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."