Cats are the best affluence indicators

8 Dec

I know, I just used the word affluence in a blog post title. This probably looks like it’s going to be a very unusually intellectual, academic post. I guess doing all this real schoolwork is starting to rub off on me. No more fun Camille! #sawyyy

To really illustrate to you how hard I’ve been working, I’d like for you to observe and appreciate my Turkish homework for last week: Wow

Yes, that is a word search for the Turkish days of the week. Funny thing is, there are no English translations to go along with the words, so I literally completed my homework for the week without learning a single new Turkish vocab word. I just practiced for when I’m retired and spend my days completing those fun little books full of word searches, crosswords, and sudokus. If I learn nothing else while I am abroad, at least I will be damn good at sitting in coffee shops wasting time. #skillsthatwillgetyoufarinlife. In other news, we spent more time talking about the current activity of the Turkish mafia in my Ottoman History class than we did discussing history or the Ottomans, so that’s good. And just for kicks, here is a picture of one of the sections of the board in that class. Let me know if you can make sense of that…the other 19 students in my class and I are still trying to work it out. LOL ok anyway… Exhibit A

Back to the brilliant title of this blog post. I am going to have to credit the inspiration for this award-winning title to a theory proposed by the genius straight out of Bates (shout out to schools in Maine!!), Conor Hampson. Conor is my friend Griff’s roommate here in Istanbul, and boy oh boy has he been doing some groundbreaking research into how you can tell how rich an Istanbul neighborhood is by simply observing the wildlife of the area in its natural habitat (read: looking at the cats lurking in the trash cans). Conor claims that the fatter the stray cat, the richer the Istanbul neighborhood, and I like his logic. Conor made this observation while we were tromping around Kadikoy, an up and coming neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, which is doing pretty well based on our cat scale observations. Exhibit A (photo credit to the one and only Nina Underman):


So that’s great. Beyond seeing some (revoltingly) gigantic cats and learning about Conor’s brilliant theory, we also got to see dolphins swimming in the Marmara Sea (sorry no pictures, they were just too fast for me!), walked by a cafe where Kafka once wrote while drinking Turkish tea, and, best of all, ran into Dolly Parton in the basement of an ancient Ottoman bookstore! She really just fit right in next to all the decaying Arabic texts, lemme tell ya.

 Cutest couple award 2013

I have to say I was a little confused after my experience of Kadikoy because, despite being on the Asian side, it has wide sidewalks, isn’t obscenely crowded, and generally seems slightly calmer and more, well, European than the European side. Utterly perplexing. However, I have since learned that the Asian side was built up and developed during the period in Turkey’s history when it began some hardcore efforts to Europeanize. So that explains it. Classic Istanbul identity crisis. I love it. To top off our day on the Asian side, the ferry back from Kadikoy also promises absolutely BOMB sunsets.

Although this trip to Kadikoy was utterly fantastic (I think it might actually be my favorite area in Istanbul), it also brought me about the biggest disappointment of my entire time here. As many of you probably know, I kind of like fruit. Just a little. Ok, I may or may not have an addiction. My favorite fruit is a big tie between blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and apples. I have been lucky enough to find strawberries, bananas, and apples here to fill the black hole reserved for fruits in my stomach, but I have yet to find blueberries. That was, at least, until I visited Kadikoy (no wonder it’s my favorite lol). Hidden among the narrow streets lined with dimly lit cafes, shops devoted entirely to honey, and stores selling fake Uggs (this place is actually a middle schooler’s paradise), is a really fantastic marketplace. The marketplace consists of probably 15 shops all within the same few blocks. There are stores selling fish, nuts and dried fruits, cheeses, meats, and my favorite, fresh fruit! One of these fruit sellers actually had blueberries. They were exorbitantly expensive by Turkish standards, but I figured, I’ve been feeling a little homesick, I’ll treat myself to some delicious blues.

I wanted to make them last so I didn’t eat any that evening after I got home, but rather spent my night daydreaming about my yoghurt the next morning that would be graced by the presence of my favorite tiny blue fruit. It’s the little things in life, am I right?! WRONG! One bite of my yogurt the next day revealed that not only were these things that were literally, absolutely IDENTICAL to blueberries, not blueberries, but rather something that was 90% seed and actually the only fruit I have ever consumed and not liked. Talk about a way to ruin your day. I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry. Not only was all my hype and excitement for nothing, but I had wasted a full 10 lira on the worst fruit ever! Ugh #firstworldproblems big time.

Despite this horrific fruit incident, I have since forgiven Kadikoy and returned twice. The second time I went, Nina, Megan and we tried the traditional Turkish version of a baked potato, called Kumpir. Here’s the situation: they take a giant baked potato, scoop out the insides and mash them up so they’re all creamy and smooth like mashed potatoes. Then they put them back inside the baked potato shell, and put not 1, not 2, not 3, not 5, not even 7 toppings on, but a whopping 12!! Yes, 12 toppings! It reminds me quite a lot of this (click on that link, it will make your day). There’s everything from bulgar, corn, minced meat (if you’re into that), olives, yoghurt, spicy sauce, and much, much more. It’s freaking delicious, but you pay the consequences afterwards (aka turning into a coach potato).

So I’m gonna be honest…I’ve been a little behind on blogging the past month or so, and have left out some pretty exciting things. On November 17th, we had the pleasure of running from Asia to Europe in the Eurasian Marathon (I know…I ran a marathon can you believe it?! ) JOKES we did the 10k. It was absolutely gorgeous and sooo much fun to experience Istanbul streets sans traffic.

A few weekends ago, we brought out our artsy sides and went to an Ebru workshop. Ebru is an ancient traditional Turkish art form that involves spattering paint on top of a bucket full of a water/seaweed mixture and then capturing it on paper. It was much harder than it looks, but a remarkably relaxing form of artistic expression. We were all feeling very content and peaceful afterwards and I think we were all about ready to settle down in Istanbul for good to become Ebru artists. That was before we learned that most people start at an extraordinarily young age and study for years before even getting close to becoming masters. Whateva, they may have crushed my dreams, but I now have free dorm room decorations #holla.

This weekend was my second to last weekend in Istanbul, and since next weekend will consist of lots of studying for finals, I said many of my goodbyes to some of my favorite areas of this incredible city the past few days. We visited Sultanahmet, where gems like the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace are, to pay our last respects. We ended up wandering around Kadirga, one of the oldest, most conservative neighborhoods of Istanbul, in our search for a last one of Sinan’s (famous Ottoman architect) mosque masterpieces. Walking along the streets of Kadirga was like stepping straight into a different time. The houses were all dilapidated and wooden, having lived through all kinds of weather, war, and fire, slowly decaying for the last several hundred years. We were the only women to be seen without head coverings, and the noisy hustle and bustle of the rest of Istanbul was muted on the silent, empty streets. Children ran through the streets around us every now and then, but hushed their shouts upon seeing us. Though we certainly stood out like black sheep, the environment was by no means threatening or hostile, just quiet, and slow. Things here move at the pace of an older, less crowded Istanbul. We even got to see a woman participating in the (hilarious) old Turkish custom of dropping a basket containing some lira down out the window of her 4th floor apartment to the market on the bottom floor to pick up her groceries. Turkey knows how to do it.

Although this particular adventure had some serious potential for creepiness, it didn’t even hold a candle to Nina and my Sunday evening adventure in a cemetery. Nina and I ventured out of our superdorm cell rooms to visit the Rumeli Hisar fortress, a castle right by the Bosphorus, just below the Bogazici campus. Rumeli Hisar was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453 to help sneak the Ottoman ships across land and past the Byzantine Bosphorus blockade to take Constantinople. It supposedly has some of the best views of the city, so Nina and I figured we’d make the trek to catch the sunset. Well that really just didn’t quite work out how we’d hoped.

We weren’t entirely certain where the entrance to the fortress was, but we knew that the bottom of it is surrounded by an old Ottoman graveyard. On our walk down towards the Bosphorus, we passed an entrance to the graveyard and, assuming we’d be able to reach the fortress through the graveyard, we went on in. The sunset was set for 4:36 and we’d left ourselves 45 minutes from the time we left the superdorm to get to the top of the castle to catch the sunset. We entered the graveyard at approximately 4:10, so plenty of time to wind our way among the graves to the castle. Well um, no apparently not. Turns out Ottoman graveyards are CONFUSING AS SHIT! We tried several different paths up through the graveyard to reach the fortress, all of which lead to dead ends where we would have actually had to start scrambling over burial mounds if we wanted to get any higher up. We just weren’t about to blatantly wake the dead as the sun was setting. We’d gotten really close to the castle on our last attempt to find the real entrance, but, reaching another dead end, we turned around only to realize that we’d gotten so deep into the graveyard that we really had no idea where we’d come in or how to get back to the entrance. It was 4:30 at this point. And boy oh boy was it ever getting twilighty. Classic American in Istanbul experience…go to find cool castle leaving ample time before sunset and end up lost in a graveyard in the dark. Great work team.

Moral of the story is: 1) don’t go to watch the sunset at a place you do not know the exact location of, and 2) don’t assume you can get to any castle through its graveyard. Apparently even the city of Istanbul doesn’t put their historical site entrances in places where you have to climb over dead people to get to them. Who knew?! I’d like to think two Bowdoin students would have realized that, but alas, we have not had our brains functioning at Bowdoin level in a while and apparently it’s starting to affect our common sense. Don’t worry though…we’ve lived to tell the tale, and are going to revisit Rumeli Hisar during the daylight hours.

Time for my last week and a half of Istanbul! Ahh it’s insane how fast this semester has gone!! You can expect one more post from me once I’m on that magical flight back to the big CO, but then that’s it for the four month thanksgiving. Wow, crazy! Well, I for one cannot wait. Talk to you soon!!!


Things I’m thankful for this Turkey day: sidewalks, leashes, and stoplights

1 Dec

HOLY CRAP WESTERN CIVILIZATION IS A THING! There is literally no way you can possibly understand how I am feeling right now since the good majority of you are probably reading this post sitting at a computer in a room with a recycling bin in the corner, where everyone is wearing adequate deodorant and outside the cars and people go by in an orderly manner and all arrive on time to their destinations. There are no stray animals on the streets, everything you own is not covered in a thick layer of dust, and you could fairly easily look up a schedule online for the bus or train you would like to take later in the day. Well I hope you are counting yourself VERY thankful for all those things on weekend of thanking, because those are all utterly delightful aspects of Western civilization that have been completely absent from my life the last three months. Prior to spending this past weekend in Vienna, Austria, I could not have articulated to you these things I love about the developed world (other than the prevalence of deodorant), but now it is hilariously clear to me that I have really not been in Europe the past three months.

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It’s 70 Degrees in November

7 Nov

This is ridiculous 70 in November?!

That’s just a little ridiculous. I am most certainly not going to be prepared for the Maine winter when I get back.

Well my goodness it has been quite a while! Life has finally gotten relatively routine here and so there just hasn’t been quite as much craziness to write about. If you can believe it, I’ve actually had to do school the last few weeks. I actually had to write a paper. Wowzers. It was a bit of a struggle…apparently the brain really is a muscle and it has not been worked out nearly enough the past two months. Writing without inserting hashtags is foreign #uhoh.

Last week, my locks hit their 9-week mark meaning that it was high time for a hair cut. After my father decided to get his beard shaved the last time we were in Turkey and promptly had an ancient Turkish man take a large kitchen knife to his face to cut off his beard, suffice to say I was a little apprehensive of what the Turkish haircut process might throw at me. I spent about 45 minutes tromping through the neighborhood around Bogazici searching for the least-sketchy looking hair salon, or Kuafor, as they’re called in this neck of the woods. Now when you’re on the lookout, it is absolutely astonishing how common hair salons are. I’m not sure if this is a world thing or a Turkey thing or maybe just a this-neighborhood thing, but I found no less than 7 places where I could conceivably have my hair cut in a two block radius from the Superdorm (and that doesn’t even include the hair salon in the Superdorm’s basement…yes I know, it really is super).

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