Posts Tagged ‘Tourism’

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.


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.

This is it! I am finally done. My profile is written, my photos are done and, the biggest thing, my multimedia project is done!

This past week has been a whirlwind. Interviews, filming, shooting, more interviews, more filming, more shooting, followed by a lot of crying and multiple moments where I had to fight to not throw my computer against a wall. I was thoroughly convinced as I had to start my piece over for the third time, and find a whole new topic, that there was no way that it would be possible for me to actually produce a finished piece. I am still in disbelief that it is done… and that I am actually really pleased with how it turned out.

Here it is!!!!!!

This past month has been a lot of things: amazing, hectic, spiritual, insane, beautiful, frustrating, fun, intimidating, sleepless, romantic…. the list goes on and on. I can’t even begin to describe how much this experience has meant to me or how much I feel like I have changed because of it. I have learned so much about myself, my trade, my passions, and my beliefs. Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, this has been a life changing experience. All the stress, the fear, the doubt, the questioning, all of it are by far outweighed by the things that I have gained while being here.

I was talking to someone about this today. I have received so much more from this experience than I ever expected or thought possible. Not only did I learn to improve my writing and photography, not only did I learn to shoot and edit video, and not only did I learn a little Turkish, but I also gained new perspectives, ideas, and beliefs. Previously held conceptions and ideas have been smashed. My eyes and my heart  have been opened  in a way that I never thought possible. I feel happiness, love and contentment in the depths of my soul.

Priceless gifts that have been given to me. Grateful doesn’t even come close to describing the way that I feel.

Peace and Love.

The name of the game is: how many people can you possibly cram into one area?!?!  That was pretty much the thought that came to mind every time another person attempted to sit at our table or a table near ours. It was Saturday night in Taksim and all the bars were packed to the point of overflowing into the streets and the street didn’t offer much more room to the voluminous patronage. Music was blaring so loud you couldn’t possibly hear the person next to you and there was an elbow or and ear or a shoulder in every direction. This, my friends, was nightlife on the Istikal. Everywhere you looked were bars, people, live music, and billowing clouds of smoke.

The bar that I found myself sitting in last night was called Mr. Bliss, however, my idea of bliss and their idea of bliss differ immensely. Seeing that I am not a drinker, I sat there asking myself how I had ended up sitting there shoulder to shoulder with four guys that pretty much spoke no English (and who were far younger than I) and four of my classmates. The answer? I guess I wanted to prove to myself that I’m not a complete old lady yet… Not sure if I actually succeeded in doing so, but I tried. Honestly, there were moments with some of my classmates that were absolutely priceless but the rest, I probably could have done without.

I did, however, get to see an interesting side of the Turkish youth that I do not think I would have ever seen had I not attempted to brave the nightlife. Previous to last night, I have really only seen the quiet side of the young people here in Istanbul. There is an interesting juxtaposition in Istanbul of centuries of tradition and the ever changing values of the newer generations. The old traditions, which some of the youth might find oppressive, are all about respect and the “proper” way for one to behave. It is not uncommon to see an elder shush a boisterous youth on a tram or a bus, or some other public place. Young people are expected to give up their seats on buses, trams, an benches, to elderly, women with children, pregnant women, and disabled people, although it is sometimes done begrudgingly.

I asked the student that has been interpreting for me during my interviews about how she felt about the “guidelines for acceptable social behavior of young people” that exist here in Istanbul. She said that a lot of the time, young people don’t want give up their seats on trams or endure the shushing of their elders and yet they endure it because that is what is expected of them. Knowing this, my experience last night, which apparently was a typical night for these guys (perhaps minus the company of American women) I almost felt like I was watching the youth let loose in a way that they could not in their everyday lives. The crowd was a sea of dancing and signing men and women, with people dancing on chairs and benches throughout the bars that lined the tiny side street.

Since I’ve been here I have been acutely aware of the social differences between here and home. Los Angeles, in my opinion, is primarily a “me” community where people go about their daily lives without much concern for or interest in the existence of others. Where as here, it is not unusual to make friends on a tram or a bus and end up having lunch or drinks with that person. In a city that is as densely populated as Istanbul (population is approximately 13,300,000 people), it seems that people are essentially forced to consider those around them, making this what some might call a “we” community.

Last night was a perfect example of this “we” community in action. With so many people crammed into one small area pleasantries and cooperation were at their best. Beers were passed back and forth, cigarettes were shared, men lit smokes for the women, and chairs were passed over the crowd so that newcomers might sit and join in the festivities. Merriment was present in the faces of all who attended as the young people of Istanbul drank, danced, and laughed into the wee hours of the morning.

Peace and Love

Last week, across the globe, was Pride Week and in Istanbul there was no exception. On june 27, 2011, approximately 2000 revelers marched onto Taksim Square, and down the Istikal, carrying banners and signs, waving rainbow-colored flags, and chanting. The group was met in Taksim Square with tear gas (which we later discovered actually had to do with a Kurdish protest that was also attempting to march onto Taksim Square) as well as astonished on-lookers.  Although demonstrations in Istanbul have a tendency to turn violent, this rally remained mostly peaceful (more tear gas was released into the Pride crowd; the second time it was meant for us).

As the revelers made their way down the Istikal, they stopped in front of several businesses, booing and chanting. I later learned that these businesses had been sources of discrimination by refusing service to a member (or members) of the LGBT community.  The revelers stood outside of these discriminating businesses waving rainbow flags and brandishing signs with catchy slogans such as “Love is Not a Crime” and “Out of the Closet and Into the Streets”. This was the revelers way of saying that they would not stand for discrimination based on their choices of lifestyle.

Overall, the rally was peaceful; filled with music, dancing, laughter, and smiles.  Having witnessed several West Hollywood Gay Pride rallies, I was surprised by the differences between the two.  Make no mistake, despite it being a peaceful demonstration, there was definite potential for things to go terribly wrong. As I mentioned before, demonstrations in Istanbul have a tendency to turn violent at any moment, and this rally was no exception. The LGBT community is not at all supported nor aided by the city in the organization of these demonstrations or in safety assurance.  Streets were not cleared nor blocked off and if there had been any serious opposition to the revelers, it would not have been contained.  Revelers were made to negotiate their way through throngs of on lookers and in Taksim Square there was a very large police presence, heavily armed and wearing riot gear attire. Fortunately, the rally remained peaceful and, in the end, love prevailed.

Peace and Love

I arrived in Istanbul five days ago, on June 21, 2011. I am here to participate in The Istanbul Project, a 4-week Journalism program facilitated by ieiMedia in conjunction with San Francisco State University. When I first applied for this program, I didn’t think that it would be possible for me to participate, but I applied anyway.  Knowing that if I made it into the program, it would financially drain me, I started to explore the possibility of financial aid.  After several inquiries, I discovered a scholarship offered by the Gilman International Scholarship Program. Again, thinking that I would not qualify or be awarded the scholarship, I filled out the application, wrote the essays and sent in the requested paperwork. Several weeks later I was informed that not only had I been accepted into the Istanbul Project program, but that I had also been awarded a full scholarship by the Gilman International Scholarship program. That settled it. I was on my way to Istanbul!!!

Now I am five days into my trip. Istanbul is a remarkable city; big and bustling and alive. The city looks very much like a typical coastal European city with its cobblestone streets and buildings squeezed together filling every nook and cranny available. However, Istanbul’s uniqueness lies in its culture. Despite being a secular country, Turkey is a predominantly Muslim (approximately 98% of the population is Muslim).  Mosques are as common to Istanbul as cathedrals are to Rome. Having never encountered a mosque and not knowing very much about the Islamic faith, I find myself in awe of the sights and the culture I am currently exploring.

There are two particularly famous mosques in Istanbul and they are both located in Sultanahmet, the historic center of of the city. The first is the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) which was built around 360AD.

Originally it was a Greek Patriarchal Cathedral, later it was converted into a Roman Catholic church and finally was converted into a mosque by the conquering Ottoman Turks in 1453. Now it’s a museum. On the outside, the mosque is a massive structure boxed in by four minarets. On the inside, it is an interesting mix of arabic, Christian and even Hindu Symbols. The first time I walked into the Aya Sofya, my jaw practically hit the floor. As massive as the structure looks from the outside, it looks even more vast and grandiose inside.

The second mosque is the Sultan Ahmed, or the Blue Mosque, which was built around 1612. It got its “nickname” because the inside is designed using over 20,000 blue tiles in its mosaics. This mosque appears to be more imposing from the outside, but is smaller than the Aya Sofya on the inside. The detail and the intricacy of the tile work inside the mosque makes it a breathtaking sight. Unlike the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque is still an active place of prayer. Women are asked to cover their heads when they enter and tourists are kept behind a rope so as not to disturb those that are there to pray.

With so many sights to see and things to learn, it is clear to me that the next four weeks are going to be equally educational and interesting. I am excited to see what this journalism program and this city have in store for me.