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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Cindy's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, November 14th, 2009
    8:11 pm
    Istanbul is the only city I know of which is on two continents. Half of the city is in Europe with the other half in Asia. I live on the Asian or Anatolian side of the city, but almost all of the touristy sites are on the European side. These two sides are separated by the Bosporus Straits which is a huge waterway which is full of traffic. Every time I have crossed or just stood at the edge and looked out, there has been a long line of huge ships lined up to pass through the deep channel which connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Black Sea by way of the Aegean Sea. Today was the first time that I have taken the ferry over to Europe without seeing a huge cruise ship in dock (a sign winter must be here, I guess...) I love gazing out over the Bosporus as it is such a beautiful body of water. I also love riding the ferry across the Bosporus as it is such a pleasant and relaxing ride while enjoying the view of some of the beautiful sites such as Aya Sophia and Topkapi Palace from the water. Many people commute back and forth between Asia where most Istanbulites live and Europe where they mostly work. There are two bridges that cross the Bosporus, but they are always so crowded, that it takes so long in the traffic to cross. The ferries come every 15-20 minutes and takes about 20 minutes, so it isn't a bad alternative, particularly for those that are public transportation bound...
    Tonight's ride across on the ferry was spectacular as the sunset was particularly beautiful setting over the Blue Mosque with the amber glow over the water - what a great way to spend the 20 minute commute back from the spice market! :-)
    Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
    10:58 pm
    cell phones
    So I have learnt the hard way that cell phones here in Turkey have very different costs than in the US. In the US, most cell phones charge you for time making and receiving calls and for making/receiving text messages unless you have an unlimited plan.
    Here in Turkey, you are only charged for outgoing calls and texts. I am pleased that I do not get charged for incoming texts, as I receive advertisement text messages roughly every day... Anyway, I have a pay as you go style phone where I buy Kontors as a way of getting time. I started out with 100 kontors and at the end of the first month, I still had about 50 Kontors left (I don't make too many calls and the text messages must not cost to many kontors), so I figured I was okay for another month or so... The latest promotion seemed to imply that I could get 4 minutes for each kontor... But, apparently that is only if I call cell phones. I called a friend's landline in Istanbul and talked for about 14 minutes - using up 56 kontors... Luckily the phone company here is generous in that it allowed me to end the call with -6 kontors - I can not imagine Verizon or AT&T allowing for people on pay as you go phones to go into the negative range, but I could be wrong...
    Next time, I think I will only call her cell phone... ;-)
    Saturday, November 7th, 2009
    10:35 pm
    safety and security
    Tonight, I had dinner with some friends from work at their apartment. It was a lovely evening, but at one point in the conversation, they were talking about how one of their family members had a house in a more remote area and how much they worried about them due to fears about their safety from invaders. At another time, a different friend had indicated related fears, especially if living too far so that neighbors couldn't hear screams. When I pressed my friends about their fears - they weren't just worried about burglery - but rather than when breaking in to steal something, the burgler would find them and rape and/or murder them....
    Perhaps these fears help explain the number of gated communities with security guards. In many of the gated and guarded communities, the buildings themselves also have tight security including burgler alarms and extra security measures. In my friend's building, which is inside a gated community with a security guard, the building is also locked with a webcam tied into the intercom that I use to call for entrance to the building. Their apartment then has 2 deadbolts and a chain to keep invaders out.
    For me, I find much of this odd for two reasons. One: Most of the places I have lived in my life have been places with relatively low crime rates. The one exception being just outside Detroit, but even there, I didn't have much security outside of nosy neighbors and a deadbolt. Two: I have not seen any crime in Turkey -- perhaps I am not watching the right news stations to see all the crime.
    I could be wrong, but my guess is that the crime rate in the US is higher than here in Turkey, but I feel the fear of safety here much more than I have while living in the US - even when I lived in the Detroit area and had my home broken into.
    I think I prefer to live my life with basic precautions but without the fears of murder/rape and should the worst happen let it ruin my life then rather than live my life in constant fear of the worst...
    4:07 pm
    Crowded Buses
    The buses here in Turkey often get very crowded, particularly during peak times. It is not at all uncommon to see buses driving by which can't close the door as there are people standing on the boarding stairs... They are often so crowded that I wonder how they can even move. People board both the front and back doors, with the people in the back passing up their money and bus passes to the front, with no doubts that their cards and any change will make it back to them safely. One time, I even saw a woman who couldn't get herself and her packages out when she reached her stop, so she had a stranger pass her groceries out the window to her and she squeezed herself out the back door....
    Today, I took the local bus to catch the ferry over to Europe. The bus was nearly empty when I boarded, but it quickly got extremely crowded. Sitting next to me for much of the ride was a young woman (maybe about 20 years old). When it got very crowded, a young mother boarded with her young son (about a year old), and with almost no words exchanged, the mother placed her son on the lap of the seated woman. The boy was not fazed by this, as if he was used to sitting on the lap of strangers. He just passively sat on her lap for much of he ride. After about 20 minutes on her lap, he started going through her purse, taking out one of her books - at which point, she started pointing to a picture of an apple on the cover, and saying "Elma" (Turkish for apple). I had heard before how much Turkish people value children and will do anything for the kids - but I just can not imagine most people in the US putting a strange infant on their lap for a long stuffy bus ride, let alone allowing the child to go through their purse... For that matter, I think many US children would not sit quietly for a 30 minute, hot/stuffy bus ride as this young boy did.
    Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
    7:04 am
    I want to acknowledge that this is not an official Department of State website, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State. :-)

    Current Mood: complacent
    Sunday, November 1st, 2009
    7:47 am
    Pamukkale and Hierapolis
    Unfortunately, the rain put a small damper on our trip to the Travertines and Hierapolis. The travertine of Pamukkale is beautiful as a huge white mass of chalk-like crystalized substance mounding over the years over a large portion of the hill forming small pools in terraces. As we began, it was lightly sprinkling and it was not bad as we walked up the hill. Since they are working hard to preserve this World UNESCO site, we walked up barefoot, enjoying when the warmer water splashed over our feet, but the water in the pools was invariably colder as some was rainwater and some had been sitting for days in the cooling air... The site was really surreal in some ways as it was as white as snow but was a hard crystalized substance like chalk. Intermixed in some areas you could see tinges of pink, yellow and/or green as other minerals influenced the hue. I was disappointed to see that along the main channel of water, quite a lot of algae was building up... It was very nice sitting up there with my feet in the thermal waters gazing out over this wonder, I just wish it wasn't so cloudy, as we weren't able to see the spectacular mountains in the distance...

    At the top of the hill, we came up to Hierapolis, the roman city founded by this natural wonder which was reputed to have great healing powers. The ruins didn't seem all that spectacular in comparison to Thursday's Afrodisias, and our spirits were dampened somewhat by the rain. Unfortunately, the museum at the top was closed so we couldn't see its sites nor use it as refuge from the ever-growing rainshowers. Instead, we took shelter in the cafe surrounding Cleopatra's pool - a thermal pool in use since roman times as evidenced by the fallen columns interspersed in the pool.
    Alas, we only got colder as we sat and the rain only got more intense, so we headed back to the hotel to dry off, and play some tavas (backgammon) as I awaited the long bus ride back to Istanbul which at 10 hours, wasn't as long (due to less stops) than the way down. I was disappointed, though that we didn't take the ferry across the Marmara so I wasn't able to see it in the dawn's light...
    Now, back to the daily life of being in Istanbul ;-)
    Friday, October 30th, 2009
    11:58 pm
    Republic Day Party
    Tonight, I went to a Republic Day party at Pamukkale Universitesi with two of my Fulbright colleagues, one of whom is an English Teaching Assistant here. Other than the vocalist in the band who was wearing a bright red dress, everyone else was nicely but somberly dressed. The room was decked out in huge flags (about 20 - covering most surfaces), red/white streamers and balloons, and several huge posters of Ataturk with quotes and indications of transformations made during the first years of the republic. The band was quite good and they played/sang a number of patriotic and traditional Turkish songs, all starting out with the regent and his wife leading the first dance. At one point, a group of folk-dancers came out and performed a couple of traditional dances which was nice to watch. At the end, one the dancers came out dressed as Ataturk in full military dress to a huge round of applause and many went around posing with him, including one of my friends. In addition to a full bar, they were serving hors d'oeuvres and turkish coffee which one of the bartenders (a student of my colleague) read their fortunes in the drying coffee grounds - a real art. Apparently finding the image of a pidgeon in the grounds is auspicious! :-) Toward the end of the evening as a famous artist was giving an autographed book to another colleague, my friend's boss came up and handed me a white napkin and this man and a friend of his also decked out in a full suit started dancing dangling napkins from each hand and they dragged me off to the dance floor to dance some traditional dance for the end of the evening - in stark contrast to the otherwise somber evening, most were out dancing and singing and ended the evening tossing the napkins up above the dancefloor.
    Basically everyone I find in Turkey is highly patriotic and still I find myself surprised by the nature of these patriotic events...
    4:18 pm
    Pamukkale area
    Today was another beautiful sunny day, so we explored the area around Pamukkale Village.
    The village itself was small and definitely set up for the tourist trade, but we headed out to Red Spring, a thermal area in the nearby village where they rarely find foreign visitors, but they are well set up to handle Turkish vacationers. As we approached the spring, we came across two camels fully decked out, including bonnets with cheap rides especially for kids. Further ahead there were the typical vendors of cheap souvenirs. The spring itself was wonderful with a small pool of thermal water where the locals were wading. It was fun sitting and watching the younger women in full dress in most cases trying not to let their ankles be visible but not get their skirts too wet as they wade in after their children and the older women who seemed more comfortable in letting a little ankle and even a calf or two become visible as they soaked their feet or waded through the pool. The men, had no issues and just rolled up their jeans and walked right in... Many of them crowded around the source of the spring to get a taste of the warm water and splash it over themselves. Definitely a great way to spend a beautiful sunny morning...

    Midday we headed off to Laodikya another Roman ruin and one which since it accepted Chrisianity, is named as one of the seven churches in Revelations. The site has a couple of theaters (I guess one is never enough) and a stadium to rival the one at Afrodisias if it still had most of its seats in addition to the agora (marketplace), hamams (baths), houses, water distribution center and council buildings. The site was well into reconstruction, so it was fun to walk by and watch the restoration in process and see how while the Romans were able to do it by hand, the workers chose to huge huge cranes to move columns back into place. In another area of the site, we were able to watch the surveyors and archeologist dig out another Roman road off the other side of the city. It would be fun to come back in another 10 years to see how much it changes...

    For lunch, we stopped by a small roadside restaurant that remarkably had no menu - instead people were brought to a window where they pointed out which piece(s) of meat they wanted grilled and any meze or salad they wanted to accompany the meal. I think this is a first for me where there wasn't even a 6 item menu, not even in Turkish...
    After lunch we headed north to a small cave hidden under a field. There, we found a mini travertine similar to the larger one which made Pamukkale famous. Unlike Pamukkale, though, we had it to ourselves and while smaller, it was better protected and being in a cave made it all the more remarkable. It, like its larger cousin, is formed as the thermal waters pass through the minerals such as calcium and hydrogen carbonate which react in the air to form a white chalk-like substance crystallizing on the surface. Really quite spectacular.
    Now, its time to get ready to go to Pamukkale Universitesi for a Republic Day party...
    12:07 am
    Feeling better, I took off for Denizli to take advantage of the 4 day weekend provided by Republic Day. The bus ride was quite long (12 hours) but I could sleep during much of it. I was surprised to find out at one point that I was getting sea-sick -- turns out the bus got on a ferry when I wasn't looking to cross part of the Marmara Sea instead of going all the way around... Eventally, I arrived in Denizli where another Fulbrighter is working at the local University. Since the weather was so beautiful today and is questionable for the rest of the weekend, we decided to go to Afrodisias which is a large archeological site south of town today and the Travertines on the weekend. One of my books describes Afrodisias as "One of the mos interesting and beautiful classical sites in all of Turkey," and I think they could be right! Apparently the remains date back up to 5800 BCE but its mainly Graeco-Roman in design. My favorite part was the odeum (small theater with only 9 rows) that was apparently preserved under mud for 2000 years so the marble hasn't weathered much in comparison to many other sites. The stadium is also quite impressive - 860 ft long by almost 200 ft wide seating about 30,000 people. Adding to the list of impressive sites is the theater which seats about 10,000. Between all these entertaining sites, the number of statues and the fact that the site is dedicated with a temple to the godess of love, I think I might have enjoyed living here back then (of course, with my luck, I would have been one of the slaves...)
    Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
    8:42 pm
    Being Loved while ill
    I have never felt as loved as I do now as I lie here with what is probably just a bad cold ... So far today, I have received texts, emails, phone calls and a visit from most of my colleagues (some of whom I'm not sure how they knew my phone number ...) all calling to see how I am faring and if I need anything (such as a ride to [the] hospital - for some reason "the" often gets dropped from the sentence by non-native speakers). Two of them were even offering to help me even though I had infected them and they themselves had started to feel poorly ... What amazing hospitality and caring. When I stay home from my school back in the U.S. for something like the flu, it seems rare for me to get more than one or two concerns - Do not get me wrong, I am okay with that, as sometimes when sick, you just want to sleep ... I suppose I'm getting the treatment I received here back in the U.S. when I broke my right hand and was completely dependent on others and that is what seems odd to me - it is as if the people here are not used to people getting bad colds / flu and they're equating this to something more tragic ...
    I wonder why they do not get sick so often --
    Is it all the devil's eyes protecting them? They are everywhere...
    Do you think it is their obsession with cleanliness? (I think I could eat off any surface in most Turkish women's houses, including their floors ....)
    Is it all the cologne / fragrance they wear hand (with the threat of "pig" flu, they have been passing the cologne around the classroom like it's candy - I've been joking with them that if they smell the pigs won enough ' t get near them ... but perhaps the alcohol in the cologne is helping keep them more hygenic ...)
    Maybe it is the lack of antibiotic lotions and soaps, keeping up their immunities (although they are getting antibiotics over the counter rather quickly jump ...)
    Maybe it is all the buttermilk (salty yoghurt drink) they consume as if delivered by God ...
    I do not know, but I do not think I can do the cologne as much as they do (I get nauseous from the smell) and I'm allergic to yoghurt, so I guess that leaves me trying to get my house as clean as a Turkish woman's home to stay healthy like they are ....
    Anyway, I guess I can just relish knowing that if I do end up needing anything that there is a line of people willing to help!
    Monday, October 26th, 2009
    7:40 pm
    Being ill
    I woke up feeling ill (one doesn't say "sick" here as it is a *very* bad word in Turkish...) but I went to work, as I would in the US - it is so hard to be out... People immediately noticed that I didn't look right, so they walked me down to the school doctor (They have a doctor in the school building!) who gave me a cursory exam and declared that my lungs were clear (as I would expect as it is only a few hours since I started feeling poorly) but he jumped back when he looked down my throat and declared that what I had was both viral and bacterial (I thought you needed cultures for that diagnosis...) but he didn't think it was swine flu (the big worry around here as they seem to have the impression that getting it is usually fatal....) and he wrote me a prescription (not that you need prescriptions here, as almost everything is available over the counter - but this way I knew what to get from the pharmacy) and sent me home with orders not to come back for 2 days...(and since Thursday is a holiday -- Republic Day -- that means I am done for the week....)
    I went to the pharmacy and they asked if I had insurance for the 4 prescriptions I had been issued and I indicated I did not have Turkish insurance....So I was a little worried about the cost... but for 1 course of antibiotics (Amoxiccilin), 1 course of fever reducer (Tylenol), 1 course of gargle and 1 course of vitamins, the grand total was 20TL or about $14... That is less than my copay back home! The pharmacist was able to just lean back and pull open a couple of drawers to pull out my purchases - all in all taking less than 5 minutes...
    Once home and before I could head back to bed, I received a call from a concerned colleague that wanted to be sure that I didn't want to head to the hospital tonight. Considering it hasn't even been 2 days that I have had symptoms yet, and I have seen a doctor who declared my lungs to sound clear, this seemed premature...but she seemed surprised that I didn't want to go to the hospital yet and she said she would call in the morning (presumably to pursade me to go to the hospital....)

    Current Mood: sick
    Sunday, October 25th, 2009
    5:56 pm
    Daylight Savings Time
    I am *really* glad that I realized the time rolled back an hour with the end of "Summer Time" today before I set my alarm-clock for the morning :-)
    In the US, I am used to being bombarded with reminders - but I guess I just didn't hear them as I "tune-out" a lot of the Turkish I don't understand...
    4:19 am
    Tripe Soup
    Earlier, I went to a Jazz concert as part of the Jazz festival here in Istanbul. When the concert ended around 3 am, my friends and I headed out along Istikal Cadessi (Independence Avenue) which is a primarily pedestrian roadway in a hip neighborhood. The street was very much alive and while the shops were closed, all the restaurants and entertainment spots were open and thriving. We headed off the beaten path to one of the most crowded restaurants along the way for what they told me was a tradition after a night out: tripe soup. The menu was quite short - 4 kinds of soups, 2 of which were varieties of tripe soup. On the table was a bowl of a clear liquid with translucent floating pieces and a spoon (not left-over soup as I had originally thought but lemon juice with sauteed garlic), a salt shaker, a large shaker of paprika, a jar of hot red peppers and a jar of mint leaves. Following the lead of my peers, I took my soup and added a large helping of the paprika, salt and two spoonfuls of the lemon/garlic mix. It really wasn't too bad as long as I wasn't thinking about what I was eating, but it seemed like a lot to be eating around 3:30 am and I don't think it is a habit I'll bring back with me to the US. :-)

    Current Mood: tired
    Friday, October 23rd, 2009
    9:29 pm
    Swine Flu paranoia
    The numbers in my classes are dwindling quickly. This morning, the service bus was 1/2 full, and one of my classes had only 5 kids (instead of 17)...I was confused, as I really haven't seen many sick kids at the school (especially not compared to what I am used to while in the US in October...). As it was explained to me, though, there are 3 confirmed cases of swine flu in the Middle School, so the parents are keeping their kids home from school so that the kids don't catch it... But, the kids are using it as an excuse to host PS (playstation) parties at their homes during the day -- thus in my opinion defeating the goal of keeping the kids away from the possiblility of catching the flu....
    Oh well, I guess parents and kids' goals are different in every culture ;-)
    Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
    4:41 pm
    Students in the hallway
    When I am on duty in the hall, I basically stand around and occasionally say "slow down" when someone is running and when it is getting near the end of lunch, I am to slowly herd them upstairs (although they all seem to know what they are to do it and don't require the prodding).
    Today, two students, neither of whom I know or have even seen before independently walked passed and made a point to offer me a piece of their apple and a cookie respectively. I can only think of a couple of times in the US when I have been offered treats so spontaneously by students I know (I have been offered when they brought something special in from home but rarely when it is just part of their lunch) and I don't think I can ever think of being offered something from someone I do not know.
    These kinds of acts of kindness I find regularly among the Turkish students here and really appreciate it; especially as I find they are not as respectful while in class as my American students...

    Current Mood: grateful
    Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
    8:21 pm
    It is amazingly difficult to translate from one language to another when your source has poor handwriting and you're not familiar enough with the alphabet, let alone the language to decipher the characters or the context... It gets even more difficult when the language in question adds suffixes to words to represent the subject and/or tense so just trying all the possible combinations of "is that a b or lo or ..." impossible.

    Current Mood: frustrated
    Monday, October 19th, 2009
    7:32 pm
    School bus priorities
    The last few days, I have really started to learn how important it is for me to be downstairs and waiting for the school service bus. On Thursday morning, when one of the teachers wasn't at the appointed corner, the bus driver slowed down and looked around but didn't stop. Another teacher later down the line called right as the bus was pulling up and there was a 10 second conversation (didn't catch it) and 30 seconds later another call to the driver and he left... This morning, the same teacher wasn't at her door and there wasn't a call, so he didn't stop.... This is makign me think maybe I even want to be *early* to the bus just to be sure...
    But, I learned also about priorities today, as we were dropping off the kids. I was taking the "late bus" which I have been told runs at 6:10 pm as the non-teaching staff finish work at 6:00 pm and so it leaves to accomodate them. On Mondays, I have an extra class from 4-6 pm, so I take this later bus. I rush down, as the bus is full and if the bus is overfull, they ask the teachers to step off and take a cab... Today, we were even a little late leaving, as the bus had to take a quick run to drop off participants from an IB Conference at their hotel, so we didn't leave until closer to 6:30 pm. When we were almost to my stop, one girl yelled somethign from the back adn the next thing I know, we are turning around to drop her at an "extra stop." Shortly thereafter, the bus driver got a call (presumably from a mom) and he stopped 2 blocks short of my stop to let off one boy. He was slow to get out and stood around and we didn't quite drive off when the phone rang and the boy was called back into the bus so that we could drive him the extra 50 feet to him mom's waiting car...
    I guess I know where students lie on the priortiy list....
    Saturday, October 17th, 2009
    11:13 pm
    Turkish Ballet
    Today, I went to see the Turkish ballet in Kadikoy (apparently it is the place to be). I was surprised that the ballet wasn't in the European side where I find more of the "cultural" sites. But, I understand that the prior building had problems and has been closed for about 6 years now and they can't get past deciding between rennovation and rebuilding. For a city as large as Istanbul, I was shocked by how small the theater they have for plays, ballets and classical music. I was told that it was "historic" but not an antiquity as it was built in the 1950's. Given how old this country's history is and especially in Istanbul, I was so surprised that they would consider anything built in the 50's historic... ;-) Anyway, it was beautiful but SO tiny. The stage was smaller than the one at my school in the US and had no space for any kind of "orchestra" as the first row could reach out and touch the stage. We found our seats and I was also surpised at how quickly it started. We sat down at 3:55 with a 4 pm start. Right at 4, the lights went out (even as some were trying to file in) and the music started and the curtains were fully raised by 4:02! With so many other times I had learned about "Turkish time" I was surprised by the abrupt promptness.
    The ballet was very well done and I had a great time, but the other thing that surprised me was the composition of the cast as there were more men than women. There were 3 male leading positions to only 1 leading woman. The supporting cast was an equal mix of men and women - leaving me with my first ballet with more men than women - a nice change! :-)
    Unlike American ballet troupes that will have a run of the same ballet with a break for rehersals followed by a new ballet - the Turkish ballet will be performing a different ballet *tomorrow*! But not to fear if you missed this gem, this ballet will be repeating next weekend... I am not involved in stage production, but I can only imagine the chaos for alternating two different ballets on the same stage over a couple of days with only a night between performances!

    Current Mood: surprised
    11:20 am
    Carrefour's Mall
    This morning, I finally made it to Carrefour which I had been told a number of times as where I should do my grocery shopping and I was expecting a large grocery store with maybe a nice selection of other items - but what I found was a store bigger than the super-walmarts of the US with half the store as groceries and the other half with a full selection of everything. This large store was attached to mall, next door to the equivalent of Home Depot, large car wash (where you pull into a slot and someone will wash it for you as you wait or as you shop) and had a permanent carnival in the parking lot.
    Walking around the mall, I was struck by another store that seemed quite unusual to me. On one wall, you could find a nice selection of socks and underwear. Nearby there were coat hangers and other closet items. The next wall had a selection of kitchen utensils and a large display of pasta and pasta sauces. While this all seemed like an odd combination - adding a cafe with tables into the mix made it top the last cafe/lingere mix from the last mall. Another difference I found at this mall was that the "escalator" was a large ramp/moving walkway - apparently so you can take your shopping carts up to the KFC in the food court... This mall definitely seemed a little more working-man than the last mall I had visited which seemed much more aimed at those that could afford the US namebrands that filled its floors.
    4:31 am
    House-warming and Night life in Istanbul
    Right after work on Friday, I headed out to the home of a colleague who was having a small gathering in honor of her nuptials in July and inviting a dozen of us to see her new home. As a few other colleagues and I walked into her home, I was struck by a few things: 1) how clean and tidy it was (I think I could eat off the floor with no worries of bacteria) and 2) how much food she had prepared. She had so many different large plates of home-made food artfully placed out on the table - certainly enough food for twice as many people as were invited, making me wonder why I had ponied up money to buy a cake... Given how small her kitchen is (most flats are small and don't have large kitchens) and the fact that she doesn't have an oven (apparently most kitchens have a stovetop but not an oven so they get large toaster oven type things to sit on the counter -- taking up most of her counter space) making the amount of food she had prepared all the more amazing....
    We started with a tour of her flat (living room/dining area, tiny kitchen, bath and 2 bedrooms) followed by the traditional viewing of the wedding pictures ;-) Then we sat down for tea (all meals seem to start with tea) and people started diving into the spread which included mincemeat (ground-beef) pastry rolls, spinach pastry rolls, cheese pastry, bell peppers stuffed with rice, two types of salad (one with more veggies and one with more bulgar), cookies, and apple cake (she was going to make an apple pie but didn't have enough yoghurt?!?) The tea was coming non-stop so that if I didn't notice, my glass was never empty. Once it was clear that people were done eating, they pulled out the store bought cake we had brought and she made some Turkish coffee (most meals end with coffee). After this and a little more chatting, she opened some presents and we got ready to leave - all in a quick two hours from 4 to 6 pm...
    As I found myself double booked, I quickly grabbed a taxi, headed home to quickly change before heading out to meet some other colleague/friends for a meal and night-life in the Asian-side town of Kadikoy on the Bosporus across from the old part of the city.
    I took a bus to Kadikoy and met up with my friends and a teacher visiting from Lebanon who were patiently waiting (the traffic was horrible and it took about 1-1/2 hours to go the 5 miles there by bus) at a cafe along a fairly hip area where right past the fish market you found a selection of restaurants, cafes and pubs. We found a nice kabob shop where there were a number of tables out front, and then 3 floors of tables and then the terrace on the roof. As were were afraid of rain, we declined the terrace and outside tables (much to the dismay of the smokers, as Turkey recently passed a no-smoking rule inside so they had to leave when they had that craving...) and took one on the 3rd floor -leaving us the floor to ourselves...-which the visitor from Lebanon appreciated as the waiters agreed to smuggle him in a beer from a neighbor shop in the largest tea-cup shaped ceramic mug I'd seen. (Many of the restaurants in Turkey are dry - perhaps due to religious reasons?)
    After the meal (which I had a hard time eating given the previous post school meal I had eaten at the housewarming....), we headed toward the night-club area and we found a bar that has live rock/jazz. But, given that it was only 9:30, it was apparently "way too early" to go into the club, so we headed to a neighboring bar for a few beers... Around midnight it was decided that it was finally time to head to a club, but perhaps the selected club didn't have a good band so we'd go in search of another...We found another with a rock band and entered to a small basement room with a band playing rock music 1/2 of which I recognized as an eclectic mix of American songs from the 60's-90's and other songs that I didn't recognize and I *think* was sung in English but the tune while seeming from the same era didn't sound familiar. We piled into the back corner away from the band where most of the 20-somethings were crowding around the band doing something between a swaying and dancing... Since the music was so loud that we couldn't hear much even when yelling in each other's ears, we listened to the music and danced... Finally, around 3:30 am the mood was getting tired, so we headed out and easily found taxis among all the people still on the street and headed home and for the first time, I saw the streets with less (but not none as I would have expected) traffic. There were a number of road blocks stopping most cars (apparently for breathealyzer checks) but as we were in a taxi, we sped right past them. As we sped by, my companion (physics teacher married to one of the ex-pats and thus lives in school housing near me) made sure to let me know that I should *always* have my resident card with me as there are regular identity checks at night and I could be imprisoned if I didn't have it. (Too bad I don't have mine yet - I think it'll finally arrive in November, so I think I'll carry my passport until then...)
    So, now, I'm home with a mix of tired and feeling an awkward second-wind and wondering if I'll be awake enough for tomorrow's ballet....
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