Friday, May 27, 2005


İstanbul, Turkey

It's been a big week for football. First there was the league championship game between Fenerbaçe (on the asian side) and Galatasaray (on the european side). It's a very big rivalry - think UNC vs Duke kind of thing. Fenerbaçe ended up winning and the streets were full of screaming fans waving flags and cars honking their horns.

Then yesterday the European championship between Liverpool and Milan was held here. The liverpool fans were all out in the bars on Tuesday night when I just happened to be out. They drank a lot and then they all started singing at the top of their lungs. My friend Figen and I were sitting outside across the alley from a big group of them, and inside the place we were at they were playing traditional turkish music and there were people dancing. It was pretty funny. I can only imagine what it was like in Taksim after Liverpool won. Turkey is a long way to travel just to see a football match. Crazyness

Monday, May 16, 2005

cats in class

İstanbul, Turkey

Wow it's been a busy past four days. I haven't actually been home in two or maybe it's 3 days now. And I'm sure you're all dying to hear about what I've been doing. Thursday I visited Burçe at Boğaziçi university. She was an exchange student at UNC last semester and she lived in my dorm. She didn't actually believe me when I told her I would visit her so she said it was like being in a dream that I actually showed up. I went with her to the sailing club meeting and listened to a lecture by a turkish olympic turkish of course. There were some pictures which was very exciting. And a total of 3 cats stolled in during the lecture and it was really hard not to laugh as they walked around the front of the room. Then I went to the sailing club's spring break trip reunion dinner where they nailed a white table cloth to the wall to use as a screen to project their vast numbers of photos onto. And the food was amazing! Oh how I love turkish food.

Day the next. I visited one of Efdaluddin's caligraphy teachers who is 80 and speaks Turkish, Arabic, French, English and Farci. He seems like an absolutely amazing person. And he was giving lessons in the library of the Sulimaniye mosque complex which is absolutely beautiful. The have a courtyard and garden in the library which I think is a great idea. Later that night I went back to boğaziçi to see a show in the parking lot where they had put up a big stage. The guy singing was Kenen Doğulu and I think that he must be really famous because all the people there knew all the words to all the songs.

English is a very hard language. I think that if I hadn't been born in a place where everyone spoke english than I never would have learned it. I gave my first english lesson on Saturday. My pupil is the son of the nanny to the adorable two year old son of Aylin whose house I have been staying in for the past two nights. I helped him with his homework (How many times a week do you play football? I play football twice a week) and then asked him questions about life, school etc. When I ran out of questions I decided that it was his turn to ask me questions. I hope I was helpful. I feel like I was kind of inept and have no idea how to teach a language.

Yesterday morning I went to a big brunch held by the Sufi group that has adopted me. İt was in a building right on the bosforus that they say used to hold elephant food in ottoman times. An entire building for elephant food...but then I guess elephants eat a lot. The brunch had almost enough food to feed an elephant I would think and it was all amazing. And everyone sat around and talked and the kids ran around and then Alikan (the son of Aylin) fell asleep in his mommy's arms and was even more adorable. And she had to carry him around for an hour.

In Turkey they have an intermission during movies. I think that's possibly one the smartest things ever. The movie theaters in the US should certainly start doing that. Especially with 3 hour movies. And it would make it possible for them to sell even more drinks since people would be able to go to the bathroom halfway through. You would think as good capitalists they would have thought of that before.

Friday, May 06, 2005

adopted part II

İstanbul, Turkey

A lesson in asking females in the middle east for directions. It's a very good idea if you want to be adopted. I was walking around Boğazaçi university looking for the library and asked someone for directions. Her name is Figen. I ended up going to her dorm, the "superdorm." We had dinner in the cafeteria in the bottom. I guess it's to be expected in turkey, but the cafeteria served turkish food! I want a cafeteria like that. Although if lenoir tried I'm sure they'd botch it. Then I went up to her room and we talked for a really long time and had tea. Tea is served at any social ocasion and that seems to include hanging out in dorms. The dorm is set up in suites with four bed rooms, a bathroom, a kitchen! and a common room. And all the rooms are singles. So then we actually did go to the library about 3 hours after I set out and she even checked out books for me. It remains to be seen if I can convince myself to do some scholarly reading on housing in Istanbul.

I've also been adopted into the sufi community here. They have an organization called the Turkish Women's Organization that I'm doing volunteer work with. Today I got to sit in the front of a truck and make food deliveries to families. That truck got down some sketchy roads. Saturday I'm supposed to be doing something else but I'm not exactly sure what it is. A woman named Cemalnur (you say c like j in turkish) is the leader and teacher or hocam. Tuesday I went with her and some of her peoples to her mother's sohbet or gathering. Although I didn't really understand the reading it was still interesting to be there, and then they fed everyone amazing food. At some point I might be helping kids learn english, but I'm not sure when that's going to happen. Planning more than a day or two ahead doesn't seem to be too big here which is fine once you accept it.

My family seems to be ever extending. I have an uncle in Turkey. His name is Hasan and he's known me since I was two years old. He's known my mom since she was 27. Once upon a time he was a teacher, but for a very long time he's been selling carpets in the kapalı çarsı or covered bazaar. If you ever visit Istanbul, and are in the market for a carpet he's the best guy to go to.

There have been basketball games on TV the last few nights. It's some kind of tournament. Most of the players are turkish, but there's one I keep seeing named Jerry Holman. Definatly not turkish. And when they interview him at the end of the game they interview him in english which I find funny. It was great, he refered to his coach as hocam. It's also really funny to hear the comentator mention his name during the game because it sounds so odd in the middle of a turkish sentence. Anyways, I was way excited to get to watch some basketball.

I'd like to share that I can now legally drink in any country (saudi arabia etc excluded because no one can drink there). I spent a lot of my birthday at a school of traditional arts and was taught the basics of arabic caligraphy. It's way harder than it looks. I did have my traditional meatballs...turkish style. I went out that night with my friend Alev. And bought myself a chocolate and cherry birthday cake that I proceeded to eat in it's entirety in 3 days (it was a small cake). It was a pretty great birthday, but I'm definatly having a party when I get home :)