Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Research Center

So much has happened this first week in Istanbul that I am already playing catch-up with this blog. Since I can't stand the stress of always being behind on something, I think we will all have to agree now that this will not necessarily be a regularly-updated record of mine and Peter's lives, but more someplace where we can post interesting events and thoughts. Of course, since practically everything that has happened so far has been interesting, there is still a fundamental problem with this solution. But I suppose we have to start somewhere...

We are pretty well settled in now. Still no pictures of the apartment to share because we haven't really gotten it 100% together yet. We bought all the hangers we were able to find at the only shop we have found them so far, and it is not enough to hang our clothes. But tomorrow (Sunday) there is some type of market in our neighborhood and we have been told that there is a section devoted entirely to plastics where we may be able to find hangers.

Other items we have not located, or had great difficulties locating:
* laundry detergent without perfume (it apparently doesn't exist here)
* cereal bowls (we had to settle for decorative pieces to use for everyday)
* electric converters/adapters. We thought this would be easy in such a touristic destination, but it took several days of searching to find them, but we finally located them underground, in a strange electronics mall that is in the metro station.

Things we HAVE found in case we should ever need them:
* a street of chandelier and lamp shops
* riding lawnmowers and Miracle Grow
* a complete neighborhood of hardware stores and building supplies
* homemade violins
* about a dozen trophy shops
* a store that sells nothing but stamp collecting albums

Basically, our neighborhood, Beyoglu, is centered around Istiklal Caddesi, a famous street with a trolley and lots of overpriced clothing and food shops, but opening off of the street are Pasaji (passages) in which you can find basically anything you could ever think you might want (except hangers, cereal bowls and electrical converters). Here's a picture of Istiklal in the daytime, just down the street from us. We'll put in some night pictures before long.

Most of this week has been spent being walked around to libraries and other research centers that might be useful to us fellows for our research. In the evenings, we all have dinner together at the Center (it is catered by a restaurant), and mostly spend time getting to know each other and finding out about each others' research projects.

But what else do Fellows do with their spare time in the evenings, you might ask? Well, one popular pastime has been riding the Center's elevator. I know that might seem like an odd thing for adults to do (repeatedly), but it really is quite interesting, because of the design of the Center. Basically, the Center is two historic buildings standing next to each other. The Merkez Han, the building we all have our apartments in, was the building that Vehbi Koc (the founder of the University we are a part of) lived in when his family first moved to Istanbul, before he grew up and became an insanely wealthy man. In his will, he stipulated that any buildings the Koc family owned could be sold EXCEPT Merkez Han, hence its use as the Center. However, in its prior condition it was not suitable to be used as a research library and housing, so the Koc foundation purchased the building next door and reworked both of them to make one large complex. Happily, one of the projects was bringing both of the buildings up to the most recent anti-seismic standards by reinforcing everything with structural steel. We were all very relieved to hear that. Then the two buildings were joined by a roof which is actually a massive skylight that provides all of the light for the library, salon, cafeteria, and residential hallways (see picture). The exterior of the buildings were preserved to maintain their historic appearance, but the interiors were divided into the necessary apartments and other spaces. It's actually a pretty amazing building.
In the picture at left, the apartments are in the left building, behind the glass walls, and the right hand side houses the kitchen, salon (sitting room), library, and Dutch Research Institute, behind the columns.

But back to the the elevators (which are glass on three sides) start on floor -2 and go up to 5 (that's 8 levels because there is a floor "0"). At level 3 they "break through" the glass ceiling in a very Willy Wonka fashion and keep going up for two more levels, but since the building stops at 3, there are no longer any walls on either side of you, you can't tell where you are going to stop, so it's like you are just shooting up into the sky! Add to that the amazing view from the top, and it's a trip worth taking (again and again and again). So that's one pastime. I'm sure it will get less interesting as time goes by, but for now it's not only fun to do, but to watch the expression on other people's faces while they're going up and down -- because every wall in the center of the complex is glass, you can sit in the library or the lounge and watch people come back down through the ceiling and pass through the room you are in. It's kind of difficult to explain, but a very interesting effect. I'm sure the guards think we are all crazy! (Note: I just went out and got in the elevators to take the pictures I put in above, and when I passed through the library the Fellow from Georgia -- the nation, not the state -- was in there working and laughing at me for riding by!).

That's another thing I should mention about the complex -- we have 24 hour security, and all the doors in the complex are run using magnetic keycards, so it's quite secure. We each have one key that opens our apartments but also all the doors in the Center (for exiting as well as entering). Plus, in a very cool detail, there is a card slot when we first walk in the door to our apartment where we can keep our "keys." When we come in and put a card in, it automatically turns on any lights that were on when we left, and when we take the cards out to leave, it turns the lights out and locks the door, so no forgetting anything! Or, if we don't shut the door to our room well when coming or going it beeps at us to let us know. It's taken some getting used to, but I think it's a good system!

So that's about it for the Center. Unless I forgot to mention in the last post that we share the building with the Dutch Research Institute, so we have two libraries on site to work in, and there are other scholars coming and going, which is nice.

I'm going to move on to the next post to talk about things we have done so far, to keep this one from going on too long. and I promise we will post pictures of our room as soon as it is clean, but here is a picture of our hall at least...


Christina said...

YEA!!! I get to be the first one to comment!! It sounds like you have been having fun so far. I'm sorry you had trouble finding hangers but, come on, we all need a little adventure, right? The pictures are amazing. Thanks for posting them. I can't wait to come and ride the Willy Wonka elevator. That is a must do on my sightseeing list already. (haha)

It's been an interesting week here with the Ike cleanup. I gained my own personal evacuee in my 7th grade band. She's from Beaumont and will be with me for a month. Yes, she evacuated her flute with her! (Smart kid. Take the important stuff!) And the only other news is we finally won a football game last night. Other than that, same old, same old. I'll just spend my time living vicariously through you until something interesting happens around here. Take care, both of you and I look forward to the next post.


Dan N. said...

You should take a video of the elevator ride. There are tons of them posted on youtube. (I discovered the elevator videos while looking up some architectural info...I had no idea there were elevator aficionados) So apparently your past-time is not all that unusual.

Looks like a nice place to be. I'm totally jealous.

FYI...Baylor lost to UCONN last night. First 3 quarters were looking really good, but a truck full of penalties caught up with us in the last. The officiating kind of fell apart in the end as well. Final score was 28-31. Freshmen quarterback Griffin III looked pretty good. A little more experience and he could become a star.