Settling in…

Posted: July 11, 2013 in Dream chasing

After five days of driving cross country, it was a relief to have finally arrived at my destination. I had an apartment here waiting for me — I had come out here for a week to interview and house hunt before the newspaper offered me the job — and now I have the task of filling it and making it livable. Right now it’s me, my dog, a folding table a bean bag chair, a suitcase of clothes and an air mattress. It will have to do for now.

I started work a few days ago. Not much to report really. I’m just getting to know my coworkers and fielding whatever they throw my way. They aren’t big on the training. My first day it was ‘here, go do this’ — no explanation, no directions, just get out and get started. So I’m piecing it together as best I can and asking questions when needed.

It’s not what I expected so far, but I think it’s too soon to tell what this job will be like.

Last week, the West Kentucky State Fair was in town. That was a week full of firsts for me as a photographer and as a person. Rodeos, demolition derbies, beauty pageants (which I could happily go the rest of my life never having to witness again, thank you), tractor pulls (don’t ask), and so many other things.

Let’s just say this city girl got a whirlwind lesson about life in a small southern country town.

I can’t say I have learned much about where I now live yet. I really only had two days here before I started working — not much time to do anything at all.

Life is slower, which is nice at times but painfully boring at others. There’s lots of green and open space and next to no traffic. It takes five minutes to drive anywhere in town, pretty much — quite lovely after spending several hours in L.A. traffic every day. If you drive much farther than that, however, you end up in a corn field.

I’m adjusting slowly. My dog too. It all still feels temporary. I find I’m waiting for my boss to call me into his office and tell me this was all a big mistake, I don;t have what it take, and I should go back to California. I’ve had several fitful moments, freaking out, wondering what the F@ck I’m doing here, if this was all just a big mistake. Still feels like an insane decision and I miss my family and friends.

I wish I had something more exciting to say today. Here’s hoping I get into the swing of things soon. For now, I’m reminding myself that this is the next step for me and it will work out however it’s supposed to.

There’s something about leaving home that no one warned me about — it’s that feeling of fear or nervousness or anxiety in the pit of your stomach as crossing state lines away from what you’ve always known and into what you’ve never known.

Sure, I’ve left Los Angeles before — heck I’ve left the country more times than I can count — but I’ve always come home. Now I’m moving out of state and I don’t know if I will ever live in my home city again.
I knew the move would be hard. Here I am, a recent grad from J-School, saying ‘so long’ to family, friends, the city that I’ve always known, but not always loved, and moving across the country for my first newspaper job.
But here’s the kicker, right? I’ve moving to Kentucky. Me, a not even remotely religious, bleeding-heart liberal moving to the GOP-loving Bible Belt.

My friends have asked me a hundred times — and me father even tried to convince me not to go — but now, as I cross the California-Arizona border I can’t help but hear their voices echoing in my head — what am I thinking?
I almost turned back. I called my dad crying like a scared little girl and echoed the words that had been said to me so many times in the weeks leading up to my move — ‘This is crazy. What am I thinking? I’m moving to Kentucky? This is insane! I want to come home!’

I think I wanted my dad’s permission to come home and free-load a little while longer. But my dad, ever-wise man that he can sometimes be, just said ‘O.k. What are you going to do?’

This was not the response I was looking for.

There was only one answer I could give — I’m gonna to keep going.

So I’m onward and upward to the land of the unknown and I have no idea what to expect or what my life is going to look like in the coming months. And as I write this, I am clinging to the mantra that has gotten me to this border crossing: ‘One foot in front of the other.’

Approximately 200 demonstrators in support of Palestine lined the south side of Wilshire Blvd. to protest the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas. Photo Credit: Kat Russell / Multimedia Editor @ Daily Sundial

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 21

Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt on Wednesday. Israel agreed to a truce but refused to lift the blockade on Palestinian territory.

In the eight days of fighting that began Nov. 14, more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed.

In spite of the agreement, violence still raged on Wednesday.

A bus bomb exploded near the Israel’s Defense Ministry and military headquarters in Tel Aviv wounding 15 people.

Israel struck more than 100 targets in Gaza, including a cluster of Hamas government buildings, killing 10 people one of which was a 2-year-old boy.

Gaza continued to fire rockets at Tel Aviv, none of which reached the city.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 20

Israel and Hamas came closer to a ceasefire, however a deal still remained uncertain and fighting continued to rage on both sides of the border.

Israeli tanks and gunboats struck targets in Gaza while at least 200 rockets were fired into Israel.

Ceasefire proceedings are being held in Cairo and have involved the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.N. chief and Egypt’s president in addition to representatives of both Hamas an the Israeli government.

Israel has demanded an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a stop to weapons smuggling into Gaza through the tunnels connecting to Egypt. Israel also wants guarantees that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt’s Sinai region to attack Israelis.

Hamas has demanded that Israel halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas came into power in 2007.

An estimated 130 Palestinians, many of which were civilians, have been killed and hundreds wounded since the conflict’s start on Nov. 14 and five Israelis have been killed by rocket fire.

>>> UPADATE, Nov. 19

The latest casualty figures out of Gaza reported 22 people killed since midnight, Sunday Nov. 18. Included in the report were Palestinians killed in air strikes by warplanes, a drone attack on two men riding a motorcycle and a father his two toddler-aged sons in their bombed home in northern Gaza. Another Israeli drone attack killed a taxi driver hired by journalists and displaying “press” signs.

Three people have been killed in Israel so far, all of which were civilians, in a rocket attack that hit an apartment house in southern Israel on Nov. 15. The Israelis said that at least 79 people have been wounded since the violence began.

Hamas leader dared Israel to launch a ground invasion of Gaza and dismissed efforts to broker a ceasefire.

Israel conducted a new wave of airstrikes, including a second hit on a 15-story building that housed media outlets.

Gaza fired multiple rockets into southern Israel one of which hit a vacant school. Diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are underway in Cairo where Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas, called the Israeli infantry mobilization on the border of Gaza a bluff on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 18

An Israeli airstrike struck two media buildings in Gaza injuring eight journalists, with one needing a leg amputated. The airstrike also damaged the Al Sharouk building in which several foreign journalists have been staying.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had admitted to targeting the media building that housed offices for international media in Gaza and confirmed having knowledge that foreign journalists were in at least one of the media buildings struck. However, Israel denied targeting journalists saying that the second attack on the Al Sharouk building had targeted an office of the Islamic Jihad

An Israeli bomb killed eleven people, including three generations of a single family, making it the deadliest single strike since the conflict began. The incident sparked a rally in Gaza on Monday in support of Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel. Injuries have been reported in the towns of Ashkelon and Ofakim.

Both Israeli and Hamas officials said attempts to reach a ceasefire are ongoing.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 16

Israel conducted five airstrikes on Gaza City before dawn on Nov. 16, destroying the offices of Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas. The airstrike also hit the main police complex nearby.

At the same time, a heavy Israeli bombardment was reported at the south end of the Gaza Strip, which targeted the smuggling tunnels leading into Egypt.

Israel confirmed the attacks, saying that it had also targeted the Hamas Ministry of Interior – a training facility – a site believed house weapons stores and launching sites.

According to Israel, the bombardments were retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

No deaths have been yet reported.

>>> UPDATE, Nov. 15

Palestinian militants fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the first time, pushing Israel closer to a possible ground invasion. Hamas said in a statement that the rockets were meant to hit the Israeli Parliament.

One of the rockets landed in an open space, south of Jerusalem, near and Israeli settlement. It was unclear where the other rockets landed. No damage or injuries were reported.

Hamas said in a statement that the rockets were meant to hit the Israeli Parliament.

The Israeli government has more than doubled its number of reservists, preparing them for possible invasion if needed.  The Israeli military has also closed roads, running adjacent to Gaza, in anticipation of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. This would be the first Israeli military maneuver on the ground in Gaza since the 2008-9 invasion.

>>> UPDATED with additional information

As the violence between Israel and Hamas escalated to the worst conflict seen between the two sides in recent years, demonstrators sympathetic to both sides gathered in protest outside the Israeli consulate in West LA. on Nov. 15.

An estimated 200 people sympathetic to the Palestinian cause carried signs depicting graphic images of mangled bodies and wounded children and chanted slogans calling for Israel to put an end to its occupation of the Gaza Strip and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

“Once again, the state of Israel has decided to massacre the Palestinian people in an indiscriminate way and we, as a community, cannot just sit here,” said Taher Herzallah the campus coordinator for American Muslims for Palestine.

At the same time, approximately 20 demonstrators sympathetic to Israel gathered on the opposite side of the street, waving Israeli flags and calling out in response to the pro-Palestinian slogans.

“(This is a) protest against the killing of terrorists (Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jibari) and to condemn a country (Israel) for defending its citizens who live under rocket fire on a daily basis,” said Israel supporter, Moshe Arnold. He went on to say that “whenever there’s evil, someone has to respond with truth and goodness and that’s why we are here tonight.”

The protest was arranged through a series of emails sent out the night before, by Answer Coalition, an umbrella group consisting of numerous antiwar and civil rights organizations.

“Anytime there’s a war going on that’s unjust, we (members of Answer Coalition) come out to protest” said Michael Kakes, a member of the Part for Socialism and Liberation, which is part of the Answer Coalition network.

Although the demonstrations remained peaceful, the crowds were heated and shouted angry words across the street at each other.

Approximately 40 LAPD officers lined both sides of Wilshire to contain the demonstrators on their own sides of the street. Andrew Smith, LAPD’s Commanding Officer of Media Relations, said that in situations involving two opposing sides, the LAPD aims to keep each side from antagonizing the other while allowing both sides ample space to exercise their rights to free speech.

The recent violence between Hamas and Israel was renewed on Nov. 14 when Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas military operations. According to Israel, the strike was retaliation for increased rocket attacks from Gaza.  Israel called the action a tactical operation carried out in response to an increase in rocket attacks, from Hamas, on Southern Israel.

Since the conflict’s onset, Israel and Hamas bombarded each other with more than 1,500 rockets killing 161 Palestinians, 71 of which were civilians, and 5 Israelis. Authorities have referred to the conflict as the worst violence Israel and Palestine have since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008.

>>> Audio slideshow from the protest:

It’s been nearly a year to the day since I first set foot in Istanbul and here I am again. This is my third trip here in the last year and somehow this city still manages to amaze me. Amidst the crowded streets, the terrible traffic, the political strife and the cultural differences (which can often be interpreted as rudeness), there is a vibrance and a vitality to this city that I can’t find adequate words to describe.

I am here for six weeks, staying in a beautiful 2 bedroom apartment in the neighborhood of Nişantaşı. It’s an area I am not familiar with, but I am slowly getting to know my new hood as the days pass. I came to Istanbul this time with different intentions from my previous trips. I’ve been here twice before. I’ve seen and done almost all of the things on the typical tourist agenda. I know this city well. I know I love this city. This trip isn’t about those things. This trip is about determining whether or not Istanbul could truly be my home in the not-so-distant future.

When I first came to Istanbul a year ago, it was to participate in a study abroad program. I had never been to Turkey or anywhere else in the Near/Middle East region, let alone to a predominantly Muslim country, and my intentions were merely to see and experience something different. At the time, Istanbul was, in my mind, not going to be a place in which I would want to live. To my surprise, by the end of my first week here I had fallen completely in awe with this city and could not see myself living anywhere else. Since that first trip, I have returned to Istanbul  two more times (including this current trip).

I have done a lot of soul searching over the past year; searching for clarity and truth. Is Istanbul really the place? Had I finally found the home for which I have been searching all over the world? Six months ago I would have answered with an absolute and unshaken “YES”. Today, as I sit in the living room of my beautiful apartment, having embarked on my third adventure to this magical city, I find that I am still undeniably in love with this city and yet, at the same time, I find I am more open to the possibility that this may not be the home I have been searching for.

My experiences thus far have been very different from my first two trips. This time I am alone – no classmates, no travel companions, just me. It is different here on my own. My love for Istanbul has not diminished, but there is feeling of harshness, isolation and intimidation this time. But this is why I am here – to discover if Istanbul is really the home I have believed it to be. I need this time alone with the city to see if I can really be happy here on my own. I am open to whatever experiences, feelings and truths my journey might bring.

Peace and Love.

I started an internship, about a month ago, with a pretty major news outlet here in California. I am working as a reporter/multimedia journalist for a community news blog that focuses on South Los Angeles (or South Central). The experience thus far has been many things: interesting, challenging, surprising, enlightening and, most of all, eye-opening.

I grew up in a small community on the western edge of South LA, called View Park. For that reason, I felt as if this internship would be a little easier on me, having come from the area. However, my experience has been such that the more time I spend in the community, the more I realize that I knew, and know, next to nothing about the area I grew up in, or the city of Los Angeles as a whole. It’s an interesting feeling to live in a city your entire life and suddenly realize how little you know of it. I’ve given so much effort to getting to know other countries and other cultures, not that that’s a bad thing, that I have completely overlooked the community that shaped me.

Perhaps the most startling realization I have come to, since I started working in the South LA community, is how deeply and subtly media messages and values are embedded in my thoughts and beliefs about this community. I have always prided myself on having a critical and analytical mind. Being an english major previously and a journalism major currently, I naively thought that media messages had less of an impact on my psyche. However, when it came time for me to walk around South Central, on my own, with my camera in hand, I became acutely aware of my discomfort, paranoia, and fear.  I am not normally a person who is afraid to go out into the world, to talk to people, to photograph, etc. but as I stepped out of my car onto Central Ave., I experienced an internal shift from confident to fearful. This startled me. I was shocked to find that all of my media training – all of my critical thinking skills – didn’t offer me any more of a defense than the average media consumer. The stereotypes of the community and its people and the stigma attached to the area, were very much in the front of my mind.

Over the past month, my experiences in South LA have shown me a community that is entirely different from the one I was taught to see. It is a community with a vibrant history and culture, of which only shreds remain. South LA was decimated in the riots of both 1965 and 1992 and the community has never completely recovered from those traumas. However, if you can look beyond the problems, which are deeply embedded in the everyday life there, you will find people who are hard working, genuine, warm, and welcoming – at least that has been my experience.

I’m not sure where I am going with this post. I suppose I wanted to introduce a new topic to write about and most importantly, I wanted to start a new and different conversation about this community – a community that seems to have been abandoned; left to be ravaged by the problems which plague it. While the rest of LA grows, progresses and enjoys the many fruits of its labors, South LA  is scraping to get by, one day at a time.

When I walk the streets in South LA, I see a vital population of people who want the same things as everyone else – happiness, health, success and a chance for their children to grow up to have the same or better. The people there get up everyday, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and work to build their lives despite of the odds against them. At the same time, underneath the welcoming smiles and warm conversations, there is a sense of sadness and defeat that can only be felt in a community that has been isolated; left to its own devices, without support.

I find South LA to be many things, most of them contradictory to each other: complicated yet simple, saddening yet joyful, lively yet dreary, lacking yet rich in many ways. Most of all, I find it to be inspiring. My curiosity is peaked.

Aside  —  Posted: May 26, 2012 in I love L.A.
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It’s been four months since I left Istanbul to return home to Los Angeles. I can’t say that it was a happy departure. Returning to Los Angeles was difficult to say the least. It took me weeks to get used to not hearing the Call to Prayer ring out across the city five times a day and I missed the clinking of tea glasses, the smell of spices and the damp air coming in off the Bosphorus.

Istanbul was my home for 7 weeks, although when I first arrived there, I had no idea that the city would come to signify home for me. Now, four months later, I have journeyed back to Istanbul and discovered that I am still in awe of this city, I am still enthralled with its vibrance and its livelihood, and it still feels like home. My time here, once again, is limited and in a few short weeks I will be back in Los Angeles, but for now I intend to enjoy the dream that I hope to someday be my reality.

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Eyüp Cemetary. Eyüp is a district located outside of the original city walls and actually predates Istanbul proper. It is home to the Eyüp Sultan Mosque which is a pilgrimage sight in the Muslim faith.

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View from the top of Eyüp Cemetary.

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Walking through the Cemetery.

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View from the Eyüp Cemetery.

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Headstones.

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As we were walking out of the cemetery, we were greeted by hundreds of crows in the trees. It was sort of creepy.

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Rose.

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Eyüp Sultan Mosque.

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Storm Trooper.

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Somewhere in Çihangir.

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Çihangir.

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Galata.

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Galata Bridge. Fishermen on top. Fish restaurants on the bottom. Merely a coincidence.

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Google translate was not exactly helpful when attempting to translate the bottom word. “Bu” means “this”, but Budur???

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“Second Thoughts, Vision, Hearing, Speech” (don’t quote me on this)…

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View from Çihangir.

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Snowflake.

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Let there be light.

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Art.

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Sunset on the Golden Horn.

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Sidewalk.

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No clue.

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Child’s play.

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Street Art.

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Vintage.

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Modern Art.

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I’d happily live there.

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Sheep.

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Istikal Caddesi

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I have no idea…

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Going places.

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I bought 5 of these. Actually, I think I bought those ones…

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I only took a picture of this one. No purchase necessary.

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I still haven’t figured out which mosque this is, but I think it’s beautiful.

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One day I hope to be able to read this.

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A very small cemetery in Sultanahmet.

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Blue Mosque.

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Ottoman candy.

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Decor.

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Lanterns.

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Tiles in the Tokapı Saray

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I just love the way the script looks.

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I had a lot of fun playing with depth of field and geometrical shapes.

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More words I can’t read.

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Now this is a record player (phonograph really).

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Galata Kulesi

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Nescafe and Backgammon = Necessities

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View from the Galata Tower.

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Inside a Synagogue.

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Irresistible Cuteness

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View from Galata Tower.

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Weirdest graffiti I have ever seen…

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Legs for Days…

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Mosque goers.

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Fatıh Camii’nde

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I heart Nescafe.

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Last time I was in Istanbul I flew to Jerusalem to visit my bestie. He has been living there for the past year while studying to be a rabbi. This time he flew to Istanbul to visit me.

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I have no idea what this is, but it looks cool.

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Slightly Disturbing. The red square at the top says “Tahir Square” and at the child’s waist it says “your child.”

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Roses.

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I am pretty sure this says “this is not a butt.” Those Turkish lessons I’ve been taking are paying off.

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What is it with Turkey and disembodied legs?

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Prayers.

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It is customary for muslim men and women to wash their hands, feet and head before entering the mosque. But I think this water spout doubled as a drinking fountain.

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Cheese anyone?

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Such a beautiful city.

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Lollipops.

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This was my hood for this trip.

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Wood paneling.

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One of the pillars that is not like the other in the Cistern.

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Topkapı Saray

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This is not a Canon ad, but sort of is.

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Sardines?

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Awestruck.

‘Til Next Time Istanbul.

Peace and Love.

Aside  —  Posted: January 15, 2012 in Oh the places you'll go...
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The Occupy Los Angeles encampment, which has been inhabiting the lawns of City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles for the past two months, was evicted in the early hours of November 30, when approximately 1,400 LAPD police officers stormed out of City Hall, surrounded the encampment and arrested the remaining occupants.

Mayor Villaraigosa had initially set the eviction deadline for 12:01 a.m. Monday, November 28, but an influx of nearly 2,000 supporters on that night caused city officials to hold off on enforcing the eviction orders in the hope that protesters would disperse on their own.

I was present for the November 28 standoff with the LAPD and for the eviction on November 30 and what struck me the most about the mainstream media accounts of the actual eviction were the differences between my own experience and those of the people I knew, who were there, and the accounts of the media.

In hindsight, I realized that the November 28 standoff was more of a “recon mission” than an actual threat of eviction. It was the perfect opportunity for the LAPD to pose a threat and observe the protesters’ reactions. All of us fell for it – hook, line and sinker. During the eviction I was able to witness what the LAPD had learned from the standoff the day before and the plans they put into action based on those observations.

The actual eviction began shortly after midnight on November 30. Up until then, the LAPD kept the visible police presence to a minimum with only a line of officers guarding the front of the police station on Main and First, across from the encampment.

Just before midnight, a line of officers, wearing black and white helmets and sporting batons, appeared on the south side of the First and Main intersection. A diversion. The LAPD had learned from the standoff, that if they presented a line of officers, in this case across the street from the encampment, that the protesters would rush to confront them (verbally), thus dividing the crowd between those remaining in the encampment and those in the streets. It worked.

A few minutes after the appearance of that line of officers, in a swift and surprise attack, approximately 1,400 officers rushed out of City Hall, kicking over tents and brandishing their batons, and surrounded the camp, thus locking out those who were in the streets and locking in those who remained in the camp.

The people who were in the street were immediately pushed back to the far sides of the intersections on either side of the camp, where lines of officers kept them at bay. Inside the encampment, the officers formed two inner circles – one surrounding the group of protesters who were in the center of the park, and another one around the outer perimeter of the park’s center. Officers lined all the walkways leading into the park and a final circle was formed at the outside perimeter of the park.

They came fast, hard and in full force. They greatly out numbered the protesters – there were approximately four officers for every one protester. The first wave came out of City Hall pushing over people and  kicking over tents in their path with batons at the ready.

The first arrest I witnessed took place maybe 45 minutes after the onset of the raid. I was standing outside the inner circle, with a line of officers separating me from the protesters on the inside. A young man to my left was standing next to me with his girlfriend, holding up his cell phone (presumably collecting video) in one hand and a peace sign with his other hand. Without any provocation, two officers suddenly grabbed him and dragged him out of the crowd, pinning him down and cuffing him. Three officers then carried him away with his girlfriend (who was later arrested) crying and calling after him.

And so it began. Arrest after arrest was made. Approximately 300 protesters were arrested that night and loaded on to LAPD buses where that sat for as long as seven hours with their hands tightly bound, unable to move or go to the bathroom. After talking to some of the arrestees after the eviction, I learned that some of those arrested passed out or lost feeling in their arms and hands from the cuffs being too tight, others became ill and were vomiting from the pressure points used by the officers when they were removing the protesters, and several were forced to go to the bathroom, on the buses, where they sat.

All in all, in comparison to some of the other evictions which have taken place across the country, namely Oakland and New York, the OccupyLA eviction was executed with significantly less violence, but it wasn’t without brutality of one form or another. Realistically, the encampments were going to have to come to a close at some point, but I can’t say I am in total agreement with the way they came to a close.

As a journalist, my biggest concern or gripe with the OccupyLA eviction was the blatant muzzling of the press during the actual event. Journalists were restricted, not only in number, but in the access they were given and how they were allowed to transmit their information. Mayor Villaraigosa and the LAPD trampled the First Amendment that night without remorse and without justification. In doing so, their actions were absent of integrity or transparency and they succeeded in minimizing the accountability of, not only the officers, but of the protesters as well. It was a show of blatant disrespect for the truth and for the public’s right to know the truth, whatever it may be.