Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning

Tonight we instituted Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning. It was surprisingly effective.

In ten minutes, Abby tackled the bathroom, Chris hit the kitchen, and I worked to straighten up our tornado-hit living room. We made some definite progress towards whipping this place into shape.

I have a plan to make everyone do exactly Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning a day. After we get past the initial straightening up, which I estimate will take a couple days, I think we'll move into serious stuff like dusting and vacuuming. Woah.

I really think this is going to catch on. The important part is sticking to it: cleaning regularly for ten minutes as a group. For example, Abby got started on cleaning our tub and wanted to continue after the ten minutes were up. But I wouldn't let her because if I don't want her to have negative associations with Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning. See, if I call it Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning but it takes her 20 minutes, she will resent the cleaning and then me and then it all falls apart. I mean, I would assume. I don't have any science to back it up, but I know I would be pissed if Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning lied. Also, I would hate feeling like I had to start and finish a cleaning project every day. But we don't have to do a whole project, just ten minutes!

I think the Group Part is necessary because it sucks less if everyone is cleaning something at the same time, and it keeps us honest and equal.

In sum, cleaning is the worst but I miiiight have found a way for it to be slightly less painful and threfore done more often. So tonight's Ten Minutes of Group Cleaning = success. Also, pomegranates!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Often my iPhone takes the worst pictures but occasionally it really captures the colors that I see. Like this photo, I took early one morning at my friend's house. 

The leaves really were that bright yellowish green color. Of course, this was almost two months ago. The weather here has returned to snowy and rainy. In fact tonight on my way home, the wind was blowing powder snow across the roads and sidewalks like it was the Arctic tundra. 

I am really rooting for warmer weather but at the same time, I'm dreading walking up that hill. I already work up a tiny sweat when it's snowing; when the temperature returns to normal, I'm going to melt. The plan is to move from here in a month - Abby and I are going to head up the hill or down the road. Either one is fine with me. 

I just want to be able to embrace the warm weather without reservations. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

ARB and the JTL

Abigail Bowman is a published author!! She wrote an article, based on her senior thesis, for the Journal of Turkish Literature, which only comes out once a year! Her copy of the peer-reviewed journal arrived today.

I'm so proud! Her article is about a modern Turkish author, Murathan Mungan, and his retelling of a strange, old Anatolian myth. Look!

This girl is awesome. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reading is Fun!

So everyone, everyone, has been telling me to read The Hunger Games. I was trying to wait until the weather warmed up so I would have something to read outside. Then I told myself that I could start reading them if I was at least sitting in the sun. On Wednesday, the sun was shining on my balcony and even though it was a little cold, I went out in my shorts and started getting my tan on.

I stopped reading as soon as the sun went behind the building across from us, and I promised not to read again unless I was making progress on my summer color. But the weather has been cold and gross for four days straight and I worked like 8 hours today, so here I am in my bed, reading.

Abby's Kindle has pretty much been my secret best friend since I got here in August. For months, I was like, 'Hey, Abby, can I like, um, borrow your Kindle? But before I do, can you like, put these books on there for me? Thannnkkkksss!' And she always did! That's how cool she is. Even cooler, Abby's family has generously bequeathed an extra Kindle to me. Now I can read without bugging their daughter all the time!

When the weather gets nice, I'll definitely be out getting my book and my tan on. Until then, back to breaking promises to myself.

(Ps - how come no one ever professes their love to me on live television????)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kombi Woes

Our kombi broke. It is responsible for heating both our house and our water. It cost 400tl to fix. There goes the cute skirt I was saving up my extra money for. 

And no, our landlord won't pay for it and no, we don't have any way to make him. Which is probably why he is saying that it's our responsibility. I hate being walked over but I really have no experience with dealing with situations like this. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Abby, Grace, and I went back to Egg and Burger tonight. Tonight I tried their jalapeno poppers, and they were really good. We were the only ones there again (sad), and the staff was watching tv on mute. As we finished our food, they unmuted it for a super dramatic moment in a super famous Turkish tv show, and we joined them in watching on the restaurant's big screen. 

I have these grand ideas of coming in every Wednesday night and watching this show while drinking milkshakes. A little American, a little Turkish. Sound nice, huh? Really, I just want to be a regular somewhere - I want to go where everyone knows my name.

On our way out, we asked the people at Egg and Burger if they had an egg that we could take with us. Abby and I were planning to make cookie dough but we were one egg short, and we didn't think we could find a place that would sell eggs at that hour. So we asked, and they gave us one! We're halfway to being regulars! I managed to walk the mile home without breaking it. And I resisted the urge to throw it up really high in the air to see if I could catch it. That's the definition of maturity right there. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

After All

People sometimes tell me that I'm "brave" for moving halfway around the world but I don't buy it. This world is getting smaller everyday. With the Internet, I can do almost anything in Turkey that I would be doing in America anyway. I watch the same tv shows, I text via iMessage, and I talk to my mom about twice a week. 

On January 6, 2012, my best friend from elementary school got married. We have know each other for over 15 years, and I've know her husband for over 6 years. We go way back. And while I would have LOVED LOVED LOVED to be at her wedding, it didn't work out for me to fly home. Luckily, they made it possible for me to Skype into their wedding. 

I watched her walk down the aisle, I saw them take their vows, and I chatted with old friends at the reception just like a regular guest. And while I missed the dancing and the bouquet toss, I was able to be a part of their day. 

If I had come to Istanbul even 10 years ago, this wouldn't have been possible. My connection to home would be making international collect calls, buying the International Herald Tribune, and waiting for your letters, which we've established would never work. Moving to Turkey in 2011 isn't brave. It's surprisingly easy. Sure, I lost IRL contact with my family and my friends but when we graduated from college, everyone scattered. If I had stayed somewhere in the States, I wouldn't see my friends in DC, New York, or LA anyway. 

I just want to say that the Internet is awesome. And for the record, I only moved 1/3 of the way around the world. See, I'm already closer than you think.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Negative Twenty Years

I like cemeteries, the bigger the better. I think they're peaceful. Quiet and beautiful, I am confronted with the end of scores of lives. That small reminder reassures me - if they can die, so can I. 

Moving to something a little less serious, let's take a look at this headstone. On it, two problems face us. Both of them are date-related. Notice Nefize Buduncar's birth and death years:

Born: 1315, died: 1980. Now how does that work? Well, the Turks switched their calendars from the Islamic (I think) to the Gregorian at some point. She was born before the switch and died after. It would have been cool if she had lived for 600 years though.

There is a second problem: Mümüne Bekleyici. She lived -20 years. How is that possible? First one to come up with the explanation wins a prize. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Every time I write about a Turkish food, I get hungry. I swear, this country has the best cuisine that I've ever had. Sure, I love burgers and Mexican and sushi but as far as diversity goes, Turkey has us all beat. The meat dishes, the vegetarian ones, and the desserts are so different. I haven't gotten bored yet. And yeah, the cuisine is shared all across this region so there are definitely arguments about who "invented" these dishes, but I credit Turkey. They win. 

This is künefe. It's a dessert filled with cheese. In this picture, it has a side of ice cream. Yes. 

There isn't a lot of cheese used in Turkish food, and I sorely miss it. The one Turkish thing that has an abundance of cheese is a dessert. Dessert and cheese is a pretty strange concept for me. 

The layers surrounding the cheese are small, strips of pastry that have been baked to a crisp. Then they drizzle syrup over it and serve it warm. The cheese is cheesy, the pastry is both soft and crunchy, and the honey is oh so sweet. 

This stuff is amazing. Get on it. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


The other day we walked along the Walls of Constantinople. These babies were built in the 5th century. 

According to the Internet, it could be either the Theodosian Walls or the Walls of Blachernae. I really can't tell the difference between the two. But anyway, we were able to find some derelict stairs and climb up into one of the towers. 

And we saw some crops growing. Yeah, again I'm not really sure what was going on with them but between the road and the wall, there were farmers. 

As we know, I don't know plants but I'll imagine that there are baby carrots growing, or at least some kind of root vegetable. 

To recap - I don't know which walls those were, why there were small strips of farmland, or what they were growing. But I do know the walls are old and the vegetables are new, and there is no other city in the world like this. 

Friday, February 17, 2012


None of my photos are uploading today so I'll be back tomorrow with tales of a millenium and baby carrots. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tuzlu Tavuk

Check out this flaming chicken! It's called tuzlu tavuk, or salty chicken. Basically, they stuff a chicken with rice, pack salt around it, and roll it out to the table on fire. 

Actually, the fire is for show - the chicken is cooked in an oven beforehand. Check out this video of them busting that baby out of it's salty prison. 

And then the inside! The rice is sweet, counterbalancing the salty chicken.

Oh yeah, and the chicken buster-outer pulled the bones out before he handed the chicken over. Amazing. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Friendship Bracelets

Today is Valentine's Day! In honor of the Day of Love, I made Abby and me friendship bracelets!! And they were free! And I got to be crafty!

I took the tags from shirts that we bought at Mavi a few weeks ago. They each had a blue cord and a small silver bead. I untied the string, watched this YouTube video on how to make an adjustable strap, and voila!

Yeah, so there are two knots which means there will be no tying and retying. I have another bracelet that I paid waaayyyy tooo much money for but it almost exactly this bracelet, just 4 gold beads instead of 1 silver bead. 

Now I want to buy more shirts from Mavi just so I can make a bracelet for free!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Today we went ice skating! A few weeks ago someone asked me about ice skating in Istanbul, and I was like, "uhhh...I've never heard of it..." but it exists! And I did it! Today!

Surprisingly, I was a champ on the ice. Unlike Abby, who WTFO, I didn't fall once! The place was really far away in Zeytinburnu but it was so cheap - 13tl ($7)! There was a 40-minute time limit, which was perfect for me. When I ice skate, after awhile I usually get bored, then my ankles start hurting, then I get whiny, blah blah blah. So being able to say "oh look the man is making us leave now!" lets me off the hook.

And here is Atatürk, watching over me and all the 8 year old girls doing their triple lutzes. Yes, avoiding these jumping, spinning, twirling girls was difficult, and they made me feel pretty bad about my skating abilities but watching the 20 year old guy who couldn't stop clutching the wall made me feel a lot better.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Egg and Burger

I found my people's food! It's called Egg & Burger, and it's a legit diner!!

Abby and I went here for lunch today. She's constantly on the quest for a great milkshake (the Turks tend to forget the ice cream), and I'm constantly searching for a good burger. We found both! And the place is very American. I ordered a Coke to be traditional. 

When we finished our meal, the owner started chatting us up. He kept referring to it as "your people's food," and wanted to know how we liked it. I must say, I am pretty excited about this place. In addition to the burgers, the menu includes jalapeno poppers, chicken fingers, and hot dogs. They also have a Texas Burger which consists of 4 slices of bread, 4 slices of cheese, burger, caramelized onions, and special sauce.

I got a Blue Cheeseburger because the Texas Burger was honestly too pricey for this girl. But the burgers were surprisingly well done. I'll definitely be back, if only to get my hands on some of those poppers. Maybe I'll find out why they added that Egg to the title.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Simmer Down

ZOMG! I had a successful cooking evening! I know it looks gross but it was really good!

It was carrot-lentil soup! I combined a couple different recipes from the interwebs plus all the advice my mother gave me, and this is what I got!

It's pretty thick, and it's pretty flavorful. The flavor is a mix of black pepper and garlic. Abby gave it two thumbs up but commented that next time I make it, I'm not allowed to add any extra spices. And she is totally right. The garlic just kind of sat on my lips for a while, being super garlicy. 

So yeah, carrots, onions, garlic, lentils, and water. Simmer down, baby. 

I can make soup! One step closer to being a real person. Now if only it didn't take me an hour to chop vegetables...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Daha Kar

It was snowing tonight when I left work. I decided to see how far I could make it on foot. My plan was to walk to the bus stop (about 15 minutes away), take the bus another 15 minutes, and then slide down the hill on my butt. Only one part of that worked out.

My plans were first thwarted before I even got to the bus stop when I wiped out. Wiped. Out. My keys flew out of my pocket. It was like this story without the Aman!Aman!Aman! guy to save me. These valet guys tried to give me napkins to dry my entire left side, and instead I just asked them to get me a taksi. I was ready to abandon the whole bus idea. 

I hopped in the taksi and he started heading down the hill. And then we slid downhill for a block. He decided that he was not going to be driving me down the hill. He told me he would take me as far as the bus would have taken me anyway and I would have to walk down the hill. 

We got 3/4 of the way to the place at the top of the hill where he was going to drop me off, and there was a car stuck in the middle of the road. It had spun out and couldn't get traction, and traffic was backing up. The guy decided that I should probably just get out and walk from there. I agreed. 

I walked about 5 minutes, then started making my way down the hill. It wasn't so bad. In general, I always try to keep my eyes open for slide marks, like the one above. These are places where someone before me has encountered a slippery patch. Except, unfortunately for me, that's my slide mark. I only fell for real the one time but I was slipping and sliding all the way down the hill. 

I spent 6 lira. I still had to walk down the hill in the snow, and it still took me longer than usual. I'm not putting this one in the "Win" category. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I know, I know. I shouldn't have petted him. But he was so cute, I couldn't help it. Lance followed Chris and me home and is currently sleeping on our stoop. He's a little camera-shy, and by that, I mean he's a little camera-oblivious.

The stray dogs here are very friendly but if you show them any amount of attention, they will stick to you like glue. A month or so ago, I was walking home after a bit of rain and stepped on a loose tile. It shot water out from under it (Kate calls it 'tile squirt') and disturbed a sleeping dog. I felt really bad because these poor dogs have already been through enough without foreigners shooting tile water at them while they're asleep.

I apologized and tried to convey that it was an accident. Well then it followed me, and as I was waiting at a crosswalk, it came and put its head right under my hand. I had no choice but to pet it. It was just so darn sweet.

The same thing happened tonight. This poor pup was right within arms reach and its head was just the right height for a good behind-the-ear scratch. Then he followed us all the way home, right up to our door.

This has happened before with another dog; the dog followed us home then waited outside the door until someone else walked down the street, inadvertently giving him someone to follow. Lance didn't wander off after we closed the door. Oh no, he curled up and went to sleep right there.

Awwww...poor Lance. I know we can't let him inside, and I know we shouldn't feed him. But look at him...

What would you do?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Roommate Cooks

Chris cooked us some amazing food last night. I came home late from work so I wasn't able to snap a good picture of the food but here's the kitchen, post-cooking.

He made kısır, mercumek köftesi (lentil balls), and patlıcan (eggplant). We also had lahmacun and baklava. It was amazing. Recipes forthcoming. 

It's so crazy. There are so many things that I have grown to like since coming here. This list includes, but is not limited to, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumber. I'm a fan. A big fan.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy Bed

My sad bed is now a happy bed! I have a full board, and I can fully extend my legs on it.

It also only cost 50tl ($30) to fix. Pretty good deal! One step closer to the elusive "adult bed". Obviously, upgrading from a twin is the next step but there's no rush.

It's comfortable for now. I'll get there.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snow Way.

My quick jaunts up The Hill have been marred lately by the snow. It's stopped snowing now but for the last three days or so, there was continuous snow. When I wrote about it in November, The Hill looked like this:

Now when I stop to rest, this is my view:

There's no way for me to get to work without walking up this hill. The best public transportation option would add 2+ hours. Walking down The Hill when I come home is nothing short of treacherous. During the day, the temps are a little higher and the snow on the road is mostly water, but at night, I walk down a flight of stairs that has frozen over. 

I used the picture the other day in a whimsical post. Back in the days when I didn't have to go to work, I thought snow was soooo lovely. Now I go down these, gripping the rail the entire way and imagining myself sliding alllll tthhhee wayyyyy down. The second part of the stairs (oh yeah, this is only 1/2 of the stairs and 1/4 of the total distance) doesn't have a rail so I hold onto a fence and a tree branch, cursing aloud in Turkish and English.

I'm ready for summer.