Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pazar günü

It's kind of funny that in a city where you can walk for blocks without finding a store that sells anything other than pipe fittings, you can also buy live fish and
children's clothing at adjacent stalls. Not to mention head scarfs, underwear both immodest and enormous, SpongeBob SquarePants sweat pants, and a "Girls Just Want to Be Fun" t-shirt. (No, that's not a typo--at least, not my typo.)

Today was Çocuk Bayramı (Children's Holiday), and I'm not really sure what that means, except that I got the day off from school. On the recommendation of Phil Bey, I trekked out to the Fatih street market, which was possibly even more crowded than Eminönü. After taking a couple of laps, I heeded one of the many calls of "beş lira, beş lira, hepsi beş lira" and plunged into the sea of women snatching up completely random t-shirts. With so many people pressed up against the table, you could really only examine what was within arm's reach, but fortunately the vendors had concocted an imaginative solution to this problem: Every few minutes, they turned the whole heap of clothes over like a compost pile and tossed it to another part of the table. Voila! A brand new supply.

Connoisseurs of t-shirt slogans will surely be disappointed that I opted against buying the "Angel Fashion Ref Forever Glamour Lucky Girl" or "It's good to have a journey with Mr. Perky" models. (Let's take a vote on that last line, shall we: Is it a sexual innuendo or a druggie one?)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ödev yapan kız

Bir gün (someday), I hope I'll be to read and speak some Turkish without having to mentally convert everything into English first. Of course, that will deprive me of the fun of making literal, word-for-word translations like this one:

"The accident-making men are sad."

(That's "Kazar yapan adamlar üzgün," for anyone who's playing along at home.)

Hemen, kahve içen kız okula gideceğim.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Goin' places

I just booked a bus ticket to Sofia, Bulgaria, for my first trip out of the country. I can't believe I've been here almost three months already. Am looking forward to getting a couple more stamps in my sadly empty new passport. Plus, I hear they have pork there.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Canım için avuntu

Originally uploaded by mission75

When I'm feeling stressed or down, I'm drawn to the Galata Bridge, where the views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn never fail to soothe the spirit.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Those who know me can vouch that the last way I would probably describe myself is as "an American." I'll proudly claim my San Francisco and California roots, but patriotism is not exactly my strong suit. So one of the things that's been interesting about being away from my country of origin is realizing how much I've been unwittingly marked by it. My generally unfailing punctuality is one dead giveaway, as is my nagging tendency to want to cross streets in an orderly manner, at stoplights and between well-marked white lines. (The latter habit I've made great strides toward breaking, as trying to follow it in Istanbul would mean I'd still be waiting at the corner with last week's groceries.)

More challenging to confront is the gravitational pull toward "productivity." For the first time since I was 17, I don't have a job, and though this does not pose any practical difficulties at the moment, it does open up a philosophical cans of worms. Who am I without a job? (I still say "gazeteciyim"--I am a journalist--even though I'm one without a outlet for my byline at the moment. For me, after all, that career has always been as much a way of looking at the world as a way to earn a check.) What am I accomplishing? What am I contributing?

Though to me those are all very personal questions, many people here have told me that they are also "very American." If I have the opportunity to not work for a while, they say, I should enjoy it, explore new things, stave off the 9-to-5 for as long as possible. I don't think I'll ever shed the desire, the drive to accomplish things, but I hope I can expand my definition of what that entails. And not just to make it less obvious where I hail from.

UPDATE: I'm apparently not the only expat who feels this way. This American woman who's been living in Scandinavia for 32 years puts it well:
"When you're an American living in America, it's one thing but when you live abroad in another country, in certain ways that feeling becomes even stronger because you realize that things that you think are individual characteristics are actually national ones so you identify even more strongly with your nationality."