We Arrived Safely

We finished our 25 day tour of Turkey on Tuesday, June 10.  Although our lay over in Rome was too long (hey, the rome airport is rather boring), the flight was perfect.  We arrived in NYC, had our Chinese food, and then slept.  The next morning, we made our way to DC to start a new chapter in our life.

We have not had time yet to upload, but we have over 1500 pictures and 7 hours of video.  Although we don’t have the heart to torture you, we will be uploading some of the pics and videos.  And we have ALOT more to update you on Turkey, particularly since we have heard from many friends who are thinking about visiting Turkey in the next year or so.  Yeah!

So, in other words, keep posted on this blog for at least the next month.  Hopefully we won’t lose our Turkish mojo.

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our last day in turkey

phew.  what a last day it has been!  we have been shopping like capitalism is going out of fashion over here folks!  we waited till the last day to buy gifts for our family and ourselves.  and boy did we go buck.  we haggled, we harassed, and we walked away…all for a gosh darn bargain!

we can’t do a proper wrap up right now partly because france is playing in the Euro Cup match AND we haven’t packed!  so, we are off to do all the things on our list before we leave.  we can say the following- DO COME TO TURKEY!  it is a wonderful country with so much to see, eat, and do.  and we can also say that we will miss this place alot, although….we are looking forward to sleeping in our own bed. 🙂

we cannot wait to harass you all with our photos and videos!

see you on the flip side!

t & c

ouch.

i heart all things sour.  i love sour apple candy.  i can eat a lemon without much wincing.  i drink pickle juice (yes, i do.)  so, it was too my absolute delight that i saw a pickle cart in Eminonu area yesterday evening.  i watched the vendor dish out pickles and give it other customers.  then, i asked T if i should get one and he said, “Of course!”  so, i did.  and it was DELISH.

the pickles were not just pickles but they were pickles WITH radish juice.  it was amazing. (please don’t vomit or think low of me…i just love sour things!)

after a  few minutes of glorious sour heaven, T, who bought just plain radish juice, said his was done with the juice about three fourths not done.  i looked at him and grabbed the juice out of his hand.  now i was sour juice double fisting.

two minutes later, T’s face got all squished and he said that his stomach was hurting.  three minutes later, i threw out my pickles and T’s radish juice.

nearly 14 hours later, my stomach is doing flips.  i have made friends with the toilet several times and my stomach can hardly unknot itself.  i am taking pepto bismo, so let’s see if that works.

here’s to finding balance for the palate. 

Stradling Two Continents

Sometime in my teens, my family and I took a trip to Reno, NV.  While in Reno, there is this one street with a red line painted in the middle of the intersection.  One side says CALIFORNIA the other says NEVADA.  So you can simultaneously be in two states at one time.  When you are a teen, you think that is pretty cool and you make your parents take tons of pics of you stradling the line.

Well, I learned today that that feeling doesn’t go away too easily.  Today, we straddled two continents- Asia and Europe where the dividing line is the Bosphorus River and there isn’t a sign that let’s you know that you have crossed the Asia side.  The Asia side is closer to Mecca, so several Sultans built mosques there in honor of their religious piety.  T and I decided to go and take a look at these mosques.  We took a ferry boat across the Bosphorus (one of the only ways to get to the Asia side of Istanbul) and we landed in Uskudar.  We hit several mosques like Iskele Camii, Yeni Valide Camii,  Atik Valide Camii, and Cinili Camii. 

Being on the Asia side, we got to feel a real difference between the two areas of Istanbul.  For example, the food is helluva lot cheaper on this side, but it is far more dirtier.  We also saw more poverty and trash diggers.  However, everyone was a lot more nicer, probably because the side isn’t populated with tourists.  Two of residents walked us over to a mosque, which was completely out of their way, and got us safely to our destination.  It was all part of the experience.

At this point in the trip, I think T and I are over camiis and will be turning to Bzyantine churches.  Tomorrow, we are heading over to the Western part of the city and then taking a tour of the Bosphorus to see more views of this lovely city.  We can’t believe we only have two more days left! 

 

A Sometimes-Reluctant-Veggie in Turkey

 As a recent vegetarian (about 1.5 years) I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions people might have about vegetarians.

We do not hate those who eat meat: Actually we’re quite indifferent.  You eat meat.  We do not.  Good for you.

We do not hate the smell of meat:  Meat tastes good.  Accordingly, meat smells good.  Especially in Istanbul where they’ve made cooking meat an art form, it smells really good.   If eating meat didn’t involve killing thingies, I would have no problem taking people up on the fine smelling food and consuming like a fiend.

We do not mind if you eat meat in front of us:  Its not krypotnite.  We do not get weak.  We eat our calories, you eat yours.  Most veggies are Libertarians.  You do your thing, we do ours.

No zealot like a convert:  I have absolutely no interest in convincing you not to eat meat.  Quite frankly, we veggies suffer from being denied this fine cuisine.  Our only issue with meat is that animals with some degree of consciousness are killed for our consumption where such consumption is not necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  

Just between me and everyone reading this blog, I miss meat like you wouldn’t believe.  It tastes SOOO good.  The problem is, animals have personalities, they have desires, they have a consciousness.  I don’t want to snuff that out for my palate. 

A friend of mine who reccomended Turkey recently emailed me and said, You are not eating meat in Turkey.  That is a foul.  My friend, I agree.  I don’t like the idea of going  3,000 miles and eat yogurt and eggplant.  But unfortunately, there is no alternative….

Conversion Headaches….

Back of Napkin Conversion Rates:

Lira to Dollar – .8x
Dollar to Lira – 1.2x
Euro to Dollar – 1.6x
Dollar to Euro – .63x
Euro to Lira – 1.8x
Lira to Euro – .55x

For you finance people, this back-of-napkin presents an arbitrage opporunity. For example, 1 Euro is 1.6 dollars, which is about 1.92 Lira. Converting from Euro to Lira directly gives 1.8 Lira. This means that everyone should be happy that our budget conversion table is not how international finance works, or else Gordon Gecko would be the presumptive Republican Nominee with a war chest of about $150 trillion dollars, or, as we in CT Inc. would calculate, 1.8 trillion Lira.

Bank Charges:

A debit card charge in Lira will be translated to dollars at the current rate of exchange. However, BofA charges a 3% service charge. Accordingly, a round of drinks costing 40 YTL – $32 dollars – actually costs $32.96 – 39.55 YTL. Wait….is that right? Frick!!!
The second option is to withdraw from an ATM. There is $5.00 charge plus a 1% transaction cost.
For this, I will use the PROPER conversion rate ($1 = 1.24 YTL). Accordingly, it will be cost effective if we withdraw in increments of more than $250. 1.03x equals (can’t find the equal sign on this computer!) 5 + 1.01x.

Budgeting:

This is all fine and good if you are making your budget in one currency, say dollars. All you have to do is include the finance charge in the currency exchange, and remember the conversion rate when you withdrew your money. For example, the first $300 withdrawal was at an exchange rate of 1.22 with a 1% finance charge and a $5.00 fee. This makes the REAL converstion rate: 366/308 (300 plus 3 plus 5), 1.19 or .84. This can be repeated in YTL or Euro or whatever.

The problem starts when you start jumping around from country to country (I know, woe is us) becuase then you have to estimate how much money will be used. We didn’t and here is what happened: Withdraw in Euro – in Greece, then go to Turkey and spend Euro based on whatever currency rate the local vendor decides to give. At this point, to be exact in the budget, I would have to use the original converstion rate (dollar to Euro) and then then convert from the local vendor rate (Euro to Lira). For example, if I get 1.58 dollars for every Euro, and I get 1.8 Lira for a Euro, from THIS vendor, then an item that costs 34 YTL in REALITY costs 29.84 dollars. But, if I had estimated properly and gotten my CORRECT exchange rate, then the item would have only costed me 28.56 dollars.

If anyone is still with me, you’ll see my problem: Do I remember each vendor’s exchange rate, or just go with the napkin conversion? I went with with the napkin conversion, and went to a bar and used all my Euro as fast as possible.

So in the end, I guess it worked out…. 🙂

The clothes get dirty too fast!

How many of you remember black and white commercials of housewives in the 1950s looking absolutely ecstatic as GE introduced a washing machine!

What’s the big deal? Its a washing machine….

This trip C and I agreed that in the interest of being cost conscious we would do our own laundry.  For some unknown reason, “we” turned into “I.” (Sigh, because I offered to do it…) 

Here’s whats involved:

Step #1: Assess what needs to be washed, turn it inside out, and separate the clothes into colored and white.
Step #2: Strip.  Find clothes from the dirty pile to temporarily wear.
Step #3: Turn on the water (cold for dark and hot for white) and thoroughly rinse the item.  Its important that the water not be TOO cold or TOO hot or else the washer will get a cold switching from hot and cold.
Step #4: Take about two fingers worth of detergent and spread it out over the item.
Step #5: Scrub your butt off.  Rinse.  Repeat until you no longer see dirt when you scrub. 
Step #6:  Wring the item.  Spread out item.  Repeat
Step #7: Place item on line.

Repeat this for all the clothes.  Finally, strip naked and finish the last clothes.  Hand the last pieces of clothing to your significant other or friend and take a shower.

Seems easy enough I suppose.  But in practice a few problems arise.  First, you have NO idea how many times a given piece of clothing will need to be scrubbed until it is clean.  Plus, if you dont examine the item and focus the detergent on the dirty places – IE underwear – you are liable to scrub and rinse and then find that the item still dirty.  Then you have to do it again.  Next, scrubbing and rinsing is terribly labor intensive; you really get a work out.  It takes about 4 to 6 minutes to complete one item.  Considering a person wears at least 3 pieces of clothing, it take almost 1/2 hour of labor to clean clothes for two people after ONE DAY!

Finally, no matter how much you scrub, your fingers smell like detergent for at least an hour afterwards.  And in getting ready after the shower, it will take an extra 5 to 10 minutes of applying lotion becuase your hands will be very very dry.

Maybe those housewives had a reason to look so damned happy…