Category Archives: Travel

Things I Learned

nov2016imageRemembering.

During the past few weeks, I’ve been writing schools and checking out websites of potential employers. As of this morning, there are 58 Art Teacher openings posted on the Search Associates website. As I contemplate the possibility of moving to a new country, I am reminded of all the learning that one goes through upon immersion into a new culture. I am both excited by it and unnerved by it. The adrenalin rush that an expat feels upon arrival in a new country is not easily forgotten. Cleaning out some old documents, I came across this list I made of a few of the things I learned in Turkey:

 

  1. How to pee in a hole. I will never forget a sweet, female Turkish friend bending over in laughter when I asked her how to do this. Through gulps of laughter, she shut my art room door and acted out some important strategies that all Turkish girls are taught. This knowledge forever changed my life in Turkey.
  1. How to say, “Kas lira?” (How many lira does this cost?). Then learning how to count to 30, and finally how to negotiate/haggle. I became a confident buyer before too many months.
  1. How to tolerate the smokers. Smokers are everywhere. Smoking is what people do. Both young and old people smoke. I remember thinking, “Well maybe smoking won’t actually give you cancer like we’re taught to believe in USA. There are tons of old people here and they all smoke!” I still wonder about this…
  1. How to be a calm passenger in the backseat of a taxi, with a crazy driver, and not wear a seat belt. Seat belts exist in taxis, but they are all “adjusted” so that they don’t work. Now imagine this, staying calm, with loud Turkish music playing on the radio, and slipping and sliding down very steep hills covered with snow. It was during these rides that the carefree taxi drivers would ask me, in broken English, “Where from?” When I said, “Dallas, Texas”, they would often say, “Ah, Dallas!! JR!!” I learned that people in Turkey love the show, “Dallas”.
  1. I learned who Ataturk was and why he is important to the nation of Turkey. I now know more about Ataturk than I do George Washington, and I love him too! Ataturk’s picture hangs in every classroom and in many homes. His picture hangs on street-side banners and permanent signage all over the city.
  1. How planning ahead is of no use in many countries outside the USA. The ability to organize my time, that I’ve become so good at, didn’t work in Turkey. Things change. Their cultural understanding of every thought, every decision is, “Inshallah”: If Allah wills it. I learned better how to roll with the punches and live in the moment. I’m not an expert at it, but I’m better at it now than I used to be.

As I venture onward into this recruiting season, I am faced with another season of transition. I know the excitement of moving and the hardships of immersion. Finding the right “fit” of a country, and a school, is of upmost importance. Decisions should be made carefully and wisely, and for me, with a lot of prayer.

What questions do you ask yourself to know if a big change in your future is a step in the right direction?

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My New State (of mind), Part 2

LifeIsUncertain

Photo credit: Briget Moore Murphy

Changes.

Eleven months ago I began the journey of repatriation and I’m here to tell you that I’ve taken a beating. When I started this blog in 2012, I tried to uncover everything I could about how to get an overseas teaching job. What I never researched, and never even thought about, were the effects of reverse culture shock – if and when I’d ever return to the USA.

During my first months in Istanbul, Turkey, when culture shock was overwhelming at times, I reached out to administrators, colleagues and friends who were experiencing the same thing. Most of us had moved there from different countries and were not native to Turkey. We supported each other and worked through all the emotional changes we were experiencing. What I never prepared myself for was the hardship of coming back to your home country, alone, with no one who understood or could give emotional support.

After returning to the USA and living out of WalMart gray containers in the homes of friends and family for nine months, I felt like a tumbling tumbleweed. Even so, I don’t know how to ever repay the generosity of these people who lovingly opened their homes to me while I tried to sort out my life and make new decisions. After the wedding of my only daughter in early January, I drove back to my home state of Texas, crying all the way across California, Arizona and New Mexico. I felt like I’d lost all my identities: being a mother, being a teacher, being an artist and being a traveler.

I’ve now been in Texas for eight months. My brother and his wife graciously offered me a job in their company and I rented a small apartment. I count my blessings every day as I get to be alone with my thoughts and my things. My thoughts have been tangled this year, but two weeks ago I finished a 6-week course by Dr. Cate Brubaker called The Re-Entry Relaunch Roadmap. I would highly recommend this course to anyone struggling with repatriation. It helped me process all the changes I’ve been through and it gave me a community of people who understand me. One key exercise was to reframe my re-entry experience in a few words. The statement I came up with explains where I’m at in my new state of mind: Rest and Re-Invent.

One reader of my blog recently wrote me and asked if I were going to write again; she hoped so. With her in mind, I’m looking forward to sharing some new ideas in the weeks ahead.

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My new State. . . (of mind)

SantaFephotoDry as the desert.

I wouldn’t have believed it could happen to me. I’d read articles about how difficult repatriation is, but I always imagined it happening to those who’d lived abroad for many, many years. I’d only lived overseas for two, short years when I decided to come back to the States to more fully participate in my only child’s upcoming wedding.

After the long journey home with my belongings, I rested and adapted to jetlag in Dallas, Texas for four weeks. During that time, I saw friends and family and house-sat for two different friends in their beautiful homes. As lovely as this was, living out of a suitcase becomes old. I then flew to California, where my daughter lives, and had a very loose plan to stay with her until her wedding in January. I brought enough clothes to last through the changing seasons. I walked everywhere, just as I was used to doing in Istanbul, but found after about a week, I was getting restless. I attended a few meet-ups and art outings. I began looking for possible employment. For the first time ever, I began to feel that my age was a factor in both job-seeking and social outings.

Then I signed up for Obamacare health insurance. Wow! Expensive! The reality of living in the USA began to infiltrate all my thoughts. I could see that my savings would quickly disappear if I did not find a job. I initially thought of working for Starbucks or Trader Joe’s for a few months, until after the wedding. I’d always heard these companies had good benefit packages, but what I didn’t consider was the fact of no vacation and horrible hours. For example, after researching Trader Joe’s, I learned that an employee shift can last until midnight and begin the next day as early as 4:00 am. Three hours of sleep? No, thank you.

Within a few days, I began to reconsider living in California without a job. Several of my good friends live in Santa Fe and were working hard to convince me to move there for a few months.  I’d visited Santa Fe a couple of times and found it interesting with its many cultural offerings and I thought it might be a good place to be through the fall; halfway between my daughter in San Diego and my mother in Dallas. I decided to try it, so I bought a car and drove to New Mexico!

I have only just started to explore what this small city has to offer in terms of cultural explorations, and I think, actually, there are many. I love having a car and the fact that I can arrive anywhere in this city in less than 15 minutes. There’s a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods here and I’ve discovered red and green chilies. There’s an art movie cinema, and farmer’s market. I’m curious to learn about the history of the Native Americans and the Spanish explorers. My long-term friends who live here have been so generous, kind and encouraging. They’ve allowed me to vent frustrations and sadness of repatriation.

I’m continuing to help plan my daughter’s wedding. Everything is coming together. It will be joyous and I’ll be able to easily meet her in Dallas for a planned bridal shower.

I continue to be grateful to live in a city with friends. The skies are amazing with the enormous swirling, painted brushstroke clouds. The yellow color of the sunflowers has grabbed my attention and the rainbows here are vertical. It’s weird. A good friend just told me of a place called Tent Rocks, less than an hour away. Suppossedly, it looks like Cappadocia, Turkey.

 

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Two short years

may2015blogGrateful.

Weeks away from moving across the world, I’m trying to savor each moment I have left in Istanbul. Each time I go to a favorite neighborhood I realize it may be the last time I’ll be there. This place is now one of my homes, and although it is not possible to fully discover this city of almost twenty million people, I do know how to find my favorite markets, cultural and historical sights. I’ve learned how to maneuver the busy, crooked streets by foot or using public transportation and find any destination I’m searching for. I’ve learned just enough Turkish to make the locals comfortable with me and I treasure the friendships I’ve made. As I look out over the cityscape with a heart of gratitude, I hope it won’t be long until I visit again.

I’ve spent the weekend packing up my belongings. I was surprised to realize that I’ll likely need to purchase another piece of luggage to get my things back to the States. When I arrived here two years ago, I brought the fewest of necessity items, but since then I’ve discovered Turkish towels, Afghanistan pottery and Uzbekistan textiles. Who can resist this city that spans 700-square miles? There are so many Turkish delights! And since I was home last summer, I’ve visited seven more countries, buying small tokens of remembrance in each.

What an adventure I’ve been on! My mind has expanded in all directions through the conversations I’ve had and the books I’ve read. But, I’m weary. I’m longing for calm. I miss my family and friends. I’m eager to be home, on the other side. I am looking forward to being taken care of by people who know and love me well.

Istanbul, I love you. You’ve changed me and you’ve educated me beyond what I thought was possible. Be well, my friend.

 

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Time flies

OctBlogPhotoWhen you’re having fun.

It’s been just over six months since I’ve paid any attention to my blog. Lately a few people have asked about it and I felt a tug on my heart to write a short post. I never know what to say; there’s always so much to tell. How do I choose?

Over the summer I went home to Texas and also traveled to California to see my daughter. I was eager to gauge my feelings and emotions – both of being back in the States and also returning to Istanbul. All that’s worth noting is that I loved seeing my family and friends but I was super excited to come back. This is an amazing, energy-filled city and it continues to have my full attention. I am grateful for how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve learned about the world through my students, my travels and my new international friends.

November is around the corner. I am now involved in decisions that will guide my future. Should I stay or should I go? It is already time to decide if I will extend my contract or move on. I love Istanbul. I love living overseas but also wonder what it would be like to live in other distant lands. I miss my family too. It is a constant tug of war. Words that my mother always told me come to mind, “It’s always good to have options. Many people do not have any. Even when the decisions are hard to make, it is still better to have options.”

I challenge you to carefully observe your life and your options.

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The end in sight

Over the hump.

I’ve taught art for 13 years and every year the spring is exhausting! There’s always a rush to get through all the lessons you planned, squeeze in more school activities and enjoy the sunshine and social life that springtime brings. This year in Istanbul is no different, however, the end is in sight and I have a lot to be thankful for and much to look forward to.

I’ve lived here for eight months and the time has flown by, as I knew it would. No matter how tired I am on Friday night, I force myself out on the weekends to partake in this great city and I’m always glad I did. When my alarm goes off on Saturday morning, even when it is foggy or rainy outside, I force myself up and out. I cannot conquer this amazing city; there’s always too much going on. And because of its enormous size, by the time I get back around to another part of the city, so much has changed! It is constant, and I am energized by it.

It seems impossible that already this summer I will be considering my future and trying to determine my next career move. Because the hiring season for international teachers starts about a year ahead of the school year, this fall, when I return back to school to fulfill the second year of my contract, I will need to determine what I will do next. I have three choices and I swing back and forth like a pendulum between them. 1) Extend my two-year contract in Istanbul either for one or two more years, 2) job search for a new school in a new country (where?) and move again during the summer of 2015, 3) move back to the USA (where?) during the summer of 2015 and find a job, a car and a house (and thank you, Mr. Obama, new, required health insurance). Blah. There are so many emotions and realities tied up in those three options! I am hoping this summer, after I visit back in the USA, I will better be able to know the answer.

 

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

• I went to my first Istanbul Breakfast Club. Olga, the hostess who served us in her home, prepared a Moroccan breakfast. She had just returned from a Moroccan foodie tour and brought back spices and recipes to try out on us. This was perfect timing because . .

• I went to Morocco over Spring Break! I traveled with a friend from my school and stayed with another lovely teacher friend in Casablanca. We then took a train to Marrakech, stayed in a Riad, drank loads of mint çay, shopped in the souks and watched a snake charmer! I read most of my next month’s book club book, The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles, about Morocco. Nice, serendipitous connection.

• I went to the Istanbul Tulip Festival in Emergan Park. From my friend Ginney’s blog, Istanbul’da you can learn the history of the Turkish Tulip. This once-a-year event is the gateway to springtime in Istanbul. Over 20 million!!! tulip bulbs are planted in the city and it is gorgeous!

• I walked on the TOP of the ancient, Byzantine city walls during the “Love Tour”, a historical, walking tour that highlighted famous love stories of Istanbul. We also went in beautiful mosques and a preserved, mosaic-filled Christian church.

• I took my Grade 3 students on a field trip to the Hali Carpet Museum in Sultanhamet. It was amazing seeing the beautiful kalims that are centuries old!

• I went to my Canadian friend, Melanie’s art opening near Taksim and went to my Russian friend, Oxana’s art opening in Arnavutkoy. These ladies are so talented and both almost sold out of their creations before I got there.

• I’ve found an art store that I love and have slowly begun to buy some paint. I am finishing up a few watercolors and a couple of acrylic paintings.

• During the recent elections in Turkey, both twitter and youtube were blocked in the entire country! That’s been interesting…

• I went to a Picasso show at the Pera Museum. Picasso is always so inspirational and I had never seen these prints and ceramics!

• I’m looking forward to spending time over the next month traveling in Turkey to amazing cities east of Istanbul. Turkey is a traveler’s paradise. Istanbul was just ranked the most popular travel destination in the WORLD by TripAdvisor.

• I planned, installed and exhibited around 250 student artworks in my first Primary School Art Exhibition at my school. It was wildly successful and I was delighted for the attention it brought to my kids and the visual arts!

• I went to the fantastic Marc Quinn exhibition at Arter Gallery and was amazed at his talent for painting, sculpture and textiles. What an inspirational, contemporary artist!

• I continue to be active in two groups and am making many friends in each: PAWI (Professional American Women of Istanbul) and Global Minds Book Club. Both groups are comprised of international people who have vocations that are admired: artists, writers, journalists, charity workers, sociologists, attorneys, psychologists, translators, educators and business owners.

I want to challenge you to get out and learn something new today. Don’t let the day slip by without smiling and sharing a bit of yourself with the world.

 

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Bullet Points

BulletPointsSpring awaits.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. The pace of my life here in Istanbul never slows down. It’s almost March and before you know it, I will have finished my first year of teaching in an IB International World School. It’s gone by fast, as I knew it would.

Here is a quick summary of what I’ve been up to:

• I went to Barcelona for Christmas and fell in love all over again with Salvador, Pablo and Antoni. An art-filled week, spent with a friend I met and roomed with at the 2013 SA Boston Job Fair. Remember? This was during the horrible blizzard last year. She got a job at that fair and is now teaching in Switzerland.

• I had my teeth cleaned at my new Turkish dentist! After tie-dying with my students that day, my hands were stained red. My limited-English-speaking dentist found that quite curious and amusing!

• I went to Athens for a 3-day weekend with a few friends from school. It was breathtaking, coming up the narrow staircase to the hotel’s rooftop terrace and seeing the Parthenon lit up at night. It was one of those “Ah-ha” moments, like when I saw the Colosseum for the first time in 2007. It was an amazing, educational weekend, but I found myself in visual overload of Greek art.

• Upon arrival back in Istanbul, I got a horrible sinus infection and had to find a new Turkish doctor! He speaks English and, after a sinus x-ray, insisted that I not go to work for two days. Forced to stay home, I Skyped into my Grade 5 classroom and continued to instruct them in printmaking! Although I’m much better, I’ve had a hacking cough for 3 weeks. Urgh!

• I joined the Global Minds Book Club here in Istanbul. Our book this month was by American social anthropologist, Jenny White and she was in attendance at our meeting! We discussed her book, “Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks,” but I’ve also read one of her fiction novels, “The Sultan’s Seal.”

• I spent hours at Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. It was THE most interesting museum/installation that I have ever been to. The museum is based on his book of the same name. If you ever come to Istanbul, read this book, then go to the museum. I’m hoping to meet Orhan one of these days when I’m out strolling in his neighborhood.

• I’m planning a trip to Casablanca and Marrakesh, Morocco in a month. I can’t wait! Another friend lives and teaches there. I wonder how it will be different from Istanbul?

I’m continuing to meet interesting people here and I’m convinced there is no way to ever discover all the mysteries of this adventure-filled city.  Although chilly and rainy today, most days are spring-like and many of the trees have new buds on their branches.

Thanks for reading and I hope your days are filled with love.

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Wrapping Up The Year

treeimageDreams realized.

Sometimes I get paralyzed and can’t write. I have a hard time distinguishing what would be the best thing to share because I experience so much in this amazing city every week. I’m continuing to meet new people and I’m deepening relationships with friends I’ve met over the last four months. I’m witnessing wonderful, learning experiences in my classroom and I’ve (almost) memorized the names of my 240 students. I’m getting involved with organizations and continuing to explore art galleries, museums and the many little streets and shops in Istanbul.

Time is moving at an incredible pace. The end of another year will be here shortly and when I reflect on my Annual Review this year, it will show the satisfaction of a goal realized; a goal that began 7 years ago with a free trip I won to Paris and London.

PortaxeI am entirely grateful. My life is rich beyond measure. Somehow I was fortunate enough to get a job at a great school in a culturally rich city. Recently my school gave us an evening at Portaxe, a beautiful restaurant, on the shores of the Bosphorus. This was in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Day, an actual day on the Turkish calendar, in which teachers are given gifts of love. It is so nice to be in a country that actually appreciates its teachers! As we entered Portaxe, we were greeted with trays of cocktails and the evening was celebrated with an open bar, delicious food, live band and lots of dancing! This past week we were given a beautifully wrapped box containing a personalized bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and deliciously rich Christmas fruit cake.

PAWI11.9.13Two of the very best discoveries of moving to Istanbul are two organizations I’ve joined called FWI (Foreign Women of Istanbul) and PAWI (Professional American Women of Istanbul). FWI operates with a Facebook presence and these remarkable women can answer any question about Istanbul that is put before them, including, “Where can I find marshmallows in Istanbul?” and my recent question of “Are banks open on Sunday?” PAWI meetings are monthly and rotate between Asia Istanbul and Europe Istanbul. Their meetings always include guest speakers. Since I’ve been here, our speakers have included a psychologist, who shared her experiences of working with people on the residual effects of the Gezi protests, a historian-artist-writer who just published her second book, Drawing on Istanbul 2,  and the Adahan Hotel and Restaurant owner who spoke to us about the years of sacrifice she and her husband gave to an 1874 building, bringing it back from the dead and turning it into a thriving business.  The discussions and knowledge base of these women is broad. Some are attorneys, others writers. Some work in marketing, others as translators. Some are owners of restaurants and hotels and some work in banking and education. Within these groups I’m finding many new friends, each with her own unique story of how it is she lives in Istanbul.

I’m happy to report that I’ve also experienced my first snowfall in Istanbul. It was gorgeous! It not only snowed in Istanbul, it snowed all over the Middle East and we quickly learned how Cairo, Egypt got snow for the first time in 122 years! After easing myself down the hill that morning, and into my warm classroom, I was shocked at the beauty outside my wall of windows. The sight continued to amaze my students and I all day long as nature painted a frozen picture across the landscape. Although we were graciously given two days of early release, I was hoping for a snow day so I could somehow get to Aya Sophia, lay down in its courtyard and make a snow angel, as I’d heard of some teachers doing last year.

MiroThe availability of world-class art continues to amaze me. Last week I went with a Turkish friend to the Miro Exhibition. I found it difficult to concentrate on the beautiful artwork because I was distracted by the amazing architecture. The exhibition building was a canon factory during the Ottoman Empire and I could not keep my eyes from wandering to the domes of the brick ceiling. After leaving, we wandered down antique-filled streets, twisting and turning, as all Istanbul streets do, and walked by Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. We made a quick decision to view that collection another day.

choirThat evening I was able to listen to a friend sing in a choral concert at the British Consulate. Because of the bombing at this British Consulate in 2003, its grounds are heavily guarded and security is ever-present. Walking past photos of Queen Elizabeth and ancient looking framed documents, I noticed how elegantly the Christmas decorations were placed; fully regal, yet understated and charming. The singing was beautiful and transported me to thoughts of peace.

This week I will be flying to another distant, far-away place. I will spend the Christmas holiday with a friend that I met at the SEARCH Associates Boston International Job Fair last year! She got a job, that wretched, blizzard weekend, at an IB school in Switzerland, and she now lives there with her daughter. We’ve deepened our friendship over the months over Skype calls and we are eager to see each other again and share stories of the first half of our school year.

In these last few days of 2013, I want to challenge you to set your own plan in place. Kick the rock to start its tumble down the hill. Don’t be afraid to make your dream happen. This beautiful place I live- this dream that I’m living- did not happen overnight. I started planning it in 2006-almost eight years ago! Time goes quickly and life is such a gift. As we quietly pass into 2014, I wish you love, peace, health and inspiration. Be well!

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Tour on a Rooftop

Me on roof of Grand Bazaar.In the distance.

I didn’t have to work on Thanksgiving but it wasn’t because of pilgrims, Indians, cranberries or pumpkin pie. A few days before Thanksgiving we received a welcomed email. Our school had been selected to host a national Turkish test and classes would be cancelled on Thursday. Although the forecast showed a rainy, cool day, this unforeseen holiday would allow me to go on a walking/photography tour in the massive Grand Bazaar that I’d heard about through a friend.

It was tempting to keep the covers pulled up over me in bed that morning, but I forced myself out and I’m so glad I did! Like I’ve said before, every time I step out my front door, I am whisked away into an adventure-filled wonderland and this was no exception.

Inside Gate 2; Grand BazaarMonica Fritz is a photographer in Istanbul and she knows the ends and outs of the Grand Bazaar like the back of her hand. She’s lived here many years and offers walking tours specifically for people who want to have photo opps in wild and unexpected places. This tour promised its attendees rooftop scenes from the James Bond movie, Skyfall. Rain or shine, I couldn’t allow this opportunity to slip through my fingers so I rolled out of bed and onto the wet streets of Istanbul.

The Grand Bazaar is just shy of 600,000 square feet in size. It is beyond enormous and you can easily get lost inside its maze-like streets. It is the oldest and largest covered bazaar in the entire world. From information inside a brochure I picked up while there, I learned that it has 21 entrances, 66 streets, almost 4,000 shops and employs more than 30,000 people. Mehmet II built the earliest structures after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453. It was hoped that the sales from merchants would provide financial resources for Hagia Sophia. For centuries it was the center of commerce, handicraft and finance in the Mediterranean and Near East. The two oldest buildings in the bazaar, called bedestens, provide examples of classical Ottoman architecture. It is so big and so confusing inside, I have been resistant to go there since arriving here in August. I dipped inside once on my vacation here in 2011, but haven’t been back since. It’s intimidating both in it’s size, its confusion of whereabouts and in the way the merchants call out and haggle to passersby. But to go and explore its passageways with someone who knows its secret stairwells and courtyards, and who knows the merchants themselves, would be an entirely different experience.

Once inside the maze, I was grateful to have a guide. We entered Gate (entrance) #2, and then twisted and turned ourselves through the silver and gold section, went down a few dark hallways and up shadowed staircases, and then found ourselves in a han or caravanserai. These are beautiful, u-shaped open courtyards that are surrounded by two or three-storied buildings. During the Ottoman Empire, merchants who travelled here from afar, to sell their goods, would feed and keep their animals, such as camels or donkeys, in the courtyards and stay in the inns above. Merchant workshops have replaced the sleeping quarters within the hans, called hucre (cell) and they face the rectangular inner court. Monica knows many of the merchants and we were able to photograph them at work on their wares and leisurely shop in their cramped quarters. Monica took us off the beaten trail. We didn’t see many people in these quiet courtyards and hallways. The majority of the public was shopping in the buzzing, loud, main streets of the bazaar.

During our 5-hour tour, sometimes we’d step inside the main bazaar and go down a few streets, but then we’d twist and turn and go through small, hidden doors and up a few staircases and then find ourselves on the roof, for example! She took us out onto the roof, for spectacular views, three times, but she waited until the end of the tour to take us on the rooftop where the scenes from the James Bond movie Skyfall were shot. It was so amazing! Even under cloudy skies, pockets of sunshine pointed at minarets and the river and its bridges were easily seen. Surprisingly, the roof looks like a street too! Looking down, we could see people walking on the roof sidewalks, just going about their business like normal. We even saw a dog up there walking around!

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After we came back inside, we visited a few more merchants and then several of us chose to eat a late lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Pedaliza, located just outside the textile area of the bazaar. We were relieved to warm up with corba, ekmek and chai (soup, bread and tea). I hope all my American friends enjoyed their Thanksgiving weekend as much as I did. I am constantly thankful for all that I have, including all the new friends I made on the roof.

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Zor Who?

Swanky.

The Jersey Boys billboardAs I understand it, construction started about six years ago. Four sleek, contemporary high rises are just around the corner, and up the hill, from me. All I have to say is “Zorlu Center” and taxi drivers can get me close to the neighborhood I live in from anywhere in the city. When I arrived in Istanbul in August, I was told that this building complex would house offices, a hotel, residences, an upscale designer mall, top restaurants, a performing arts theater and cinema. It has looked finished from the outside for the past few months, but, at night, while passing by in taxi, I’ve seen workers feverishly constructing on the interior. It looked marvelous!—and it is! The Zorlu Center opened about a month ago and soon after, a friend at school organized a group event, for those interested, to see The Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. This is one of the first productions to be performed on this new stage.

Of course I bought a ticket! Who could resist? As the event date approached, several of us decided to make a night of it and dine at the new Jamie Oliver restaurant, located in the Zorlu Center! I’m not much of a cook, but I’d heard of the famous British chef from one of my friends in the UK. Chef Jamie is not only known from TV shows and cookbooks, he has been a voice in the campaign against the use of processed foods in national schools. He is most interested in improving unhealthy diets in the UK and the USA and he made a believer out of me last night! The food was DELICIOUS and so beautifully prepared! As a vegetarian, I’ve not had the best of luck in menu selections here in the city, but that is not the case at this eatery. The atmosphere was trendy casual, not stuffy formal. Afterwards, we made our way to Gloria Jean’s for a coffee and then on to the show!

I didn’t realize all the songs that the Four Seasons made famous! The entire night we were chair dancing and singing along. In some ways, it made me wish for home, as I watched the life stories unfold of these young men, from poor backgrounds, who became successes. Their stories are like many people who find riches and fame; poor choices can ruin a life that has so much potential.

outsideescThe songs were stuck in my head all night. Big Girls Don’t Cry, Sherry, Oh, What A Night, My Eyes Adored You, Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, Working My Way Back To You and Rag Doll to name a few. I typically wander the ancient streets and neighborhoods of Istanbul. This experience showed an affluent and contemporary side of Istanbul. East meets West; Old meets New.

Istanbul has the best of both worlds.

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