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August 17,

My last morning in Istanbul was here.

(once again the link for photos for day 7-10 )


I woke up, packed a little, and went up stairs to the breakfast-roof.


I looked out over all the other tourist hotels and hostels, at all the other tourists eating their breakfasts at their rooftop terraces, and past it to the water.


I love water.


I also love coffee, feta cheese, olive paste, tomatoes, grapes, bread, yogurt with honey, so all was good. I don’t love bees landing on my honey, but like the carpet men, it’s nothing personal. It’s what they do.


My last morning: All signs bling to return. )
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August 16th, My last full day in Istanbul , my last lesson with Ahmet, and seeing Sema again.

I’d been saving the Blue Mosque for last...mosques in general for last..tthey’re free, you know.


I set my alarm for 5:30, knowing that Mosques are open at all hours (although they will bar tourists during prayer time). I awoke at 5:30 and cursed my foolishness. I reset my alarm for a reasonable time.


After breakfast I headed to the Blue Mosque. I was walked there, and entertained while in line, by a Turkish man named Sirkan. He started the conversation, as I walked by, by telling me he liked my shoes and wanted to know where they were from..


This was absurd. I have many great shoes, but my very brown Sketchers are not great. They are great to wear while traveling, but they are not conversation fodder. Still, I was in a good mood and allowed for my conversation by replying that they were from Japan.


Like Kasper Gutman, I’ll tell you right out, I am a man who likes talk to a man who likes to talk.


…Except I’m not a man.


I was up front about not having any money to spend on anything and plans in the evening, and an airplane waiting for me the next afternoon…but Sirhan enjoyed my company and walked and talked with me. I explained how it was I’d come to buy shoes in Japan.


“Here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding.”


Almost done )
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Much of my last three full days in Istanbul has already been documented:

-I took three days of lessons with Ahmet.

-I went to see shows at Kervanseray and Istanbul In.


August 14 and 15. )



Sep. 1st, 2009 09:07 am
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Simple shirt seen in Istanbul.
(Heart symbol) + (diamond ring symbol)= (Baby carriage symbol)
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I was exhausted and wild-eyed when I got to Fazil Studio NYC for the first of three privates with Ahmet Ogren. I vented more than a bit with Gonul as we drank coffee and gossiped/networked/shared information. Ahmet entered and asked me where my color was, after all, I was on vacation…and vacations are in part about getting out into the sun.

As you all know, if I don’t look like the visable woman, then that IS my summer tan.

I’d done two days of workshops with Ahmet (hosted by Tania Luiz) in Osaka last year. I don’t think I wrote much about the content of those workshops because between I had been suffering from bronical-asthma issues (the start of three months of problems and a couple attacks that led me to getting a lung specialist and daily bronchial dialators and emergency inhailers). By day two I had coughed my voice away and had tubes full of watery phlegm. I ended up on six different prescriptions a few days later.

What I did say was this:
Ahmet Ogren is wonderful. I realize that it's the first time that I have studied Turkish Romani style from a Turkish Romani person. It's not about blood lines, my enthusiasim, it's the fact that this is the least filtered from an "Oriental dance" perspective approach I've been taught. It's still comes through that filter, me being who I am and the fact that some fusion and stylistic changes happen when you takeit out of a social context and bring it to a stage or teach it.

Lessons with Ahmet Ahmet Ahmet )


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When we last left me, I was at Sema’s second apartment.

I awoke early, 7ish. I left bed and tip-toed around the apartment. The two Japanese girls were asleep in the other room and Sema was asleep on the couch. I could not find my skirt or tank top. Damn.

I had a button-up shirt I’d worn over my tanktop. It was a little low-cut but I had safety pins with me to fake an additional button. I had the skirt Sema had given me, but I checked in the mirror and could make out the S logo on my Supergirl Undies. I ended up tieing my head scarf (a black & white silk krama from my first trip to Cambodia) around my hips to cover my secret identity.

It wasn’t up to my usual standards, but I wasn’t naked! It filled my most basic clothing requirements.

I left a note on my pillow explaining that I’d woken up early and that she should text me later-Love, Oksan.

I found my way to a bus stop. Akbil. Some Turkish man took one look at me and kindly offered me his seat. Teshekular. On the bus, once more, I decided to access my email on my iPhone, cost be damned (sometime next month you will probably hear a wail of despair). I felt like I was on a walk of shame without the joy of a bacchanal the night before and was in need of comfort.

Karim had replied to my ranting. In regards to my apprehensions of traveling alone in some areas he said: “i spend a lot of time telling men i meet, all over the world, that they must change. I tell them they must stop swearing, cursing, and potty mouthing. They must edit their behavior and do anything to help a girl feel comfortable.” And briefly spoke about the women in his life (family, friends, etc) and how he’d give anything to make them feel more comfortable in this world. It was what I needed. Turkey had been stirring up a lot of emotions in me about what it is to be female and treated, with many protestations and veneers of politeness, as prey.

I hopped off the bus near the Cumbus store and walked under the aquaducts and through the park, past men working on out the stationary excersize machines (a feature and sight in many south-east Asian countries that I love sooo much.) I walked and walked back to my hotel.

Once in my room, I set my alarm for 10:15 and fell asleep.

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Regret: Not going to Princes Island when I could have.

I had called Sema the evening before and said I was too tired to come out (when I’d called she told me about having computer problems and needing to wait for the guy to fix it) I planned to see Sema on the 13th and we agreed on 6:00.

I had thought about going to the islands, because I’d mostly figured out how to do so and could have benefited from walking around on a quiet island with no cars…but the travel books that made getting there look easy didn’t make it very clear as to what time I could get back and I didn’t want to stand Sema up.

Instead of the islands, I woke up and tried my luck with the busses by myself. I wanted to see Kariye Muzesi (Chora Church) and more indulge my love of Byzantine iconography.

My book said I needed to take bus Nos 28 or 36KE from Eminonu and stop at Edirnekapi. Those bus numbers mean as little to me as they do to you. I went to Eminonu and walked over to the bus area…and found around 18 bus stands and many busses. I walked around and figured out where the numbers where on the busstops…and just missed 36KE. While waiting for the next one (29 mins? I couldn’t understand the sign) I kept seeing many other busses with Edirnekapi listed as one of the stops…I eventually screwed up my courage to hop on a random bus with Edernekapi listed as one of the stops on it. I suspect that Nos 28 or 36KE may have Edernikapi as their LAST stop and thus are mostly foolproof.

We passed the aquaducts and I wondered how far they were from the Grand Bazzar, as they had been one of the things I’d seen while utterly lost after my first trip to the Bazzar.

Busses only stop at stations if you ring buttons or if someone is waiting and there were no announcements about what the next station is, which is why busses are usually not a transportation method I bother with in foreign countries. I desperately hoped I would know Edirnikapi when I was coming up on it, not when I was passing it. I had a travel map of the area around Chora Church and when I passed an old

The fewer the pictures the longer the text. Long. )


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I slept in on the 12, not sure if I would be kept up all night by Sema Yildiz.

My morning tourist activity was the Basilika Cistern.

Pictures of day 5 &6 (but mostly 6) starting with me and Sema at a bar.

Around 12:00 I headed to the Taxsim station and walked down to my now favorite internet café. Before doing so I made sure I knew the location of Fazil Studios NYC so that I wouldn’t be late for my 2pm class.

When I’d talked to Gonul on the phone she’d given me directions, which I only half jotted down. None of the places referenced in the instructions made sense to me at the time, but I didn’t worry. I had the address and directions from the web page! I can find things on maps.

Before the Internet café I walked to make sure I could find the studio…I found the street address from the web page, saw a metal plate the studio name. Gonul had mentioned it was in the same building as a restaurant. Check. I went off to update my blog with the warm fuzzy feeling one gets when one has correctly navigated a foreign country and found an address.

Around 1:30 I left the café. I was ready to meet and take a private lesson from a diva. You don’t keep a diva waiting.

I mean we're talking about Princess Banu. Google her. Enjoy the pasties. Princess " In those days, in Turkey, dancers took off their skirts, it was part of the dance. I took off my top and revealed the pasties, it was my gimmick. All of my costumes were designed solely by me." Banu!Pasties and more, might not be safe for work )

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Day Four: The Sema Experience Starts.

Sema Yildiz emailed me her number. At some point we spoke on the phone (and I was reminded of how rough but enthusiastic her English is) and agreed to meet at Kabatas tramway station at 6pm for a lesson at her place on the 11th.

I woke up nice and early (7:30?) on the 11th. . For four days I’d been waking up at 7:30 to beat the crowds. I ate my breakfast and went to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum on the Topkapi grounds. It was amazing. I took many pictures and was often reminded of how much of my art history classes I have forgotten. “I know these images…sorta.”

Day 4 pictures start after the picture of Me, Reyhan, and Dilek.

Sema, the first day of 3 )


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The Green...This should be the last of the new costume pictures.
Torso and cleavage behind the cut )

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Maybe the best way to tackle my trip to Orient House on the 10th  is to tackle all my evenings spent at “cultural” dinner shows.

They shows are not great. I recommend them only if there is a specific dancer whom you want to see and you've confirmed that they are performing or if you really want to get an indepth feel for how what we love is mostly relegated to cheesey nightclubs and the performances are all over the map. I imagine it's how Anime fans in other countries, who have created these great mental naratives about how Japan really loves Manga/Anime and it's held in high regard and myths and blah blah feel when they reach Japan and learn...yeah, its a popular part of life, not unlike tabloid newspapers are, but it's not held in high regard by most.

In all, I attended shows at Orient House, Kervansaray, and Istanbul In.

Three for one. )


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Sometime in day two or three I emailed Sema. I said I was a student of Mishaal’s and a friend of Nourah’s, that I’d attended her Tokyo workshops and would like to do a private lesson with her while I was in Istanbul.

I’d been on the fence about Sema Yildiz, because she’ll be coming to Tokyo again in October. I’d emailed Hale Sultan about privates but hadn’t heard back from her. Mishaal, in her email to me, had suggested maybe one lesson with Sema as it often involved being brought to her house, cooked for, and a bit of experiencing a show or music with Sema afterwards. In short, it might be more about the Sema experience than simply a lesson with Sema. By day two or three I wanted more lessons to be happening or to be cooked for.

But day three, Monday the 10th, would feature my first lesson! Reyhan! I’d wanted to line up more lessons for as soon as I arrived, but with Ahmet out of the city and no reply from Hale, this would be my first lesson. I was dead right in thinking it might be best to start with lessons early on. Lessons gave me a daily set point where I needed to be and gave me structure when I was feeling my way around the city. In the future I would rather do lessons early (before my body is exhausted) have a weekend and one side trip mid-trip to unwind/refresh/process and then maybe do some follow-up privates at the end.

I can’t tell you what I did the morning of the 10th. It may have involved the bazzar, as there is a picture of some graves that I know where on the way to the bazzar. I do know that I had made reservations at The Orient House after checking if their head dancer, Birgul, would be dancing. I tried to get my hotel to make the reservation, but Suleman was obviously not used to the hotel-roll in such a thing and just called them and handed the phone over to me when someone answered. I negotiated a reservation with no dinner. I now know the way to do this is to have Sema, or someone Turkish who knows the scene, to call and argue the best price for me…not the hotels/tourguides who will take a cut and not your lonesome (because no one calls for themselves…every place I went to knew EXACTLY who I was). Sema yelled at me for not having gotten her involved in my first two restaurant show trips…but I didn’t know then! I just knew I that part of my trip was Dancer Safari wherein I see dancers in the “natural habitats provided for them here.”


Dilek, Reyhan, and Tram B.O. )


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I am writing about day three now.

I thought you should know: I am wearing a very ugly shirt.

I bought it in Istanbul with my last fiver. It is a style I saw many Turkish women wearing, but their shirts were more often lights blues and whites...mine is browns, greens and yellow. I didn't try it on, but it was a strange point of pride that I had enough money to buy it, and a set of zills, on my last day...I'd waited until the last day, hoping to have at least that much cash.

I didn't try it on. I bought it knowing it would either look fab or horrid and only cost 5 lyra.

It's not doing me any favors. It's basicly a large rectangle with a V neck cut into it and some elastic to bring it in under the breasts.

In fact, it makes me look pregnant. I will never let you see me in this. I probably won't wear it out of my bedroom often (where, because it is comfy and gives me a memory, I will wear it...but not infront of any lover)...but today only my co-workers and some people on the train will see why not?

I have paired the insane print of the shirt, which looks like a butterfly voilently errupted on me, with chunky jewely and black, skinny pants. My hair is in a bun. I look like an insane librarian in an ethnic-studies library. And, even knowing how absurd I look, I walk at lunchtime with a swagger. It's a swagger that says "Yeah, I'm a jet-set international type who takes vacations in places like Istanbul...and buys absurd shit while'd you spend your vacation?"

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Day five and six. How many of Bella's cats can you count?

Link fixed!

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August 17th, 1:45:

On the last hour of walking around Istanbul before catching a shuttle to the airport, with less than 2 lira in my wallet, I finally found where to buy sequins, beads, appliqués, fringe and more on a side street of the Spice Bazzar/Egyptian Bazzar. I walked down stairs, into the earth, past many tiny stores full of costume jewelry, bags of beads, fringe. I wondered why I had not found this when I had been looking for it a week before and had only found one store of crystals…and knew this was an omen, a sign demanding that I come back to Istanbul again…but I am getting ahead of myself, let’s go to the beginning.

August 7-8 )

Getting there, August 7th:

I set off for Narita international with a half-full suitcase. At Narita I changed most of my yen into Euros and purchased a new watch (because I had left mine at home) in Duty Free.

The flight to Istanbul was uneventful. It was my first time on Turkish Air and I was happy with the service. Sure, I didn’t have my veg meal, but I blame my travel agent for that.

On Turkish Air we were all given complementary slippers, socks, eye-mask, ear plugs, tiny toothbrush and tooth paste and (inexplicably) a shoe horn. The Japanese girl next to me was impressed and lined up all the items on her tray and took photos of them, she was not the only Japanese person to do so. She and I ended up talking for a while (in Japanese). It would also be her first time to Turkey, but she would be meeting friends. As she was curious about belly dancing, I gave her my card for when she returns to Japan. I also talked for a while with the Japanese man across from me…and later we switched over to English after his questions about my hometown and what sort of job I had in Japan made me clarify that I was not Turkish. He’d studied abroad in America and was happy to use his English. Most of the Japanese I encountered assumed I was Turkish and a small number of Turks assumed the same. 

The flight took about 12 hours and I slept in fits. 

We landed around 7:30PM local time. I purchased my visa, watched luggage being abused (the ramp up to the baggage carousel was fast and at an angle which caused luggage to be launched slightly before thudding down to the carousel, changed half my Euros into New Turkish Lira (some places, like the hotel and Bella, have prices in Euros while other items will most easily be purchased in Lira) and exited to the arrivals terminal. The driver from my hotel had my name misspelled, as it would be the whole trip (but I am used to being a Roberts instead of Robarts). The pick-up area was calm unlike, say, the boat landing at Seam Riep.

 I was groggy as we headed to the shuttle… On the way I noticed the Gloria Jean’s Coffee in the airport. Gloria Jean’s, a staple in American malls, was the last chain I expected to be international. GJ is all over Turkey, more than Starbucks. GJ is the corporate coffee house I allude to when I talk about my few months as a barista in a mall during the Christmas shopping season. Like all my customer service jobs, I was not great at my job and brought to it a certain caustic attitude. My bosses liked me, but thought I was better suited for an independent coffee house.

I rode into Istanbul looking around and trying to figure out what would soon become familiar to me and what might remain foreign. 

I got into my small hotel in the tourist area of Sultanahmet around 8:45. I checked in and got the key to my room Troy. When I’d made reservations they first told me they had an ocean-view room available and then emailed right back saying they’d made a mistake about the room but had on without the veiw for 50 Euros a night. 

Anyone who knows my hotel karma should have been wary. It was a nice room but it was the worst room in the hotel. It was half underground (built into a hill), received almost no light, and was the only one on the lobby floor, so I could easily hear the owners and friends watching sports on TV in the evening. Still, it was bigger than my room in Japan, the darkness was useful for when I tried taking afternoon naps, and everything worked (except the lockbox). I was right in not bringing my laptop (no wifi.or phones in the room). 

I dropped my stuff off in my room and went back to the lobby where the owner, Husein, started explaining anything and everything with maps and notes..and then realized how burned out I was and said he could explain the area in the morning. He pointed out where I could buy bottled water and I wandered out to buy a large container of water and a small bottle of Fanta. I don’t usually drink sodas, but in Istanbul I drank more Fanta and coke than I usually do in a year. Sugar water tastes good when you’re dehydrated and forgot to eat lunch. 

Day One:

I slept well and woke-up at 7:30. Because of the darkness of my room and the lack of clocks, I used my iPhone as my clock and alarm. I showered up and headed up to the roof for breakfast.

It was drizzling, so I took my breakfast in the indoors part of the rooftop patio. I was the first person up (breakfast starts at 8) so it took me a few moments to understand what was available to me. On the first table were baskets with bread. Each basket had what looked like a flower of bread, one center bun with 6 auxilery buns stuck to it. For a second I wondered if I was expected to eat 6 breads per breakfast. Then I realized I was simply expected to tear off what I needed and that the trays were for families who wanted a whole flower of bread.

 On the buffet tables there were many bowls full of jams, honey, butter and many eatables. There was a huge bowl of yogurt with a ladle. I helped myself to a bowl of yogurt and I filled my plate with slices of feta cheese, cucumbers, tomato slices, ground olive spread, a hardboiled egg, fresh grapes and other fruits. The sister of the owner, a stylish yough Turkish woman with reddish bleached hair, gave me coffee. Everyday I filled up on a large, fresh, breakfast…which is good because I often forgot to eat lunch.

I ate my first breakfast and listened to the Turkish pop music placing on a small radio. Everywhere I went there was some sort of Turkish music playing, which had the effect of making me feel at home. This thing that I love is loved here. This must be what life-long fans of Anime and manga must feel when they finally reach Japan.

The rain stopped and the heat started. Turkey was around 28-30 degrees celcius most days, which was what I’d been used to in Tokyo. I could cope because Turkey is not as humid as Tokyo and there was always a breeze off the many bodies of water that are always nearby. 

Husein at the front desk spent more time explaining the area. I grabbed my maps, camera, and wallet and headed out to the Hagia Sofia. I love Byzantine iconography, I have since art school, but there’s only so much an atheist can indulge in such enjoyment without coming off as an ironic hipster. Needless to say the Hagia Sophia left me feeling very happy. 

I find myself at a lack of words for much of what I saw, so I point you towards the gallery of day one: 

Suffice to say that it was filled with inspiration and much of the visual inspiration in Istanbul was in the complex patterning and ornamentation, which I think my photos reflect. 

I staggered out of the Hagia Sophia and looked across the way at the Blue Mosque. I took some pictures, all the while unable to stop thinking “is it wrong that the towers never fail to remind me of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland?” I decided not to tackle the mosques on day one. I had mixed feelings about being a non-believer enjoying a sacred place as a tourist attraction and worried about how I might offend if I didn’t cover my head correctly. I would later binge on mosques when my money started running out (because they are free, but with many you should leave a donation) and quickly knew that my head covering and skirts that reached my knees were enough. I saw so many women at the Blue Mosque who had to wrap the mosque-provided lengths of fabric to cover their legs, and many more who, upon entering, removed their headscarves as if they were a technicality to get you into the door. 

I followed the tramway lines to Sircik, because I had read that it was one of the places I could get an Akbil (the rechargeable transportation pass that can be used for many forms of transport)…but I failed. I asked at the tourist info area next to the old Orient Express building, but the lady just pointed vaguely and said it wouldn’t be open until 2. I wandered toward a cage/structure that said something about Akbil, but failed in communication. 

At this point I tried to take a tramway to the Beazit station near the Grand Bazzar. I inserted 1 lira into the turnstile and had it rejected. The guidebook had mentioned that ways of travel, the general price, and Akbil, but didn’t spell out how to ride the rails. After my lira was rejected a few times I looked around and found a sign pointing to tickets. At first I walked past the tiny booth, but then found it. I shoved 1,50 lira at the man inside and he gave me a token. It costs one token no matter how far you ride the tran. I returned, fed the token into the ticket gate, and felt like I’d achieved something. I’ve come to realize that if you can figure out the metros and trains of Tokyo, you can figure out transport anywhere.

 I took the tram to the Grand Bazzar area and entered the Bazzar for day one of looking and getting prices. 

For all the writings about the bazzars, the bazzars of Turkey seem somewhat sedate and well organized/well constructed, after you’ve explored the markets in Cambodia/Vietnam/Thailand. The Spice Bazzar (which used to be called the Egyptian Bazzar) in Istanbul has a nice but subtle odour and is nothing like the smell-o-rama of south-east Asian markets.

 I can’t write about Sultanahmet, or the Grand Bazzar, without starting to address the issue of the Turkish Men in those areas. Turkey is a macho culture, have no doubt about that. Men travel in packs and seem to outnumber women almost everywhere. I kept trying to imagine Michael Baxter here with his Hello Kitty fanny pack… and failed. He’s not the sort of man you see. The men in the areas I mentioned, the bazzars/ the tourist areas, are a slightly different breed than the general Turkish man. The guide books will tell you that you must be in good humor when you enter the bazzar, because you’re on these men’s turf…but I would expand that for all travel around tourist areas. Make no mistake, you are a vital source of income to the tourist areas. You are a source of income to the restaurants, the sites, the stores and, yes, to the men. You have to have to be in good humor about it.

 At all times, while in the tourist areas, I was chatted-up constantly by men…by those whose business was easy to ‘suss out by the fact they called to me from restaurants and stores, and those whose business was less readily known. Those who sell things want you to buy. The men who don’t have stores/restaurtants (and many who do) want you to meet them that evening for drinks and to show you around. I was called to, questioned, sung at, chatted-up, plied with business cards, complimented endlessly. Every trick in the book, from the common “you dropped something”/”can I ask you one question?” to the more elaborate set up. There was a wide range of dexterity from “could you please hold your horses?” to “You’re from Japan? Well I am an angel sent from heaven to make this world a better place?” Every language was tried, although on the evenings in which I wore a shawl, I was overwhelmingly thought to be Spanish speaking. 

But, even though any walk to or from my hotel became an obstacle course of lines, the men never spoke crudely or sexually and most everyone took rejection and excuse well if delivered kindly… with the exception of a bitter man who wished me a long and lonely life. I avoided spending too much time talking to men, but found that many appreciated being spoken to with mirth instead of scorn, even if that mirth was shooting them down. I saw a few other females traveling alone who reacted to being called to the way you’d look at someone exposing themselves in public.

Over time I knew the restaurant owners in my area, even if I didn’t eat at their overpriced places, and knew a few pick-up men by sight…they would often call out “konichiwa!” at me. I was amused at the endurance of a few of the “local university students” who tried making dates despite how terribly they were struggling with basic English. I made no dates, but enjoyed a beer with one guy who knew a few restaurant owners in common with me and knew Tokyo well. I have many business cards and gave out a few of mine (they have my email and my Tokyo cel-number, and I do carry non-dancer cards). The classiest card I got was one with a Japanese girl’s text address written on the back. On my last day, one guy hawking tour books insisted that, despite my lack of money and the fact that he understood I was leaving in a few hours, I take a free book of postcards because he’d found me nice to talk to.

I made no evening dates.

I was often told “five fingers” when I started turning men down. It was a plea not to judge them by the other Turkish men, because while all five fingers are called fingers, they are not all alike. It would resonate more if I had rarely heard it, but when you hear so many fingers explaining how unique they are….

The biggest thing I came to realize is that I had made a mistake in traveling alone. It was not a grand mistake. I was better off in going when I could than waiting and wondering when I would next get the chance. When I do it again, and I will go back, I will find someone to come with me. Istanbul is the wrong place to be traveling alone (for men or women). It’s not a place where the single traveler can have solitary moments, people who travel or eat alone are not quite trusted. Paradoxiacally, I think you are more likely to carve out those solitary moments of you have someone with you. The risks of going out to bars to hear live music are reduced by having a buddy or wingman. I missed out on being able to go to a taxism where Selim Sesler likes to play. If Dilek had come back to Istanbul before I left, or if Nourah and I had overlapping schedules, I could have.

Above all, I think Istanbul is an experience that demands to be shared with someone else.

But back to the Bazzar…

My game plan was to get a feel for the bazzar and start asking around on the prices of items I liked so I could get a feel for which stores were best to start bartering at in a few days…but somehow I just never got a feel for wanting to buy things. There were some great fabrics I could have gotten at a good price, but nothing that called to me insisting that I make something from it…and I didn’t have a solid idea of what sort of fabrics I need for future projects. I don’t need ceramics. Every costume I saw, even the ok ones, struck me as something I could make or would only buy used as a challenge…I think if I went back now I’d have a list of two or three things I might search out, but they weren’t high priority and I don’t feel I’ve missed out at not shopping at the Bazzars. If I had any upcoming tribal-oriented costumes to make I could have spent a lot of time in a few of the places with Kuchi jewelry.

When I go back I will go back with a few specifics in mind, do a day of price looking, and then get someone well-travelled or native to the area to come with me to show me how to really barter. Bartering is a cultural skill I have never cultivated, nor has my mother, but I’m usually good at it after I see an example of it in action…as each culture tends to have a slightly different way of bartering.

In the Bazzar I had my hand kissed, was given cards, and generally fussed over wherever I walked. I did make a date and promptly stood the boy up that evening. My mind reminded me, as I walked off, that a boy who wants to drive you in his car is a dangerous thing indeed.

But as I said, the reactions to me probably don’t have anything to go with my looks. Wherever I went I was treated as attractive, but around the tourist areas every woman is. There was a store with a collection of essays written by an ex-pat living in Istanbul. The title was “In Turkey I am Beautiful.” Outside of the tourist areas I was generally eyed-up yet  assumed to belong wherever I was (which Sema attributes to my stylish but modest travel clothing: no shorts, a lot of mid-length skirts and linen button-up overshirts).

I left the bazzar from a different door than from which I had entered. I started walking, past many silk scarf stores and stores selling the elaborate white and gold fur-trimmed outfits worn by boys for their circumcision ceremony. I even saw a boy all dressed up, surrounded by his family. I regret not snapping a quick picture of the family or of any of the stores, but at that point I hadn’t known what the outfit meant. I knew it meant something, and the outfit made me feel pity for the boy even though he looked happy, but I didn’t yet know it was the circumcision outfit.

Someone else’s blog about the ceremony: 

This would be the point where I got very lost. I started to get more disoriented because I hadn’t eaten. I also learned that, in Turkey, I am unwilling to ask for directions to a degree that is silly! This is when I learned that, when you are lost in Istanbul, all mosque domes look like the landmark you are looking for. Do not be fooled.

Somehow I got back to my hotel.

Day one was marked by feeling disoriented and wanting the familiar. I hadn’t needed to take the tramway, I could have walked, but I had needed to know that I could take public transportation. I had needed to be in public transportation, as I am in so much of my Japan life. This desire for the familiar took me one more place, it took me to Bella.

In retrospect, the next time I come to Istanbul I will save Bella for mid-trip. Mid trip is enough time to get everything hemmed or changed before you fly out, but is also enough time into your trip to have a realistic understanding of your finances. I should have stuck to my one-costume limit…but I didn’t. As soon as her assistant cut the hemm on my second costume I knew I had made a mistake. Buying two costumes meant that I would have to be careful about my finances. What was the sense in not buying expensive costumes for months so I could save money for Istanbul…only to buy expensive costumes there? Still, my finances were looking good until my last few days when I realized I had calculated three private lessons in lira instead of in Euros and ended up with only 50 lira for three days instead of 250 lira for three days…but once more I am getting ahead of myself.

When I made it back to the hotel I drank a few fruit juices (I was often fueled only by peach juice, seasame sprinkled breads, and corn on the cob. The last two are available at stands all over Istanbul) and consulted what came to be my third guide to Istanbul:

I will be writing Meissoun about two address changes/mistakes (for showplaces), a showplace suggestion, and some suggested stores for music (I found a used cd store and pilliaged it) and zills (the zill stores are based on Sema’s recommendations about who carried the best zills).

I wanted the familiar, so at 3PM I asked Suleman at the front desk how to get to the address I pointed at. I packed up the half a Bella costume I’d brought, the skirt of my orange costume. I then took a tram, to a fun clear, and a metro. I figured out that each transport needs a different type of token (but all use Akbil) and how to buy each one. My ability to exit one form of transport and find signs to lead me to the next one is high. I’ve learned well in Tokyo. 

On the metro I watched a video with an animation depicting why you should not try to retrieve objects that fall onto the tracks by yourself (or with the help of other commuters). The animation showed a man dropping his cell-phone and enlisting the help of another person to help lower him down to it. Then the animated man stepped on the electrical rail. Both men’s bodies were flashing bones in that on-off matter that animation depicts electrocution…and then the train came speeding for the mans head. It cut to a written warning before both men got splattered across the front of the metro, but the bloody end was implicit. Boy, do I love the international language of safety films.

(the following recaps what I have written elsewhere, but in greater detail)

I exited the metro at Sisli. It was, indeed, very close to Bella. I made a turn, crossed a street, and saw the Bella sign in a window. I knew that logo from the Bella tags. It was too easy! I didn’t actually hear angels singing as the heavens parted, but I imagined I did.

Bella is on the second floor. The windows where all shuttered closed and I worried the shop would be closed, but it just turned out to be a precaution to protect everything from sunlight and to maintain the modesty of people inside. I couldn’t find the stairs, so I asked in the store below and was shown to the Bella Butik stairway. I guess I can ask for directions sometimes.
I walked up the stairs , past a dog sleeping in the stairwell. I rang the doorbell and one or two dogs started barking from inside. An assistant opened the door, held one dog back, and let me in.


Bella and the shows )
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Your basic magical princess Bella in slave leia colors.
Torso )

Yeah, I'll pin the belt so it doesn't shift off-center.

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Day one:

I would also like information on the following:

What is up with the spirograph men?

A few more photos and questions )


Aug. 18th, 2009 04:06 pm
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first shower back...mmmmmmm.


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