Monday, May 26, 2014.
It is 9:15 am here in Kadikoy, we have had our usual cereal, yogurt and fruit breakfast – I am struggling with the Turkish breakfast on offer. Laundry has been washed and is now on our drying rack. Life feels somewhat normal.
Yesterday was interesting. There was a demonstration on our side of the Bosphorous. We awoke to proclamations from loud speakers then long periods of music. When we walked out to the main street to catch our ferry for church,police had erected barricades all along the street for about 4 blocks. There were a lot of female police employees not looking particularly serious or fierce. Young people were walking to somewhere on the sidewalks carrying bullhorns and flags wrapped up around sticks. The ferries were running normally so we were happy to get to the other side.
We wandered back into our favourite neighbourhood called Galata and went to a lovely little shop where the shop keeper is a true gentleman in all the meanings of the word(s). We bought some wool and silk scarves made in Turkey. He allowed us a small discount. I don’t even feel like negotiating in this area because all the prices seem so reasonable. Being at the Spice Bazaar the other day was such a shock – the slimy demeanour of the shopkeepers, the purposefully high prices, and all the “stuff”. When I leave my favourite two shops in Galata I feel “clean”. Does that make sense?
Church was interesting. We know a few people and therefore greet and are greeted. Engin is warm and charming. For the third Sunday in a row Engin let someone else preach. The first Sunday was an American woman who is one of his wardens, the second Sunday 3 American missionaries spoke,and yesterday we heard to a very basic message by a fellow from All Souls Langham Place, London. They have a preaching course for lay people. He was a lovely man, sincere and a lovely Christian believer. Murray is preaching this Sunday because Engin and a few others from church are going to Italy for a few days.
We have set up tentative arrangements with a number of people for coffee dates because so many of the young people live near us. Ros had asked me to go the the Grand Bazaar with her to help her buy fabric to make an outfit for a wedding.
She has a pair of purple linen pants and would like to have a tunic top to match. I don’t know what her comfort level is for drama but I would love to take her to my scarf shop to buy one of their lovely shawls to complete the outfit.
We’ll see – it should be fun.
Returning from church we had to pass through cordons of heavily armed, fierce looking police complete with tear gas canisters, plexiglass shields and all manner of protective gear. There were two separate groups of them. I wanted to get beyond them as soon as we could but I noticed that the locals were completely oblivious – shopping and visiting as if nothing unusual was going on.
We escaped to Galata and relaxed in an absolutely amazing coffee bar. It was the lobby of a small, very chic hotel. The decor was wild – cartoonesque pictures in vibrant colours and very cheeky. Two small tables outside, 2 inside, 2 little groupings around tiny round tables and a wild orange sofa. We sat on the sofa eating a piece of apple cheesecake with limonata (me), Turkish coffee (Murray) – served on delightful dishes (you know how much I love that). After I went to the washroom the waitress came over with the loveliest hand cream. It was divine.
We are at breakfast with an amazing collection of people – a Jordanian guy with his teenage son, and 3 Americans – the father is a minister from the States and he is here with his 3 adult children. The daughter has lived here before and would like to get a work permit to teach English. She is currently living on a farm outside Cairo. It is a Coptic retreat centre and sounds fascinating.
The Jordanian, Mohammed, had an interesting take on the Turkish mentality and situation. He said, 25 years ago Istanbul was dump. It was dirty, nothing worked, water didn’t run and when it did it wasn’t clean, corruption was rampant – about 90%. Now, the Turkish economy is one of the best in the world, the city is clean and things run well, corruption is down to about 10%. I don’t know what they are complaining about. They blame the government for everything and I don’t think that is fair.
The Minutia of Life
1. Housekeeping: Three lovely women clean all the rooms here. We are entitled to daily cleaning but that seems excessive so we ask them to come in twice a week. Everything gets changed including the duvets! I could get used to this.
2. The elevator: This remarkable piece of equipment is a mere 2’ x 3’. It technically can hold 3 people but that would be a pretty cosy arrangement. Even though we are only on the second floor we use it because the lights are motion sensitive in the stairwells and you are part way down the winding staircase in pitch darkness before the lights come on.
3. Our street: It is quite short and has 2 parking lots (where you can have your car washed), 2 fresh fruit and vegetable stands, an all male coffee shop, tailor/laundry shop, real estate agent, 2 hotels and 5 or 6 apartment blocks. There is a turkish bath at the end – I should probably check it out but it looks a little foreboding.
4. Bars and clubs: The north/south street at the end of ours is full of bars for men only. During the day it is fine but I would not like to be by myself at night. Women go to the cafes and restaurants along the main street and in the market.
5. Short dresses: It seems to be permissible to wear above the knee skirts and dresses now that it is so warm – not in mosques or churches but for daily life it is ok.
6. McDonalds serves a Turkish breakfast as well as the standard Egg McMuffin – scrambled eggs, white cheese, cucumber, olives, tomato and an English Muffin! I am impressed by their adaptability.
finding food samples at the large store store in the big mall. I discovered a delicious cake and learned that the dish I thought was sausages ( and had cooked) was some sort of vegetarian concoction that you eat cold!
“borrowing” books from the Toronto library to read on my iPad. I alternate between books set in Istanbul and familiar Western authors such as P.D. James, Jennifer Worth and Miriam Toews.
We are getting the hang of negotiating traffic here. There are no stop signs at the end of regular streets. Cars round corners carefully – pedestrians need to be prepared to give way all the time. On major streets there are traffic lights although sometimes, as a pedestrian, you need to press a button to activate the green light.
It is fascinating to watch the locals navigate street crossing. It is similar to watching couples dance – each partner anticipating the movements of the other. The one rule seems to be that if you are going to go for it don’t hesitate.
If traffic stops because of congestion then everyone starts cutting through – I always give the driver a little wave just make sure he has seen me.
Turks use their horns to communicate with everyone. Generally they do not honk in anger. These are gentle little honks which seem to say “Okay, stop, because I am going to start driving”. It’s pretty noisy but not annoying.
Buying ice cream on the street is so much fun. The vendors are clever, very skilled showmen. When you order your ice cream, they dig into the solid mass with a long stainless stick with a spoon on the end. Then they place a glob on the cone, go to give it to , snatch it back, put the glob back into the container, pull out the whole glob, replace it, bring out a small glob, pretend to flip it, put it back on a cone, give you an empty cone, and so it continues with you reaching for the thing over and over only to have it pulled back. By the time you finally get the ice cream and cone together you are in a fit of laughter.
The Opera House
Tonight we got all dressed up to go to the Opera House to hear a concert. We were very excited – but when we got there it was in total darkness and the doors were locked. The concert had been cancelled due to the disaster in Soma. The Turks feel deeply about injustices. Fortunately, we can get our money back but then we had to decide on a plan B. It isn’t too difficult to find something fun to do so we wandered around the market area until we found a restaurant that looked interesting. There are thousands and thousands of restaurants and cafes. How they all survive is a mystery. Waiters stand outside each place welcoming you to their place – there is a real art to refusing – one that I don’t think we have mastered yet.
We finally settled on a kebab place. I was delighted to find a very thin Turkish pizza which I had remembered from our previous visits. The evening was perfect so we felt very proud of ourselves for having rescued what might have been a disappointing time.