Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 19, 2010

Bits and pieces from the last couple days

So much has happened in the last couple days, and I have not had the energy to write about it, so now I feel like I am behind. In order to catch up, I’m just going to write about a few things that come to mind and you’ll have to get the rest of the details from me over coffee, tea, or wine.

Okay, so the jacket story. You know that I am a total sucker and I trust people almost immediately until they give me a reason not to. Which makes me bad at bargaining. Murat told me straight up that I got ripped off with the leather jacket, but his mother was kind enough to say that good leather is expensive, don’t worry about it. Banu volunteered to go with me to pick it up so that she could tell the guy to stop ripping off her friend. Well, she basically did just that and they got into a big argument. And Turks arguing is heated and loud. Banu looked cool as a cucumber but she sounded like she was really giving it to the guy, and he was getting very upset, and Henry was running around the showroom making his rocket noises so I told him to grab his toy that he had left on the other side of the room because we may have to get out of here fast. Banu got 60 dollars knocked off the price (we probably could have paid even less but at that point I was a little frightened). So now I have a new leather jacket, and it’s a nice jacket but not great, and I paid an okay price, and I am pretty sure that bargaining is not something that I am good at.

Going to the Blue Mosque was fun. I learned that its real name is the Sultanahmet Mosque and that only the tourists call it the Blue Mosque. It was also the only mosque I have been in that smelled like feet. Banu and I couldn’t decide whether it was because of all the tourists or because they had just had their Friday prayer service. But I’m guessing since the faithful wash their feet before they go in that it was probably all the tourists.

Today was really great. Henry and I relaxed at Banu’s and Murat’s for awhile and Henry played with Zeynap while I figured out what we are going to do on Monday. In the afternoon we went to Beyoglu and climbed up the Galata Tower. Other than being terrified of heights, Henry had a great time. He was in a pretty good mood all afternoon, and we got to be silly together on the steep walk up to Galata and back. It also required a round trip on the ferry, which Henry LOVES! I could keep him entertained by riding the ferry around all day, and it would only cost me 1.5 lira. Plus they serve food on the boat. You can go to the snack bar which is nice, but it’s better to stay seated and wait for a waiter who brings simit (a ring of bread similar to a soft pretzel that is covered in sesame seeds) and some Turkish tea. I’ve drank tea on the ferry for the last couple days, and it is the most divine, civilized experience.

Tonight the Birdals with Henry and I went to Ciya Sofrasi, which is a restaurant that a friend told me about and where I have been dying to go since before I arrived. It was everything I had hoped for and more; definitely the best meal I have had since I arrived, and I’ve had some good ones. Henry ate nothing, of course. But he did get some corn on the way home (they sell steamed corn kernels in a cup, as well as roasted corn on the cob) and then he ate a bowl of pasta and a Pengui (like penguin, a snack cake made mostly of vitamin-fortified condensed milk). He also raced around the squares and sidewalks of Kadikoy with Zeynap, then collapsed in bed the minute his little body held still for more than a few seconds.

I was also very proud of him today for not having a single accident all day. It’s been a good day for the toilet, as my 2-year-old daughter told her father that she wanted to poop in the potty, and she did. I miss her and her dad terribly, and although I would love to stay much longer in Istanbul, I am also anxious to return.

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 19, 2010

Very quick update

Hello everyone, just added more pictures to the “Adventures in Picture II” page and created a page for the Hagia Sophia. I’m running behind schedule so I’ll try to add a more descriptive post before we go to dinner this evening at Ciya Sofrasi. In the meantime, check out the new photos.

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 18, 2010

So tired…

Wow, what a long day. Walked around Banu’s neighborhood, went inside Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, bought several scarves, picked up my jacket (and paid less than what I had planned to). Stayed up late to Skype with Rich and Meredith. Read my email, deleted the non-essentials. Now must go to bed. Details and amazing pictures will be posted tomorrow.

Henry was great today. Sure, I considered whooping him in the Blue Mosque, but that moment was short-lived. He’s doing great with the toilet. He’s charming the heck out of every one. What a super kid. Today I felt so glad to have him with me. This trip actually gets easier as time goes on.

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 18, 2010

Coffee, please. NOW!!

This morning was tough. After too little sleep I stumbled into the kitchen to find some coffee. Banu and left to take Zeynap to school, so I had to fend for myself. I scanned the various jars and canisters in her kitchen, looking for something that looked like ground up coffee. When you can barely open your eyes, there are many spices and other ground up things that look like coffee, and of course I couldn’t make sense of the labels. Dang it, why was everything written in Turkish! Than Banu came back and showed me where the coffee was. I made a very strong cup, and after that things got much better.

We’re sitting in a café now, having a late breakfast/early lunch. Henry ate some peanut butter and Nutella crackers at the house before we left, so I’m not feeling too bad that he now is eating strawberry candies and drinking sour cherry juice. I ordered him some milk, but for some reason they brought it to us steamed with foam, and Henry does neither hot drinks nor foamy drinks. They also gave me ridiculously large portions, so I’m trying decide what on my plate will not get finished; the cheese and parsley pastry or the baklava. Sorry cheese pastry, but I’m betting on the baklava. The coffee is a cappuccino, as Turkish coffee is not usually served until later in the day (although technically I think it is already later in the day – darn late night Turkish conversations!).

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 17, 2010

Hot time in the city

It’s already late, and Murat is depressing me with the movie “Capitalism: A Love Story,” so I’ll be brief tonight. Henry did absolutely phenomenal today. We left Kadakoy pretty early in order to get to Topkapi Palace in the morning, and I bribed Henry’s good behavior by telling him that Topkapi had a room full of weapons. Well, that was true, except the armory was closed for renovation. But not to worry; Henry handled that disappointment quite well. We toured the harem instead (where the women of the Sultan’s court lived), the Imperial Hall, the Circumcision Room (yes, you read that right), as well as some of the treasures of the Sultan’s court and breathtaking views of the Bosphorus.

Here’s the Gate of Salutation at the main entrance, with Henry flying his Pokemon towards the gate:

Henry and I had a snack in the courtyard outside the Library of Sultan Ahmed III.

And here’s Henry hanging out in the harem.

After we left Topkapi, we met up with Murat at his office at Istanbul University. I spent a fair amount of time talking with people in a very hot office, and Henry was golden. We had lunch at a great cafe across from Sulemaniye Mosque, and while Henry did not eat anything, he had a great time coloring in his activity book while Murat explained Turkey to me. Then Henry found a fountain in the courtyard of Murat’s building that he decided would be more interesting than Sulemaniye. Here is Henry pouting in front of said fountain because I told him not to put his hand in the algae-filled water.

And here is the view of Sulemaniye Mosque from Istanbul University. Even Henry had to admit that it was impressive.

We couldn’t get inside the mosque itself but we saw the tomb of Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife. Afterwards we wandered through the Grand Bazaar on our way to Eminonu and then took the ferry over to Kadakoy. For dinner Banu and Murat ordered lahmacun, a thin-crust pizza that was sooooooo good. And then I got out some candy that I picked up by the Kadakoy ferry station, and I think Zeynap ate most of it (sorry if she was a little hyper, Banu).

It’s already nearly 2am, so my guess is that tomorrow will be a slow morning. We’re just doing Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque tomorrow, unless we hear that the board of the Women’s Resource Library is meeting. I’ll also pick up my perhaps over-priced leather coat.

We had a very late start to the day today, and didn’t get out of the house until after 1pm. In large part that was because I had a late night last night talking to our friends with whom we are staying (if anyone has engaged a Turk in conversation, you know about their conversational stamina). We decided to try Topkapi Palace, which normally cannot be seen in its entirety in less than four hours, but I figured with Henry I could only get two hours anyway. With the ferry ride to the European side of the city, a tram ride to Sultanahmet, and a quick lunch, we should have just two hours before it closed.

You may have noticed the red toy Henry carries in most pictures. He calls it his Pokemon. Poor kid has parents that won’t buy him a real Pokemon, so he pretends that this foam glider is a Pokemon. Well, we got on the ferry at Kadakoy and were about to disembark at Eminonu when Henry asked me, “Mommy, do you have my Pokemon?” Crap, I didn’t. We climbed back up the stairs to the upper level of the ferry and saw his red foam Pokemon on the floor below the seats. Phew. Crisis averted.

After disembarking at Eminonu, we got on the tram and headed for the Sultanahmet station, which dropped us off near Hagia Sophia. Banu had recommended a place for kofte (meatballs) and I was starving, so we found it and I had meatballs while Henry colored in his activity book (he had a bite to eat on the ferry, so no worries). Then I wandered around like a typical tourist looking for the Imperial Gate entrance to Topkapi, which Banu told me I should use instead of the entrance I could more easily find on my map. After giving up and decided to go to the entrance I knew I could find, a nice man who apparently saw the Turkey guide book in my hand and the dopey expression on my face gave me directions. “But it’s so late, I don’t think you’ll want to go to Topkapi,” he told me. “You won’t have much time before it closes. You should go to this park down the street instead, because it will be better for the little one. You know, it used to be a zoo.” And that’s how I became acquainted with Neashi (who’s name I am most certainly spelling incorrectly), a 42-year-old lifelong resident of Istanbul. We got to talking, and he told me about the leather store he owned nearby. Neashi seemed like a really nice guy, and he most certainly knew a mark when he saw one. As is typical of shop keepers in Istanbul, he invited Henry and I to his store for apple tea and I ended up buying a leather coat. It really is a very nice leather coat, and I think worth close to what I paid (or will pay, since I only put a deposit down because it is going to be custom made for me). But I probably could have gotten a better price. Banu will go with me to pick it up on Friday and I’ll see if I can’t get a bit more knocked off the price.

On our way back we had a bit of drama. While we were waiting to take the ferry from Eminonu back to Kadakoy, Henry told me he had to use the bathroom. There was no bathroom in the station where we were and the ferry was about to dock, so I asked him if he could wait. He said yes, but of course he couldn’t. So when we arrived at Kadakoy the first thing I tried to do was to find a bathroom (“bay” for men, “bayan” for women, or sometimes just WC) where Henry could finish emptying his bladder and change his shorts. After wandering the square outside the station, I thought there MUST be a bathroom inside the station that I missed, so I went back inside the ferry station and saw the two destination signs: “Eminonu” and “Karakoy.” Now, keep in mind that it was very hot, and I was still wondering if I should not have bought that jacket, and Henry had wet pants, and it was very hot. Very hot. But at that moment I confused “Karakoy” with “Kadakoy” and thought that I was at the wrong station. The guards at the ferry station did not speak good enough English to help me figure out where I was, but they did understand “bathroom” (although apparently not my pronunciation of “banyan”) and after realizing that the bathroom was for Henry they let me use the staff bathroom (see, traveling with young children has its perks). So poor Henry finally got the chance to use the bathroom, got cleaned up and changed, and then we returned to the first floor where I put another token in the turnstile and just missed the ferry to Karakoy. But that’s good, right? Except I didn’t know yet that I didn’t want to go to Karakoy. So I sat down to wait for the next ferry, pulled out my guidebook to try to figure out which station I was actually sitting in, and before the next ferry arrived I figured out that I was in fact where I wanted to be. Exhausted and a little sheepish, I left the station and caught a cab to Banu’s and Murat’s.

Tomorrow (actually, today by now) we are getting up early and seeing Topkapi in the morning, having lunch with Murat near his office at Istanbul University, and then he is going to arrange for me to meet the director of their women’s studies program. After that, if Henry has any energy left, we might go to the Blue Mosque or Sulamaniye Mosque and then will head home.

Good news on the eating front; Henry seems to have settled down and now eats a couple bowls of pasta every night. Breakfast is still light, but below you can see what he had for lunch on the ferry:

These are cookies, but whatever, he’s alive and at this point that’s all that I can do.

And here is him eating his afternoon snack on the ferry ride back:

(that is a packet of Nutella that he is eating with a spoon)

Now for more historically profound pictures, this one I thought was part of Topkapi Palace but now I’m not sure; I have to consult with Banu on this one (taken from the ferry ride back to Kadakoy).

Here is a view of the skyline around Eminonu, where you get a great view of the New Mosque (also taken on the ferry ride back).

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 15, 2010

Zeynap Gem

Zeynap, speaking about Henry to her mother in Turkish: “I keep telling him over and over again, but he doesn’t listen!”

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 15, 2010

… and then there was peace.

Okay, so things got a little worse after we arrived at Bogazici, in part because Henry was so darn hungry, and then they got better, and then they got really crazy when Henry and Zeynap started arguing over toys, and now Zeynap is in bed and Henry is showered and watching Toy Story (yet again), and I just finished my glass of wine so things are pretty darn good now.

Bogazici is a little like UCLA, for those of you who have been to that campus, only more beautiful. Situated on the side of a mountain overlooking the Bosphorus, Bogazici has three campuses, only two of which I saw today. The south campus, where my friend Banu works and where I spent my time today, is a mishmash of old and modern architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and scenic vistas. I met with a prominent feminist scholar in the sociology department who does research in Kurdish communities. Really fascinating stuff; many of you have probably with the “Kurdish issue” in Turkey. The Turkish state has not been kind to the Kurds, and I think I’ll just leave it at that while I’m using the wireless service of a friend who is trying to get a passport.

Henry’s movie is over so it’s time to put him to bed. Probably time to put me to bed, too. I’m posting some pictures of Zeynap and Henry playing yesterday at the playground.

Henry showing me the sand on his butt

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 15, 2010

Where are all those know-it-alls now?!?!

This morning was challenging. Henry has hardly eaten anything solid in the last 24 hours. Banu has bent over backwards trying to find something that he will eat. This morning for breakfast he refused the Nutella and would only drink milk. Of course, he spilled almost all the milk in his cup, and after drinking only the remaining tablespoon refused every thing else.

Now, I have many well-meaning people in my life who apparently think I’m some kind of idiot who never thought of simple things like offering him a variety of foods or setting meal time rules that provide him with structure. These same people don’t seem to realize that I am not just sitting on my hands doing nothing about Henry’s eating habits, as if it never occurred to me to take him to multiple doctors and specialists. And my favorite nugget of wisdom is, “he’ll eat when he’s hungry.” So when is that going to happen? Because the kid has barely eaten anything and I finally had to blackmail him to drink a protein shake with his stool softening medication in it so that I didn’t have to take him to the hospital.

Sorry, but it’s been a trying morning.

We’re at Bogazici University now, and I’ll be doing some work this afternoon. Hopefully more immediately rewarding than parenting. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Stephanie Nawyn | June 14, 2010

Henry Gems, June 14

Henry, for no apparent reason outside the New Mosque: “Mommy, I want to live a long time because I like spending time with you.”

Henry, in response to Zeynap repeatedly speaking to him in Turkish: “I don’t understand what she’s saying. Her voice is different.”

Mommy, in response to Henry running around the house in a bathrobe with his you-know-what flapping in the breeze: “Henry, I don’t think Zeynap is ready to see your thing.”

Henry: “What thing?”

Mommy: “Your penis.”

Henry: “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

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