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).

So moral of the story is: my bad decision-making was really put to the test. I may or may not have walked between two salons several times trying to decide which I wanted to risk. I finally chose based on the terribly sexist observation that there were women visible through the windows of one and not the other. Not that I don’t trust a guy to cut my hair, but hey, I was imagining small, old Turkish man with a kitchen knife so cut (LOL puns) me some slack. Plus, some of the Turkish women DO seem to have discovered deodorant so that’s a gigantic bonus.

I walk in the door, blubber through my google-translated speech about how I need a haircut, and am ushered into the hair chair where I am told in some of the most broken English I’ve ever heard (the Turkish I just attempted was probably just as, if not more, broken so no judgement, sister) to “vait pease.” And wait I do, while the woman who sat me leaves the shop and returns moments later with, you guessed it, a small old Turkish man with a kitchen knife!!!

JOKES. It was not a small old Turkish man with a kitchen knife. It was however a man, and he, presumably, was Turkish. Thankfully, he did not outwardly appear to have any kitchen knives on his person. He comes over, does some fluffing of my hair, and then looks at me expectantly in the mirror. I tell him “bir az” which means, very little, to indicate that I don’t want more than an inch or two off, and then show him some pictures of Blake Lively (don’t judge me, she’s my home girl when it comes to hairstyles) on my phone. He nods, and then asks me a question in Turkish.


That is not a good sign. I know next to no Turkish vocabulary, especially hair vocabulary…haven’t had any crosswords for that yet, unfortunately! So I just decide to go with it, and nod enthusiastically. Throughout the course of the haircut, I kept agreeing to more and more things that I really just had absolutely no clue what they were. I had a moment of sheer panic when I worried he was going to give me straight across bangs (hey middle school, I’m back!) but thankfully I dodged that bullet.

The whole experience was really just quite unusual. He didn’t wash my hair and cut it wet, rather just got right to it and blew it dry (even though it wasn’t wet…?) then snipped from there. Weird. He also just kept pulling more and more unrecognizable tools out of his magic cabinet (once again, thankfully no kitchen knives) but it was a little bit ridiculous. If you’ve ever seen the movie Love Actually, you know the scene when Alan Rickman goes to buy a necklace for his sleezy mistress and makes the grand mistake of asking for it to be gift wrapped, well, I was dealing with that salesman in barber form. There was lots of unnecessary flourishing in his hand motions as he cut my hair and by the time he was getting close to being done, I was prepared for him to ask me if I wanted some cinnamon sticks and a sprig of holly tied into my hair. No thank you, most certainly not, though some lavender could be nice.

So even though he may have cut off significantly more than I was hoping for, I’d say the day was a success. If I got nothing else out of it, at least I got to listen to some upbeat Spanish music while drinking tea. Go Turkey.

Beyond getting my hair cut, over the past two weeks I’ve also been to hella fancy Turkish sporting events. Last Saturday we attended the Women’s Tennis Association semi-finals to watch Serena Williams play, and Friday we went to a league soccer game between Istanbul’s Galatasaray (yeah…Drogba plays for them nbd) and Konyaspor from Central Turkey.

The tennis matches were awesome, although by the time Serena arrived, we were on our third match and as fascinating at tennis is, it was getting marginally boring. Serena of course turned all of that around right away, treating us to an intense nail-biter. I was very impressed by the turnout for her match, there were tons of banners and signs…apparently Turkey likes USA, yayy!! I have to say, it would be fascinating to walk around for one day in Serena’s body. I imagine it would be something like putting on the Iron Man suit. That girl is ripped and scary as heck. I bet she can kill flies just by looking at them.

The Galatasaray game was an equally fantastic experience, though extremely different. Tennis is undoubtedly one of the world’s more refined sports. Soccer, though the world’s most beautiful game, is, to put it politely, not nearly as refined and the fans are even less so. The trip to the Turk Telecom Stadium, where Galatasaray plays, transported me straight back to the walk across the bridge towards the Boulder vs. Fairview football games amid a seemingly endless crowd of purple and gold in high school. For everything that Bowdoin is, it is most certainly not a big sport fan school. The only game that people really even show up for is the Bowdoin-Colby hockey game, and that doesn’t even get close to what football games in high school were like or the palpable excitement level around this soccer game. The subway tunnel and train itself were transformed into something more closely resembling the red and gold center of a mosh pit. No one even had to hold on during our subway ride! The entire train was packed so closely, it was just a continuous game of jello, but with lots and lots of large, drunk, sweaty, deodorant-free Turkish men. Huzzah. But actually, even despite the smell, it was an awesome experience. The game itself kept everyone on the edge of their seats, and as we’d hoped, Galatasaray pulled away with a 2-1 win. Had they not, I think Alican would actually have been near tears, so I’m real glad we didn’t have to witness a loss.

Tuesday, October 29th was Turkey’s version of the 4th of July, Republic Day, or the day Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the father of modern Turkey) declared Turkey a secular, democratic republic. I have to say, I think Istanbul’s firework display and evening festivities outdid any 4th of July celebration I’ve ever witnessed or heard about. Turkey worships Ataturk, and the city went absolutely wild for this day celebrating his accomplishments for the country. People walked around for the entire day with red ribbons covered in the Turkish emblem streaming from their hair or tied around their heads, waving flags and chanting the Turkish national anthem. Boats strung with banners declaring “Cumhuriyet ve Demokrasi” (Republic and Democracy) sailed up and down the bosphorus, and every few feet salesmen thrust flags bearing Ataturk’s face and balloons stamped with the Turkish emblem into my hands. Per usual, Alican had hooked us up with the best seat in the house for the fireworks, so we ate our dinner on a balcony overlooking the Bosphorus in Ortaköy. The two Bosphorus bridges shot off sparklers and boats and buildings sent searchlights into the clouds for hours leading up to the display. Huge speakers on the bridges broadcasted the Turkish national anthem and Turkish pop music over the throngs of people wedged up against the railing on the Bosphorus edge.

The firework display itself most certainly did not disappoint. It went on for an hour and a half and didn’t get boring. Every single type of firework made an appearance (although sadly no dragon fireworks like in Lord of the Rings…I’m still searching for the country that can give me one of those), and the finale was heralded by red and white blasts that lit up the sky in the shape of crescents and stars. Alright, alright we get it, Turkey. You win. Throughout all this, I couldn’t help feeling pretty patriotic and shouting “I love Turkey” a few times. It was absolutely awesome. Getting to see the birthday celebration for one of the most nationalistic, self-adoring countries in the world was truly spectacular (the pictures don’t do it justice–I ran out of space on my camera!).

The highlight of my last few weeks however, has to go to this last Saturday when I got to meet up with Griffin Bohm and Max Nathanson, two friends from high school. Griffin is also studying in Istanbul for the semester, though in a different part of the city and at a different university. Max was here for the weekend visiting Griffin. We spent the day at park in Istanbul (I know right?! An actual pakr, with trees, in Istanbul!) where we shared our wild abroad tales. Max is having a very interesting, unique experience with his host family in Granada, Spain, and Griff, of course, is lovin it up in Istanbul as well. We went to a scrumptious dinner at the Istanbul Culinary Institute and had quite the foodie experience, then tromped up and down Istiklal (the packed shopping, eating street right off Taksim square) sampling desserts and just generally having a grand old time. We saw a dog wearing a harness that said “Dog Police” #onlyinistanbul (cuz here they actually need that to monitor the absurd stray pet population in this city), passed by the home of the Turkish Communist Party, and visited the famous “Jesus on Acid” sculpture just off Istiklal (it’s not actually called that…but you can see what I mean…).

The day was really just made, though, by getting to spend some time with fellow Boulderites. Sometimes all you really need is a nice reconnection with your roots. How lucky am I to get to hang out with some old friends thousands upon thousands of miles from our home?! Boy oh boy was it ever wonderful.

So now begins the home stretch. As of tomorrow, I have exactly six weeks left in Istanbul, can you believe it? Craziness. Time is flying by. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated on all the happenings. Until next time!


One Response to “It’s 70 Degrees in November”

  1. Eliza Kuelthau November 13, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    dear sweet Camilla whom I love and adore . . . I’m not sure you can come home because I will so miss your writings and adventurous spirit!

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