Thursday, June 11, 2009

On A Boat!

Last weekend was Lars’s birthday and the “crew” had been trying all the previous week to plan a boat party. After the first boat fell through, a second boat was confirmed and on Saturday we were on a boat.

We all met at the Ortakoy docks and were eventually led to our party boat. Our boat was a pleasant surprise and was outfitted with tables, cushions, two decks, a bathroom, a kitchen, and there were even tablecloths on the table with silly centerpieces fit for a wedding. The thirty or so of us piled on to the boat as it revved its motor for a Bosphorus cruise.

Fun broke out everywhere. I mean we had a double decker boat all to ourselves for four hours with a captain driving all the way up and down the Bosphorous (well maybe not all the way, but a long ways), drinks abound, people dancing on a rocking boat, musicians, a stereo system… fun times were had by all.

Tomorrow is my last day at the agency. We shall see what happens.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I am really behind on my blog. I swear I will post soon. The task of blogging about 3 weeks in one post is rather daunting and I don't really want to leave too much out.
Posting coming soon I promise.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Land of Canals, Bikes, and Devious Behavior

I went to Amsterdam last weekend.

Amsterdam is awesome.

I arrived late in the evening on Queen’s night (evening before Queen’s Day) and had to drag my suitcase through a large crowd of raucous revelers. I found my friend Doug and he led me through the crowd to his apartment that he shares along with my friend, Bharat. They are currently at the Greenhouse program in Amsterdam through Miami Ad School.

They were having a bit of a party in their house and I was glad to join in, meet new people, and get settled in. Later in the evening, we went out to join the revelry and we went by a club that actually had some commercials the students had done, showing on their large screen TVs for some drink that supposedly has pheromones in it. My fellow students simply called it a “sex drink”.

The evening blended into the next day as people continued to party into the early morning and on into the afternoon. There was techno blaring from every store and bar, out in the street. Who knows what kind of mischief was happening in the streets and homes of Amsterdam that day. One could have drowned in orange. Orange is the queen’s color and since it was Queen’s Day, well, you get the idea.

Orange confetti trapped in one of the many tram rails of Amsterdam

I was actually mostly a good girl and had an early evening (for Queen’s Day) and was able to wake and head out to the Van Gogh Museum in the morning. I loved this museum. There was a special exhibit on Van Gogh’s twilight and evening inspired paintings. He was obsessed with capturing light in the dark, the color that exists in the night, the stars. He didn’t start painting until he was 27 and then painted over 800 paintings in only 10 years until he shot himself at the age of 37. It was really great to see a whole museum dedicated to one person’s work because you could really get a sense of their process, how they saw the world, what they struggled with and how they overcame (or never overcame) their obstacles. For an artsy person like me, I couldn’t ask for more from an art museum. I also loved seeing all the people entranced by Starry Night. Most would just wander about giving each painting less than 5 seconds, but people would actually sit and stare at this one. Starry Night really is a treasure.

Starry Night and its audience

After the Van Gogh Museum, I took a short walk to the Vondelpark; a large park that has a lot of promise, but at that time was in a bit of disarray. (I made a point to take pictures that were deceiving.) I guess this last winter took a toll on the park and there were more patches of brown than green, also they seemed to be in the midst of construction and there were big piles of dirt, machinery, and building materials strewn about. Queen’s Day had just occurred the previous day and thus left orange bits and plastic bottles about. The park is rather enormous though, so there were enough pretty parts to enjoy the walk from the Southwest point to the Northeast point of the park. And there was no bit of disarray that was going to deter the people of Amsterdam from going to the park to hang out on a Friday afternoon, quite the popular place.


I then walked and walked and walked. I went by the Bureau Pindakaas Advertising Agency where Bharat and Doug were being kept at the time. It’s a nice place, in a great big old building with many rooms and floors. I searched for food and then ended up having a snack at the pub next door to the apartment.

When Bharat and Doug were finally done “doing time” for the day, we met some of their friends and went out to Chinese food, then a bar, then a coffee shop… but they didn’t have any coffee.

The next day, the boys were free from their labors, so we could do a little sight-seeing together. We got some Heineken and took a canal boat tour. The weather was gorgeous and the boat comfy, couldn’t have been better.

On a boat!

When the tour was done, Bharat and I had run out of Heineken, so we went to the “Heineken Experience”. The “Heineken Experience” is a big silly throw up of advertising and brainwashing rolled into an historic brewery. They felt they needed a live speaker, and interactive program, signs, pictures, demonstrations, art work, movies, and even a “ride” (the ride attempted to give you the experience of being a Heineken beer, sigh) to show you how Heineken beer is made. After the “ride”, there were little recliner pods with TV screens running some Heineken commercials from 1955 to 2003 (this made me assume that they haven’t updated the feed for 6 years), right above your head. So you looked like you were in a little alien brainwashing pod. When you had had your fill of the pod, you could move on to a section that showed you all of the Heineken promos in sports and for sporting teams. Then the ultimate advertising barf: a big room with 360 degree big screens and comfy couches and dance club lighting, so you could watch a larger than life montage of Heineken action montage. I don’t know how a beer could necessarily have an action montage, but that’s the best way I can describe it.

Finally, they let us drink beer. The last room, a bar, with nothing but Heineken, which at that point was absolutely amazing because I now no longer have any desire to drink any beer other than Heineken ever again… just kidding.

Bharat and I met Doug for dinner and then others for more beer. We went to a pub called Gollem, that specializes in, you guessed it, beer. Gollem mostly carries Belgian beers and I had La Chuffe, La Cuvee De Trolls, and one other, (insert French word here) Blonde.

Me enjoying my French Blonde

There was something missing from this trip… No, not that. On the way home, we walked through the red light district.

Elinore Eaton’s description of the red light district:

Like an historical museum with all the dead animals enclosed in glass cases posed to imitate life.


Like a pet store.

On my last day, I ate a pancake. It was delicious.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It Takes Three Weeks

After the cold movie set and lunch, I went home for a nice nap and dinner and then it was out again to meet Jennet and her sister, Malynda. Well, I was really just going out to meet Malynda and watch Jennet in concert. We went to a club called Babylon near the ever-popular Istiklal Cadessi. Jennet was nice enough to put Malynda and I on the guest list. There was a multi-media show with an artist who was drawing the whole time with her work projected on one of the walls. She would draw one thing and then erase some of it and change the rest into something else. There were also extensive light and laser shows. There was a singer with an electric tanbur (like a Turkish guitar with a long, narrow, neck; I think that’s what it was) and a somewhat punk rock voice. Accompanying this star of the show were a couple of drummers. dancers, singers, and spoken word artists. There were two Japanese guest belly dancers. Jennet and another woman sang and danced. The place was incredibly crowded, but as it got a bit later (Thursday night) the crowd eased up a bit. I left just in time to grab one of the last Metro rides home.


The next day, I went to work. Though a little groggy, I made it through. The day before, I made contact with my old friend from music camp and San Francisco living, Lars. I gave him a call at the end of my workday and he invited me to come over to his house for a barbecue with him and some of his friends.

I found his place in Harbiye and was proud of myself for finding it without having to call him on the way. (No drastic getting lost.) I met his friends, a bunch of really great folks who are all here teaching English, and we got to eating and drinking. After the meal, and when the night got too cold, we all moved inside and were serenaded by some of Lars’s violin playing. Always impressive!

The Fiddler

But the night was just beginning.

We found a taxi and went to some restaurant near Istiklal (I think) where there was supposed to be a really great clarinet player. When we made it to the top floor where the restaurant was, the band was taking a break and we found a great VIP table in the middle of the room. Soon, the band was back in business and toes were tapping. I even got up and danced, and at one point we all did some line dancing. It was a lot of fun.

Yay for clarinet!


When the band finally finished, we were soon off to a dance club somewhere to drink more beer and dance to more tunes. Though it was way on top of some five-story building, all the windows were covered over with thick plastic curtains and everyone was smoking as usual. Like a nice disco smokehouse. I’m just learning to shrug my shoulders to the fact that all of my clothes will reek of cigarettes and my throat will feel like I am catching a cold for the first half of the next day. It didn’t matter too much though because we were all having so much fun dancing late into the night.

The rest of the weekend was spent quite quietly, and my little house saw a lot of me, with just a few little outings here and there. It’s not too fun to go sightseeing by oneself and everyone I knew seemed busy for the most part. The highlight of the weekend was when I attempted to watch a Turkish burned DVD on my computer and halfway through, the video froze up but the audio kept going and from that point on the video was approximately thirty seconds behind the audio. Bummer. I had to stop it before I went crazy from the off audio. I hope I can finish that move some day. It is called “The Riddle” and the first half is pretty good.

I think it takes about three weeks to get used to a place, meet some cool people, learn a bit of the language, figure out some basics of how to walk and dress, find some foods you like, and feel comfortable, get your shoulders out of your ears and lose the “somebody’s going to steal my wallet” look that most tourists have. Find a way to care less about fitting in and more about appreciating the fact that YOU ARE the foreigner. You are the fricken weirdo. This is funny, because the American vacation is approximately two weeks and I think most people split that up into two one week vacations anyhow. Most Americans don’t even travel out of the United States… ever. (Check out this page). Soooo, most of us U.S.ers aren’t exactly practiced at it. Thus, the terrible stereotype that Americans have as tourists, I think. I question whether anyone really learns anything about a place they visit for a quick “ooh aah”. Sure, they can see a lot of cool stuff, but I think travel exists in more than just seeing stuff. If all of our travels are spent in the “wow, everything is so weird and foreign” stage, then we may lose the experience of being the foreigner, the stranger, in a regular land.

So, I am now at the stage of weirdo acceptance and to be quite honest, it fits me just fine.

Back to work.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Movie Stars

I met a couple of new friends today, Jennet and Malynda, courtesy of Elizabeth Strong. My friend, Elizabeth has been to Istanbul several times and introduced me to Jennet via email. Yay for the internet!

When I got in touch with Jennet, she invited me to be an extra in an independent film that her friend was working on. I agreed and met her early this morning. We rode the funicular to the Bosphorous and crossed by way of ferry. It was my first time to the Asian side and though it was freezing all day, it was a fun trip. We got to the set on the edge of the water and were instructed to take refuge from the cold in a nice café down the street until the shoot was ready. I sat and met with the other extras, a Polish couple who are exchange students in Istanbul right now, and a Turkish woman named Yasmin who could easily pass as an American including her English (though she kept saying how bad her English was and I kept assuring her it was quite terrific). When we were called on the set, we stood around as only the best extras can do until they got the shot and were then taken to a little lunch.

We were supposed to be tourists in the movie, listening to a little speech from a tour guide about “The Maiden Tower”. Constantine built the Maiden Tower in the middle of the Bosphorous many years ago. He built it to basically jail his daughter, so no one would ever see or touch her. One day, she received a basket of fruit that included a poisonous black snake that killed her. Bummer. I guess that’s what you get for being over-protective. (I found out later that the short film is about a love affair that mirrors this relationship.)

The Maiden Tower

I thought we did a pretty good job.

Movie Stars

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Finish Line Crossed

The finish line was crossed at 5:30PM on Friday. Since this is also the time the downstairs bar opens up, people didn’t actually leave the building until around 8:00PM. Many people, including myself didn’t even leave their computers until well after 6:30PM.We sat around chatting and drinking beer, celebrating the end of the workweek. Fine for me, I am all about the reward system; work hard, reward for your hard work, repeat.

I went home that night looking forward to a long night of sleep; a full morning of sleep too.

Eventually, on Saturday I did leave the house to meet Martha for some sightseeing. We met up at the funicular and transferred to an over-crowded tram to the Beyazit Mosque. However, we couldn’t go traipsing around a mosque with empty bellies.

We went in search of Erenler Cay Bahcesi. The guidebook said it was a good place for tea. It didn’t say it was a great place for tea and water pipes, aka hookahs. Definitely going back here with Robin. It was the kind of place you could lose a couple of hours to smoking flavored tobacco and drinking tea.

Erenler Cay Bahcesi

Though Erenler Cay Bahcesi had lovely ambience, it didn’t have any food, and one cannot live on tea alone. (Although, I’m sure there’s someone out there who has tried.) Martha and I found a great place on the bustling street with shaded tables and excellent people watching opportunities. We shared a Shepard’s salad and Iskender. Iskendar is a dish with kebap cooked over tomato sauce soaked bread served with a side of yogurt. (My tummy really likes all this yogurt eating.)

So, with full tummies and a caffeine buzz, Martha and I wandered through a piece of the Grand Bazaar on our way to the Beyazit Mosque. I can’t understand why anyone would buy anything there, especially jewelry. But there they were, rows upon rows of jewelers with “authentic” diamonds. After walking down the jeweler street, we walked down the fake designer street, er, I mean really good deals on Dolce Gabbana purses and Puma sneakers. You can’t even make eye contact with a key chain without being harassed. As it is with many street vendor situations, I can’t understand why they won’t just leave you alone and let you look at their stuff. If only they would understand that if I were free to look and decide to buy or not to buy of my free will, I would more likely buy something. However, if I know that when I look I will be harassed and have objects shoved under my chin that I would never have an interest in purchasing even if they handed it to me for free, I probably won’t look at all and never buy anything. I’m more likely to just try and walk through, eyes staring straight ahead, having a conversation with my friend as though deaf to the rest of the world, than attempt to deal with someone yelling “hey lady, nice jeans right here” into my face. Eh, it’s universal though, what to do?

Into the Grand Bazaar

Martha and I made it through the bazaar and into the Byazit Square where the mosque stood. The Byazit mosque has 24 little domes on top of its roof, surrounding a little square courtyard and a central fountain.

The Courtyard of the Byazit Mosque

You have to take your shoes off before you go inside the building and carry them around with you in a plastic bag. (Guess there’s no fear of someone stealing your shoes.) As women, we also had to cover our heads. I just carry a scarf around with me wherever I go, so I am ready for female duck and cover action. The interior was dark and spacious, beautiful calligraphy on the walls and ceiling. What was most impressive to me was the lighting. Hanging from the ceiling by infinite wires were simple glass containers which each held a light bulb. I’m sure at one time, they held candles, but that time has long passed. There were hundreds of them hanging at the same level in concentric circles throughout the building; so simple and beautiful.

Lights of the Byazit Mosque

It was soon time to head back home to get ready for the evening. I had a birthday party to get ready for!

I met some friends from work at the Taksim station and we walked up and down Istiklal Street looking for the restaurant where Abril’s birthday party was to be held. Apparently, they had forgotten the map to the restaurant. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that Istiklal is one of the most crowded streets that I have ever walked down in my life. So, we walked all the way down Istiklal and when we got to the end my friend, Melta, finally called the birthday girl only to find out that the party was at the end we had started on. So, back we went until finally, we found the restaurant.

We had a big table for twenty something people filled with mezze and rakı, wine and bread, whatever you wanted. We filled up on mezze and got dizzy on rakı (a popular Turkish liquor that tastes much like Ouzo). We had different main courses after the mezze and I got Çipura, which I later found out is Gilthead Seabream, a white fish, grilled whole and served with lemon. The dinner concluded with singing and a big pink birthday cake.

Then, it was off to the clubs. We went to one place where they had horrible, loud, industrial music that sounded more like machines dying than music. After standing there for a few minutes, we discovered we were supposed to go upstairs another floor. We went upstairs and there was some fun old style funk to bounce around to. After a half hour or so, we moved on to another club that was so crowded, you had to push through to the bathroom like you were at the front row of a rock concert. And the music? 1950’s American rock n’ roll. No kidding. The hits that night were Rockin Robin, La Bamba, Wake up Little Suzie… I’m serious. And people were dancing like they might as well have been listening to techno.

Around 2 or 3 in the AM, my feet started to complain as well as my eyes. Apparently, people around here like to go out till around 4 or 5 in the morning, but I was dog-tired and ready for bed long before then. I had a friend help me find a cab and give proper directions and made the long journey home. Through stop and go traffic and getting lost twice, I finally made it hope bright and early in the morning, hehe.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


If you really want to ruin your day, I highly recommend seeing "Knowing" with Nicholas Cage.Don't get me wrong, the brutally realistic special effects and heart-wrenching displays of the futility of life are quite impressive. But, looking around, I don't think anyone left the theatre feeling any amount of good. The reviews are mixed. Maybe I'm just sensitive, I take some movies too seriously, but I'm left at the moment feeling a little screwed up in the head and needing a beer.

I just wanted to share.

I have a tradition of "going to the movies when I travel" and felt tonight was the night. The theatre is HUGE, brand new, and in one of the third or fourth biggest malls in Europe They eat popcorn in Istanbul, just like everybody else.

Did I mention that every day I walk through Kanyon, one of the fanciest malls I have ever seen, on my way to work? It's a different mall, two subway stops away from the big mall I just saw my movie at. Also, if you walk through the mall near my work and walk two blocks you can go into another huge mall called Metrocity. All several stories with many, many escalators.

Westernization... do your worst.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First week = done

Wow, a lot has happened since last I blogged. I don’t want to fall behind, for fear of never catching up. So, here goes.

I finished my first workweek in one piece. I actually did some work too. Not just some silly make some coffee, research all the different shades of magenta, intern kind of work either.

There’s a huge music festival coming up in mid-July in Istanbul including big names like Nine Inch Nails, Prodigy, and the like. It’s an annual festival and I guess this year will be number eight. Coca Cola is the main sponsor, amongst others, and are also a big client for Par McCann in Istanbul. Needless to say, I will probably be working on a lot of Coca Cola stuff. Cool for me, because they are such a fun brand.

My first assignment was to make the poster for this festival. Cool, huh? I’d love to share what I ended up making, but I’m still unsure of all the legalness that goes on in advertising; what one can and can’t show. I’m pretty sure everything has to be quite confidential until it is actually accepted and shown to the world by the company. Even then, I think it can be tricky saying what part of an ad you did or didn’t do. Eventually, I’ll know all that fancy stuff, but for now… I’m content with being an “intern”. It’s okay to be a little naïve when you’re an intern I guess. Anyhow, just know that I was pretty proud of what I made and I got a lot of positive comments on the finished product. If nothing else, several people said it was “really different” and that’s good for me. It was a struggle and I’m definitely getting a dose of the real world advertising rules of sorts. Don’t touch the logo. Do not mess with the logo. Make the logo big, as big as you can. If you can’t make it big enough, you have to change your idea and/or composition to accommodate a bigger logo.

I’m really realizing how conceptual I am in my work. Unless I have a clear concept, a reason for designing or not designing a certain way, I don’t know what to do. Once I have my concept done, I’m off and running… er, designing.

My week went as most people’s workweeks go I guess. I didn’t do much more than a little shopping, picking up eggs, etc. on the way home after work during the week. I’m trying to keep an early schedule. That’s the one plus of changing time zones, you can re-create your sleep schedule without too much trouble.

I finished my poster at the end of the day on Thursday and now I have a new project I’m working on already. You know how Coke bottles have special event wrappers on them?

Like this! These were for the most recent James Bond movie

Well, the music festival is at Istanbul Park, which is a big Formula One Race track. So, they want a Formula One inspired wrapper. That’s what I’m working on now. It’s weird because you have to design on a rectangle and imagine it getting shrink-wrapped… tricky stuff.

Finally, Friday was in full effect and the basement bar opened promptly at 5:30PM. That’s right, there’s a bar in the basement at work. Not like a public bar, a bar that opens only on Friday at 5:30PM just for us. As I was closing up a pen tool path in Photoshop, my supervisor comes round to drag us hard-working folks down to the basement for beers. Not too shabby. There was no returning to the computer then. It was quiet at first, just four of us, but eventually a healthy percentage of Pars McCann were enjoying their much-deserved Friday beverages.

On our way down to the basement

Three beers later I was invited to go out with Oktar and friends for steak; serious steak.

And we were off. We went to a place called Günaydın (It means “good morning”), a serious meat bistro. It was more like a butcher shop with grills in the back. You could even buy a whole side of ribs and have them age it for you in their fridge labeled with your name.

Volca's aging ribs

I know I’ve said this at other times, but really, this was THE best steak I have ever had in my life. It was Anthony Bourdain worthy. We didn’t just each have own steaks either, they brought out courses of steak on a wooden plank, set in the middle of your table to be brutally sliced and shared. I say "brutally" because there was no delicate with these guys and their steak. Hacking into it was the only option and eating with as much enthusiasm as one can muster for steak (reminded me of my dad and his fondness for beef). Each course from a different part of the cow, with its own distinct flavor, and the only sauce… well, there was no sauce, just a pinch of sea salt. You wouldn’t want some sauce, it would wreck it. They cook the steak rare. Very rare. It was purple. Somehow, they managed to get the steak piping hot with perfect grill marks on the outside and a nice bit of char, but hardly cooked the meat. Served with a little bit of vegetables, perfectly sautéed leeks and squash, a little bread, a glass of wine and great company.


I don’t know what the dessert was called, but yeah, that was amazing too. Pistachios, a touch of cheese, a pinch of sugar, wrapped in a light pastry, served fresh out of the oven with a bit of vanilla ice cream. Volca, one of the parts of our great company, said they need to make a word for that moment of natural silence that occurs when food is delivered and tastes really damned good. Everyone is just suddenly quiet and munching away. This happened when they brought the dessert out and, I agree, they need a word for that.

I went with them to a friend’s house afterwards for more beers and good conversation. I even got a spoken history on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. We were there chatting late into the night. I have to say that I really appreciate the level of English everyone was speaking; they even made an effort to speak English amongst themselves when I was around. I never felt left out, which can be pretty special when you are with new people in a foreign country.

I had my first taxi ride in Istanbul along with Volca to get home, which was a good thing, because getting a taxi on my own makes me a bit nervous. No problems there and I was a happy girl as I fell asleep that Friday night.

The next day, I had plans to meet up with some co-workers/new friends in Taksim. I met Tolga at the metro station near my house and we rode to Taksim. When we arose from the underground station, we were met by CROWDS of people. I mean, one would think there was a big festival happening or something. But no, I was told that this was normal for Istiklal Street on a Saturday afternoon.

A normal Saturday on Istiklal Street

We met Nina and her boyfriend and made our way through the crowds to a traditional Turkish restaurant. We had some Ayran (salty yogurt drink) and stuffed Turkish pancakes called gozleme. Everything was quite tasty. Martha eventually came to join us and we headed down to a little place where you can apparently get the best Turkish coffee in Turkey… so, that would make it the best Turkish coffee in the world. Down a little corridor amongst a small crowd of people on little plastic stools sipping thick syrupy coffee from tiny cups, was the Café Mandabatmaz. We found our own little table and plastic stools and ordered our coffees. There are three ways to order Turkish coffee: sugar, middle sugar, or no sugar. I had mine “sugar” and it came to me exactly perfect; no bitterness, no burnt taste, none of the bad things that can happen to coffee, just all of the good things. When we finished our coffees, we attempted to “read” our grounds, though none of us knew how. We at least made a fine mess of our dishes, overturning the cups and waiting for the last of the coffee to drain out from the cup onto the plate, so we could see the grounds. I was told that there is a boy out there that I think about all the time, he is always on my mind… I wonder who that could be.

Make way for the coffee

The best Turkish coffee in the world

The man who makes it happen... in a room the size of a large closet

After coffee we wandered around a little bit, looking in shops, checking out clothes. I even bought a silly t-shirt for five Lira. It’s a horrible yet wonderful Kelley green with “I AM THE STREET DREAM” printed on the front with sparkly letters. It still makes me giggle when I think about it.

I spent this morning translating my washing machine. It was just me sitting on my kitchen floor with Turkish/English dictionary and a couple of bottles of what I hoped was laundry detergent. After about an hour of fussing with the dictionary and the Internet, I think I figured it out and I now have clean clothes. No dryer here, but a great big expanse of a clothes hanger. Apparently, everyone dries their clothes the old fashioned way.

I spent the rest of the day just relaxing and organizing in my little house. I even made chicken soup!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Me n Barack

After three transfers, from the metro to the funicular to the tram, I found Tophane. You have to pay for each ride. You could travel all the way across Istanbul on the metro for the price of one ride. You could travel a short distance, but have to transfer three times and have to pay for three rides. I am either doing this wrong or yeah, it don’t make no sense. Pay per type of transport you ride as opposed to pay for the length of your journey. Huh?

Anyhow, I arrived at the Tophane station, which was supposed to be right at the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. I looked right and left and saw no such place. It was still early morning on Sunday and the area seemed a bit deserted and I was certainly the only lone woman about. Even though I tried to appear as though I knew which way I was going, I wasn’t very good at it, because I still got stares and the occasional random “helpful” person. The museum was supposed to be in an old boat docking station or packing factory or something industrial like that. I wandered down one road that according to my map seemed to be the right way to go, and there, over a very high fence to the left, I saw The museum’s sign rising in the distance.

I backtracked a bit, walked down a creepy street, through a parking lot and found my way inside the museum. For being the big famous modern art museum, it certainly wasn’t very convenient for walkers. Until I walked in through the front door, I thought I was going the wrong way.

Inside I found the usual piles of strange abstracts that are “okay”, paintings and sculptures most people believe their five year old could do a better job of. I love that stuff. It doesn’t make any sense for the most part and you really have to search to find the stuff that is worthwhile.

I enjoyed a much-needed lunch of chicken club sandwich with greens and fried potatoes at the over-priced museum café with a fabulous view of the Bosphorus. I don't know, however, if the view was worth making the tea the same price as my entire awesome breakfast (including the tea) that I had the day before.

After lunch, I wandered downstairs to the temporary exhibit, an ode to shadows of sorts. My favorite piece was an old shadow puppet film called "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" by Lotte Reiniger. It is considered the oldest surviving animated films. The story is based on the stories from 1001 Arabian Nights. It was quite beautiful; I saw the fourth act and part of the fifth act and hope to find the whole thing somewhere so I can watch it from beginning to end. I wasn't quite ready to sit there just then for an hour or two in the museum.

A moment from "The Adventures of Prince Achmed"

There were other little dark rooms to check out. There were some other very cool stop-motion animations and shadow puppet films. The whole experience was quite peaceful and inspiring, walking in and out of dark little rooms, each with one strange shadow film after another.

When I had had my fill of “modern art”, I thought I might wander around, head over to some place that is supposed to have the “best” baklava in Istanbul.

I never made it.

By the time I walked down my first scary empty street that opened up to a crowded square, full of people that gave me a little bit too much attention, I was done for the day. I found the tram and took my same three transfers back home. Still the hostage of jetlag, I spent my evening trying to stay awake until at least 9PM. I made it to 8:30PM.

So, now I’m at Pars McCann in Istanbul. It’s essentially my first day. I’ve yet to get something to do, aside from meeting a lot of people and getting chatted up. I just got back from lunch at a place called Num Num. at the mall. No real Turkish food yet, but I did have a delicious salad with tenderloin and blue cheese on top and the company wasn’t bad either. I went along with Martha, Oktar, Nina, Tolgar, and a lady whose name starts with an ‘f’. I mean I think I got those names right. They are also Pars McCann people; all quite super. A little Starbucks after and I’m starting to feel normal again (I woke up at 5:30AM). Nothing like being taken out to lunch and Starbucks to help one feel normal again, though.

By the way, Barack Obama is working in Istanbul today too.

I think this will be okay. ☺

Sunday, April 5, 2009

No Shortage of Vegetables

I woke up famished. Thought my stomach may have eaten itself in the middle of the night. But, I survived the walk to a little café/restaurant that my (I guess I’ll call her landlady) suggested. I think it is Mayek, or Mayk.

Put all of your thoughts that they speak any English in Turkey aside. I read in some guidebook or online somewhere that “you could get along just fine with English in Istanbul”. Lies, I tell you! Though the two folks at the counter were quite accommodating with my struggling and pointing at my Turkish/English dictionary and pointing at some tomatoes behind the counter, it never really got anywhere. Eventually, the girl says something that sounded like “omelet” and I nodded my head emphatically. At this point I thought I may faint from hunger. The guy says something that sounds like “tea” and I say my one little Turkish word “cai” (tea, there’s a squiggly thing under the ‘c’, but my computer doesn’t make those, it sounds like ‘ch’). I pay 6 Lira, about $3.87 and I got this.


Nope, no shortage of vegetables here. Fresh tomatoes, big hunks of cucumber, delicious olives (trumps the Spanish ones in my opinion *wink), a pile of fresh whole grain bread, and eggs loaded with some pretty super goat cheese. And the tea? Exactly how I like it. It’s brewed really strong, but somehow not that bitter. Just a little sugar, no milk, and it gives you the little caffeine buzz to start your day.

I spent the remainder of my time at the café completing the first chapter in my “Teach Yourself Turkish” book. I love language and am determined to learn enough Turkish to get around, or at least to be able to order breakfast.

The grocery store was not so different as the ones in the States, except for the fact that everything was in Turkish. So, there I was wandering the aisles with my cart, wondering why none of the milk is refrigerated, grabbing for my dictionary, and trying to decipher whether or not the freezer bags have Ziplocs on them or not.

Upon checkout, I realized I had seven grocery bags full, five of which that were heavy (the other two were bulky, one with paper towels and the other with TP), and about a quarter mile to walk. Needless to say, I made many stops along the way and got a lot of funny stares. By the time I got home, I thought my arms were going to fall off. I am sore this morning.

After grocery adventures, I dealt with some Turkish bank stuff with a friend of my “land lady”, to get my rent paid. She was really nice and helpful. She used to teach English, so she was the perfect translator. The bank felt more like the DMV. We took a number and waited for about 45 minutes along with a small crowd of people. Apparently, all the banks are closed on Saturdays except for the one in the mall. It was Saturday and we were at the one in the mall, along with everyone else who has to do banking but works Monday through Friday. *Sigh

I spent the rest of the day and evening resting, doing what I could do speed up the process of deleting my jetlag.

Today, I set out for the modern art museum and public transport adventures. Full reports in the very near sometime future.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Many Hour Day

What a strange day. I didn’t go to bed last night until this morning around 7AM.

A driver from McCann Erickson (the agency I am interning for) was at the airport to meet me at 11:15PM, just as planned. However, when he called the number I had written down for the person who was supposed to meet me at my sublet to give me keys and such, there was no answer. As we made our way toward the apartment’s location, we called at least three times. Still, no answer. We got to the neighborhood and I uselessly tried to recognize it by the few pictures of the interior I had been sent just a week before. With a long sigh, I was driven to the house of Deniz; someone who works at McCann Erickson, whom I’ve been communicating with since I first got the internship;with the hopes of making contact in the morning.

The driver and I lugged my two fifty pound suitcases (HEY, eleven weeks is a long time!) up three flights of stairs, I met Deniz and weary-eyed, set about emailing my key contact. While I waited for Deniz’s Internet to get working, I asked if she would give the number one more try. Kevin (the “keymaster”) promptly answered, dozing a little, but ready to show me into my new home for the next eleven weeks, even at 1:30AM. Turns out, the driver had mis-dialed the number, and his non-English coupled with my non-Turkish equaled a simple mis-reading of my hand-written 2.

It was late, but the apartment was everything that I hoped for and more. I am truly blessed. I have a super cute one-bedroom apartment in a great part of Istanbul just a short walk and subway ride to work. I won’t go into the details of how I got it, or whom it belongs to. Just know that it involves an American who lives here that is going back to the states for approximately the same dates that I am going to be in Istanbul. So, I am subletting the apartment from her for an affordable price, all to myself. We are essentially doing each other a favor. Did I mention what a lucky girl I am?

My little office with a garden view!

In all my excitement, I stayed up until 7AM… maybe even 8AM, getting the Internet set up, organizing the bathroom and filling the closet. I even went on a walk around sunrise to take pictures and listen to the call to prayer.

Walking 'round "the hood" in the early morning

The driver came to pick me up this afternoon around 2PM… while I was still sleeping. There are no clocks in the house (?), my watch was set an hour off, and I hadn’t set the time on my phone with the alarm on it. Jetlag’s a bitch. I threw on some clothes, apologized profusely and rode to the agency where I will be working for the next ten weeks.

The agency is super! It’s very modern and spacious. Everyone I met was friendly. I got introduced to all the staff and even shown to my little spot at the creative table along with the other creatives. (Eventually, I’ll take pictures to share.)

I also met up with Martha, my internship partner, who had already been shown around and whatnot, since being in Istanbul since 6AM the previous day. She was already settled into her place and even given a poster to work on. Something tells me I have much creative work to do in the very near sometime future.

I found the metro with Martha’s help and rode back to my “hood”. A five-minute subway ride and a fifteen minute walk is all it takes for me to get between the agency and my sweet pad.

After spending the evening cleaning and re-organizing the kitchen (I am so anal sometimes) so everything is just so, I am bushed. Time for a much deserved rest.

Grocery adventures tomorrow!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm tired, I think, I should be, anyhow.

A day of travel is always transitional… in more ways than one. A transition in the physical body accompanied by a movement in the interior. I am physically transported across the planet in a plane to be dropped in Istnbul. My mind hopes for the best. Though everything has gone perfectly thus far, I cannot abandon the creepy thought that no one will be at the airport to pick me up; I will not be able to find nor get into the apartment. I will get stolen right off the plane. I will have nothing to eat. And on and on. But, thn the body steps in and shushes the mind with an everything is fine attitude. Thank god for mechanical mode. I may have never even have said “yes” to this internship if I wasn’t dealing with mechanical mode

The plane is currently descending into Istanbul and I am in a complete awe that this trip is still far from over… I can’t help but having a feeling that everything is going to be perfect; exactly as it should and exactly as it shouldn’t be.

Waiting in Heathrow

Nothing quite like waiting in an airport for five hours. At least there's internet and English... YAY!