Saturday, February 28, 2009

Balık uzmanı

While walking over the Galata Bridge this afternoon, I noticed a guy wearing a "fish specialist" jacket. (I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy eating a portakallı kek.) I wonder, is this the kind of thing Turkish housewives buy from mail-order catalogs for their husbands? Kind of the Turkish equivalent of a "Hooked on Fishing" T-shirt? In any event, I bet Mr. Uzman doesn't catch much.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Order vs. chaos

Way back in 2001, I saw my first movie at a Turkish theater--some forgettable war flick with Jude Law. Three things surprised me about the experience: 1) The smoke break intermission halfway through, for which the film was stopped mid-scene. 2) The sloppy squat toilet and all the chic young Turkish women who didn't seem to know how to use it correctly either. 3) The assigned seating.

When I go to movies in Istanbul now, what surprises me is that people actually sit in their assigned seat. The idea of a queue often seems like a foreign concept here--sure, people take a number at the bank or utility office, but then they usually butt in front at the window anyway. But everyone searches dutifully for their sıra and koltuk numbers at the cinema, to point where at a Friday afternoon matinee, with 80 percent of the seats empty, a woman came and sat down right next to me. Why the ticket sellers sold two seats right next to each other for such a scantly attended screening is another question altogether.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Instructional paket


This "lavaş" stuff is amazing.

It can be used to make so many different things!

. . .

That all look exactly the same.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


In San Francisco, there was always a lot of hullabaloo about fare skippers sneaking onto the bus or hopping over the subway turnstile in order to ride without paying. On the bus tonight in Istanbul, I watched two young men board through the back door. The bus was fairly crowded, so it's highly doubtful that the driver could have seen them, but they dutifully handed one bus pass and a small stack of change to the woman standing next to me, who then gave it to the person next to her, and on and on all the way to the front of the bus and then (in the case of the pass) back again. This is a totally normal occurrence. So is having a shopkeeper run off with your money--only to return five minutes later after going to all the other neighborhood stores before finding someone who could give him the proper change. I'm sure there will come a day when this sort of casual trust seems as strange in Turkey as it would in America. I would just hate to be around to watch it erode.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Misery reverses migration

Will the Lou Dobbses and Tom Tancredos have the cojones to herald the financial crisis for doing what neither their demagoguery, nor stricter border controls, nor often brutal working conditions and plenty of out-and-out racism could not -- getting illegal immigrants to stay out of the United States, or head back home?

We've seen a similar pattern here in Turkey, where the culture clash has often been a result of internal migration, as rural Turks moved to the cities in large numbers and brought village ways with them. Like their counterparts in the U.S. and China, they too are getting fed up with the places they once saw as full of opportunity and are looking homeward. The Istanbul municipal seems only too happy to pay their bus fare.

Her zaman bekleriz

Still waiting
"Still waiting," by mission75, on Flickr. Edirne's abandoned Great Synagogue on Maarif Caddesi. My 1999 Lonely Planet guide says it was "scheduled for restoration" at that time.

Relations have not exactly been warm and fuzzy between Turks and Jews lately, so I was a little surprised to read that restoration work on the Great Synagogue in Edirne will purportedly begin next month.

Built in 1907, the synagogue partially collapsed in 1997 and is today an evocatively empty shell, practically begging for use as a symbol of the disintegration of religious diversity in Turkey. It looks like it was once a lovely building, and it would be nice to see it functioning again--as two nearby churches reportedly are--but since this restoration has been "scheduled" for over a decade, I don't think anyone should be cracking open a celebratory He'Brew just yet.