Sunday, June 22, 2008

Getting the picture

It's taken living in Turkey to break me of my eco-unfriendly habit of getting receipts from the ATM. Since the lira figures on the receipts don't match up with the dollar amounts coming out of my U.S. account, there doesn't seem much point. But even if I hadn't already made the switch, the supremely awesome guilt trip laid down by local bank Yapi Kredi would have done the trick: When the ATM asks whether you want a receipt or not, the "yes" and "no" options are accompanied by cartoon images of, respectively, a lush little forest and a pile of tree stumps. Subtle!

In other news, making photocopies is apparently haram (forbidden) on Sundays.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Screams in the night

I do not know the first thing about how futbol is played, but I must admit that the screams (and now gunshots) from my neighbors when Turkey is playing--and winning!--are intoxicating. Anyone want to volunteer to teach me a thing or two?

Friday, June 20, 2008

California pride

There's a lovely, if ridiculously expensive, little wine store up the street in Istanbul's yabancı köy (or "foreigner villager," as my friends have aptly dubbed Cihangir) that actually stocks such exotic delights as Brooklyn Lager and Ravenswood wine. But at $25 a six-pack or $65 a bottle, respectively, I generally walk straight past these tastes of home to grab whatever bottle of Italian table wine is on sale this week.

Today, though, I lingered a bit and noticed that while most sections of the store are labeled with the flag of the wines' country of origin, the American section bears (no pun intended) the standard of the "California Republic."

I employed my usual combination of crappy Turkish and excessive hand gestures to tell the man working the counter that I was from California and that I liked the flag. He replied that Americans in general are "antipatik" but Californians are "sempatik." Why, thanks, Istanbul. I love you too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twin cities

I didn't do much to help my own case when I posited to friends that Istanbul was basically San Francisco East (far, far east), and then posted pictures of my new city covered in snow. But I stand by my assessment--now more than ever.

It was the lovely light in both places, and the graceful topographical dance of hills and water that first led me to make this comparison. Since spending more time in Istanbul, I've seen how both cities enjoy a good party and a good protest in equal measure (though any Istanbul'lu would surely be appalled at how early the streets of SF roll up at night). But these days they share some less alluring qualities as well, from skyrocketing real-estate prices and a revolving door of unaffordable restaurants to pants-less vagrants moaning in the streets.

All Istanbul needs now is Gavin. He would fit right in amongst the Turkish men--they could bond over their shared love for hair gel and womanizing tendencies--and maybe he could do something about one of the major dissimilarities: Turkey's atrocious record on gay rights.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mixed messages

To say Turkey is full of contradictions is a cliché, but if there wasn't truth to that, people wouldn't keep saying it. And the combination of a population that's reportedly 99.8 percent Muslim with an ostensibly secular state (occasionally kept that way by force) does produce some doozies.

Last week saw liberal Turks and the European press dismayed at an article published by the government's directorate of religious affairs that recommended what it saw as proper sexual conduct for women. (Personally, I'm at least halfway there, as I've got the eschewing-perfume part down and I must say I look pretty darn cute in a headscarf.)

But while one branch of the government was advising women that they "should not show their ornaments and figure and that they should cover in a fine manner," another was promoting tourism to Turkey with this ad. Keeps life interesting, doesn't it?