Monday, September 29, 2014


   I finally visited the Museum of Innocence. Titled Masumiyet Muzesi in Turkish, this is the visual compendium of the novel with same name. Orhan Pamuk is a nobel prized Turkish author who has received backlash in his home country for writing stories that sometimes cast a questionable light on Istanbul society. However, the museum he's installed in an old house in Beyoglu stands as testament to the charm and talent of his writing, where inside, guests quietly admire the collections with dove's smiles, as the visual satisfaction lends completion to their experience of the book.
   Inside the old house there are wooden boxes for every chapter of the book. The first floor holds a case enclosing the four thousand or so cigarette butts the narrator of the novel has saved to remember his beloved. On many of them, lipstick stains kiss the browned ends, all of them catalogued by year in which the beautiful Fusun would have taken them to her lips. It's a story of love; and obsession; and when the main character Kemal Bey describes his enduring sublimity the reader is given a chilled glass of empathy to enjoy with the many glasses of Raki (a popular Turkish spirit) Kemal Bey drinks to calm his nerves and sedate his love pangs.
   When one finishes the book in the last parts of the last chapter there is found a ticket to the museum printed into the book. Upon arriving at the museum, the reader may pull out their book and have their ticket stamped for free admission into the museum. This (as those can imagine) brings a great deal of joy to the reader who feels as if they've just been awarded a badge for paying loyalty to the book and its following.

 After exiting the museum, I was in a mood both contemplative and calm. It were as if I'd closed a chapter in my life upon exiting the Museum of Innocence, and feeling a bit curious and renewed I carried my mood up a cobblestone street, finding myself among antique shops. "Follow your feet" many wise people have said, and so, my feet led me into a small shop with all sorts of interesting things and a short man with gray hair, glasses which magnified the size of his eyes just enough for tinkering, rings on his fingers, a sweater to keep in the coziness of his shop, and a thin cigarette always resting between his lips to be replaced every seven minutes or so. I asked for a photo of him in his shop but he was not comfortable with this idea so you'll have to imagine or come to Istanbul and visit him.
   After I'd grown comfortable in his shop and began to ask questions he'd offered me a cup of coffee and idle conversation. I'd soon discover he's an Armenian (few of which are left in Istanbul he says) and that he also holds  the only certificate in Istanbul proving he can fix old phonographs and vinyl players -which is what he was tinkering with. I sat and talked, asked what this and that were in his shop, drew a sketch, and then finalized my stay with a purchase.
    I had discovered on the floor, a box of old keys, and always looking for unique curiosities from my travels I thought I ought purchase one...well maybe two. You will find in the below picture one key with german inscription. I had a German friend translate and discovered it was a hotel locker key (very simple); the other key is more unique and truly what I desired, as it was the only one of its kind in the box and I'd also find out from Tom that it was the only key like this he'd ever seen and probably was a house key of a Christian family. On the price, he said the nicer key would be 50 lira and the lesser 30 lira but since I had stayed for awhile to chat, he gave me the second key for free (score!).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The 4 Lira Shave

   These Turks are enterprising -they've embraced a capitalist mind and they live it on every occasion of public affair. Last night, on Tuesday, September 9th, I went out with my friends Hannes and Omer; two Germans, one a tall blonde at about 6'5'' and the other a half Turkish fellow with the Ottoman nose to prove it.
   They'd just moved into a flat rented out by a rather mysterious young man in his late twenties who promptly and seemingly truthfully described to us his awkward situation that allowed him to offer the flat. Summed up: he had found a place in a high rent neighborhood, illegally built walls to create more rooms in the place and is now renting the spot for his own personal gain of about four-fold the original rent. Why he felt the need to describe (in detail) his arrangement can be understood by the following: that should the old grocer on the first floor inquire about him or the place, that he is a roommate in the flat as well and in no way rents the place out. It is also known by the end of his story that they know the true and rightful landlord and he doesn't want to lose the sweet deal he's managed to protect for three years.
    As I type this on the 9th of September, here in Istanbul, the reflection of my face in the window nudging my desk reveals my cheeks to be swollen and rosy. Fear not reader, I haven't been crying. I owe this affliction to the recommendation of this just-described landlord. For you see, Omer asked him a place for us to have a cheap beard trim.
   My friends' newly acquired landlord who I am sure will continue to offer us ancillary suggestions in the future described to Omer a place not far from the main square, Taksim, just off the main shopping road 'Istiklal'. Omer, being half Turkish, was easily able to navigate us accordingly and I owe the newfound condition of my cheeks and forehead to the barber recommended us. At the cheap price of 4 I should have guessed something awry.
   As the warm, green, molasses-like gel was dolloped onto my cheekbones and drawn upward, to surround my brow I had my guesses this was not what I had asked for and neither was it part of the standard beard trim regardless of what country we're in. Curiosity, however, withdrew any complaints about this style of trim that might have found me. My ears were filled and the aqua gel was left to cool.
   While this Turkish barber began to peel my ear from this waxing gel and not the other way around realization occurred. Too deep into the process and still curious what could be next, I allowed this mock barber to continue his methods of cash extraction. Next, a blue mask was applied and to my left and right I could glimpse entertained smiles on my German comrades faces. I asked Hannes, "How ridiculous do you find this to be right now?" he replied "Very!" and asked me to take his picture, his experience obviously not tainted by the clever sales trick.
   Leaving the space we ended up paying 40 lira a piece instead of the intended 4 lira. The consensus among us being: the experience was worth it but not to be repeated, and also that the barber wasn't so good at much more than a shave and pampering treatment because I had to clean up my beard with a pair of small scissors when I got home.

 The waxing gel

 This was in my ear. NASTAY

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lets Talk About Text Baby

Let's talk irony  We would expect that my cell phone service in the United States would be better with my American carrier T-Mobile. What we wouldn't expect, is that my American service provider T-Mobile would give me better service in another country...well folks, this is the case. In Turkey my coverage switches over to a carrier called AVEA and I haven't had any trouble whatsoever with texts, data, or calling. This, my friends, is irony.

Because I have global coverage what I'll do is maintain my cellphone plan from the States because I have access to unlimited data as well as unlimited text. Great for facetiming and snapchatting my fellows back home. However when I want to text a Turkish number or give a friend here in Turkey my American number we have to mention international text codes. I'll explain:

First, we always add '+' at the very beginning...

There are international dial codes
                                    (the numbers you must enter to "enter" the country's service zone)

There are international exit codes
                                    (the numbers you must enter to "exit" your own country's service zone)

So here are the United states entry and exit codes.

1 : entry code (for foreign dialers)
011 : exit code (for U.S. outbound dialers)

And the Turkish entry and exit codes.

90 : entry code (for foreign dialers)
00 : exit code (for Turkish outbound dialers)

now lets put it into action. I have an American number but I want to dial my Turkish friends cell phone...

+011 90 #### ######

I have a Turkish friend who wants to dial my American number from Turkey.
+001 ### ### ####

So there you have it friends.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's called the Grand Bazaar for a reason.

   Stepping into the Grand Bazaar at first feels like any other flea market I've shopped through. Weird goods and items all over the place, people weaving in and out from each other, smells of old collectibles and fresh food. However -it is MUCH more impressive...obviously, it's the Grand Bazaar for a reason. This place is gigantic, I mean, this place is HUGE. I didn't feel like I was walking around some flea market barn; I felt like I was walking around a small town. It's like an entire village of shopping with tucked away courtyards where 200 year old grapevines drop presents into your lap (this actually happened while having tea), more Turkish china and rug vendors than you could remember and of course the necessary slogan t-shirt shops with one's like "I'd google it but my wife already has an answer". The ceilings as you can see are adorned with decorative painting and wide arches only adding to the surreality of the environment.
   Below you find Turkish lamps. These are quite common in the bazaar and I'd really like to bring one home to hang in my bathroom. I stayed in a hostel that had some in the sleeping quarters and the light coming from them was really impressive. 
    The famed Turkish spices in this picture below! I was sure quick to waft the scent from some jasmine tea before the shop keeper tried to sell me some. Which leads me to my next point about shopping in the bazaar -Turkish shop keeps (and restaurateurs) are aggressive sales people and can be very persuasive if you are a timid person. Humor and smiles are a great way to deflect their advances as well as haggle prices with them.
    Below we are introduced to the renowned Turkish Rugs. Ever since I was young I have been enthralled by the woven artistry of these impressive textiles. It is my distinguished goal to leave with one or more of these as they are said to last a respectful 200 years therefore making them family heirlooms. BOOM BABY.
    Please, take a moment to admire the patterns. This picture shows you the colors that attract me but ohhh there are many many many more options. The dealer first will invite you in with friendly conversation and charming English which he speaks very well. This particular dealer goes by the nickname "George Clooney" because he looks like the star and "it's much easier to pronounce than his Turkish name". He was a great character and even better salesman, I bought five rugs and blew my entire first two months budget!! Ha just kidding. He was good though and I'll be sure to be back.                                                  
   So after the conversation begins and the guests have taken a seat, classic turkish tea is brought out and then the show begins. Rugs are pulled from walls, and the floor, and here and there, and all of a sudden your mind is reeling after design and design, and color, and type, and all this information is overwhelmingly brought to you from this savvy Turk. Needless to say, it was quite impressive. I wish I could shop like this more often, although, it takes over an hour -so maybe not.
 This Turkish Rug Experience is over and we continue moving along. The bazaar opens to an outdoor market and now I'm not even sure if I'm still in the bazaar but then boom here I am, as I exit the alley, back in the bazaar. Not sure what happened there but below is a glimpse of the outdoor alley market.
    Oh -and what Grand Bazaar would be complete without the opportunity to let leeches suck the bad juju out of your blood. Didn't try that
Finally the Grand Bazaar tour is over and I have this great photo taken of me in front of the Nuruosmaniye Mosque. Profile Pic.

I'd like to give a huge thanks to the University of Cincinnati, their International Department, and also the School of Planning within DAAP for making this trip happen. It truly is a life changing experience and I recommend the opportunity to travel abroad to anyone. All you have to do is ask your University Faculty how to make it happen and they will help TREMENDOUSLY to get you visiting and studying where ever it is that you want to be. Stay tuned for more of...