Monday, July 5, 2010

lucky in logan square

the Wong Davis AMEREACQUAINTED tour 2010 is on!

first stop chicago, where i found my first every four leaf clover on my way back from breakfast. hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a big f***ing deal

living abroad this year means i am not as in touch with the goings on of my home country as i'd like to be. i try to stay current but without getting american news via tv or radio, i am more in the dark than normal. and who has the time to read the entire new york times or washington post online. but one piece of news that has definitely made it's way around the globe is the historic legislation just passed over the weekend regarding health care reform. the few turkish news channels i turn to are all talking about it, from what i can make out. and it's even made some front pages.

and as an expat living in a country that has a terrific socialized health care system where hospital visits cost a mere $50 for work that would easily cost $300 in the states, all i can do is elatedly quote joe biden, "this is a big f***ing deal." maybe now k and i can return home and get that much needed checkup we've holding out on for the last 5 years.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

niçin istanbul?

today i was mulling over how i got here. really, how did i end up in Turkey, twice? because when i think about it, it all feels very random.

it just so happens that i fell in love with a man who studied music and whose former professor just happened to be starting a promising international music program in Istanbul. and it just so happens that i decided to move in with that man into his cozy apartment and encouraged him that it would be a good idea if he take up his professor's offer and attend that really promising program. because he was looking for something more in his life. and on one hot july night, a group of kids broke into our basement and lit our building on fire. and it just so happens that at that moment when that match hit the pile of unsold books my neighbor had left from a yard sale she had held that afternoon that turned the building into a smoldering inferno, i too had been feeling an itch. an itch of restlessness, dissatisfaction with my life, of where my life was heading. and it just so happens that all of my good friends had moved away at that time and i was seeing changes in my neighborhood i didn't like and slowly unfastening my ties to my chicago community, so that as my love and i cleaned up the charred debris of our apartment and felt the residual heat of the fire still radiating from the walls, i thought, maybe i should go with him to Istanbul.

so Istanbul i went and it turned out Istanbul I loved. and as i sit under the shadow of the Galata Tower drinking my tea and listening to the haunting chorus of the call to prayer echo around the city and the relentless hungry yowls of the street cats and the shop keepers and cafe owners calling out, i still marvel at how i ended up here, almost halfway across the world from chicago to a place so completely different.

and as i walk around my charming neighborhood, asking for bread in Turkish, fielding questions from shopkeepers and cab drivers and fruit sellers who speak enough english for their first question for me to be, "what are you doing in İstanbul. why are you here?" i answer in my very basic Turkish about how my husband studies here and I am here to be with him. but really the answer is a lot more complicated.

i'm here because i love my husband but also because i was looking for something different. and different found me. just not in the way i thought. so as difficult as living in a foreign country can be, i feel really lucky to be here. i now look at my life, who i am, and who i want to be in a way that i never would have had i not come here. and in that way, this experience has been a gift.

i'm not a big believer in Fate, in the cosmic plan kind of way. i believe that life throws things your way and that how you decide to act on these things creates your fate. our fates lie in the shaping and focus of these random things that happen to us so that sometimes a seemingly random chain of events brings you to a place that you never thought you'd be and you realize it's not so random at all.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

mutlu yıl dönümü benim sevgilim !!!!!

one year ago today i was in a very different place under a sea of sky, embraced by a golden glow amongst red mountains, kissing my new husband and promising to be with him forever. happy anniversary my love!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

mutlu yillar!

happy new year!

this year i resolve to take more walks. my new neighborhood is full of back alleys and hidden passage ways perfect for that sort of thing. here are some nice things i've come across...

things i've seen on recent walks

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hoşça Kal Uskudar

we are moving again. our friend john is returning and for some reason wants his house back. i will be sad to leave our beloved bakery where they make the best fresh simit, my favorite breakfast place that makes the spinach pastries and apple cookies, my favorite produce guy who would clean the mushrooms for me, and that oh so killer view. but i am excited to move to our new place back on the european side located in that galata/tunel area off the istiklal. it's a little more lively and somehow we have lucked into another great top floor apartment with an amazing view. and when i'm jonesing for a fresh simit, i'll just hop on a ferry and visit my friend john.

we'll miss you uskudar apartment!




Thursday, December 10, 2009

giriş çikiş no. 1

recently k and i had to renew our visas. a turkish tourist visa expires every 90 days and if you're living in turkey and don't have a residence permit, you have to leave the country and reenter the country to get a new visa. the length of time spent outside turkey varies depending on the country and checkpoint you go to. some places like bulgaria are strict and require at leat 24 hours out and other checkpoints in greece require only a couple of hours. like everything here, it really depends on who you're dealing with.

even though this process is kind of a pain and costs time/ money i like being forced to take trips. turkey borders a lot of really interesting countries so visa renewal time a good chance for exploration. however, because k was in the middle of finals we decided to take a quick 24 hour trip into greece by bus. we found the closest greek city accessible by bus, alexandroupoli (about 3 hours west of istanbul),  bought our tickets and were on our way!

giriş/enter, çikiş/exit

bus travel in turkey is really great. it's a very cheap way of travelling that everyone here uses. we chose metro bus, one of the biggest bus companies here. their buses are big and comfy. they also have tvs on the back of every seat and serve you tea and snacks. the only down side is that there are no bathrooms but they do stop every 2-3 hours at a rest stop so it's not a big deal. or you can bring a catheter. the ride was really fun though and i was entertained and well satiated for every kilometer of it.

wait to leave indeed DELUXE double decker bus

the trip was great, although a little stressful in unexpected ways. the actual border crossing was kind of a pain as we all stood at the turkish checkpoint in line for 20 minutes outside in the windy cold and in the way of approaching cars. this process was repeated again 10 minutes later at the greek border where we had to wait for the bus in front of us to finish their inspection. we saw some interesting things while we were waiting (like georgian lettering and big bags of fish) but it was a little too cold to maintain a childlike sense of curiosity for more than 10 minutes.

goodbye Turkey hello Greece! we wait mysterious alphabet

also, for some reason you aren't allowed to buy a round trip bus ticket and have to purchase the return ticket in greece. but since we left on a saturday, all the travel agencies in alexdropouli were closed. of course we found this out AFTER our bus dropped us off, but in typical mediterranean fashion, the solution lay in a network of helpful strangers and phone calls. the very nice and helpful train office agent explained to us that all we had to do was track down the bus driver's cell phone number, call him about 2 hours before he was supposed to pick us up, and he would swing by and get us. of course. he then sent us to the tourist office which had a 50/50 chance of being open. luckily it was and the nice lady there got the number by calling the restaurant owner of a place near the bus stop who had it. so with the number safely tucked away on a strip of paper in k's pocket, we went off to go explore.

alexandroupoli, greece is a cute little beach town that borders the Thrace sea. it's a town that is clearly in full bloom in the summertime. no so much in the winter. while there were plenty of locals out and about, the town itself seemed to be operating at half mast. everything was hibernating including the deck chairs and amusement parks along the water. but i found its winter sleepiness rather comforting and charming. and there were christmas decorations everywhere, something i didn't even know i missed until i saw the lighted christmas trees peeking behind curtains of apartments and houses.

luna park

things accomplished while we were there include: eating a pork chop (something near impossible to do in turkey), drinking ouzo (a lot like raki but sweeter), drinking beer that wasn't efes, assisting in decorating a christmas tree, watching a chess game come to a draw, meditating on the amazing beach light of the thrace sea, and actually reaching the bus driver who picked us back up and took us back home.

ouzo and a beer you can't get in Turkey

also the duty free shop on the greek border is one of the best ones i've seen anywhere. you can buy all sorts of fun things for really cheap like really good olive oil for 3 euro or german beer for 6, which we did.

all in all it was a fun trip and if anyone is needing to renew their visas from istanbul, i would highly recommend alexandroupoli as your turn around point. just make sure you get the driver's cell phone number before you get off!

beautiful Thrace Sea