Sunday, April 30, 2006

National Pride

Tomorrow is Labor Day here in Turkey. It will be a day marked by parades, parties, patriotism, and protest. Coming from our U.S. upbringing it is surprising to see that other nations, other countries value their heritage as much as we do ours. I do not know why that surprised shouldn't.
Today I saw old men weep as their Air Force flew overhead...they shouted to the sky..."Long Live Turkey...Long Live The Turkish People". They were not ashamed to stand in reverence and respect for their flag, for their leaders, and for their heritage. They love their country.
I hope you catch the "heart" in all of this...we are not the only nation on earth that is worthy of respect or of honor. Today we saw a people turn out in force to celebrate their heritage. When you study the history of the find that their story runs deep. Much deeper than our 300 years.
What a great place to be at such a great time. What an incredible lesson to us and our children that we are not the only people that matter on this Earth. That there are many voices that deserve to be heard.
I will never forget standing at Ground Zero in the hours after the Towers fell. I remember hearing the leaders of other nations repeat this phrase: Today we are not English, or French, or Turkish...Today we are all Americans".
Today...I stood as a Turk.

(pics from Google Images)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Into Lives

It is a sloppy day in Istanbul, cold, rainy and windy. We did some local running around picked up lamb, chicken (they cut the feet, neck and tail off for us), olive oil etc..

One Of Our Local Markets

Tonight the birthday festivities begin for Elle. She was the first one to have a birthday when we lived in Marseille, and will now be the first one to have a birthday in Asia. She is at full throttle with party plans. Dad will act like he is having a really good time at the "Flower Fairy Tea Party" this afternoon and the "Lord Of The Rings Party" tomorrow. Since it just the 4 of us it demands full participation. Wahoo. I think it is the pink feather I have to wear that bothers me so much. A couple of years ago my buddy (The LA Homicide Dick) dressed up like Robin Hood at Stanley's Bday party. I guess if he can do it...I can. I just hope this doesn't lead to conversing with animals?
It is amazing how long it takes to just "live" here. I know it is much better than some places, but our shopping has to be done almost daily. Our refrigerator is the size of one of those office fridges. The bread only last for the day, the milk is sold warm in boxes, the frozen corn looks like "feed corn", and the chocolate comes in really little bars. You need a case of them to feel like you tasted the stuff.
But, the great part about all that is the relationships you form. Less than two weeks into Istanbul and we already have several friendships with vendors, shop owners and neighbors. We have folks stopping in at our apartment to see if we need help. We have been totally amazed at how deep the relationships run here. After all, that is what we are all about...getting into the lives of those who live on the far side of the World...and telling their stories.

Gray Days At Home

A Kadikoy Street Vendor

(Pics from Google Images)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cold Showers And The Fountain Of Youth

Visual Helps:...Think "Our Shower"

I wasn't going to mention this, however, we feel really stoic this week: A few days ago our water heater caught on fire (it's in the bathroom) and even though there was a fire...there was no "heat" to the water.
So, for the past few days we have been taking cold showers. I can't understand it. But even with the water heater dead in the water (sorry) the water is COLDER if you turn the tap to "Hot". You would think it would all be cold, wouldn't you?
In any case...we are clean and surprisingly invigorated this week. If you were forced to live this way, it wouldn't be a bad thing...I feel so much "younger" when I finish with a shower now. It is kind of like having your own personal "fountain of youth".
The fix-it guy arrives Monday afternoon.

I Report...You Deride

Kadikoy Fish Market

So we dropped $130.00 today at the local supermarket. The rest of our shopping will be in our open markets. We stopped at our language school today to take care of the all starts Monday morning.
Also on Monday a large anti-communist demonstration is planned for the area where our language school is located. The U.S. Consulate here in Istanbul is warning all Westerners to keep a low profile that day. Ironic taint' it?

Our 20 Minute Commute

Juice Dude

Some of you read yesterday's post all the way through...My, my, how you disappoint me. And to think it came from some of you who know better, but did anyhow. See...I am just the "eyes" that send you the reports...I am a neutral in all of this...I report...You deride. Right? I will try to be good for the rest of the week.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Of Cows And Cities

We are forming opinions faster than we wanted. There is one neighborhood that really appeals to us. It has the "feel" of Old Istanbul without all the tourists that are on the European side. In our reading, we found that this area actually has the oldest indications of civilizations recorded in Turkey...4000BC-6000BC. A sidenote to the eggheads...I realize that there is a lot you could do to enlighten me at this point...just give it a rest, Ok?

A Street In Kadikoy

We were able to track down a language school on this side of the City. It looks like we may start full time studies on Monday. This would be Mon-Fri for the next 4 weeks for all of us...they break for the summer. So, after a month of what I perceive as a really difficult time (I had another word for it, but discretion won out) we would be able to clear our minds before starting up again in September.

If you are of a sensitive nature to the language of our day (which is not a bad thing) then stop reading here: Really, this is your warning to stop and leave refreshed and not damaged. (I am still really immature and laugh at things I shouldn't...Like that's news to you).
Today we were in a taxi coming home...traffic was bad, the busses were so full they wouldn't stop, and the kids were "walked out". The driver spoke a few words of English. He asked me where we were from...which is always a difficult one to answer..."Oregon? Los Angeles? San Diego?"....this time I chose the most easily identifiable on a global scale and said "LA".
He rolled his eyes and said "Istanbul and Los Angeles...they are all bhollsha-heytey...all about money and bhollsha-heytey". It took me awhile to decipher it all. Ah, the genes our fathers pass onto us huh? I am still laughing. Sorry about that...I know I am not a good model.

Tulips Blooming At Sultanahmet

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


This is an incredible place of contrast. Between secular and religious, style and tradition, and appropriately, between East and West.
Over the coming months we hope to record the contrasts as we run across them...or rather, into them. The most amazing to us is the mix between those who are completely veiled in chadors and those who look as if they stepped out of a Stateside Mall. To see the extremes sitting on the bus or walking down the street is confusing.

We headed east today to Bostanci along the coast. Still hunting for neighborhoods and language schools we thought we would spend a day in suburbia. We found Bostanci to be similar to Ocean Beach in San Diego, or any of the quirky beach communities found in Southern California. The boardwalk was the hangout for beggars, kids smoking on the sea wall, and older people out for a walk with their poodles.

We even saw one old lady talking (Turkish) to her dog, not just talking, but carrying on a conversation complete with questions and responses (one sided, of course) reminded me of an old Los Angeles Homicide Dick I know who talks to his dog in public...except his dog understands him.

Blooming Trees On Our Street


Laurel & Hardy...In An Istanlul Shop Window

At the end of our day out we passed a "Bobble Shop" and I was stopped short by the statue of Laurel and Hardy dressed in Middle Eastern garb in the window. Here we are half way around the World from our home in Los Angeles... and we find L&H, made famous in LA, sitting in the Mediterranean sun in Istanbul. Now...That's one to tell your dog about.

Maket Day

We walked through the weekly market in Kadikoy today. Here are a few pictures.

An Old Muslim Cemetery On The Edge Of The Market

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Most of the housing around us is found in high rise apartments. Yesterday looking out our 4th floor window we saw a neighbor's cleaning lady sitting on the window sill to wash the outside of the windows. Stanley immediately wanted to try it on our windows...(not the cleaning part but the outside on the ledge part).
We revisited a neighborhood that we really like today with house hunting in mind. It is still premature to start serious queries...but we really like the area. We were chagrined to hear it called the "Louse Market".

Looking West From Our Apartment

The Amazing Cleaning Woman

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Week In'

Our Insect Expert At Work

Today marks the end of our first week in Istanbul! We are surprised at how quickly we have felt "at home" here. We realize that there will be quite an adjustment ahead...but our first 7 days have gone well.
Today we ordered 10 gallons of drinking water on the phone (in Turkish)...I know that is not impressive, but when it arrived an hour later via motorbike...we felt pretty "Turkish".
The rest of our day entailed a visit to my friend Levant, Turkish Coffee at the corner Kebap house, grocery shopping and a few hours with language study.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday Stroll

We figured out what all the shooting was about last night: It is the Turkish Independence Day...and this weekend is their "4th of July". The father of modern Turkey was "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk". He insisted that Independence day be coupled with "National Children's Day", because the future of Turkey belonged to the children. People are in high gear this weekend, flags are flying, guns are being fired, and the streets are full of kids playing and people walking around.
We were able to spend several hours today working on language. Just learning how to count to 30 and the days of the week are our goals for the next few days. We are actually using children's readers in Turkish to help us.
We took a long walk this afternoon and explored more of our neighborhood. We are just a few blocks away from the local insane asylum....don't know if that is a portent of things to come or not? :)
The people we have met are very kind. In a future post we will talk about Stanley's friend Mr. Bitari.

Ataturk's Picture At A Local School

Backgammon Afternoon

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hitting The Streets

Lamp Shop In Eminonou

We hit the streets again today to scope out neighborhoods. We only have our apartment in Kazasker until August, so we are scouting out the City trying to find a neighborhood in which to settle. With this big of a city it is a pretty big job... it will be occupy most of our time for the next few months.
Today was a Holiday in Istanbul coupled with a big Futbol match. A few days ago there was a bombing downtown that killed several people, and the Police were out in force today. Even with several thousand Cops about, the atmosphere was light and cheerful. We walked many miles through downtown today, rode the bus, ferry and tram and got home about 6pm.
Tonight the air echoes with the sound of gunfire. Thousands of shots are being fired in the air to celebrate....what?...we are not sure of yet.

Heightened Police Presence

The Ride Home

Ali's Special Tour

Stayed close to home today. Ann and I took a long walk around our neighborhood to see what we could see while the kids stayed in and played. She found a yarn shop just a few blocks from our apartment and is working on a baby sweater for our next door neighbor's little girl.
Late this afternoon we worked our way across the City to have dinner with another Expat family. We left their home at 10pm and walked until we found a cab. Our driver "Ali" took us on a detour on the way home and he got lost. Amazingly, in this City of 16 million people, I saw a gas station we had passed the day we arrived from Los Angeles. We were able to direct Ali to our apartment and arrived at 11pm. What are the chances of that?
We are beginning to feel the effects of travel and the move. Tomorrow we will play it "loose".

Chai In Kadikoy

The Star and Crescent

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sheep and Sandwiches

Sultanahmet Square

Going back to bed didn't work. So we decided to get an early start. After a breakfast of yogurt and chocolate baklava, we spent some time on our language studies and then headed to Kadikoy via the bus. There, we caught the Sea Bus to Eminonu on the European side, (less than $1.00 each) and headed to Sultanahmet Square.
The Blue Mosque is on one side of this square and the Aya Sofia is on the other. With an entrance fee of close to $10.00 each, we decided we would wait until we were richer, and ready for a full day to see it all.
Today as we headed to the bus I passed a friend we had met on our first day in Istanbul. We were standing near a food stand where we had grabbed a Kebap sandwich the day before. As we parted ways our friend pointed at the stand and said..."By the way, don't eat there...all they sell is Sheep Guts"....Yum. (I had wondered why it was so crunchy).

The Sea Bus To Eminonou

Personal Wake Up Service

My day started at 5:14am as the Muezzin began to broadcast the call to prayer from hundred's of Minarets across Istanbul. It is impossible to escape the thousands of speakers, each trying to outdo the other. It is an exotic, yet, peaceful sound.
The faithful will rise in their homes, complete their ablutions, and pray facing Mecca.
This call to prayer will take place 5 times today....Broadcast from giant speakers mounted high on the century's old Minarets scattered throughout this city of 16.5 million people.
In historical days, the muezzin, would climb to the top of the Minaret and sing out the call to pray personally. Today some are done through pre-recorded Azan's and some are still sung live...via a PA system.
So, I joined them this morning....I prayed with my new countrymen...then went promptly back to bed..(like most of them).

Early Wakeups Need A Boost

The Number "17" To Kazasker

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wipe Out

Yes....I Spent Some Money Here

Bussing Around

Can you believe there is a McDonalds a few blocks away? We are working the kids (and ourselves) into the local food here in steps. Today we stopped at MD's and had lunch. You would have never known you were half a World away.
We did some minor shopping and then I went to bed, wiped out, while Ann roamed around town to pick up some housekeeping supplies. The kids stayed home and rested with me.
We are slowly getting on schedule and started some of our language studies this morning. After this coming busy summer, we will start traditional class study.
Our E-mail is still having some issues... if you are waiting on a response from us, we will get back to you as soon as we can figure it out.
Tomorrow? Probably the SeaBus to Sultanahmet.

Today's Bottom Line: The best meal we have had in the last 6 months (Ohio Exempt) was last evening's Lamb and Mushrooms in Yogurt, from Cemre Kebap. Comes in a little foil container for a few dollars....nothing like it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Turkish Delight

It took us less than 20 hours to get our cell phone, bus pass and groceries! We had an early start to our day (not out of any great discipline...rather a mixed up schedule). We found a local "jep" shop (cell phones), and signed up with "Turkcell".
Navigated our way through several busses to Kadikoy on the Sea of Marmara and bought our renewable "Akbil Satis" (little programmable bus "keys").
We scouted out the Sea Bus toll booth, shopped for groceries, had yogurt and lamb for dinner and are now ready to sleep until June.
What a great city! But the real story is the people: Today as we returned from the market with several bags we boarded a crowded bus, it was really, really crowded. Several old ladies and men insisted on holding our bags on their laps while we tried to keep our balance as the bus wove in and out of traffic.
At every point today, we found Turks who went out of their way to be nice to us. Kinda cool for the kid's to have this kind of start.

FYI...We are having some E-mail delays.

Ann & Her Lilacs

Shopping In The Market

Waking Up In Istanbul

We had a good night sleep and woke up feeling well. We have much to do with setting our new apartment in order, cleaning, finding banks, markets, cell phones, learning how to order water, etc.. But all in all, after the last 12 months of planning and working on putting this together, we "woke up" in Istanbul! Life is good.
Our day today will be to explore the neighborhood around us. We are exhausted physically, so the next few weeks we will make rest, sleep, and play a priority. That is hard to do in a place as exotic and amazing as this though.
Our E-mail is having some issues and we have not been able to figure it out yet.

Skype is up and running with all features.

Bulgarian Airspace

The Kommunet That Helped Us With Our Containers

Our First Look At The Bosphorus

Monday, April 17, 2006


Little Boy....Lotsa Luggage. Leaving LAX For Istanbul

In Asia

We arrived in Istanbul today at 4:45am EST. It took us 3 hours to make it the 20 miles to our apartment. This place is beautiful! We tried to upload pics but were unsuccessful.
We are heading to bed for a week.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mental Vacation

The push is over and everything is sorted, catalogued, and packed tight. We can't control what happens at the airport on Sunday. So...we have decided to take a luxurious vacation for the next 30 hours.
We can't really go anywhere and don't have enough money even if we had the time, so we are experimenting with "Mental Vacations". They are cheap...and there are no lines. We have decided to spend the next few hours at a Desert Oasis. Please excuse us for our extravagance. Shhhh....I am sunning by the pool.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Meeting In Damascus

The Old City Of Damascus...The Prophet Muhummad (pbuh) When Standing On The Border Of Damascus said, "With One Chance To Visit Paradise, I Will Wait Until Heaven". He Never Entered The City.

Samer's Mosque In Damascus

Tonight I said "goodbye" to my Syrian friend Samer. He works the graveyard shift at the local gas station and we have a good history and friendship. Those of you who have followed Samer's story from our writings will remember that he came to the States with his family a few years ago to try and make a living. But the secularism they found in Los Angeles drove his wife and children back to Damascus. He said "I want my children to know Allah". They left for home, while he stayed behind. So, he works a half a World away to provide for them.

Today, Samer works two jobs, 16-20 hours a day, to send money to his wife and children, so they can eat and live. He has become a dear friend and many times I have waited till 2 or 3am so I could visit him while he works.
We have a tentative meeting in Damascus this fall. He and his wife want to spend some time with us, if they cannot make it to Istanbul during his visit home, we will travel to Syria to meet with them.

Over The Humps

We Could Use An Order Of These

It is midnight on Thursday, we are still working on our gear...but the end is in sight.
We recieved an E-mail today from Turkish Air regarding our containers. They said we could pack each container to 70lbs. So, with a copy of that E-mail in with our tickets, we were able to add our outback gear and a few other things. The test will be getting the "right person" at the ticket counter Sunday morning to grease the wheels for us.
We are still trying to pull all the transport issues together. It is going to take a few large vehicles to get us to the airport with our stuff. Tomorrow evening we hope to be able to close this chapter and get focused for the big cultural shift.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Parting Shots

Just a quick second post for today. Ann was able to get us wrapped up tonight. We had to make some pretty deep cuts in what we can take with us...but who says "deep cuts" are bad?
The items that worry me a bit are our sleeping bags and outback gear, but for now they will stay in Los Angeles. We may be able to purchase some of those in Istanbul, for our first few months we will not need them. Once our Jeep arrives in December, we will hopefully have all our gear and be outfitted for the border regions.
Tomorrow we head to our rig in Riverside to make sure everything is closed up properly.
Tonight? We are pretty bushed. Hopefully we can take Friday and Saturday to rest before heading to LAX at 5:45am.

See....She Can Do Wonders!

We've Cut It Twice....And Its Still Too Short!

Our day started with a final team meeting. Great friends and family came together to say goodbye in Costa Mesa. We enjoyed this time...but the parting was difficult. This was our last "Goodbye" to say. From here on we are on our own.
We are still struggling with the weight limits and number of containers and are continuing to whittle...that which doesn't seem "whittle-ible".

Trust Us....Things Will Look Better At Midnight Tonight


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How To Plan Your Next Vacation

It has been quite a day. We have been packing our containers using the guidelines given to us by Turkish single container over 70lbs. Today I ran across a reference to baggage on the TA website and it said 50lbs. After calling and talking to several different TA employees we ended up with a score of 1 to 3.
3 of the employees said that we are allowed 70lbs per bag....1, very emphatic, employee stated that the limit was 50lbs...and if the container weighed more than 50lbs they would reject it flat out. No fees, overages etc.
So, not needing the hassle of trying to figure what to throw away at the ticket counter, Ann pulled everything out and started re-packing with the 50lb limit. This is where the squeeze comes in. We need to buy a couple more shipping containers....(our books are killing us).
While we negotiated through that issue, we multitasked....putting together a 2800 piece final newsletter, returned our "non acceptable" shipping containers to the store, stopped to buy lots of stamps, and finally got to bed at midnight to blog, and get up early for a final team meeting in Costa Mesa.

It is surprising how much effort it takes to get ready to relax and vacation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Whew and Wheeze

Yeah Baby! That is a sight we needed to see. Out of nowhere our boxes arrived today from FedEx. The packing is underway and we are thankful that they got here in time.
Just a few days left to pull it all together. We are getting our workout this week.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Overnight Shipping...Cool

Our shipping containers were scheduled to be here today. FedEx said they were on the truck and out for delivery for this afternoon. So we stayed home and waited for these 12 large boxes to arrive.
About 5pm I called FedEx and they confirmed that the driver had the packages and would be here within an hour or two, they even checked with the local FedEx yard who confirmed the report. At 8pm we checked their tracking website and saw that they had delivered the packages to our door at 7:07pm....the problem was, we were home, the door was open and there were no packages.
FedEx customer support took a report and said that, unfortunately, they would be closed until Tuesday. We are hoping this is an easy has all the makings of a World class frustration. Yet....we will roll with the tide.

Hmmm....Breathe Deeply, Exhale, Repeat

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Pulling It All Together

The last two days have been busy...but enjoyable. We are surprised at how much it is costing to pull these final days together. But the money has been available (some of it at critical moments) as we have needed it.

An Early Map Of Our New Home

Today we took care of the termination of our house rental, phone, and internet accounts. And we completed the task of gathering our prescription meds for the next 6 months. We are planning on finding a local doctor within the first few months to issue any needed meds in Istanbul.
We packed up several boxes of books and mailed them off to friends who want to do what we are doing. Friends who feel the call to "wander" among those who live On The Far Side Of The World.
Tonight we said goodbye to Ali and Hussein, our two friends who own the Lebanese restaurant in the Little Gaza section of Los Angeles. It was weird to sit there and think that in 8 days we will be eating dinner in Istanbul...we are so ready to go!
Tomorrow we are hoping that our shipping containers arrive. If they do we will be able to get everything packed this weekend.
We have no meetings scheduled until next week. Think of us as you approach your week...we are hoping...that our children will fall in love with Istanbul and its people. And that this move will enrich their lives and stir their interest in those who live a "World Away".
This is a major shift in our, and especially, their lives. We want Stanley and Elle to feel as if Turkey is their home. And to love it as they do SoCal. We need you to wish for our easy acclimation. Thanks!

The Hagia Sophia

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World