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.