Monday, October 29, 2007

Last One Standing

Two weeks ago Elle got sick and that started a wave that floored her and then Stanley before finally hitting me a few days ago. The kids are bouncing back slowly, I am still not convinced I am going to live... and Ann, who has weathered this so far, is the last one standing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sleeping with the Stars

The ancient proverb says that "it is better to live on the corner of a roof than inside the house with a quarrelsome woman" (or something to that effect). Every time I see these rooftop bedrooms in eastern Turkey...I figure that those kinda digs aren't such a bad deal. These airy boudoirs have always appealed to us... cool, inviting and with incredible starry views.
Packed Away for the Day

Throughout southeastern Turkey these rooftop bedrooms are more popular than not...these pics were taken in towns near the Syrian, Iraqi and Turkish border confluence a few weeks ago. Every morning the women fold up the bedding, pack it away, and hose the terrace down readying it for another night topside.
Entire households move outside once the sun sets, fire pots are set up to grill the evening's meal, beds are laid out on the bed frames and pillows, cushions and mats are spread around. Everyone stays up well past midnight talking, drinking tea, looking at the stars and enjoying a break from the daytime heat. All in all it has become one of our favorite Turkish cultural delights. While some people are Dancing with the Stars...our Crew is sleeping with them.
Tidying Up the Terrace

Starry Bedrooms of Cizre

Village Rooftop Bed Garnished Sun Drying Peppers

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Heat Is On

Fall is In
The fact that winter is heading our way was confirmed by an unwelcome phone call today informing us that the "heat was on" and that our portion of the community heating bill was jumping several hundred dollars a month, over last year.
Most Turkish apartment blocks are on a radiator heating system where all residents pay an equal portion of the cost whether they use the heat or not (which most of them do).
Last winter we had the radiators turned off in our flat but the heat rising off the supply pipes that run from the units below us to the floors above kept us so warm would could have grown orchids. This year our windows are wide open and we are breaking out the Freezy Pops and Big Sticks.
Heating Stoves For Sale Across the Street

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Geographical Stretch

Turkish Flags in Istanbul Honoring the Dead

We are being stretched between the geographical extremes of our life this week. From the devastating terrorist attacks here in Turkey to the massive wildfires ravaging our Southern California roots we are doing our best to keep up to speed on all the changes that are taking place.
Yesterday waves of demonstrations swept across Istanbul and the nation as Turks expressed their outrage and grief at the relentless attacks in the southeast. Today Turkey buried the 12 soldiers that were killed this week in State funerals sharing those headlines with the fires from SoCal in the local and internet press.
Headlines From Fox News*

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Our Truck in Yuksekova

This posting about our swing through the town of Yuksekova in southeastern Asia Minor was set to go this morning when we got word that another terrorist attack had hit Turkey...this time targeting a Turk Military unit based in Yuksekova, 12 Turk soldiers have been murdered and many more hurt in this latest attack. About an hour ago a wedding party rolled over a landmine planted by terrorists along a village road over which we traveled last month, those casulties are still being counted. With several of our Istanbullu friends the parents of Turkish soldiers and many having family in the southeast, the air in Istanbul is heavy today.
Waiting to be Cleared to Travel Near Yuksekova

We arrived in Yuksekova late in the evening one day last month after a long drive from Dogubeyazit. After checking in at the local hotel we headed out to eat and settled in on the rooftop terrace of an open cafe. They were about to close but offered our dirty and tired crew a "sampler plate"...which is code for "whatever was leftover" from the day's grill.
The platter arrived and was heaped with an incredible variety of chicken, lamb and kebaps grilled over a wood fire. Hot bread, grilled peppers, and plates of shaved onions and parsley followed and we dug in like we hadn't eaten all day. It was some of the finest Turkish cuisine we have ever eaten.
The owner of the cafe took an interest in Stanley and over the next few days they became close friends...Stanley would run back and forth from the hotel to his new friend and we ended up taking most of our meals at the cafe.
Stanley and His Buddy

One particular evening we were eating on the terrace when Stanley got cold...he left the cafe, ran across the busy street and into the hotel to get his jacket. The waiters, cooks, owner, and hotel staff all noticed and formed a "visual relay" each of them taking ownership of a portion of the route he was taking and passing him off to the next person to make sure he made it there and back without incident.
While Yuksekova sits in a geographically, politically, and historically hazardous location and (probably) has no chance of making the cut in this year's edition of "1000 Places To See Before You Die"...for our crew it was and remains a delightful highlight and a favorite destination.
And for Stanley? The kindness of a few Turks have made it an amazingly powerful and endearing memory to a little boy.
Raw Wool For Sale in Yuksekova

Village Home on the Outskirts

Friday, October 19, 2007

Original Fruit

Wild Pomegranates in the Kara Deniz Range

Pomegranates have a deep rooted history in Middle Eastern culture...native to Persia they have become my new and favorite fruit. They have been cultivated for over 3000 years in Middle East and are said to have been a favorite of Muhammad (pbuh) himself and were incorporated, by order of Allah, into the architecture and design of both the structure and vestments of the Tabernacle built by Moses and the Temple of Solomon. Some have even said it was the pomegranate and not the apple that was the original desire of Eve's snackish propensities.
There are reams of info on the web about the healing and beneficial properties found in the fruit of this bushy plant. Even King Tut was buried with pomegranates to ensure his future fertility in the afterlife. The words "Garnet, Grenadine and Grenades" are all purportedly derived from the shape, color, structure, or taste of the pomegranate.
The best way to break into one? Ann immerses the fruit in water before cracking them open...the water keeps the splatter contained, the rind and membrane float to the top and the seeds sink to the bottom.
For me...I am just glad they are back in season and we can look forward to glasses of fresh squeezed juice, thick pomegranite syrup mixed with balsamic vinegar on our salads, and the fresh plump seeds garnishing everything from yogurt to desserts. If you're in the neighborhood drop by tomorrow evening...chicken simmered in pomegranate syrup and walnuts will be on the docket.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Çig Köfte

Murat's Homemade Çig Köfte

Our neighbor Murat brought us down some homemade Çig Köfte (chig kohftay) last night. It is one of Stanley's favorite Turkish dishes and is made by taking raw ground beef and mixing it with onions, super hot peppers and is then kneaded for hours by hand to reach the right consistency and texture. The guys who make Çig Köfte for a living spend their days up to their elbows in raw meat, pureeing it by hand. To spot a Çig Köfte maker...look for the guy with forearms and biceps like Popeye's.
It is served raw and at room temperature and will light you up. Wrap it in lettuce and soak it in lemon juice for one of the coolest eats you will find in Istanbul.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

No Other Place on Earth

The Park Out My Window

Twenty-two years ago we lived in a small secluded cabin in the mountains of Southern California overlooking a little blue lake surrounded by pines. To most, the little one bedroom cottage would have been suitable only for seasonal use...but to this day it remains as one of our fondest recollections and our all time favorite home. At Lake Cuyamaca each year the air would take on a distinct "quality" once fall arrived...and there would be a crispness and clarity to the air that signaled the onset of winter and our favorite season.
That same quality has come upon us quickly here in Istanbul these last few days. The nights have turned cold, the air is clear, folks are bundling up and the trees seem to be caught by surprise. I don't have a lake view out my window, but with Istanbul just a step away...there is no place on earth we would rather be.
Colors Poking Through

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Switching Gears

Şeker Bayram is coming to a close within a few hours...which means that the American Holiday Season must be around the corner. I know it sounds crazy and I realize that Stateside many of you moan when the commercialzed side of Christmas rolls out early. But living here taught us last year that the kids needed a longer Holiday Season since the Christmas season is not something we see in Asia Minor.
That little bit of news got out yesterday and the neighbors came asking when we were going to decorate for Christmas...then before we could answer they asked if they could decorate with us and could we "please make it today" so they could help? It all boiled down to the fact that we will be decorating this year even earlier than we had planned.
We heard that some of them were heading to the stores to buy "birthday supplies", (we have no idea what that means)...but sometime within the next few hours we are going to have a houseful of Muslim Turks taking over to decorate our house for Christmas and going out of their way to make a family from the West feel at home on the Far Side of the World. Kinda cool huh?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wheel of Fortune

My Buddy Levent's Place
Now that Ramazan has ended our caloric intake has skyrocketed. People are laying out spreads that are amazing and making up for this last month's fasting. During Şeker Bayram you are expected to host all your friends and neighbors who are younger than you and in turn you must visit friends and neighbors who are older. It is like a culinary "Wheel of Fortune".
This morning our neighbors and friends started visiting early and later we ducked out quickly and into our older neighbor's homes to greet them and eat desserts. In the space of 4 hours we had eaten 4 separate meals...this will go on for the next 3 days and then life will wallow back to normal. I had kinda hoped to lose a few pounds over Ramazan but things look pretty bleak right now. I hope someone appreciates the sacrifice I am forced to make for the sake of cultural acclimation.
Ann with the Grandmothers

The "Big Boss" Gulten with Husband Metin

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Şeker Bayram and the Honeybees

In just about an hour Ramazan will come to an end and the 3 day holiday of Şeker Bayram (Sugar Holiday) will kick off. Traditionally the young visit the old, kiss their hands and touch their hand to their forehead and the older folks give the younger folks candy. All the stops are pulled out and desserts, tea, khave and special treats will be spread out in living rooms throughout Islamic Asia. It is a delightful few days of visiting and being visited.
Big Mama-Boss upstairs (Gulten)has been cooking until 3am the last few days and sampling her treats is first on my list. I was able to talk my way into Gulten's kitchen last night and take a few bites on a test drive before she shooed me away.

Rounding up the Strays

With so many sweet shops in Istanbul most Turkish women will buy their Baklava pre-made...Being the difficult guy I am, the holiday wouldn't be right without Ann's homemade Baklava. Today while she was cooking the honey for the topping we entertained hundreds of honeybees who must have been drawn to the scent of the honey. They flew in through the kitchen window at first, but when we closed it they found their way in thru the kid's bedroom windows...within minutes we had more than we could count buzzing thru the air down our hallway enroute to the kitchen. An hour's work later they had been rounded up with a spoonful of warm honey and sent on their way.
Bee Lasso

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rear Views and Reality

Our Rear View
Not to be cryptic...but we think it is important for you to realize that this journal is often written through rose colored glasses sparing you the whines of our daily we write from shades of gray.
The attacks of terrorists have continued to sweep through Turkey this week striking Istanbul, Izmir, and Sirnak. Scores are dead and many injured leaving our neighbors and our family weeping over the loss of Turkey's sons. From a grieving Istanbul, this is the "reality" of life today on the Far Side of the World.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Hanging Around

Hanging Around in Greece

It doesn't happen often, but occasionally we wonder what it would be like stay in one place and culture for awhile. This last week away was cause to reflect. To avoid playing the pity card we have decided to leave most of the details of our "Greece Do-Over" to the publishers. The gist is that the place was filthy and crawling with earwigs (pincher bugs).
They first made their presence known as I was pulling on my shorts and they began dropping down my legs. Ann had hung the wash out to dry and found her pants moving on their own in the morning. I don't know if they have a patent on the world's biggest earwigs...but they should have.
Our little cottage was infested with them and we ended up moving outdoors...even to the point of rigging up an outdoor shower to keep them from dropping on us at a vulnerable moment.
We try to be low-key folks...but finding them crawling around inside our clothes gave us the heebejeebies. Later we saw them on the bed, pillows, dishes and was like living in a terrarium. Even today the phantom crawlies are still causing us to squirm.
For now we will be hanging around Istanbul...scratching.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Dad & Green Bananas

Our View on the Road to Sirnak

We returned home a few hours ago broke, tired and buggy after a few days down south -- to find that some recent haunts of ours had been the target of terror attacks. Over the past 5 days terrorists have struck in Sirnak (we did a "walk thru" of a dilapidated hotel there 3 weeks ago) and in Izmir which we passed through last week and again today. Thirteen or more are dead and many more are wounded. Seems grenades, strafing, and scooter bombs were the weapons of the day.
We will bring you up to speed soon on our work trip to the island...for today we will leave you with these famous words from my dad, "Don't buy green may not be around to eat them". From a somber Istanbul, that's all I got.

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

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