Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016: An Ikamet Odyssey

Tales of pell-mell races across the Eminyet courtyard and sharp-elbowed scuffles at the residence-permit application counter were swapped over Efes like war stories among expats when I initially arrived in Turkey. By the time I made my own first application, things had settled into some manner of organized confusion. But, like the course of true love, bureaucratic progress did never did run smooth. One particularly bad year, a friend had to queue in front of the Emniyet in the middle of night, where she reported people were selling places in line. When the process was decentralized to local police stations, crowded waiting rooms were replaced by bored young officers flirtatiously or sadistically (it was sometimes hard to tell which) quizzing female applicants on American sports teams or the capital cities of random English-speaking countries.

This past year, the mass influx of Syrians and other refugees led Turkey to set up an entire new bureaucracy for processing foreign residents, the Göç İdaresi (Migration Administration). Those of us who'd already been in the country for a while were promised efficient new electronic renewals, under which "the foreigners shall be informed through their e-mail addresses" of any missing documents, and receive an SMS when the permit is ready to be delivered. And there the odyssey began:
✔ Gather necessary paperwork, get ID photos taken, fill in online application. So easy! 
✔ Go to tax office in Eminönü, pay required fees for the renewal. A little elbowing required at the cashier's counter, but not too bad. 
✔ Bring receipts home to scan them, along with the rest of the application documents (you never know what might get lost in the mail). 
✔ Package up original documents and receipts and take them to the post office to send them to the Göç İdaresi by registered mail. 
✔ Track the letter online and see that it's reached its destination two days later. So far, so good! 
✔ Wait.
✔ Wait. 
✔ Wait some more.
✔  Decide after two and a half months that maybe it would be a good idea to check on things. Call the mobile number you've been given of someone at the Göç İdaresi in Fatih. He tells you to come in (wait, what happened to letting applicants know by phone or email? never mind, don't ask...) so they can see if your paperwork is in order. Uh-oh. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cheap-beer chic

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Better things to do with a can (or bottle) of Efes than drinking it." If I were writing it now, the list would most certainly be topped (no pun intended) by this bottle-cap purse hand-crocheted by the wonderful craftswomen of Çöp(m)adam.

Founded by longtime American expat Tara Hopkins, who I previously profiled for MORE magazine, this social-entrepreneurship business (the name is a play on words that means "garbage ladies") is based in the Turkish Aegean town of Ayvalık. Hopkins hires women who have never worked for pay before to create playful, beautiful handicrafts out of recycled materials -- bags, aprons, stuffed animals, wallets, frames, tea towels, cushion covers, keychain decorations, and more.

Their bottle-cap bags come in various sizes, from shoulder bags to clutches to wallets, and are made with an assortment of colorful soda and beer bottle caps. After eight years of loving to hate Turkey's most famous beer, however, I just had to special-order an all-Efes version.

If you want one all of your own, you'd better hurry -- rumor has it that Efes will be switching over to pull-off bottle caps in the near future. The mediocre taste of the beer inside will surely remain the same, but the good crafting materials will become in short supply.

Check out the full catalogue of products, and inquire about your own special orders, over at the Çöp(m)adam website.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Top 10 reasons I dread shopping for running shoes in Istanbul

If anything can be more challenging (and aggravating) than running in Istanbul, it's buying running shoes in Istanbul. Admittedly, I like shopping about as much as going to the dentist even under the best of circumstances, but my experiences across the gamut here -- at specialist local running shops, outlets of international brands, and general sporting-goods stores -- would be funny if they weren't so frustrating. Here's just 10 of the ways salespeople have left me reconsidering the possibility of inner-city barefoot running, cement, broken glass, and general detritus be damned.
  1. Not stocking women's shoes larger than size 39 or 40, then balking at the idea of letting me try on men's sizes.

  2. Telling me I don't actually have wide feet (you'd think I might have noticed in 40 years of buying shoes) then passive-aggressively recommending a model that a quick Google search reveals typically runs narrow.

  3. Photo courtesy kovats
  4. Not stocking any wide widths at the shop of a international brand known for offering the majority of its shoes in multiple widths, then telling me it's because "everyone in Turkey's feet are standart."

  5. Telling me that too-small shoes couldn't possibly have caused my feet to start to fall asleep while running, "there must be something wrong with your nerves."

  6. Asking me if I "run long distances, like 5 kilometers?"

  7. Snickering when I try to explain that my left foot is larger than my right (which is not uncommon, okay?) then continuing to insist on only giving me the right-foot shoe to try on first.

  8. Gesturing at a long wall of shoes and asking with a shrug, "So what do you want to try on?"

  9. Not bothering to measure my feet or bring out the same pair of shoes in multiple sizes, just moving straight on to totally different models when the first one is a bit snug.

  10. Explaining, when I say that one pair of shoes fits a bit better than the last one, that it's because they're "very professional."

  11. Offering up, in response to a request for trail running shoes, a strangely stiff pair that turn out to be (when consulting the manufacturer's website later) "approach shoes" meant for technical hiking/rock-climbing.

  12. Telling me my foot's shape "is not very nice."
Oh wait, never mind that last one. That wasn't a shoe salesperson, that was a physical therapist.