I want to keep it in long layers but remove the split ends, I told him that my hair was without health and I wanted to cut the sickness out of it. But stay long “I want that my hair remains long” is how I put it in Turkish. I don’t know where my expectations were – I’ve never had much luck communicating with stylists, no matter where in the world I am. I remember a French lady in Bahrain who basically just went to town on my head and every once in a while just said “like zis?” She was pretty awesome. Since then, I always just hope that I miraculously sit in the chair of some hair genius, and have some sort of total makeover experience where I am transformed into a hair babe. I usually start mourning my recently departed hair and pay no attention to what’s happening to the stuff on my head. I don’t want to interrupt a genius at work! Of course, what you get usually depends on how much you put into something, and hope is fairly ineffective as a strategy.
So now I have mushroom hair. I didn’t realize how many chunky layers he was cutting until they were all there, like a ring around my head. It’s cool – hair grows out, the pain in my face will eventually go away, and I can always distract myself by looking at my now pretty feet!
My hour at the beauty salon was an exercise in desperation language skills. It was also a review of some vocabulary I had brain-dumped a while ago: words for body parts and shapes/colors/forms.
I’ve started getting what a friend calls the “full court press” from almost every random Turk that I meet. They start out by asking about your family, then asking in as many ways as I can understand the words for if I am single. Then talking about how lucky a man would be to be my boyfriend. Since its almost a formula now, I’m already immune to it. So far the randoms that I meet are taxi drivers or shop workers, so maybe things will improve if I make friends with more education or wit.

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I feel like I’m on HGTV Househunters International

After a couple of days of searching, I’ve found a couple of apartments that I think will work, but I’m having a hard time making up my mind.  I also plan to see a few more tomorrow, then choose one of them.

So, the top two contenders are:

Park Vadi, a huge place overlooking a park

+: large, modern, balcony, view, sports club on site, huge park that I can walk to

-: huge, tacky, apartment was really hot and realtor said it was like that even in the winter, longer walk to market

Smaller, Older Flat in the middle of Kavaklidere

+: cosy, furniture is my style, feels very comfortable, can walk to everything, jacuzzi tub, two balconies (small)

-: small balconies, possible noise, garage is tight – chances are I’ll scratch my car.  on the other hand, I won’t have to drive much, no view.

In the search, I’ve found some definite differences between Turkish and American flats:

  • I didn’t see a single clothes dryer, and the washing machines are way smaller.  Most people dry their clothes by hanging them, or on drying racks.
  • Gas: to pay for gas stoves, water heaters, or regular heaters, you buy a card with a chip from a little stand on the street and insert it into the meter
  • very few flats here have air-conditioning.  The weather is pretty pleasant so far – I’m not sure if this will be an issue.
  • most have 24 hour guards who leave their posts to bring you bread, gas cards, groceries, or whatever else you might need
  • you can call a number and have 5 gal water bottles  delivered in minutes

Sunset Vista – this title sounds like a neighborhood in SOCAL!

Some views from a friend’s balcony in Oran, which is just outside the city.  We’ve had glorious weather in Ankara the last few days.  Although warm in the day, the evenings have been nice and cool.  Tonight it even rained after sunset, and on a quick walk later we had the glorious smell of post-rain in the high desert.

So, I’ve spent much of today doing paperwork and getting the various badges and documentation I need  to get around Ankara and Turkey as a resident.  I’ve also done a lot of research for househunting, and tomorrow I will go and look at more places.  I’m torn between living in the city and living in the suburbs, where city access is still pretty easy.  Since I still don’t know where I’ll be going to school, the neighborhood I choose is really a crap shoot.  As usual, I think ultimately I’ll end up choosing whatever place just fells right.

Minty lemonade & M. C. Escher

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Well, I haven’t found a juice stand like the ones in Bahrain, but lemonade with herbs is pretty common here in Turkey. My server even pointed out that the spots were mint, not dirt, when she brought me the glass. Hopefully I’ll find somebody offering ginger limeade soon!
I’m eating at the Divan Cafe at Cer Modern, which is the modern art museum. Right now they’re showing an exhibit of Escher wood-cuts and lithographs. It’s always great to see a lot of an artist’s work together, instead of one or two pieces here and there. There is very little description of the art it artist here, though. By each piece is a small plaque with the title in English and Turkish.
While I was viewing the art, the staff was setting up for an event of some kind on the patio outside. Initially I figured I’d just stay here all day, then check out the live event. As I walked through the museum, however, I heard the rehearsal – wow! It sounded like a Greek chorus, with all the high emotion and shrill voices. The staging looks fancy and fun, but as I was less than entertained by the practice run, I think I’ll skip the main event.

No salty cheese for you!

Tired of eating in the hotel and restaurants, today I found a grocery store.  A few blocks from my hotel, I found a wonderful, one-room store that sold just the essentials: produce, meat, cheese, and staples that your great-grandmother would recognize (if she was Turkish, of course).  It was heaven for me, and really reminded me of the farm market that Sara and I used to shop in Newport, RI (Sweetberry Farm ). Basically these small grocery stores have everything that a foodie needs (like 10 kinds of salt) and none of the cardboard products designed for maximum shelf-life and packed with chemical preservatives.

I walked around for a few minutes just to check it out, and then found the cheese counter.  When I was here in March, I fell in love with a salty string cheese and could not get enough.  I practically ran to that side of the counter.  The cheese monger asked “Buyurun” which kind of means, “Can I help you?”  I pointed to the cheese I wanted, and he basically freaked out.  First, he offered me several other cheeses, and then eventually allowed me to try all of the other offerings, which of course I was more than game to do.  Then he asked where I was from.  Then he said that he was sure I would hate it, and he wanted me to happy with the cheese I ended up purchasing.  Why would an American want such salty cheese?  Finally, I convinced him, in Turkish, to let me try a small piece of the çeçil peyniri.  I had one bite, smiled, and told the guy I really wanted to buy it.  He actually frowned as he handed the package over the counter to me.

I celebrated my victory by eating way more than I should have for dinner!

 

Sunset Call to Prayer

Five times to day, the muezzin (chanter) calls the faithful to prayer.  I’m not sure about the daily schedule, or whether it changes with the calendar, but I do know that the first call is somehwere around 4 am!  The good part is that they only go on for a minute or so.  There’s a subsequent call that some mosques do, which basically tells everybody to fall into prayer lines. Nowadays most mosques use a loudspeaker and you hear echoes from all the surrounding buildings, so it sounds like the call is in stereo.  I think it’s also possible that all the nearby mosques would be calling at the same time, but it seems like by now they’d share the load with their neighboring muezzins.

I’m actually curious if the words are muezzin and minaret in Turkish – I think I originally learned all this when living in the Arab world.  Okay, I checked on my handy dictionary app, and they’re almost the same: müezzin and minare.

Walking the Streets of Ankara

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A typical downtown street. There are signs for everything, everywhere. There are also lots of people, which is a really welcome sight for me.

I’ve only been in Ankara for a few days and I’ve been a bit lethargic.  Since I have two and a half years here, there’s no rush to go out and see everything, or frantically pack a month’s worth of fun into 36 hours like we frequently do on port calls.  I’m not really used to the slow pace I’ve been keeping the last few days, but hopefully soon I’ll fill my schedule with things to do.

So, what have I been doing?  Mostly just walking around and getting to know the city.  When I was here in March, the mountains were still capped with snow and the whole city had a gray, dingy feel to it.  I wasn’t exactly excited about returning to such bleakness.

This week, however, it’s beautiful.  Even at 33-34 C (the low 90s in F), the sun feels good, the sky is blue, and there are smiling, happy people out and about.  My years in San Diego converted me into a fair-weather everything, and I’m really thankful that I’m starting this adventure at such a beautiful time!

Of course, to get the most of the weather, today I tried to walk from an office back to the hotel, which is mostly uphill.  Image

I did find a nice park with a swan pond which was a pretty chill place to relax for a while.  Needless to say, the heat became more oppressive the more I walked, and I finally succumbed to getting a taxi.  Luckily, they’re really cheap here.

It’s ubiquitous

On my long walk today, I stumbled upon Tunali street, which is a main shopping thoroughfare in Ankara. And what do you find on these streets all over the world? Starbucks, of course! There were other major worldwide brands too: Body Shop, Burger King and KFC.

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my first Turkish dinner

Grilled beef served over eggplant puree - total heaven for me! It's called beef külbastı and I'll definitely be trying it again.

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