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Published: January 27th 2008
From Taksim Square we walked about halfway down istiklal Caddesi, took a left, walked down a dimly-lit hallway and then up an antique stairway rounded down by the centuries. The restaurant we entered was obviously a fine rooftop terrace in the summer, but it had been sealed up against the wintry cold. It was not a clear afternoon, and what must have been a dramatic view of the Bosphorus was barely visible as we sat down at our table. Jale appologized that the view was obscured "because of the frog." Hahahahahaha! - what a great image!
This of course inspired some laughter and a long conversation about languages. Nitivia, who was on a brief break from her Peace Corps responsibilities in the rural Georgian countryside (a posting which she left the American state of Georgia to take, which is confusing and funny... as well as quite brave on her part) showed us the exotic and playful Georgian alphabet. "gamarjobat" is "hello" in that bizzarre language. Anyway...
Jale spoke hardly any English at all (or at least she was very shy about what she did know) when I first met her four years ago. Now, despite the occasional charming mistake, she is
Rüstempaşa Camii window
The hustle and bustle of everyday life around the Rüstempaşa Camii, one of İstanbul's most beautiful mosques, adds to its charm.
utterly fluent. I've made far less progress with my Türkce in the meantime, but I'm making a sincere effort now to learn as much as I possibly can. Last night I walked to a few bookstores trying to find one that sold index cards for my latest vocabulary push. As "index card" is not in my pocket dictionary, I did the best I could with what I knew:
"For me, paper that is small and with strength is needed."
Eventually it actually worked and I learned that the Turks call them "memory cards" - which I don't remember how to say right now...
I'm having a blast trying to learn this language, and thankfully I am completely willing to make a fool of myself. "Which station will you be getting off at?" asked the old man. Instead of saying the correct name of the station, I confidently told him "to the ear!" With a concerned look on his face, he politely told me that he wasn't familiar with a station with such a name.
Turkish is absolutely drenched in fun words. My all-time favorites "tamam" (OK) and "sümüklüböcek" (slug - literally: mucus-with-bug) have run into to some stiff competition lately.
"Manamana" (baby binky) brings back memories of singing hand-puppets, but it's thankfully not a word I have much use for. "Uluslararası ilişkiler" (International Relations), the initially-bewildering 10 syllable name for the department that is hosting my exchange at Hacettepe, now rolls proudly off my "dil" (tongue). "Köpekbalığı" (shark - literally dog-fish, "because of the way it bites...") is easy enough to remember and it is a good example of how logical Turkish often is.
The language is also full of colloquial expressions and idioms. No need to say "drink up!" to your "arkadaşlar" (friends) if you know how to ask "Camiide miyiz?" (What, are we in a mosque?). The always-wonderful-and-amazing Doro, my current multi-lingual host, has a thick book full of these Turkish expressions, but, alas, it is in German.
Last night, the product Ben Gay came up in discussion. "Ben" (I) next to the very international word "gay" gives the pain cream a rather different meaning...
I have about seven more days to enjoy in İstanbul before I have to return to Ankara to get ready for the semester. There are few places on earth that I would rather be.
Yesterday, Sercan (Jale's brother) and Jaki, his flatmate, went
Moonrise over the Bosphorus Bridge
The view from Doro's apartment is always spectacular.
to a park for a class in "rope dancing." Martin, an ambitious young German traveler that they are currently hosting, lead the activities. Martin is an excellent reminder that no matter how exotic or crazy one's travel adventures might seem, someone else will always be there to kick it up a notch or three. He is less than a week into his trip now, but here's the basic theme: He plans to hitchhike from here to Beijing via Iran-Pakistan-India-Bangladesh and then possibly boat into Burma, as there is no land crossing, and after eventually making it to Beijing, to return home on the Trans-Siberian Express. He's on a tight budget, but he's perfectly willing to share his rope-dancing skills with anyone willing to help him get a little further down the road. They don't make a brochure for this sort of trip.
Right on, Martin.
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