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Two Weeks In Links

I’ve had a very lazy week, gang. A big class finished, and for one reason or another most of my one on one students cancelled so I’ve found myself at loose ends… and what is it about having nothing to do that makes it so hard to do anything?

Anyway, let’s get down to it.

First off, since I was a wee small bairn I’ve had a deep distrust of  the concept of heros in general. I hated writing those “Who is Your Hero?” papers in school because I knew, somehow, I just knew deep down everyone was kind of a jerk and I also knew intuitively and later confirmed that no one comes up with ideas on their own. They just don’t. You just don’t. Thomas Edison always seemed a little too much of a muchness character to me, (and it turns out he had about as much creative input in his brand as Calvin Klein, which is to say almost none) and I want to weep a little every time I think about how we don’t have free electricity because a few people would prefer to make money from it. So Nikola Tesla, I salute you. And I’m sorry you died alone and crazy and thank you. And thank you Oatmeal for this wonderful tribute. Geeks of the world, pour one out tonight.

Palate cleanser: Whale beached in the forests of Argentina! Man I get jealous of people who think of and do these things.

I like dumb jokes a LOT, (holla Tim Hallam! All y’all check out the link for Connections right there on the right) but I like stupidly overly-intellectual quips almost as much. This fantasy re-shuffling of Europe made me snort coffee out my nose a few times. “Bordello.” Ha!

No one really talks about money, which is weird, right? I mean, no one ever talked to me about money. Mom just figured I’d figure it out because somehow she had. And I was taught to balance a checkbook in school, and someone told me not to spend more than a quarter of your income on rent, but that’s bout it. No one really talks about money. It’s rude to bring it up with your friends. (Refreshing exception implicit in ex-pat life. “So where do you teach? Cool. How much do they pay?”) Not possessing many marketable skills myself, I escaped the American Economic crisis by moving 5000 miles away. It’s a common story here. But pals of mine who’ve stayed in America are dealing with it by going back to school. Which is really fricking expensive. And they’re getting into debt. And no one’s talking about it. So I find this series of exchanges really refreshing.

Speaking of America- this breakdown of gay-friendliness by state was making the rounds earlier this week, and it’s worth a look. I mean, no brainer in a way, (the coasts are more progressive?! Wha-?!) but interesting to see it all laid out.

Also speaking of America, here are some pictures I got all misty about. Camden Yards will never be Memorial Stadium, (“Let’s knock down this memorial we built to never forget something!” -Baltimore) but that big building on the right is where I had my prom, and I spent many pleasant evenings bored out of my mind there.

And finally, here’s the world in high res. Thanks, Russia.

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Water Water Neverwhere

 

Do not count on me, reader, in endtimes. Whether it’s the zombie apocalypse, war, “a series of rapid percussions,” nuclear holocaust, the Mayans coming back to get us whatever, I don’t think I’m going to survive after the first few days without running water. 

“I have water,” A boasted last night. “I took a long hot shower before I came here.” 

“Bastard,” I said. “I’m gummy. I’m actually gummy. I think if you threw something at me it would stick to my filth.” 

B threw a coaster at me. 

“Do you still have water though?” asked C. “Because I had it for two hours and then it went away again.” 

“We definitely didn’t have water when I left the house,” I offered. “I kept lifting the tap, mournfully, you know, and hoping. I wound up just swiping my important bits with a damp cloth. You’re all welcome.” B began giving me an elaborate sniff test. “Fuck off!” 

“I heard it might not come back until Friday,” RM said. “Some kid on the street told me that today.” 

“But the website says-” 

“The website says it was supposed to be on six hours ago.” 

“I was really hoping they’d have water here. I need to poop.” 

“You know,” I said, “that is something that has totally been freaking me out? No one, not our bartender, not the guy who just sold B a kebab, no one at the grocery store- I mean NO ONE has been able to wash their hands properly in the last two days.” 

“I did at work-” 

“Like I said we had it for two hours today and I took a shower, I started a load of laundry, I cleaned the kitchen…” 

“I can’t even go in our kitchen now. It’s awful. I think it would be better to burn it down.” 

“Is this your first water cut?” C asked me. 

“It’s my first of any length. I’m used to it going out for a few hours, usually when I’m late for work, but two days is- special, and I of course if they would just TELL you beforehand…”

“Yeah. We had a four day one last year. That was fun.” 

“Oh, Turkey.” 

“Oh Turkey.” 

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McDonalds

The passion of my mid-twenties was some high-minded ideal of sustainable, organic, slow food. Not foodie food- I squirmed and still squirm at that word, which feels smarmy to me. Something a certain kind of man who has an “eclectic” c.d. collection and enjoys “sensual” massages would say to impress a girl, “I’m really a foodie. On our next date you’ll have to come over so I can make you squab in a blood orange pomegranate reduction sauce with roasted asparagus with wasabi jus. I got the recipe from Gourmet, February 1988.” Bleh. Run. No, I was interested in plain home cooking, done well, with local, seasonal ingredients. I was interested in a time before strawberries were available year round, and one might know one’s farmers, and one canned food because it was the best way to make it last all winter, when waste was anethema, and even the scraps went to your pig to become your dinner later.

I read Karen Hesse and learned to hate white sauce. I read Michael Pollan and learned to despise Monsanto. I trawled the farmers markets for organic farmers who were actually local. I bought my pork from the heirloom pig guys and learned to do without beef. I waited weeks for the only truly free range chickens I could find and paid sixteen bucks for one. I stopped buying eggs from my egg man when I learned he fed his chickens soy. I grew food on my roof.

And I never, ever, ever ate fast food.

Well, maybe once a year when we all went on vacation because you canNOT go South without hitting Waffle House I don’t care how strong your principles are.

 

What happened to that passion? Well, work got in the way. And when you’re chronically single, making meals for yourself sucks the fun right out of cooking. So much easier to just heat up a bowl of soup and be done with it. Or stop for a sandwich somewhere on your way home. And then, I was a few years too early. When I left, Baltimore was becoming an urban farmers paradise. When I was 26, the sheer effort of cycling all around town to try to find food I deemed acceptable, and the cost of that food when I found it- it makes me feel tired and defeated just to think about it.

 

Fast forward half a dozen years and here I am in Istanbul, which is a paradise for fresh fruit and veg. It ‘s ridiculously cheap- I swear I just paid 4 lira for a pound of early cherries which comes out to less than two bucks- and it’s trucked im daily. And if you want to support a local farmer, they rig up markets in almost every neighborhood on almost every day of the week. Just found one in Cengelkoy at the Su Dolap stop, by the way, that’s ridiculously cheap, but, fair warning, crawling with gypsy kids. (Unexpected side effect of Istanbul ex-pat life, I find myself saying things a racist from 80-odd years ago would say. But seriously, watch your pockets around the gypsy kids.) It’s not organic of course. Istanbul’s selection of organic food is pathetic, and so expensive it makes Whole Paycheck, er, Whole Foods look like Sav-a-Lot. No joke. (Any Isty’s wanna put in two cents proving me wrong here, please do.) But it’s local? Lower carbon footprint? That’s good, right? No? No. 26 year old Sarah is weeping and gnashing her teeth in fury. I’ve let down the revolution.

 

And then I’m surrounded here by really good, cheap abundant food. It’s EVERYWHERE. Other bloggers are better about waxing rhapsodic about it and I’ll let them. But trust me- the fish is fresh, the iceberg lettuce is invariably crisp, the stews are savory… yeah. Other people do that better. But the problem I keep having, the problem I always come back to is that Turkish food is pretty much all you can get here. There are Chinese restaurants, sure, but they’re kind of crappy. THere’s a vegetarian Indian restaurant, I’ve heard. There’s even some approximation of sushi. But I grew up in America, where even a relatively uncosmopolitan city like Baltimore was in the nineties had decent Chinese takeouts on every corner, (even fancy Chinese restaurants! Anyone remember Uncle Lee’s? Holla?) and Indian, (what was the name of that Indian joint that opened on Frederick Road? Marc and I used to go there ALL THE TIME. Mmmmm. Samosas.) and Greek and Afghani and Thai and Mexican and El Salvadoran and okay, if we get into taco territory I’ll start crying and never stop, but you get the idea. It was not only available, it was convenient. I’m just not used to living in a mono-cuisine culture, yet here I am.

I rarely eat for pleasure anymore.

 

So to sum it up, my relationship with food has unravelled because of latent hippie-guilt, laziness, and boredom.

 

Which brings me back to fast food.

 

In my early, dark days here, on a morning when I was feeling particularly beaten up by Istanbul and homesickish, I passed a Burger King, and the door opened and the smell hit me full in the face and suddenly I was in Snowpea, my white Nissan Stanza, in the drive-thru of the Burger King on Rt. 40, in 1998, and Marc was probably there too, and I was ordering a Big King Meal with onion rings instead of fries and a diet pepsi. I found myself walking into the Burger King on Bahariye and ordering a meal. And even without the bacon-product topping, it was the most perfect thing I’ve ever eaten. The patty was cardboardy, and the ideal balance between salty and savory and totally bland. The cheese-product was rubbery and poorly melted. The ketchup was too vinegary. The bun managed to be soggy and sawdusty at the same time. The fries were limp and underseasoned. You might judge me, reader. You might call me an ugly American. You might, rightly, point out that there was a doner bufe right next door and doner is, by any subjective or objective measure, better than Burger King. And yet it my mouth it was so much more than the sum of its poor parts. It was sunshine streaming through a car window. It was easy companionship and brittle jokes. It was road trips and beach toys, all the time in the world, the perfect mixtape. It was youth and the weight of the world. It was everything I’ve ever lost, and everything I ever wanted. That burger, reader, was love.

Nevertheless when I finished and was licking my fingers and noticing that the other patrons were Turkish teenagers and tourists, I was ashamed of myself.

 

It became a regular thing, after that. A payday treat. I found my footing eventually. Made friends, took and discarded or was discarded by lovers, found the perfect apartment, became good at my job, stopped being homesick, and ate less fast food.

I came home the other morning to find RM and JP in the living room.

“We’re ordering McDonald’s breakfast,” RM announced. “You want the standard?”

“Yes ma’am!” I said. And settled happily into the couch. While we waited for the McDonald’s delivery man (oh yes, that’s a thing here) to come on his scooter we post-mortemed our various adventures from the night before and settled into an easy companionship. JP started reading a book. RM disappeared to fuss with her hair or something. I fiddled with the i-pod. We got hungrier and hungrier. RM called McDonalds again to confirm it was coming. I gave up on getting to work ontime by public transportation and decided to take a cab (MORE ON THAT LATER. Now that’s a story.) We danced a little and restlessly stalked around the apartment. I leaned out the window and squealed “Oh my god he just pulled up!” A moment later we were in the kitchen, fluffing our McDonald’s coffees (remember when I wouldn’t drink anything but fair trade organic shade grown?) with milk and sugar.

The hashbrowns were salty, tasteless, and weirdly over-starchy. The McMuffin, (which FYI in Turkey are made with “Hindi” which is a fake ham product resembling canadian bacon that you don’t want to think about too closely) was half cold, texturally suspicious, and gooey.

“Oh my God,” I said, with my mouth full. “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

“Agreed,” JP said.

“Agreed,” RM said.

 

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The Week In Links

Good lord, what a week! For me it’s been full of sunshine and socializing and playing at revolution, so there hasn’t been much time for sitting in front of the computer reading interesting things. But please do enjoy my meager offerings:

First off, have you heard of Teju Cole? If you haven’t, why not? What’s wrong with you? Here is his twitter feed, and here is an NPR article explaining why his tweets are the most amazing things in the whole world. Trust me. This will change your life, and if you’re a writer Teju Cole will give you a total Saliere-mal fit.

Okay so we haven’t talked about this before, and now’s a good time to start. I was, as many of you know, a bikini waxer for nearly ten years. I’m supposed to be writing a book about it now. I am very lazy, and very very behind schedule. Anyway, I was a bikini waxer, but I’m also a feminist, and I feel really lucky to have come of age in the nineties, when everyone but strippers and neurotic ballerinas sported full bush. I have nothing against hair removal, I have nothing against not removing hair. I think it’s a style choice that has been over-politicized on both sides. I live in Turkey now, where hair is generally considered dirty, and everyone, men and women, tend to shave it off. (It was very strange getting used to the idea that men shave their pits here. They think it’s really strange that American men don’t.) The most interesting thing about this article to me, (and I’m just discussing pubic hair here- I don’t feel strong enough to tackle the surgery part yet) is that young women feel pressured to shave their boxes, and that a sample of men find it completely disgusting if they don’t. Of course, these are all young guys. The under-30′s. And do you all remember guys at that age? In high school and college, I think, boys have a weird hositility towards girls’ bodies. God forbid, for instance, that you didn’t shave your legs for two days and then went out on a date. The boy would be grossing his dude friends out with that anecdote for weeks. There’s immense pressure at that age, even in the free-wheelin full bush-sportin nineties when overalls were sexy, to always smell of strawberries, have smooth legs, never ever to fart. I still remember the casually cruel comments my guy friends would make about my body- “It’s weird that I can see your veins through your skin. That’s actually really gross.” “You look like a cocker spaniel.” “Your nipples are weird.” Young men are just overly critical of young women’s bodies. It takes time and maturity, I think, for them to realize that women are, all of us, mammals, and that that’s pretty awesome, and that yes, he IS as the article said, lucky to just be down there. So if no pubic hair is the new norm, and it appears it is, and if young men are critical of girls who don’t conform to that norm, as they are wont to do, why is that any different from dudes getting grossed out over girls not shaving their pits? Why is this such a loaded argument? Thoughts? In the comments, please.

Thanks Jackie, for bringing this to my attention. The NYC municipal archives have put a BUNCH of old photos of the city online. It’s pretty awesome.

And here is a tumblr from a man who takes his sandwich science VERY seriously.

And finally, a very interesting post about a new political group in Turkey.

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Bir Mayis II

Here are some pictures I took from the web of Bir Mayis in Taksim.

Here are a bunch of socialists marching:

Here are a bunch of people sitting on a McDonalds

This is what a million people look like from a helicopter:

This is what a million people look like when you’re in them:

WHen you’re there it’s just overwhelmingly hot and crowded and shovey, and you the sun beats down on your head and there are songs that everyone else knows all the words to but you can only shout along with the chorus, “Bir Mayis! Bir Mayis! Something something something something something something!” or “Ciao bella ciao bella ciao ciao ciao ciao!” and there are impassioned speeches that you can’t understand and you shake your fist at the sky when everyone else does and do your best to shout “shoulder to shoulder we fight facism!” in Turkish with the rest of them but it isn’t your fight, really, not your country. You haven’t lived through the injustices your friends have. You’ve never run from tear gas. But it is your fight in a way, you think, as you shake your fist and hum along to the Internationale, because you too despise injustice, fascism, Americal Imperialism, capitalism.

But you are very tired and hot, you can feel your fair skin frying in the sun, and you’re not convinced this government-sanctioned, police “protected” display does anything to fight any of that.

This is what a million people look like when you finally give in to your aching joints and sit on the ground.

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Battle Scars

Do you all remember young love? When you really like someone and you’re pretty sure that person really likes you too and maybe you both have the same day off so you spend most of it in bed, making stupid jokes that will carry you through a few years of a relationship, talking nonsense to each other, holding the palms of your hands together and marvelling at the simple miracle that you both have fingers… and maybe you trace a white line in his eyebrow and say,
“How’d you get that?”
“I was riding my bike over the Brooklyn Bridge at 3 in the morning…” he explains, and you listen, rapt. And then he touches a divet on your shin and asks how you got that and you tell him all about this crazy house you used to live in that had the tiniest, twistiest, most unevenly built stairway ever, and how you used to run up those stairs, three flights of them, without turning on the lights… and then you examine his appendectomy scar as though it holds some essential truth about him, and he in turn marvels over the shiney patch on your foot from that scooter accident and so the afternoon wears on,
“Is it really two? Jesus. We should at least get something to eat.”
“In a minute. Come here.”

What happens to those bodies of knowledge and knowledge of bodies when they’re no longer needed?

The lovely part of spring is finally here. The days are warm and  monotonously lovely. I’ve acquired sunburns one, (shoulders, back of neck) and two (nose, decolletage), I’ve had to readjust to life without coat pockets, and I’ve laundered all my summer frocks. And of course my legs are in bloom with a rash of lovely purple bruises.

“What on earth happened to your leg?” C asked the other day. “Has he been beating you?”

“No, nothing that exciting,” I said. “I’m naturally clumsy and in the spring I’m more active so…”

“Oh that’s a bad combination.”

“Indeed. It’s a joke back home that I should be wrapped in bubblewrap and issued a helmet and mouthguard.”

I frowned at my calf, and noticed the tail end of a scar curling around. My God, skin doesn’t heal so well after thirty.

It got me thinking about how the map of my body has changed since I came here. Old scars have faded substantially, (you have to really look to see the one from the scooter now. By the way, kids, patent leather mary-janes with the most adorable buttons ever are not good motor-cycling shoes) new scars have erupted all over the place.

My hand for one: that pinky will never be right again.

And then there’s the scar on the back of my leg:

That’s a good one, eh? When I was at Dilko I complained that I wanted a conference table set-up instead of a ring of school desks

So my boss’s solution was to install tables and cut the desk parts off the chairs with a hacksaw. (His ideas were always just so close to being good.) For about three days I was really careful of the jagged desk-stumps on the sides of the chairs and then one night a student asked me a question, I whirled around real fast to scribble some grammar rule on the board, and the metal edge caught my calf. I was on so many painkillers at that time because of my hand that I didn’t feel it, and it wasn’t until I felt blood trickled into my shoe a moment later that I realized something was wrong. I probably should have gotten stitches, but I figured I was on enough anti-biotics to kill a microbe the size of a horse and I’d spent way too much time in hospitals recently anyway.

My foot was recently mauled by both a ferry gangplank and a cat in the same week.

I fell and skinned my knees to fewer than three times this winter. (I blame the sidewalks, which are all, to a paving stone, trying to kill you.)

They’re all purpley and I don’t think the skin will ever be right. I cut another divet out of my leg below the divet from the house with the twisty staircase. It was a shaving accident aggravated by pantyhose and inability to remember to buy bandaids. Every night when I’d come home and peel off my tights another small chunk of leg would come with them. I might not, when I come to think of it, have the best self-preservation instincts.

So these are the ways Istanbul has marked me. You? You got any good travel scars?

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This Week In Links

And just like that it’s Thursday again. Sorry it’s been so long since we talked. I don’t have a good excuse, I just fell into a fun hole on my birthday that I’m just now pulling myself out of in the harsh fluorescent light of the teachers lounge. Did that make any sense? Probably not. I’m very tired.

Anyhoo, today’s TWiL is brought to you by yesterday’s bit of fun. In the late afternoon I hopped on a boat to Taksim where I tramped  up and down Istiklal Cd looking desperately for a street that I had put on the entirely wrong side on my hand-drawn map. (When friends come to visit they inevitably, within hours of arrival, take charge of navigating our way through a city I’ve now lived in for over a year and a half. This is why.) Along the way I felt a hand brush my bottom, but Istiklal is always, always very crowded, (a million people walk down it every day!) and it’s impossible to get very far without getting jostled, so I paid it no attention until I felt a hand brush not my bottom but really my butt crack, which struck me as odd. I turned around and glared at a tall fella wearing a blue Lacoste shirt. He looked mildly apologetic, so I kept tramping down the street, getting crankier and crankier with my hand drawn map and having to pee more and more urgently and I felt a hand on my bottom again and there was sweat dripping down my back it was so hot, and I turned around and flipped my sunglasses up on my forehead so Mr. Lacoste could really see how very angry I was at him and I said “get the fuck away from me. Now.” He looked apologetic again and held his hands out helplessly. I turned on my heel and stalked down the road, wondering if the name of the road had been changed? I mean, that would be a very Turkish municipal trick, really, to just up and change the street names without warning and THERE was the HAND on my ASS, AGAIN. I whirled around and slapped him and hissed “if I see your face again I will call the Polis? You understand? POLIS.”  He retreated a few feet and waited for me to walk on. I folded my arms and stared him down. He shrugged, like, “What am I to do?” I tapped my foot. He showed no sign of moving on so I pulled out my book in a gesture of, “I can stand here all day, buddy.” He got the message and walked in the opposite direction. I waited til he was well and truly gone and then asked the helpful nearby roasted chestnut vendor where the effing eff this street was, and he set me straight. I’d walked by it three times.

A girl I met later got frottaged on a bus at roughly the same time, so I think summer has officially arrived in Istanbul.

Anyway, once on the proper street, I found the coffee shop easily and went in and introduced myself to some really truly lovely folks. Everyone gave a three-fold introduction- name, twitter i.d., and blog name and we chit-chatted about everything from Turkish culture to childcare to the Happy Mondays and it was one of the pleasanter afternoons I’ve spent. Thanks, all of you, for including me and for being awesome and interesting. And readers, sorry you couldn’t join us but below please find a taste of what you missed.

Meg has lots of thoughts about being knocked up abroad, and travelling with kids. She also has a very very charming kid.

The couple behind Turkey’s For Life are just as warm and lovely as they come across in their blog, and also really, really funny. (No, you cannot trim a cat as you would a bonsai.)

Joy was a delight to talk to. And Baltimore cred alert, she used to work with Cindy Wolf, so read her awesome cooking blog.

Norbert, who does not, for the record, know Jennifer Lopez, is a super smart architecture nerd/world traveller. I learned a bunch from him in half an hour, and I’m really looking forward to reading about his upcoming adventures. Very cool stuff.

Anil was the guy who brought the meetup together, so thanks, bud! I also feel a real kinship with him because I think his sense of direction is almost as good as mine. His blog has lots and lots of very practical solutions for world travellers, so if any of you are thinking about going walkabout, definitely check it out.

Unfortunately, I was never sitting very close to The Wandering Earl, which is a shame because I bet he has tons of good stories. Fortunately, he has a blog, so I get to at least read about some of them.

I also wish I’d gotten to talk more to Jen, who has a really great blog about living in Istanbul that you should check out right now.

If I missed anyone, I am terribly sorry, (or you’re welcome, maybe?) I’m operating on, like, one cylinder today. Holler at me and I’ll correct it. The rest of you, have a great week.

 

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The Week In Links

So today is my birthday, which I’m celebrating by wearing a pretty frock, eating obscene amounts of food, chirping “it’s my birthday!” to every single human being or cat that comes within chirping distance, and of course teaching a grueling nine lesson-hour day.  Hooray!

But don’t fret- I’m getting my fun in this week. Yesterday a fellow Baltimorean came into town. First off I took her to tea at the Galata Tower so we could sit and discuss our options for the day- sightseeing or general chilling?- and that’s where we were when the windstorm hit. We’ve had a pretty windy spring already. Last week there were a few nights when even with all the windows in the apartment closed, the wind was strong enough to slam doors. Which isn’t unnerving at all. At two in the morning. When RM was away and I was alone. So when my Baltimore bud asked, “Is this normal?” I shrugged in a way I hoped was relaxed and conveyed that we were TOTALLY not going to die, and said, “Yeah! Happens all the time!” and suggested we scurry down the hill to the Halic bridge for lunch. While we were catching up on Baltimore Ravens gossip over fried anchovies and mussels, 300 houses were losing their roofs, 5 people were dying, some building was falling over in Nisantisi, and a yacht was on fire. By the time we paid the bill, the seas were calm again. We opted for more chilling than sight seeing.

So between the birthday, the visitor, and my general laziness, there are no links this week. I do apologize. I’ll be back with a vengeance and more lovely pictures next week. In the meantime, I would like to warmly wish you all a very very happy my birthday.

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Why I Get Out of Bed In The Morning

Student: Teacher, what is your real job? 

Me; This is my real job. 

Student: No, what is your REAL job? 

Me: THIS is my real job. 

Student: So… you don’t have a real job? 

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