Sunday, June 27, 2010

We're all living in Amerika...

So I don't know any other way to begin writing other than ...Wow.
I am completely dumbfounded.

Sitting three floors away from the Earth in my friend's adorable one bedroom, I listen to the Istanbul noise. I hear people below talking, Turkish music in the distance, and a man yelling something foreign to me. The breeze is brilliant and the sun shining. All these things I would typically enjoy, I cannot find peace. I am haunted by last night's conversations. My Turkish friends confronted me with something I wasn't expecting on this trip. And why I was so surprised, I am unsure. I knew the rest of the world hated America. We learn that in school, through the news and through casual political discussions. So why was I so surprised? I guess to hear it first hand, in your presence, directly from someone's lips can change everything.
"I hate America."
"Surely you don't hate America. You mean their government..."
Well, he didn't hate American people it turned out. But everything else...especially baseball.
I tried to explain to him that I didn't hate Cuba, but I hated Castro, that he should reword his statement. But he stood firm. He hated America. This wasn't the view of one individual, but all participants in the conversation. The heated discussion continued for over an hour. Michael Moore was the hot topic. Having never seen his documentaries, I was a little caught off guard. I tried to defend my point by saying Michael Moore is biased and extremely leftist. Their entire argument was propelled by Moore's theories. I was so frustrated trying to defend my home against three people and Michael Moore. I don't understand how someone can make such accusations about their own country. Apparently in one of his films, he claims 911 was a lie. A lie in the sense, and this is what I came to understand, that it was created by our government. Does he not realize the mindset he is shaping for the rest of the world? When I heard this being explained to me, it broke my heart. I tried to illustrate to my friends just how devastating and terrifying this day was for us, but simply could not put it into words they would understand.

I became so heart sick I had to end the conversation. Very firmly I said "I don't want to talk about this anymore!!" My friend said he would burn a copy of Moore's film for me and I said No...I don't ever want to watch it. As if I didn't take enough American bashing for one day, we went on to watch a Rammstein video appropriately named "America"
I learned this video is banned in Turkey. There is a brief scene where a Muslim man removes his shoes and steps onto a carpet. You watch him traditionally kneel to pray and find out he is praying to petrol. This video disturbed me too. Especially where the band members (dressed as astronauts) hold hands and dance around the American flag. I am going to try to add the video to this post but I'm not sure if it will carry over...but you can certainly Youtube it.

Its shocking the feeling... when your whole world gets turned upside down. I recommend it once in one's life. To be truly mind fucked.

I had never felt more homesick than I did last night. I miss baseball and hotdogs (and pork!) and American football. I miss reality shows and fast food, I miss capitalism and air condition.
I'm starting to feel sad I will be spending my Independence day in South Korea. But I cannot be weak now. I'm only two months in and have a while to go. Perhaps I can just pretend I am at Epcot.

oh well, I love you America and see you soon!!

Friday, June 25, 2010


As it nears the end of my time in Turkey, I have found myself back in Istanbul. The life of Turkey, they call it "the place where two continents meet!" Its a very exciting and busy city. Much like New York, I often forget I'm in another country, although I have been now for over two months. Sometimes walking down the streets in Taksim, I look up and feel America again. Of course that is until a woman completely covered in traditional Muslim garb tries to sell me tissues for a lira, pleading with me in Turkish. Ok I remember now...I am not back home but clear across the world.
When walking through Taksim, one must leave the ipod at home. Not only because it will probably be swiped from your hand but because you will miss all the sounds of Istanbul. A man playing some kind of turkish clarinet, a woman singing opera to her accordian accompaniment, and a man selling strange bird callers you put in your mouth. None of the senses get left out when walking down Istikla. a busy shopping street in Taksim. The various Doner shops entice their customers with their steaming stake of beef or chicken. The smell of roasted wall nuts from a nearby stand tickles my nose and makes me hold my breath. I don't really care for that aroma cause it smells like burnt popcorn.
Occasionally there are narrow passages amongst the tall buildings featuring miniature bazaars. Sometimes these areas go deep and down into the buildings and are always full of people. The walls laden with a rainbow of silk and cotton scarves, tables covered with silver and various stones and gems all molded into jewelery. My eyes are busy and my hands are curious. I must touch everything forgetting that the moment you touch something, the shop's proprietor is invited to harrass you to purchase something. If not careful, you may find yourself covered in rings and bracelets the owner thinks will suit you. Try not to linger, never look twice and definately don't touch if you do not what to be bothered.
Istanbul is delightfully historic but curiously modern. You can have coffee at Starbucks blocks away from the Hagia Sofia, a former basilica completed in 537 CE. Walking through the antique section of the bazaar amongst old trinkets and knick knacks, you can hear Black Eyed peas being played in the distance.
I have not yet been to any of the historic sites but anticipate doing so this week. We will see what the city offers for me tomorrow...but for now, lets drink!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Güle Güle Izmir !!

I see the clouds start to crawl off the sea and over Izmir. From my mountain, I can see everything before it happens. Then I hear the occasional drop of rain hit my window. First like a leaky fawcett, the drops are more frequent and start to carry rhythm. Then all of the sudden the levees in the sky break, and the water is released. Loud rolling thunder follows each flash of light that comes through my window and alights the entire room. Why aren't I scared right now? I wonder to myself. Is it because I know this weather will give us poor Izmirians solace from the heat? Or perhaps I have too much on my mind to worry about silly fears. Maybe I have finally grown up...I do sleep with all the lights off now, and without the tv on. I no longer keep the knife and flashlight next to my bed. I have mastered the art of living alone. Just in time to move on. Today is the day I say goodbye to the place that has been my home for the past two months. I will leave all the really great people I have met here, but know I will keep in touch. My Turkish friends have really made this quest easy, but now its hard. I must say goodbye and goodbyes are never easy. However, there is light at the end of this tunnel. I will be taking my adventures even further East. First, I will be spending a week in busy Istanbul, couch surfing and sight seeing. Then I will arrive in Seoul, South Korea on July 1st. I know, I know. The challenge has been revised. I never got a job in Turkey but managed to survive. I picked up key phrases and vow to learn Turkish fully. When I return next year, I anticipate to be able to communicate thoroughly, seeking English speakers less.
Well, this is it...I have to finish fitting too much stuff in a small space. Goodbye Izmir! You've been good to me

Saturday, June 12, 2010


As I watch the sunset and sip on my glass of Sirince wine, I hear the prayer call begin. I silence Edith Piaf on my Ipod (guilty pleasure music) and devote my full attention to the mosque man's unintelligible chanting. I reflect on what it truly means to be in Turkey and can't help but think about my experience at Ephesus.

After a lovely drive passed the city and into the countryside, we arrived in Selcuk. A friend dropped me off at the front of the ruins and I continued through the gate alone. Passing on the tour guide, I followed a crowd of foreign tourists down the hill and to the beginning of Ephesus. Veering left onto the path less traveled, I found myself walking alone down a trail alined by former pieces of columns. Some of these stones portrayed Greek goddesses and others had carved out writings. As I continued down the overgrown trail, I sought for some enlightening experience. Some connection to the ruins. The place wreaked of history, but I smelled nothing. Cited in the Book of Revelation, the Gospel of John may have been written here. Every so often I would sit upon a sizeable stone and wait. Wait for some magical feeling like you look for around the holidays. The childhood Christmas tingle that you seek for when your older but never actually achieve. You bake goodies, watch classic holiday clamation films and eat things horribly bad for you all in the hope of finding that feeling you lost when you were growing up. No matter how many Christmas carols I sang as I walked, the feeling never came. I finally gave up and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

An hour, and thousands of pictures later, I saw I was reaching the end. The crowd continued to pace forward and I saw a fairly unpopular path out of the corner of my eye. With time to spare, I followed it. I walked down the trail for maybe a mile when I began to see some ruins amongst the shrubbery. These were ruins made of some other medium than Ephesus. I got closer and discovered it was the Church of Mary or the Double Church. I gingerly walked the dilapitated architecture and found an area I believed to be the alter. I started to feel the Christmas tingle. I sat upon the pile of stones and felt my soul melt from my body. Motionless, I stayed there for a few moments before I moved to lie upon the heap. I stared into the sky, flat atop history and it began to rain. I'm not entirely sure how much time passed. My mind was clear of all thoughts. My innermonologue was entirely silent. The feeling was brilliant. My soul was at peace. Feeling refreshed, I finally sat up and left the church. I made my way out of Ephesus, somehow changed.
I decided will seek out other ancient ruins in search for this same divine feeling. I will probably become a sightseeing junkie, shooting up old rocks and meaningful locations.

My ride arrived and we finished the day in Sirince, sampling their local wines. This quaint village was nothing short of enchanting with cobble stoned roads bordered by restaurants and wine shops. The people here were delightfully provincial and abundantly hospitable, exceeding that of the normal Turkish hospitality. We purchased several bottles of the incredible wines and continued on our way back to Izmir. The drive, and the wine buzz, allowed me to reflect on my day.

Now as I sip on my local beverage and soak up the harsh summer heat, I get lost in the prayer call. The constant chanting of words unknown somehow gives me peace.This, couple with my experience at Ephesus, allows me to skip the Xanax tonight.

Thank you God. I needed that

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello, Goodbye Gypsy

I like to listen to the Beatles on my ipod while walking through the city. I don't know if its the magic mushroom lyrics or upbeat tune coupled with the excercise of walking that makes my brain leak serotonin. Although people back home are really surprised that I scour the city alone, I am in fact not alone. I have John, Paul, George and Ringo with me. They love Izmir...although they're always on acid, we have a goodtime.
Walking through the streets of Izmir always offers something new. On one corner a man is selling simit, a type of pretzelly thing covered with seeds, generally eaten at breakfast. Next to him, a man with all types of different jewelry probably made by himself. Evil eye bracelets, turquoise rings, leather bands. As I keep walking down the street, I finally find the cambio! I have been looking for this place! It's where I can go to exchange my dollar for lira. Today the dollar was up...a great day for shopping. It's like all of Izmir is on sale..for me anyway.
Some days I like to just go to Alsancak for no particular reason. Its busy and exciting and beautiful. Walking seaside reminds me much of Ocean Drive in South Beach and makes me feel at home. This feeling of nostalgia is abruptly interrupted when a gypsy walks up to me and takes my hand. She insists on reading my palm, even after I repeatedly express my inability to speak Turkish. I manage to understand I am going to have two babies and then in perfect English she said "Give me money." I laughed and handed her one lira. She said "No, On lira." Which means ten. I laughed again and said "Take it or leave it." She took it and then she let me snap her picture.
I sometimes stop at a bar or restaurant by the sea and have an Efes or glass of red wine. Its relaxing after a day of walking and gypsies. I breathe in the salt sea air and take advantage of a nearby fan. Once I'm cool enough, I pay and resume walking. Depending on the condition of my stomach and my underpants, I either walk to the park or find the train. Today I decided to make it an early day. I head back to the train via Konak. On the way there, in front of the clock tower, I see men with horrific pictures of bloody, injured people some children and it breaks my heart. All the signs are in Turkish, naturally, but I read something about Israel and Gaza. All the men holding these giant pictures of death are waving the Gaza flag. One man had it tied around his neck like a cape. Strange I'm seeing this. My dad just told me last night about some conflict. Upon my own research, I learned that Turkey and other countries are trying to free Gaza and in doing so, they are sending a bunch of ships from Istanbul. Somewhere around Cyprus, Israeli's attacked the ship killing I think nine Turkish people. I'm not too aware of what else is going on but I'm sure this was related.
I finally make it to through the spectacle and walk down the metro station stairs. One of my favorite moments of the day is right as the subway is pulling up to my stop. The surge of cool air pushed into the terminal blows over my whole body. After a long day of walking through the treacherous heat and broiling sunlight, this brush with oxygen is quite a treat. I manage to find a seat and don't get up for anyone. I am selfish today. I sit and stare blankly out the window reflecting on the images I just saw and wonder what the current events with hold for Turkey and my stay here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Goodbye Anorexia!! Ciao Bulimia...

For the first time in several days, I have had an appetite. Its nice to eat a full meal and not feel like immediately vomitting up your kofte or being able to travel the city without being worried of shitting yourself. I wish I could describe my exult but I just cannot put it into words. I truly felt I would never heal; that I would have to continue my travels with this horrible feeling. But here I am. Peachy (mmm peaches). Much more conscious of the things I consume, and definately brushing my teeth with bottled water! I do not know exactly how many hours I spent boiling, and reboiling, then cooling gallons of water for both drinking and brushing my teeth. Countless. Then still, while enjoying a glass of icewater, researching and questioning this method. In the past couple of days, I have met fellow travelers whom have experienced my same symptoms and have told me I did not contract Cholera. That this was entirely normal! Ah, I am at peace. I will not die after all. I may go on now enjoying all the Turkish delights (not the candy yuck) and may consider giving Turkish coffee another shot (when I first got here, I had to quit tore up my stomach ) In fact, I feel as though I am becoming Turkish...not truly but as though I am an honorary Turk. If only I can learn to stomach Raki! I am working on blending better, practicing my Turkish, asking for directions less. The experience is gradually becoming more natural! I love it here! It is much less difficult! In fact, I think it may be a little hard to adjust back to American life. I know I will be changed and I am looking forward to see just what that change will have done to me!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Couchsurfing Project

Thanks to my dear friend Julia, I have been opened up to a whole world, literally, of meeting people. Sharing many of my same interests, they are people that are setting out to travel. This networking device is called "Couchsurfing." This site offers you the opportunity to meet hundreds of people from countries all over the world that can either stay with you for a few nights, meet you for drinks or to show you around, you can stay with them, or just attend local events and gatherings. To me, this is genius! As a person traveling alone in a foreign country, it is incredibly beneficial! I have alreadyhung out with some people from Izmir that have introduced me to a few gems I would not have found on my own. I met two ladies from LA that work for CSI: NY. And am currently hosting four people from Poland! And I know, it may sound dangerous, but much like ebay, the other people you have met, stayed with, or hosted, leave feedback on your page. You are free to research them as much as possible and are not obligated by any means to let them stay with you! The way the Couchsurfing people put it "Its like staying with a friend of a friend." Which to me, is better than staying at a hostel (did you see the movie???)

I can't even explain how much this has changed my life! Its as if by some divine intervention that this was created! It has added new meaning and purpose to my mission.
On Saturday, I will go to Ephesus with my couchsurfer from Korea. A bunch of people from Istanbul will be there for skydiving. Skydiving at Ephesus! What else could be more amazing? To understand how genuinely incredible this is please read about Ephesus

It has even crossed my mind to actually skydive, here of course! And sheerly because its Ephesus...come on, you guys know me..If it wasn't amazing, I wouldn't even think twice about skydiving!! I don't even trust my own shadow, she's sneaky.
So I do not know what is instore today for my couch people and myself but I'm sure it will rock. Yesterday, we went to Cesme (a mission!) and then they cooked dinner for me; it was fabulous!
Tonight is their last night here, so I think we will be going dancing...they love to Salsa! So until then...güle güle!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Going out in Bornova

Cigarette smoke is breathed in my direction with everystep I take.The smell of Raki percolates the air around me and nauseates me slightly. Known as "Lion's Milk," it is not a drink for the weak. I order an Efes and take my seat at my friend's friends' table. He politely introduces me and gives a little background information ie American. Instantly, I'm a hit. His friend's English was rather intelligable and he offered great conversation. He asked me lots of questions and taught me about certain cultural etiquettes and practices of Turkey. But it wasn't until our very animated server learned I was American and from Miami that the fun really began. He wanted to know which American girls would prefer: him or American boys. He was curious as to how I found his appearence "sexy, charismatic or handsome." We took pictures together and he wanted to know if I had some American girlfriends here that might be interested in him. I told him I had none here but would bring him back to America where there would be many that would love him! He was very happy.

I found while out and especially while in the company of my all male friends,Turkish men are very touchy with each other. Its not gay to them but in America it woud be highly misconstrued. It starts with a double kiss, the introduction, peck on each cheek (sort of like the French). Then throughout the visit they are generally seated close to each other. It is not uncommon to see men with their arms around each other or walking with their arms locked. Then, of course, the farewell is another double kiss. It's really beautiful to see that other cultures aren't as homophobic as Americans. And the one seat apart rule does not apply here. People sit next to you and ignore any personal space bubble one might have. As an American, this can be misconstrued as well as rude and obtrusive but merely takes some getting used to...

After a few beers at the bar, we walked next door to another bar but wasreally more like a club with live local music! It was great! Like a combination of Sublime and some schlumy Gainesville band but in Turkish! I had my first Tuborg which tasted similar to Stella so I instantly loved it, but I generally love all cold beers that touch my lips.

The music was hot and the crowd was very into it. Everyone was jumping to the beat and they knew all the words. Except me of course but I still felt the need to mouth them like I was very catchy. I was so thrilled to be out and listening to amazing music at a curiously high volume, that I didn't think twice about the possibility that the diarreah might reoccur. It was at that moment, in the night club with the sweet beats and incredibly hot bass player, that I once again realized how awesome I am.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Turkish Wakeup Call

Begins about 5 am...
The first prayer call of the day. To American ears, this can be at first alarming. It seems to echo throughout the entire town and sounds like some kind of warning but is really just chanting. After hearing it habitually it becomes peaceful, relaxing.
Then, you are welcome to fall back to sleep.
Next, somewhere between 9 and 10 am is the water man. He gingerly drives through my neighborhood playing this incredibly catchy tune. I find myself either kicking my legs up to the beat of the song while repeating the unintellible phrase that accompanies (this is being blared on the trucks PA system) or I leap up and perform the dance I have created for this special song.
However, If I have not risen quite yet...another prayer call follows shortly after. Mind you, the water song is heard for approximately 3o minutes as Su Bey (Mister Water) drives through the streets of Izyuva.
After prayer call number 2, the vegetable man makes his rounds. This is just a man repeating something in turkish via PA system. I haven't learned what he's saying yet but the first time I heard this, I was frightened. I certainly thought that this was some kind of alert and I was missing the important information! However, after peering through my window, and much to my relief, I learned of the man with various veggies in his vehicle.
Then 2 more prayer calls through the afternoon...another, yet different veggie man. Sometimes the water man comes again. And finally around 10 pm, the final prayer call.
These various tunes and sounds are second nature for the Turkish but for me, they're still new. My friends tell me they don't even really hear the prayer calls, its just routine. However, amongst all these strange new sounds and songs from mosques and vehicles, I have yet to hear an ice cream truck.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Advice for travelers: Warning may contain graphic material..

1. Women: Be sure to pack enough tampons to last you for the duration of your trip. Pads are sold at all grocery stores, but I have yet to find tampons.
2. Even though you are traveling in the summer, bring warm clothing. Some days it gets inexplicably cold and it can get very cold in the evenings and at nightfall.
3. Bring condoms. Even if you're on birth control. They sell condoms here but they are called O.K. condoms...and I don't know about you but I would prefer something not just OK when it comes to AIDS and babies.
4. Buy a phrase book (and actually bring it on your trip ie I forgot mine :(
5. Pack meds your used to benadryl, tums!! pepto, and IMODIUM AD!!! very important. When eating food you're not particularly used to and the combination of turkish coffee and tea after everymeal, can change your stomach's chemistry.

Surviving in Turkey:
1. WATER!! very important. Always have a bottle with you. It gets incredibly hot here. And while they sell water everywhere, they don't take credit cards or large bills everywhere
2. Always have lira. Don't rely on the fact that you'll find an atm, or place to exchange the dollar cause while you probably will, the one time you're hungover while having monstrous cramps and all you want to do is take a cab back home because trying to eat was a won't find one! Trust me...
3. Getting lost is ok. While its happening, it can be defeating and disheartening, but it usually leads to knowing the way. And if you can't figure out how to get back on your own, people are very apt to helping and if they don't speak English, they will find someone within a 20 ft radius they can.
4. Don't trust cab drivers. Make sure they start the meter. And before even getting in, ask how much it will cost to get to your destination. Kac para?
5. Never drink tap water...not even by accident (ps it will lead to an accident)
6. Always have an escape route (ie bathroom). Sometimes you never know when it might be more than gas. This is especially important if you are at the market! In fact...
7. If you are having diarreah, do not go to the market. These are generally very crowded places with few, if any, bathrooms. And the bathrooms at markets are generally a porcelain hole in the ground which isn't very easy when going number two...Just don't chance it. There are weekly markets all over Izmir in different locations...go a different day.
While I think of hundreds of these on a daily basis, I'm running short at the moment. I'm going to go grocery shopping and then I will resume... new spot l

Okay so while my new found freedom has gotten a little lonely, it has also been liberating and exciting. I am trying to grow from this independence instead of dwell. But...
I've decided...enough about me. I'm in Turkey! And all I've been doing latley is complaining!! Let me set aside my milk and cookies and tell you about Turkey...
After getting dressed and preparing my bag for an unknown trek to Alsancak (it is the path that was unknown and Alsancak is far from my mountian abode) I once again walk down Izyuva and try to figure out my next mode of transport. Simultaneously, amidst a very important decision, it starts to rain...decision expedited! I hop on the next passing Dolmus that happens to say "Alsancak." I pay the man, relax in my seat thinking all is well, and watch the rain fall.
I'm going to skip to the next day in Alsancak for the rest of that story is my sandal broke, I got rained on and lost etc etc etc.
The next day in Alsancak was beautiful. And it made me feel like the day prior's mishaps did not happen in vain. I walked through the city which was very similiar to Istanbul (less history but just as fast). I walked into the small streetside shops. I ate at a quaint little eatery where I had a delicious tavuk pide for 3 lira. Note to self (guilty pleasure cliche statement) don't accidentally drink the water. Not even the local people drink it! Against popular belief, you will not writhe in stomach pains and vomit uncontrollable but you will have to spontaneously eject mass amounts of liquid from your ass. No warning either! Now I'm sure this may not be the same for all countries, or perhaps all bodies, but this is the 2nd or 3rd time its happened to me! And if ever traveling in turkey, when you spot a public bathroom...remember where it is cause chances are when you have a horrible onset of the butt urine you will wish you remembered! Which brings me to my next blog..I was going to do this seperate from my blog but this seems all too relevant: My note to selves/note to travelers (atleast of Turkey)...then I will resume Alsancak.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Backpacking Through Izyuva

Day 1
Upon waking up after my first night, still alive, I feel a sense of accomplishment sweep over me. I haven't slept alone in a very long time; truly alone. Its scary and lonely but a little relieving. Like, perhaps, I am going to survive the rest of my life. People always say "You are your own worst enemy..." They're crazy. People that say that, hate themselves or think you hate yourself. I believe that if you really want to live and be happy, you become something imperative to're inner you anyway, your inner monologue.
So I packed up my mini backpack full and started my way down my mountain in Izyuva. A hot but short hike, I made it to town. I found my cafe and solace, sat down, ordered a cay and started to write...

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Challenge

As an anxiety stricken individual, I find myself missing out, waiting. To be cliche but incredibly is life I have missed out on. Up until recently, I didn't really take chances. I lacked courage and so I lacked motivation. So this is the challenge for which I have already begun. I have totally immersed myself in another country for the first time; as foreign to me as they may come. It would have been too easy to be in a spanish speaking country for I already did that..hello? Miami. And while I was only blocks away from third world (Little Havana), I didn't need a passport to get there..Just a metro pass...too easy.

I digress...The Challenge

Phase 1:
Izmir, Turkey: 3 months +
I have to find a job, a house, and operate daily without the ability to speak the native tongue.
I must rely on basic survival instincts...when I am hungry, I eat. When I am tired, I'll sleep. When I am bored, I will download American movies.
Upon completion of Phase 1, assuming I haven't gone completely crazy from panic attacks and stomach ulcers...I will proceed
Phase 2:
Chengdu, China: 4 months (or less)
Again, homeless and unemployed, I must make the new place home and become accustomed to their ways of life...

With this 7-8 month long adventure, I feel my Anxiety Disorder will be cured...with the help of modern pharmaceuticals of course.. I had a little Zoloft/Xanax salad for lunch! As long as I take my courage pills, and everything goes as planned, I will be back in the U.S. with a whole new look and appreciation for life. I will carry with me experience and wisdom. I will officially be cultured! For one can't accomplish culture purely by eating tacos and lo mein and knowing how to say "I don't know" in four languages! Spontaneity creates experiences! And while this chapter in my life will be difficult, I anticipate the reward will be fulfilling and beautiful!

"Life Begins At the End of Your Comfort Zone."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tasting my way through Turkiye: Istanbul

With only 6 hours in Istanbul, we knew immediately how we wanted to spend it...eating.

We inpatiently waited to get our visas and passport stamps, exchanged our money, met a friend and caught a cab leading us away from Ataturk Airport and into my first experiences in a place that would be nothing short of foreign to me...

Everyone drives fast.

Today the cabby couldn't drive fast enough...we were starving. Hungry for more than something edible but something unforgettable. We met up with another friend and he led us to an Istanbulian gem...Durumcu Baba. Upon walking into the restaurant, we were greeted by a man who seated us quickly. Everything in Istanbul was so fast; it was like New York, well maybe after New York did a rail while sipping on a cup of Turkish coffee. The inside of the restaurant was beautiful. Hardwood floor, wooden table; in fact I think the entire infrastructure was wooden. I felt like I was in a German eatery but it smelled of spices: mint, thyme and cumin. Framed photographs covered the walls much like popular American restuarants did when celebrities came to dine there...I think Hooter's does the same?
Our Turkish friend recommended things to us and ordered for us as well. We started out with an appetizer similiar to nothing like I've ever had in the States...Merciemk kofte. This was five or six spicy balls or patties of lentil, onion and other spices we squeezed lemon on and wrapped in lettuce leaves. These wraps were nothing short of amazing!
Next we had some kind of soup and I can't remember what it is called...and so because of this soup I must get a notebook. We also squeezed lemon onto the soup and ate it with pide, a kind of bread. Finally our main dish came, I say finally but the truth is it was actually very prompt. I had the Iskander which is lamb and cow mixed and slow roasted on a metal rod then shaved pieces of it sit a top bread cubes in a tomato based sauce. This is served with spicy green peppers. My tongue danced with each bite and I know it was wondering why I had never tried Turkish food before. I have tasted things from all over the world without leaving my country and perhaps was to my detriment. I have been missing out. I thought I was cultured but in fact was was not until this moment at dinner in Istanbul after a 10 hr long flight that I realized this. All the food I have tasted before did not exist.
We concluded our meal with Cay, or turkish tea, but bears a close resemblance to English Breakfast. As a teaophile, I know I will be at peace in this foreign place.
We paid for our meal, and when I say WE paid I mean we fought over the check until our Turkish friend won. Left the restaurant and caught a cab to our next culinary adventure...Mado

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preparation; Baggage and mindset

As I sit in front of my brand new mini me computer; a netbook, both petite and practical, I mentally prepare myself for the journey by which I will soon embark.

I finish pulling off the last of the see through sticky things that keep my miniature computer new and unscratched and I'm still wondering "What am I about to do? Did I really think this one through?" But all that doesn't matter. Hours from now I will be Eastward bound... landing right in the middle of that East in a city of strangers and strange ways I think I'm ready to learn.

I wonder what will be pulsating through my mind as I breathe in my last breaths of America. I'll wave goodbye to my family and probably cry tears of both excitement and regret but mostly tears of salty liquid that, unbeknownst to scientists, escapes our tear ducts when we are sad.

My thoughts now are more calm and tired rather than panicked but we'll see tomorrow how I feel....