Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Türkçe bilmiyorum" and other observations

If you tell someone, whether it be your old cranky neighbor, a shop assistant, or some guy in the street, "Türkçe bilmiyorum," which means "I don't know Turkish," they automatically assume that you must be lying since you knew enough Turkish to say "I dont know Turkish" in Turkish.

I guess I am lying a little bit. I definitely do know enough Turkish to get by and enough to have a conversation with them. But, for instance, last year I didn't know enough and people still said the same thing.

They can't seem to grasp that foreigners might just memorize a few phrases to throw out here and there when necessary.

Also, I have had numerous people argue with me when I say "Türkçe bilmiyorum." "Bilmiyorsan abla?" (You don't speak Turkish sister?) Maybe it's because I look Turkish. Maybe it's because I seem to be the #1 person to ask for directions in every neighborhood. Maybe it's because even though Istanbul is billed as a "cosmopolitan" city, it's really not..

I have recently started to answer their questions. Give them directions. But they either get frustrated and walk away or find their "friend who speaks English" (aka he knows like 5 sentences) to translate.

Other observations:

It has suddenly become summer. It will take a while to get used to the lack of air conditioning pretty much everywhere and sweating non-stop again.

2. Guess what the current favorite game of the neighborhood kids is? Kick the soccer ball at: a) cars b) satellite dishes c) window grills or d) all of the above. You guessed it, D. Ooh, they just hit my window grill. Twice.

3. I had some other observations but I forgot them...

I'll post the next set of pictures this weekend.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I'm cranky.

My water turned brown WHILE I was showering. Complete with dirt particles. Awesome. It's still brown 10 hours later. So I can't wash the dirt off nor can I wash the growing pile of dishes nor can I make anything for dinner that involves water.

I locked myself out today. Couldn't even use my spare key since I left the key in the door inside my apartment. Paid 25 lira to get it out. It took the guy 2 seconds to do it. I should become a locksmith.

I took the wrong bus to Turkish class. The taxi driver didn't listen to my directions.

And I have 3 8am classes on my schedule now. Finishing at 8pm every night. I knew it was coming, but really 8am? Is that necessary? Can people actually learn at that hour? I am SO NOT a morning person.

Also one of the students starts on Monday at 8am which is a holiday for everyone else but my stupid school.

Ugh. Gonna lay on the couch and wait for "clean" water.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Last week, my mom and I visited Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in central Anatolia (central Turkey). Here is a map of Göreme, where we stayed.
View Larger Map

According to the UNESCO website,

"In a spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion, the Göreme valley and its surroundings contain rock-hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post-Iconoclastic period. Dwellings, troglodyte villages and underground towns – the remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century – can also be seen there."

Probably a much better summary than I could write. It was truly an amazing place. The spectacular landscapes, the hundreds of churches filled with paintings, the "fairy chimneys." It was definitely one of the best places I've visited and I've posted some pictures below. Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to capture the true beauty of Cappadocia with my camera.

This is in Göreme Open Air Museum. Inside that cave is an awesome church from around the 13th century.

This is a view of the town of Göreme. Many people still live in those caves today.

In a different area of Cappadocia. You may recognize this picture from the 4th (?) Star Wars movie as they filmed a fight (?) scene here.

And finally, my favorite place. Selime Monastary. It is the biggest rock-cut monastery of Cappadocia with a cathedral sized church. It was carved by the monks in the 13th century and has a kitchen and school as well as some other rooms. A few frescoes still remain and you can barely make out Jesus in one of them.

Ok, I have over 700 photos so I am going to post a few pictures at a time. Note: if you have subscribed via e-mail you may need to visit the actual webpage to see the pictures.

Next stop: Efes.

Friday, May 2, 2008

mayhem on May Day

As all access to Taksim (5 minutes from where I live and a main transport hub on the European side of Istanbul) was basically forbidden or blocked off by tanks and cops with machine guns, I chose to take a different route to work and luckily everything went very smoothly. The roads were empty and it's quite possible I made it to work in record time.

However, not everyone was as lucky. There were about 200 policemen at the end of my street in riot gear and 1 tank. Early in the morning, I read reports of people throwing Molotov cocktails and bricks. Newspapers reported that over 1000 people were arrested or detained.

A bunch of teachers got caught in the tear gas/water cannon cross fire. Two teachers even had tear gas in their apartment!

Workers' unions had had plans to march to Taksim and protest there, but this was banned by the government. Eventually they abandoned their efforts and things calmed down.

May 1 is a holiday in most of Europe, but not Turkey. It seems that the government went through extraordinary measures in attempts to control the places people could access yesterday and how they could access them. Wouldn't it have been better had the allowed a peaceful march and provided security for that instead of encouraging people to hate the police more than they already do? (In Turkey, being a police officer is not seen as a good career. When I tell people my sister wants to be a police officer the first thing they ask is why.)

It seems the ruling AKP tried to use May 1 to exert their power (or lack thereof). There is currently a case pending in the Constitutional Court which aims to outlaw the AKP for being "anti-secular."

One union leader expressed his worry that the AKP is only concerned about one freedom - that of allowing girls wearing the türban (a style of headscarf) to attend university. While I am also concerned about that freedom, I'm also concerned about democracy and the right of people to peacefully march and protest, especially on a day like May 1. Not to mention, the connection between many recent events and the "Deep State." (more to come on this later)

Anyway, tomorrow my mom is arriving and we are heading out to Cappadocia on Monday and then the Aegean coast. I'll be back next weekend.

Until then...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May 1

Tomorrow is May 1 which means nothing in the US. May Day? Huh? What's that? But here in Istanbul, it's "Workers Day," a day on which, of course, everyone has to work! But it is also a day marred by violence (in 1977 30 people were kill when a riot broke out between protesters and the police).

As one English-language newspaper put it today "Mayday or May Day" in Taksim (the main square on the European side).

As a result, the government tries to prevent the same thing from happening again. Putting up signs about protests is illegal. Protesting is illegal. And preparation is intense to say the least.

This afternoon as I left for work they were already putting up barricades everywhere in Taksim square in attempt to control the flow of pedestrian traffic.

In order to control other types of traffic, transportation will basically become impossible after 7:30am.

No ferries.
No metro (you can use it starting 2 stops after Taksim - there are 6 stops total)
No tram
No funicular
No buses stopping in Taksim (a major bus station)
The 2 inter-continental bridges will only have 1 lane of traffic open

I guess they just want everyone to stay home. Unfortunately, most of us still have to get to work somehow.

Normally, I take the Metro to work. Tomorrow I plan on walking a good deal of the way - maybe a 1 hour walk.

In attempt to avoid the traffic (good luck!), Vodafone will open a half hour early and close a half hour early.

But I'm sure this is a problem which cannot be avoided.

I'll let you know how it goes.