Thursday, November 22, 2007

The wheels on the bus come to a screeching halt

I slept late this morning, the down comforter and Ev's snuggle just too hard to break away from. I dressed quickly and ran out the door into the elevator, willing it to swish down the 9 floors just a little quicker than usual. I climbed the short hill to the frontage road, hoping to have just caught the bus. The woman waiting at the bus stop gave me a little more hope that I had made it in time. But as the minutes ticked by we both realized that we had missed it and would have to wait another half hour. The woman exclaimed in Turkish that it must have just come -- and gone. So we waited, both exasperated, with this less than encouraging start to our days. I considered hailing a taxi but then thought, why would I pay YTL 20 for a ride that costs less than YTL 2 on the bus? Finally the bus appeared and I felt like maybe my luck was changing as it was 10 minutes ahead of schedule (or should I say, this is Istanbul, what schedule?). Unfortunately it was one of the old rickety red buses instead of the nice modern green ones. This one was so noisy I could barely here the music from my headphones.

I sat in one of the backwards facing rows toward the rear of the bus. About 10 minutes later as we were entering the highway, one of the men sitting in the back row suddenly jumped from his seat. Then another followed suit. I noticed there was smoke rising from beneath their seats and also from the floor panels. The smoke was quickly filling the bus. Just as we were all looking at the driver, the bus came to a halt -- in the middle of the highway. We saw the bus driver hop off and head to the rear to check things out. When he walked up to the front and made a call we realized we wouldn't be going anywhere.
I sat watching the world pass by on the highway, listening to my music, which I could now hear clearly without the ratchety bus engine. I was kind of pleased because I now had an official excuse to be late for work. About 15 minutes into our stranding, two of the men who had been sitting in the back got out and went to speak to the driver. Their talk quickly turned into a shouting match which I couldn't hear through the glass but am sure had something to do with why no replacement bus had come yet. Forty minutes later the next bus on the route came by, already filled with passengers. It stopped behind us and we filed on, quickly realizing there was not one seat open. By this time I was thoroughly amused by the turns the day had taken so I continued listening to my music with a silly grin creeping up on face. Roll with it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Out of touch or avoiding turkey in Turkey

My co-workers and I were debating over whether Thanksgiving is next week or this week. Three of us were sure it was next week whereas one was sure it was this week. It went back and forth till J. finally googled it and found out he was right. Damn. Well, he's also the most recent addition to the editing group and has lived in the states a lot more recently than the rest of us.

I've never been a big fan of the holiday anyways. My family wasn't big on traditions. We would celebrate but never with the typical foods. For instance we might have sweet potatoes (yeah, kind of traditional) but then also have eggrolls, tamales, panset (a Filipino noodle dish) and a pineapple upside down cake for dessert. I used to hate pumpkin pie. I have a very vague memory of having thrown up after eating it when I was a kid, probably at someone else's house because I don't think it ever graced my family's Thanksgiving table.

In my freshmen year of college I wasn't able to head home for Thanksgiving. Luckily, my friend Jessica had decided to stay on campus too. We went to the store and bought a stack of pumpkin pies. Then we drove to the local penitentiary in Walla Walla and tried to give them away. The guards asked who we were there to visit and we told them we just wanted to give away some pies. They said the pies could be tainted or have weapons in them. We offered them to the guards and they of course turned them down. After that we decided to head to the mental institution and then farms with migrant workers to distribute the pies. Later we ended up going to a house where a woman we had never met showed us some belly dancing moves.

I don't know if we'll be celebrating this year. If we do, it will be sure to be another non-traditional event, complete with dolma biber (stuffed peppers), baklava and boza.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Finding balance

Lately it seems the work scales have taken it, smacking the table with a resounding thuuump. Work has taken over both my and Evren's lives, and the pleasure/leisure side of the scale appears to be up in the air, completely empty. How do I find time to enjoy this city if I never really get to see it, outside of the two sides of the same old freeway every morning and night. I think I actually saw more of Istanbul while I was living in Bursa and would come over with Ev on the ferry periodically just to play. Maintaining our relationship has also taken a lot more effort with these schedules. The little stuff that keeps me connected to him, myself and friends becomes really important such as Ev going in search of the lone donut shop and bringing over a box for me and my co-workers as we slog through another Sunday at the paper; chatting with friends on msgr. during free moments; watching movies with Ev on late nights after work; even housework has become more enjoyable because it involves a change from work. I'm not sure what I can really change besides really maximizing fun on the one day I have off and just trying to keep my wits about me. Not having enough down time has really affected my moods. The normally even-keeled me has shifted into someone with rather extreme mood swings, with small things that wouldn't have bothered me before pushing me into anger. How do I find balance in this situation? How do I keep from falling over the cliffs of burnout?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gray skies and floss

I feel like I'm getting sick and have had a recurring headache for the past 3 days. We've had a series of rainy days here in Istanbul. I'm already tired of the gray skies and muddy streets. The weather really seems to affect my moods, even though I'm in an office all day and don't see much of it. I just wake up, peek through the blinds, see the dark cloudy skies and feel an internal sigh, as well as a general feeling of doom. Also, it seems that the minute I walk out the main doors to our building, the rain just happens to start pouring down. Mere coincidence?

Evren arrived back from his trip to Germany and the UK on Sunday night. It felt kind of like Christmas cause he brought a whole slew of new books for me along with chocolate, herbal tea and bulk quantities of some items that I requested because they're so expensive here in Turkey -- dental floss and tampons. Of course he did admit that he commissioned his friend Ali's wife to go buy the tampons since he was too embarrassed (though he has bought them in the past). Anyways, I am most excited about the new books as I was running low on reading material. Books are pretty expensive here so any chance to bring them in from elsewhere must be taken. I've been less than motivated to pick up a book in the evenings after editing material all day, so a bunch of new titles may be just the thing to get me going again -- well, after I kick this headache anyhow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dona Nobis Pacem

Today is the second annual BlogBlast for Peace, started by a blogger named Mimi Lenox. It is a simple effort to get bloggers from every region of the world to ponder and promote peace on this day. Though I am not a citizen of Turkey, it is my adopted country of residence and a place I feel more connected to than my country of citizenship, the US.

I'll start with the main issue that has Turkey's attention currently -- the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and the violence inflicted by this organization on Turkish soldiers and civilians. This isn't a new situation by any means; the group started back in 1984. But in the last few months the PKK has stepped up its activities. In October, the organization was responsible for the deaths of 47 soldiers and civilians. Turkish Parliament recently passed a motion that would allow for a cross-border operation into northern Iraq, where the PKK has a safe haven, by the Turkish Armed Forces. However, the government hasn't yet decided whether it will send forces. The US and EU have urged the Turkish government not to take such an action. Yet there is much pressure on the government from the public, who are outraged at the killings.

Can a peaceful solution be found with a group that has chosen violence to get its point across?

A second issue is the closed border between Turkey and Armenia. The border was shut back in 1993 during the Azerbaijani-Armenia war in which many Azeris were forced from their homes. Turkey also has closed its airspace to Armenia and imposed an embargo on the country. The reasons that this situation has continued for so long are many. But currently, the insistence by Armenia on having the World War I era killings of Armenians labeled as "genocide" is a huge stumbling block to relations between the two countries. The recent passage of the Armenian genocide resolution in the US House Committe on Foreign Affairs only worsened matters as well as souring relations between Turkey and the US.

Can relations between Turkey and Armenia be improved?

The final issue I'd like to mention today is that of the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. I don't have time to go into the history of the split of the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) is recognized officially only by Turkey. In 2004, a majority of Turkish Cypriots voted for the reunification of Cyprus in an EU backed referundum; however, Greek Cypriots voted against it. There is an embargo on the ports of the KKTC, which has had a serious effect on their economy. Greek Cypriots were polled recently and are still largely against reunification. After all, they are members of the EU and have enjoyed all the benefits of a free economy and an officially recognized state.

Will the island of Cyprus ever be reunified and the Turkish Cypriots freed of the isolation imposed upon them?

I don't feign to know what will happen in all the aforementioned situations. I can only watch as history unfolds and discuss these issues within my own spheres. I am no Pollyanna, but I think hope is one of the few things we can cling too -- hope for peace, hope for dialogue, hope for resolution.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Are you a snow eater too?

Last winter on Mt. Uludağ, Bursa

The yellow leaves on the tree outside look as if they're shivering in the Istanbul breeze. It's pretty chilly out today and some are saying that we might receive our first snow this week. I hope so, because while I'm not the biggest fan of winter, I do like snow. It seems to renew everything; the whole city looks like a different place under a blanket of white -- a cleaner, fresher place.

I suppose my fascination with snow began as a child in Southern California. Because we had snow so rarely, it became a truly momentous event when it fell. We would be released from school even if we got just a few inches. Snowmen, snow forts, snow wars -- we couldn't get enough. If we were lucky my parents or a friend's would pack us all into the car and drive us up into the San Jacinto or San Bernardino mountains so we could go careening down the slopes on large plastic discs or any other object we could find that could send us hurtling down them.

I also have a rather bizarre affinity for eating snow, which also started in childhood. My parents would usually let me indulge myself back then, only warning me to look for the cleanest patches. They probably thought I would grow out of it, but no, still enjoy it till this day. Last time I was out hiking in the Sierra Nevada, I grabbed chunks of the fluffy whiteness and downed them with great glee (taking care to avoid the notorious brain freeze). You can be sure I'll be doing the same on the slopes of Uludağ this winter.