Tag Archives: istanbul

My Hood

I’ve lived off and on for several years in a neighborhood that is considered trashy by the standards of my Turkish friends. Turkey having a very classist society, it would make sense that most of my friends, who are well educated and well off, don’t like to come visit in this neighborhood. However, foreigners at first cannot tell the difference between this and other places in Beyoğlu. I admit that its ghetto character has revealed itself to me gradually. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I had to move.

A Lazy Ramazan Sunday from my kitchen window

Except I already did move—a month ago—into another apartment in the same neighborhood. Julie and I wanted to get our own separate apartments (weird foreigner behavior #1) and we started looking in other areas. But then we found out that there is a reason why people like us live in the ghetto: We cannot afford to live in the nicer neighborhoods. So we have at least something in common with our current neighbors (who are mostly immigrants from Anatolia.) So, in the end, Julie and I found two nice apartments across the street from one another. In fact, it is much like the old flat that we shared except with a street running through it.

A street filled with loud children and bickering, sunflower-seed chewing gossipy adults. Often the air splits with the sound of firecrackers. Or construction. Or just general cacophony. There is a quiet period, however—between the hours of about 3am and 9am. So I have been enjoying waking up early in the morning to enjoy the quiet.

He entered from this window. Now it has bars on it, so I feel like i'm in jail

That is why, when a man climbed into my bedroom window the other morning at 6:30am, I was already half awake. I had been lying on my side with my back to the window (which is at the foot of the bed) and I heard the rustling of my curtain being pulled aside. By the time I had turned onto my back, he was standing next to me. I didn’t take time to think—I cocked both of my legs back and kicked him hard in the chest, while screaming, “NO!!” His eyes got HUGE and I heard him gasp as I knocked the wind out of him. He silently fell back, but simultaneously, he grabbed my Kindle which was on the bedside table. I didn’t care that he had my entire collection of reading in his hand—I just wanted him out of my room. The bedroom door was closed and he opted to escape back out the window from which he came.

My apartment is on the second floor. I had only been in the flat a week and had been considering putting bars on the windows, but hadn’t gotten around to it. He jumped into the window frame and probably thought he was going to climb down the side along the drainage pipe in the same way he came up. However, I shoved him hard out into the air and he landed heavily on the stoop of the house across the street. I was surprised (and a little relieved—I didn’t want to see blood) when he landed on his feet and ran away. My cries of ‘Hırsız! Hırsız! (Thief) woke the neighbors, but it was too late to catch him.

He landed here

A couple of good things came out of this situation: 1) Arni was scared for me and flew back to Istanbul to stay with me just a week after he left, and 2) I got to meet my new neighbors and show them that I do know how to speak Turkish. When I am under stress, I am always able to miraculously produce the intelligible Turkish that I cannot summon under normal circumstances. To bad that incidents like these are the reason I want to leave Turkey and never speak Turkish again.


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Orhan Pamuk Orgasm

I love Istanbul in the winter. I don’t love the writing of supremely overrated Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk. Aside from his obvious pride in claiming that Istanbullus are morose and melancholic, his writing is boring and pedantic with redundant symbolism (Snow Snowy, the Major of Snow Town, and his snow-white love interest spend time in a mountain of snow watching the snow fall.)  And I don’t agree with him (even though he is from Istanbul) about the melancholy.  I think everyone is just a bit cold and ticked off that these old houses are not adequately heated or weather-sealed.  That made me crabby too when I was living in dank Victorian houses in San Francisco.

What is interesting about Istanbul in the wintertime is that everyone wears black and looks down at the ground.  Bundled up under a scarf with a knit hat on, no one can tell if you are tourist or not.  This frees a girl up for a number of things that she can’t get away with during peak season.  Yesterday I walked over the Galata Bridge from Beyoglu to the Basilica Cistern in Sultanahmet, which I have amazingly never visited even though it is right there among all the other tourist destinations.  In warmer times, this walk would have been loud and punctuated by various bouts of unwanted attention from men fishing off the bridge, touts trying to sell tours of the Bosphorus, random dudes in lavender dress shirts asking, “Vere ah yoo frum?”  But yesterday the walk was quiet, no voices, just seagulls screeching and sounds of the Bosphorus lapping against the ferryboat docks.   I was invisible as a foreigner and as a woman.  That single luxury is the one thing missing from the list of pros of living here for most other months of the year.

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the Bastard of Istanbul. . . is on my leg


A “furuncle” is more common than a “carbuncle”—which besides being a completely compelling medical concern, is one of my favorite and oft-used words. What I thought was a common boil (furuncle) on my leg has now developed into a medical odyssey worthy of a description by Homer.
As I write this, sitting at a glass dining room table on a cold, gray, rainy Istanbul day, what used to be a carbuncle has been reduced to a bloody crater surrounded by some flaming and painful cysts.
About a month ago, as the price of gas began to fall back to earth, I looked at plane tickets and saw that I could buy one from D.C. to Istanbul for less than $600, so I jumped at the chance to escape from the memories of last year’s holidays which are lingering and bittersweet. My former roommate here is amazingly hospitable and while I stay with her we will hatch plans for buying a place here and building a project together. But that is another story . . .
As the holidays began around Thanksgiving, I noticed this itchy bump on my leg that looked like a spider bite. A couple days later it was shiny, red, and engorged and shot flames up and down my leg. It took a couple more days after that to get to the doctor and when I went, they couldn’t help me. In the meantime all types of well-meaning friends counseled me to soak it with hot compresses, cut it open with a razor blade, and other nausea-inducing cures. But I waited another 3 days and then my friend, told me that she had an appointment with a dermatologist in Soho the next week and they had lots of appointments available and I should go.
Hmmm . . . never go to a ‘doctor’ just because they are not booked. There is usually a reason they aren’t. On the evening of the first big snow of the year in New York I went to see him. The flakes were heavy and wet and my cyst throbbed on my leg as I walked to what turned out to be an entirely euro cosmetic surgery ‘lounge’. Trance music played softly as botoxed and plastically modified patients lolled about on enormous white leather ottomans. I sat stiffly on the edge of one, trying to keep the pain to a minimum, and looked at the featured artist of the month. Because it was also an art gallery. Huh. After a pretty brief interval, a fine, black male nurse in Dolce and Gabbana glasses and scarlet red scrubs came and ushered me into an examination room—“The doctor will be with you in a minute.”
Turns out he just needed to be awakened from a late-afternoon nap. I aurally witnessed his wake-up call through the thin wall separating me from the next room. The exchange went something like this:
NURSE: “Come on, Man, wake up!”
DOCTOR: “AAAAAARrrrrrrrrrr errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”
NURSE: “Dude, you have a patient in room 3—get uuup! (sounds of a bodily struggle)
DOCTOR: groaning and whiny baby noises followed by the sound of crinkling paper.
Five minutes later, a big-nosed Pee Wee Herman crossed with a mad scientist character entered the room. His hair was soaked and swirled in a tornado up and over his head and there were splatters of water on his shirt. And white powder on his nose. I’m not saying that doctors can’t take naps—because they should—but I wish that maybe this guy was more attentive when dealing with my legitimate medical need. As it was, he just looked at it, said there was no pus in it and then shot it up with cortisone. It worked over night to bring the swelling down, but at the same time suppressed my immune system (which cortisone does) enough to allow the staph infection that had caused the bump in the first place to RUN RAMPANT—and thus, in the end, necessitating the taking of large quantities of antibiotics for the next couple weeks. It has also formed a huge, scary hole in my leg which gives me shudders every time I think about it.
My family thought that I should cancel my trip, but I assured them that there are doctors and hospitals here. And there are good ones, but now I’m not so sure about things being as streamlined as in other countries. Mostly I am again living in “Turkish Time” as I deal with getting my lost baggage delivered to me after 2 days and just hoping for a miracle. 2008 was a harsh year for me emotionally, and it seems like someone wants to slip in a little more misfortune before the year ends. I’ll try to hold it together for the next three days until 2009! Mutlu Yillar!

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