Archive for the ‘Oh the places you’ll go…’ Category

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.

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.

Goodbyes have never been my forte. I’m a crier plain and simple. Goodbyes for me are often punctuated with tears, sniffles and the occasional snot bubble. Saying goodbye to Istanbul and the people I have come to care for there was no exception. I never expected it to be so hard to leave. Perhaps because I never expected to love Istanbul as deeply as I do. Istanbul has changed me, taught me, and helped me to grow. Saying goodbye left my heart aching and my eyes puffy and red. I will be forever grateful for the experiences I had and the people I met and loved.

Returning to Los Angeles has been difficult. It really hit me for the first time as I was standing on the curb at LAX, waiting for my friend to pick me up, that I am not in Istanbul anymore. It hurts my heart. The pain of leaving the city that I have come to love so dearly to return to a city that I have never liked leaves me feeling a deep sadness. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at a clock and expected to here a Call ring out across the city or the Ramazan drums booming up and down the streets. I miss Istanbul something fierce.

I take comfort in the fact that I know in my heart that this is not the end for Istanbul and I. I will return and when I do, it will be to stay. And I remind myself that returning to Los Angeles gives me the opportunity prepare for that reunion. Goals have been set, actions are being taken and inquiries have been made, all in the name of going home to Istanbul. It will happen. My heart tells me so.

The Blue Mosque. One of the most heavily touristed mosques in Istanbul that is still used as a place of prayer.

Istikal. The major shopping promenade located in the neighborhood of Taksim. This was taken around 2am so it was unusually quiet. At anytime during the day there are thousands of people walking up and down this street.

This is a hot air balloon located in Kadaköy on the asian side of Istanbul. It takes you 200m into the air for a panoramic view of the city. Unfortunately it was too windy to operate during my time in Istanbul.

One of the things  I love about Istanbul is that the city is filled with music. This guy was performing on the street in Ankara.

One of things I don’t like about Istanbul is the disregard shown towards the disabled. Often disabled people are used as “props” on the streets (frequently by friends or family members) in order to beg for money.  This blind man was sitting alone, outside of a bar off of Istikal, drinking an muttering to himself. Nobody seemed to even notice that he was there.

I saw this little girl as I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe drinking tea. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to catch a shot of her face. She was adorable. This was taken without me even looking through my camera. My camera was sitting on the table in front of me when I clicked the shutter.  I know it’s not sharp, but I still like it.

View of Sultanahmet taken from a ferry crossing the Bosphorus.

Another shot taken from my perch in the window of my hostel room.

The Bosphorus.

The Boy and I on our last day together. Tearful goodbyes followed.

Museum of Ethnography in Ankara. Playing with Depth of Field. Also might want to note that this pocketwatch was behind glass.

Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara.

My classmate and friend Liv.

The cistern in Sultanahmet.

A playful little girl. She got a little freaked out when she noticed I was taking her picture.

More fun with depth of field at the Museum of Ethnography in Ankara.

View from Galata.

The AyaSofya. Once a mosque. Now a museum.

Museum of Ethnography in Ankara.

Heart Balloons.

AyaSofya

The Galata Tower

I shot this around 2am on a side street off of Istikal. Not sure what this little boy was roasting. He is one of thousands of children seen working the streets in Istanbul at all hours of the day or night.

I just liked the color of this boat.

The changing of the guards at Ataturk’s tomb. This is the only time you will see the guards move. Once they are in their stationed spot, they remain perfectly still. I was told that they even inject some sort of drug in order to stay so still…

Along the coast of Asia.

Take from it what you will…

A couple of Muslim women enjoying the breeze on the Bosphorus.

My heart belongs to Istanbul.

Peace and Love.

A few more sneak attack images. I will be adding to this as I shoot more.

I sat in my window for 20 minutes waiting for this woman to turn her head…

… and then I got caught.

I see this man everyday and I am dying to take a portrait of him…

More to come…

Peace and Love.

Looks like she caught me again trying to snag a photo of her. I swear I am not in the habit of stalking lil old ladies. I have just been dying to get a good picture or two of her.

I have seen this woman a few times sitting in her window and have never been quick enough to grab my camera and snap a pic of her… until now.

Peace and Love

I am staying in a hostel in Taksim for my last few days here. I have taken to sitting in my window with my camera and snapping candid snapshots of the people in my new hood. I am so loving this city. Below are some of the images I have shot during my last week. Some are from my window, some are not. All are little tastes of the things I love about this city.

There is an enormous stray cat population in Istanbul. This little guy was sitting in the doorway of the underground mosque in Karaköy.

Shot from the window of my hostel. This woman was basically doing what I was doing – watching the neighborhood go by from her window.

A couple of days ago, I took a boat ride up the Bosphorus. It was the first touristy thing I had done since my first week here. It was nice to be on the water, to see the landscapes and to watch the people relaxing.

This mother was showing her son how to feed pigeons. Feeding flocks of pigeons seems to be something that is common in every city I travel too.

One of the things that I love the most about this city are the community areas. All throughout the city are parks, squares and waterfronts where people gather, sit, drink. eat, and socialize together. Cheap outdoor entertainment that promotes community wellbeing. Love it.

Another shot from my boat ride. I love the reddish brown building.

I see this woman sitting on her balcony and watching the people below almost everyday. Her balcony is just across from my window.

There was something about this grandfather and granddaughter that I loved. I think it was the older generation caring for and guiding the younger one.

Being a predominantly Muslim country, women in head scarves are not an unusual sight. I just finally snapped a picture of one.

I find this city to be so enticing. Not just visually but in every sense. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel… I am deeply, madly in love with Istanbul. I can’t wait to live here.

Peace and Love.

We all know the story… Traveling woman meets local boy and, despite the language barrier, sparks fly. Typical travel romance ensues. I have been debating whether or not to write this entry for the last week or two. I am not one to air my dirty laundry to the entire world. Some things are best kept among those you are closest to. But seeing as I have started writing it now, I may as well finish it and see where it goes.

As much as I like to consider myself to not be the typical traveler, I guess in some ways I am. Abroad romance is not a foreign territory for me. And this trip is, although completely unexpected, no exception. Although I will say that this has not been my typical experience as far as abroad romances go.

It started typically enough. Girl sees boy, eyes meet, smiles are exchanged. Boy cleverly fashions a flower from an unsmoked cigarette and presents it to girl (not so typical I guess), girl thinks boy is adorable. Boy palms girl his number as she is leaving. And the story unfolds from there.

Despite our obvious communication barrier, I speak next to no Turkish and he speaks very little English, we seem to manage to communicate well enough and we definitely enjoy spending time together and have a good time when we do.  But recently I can’t help but wonder about abroad romances in general. Does what happens in Turkey stay in Turkey? And what if you don’t want it to?

Now let’s be realistic here. There are the obvious language and cultural barriers, not to mention half a planet between us. Besides, how well can you really know someone when you can’t really delve below the surface in conversation? Is someone’s behavior and body language enough? I have found myself pondering these questions more and more as I spend more time with my Turkish beau.

If you think about it, abroad romances are kind of silly. Eventually they have to come to an end right? One person in the couple is destined to leave. And what if you manage to find someone you could really see yourself with (not saying that that is the case here) and then you have to leave? Is that it? Or does someone uproot his/her life to be with the the other?

I met a girl here who is also from California, and she has been living here for the past 5 months. For the past month she has had a Turkish boyfriend. And now, as her time in Istanbul is coming to an end, he is trying to figure out how he can move to the states to be with her.   That then leaves me wondering… What happens if it doesn’t work out? or if he hates living in the states? or what if they’re relationship doesn’t fit as well in the states as it does in Turkey? (Can relationships be confined or attached to a geographical location?) Is it really worth it?

I am thinking that I am not going to find the answers to these questions in my own blog post. Perhaps it would make an interesting feature piece to work on when I get home?

In the meantime. I have 8 days left in this city and I plan to enjoy them and to try not to think of the goodbyes that lie in my immediate future. It is going to hurt to say goodbye to this city, the culture, the home I have found here, the people, and the boy. I am not ready to do so, but in 8 days I am going to have to; ready or not.

Peace and Love.

Yesterday I moved from my beloved neighborhood of Beşiktaş into a hostel in, my less than favorite area, Taksim. The hostel is adequate, but slightly terrible but at least I have my own room. Regardless, it’s home for the next 10 days.

I am in Istanbul alone now; all the girls from my school program have left to either travel elsewhere or go home.  The city has changed for me since their departure. I still love this place deeply and feel like it is home, but I find myself hesitant to explore much on my own. I guess I just need to adjust to being on my own here. I have done so much traveling on my own and it has always been positive. Sometimes it just takes me a minute to switch into solo mode.

One thing that I am doing while I am still here is trying to write an article on Children of Hope, the organization that I have been working with since I got here. Bürde, my friend and  interpreter, and I paid the organization a visit yesterday for yet another interview with Ferat Şahin, the organization’s director.

Much to my surprise, the afternoon found me sitting across from Ferat and taking one of the worst beatings at Tavla (Backgammon) I have ever received. He crushed me 5 games in a row (and I am not that terrible a player), but it was all in good fun. He is possibly the best Tavla player I have ever encountered and as a result, I find myself in debt to the organization’s kids for a hefty helping of Baklava. Ferat said I don’t have to pay my “debt” but I will and I want to.

So we sat down for another long talk. I had a million questions to ask him and he had a million answers for me. All in all the interview went well and I no longer felt like Ferat was sick of my thousands of questions; I think the Tavla games helped. My goal for this interview was different than the previous ones. Since I have extra time here, I am trying to write an article on the organization in order to submit it to the Hurriyet Daily News here in Istanbul in the hopes of getting it published and of raising some awareness and possibly even some help for them. At the same time I am attempting to put together a package on the organization in order to submit it to some other, international organizations with the hope of drumming up some resources for CHA.

It’s not everyday that I have the opportunity to work with an organization like this or that I get to try to help an organization like this. As a journalist I am sure that I will encounter several more organizations during my career, and I probably won’t be able to help them all, but I have the time and the resources to do it here and so I have decided to give it a go. CHA has earned a special place in my heart.

Peace and Love.