Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Barber Attack!

This was funny. I have been looking for an electric razor for when I don't shave for a few days. I bought one for 2 bucks but it wasn't powerful enough so I went back to the same vendor to look at the others, it was just fella with a table top full of electric razors on the street. After 10 minutes of looking I decided to keep looking around for others.

He quickly stopped me ans gestured to come back and "test" it. I consented, he grabbed the razor we were looking at and just clipped along the edge of my chin (which was now in full beard). Then he aggressively shaves a stripe all the way up the middle of my chin!! And then recoils and says, "Buy to finish! ME Saddam Hussein YOU George Bush!"

I stood there with a stripe carved out of my chin slowly realizing that he was being serious. He was mad at me for some reason. I yanke the razor out of his hand thinking I might finish it myself. I warded off his attempts to take it back, then just decided I should walk away so I half set it half dropped it on the ground and walked away.

I am aware that my reaction to this guy was questionable. I probably should have just walked away with the strip down my chin, or bough the razor! haha I then walked to the neearest barber and had them shave me nice. Pretty funny stuff...

If your out there razor man, sorry for dropping your razor.

Here is one of my favorite snacks. It is a clam thingy packed with rice with squeezed lemon juice on it. Here is a mini movie clip on how vendors give them to you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why are Muslims the Nicest People? Four Food Experiences

That title may seem random, but actually it is Muslim people who are always feeding us :)

You all will probably be surprised to learn we are still in Istanbul! This is because we are waiting to get Jacob's Independent Study American Heritage test proctored. Don't worry though, there is still plenty to occupy us here in ISTANBUL.

Food Experience #1

Eating with Mohammed and his friends from Malaysia. They served us a typical Malaysian soup to be poured on top of rice. Jacob and I ate with our hands for the first time, and let me tell you we are not NEARLY as adept at those guys of agilely picking up rice with our fingers. It was a funny experience! But I think eating with chopsticks is even harder for me. If I had known that we would be eating with our hands though, I would not have poured so much soup on the rice! It was hot!

Food Experience #2

This store is on the way to their apartment.
Jacob, on his way to work out every day, passed these guys from Senegal. He struck up a conversation with one, and Mamadou, which means Mohammed, invited us to dinner for some authentic Senegalese food.

Yum! It was rice and chicken with very soft carrots and sweet potatoes. The chicken was flavored with something verrry yummy, which Jacob says people on the islands in the Pacific used too! They spoke French the whole time and I really must learn French. People are much more likely to know English and German than English and French. We all ate out the same dish which I am finally starting to get used to. The guy on the far right made the dish.

Here are the good friends at Mamadou's sales spot:

Food Experience #3

This one was very dramatic... it started with Zarah, the housekeeper from Turkmenistan, absolutely loving my haircut and insisting that I take her to get it cut at the same place. I was very flattered--no one's ever asked that for me before, but then again, I don't think I've ever liked a haircut as much as I have this one! Well we set out one day this week. I forgot it was quite a long walk, and I tried to tell her, but she doesn't speak a word of English. I speak some Turkish though :) Like 5 words. Anyways she and I went arm in arm, as the women here are prone to do, all the way to the barber. She really liked her haircut, fortunately, though I didn't have the heart to tell her it was someone different, actually, than the girl who cut my hair.

We walked toward home and I bought some burek along the way. All of a sudden, when we should be turning left, she tells me to go with her right. She keeps saying "Jacob Problem Yok?" and motioning her head as though going to sleep. She dragged me over to these salespeople and asked them to translate. Unfortunately their English was very poor. All they told me was "Zarah wants to go home." I thought, okay... Finally deciding she just wanted to show me where she lived. Next thing I know we're on the same street as the Senegalese apartment. They are next door neighbors! When I walked inside, I was literally bombarded with attention from five people, all from Turkmenistan, all very excited, gesturing, and talking loudly, and not a one of them with a word of English! Except for "I love you" haha.

Meet Umer. I remember his name because he repeated it to me over and over. Before I knew it I was sitting down on the couch, a little uncomfortable. I started to eat my burek because I didn't realize I had been invited to dinner, probably as a thank you gesture on Sarah's part for taking her to get her hair cut. So I ate my typical meal, becoming more and more uncomfortable. It occured to me Sarah had gestured the way she had because she wanted me to sleep over, and kept asking if Jacob had a problem
with that.

I felt like I had been kidnapped! Haha, it could have been funny, if only they could speak English. Or, if they didn't speak English, at least they could have left me in peace instead of gesturing wildly and shouting to get my attention. It was an absolute madhouse there! It was tiny, they all shouted when they spoke to each other, and I couldn't believe they all lived in that place. There was a bedroom with three beds, a living room, and a kitchen. Also a cramped little bathroom. And six people lived there? And they wanted me to spend the night? Without my husband? I kept asking to call Yusuf, our hostel owner. But Zarah kept telling me no! that there was no problem, and that Yusuf would tell Jacob I was spending the night! I continued to ask periodically to use someone's phone for the next couple of hours (I probably arrived there at 5 pm). Meanwhile, most of them went out to the market to get food. One stayed home named Laila to cook the dinner.

She kept the TV on at all times with a music TV station on. When a song came on that she liked, she and another lady would force me to get up and dance. Seriously, they dragged me off the couch by force. It was actually kind of fun at first. Until they wouldn't let me stop dancing!
Dinner was at around seven or eight. I finally got across to them that I would like Jacob to come to dinner with me. Although they wouldn't let me use the phone still, two of the men offered to go pick Jacob up themselves. I figured Jacob would be done working out by that time, so I agreed. Unfortunately, an hour later, they came back empty handed.

I tried to eat my dinner, which was very meat and potatoey, but I had just eaten burek and ayran without knowing that they were planning to feed me dinner. I left food on my plate which was probably offensive but I couldn't pick, chew, and gnaw the unknown meat like the others were doing. They kept bringing me more stuff to eat. Candy from Turkmenistan, a Snickers bar, fresh peeled fruit until I was about to pop. I had been there about four hours when I really started to want to leave, or at least talk to Jacob, who I was pretty sure had no idea where I was. I finally convinced someone to let me call Yusuf. He assured me he would tell Jacob to call me. Later it would turn out he wasn't even at the hostel to tell Jacob where I was.

After a crazy Turkmenistan dance party, where people dropped to the floor shouting and slapping the ground (Turkmenistan was a former member of the Soviet Union, and their dancing style seemed kind of Russian), people started to get ready for bed. Three mattresses were rolled onto the living room floor. Everybody was putting on pajamas. I had no idea where these people were expecting me to sleep, but I sure as heck knew I wasn't sticking around. For one thing, I had my contacts on and needed to take them out. I tried to explain that to them. Someone got out some ear drops. I insisted that I talk to Yusuf. He told me he would call me back soon. He didn't. I knew it was too late to walk home by myself at that point.

I was so frustrated. One of the men led me to an internet cafe downstairs to use their phone. I felt so relieved to be free at last that I convinced Zarah's friend and internet cafe owners to drive me home without saying goodbye to anyone. I was near tears by that time. Quite a stressful experience! I arrived home to see Jacob on his computer like always, and just waiting around because Yusuf told him someone was going to drop me off! He'd had no idea they were planning on me spending the night. It's a funny experience now, but I sure wasn't laughing then!

Food Experience #4

We went to a Mexican food restaurant in Turkey. I ordered a burrito, served cold sandwich style, that came with 5 chips and a tiny little cup of salsa that actually was pretty tasty, and Jacob ordered seafood pizza which ended up being tuna. Well, we didn't expect a REAL Mexican experience all the way out here! But it was funny, the service was a little too good, they kept taking our dishes just as the last bite was being taken. I had eaten only half of my burrito, planning to take the other half home as Americans are wont to do, when I looked down and it was gone! I immediately began to ask, "Where's my food? Did you take it? Did you hide it?" which I certainly wouldn't put past Jacob. Meanwhile, he found it very funny and took pictures the whole time as the waiters were called back, questioned, and went to look for the missing burrito. It was recovered at last. Hooray!
For your amusement, the sequence Jacob captured (observe the waiters in the background):

I ate the burrito the next day for lunch. Problem solved!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Since our 6 week stint in Istanbul will likely be coming to a close soon, I thought I would make a list of Do's and Don'ts if and when you come to the city...and you really should. We loved it here!
DO Visit...

The Kariye Church. It's called the Chora Church in English. It's a little out of the way... had to take a bus from Eminounu to Edirnekapi, but people will be happy to point you the way from there. It's just about the oldest church you can find around here, and the art is quite beautiful. Since Turkey is the foundation of the growth of the Christian church, it's very interesting to see. Then nearby there you can climb the Ottoman walls like I did. I felt like I was doing something illegal, but nobody stopped me, so it was fine! It was a gorgeous view. The steps are super skinny to get up, as you can see:

The Basilica Cistern: An underground cistern they discovered, then added really cool lighting and lots of fish. A legend about the Medusa's heads found here is that they turned them on their sides or upside down to avoid having to look them in the eye and get turned into stone.

Any and all mosques that you get a chance! You will be surprised at their variety and vastness. This one was nicknamed R2D2 by Jacob.

A Whirling Dervish performance. Sufis are a mystical sect of Islam. They believe by whirling around they will achieve oneness with God. We listened to Islamic music before the dervishes started whirling. Jacob and I had different impressions of this however; I thought the flute added a lot to the performance, while he thought the flutist was making tons of mistakes and the other players were getting frustrated with him! Who knows? We saw it at the Hodjapasha Cultural Center.

Miniaturk. They've got miniature versions of all the beautiful sites in Turkey, as well as some abroad, such as the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Plus there's info on Ataturk, who truly changed the focus of Turkey from one of conquering and imperialism to that of economy and secularization from Islam. And these people worship this guy. His image is everywhere.
Hagia Sophia: Bridge to the Asian Side

Don't Stay at the Budget Hostel unless you're no more than two people! It's really very small. But we lived here quite comfortably for 6 weeks. And made some great friends. Umer is a humble, helpful, happy guy who can't speak English and is kind of a secondary housekeeper. And then this other guy has a name I can't pronounce let alone spell, and he loves to insistently converse with us with only three phrases that can mean everything: "finish" "problem" and "very good."

Do Attend
the Istanbul LDS Branch! You'll meet some very kind people. We were invited to dinner with two families. Both had very small children who we enjoyed hanging out with! But Babil Sokak can be hard to find. It's a little street near a main tourist hub, Taksim Square. It took us three weeks to find it. Last Sunday we got to work in the nursery and Jacob had little girls climbing all over him like a jungle gym. Very cute :)

Jacob had aspirations of growing up to be a squirrel when he was young, so he was excited to meet another young guy who believes he is currently a squirrel! Allison, the youngest, was mesmerized by Barney.

This family has three little boys all 5 and under! We admire Christine for staying at home with these three little energy balls: Atticus, Sherman, and Sincy. And as a side note, we saw dolphins jumping in the Bosphorus on the ferry to their apartment. Very cool!

Don't order
"steved" fish! Or eat at any of the fish restaurants along the Marmara near Sultanahmet. They are tourist traps. They told us "Turkish music" to lure us in as we perused the menu. When we got inside, we realized it was just a guy pretending to play cheesy pop songs along on a player piano with some of his own additions totally off-key. It was actually pretty hilarious. It sounded horrible. At the same time, there were actually no other tourists there, but a bunch of Turkish people dressed up to the nines. Was this their idea of classy? We decided a better way to celebrate Friday the 13th (always a good day for us because it was our first date) was to buy a Dido bar and play some SkipBo.

Do get
a Turkish haircut! Although admittedly I felt queasy as I got my hair done--because the people working frantically on my hair couldn't speak English and the girl didn't use scissors but a razor thing that literally shaved layers off of my hair, so much so that I feared I would go bald, and I even stopped her, which I have never done, to say, "Don't you think it's getting a little thin?" but of course she didn't understand and just kept going-- I was very pleased once it was finished! And you get spoiled for only 15 Turkish lira, which is like 9 bucks.

Don't Visit...
The Pera Palas Hotel unless you are obsessed like I was to see the place where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express. It's currently being renovated. On the other hand, maybe when you all come out here to visit it will be finished and you can go inside to see the room where it was written! Kai, this is for you... since you liked the movie so much:

Or don't visit the Hagia Sophia or Topkapi Palace Harem without a tour guide. I can't say that for certain, because we didn't get one, but without a tour guide you're just looking at stuff without knowing the significance of it, which can be confusing/boring even if very cool-looking/important.

Do just go out exploring--you never know what you'll find. My last venture I discovered a lovely view of the Olympic stadium, for example:

Some say Istanbul is overpopulated with 15 million residents, but I'm a city girl at heart, so I appreciate this:

The end.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Top Ten Lists

At Hagia Sophia

Today I (Kalli, as opposed to Jacob, who wrote the last post--there was some confusion there) am offering what you should know if you are considering becoming a world vagabond.

Top Ten List: Why It's Tough to Have No Home

1. Laundry.
We laughed when we paid $13 for a load in Jerusalem, we were shocked to pay $25 here in Istanbul... and after $50 spent in a month to wash the meager clothing that we still have, I have taken to washing our clothes in the shower or sink, and drying them on the heater. Why is laundry so expensive here? Well, because they don't have laundromats. You are paying for them to be personally and lovingly washed, dried, ironed and folded. It frustrates me because I actually love doing laundry. I want to do it myself. I like to organize the colors, arrange them in the machine, and get them back smelling all nice and clean! Well, the new system seems to be working just fine. Pour some shampoo, soak in the sink, squeeze, and rinse. Not exactly the most convenient thing in the world, but it works. And yes, the showers are just the bare floor, which would gross me out if our cleaning lady didn't do such a good job.

2. Earning Money
I'm learning a bit about internet marketing, which Jacob is a genius about. However, I have yet to bring in sustainable income, and I'm not really in the position to work where I help people, which is my ideal job. Like kids, old people, or underprivileged people. Time to rant a little bit now:
Why Did I Get My Degree?

First it must be understood that I loved college, I enjoyed class, I daydreamed about future courses I would take, and I actually look forward to being able to take classes one day in the future. BUT the degree itself makes me wonder...what was the point? Especially after being married to a successful entrepreneur who dropped out of college? Of course I happened to choose two of the most impractical studies in the world, vocal performance and English editing. And consequently, I have been hard-pressed to find a job after graduating that uses either of those two skills (well, except for at an out-of-control school where hapless directly-out-of-college teachers were ordered about by a veterinarian-turned-school dictator). I mean, I know how to take a deep breath and sustain sound for a very long time, but in the real world how will that apply? Or the fact that I know the difference between "further" and "farther"? Those skills aren't going to bring in the big bucks.
I've thought about becoming a street musician but I'm somewhat worried it's illegal and I'm afraid I would get arrested; I haven't seen any here in Istanbul. I'm looking into TESOL jobs, which are plentiful and easy to come by... if we choose a place we want to stay longer than 2 months. I am meanwhile jealous/awed at Jacob's worldwide income-earning prowess. And I try not to feel too guilty, instead viewing this as time well-deserved after 5 years of college.
3. Developing skills and talents.
If I were home I could be learning handy little homemaking skills, like learning to knit, or decorate the kitchen, or bake homemade cookies, or paint dishes, or something. Those skills are very difficult to develop on the road when you pretty much have only two suitcases worth of possessions and a bedroom the size of a shoebox. I mean, the understanding of the Kurdish-Turkish and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts should count for something, but it's certainly not practical, like sewing. I'm jealous of girls who get to decorate their home and do little artsy stuff like that. I guess I could attempt to decorate the hostel room but that probably wouldn't be the best idea.
4. Digestive Bugs.
Eating in a foreign culture will do that... especially 2nd world countries...enough said.
5. Fashion Faux Pas.
Wearing the same outfit 4 days in a row and owning only one pair of shoes is like death to fashion. And I wear the same huge, rabbit-fur-shedding coat every day. But actually I mind this a lot less than I ever thought I would. And to think in high school I planned out what I wore so I never wore the same clothes twice in a month!
6. Looking like a tourist or foreigner.
And therefore being constantly stopped by strangers who say in broken English "Where are you from? Would you like to come into my shop? Would you like to buy my book? What are you looking for? Are you here alone? How old are you? How long have you been here? How long will you stay?" Worst of all, if you are a female walking alone and accidentally catch a guy's eye, you will be followed and bothered. Which is why I prefer to walk with Jacob. Even with our friends we are the constant source of entertainment and attention. I can't hum under my breath without a chorus starting up mimicking me. Really. Gone are the days of anonymity.
7. Living Quarters
We experience hit-and-miss hot showers and long for dependable, accessible Western-style toilets. And along with that... we're used to cramped living quarters, small beds, and a lack of privacy. Here is Jacob sleeping between the cracks of our two singles pushed together:

The narrow hostel stairway

8. Not having girl friends!
Why is it that everywhere we go, we only make friends with males? In general, it seems, guys are more likely to travel alone and live in hostels, and Sarah, the cleaning lady, doesn't know a word of English, not even "hello". I am going to lose the ability to talk with members of my own gender.
9. Harder to Serve
That includes not having callings or responsibilities at church. Or, not having a place to meet at church at all. Also, at BYU, there was so much opportunity for volunteering. I was involved in a different project every semester and I loved it. Here, I don't even know how I would, for example, go about visiting a Turkish nursing home or if that's encouraged at all.
10. No Pets
I really really really want a puppy. The end.

Okay, now for the ...

Top Ten List: Why I Want to Continue Living Like This for A Long Time

1. We're spoiled.
We don't have to clean the bathroom, we eat out every day or get fed every day by our friends, and we get our sheets washed. How will we go back to the real world after this?
2. We are making friends from all over the world.
And I am getting rid of stereotypes that I didn't even know I had. By making friends with people from different cultures, I am also learning traditions that I would like to continue, like if there are other people in the room to always offer them the food you are eating. And to invite travelers to stay or visit in your home. Or if someone asks for directions to take them directly there yourself, as people in Turkey are wont to do.
3. Public transportation.
It makes it really easy to get around. That means I don't have to drive. I like to drive, but only if there are no other cars on the road, and that rarely happens. Why doesn't the US have better public transportation?
4. Seeing new sights and exploring new places all of the time.
At any time I can choose to just wander down a random street and I will be sure to come across something I have never before seen in my life. Like a gigantic statue of Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, or women in scarves rolling dough to make Turkish specialties.
5. Learning about other religions.
I have been shamefully ignorant about the spirituality of other people around the world. I have enjoyed learning about them. I have enjoyed seeing the Orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall and the gorgeous tiled mosques. But I've got to be bold here when I say that Islam, if followed strictly as stated in the Koran, is a threat to world peace. Not just radical Islam, but plain old read-the-Koran-and-weep-Islam. Why? 1. It encourages violence against unbelievers and 2. It sanctions wife-beating. It says women should be obedient to their husbands, and if not, they can be beaten into submission. I met with a Muslim Malaysian missionary who admitted openly to this. He was proud that he was able to talk with Americans about his religion, but I was pretty much turned off of Islam forever. In fact, I found it very difficult to be courteous to him, but I couldn't help but think of my friend Andrea, whom I'm pretty sure would have gotten REALLY fired up. The concept of domestic violence was completely foreign to him (and his friends). Any organization that steps on the basic human rights of others is a major problem, and it's more major when this religion is the government for many countries, including those of the Middle East and Africa. That's not surprising when you look at their problems, is it? Women are second-class citizens there. BUT we have made many Muslim friends who are incredibly nice and hospitable.
6. So much history.
And you don't have to read it in a book, it's right in front of your face. It makes the stories that you know of the area come alive. When I watch the news 20 years from now, I will be able to say, "I was there, I understand their problems a little bit, I understand the way they think a little bit, and they are good people." Every day I can say something like, "I walked along the Ottoman walls today" or "I saw the Orient Express." And best of all, paradigms are examined that I didn't even realize existed. I had no idea how materialistic and focused on the next purchase America (and I) was until I lived in Macedonia, for example. Or conversely, how necessary capitalism is to really help businesses to thrive.
7. No stress.
We take it easy here, we live and go as we please, we have the hours and schedule that we like.
8. Pursuing normal hobbies in an exotic environment
just makes my life feel like it has more meaning. Like hearing the Muslim call to prayer as I'm playing Skip-Bo. I don't have the hectic plan-everything-by-the-hour that I usually go by when I travel. We can just live our lives and experience the other culture. Speaking of hobbies... Jacob went berserk after finding the ideal way to consume his protein powder by creating his own water bottle and peanut butter jar top and visit the gym. Look at how happy he looks:

9. The Romance
Doing something (traveling the world as a married couple) that we have never met anyone else do is exhilarating. It makes you feel like you're breaking the status quo. And it's very romantic. Much better to travel with the one you love.

10. The Food!!!
There are no Kurdish restaurants in America, and even if there were, it wouldn't beat getting it made for us every night right here in Turkey! Plus we eat so healthy here. People in America would not be so diet-obsessed if they traveled. There's just not processed food. We snack on nuts, seeds, and cherry juice. And, ok, really good chocolate bars called Dido.
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