Tag Archives: Musings


Dearest Readers,

2013 has proven to be a year of exciting transitions and new beginnings. Istanbul was my home, my stomping grounds and adventure-base for almost 4 years. The city’s dynamic energy was thrilling and overwhelming, inspiring and exhausting. It is certainly one of my favorite places in the world and will always be somewhere I call ‘home’.

I miss the accordion man that walked through our street every Sunday morning. I miss the lemon cart and the old grandmothers who  yelled, chatted, smiled and strolled as they passed through the web of city streets. I miss the cats at every turn. I miss passing four grocery stores on my way home. I miss knowing I can jump on the bus or metro in a matter of minutes and get almost anywhere in the city. I miss the music pouring out of the Taksim bars. I miss when the streets are so full you can hardly walk. I miss the sparkling Bosphorus, where boats of all sizes travel in all directions. I miss constantly being exposed to new words, flavors, music and experiences. And, of course I miss my Istanbul friends and family.

Where am I now?! I am currently on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle, back on American soil. It is a place where you can hear the birds chirping, walk along the beach without seeing another soul and occasionally, if you are really lucky, you will see beautiful Mount Rainier. It is a place where everyone wants to know your story (and most people already do). Everyone makes eye contact with one another and it is expected for you to say hello (with a smile) to every stranger you pass. Small town life is charming in its quirks and serenity.

There has been significant culture shock. It  took me 3 weeks to muster the courage to enter a grocery store. It boggles my mind that there can be entire aisles of salad dressing and cereal. I still stand on the right side of an escalator. I am learning to tip 20 percent after every meal. I cannot hear (or see) my neighbors. The streets of Seattle seem so empty, even at the height of commuter hours.

In some ways life seems to have slowed down. We sleep in every day. The stress of work is absent from my life. I am surrounded by the comfort, love and support of family. However, I am constantly reminded that time never stops. Everyone I know has big, busy and full lives that have changed so much since my original departure. It is fun to get to know my closest friends in new ways and see how everyone has grown-up and started their own unique path towards the life they want to live.

What am I doing?! Exploring my options, networking, dreaming big and daydreaming about my next adventures (and blog). I am toying with the idea of careers in international education, public relations, public affairs, higher education and even writing. I am currently working on a book to ensure my adventures and experiences outlive the blur of my memories. I am considering my options for a blog about the social, economic, cultural realities of the Millennial generation I find myself to be a member of. I am trying to tame my wanderlust to imagine myself staying in one place long enough to establish real roots. I miss Istanbul and the exciting world I left behind, but I am also thrilled to imagine all the possibilities that await me.

Stay tuned for future posts and updates!

From Seattle with love…


From Istanbul to Seattle


The friendly American in me struggled with this seemingly bizarre fact: Turks do not smile.  Growing up in a small town, I was trained to make eye-contact and smile at everyone I pass. However, when I moved to Istanbul, I quickly learned that this only brought unwanted attention from men, and skeptical looks from women. It boggled my mind, how could a country with such an emphasis on hospitality,  with such deep bonds between friends and family, be so closed-off to the people they encounter on the streets? Well, a recent op-ed piece in the Turkish Daily News attempts to explain this mystery. He asserts the following:

1.) “Turkey is a ‘transitional society’, one that is in the critical middle of a long transformation from a traditional (rural, agrarian and communal) to a modern (urban) nation. So, traditional mores are eroding, whereas new ones are not fully matured”

2.) The political climate is incredibly divisive and promotes significant levels of distrust between parties, people and government as a whole. This distrust spreads to the unfamiliar. Problems within the country are blamed on “enemies within and without”. In the absence of a true democracy, there is a lack of openness.

2.) Despite the rapid urbanization of Turkey, Turks still identify their hometown as their father’s place of birth. Very few people are from Istanbul, however this growing metropolis has become home to a diverse group of people from all over the country. In a ‘colossal city’ like Istanbul, there are too much that is unknown and unfamiliar. You no longer know or trust your neighbor. These neighborhood and local bonds are no longer relevant or possible in large urban environments.

While this is not necessarily unique to Turkey, it is interesting to contemplate how the political climate impacts social bonds and interactions in a place I call ‘home’.

istiklal caddesi

The Significance of a Smile

Why I hate being sick in Istanbul…


One of the unfortunate results of teaching 5-year olds is the constant sickness that comes with the elementary school environment. During my first winter in Turkey I was sick every week with a different ailment. I was even lucky enough to bond with my future mother-in-law when we both caught the swine flu at the same time. While my immune system continues to grow stronger and more able to fight every variation of the flu and the common cold, I have also adopted a strict regiment of vitamins to ensure I am not constantly ill. However, it is not entirely avoidable. This week, I was reminded of this the hard way. Out of necessity, I spent my birthday and the day that followed it sick in bed. While everyone hates being sick, there are some more reasons to despise this miserable condition in Istanbul.

1.) There is not an emphasis on preventative medicine. Thus, you cannot stay home to ‘nip it in the bud’, you must be deathly ill to rationalize staying home from work. Unfortunately, this means sick colleagues, as well as sick children are potential carries of disease.

2.) If you do elect to stay home, you must call your boss at 7 AM to inform them of your grave condition. This is a call everyone fears, especially because it is a call everyone is discouraged to make.

3.) If you are sick, you must go to the doctor and get a doctor’s note to prove that you were ill. Thus, you must get out of bed (when bed rest is often the best cure), force yourself to go out into the chaos of the city and descend into the cest pool of public transportation as you attempt to secure the proper paperwork. It is often easier to simply go to work…

4.) There are not general health practitioners or local clinics in Istanbul. There are public hospitals which are very inexpensive, but require fluent Turkish (or a lot of humility) and a full-day to maneuver. Instead, I go to the private hospital Aci Badem which resembles a 5-star hotel. To use these facilities, you must call the hospital operator and arrange an appointment with a specific doctor, within a specific department. With a simple cold and cough, you must arrange an appointment with someone who specializes in Internal Medicine. The appointment itself usually takes less than 15 minutes, but costs more than 100 lira because you are paying an expert to diagnose you with the cold or flu you already know you have.

5.) The obvious: At your most vulnerable state, you miss the comforts of home the most. I crave a Winter Elixer from Blackbird Bakery, Chicken Noodle Soup and the eclectic mix of Celestial Seasoning teas. The child in me misses the sick beds my mom would prepare in front of the television, and the familiar sounds and smells of home.


First of all, the illusions of sipping champagne and basking in bridal camaraderie as you wait for your ‘aha’ moment seem to be a complete and absolute myth. I do not know where these images come from, (perhaps Hollywood chickflicks are the most likely culprit), but they could not be further from the experience I had. However, I will also acknowledge that New York City was perhaps not exactly the best place to escape the bridal princess syndrome that rages in Istanbul.

Exhibit A: The Bridal Boutique at THE Macy’s of Manhattan (which claims to be the largest department store in the world and takes up an entire city block). I saw dresses that would not fit into a car, let alone a closet. I saw corsets, I saw sparkles, I saw sequins and bling of every kind. The Jewish American princesses of the world were well-represented, as were their mothers, grandmothers and everyone else with a formal or informal role in the wedding. Within 5 minutes I had to leave. The bright lights, beads and sequins were too much for me to stomach.

Now, to the process as a whole. Appointments are made and must be kept for anyone to give you the time of day. They are limited to an hour, and while that time is satisfactory to try on the handful of dresses that are flattering for your body shape, and within your budget, you feel like your fate has been sealed and every employee has decided whether you would be a real client or not by the time the session comes to a close.

The search: We went to every type of shop imaginable. The special bridal collection hidden in the back of a boutique in SoHo, the overpriced and make-up stained J Crew collection, and several cute boutiques that serve as a refuge from the cheap fabrics, and mechanized, emotionless ways of David’s Bridal. We went to 5 shops in total, in just 3 days. Apparently, my plan to find a dress in this amount of time was a little ambitious. Many brides spend months simply focused on finding the right dress. My search was that much more complicated because I was hoping to find the perfect dress for two very different weddings. I needed something that I could dress-up and bedazzle for our Istanbul wedding, and dress down for the free-spirited island wedding of my dreams. Additionally, it turns out that it often take 5 months to make the dress, and then several visits to a tailor to ensure that it fits. This was all new information to me.

Two special New York Bridal paradises and boutiques:

Lovely, hidden in a quiet street walking distance from Union Square, this boutique has every type of dress for anyone who envisions a truly extraordinary and unique dress. It’s style appealed to my romantic and vintage tastes, and the staff was warm and unaffected from the Wedding Industrial Complex. We ate sushi on a rainy New York day, and then spent a wonderful hour playing dress-up at Lovely. It was very fun.

Saja, a small wedding boutique for the free-spirited bride who wants something special, but off-the-beaten path. The store itself claims to be a refuge for the `modern, etherial and non-traditional` bride. All of the dresses have beautiful details and light, flowy fabric. I felt like a greek goddess in each and every dress. While it took me 3 visits to finalize and clarify my selection, this was where I bought THE dress.

THE dress: It is beautiful and simple. It is elegant and flattering. It flows and is perfectly my style. It has a beautiful back, a plunging neckline and falls to the floor. I will be myself on my wedding day(s). I will feel free, and I know I will be able to dance. I am excited.

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Wedding Dress Shopping in New York

Beauty and the Beast Bewitches a New Audience


My class recently earned a popcorn party for their excellent manners and behavior at lunch time. The school-wide lunch competition deserves a post of its own, but the movie party is today’s topic. After a passionate vote, we selected Beauty and the Beast, one of my absolute favorite movies when I was a child. In fact, I was probably the same age as my students when Beauty and the Beast first arrived in theaters. I remember requesting to go each weekend the film played at the funky old theater near our house in West Seattle. The free-spirited character of Belle, and her love for books appealed to me. The music and the characters thrilled me. And, all of this came rushing back to me, as I munched on popcorn with two adorable girls fighting for my lap. The boys covered their eyes for the kissing scenes and the entire class was captivated whenever the beloved characters broke into song. While the entire film was dubbed in Turkish, memories from my childhood filled in the gaps, providing me with the opportunity to enjoy every minute of the film with my students.

Curious to see Beauty and the Beast with a Turkish twist? Here is the scene for ‘Be Our Guest’  We devoted 30 minutes of our evening to watching various disney songs in Arabic, French, Turkish, German and Spanish. In every language, the magic and meaning still comes through….

See for yourself…

Globalization Extends its Reach to the Grand Bazaar


MAC Cosmetics and the Vakko clothing company recently opened stores in the Grand Bazaar. I am shocked and appalled. More than anything, I am devastated to learn that none of my Turkish friends and coworkers are bothered by this frightening development. Yes, the Grand Bazaar claims to be the ‘oldest mall in the world’, and with over 20 malls in the city of Istanbul, it has certainly been established that Turks love their malls. But, I remember what happened when chain stores and restaurants brought an end to locally owned businesses and shops throughout the United States, and across the world.

With over 4,000 shops, and 64 covered streets, the Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. Opened 550 years ago, it struggles to maintain its significance in the midst of a historical, albeit tourist-dominated area of the city. The Grand Bazaar  attracts herds of tourists to its maze of wonders and trinkets. While many of these shops no longer serve  Istanbul residents, they offer a wide array of Turkish goods and products to the masses of people who pass through the bazaar each day. It is a must-see experience and a top shopping destination for anyone who comes to the city.  Turkish salesmen speak 3-5 languages to catch the attention of tourists and lure them into their shops. They sell their ceramics, soaps, gold, leather and jewelry, as well as many other tourist trinkets and souvenirs. Selling is an art, and major purchases are bought after rounds of tea, small talk and bargaining. The streets are narrow, the shopkeepers are friends, the stores are small and cozy (imagine the size of a stand at your local farmers market). What will happen as more and more international shops attempt to enter the Grand Bazaar?

What currently stands as 2-3 specialized shops could become one larger and standardized store. The owners will no longer be ordinary middle class Turkish citizens, but large corporations, without a particular stake in the community, the history and the future of the bazaar, the neighborhood or the city. Rents could skyrocket and the merchants that once created the lively atmosphere of the bazaar could be replaced by sterile and sleek stores that can be found in any mall, in any city. I hope this does not happen, and the current atmosphere and shops are preserved, and the merchants maintain their stake in the bazaar.

Take a look for yourself. Don’t these shiny new shops seem to be out of place?

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