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Appliance Spree

Since I’m waiting for my stuff to arrive, I’m basically camping in my apartment. Along with a loaner bed, table, and chairs, I bought a pot, a silicone cooking spoon, and some paper plates so that I can actually eat in my home. This is no attempt at sparse or minimalist living – I’m just trying to avoid the piling up of duplicate items once my things arrive.
One exception, however, is electronics, since Turkey (and most of the rest of the world) operate on a different voltage system than we do. This has the tendency to burn out appliances in a big poof. I have two transformers to use with my American items, and I think I can make it work. In Bahrain I only had one transformer and was always humping that 20 lb thing around my apartment between the bathroom (for the hair dryer) and the kitchen for the mixer, food processor, etc.

There are some appliances endemic to living in Turkey that won’t be coming in my shipment. One, the water cooler, I bought right away. We went to Arcılık, a Turkish brand appliance shop. While there, I also picked out an iron and ironing board since I can’t remember which shipment I put that into, and therefore whether it’s going to show up here or not.

At the appliance store, my kapıcı (doorman/random-everything man for the entire building) tried to bargain the shopkeeper with little success (20 TL savings, about $11). After I paid and we worked out the delivery, the salesman said he gave me the wrong price for the iron, and I needed to pay about $50 more! I acted annoyed and put upon, and insisted on them either giving me the price I paid or refunding the money. In Turkey, nobody ever wants to refund your money for anything. Ever! So when the “wrong price” bargaining tactic is played, I know to stand my ground. Eventually after a lot of back and forth in Turglish, we agreed that I would pay the price I had already paid (small wonder) and still receive all of my items. Then all the salesmen kept telling me, in English, how “clever” I was! In Turkish the vocabulary is a little more limited than English, so the same word means smart, clever, intelligent, wise, brainy, sensible, astute, and on and on.

But back to the water cooler. It is so awesome to have one of these in your kitchen! Along with the very satisfying bubble that plops up in the bottle, I have hot and cold water at my disposal, all of the time. When the bottle is empty, I call a number, and a new bottle shows up in 5-10 minutes. The water companies have dispatch trucks full of jugs stationed all over the city. A new bottle costs about $3.50.

A Turkish friend was at my place, and advised that I switch out my water company every few months, because the companies put chemicals and other “drugs” into the water, and I may get addicted to a certain brand. Really? I was polite, since this guy has been really helpful, but incredibly dubious and began asking for evidence, or at least some stories of what happens when water attacks. He had no good response. Still curious, I asked around with some other, younger Turks and they all responded with a hearty chuckle. Turks love conspiracy theories! I knew this was true for politics especially, and other topics of international intrigue (like the French parliament’s Armenian genocide bill), but had no clue that it extended to the water. In an additional conspiracy, everyone acknowledges that the water from the faucet here is perfectly safe to drink, but since it’s supplied by the Ministry of Water, nobody trusts it. I guess I trust it – I definitely drunk plenty of it before my water cooler arrived with no negative effects. I just wanted my very own water cooler!

Appliance number 2. This week, the temperature has been in the high 30s/low 40s (90s F)/low 100s F), and according to my iphone weather app, this will continue for a while. At first I thought I would be fine with no a/c since my apartment has so many windows and is high enough for a breeze, but after two sleepless nights I broke down and bought a portable air conditioner. I’m not the best bargain hunter, and only saw a few air conditioners before I picked one that looked decent, with a decent price and relatively high BTU rating. For faster installation I went with a portable, vice wall-mounted, model. It showed up the next day, and within 10 minutes, the glass cutter was here to cut a hole in a window for the exhaust. It was all super-fast and relatively cheap – the service industry in Turkey is incredible. My engineering experience won out a couple of times, but of course none of these guys would ever give me credit. Whenever my Turkish friend (a retired Army colonel) is with me, everybody defers to him. What would a woman know about air conditioners or cutting glass, or even estimating the size of an exhaust hose? So I usually make a suggestion, sit back while the menfolk argue it out and then, sometimes with additional trial and error, do what I said originally. If it didn’t waste so much time (and in this case, if I wasn’t worried about them breaking my windows), it would be funny.
The important thing, of course, is that now I have an air conditioner. I have it set at 17C, which would be pretty cold, except that so far, it only keeps the main rooms pleasant but not chilly. Also, it’s very loud! This is what happens when you’re sweating balls and you’re so desperate for some relief that you buy the next a/c that crosses your path! So, a lesson on buying a/cs – figure out how powerful it is, how loud it is, and what’s required to install it.

Hiking on Sunday

This Sunday I finally joined a hiking group and got of town.  The group is mostly Turks in their fifties or so, with a few younger and foreign exceptions.  This week, the foreigners were me and a German girl working at a global migration organization.

For me, the hike was an excellent way to get some nature and a better workout than I’ve had in months.  We walked 25 km, and according to my fitbit, climbed over 300 stories!  Turkish style hiking is a bit different than at the national parks in America.  First of all, there’s rarely a path or trail.  We bushwacked going up and down hills, and stepped onto or over just about everything you can find in a forest.  The guys said that there was a trail, but because there was so much snow this winter lots of trees were downed and basically obliterated any semblance of a path.  Although I’m pretty scratched up and fell several times, it was great to run through the woods like a kid again!

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Quick Update

Hello from Turkey!  It’s been a while since I’ve written a post, and all kinds of things have happened.

Here’s a quick rundown:  I signed a lease and moved into my apartment, and
I got into the program I wanted at the graduate school that I liked best!

So, both of these major goals involve a whole lot of administrivia and taking care of business.  I’ve been running all over town doing interviews and making deposits at banks.  In Turkey, instead of sending a check, going somewhere in person and paying at a counter (like I used to do at University of Michigan), or paying online, you have to go to a bank, stand in line, and make a deposit to somebody’s bank account number.  It’s a little time consuming.  I think the workaround is to get a Turkish bank account, but that would add add extra steps for me in the process of moving money around the world, so I’m waiting on that. 

Here are a few pics of the new place:

ImageThe view is incredible and the first thing you notice when you walk in.  This is the living/dining room combo, and all the bedrooms have big windows like this.  Although initially I thought I could keep the windows bare, the morning sun schooled me, and now there are semi-sheer curtains hanging everywhere.ImageThe most important thing – a dryer.  Sure, it takes two cycles to get clothes to a reasonably damp state, but it’s worth it!ImageThe spikes are pidgeon-proofing  They remind me of Lady Liberty’s crown, so I’m pretty stoked every time I see them all over the place.  Even though on the bedroom balconies an entire length of wall was left unprotected, and I have pigeons stopping by every day!

So, there’s still a lot to do.  Right now I’m basically camping in my apartment with loaner furniture, but I think next week the landlord’s furniture and my own things will be delivered, and pretty soon I’ll have an actual home!

Eating local

Spoiler alert: I’m writing this as I sit at Schlotzky’s after eating a chicken pesto sandwich. Really, Schlotzky’s has made it all the way to a mall in Turkey!

I’m not sure why, but for the first couple of weeks that I was in Turkey, I only ate Turkish food. Then this week I had a total relapse and ate almost every other type of world food available here. When I’m in the states, I eat all kinds of food all the time. If I had to pick, I’d say more often than anything else I eat Mexican and sushi, although in DC I was pretty wild for Korean-Mexican fusion. Seoul Mama was my absolute favorite food truck!

But back to Turkey. The food is super! And the word super works in both languages, although in Turkey it’s best to pronounce all Western words with a French-sounding accent. I love saying Sou-pere and making the word last as long as possible. Since I don’t actually speak French, I sometimes feel like a double-ax Turkish murderer, but it’s fun.

For lunch I generally find a little Turkish place offering a menu, which is usually 10-15 lira, or 5-8 dollars. For this, you usually get a soup, salad, main course served with rice and some kind of fruit dessert. They also load the table with bread which is really tasty as well. Here are a couple of examples:




This is all great stuff. I’m not sure why I felt I had to binge Turkish food though.

I’m over it now.

In this week of rebellion, I’ve picked my coffee up at Starbucks on the walk to school almost every morning. The school’s cafeteria sells Nescafé, which gets old really fast. And as much as I love all the Turkish cafes here, they haven’t mastered the idea of convenience food yet. So if you want to stop in and get something to go, your best option is Starbucks! I also found a great steakhouse, günaydın , which means good morning in Turkish. Weird name, but it doesn’t affect the food quality! In the same neighborhood, which also happens to be where I’m moving, is an award-winning Italian restaurant, Mezzaluna, which I’ve only been to once so far, but it was good. Last night, I had quesadillas. In the Arab world, the Mexican food always had a faint curry taste, I think because even at institutions like Casa Mexicana in Manama, Bahrain, the cooks were Indian or Pakistani. Here, the sauce was normal, but the sour cream was more like light yoghurt – really weird. I think I’ll be okay – the food is far from spicy, so I guess the sour cream isn’t really necessary.

That’s it for now – I’m off to an Internations party, where I’m sure the food will come from all over!

Street Food in Turkey

I am constantly amazed by the food here!

In Ankara, the street food is pretty standard – grilled corn (made to order) and bread stands, which is generally a guy selling simit.  Simit is a thick bread, shaped like a large flat bagel and then rolled in sesame seeds.  It’s decent, costs very little (about 25 cents) and is especially good when it’s hot and served off a tray on some guy’s head.  Sometimes, I find an old man sitting on a stool on the sidewalk with a crate of cherries or watermelons for sale.  I have yet to see a pile of cherries here that I could resist buying – they’re amazing!!!

In Istanbul the selection was even better.  Along with all the outdoor markets, near the tourist attractions and late night venues great food was all over the street.  After walking around all day in the hot sun, wouldn’t you like some fresh-cut watermelon?  While finding a bar on Istiklal Street, why not stop and have a few mussels?  And after a night of smoking nargile (sheesha or bubble pipe) and drinking Efes (Turkish beer) the best thing going is a freshly peeled cucumber with a sprinkle of salt!  If I had had one of these cucumbers after our all-night drinking/dancing session, my bus ride back to Ankara would have been slightly more bearable.

Horseracing in Turkey

So I every day I get a google news alert about Turkey.  This is especially useful since most of the local papers are biased, or at least owned by supporters of the ruling party who go out of their way not to print actual news that may offend the party.  Sometimes, the entire alert is filled with American news about Turkey season opening, which isn’t exactly what I’m after but usually entertaining.

Today, though, was a pleasant surprise.  Who knew there was horseracing in Turkey? Actually, now that I’m writing this, I guess I did.  At a friend’s house I saw an amazing fascinator (type of hat) peeking out from a box, and she explained it was for the Queen’s Cup, in September.

I’ll definitely check it out.  I mean, I now have a reason for a fascinator!

Horseracing in Turkey – from the Washington Post

Pictures from Istanbul trip

Here are the pictures from last weekend in Istanbul.  Although I brought the DSLR, I mostly used the wide angle lens, which unfortunately led to some curved minarets and towers.  Hopefully they’ll tell the story of our visit, and maybe even entice some of you to come visit.


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Crazy Wonderful Weekend in Istanbul

This week I’ve been a little busy with apartment hunting, Turkish class, trying to get into a university, and a seemingly neverending stream of administrivia dealing with all of these things.  So, tonight I finally went through the pictures from last weekend’s trip to Istanbul.
This post will mostly be in pictures.  The amazing thing about our weekend is that some random yet  remarkable thing happened in every activity we did.  I have to admit, half of these random items involve Turkish (and one Libyan) men’s attempts to talk to Western women.  Anyway, along with all the sightseeing, we did a bit of partying in the evenings, then got right back for another day of adventure.  Amazingly (for me, at least), I rarely looked at my gadgets and had no idea what was going on in the world beyond my own adventures.
Getting around Turkey is mostly done by bus.  Mine was pretty comfortable – three seats instead of four with an aisle, so you have a two-seat row, an aisle, and then a single seat row on the other side.  This means the seats are much wider, and the aisle is plenty of room for an attendant to push a cart with snacks and drinks for the entire duration of the ride.  On the advice of Dennis, the Istanbul Olmsted Scholar, I got off after about five hours, on the Asian side, to avoid traffic due to bridge/tunnel construction around Istanbul.  From the bus company’s site, I took a dolmuş (like a shuttle) to Kadakoy, where I hopped a ferry to cross the Bosphorus.  I didn’t realize there were two stops across each other from another waterway, so after walking around the pier for a while I finally a pedestrian tunnel, found the tramvay, and took the tram up to Cihangir, where we rented a flat.
On the tram, two teenage boys wanted to practice their English, and I of course was happy to practice my Turkish, at least at first.  I think these boys must have learned their English from sailors passing through, because after the initial pleasantries, their conversation consisted mostly of potty humor, and it was pretty nasty.  We were soon distracted, however, by a man who fainted on the tram.  Although usually incredibly helpful and friendly, the other passengers on the train just turned away from this man, laying unconscious on the floor, and carried on with looking anywhere but in his direction.  I couldn’t believe it, so I looked at these two kids like I would a couple of sailors, and told them to give him water.  They were reluctant but then eventually agreed to help the guy.  No worries, he was revived with a few sips, a lift from the floor to the seat, and some water on his face.
Using the last bit of battery of my phone, with the help of google maps I found the flat we rented, and the owner’s mother showed me the ins and outs of living there.  I’m proud to say this was done entirely in Turkish, and without a problem! I was even able to blame my being late on the traffic.

Okay, pics are still uploading, so I’m posting what I have so far and will let the pictures load through the night.

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