Sunday, October 19, 2008

Some time at "home"


First of all, here's a delayed picture of Candace and Ambassador Ross. Also pictured are some other Fulbright-associated people. Beside Candace is Joan Gawrych, the wife of a military history professor from Baylor, Candace's alma mater, who is a Senior Researcher on a Fulbright this year working on a book on Ataturk. To the Ambassador's left is an English Language Fellow named Patreshia, who is teaching in Denizli and Elizabeth, a geology professor from the University of Texas teaching in Ankara.

It's been a while now since we made a new post, but things have been very busy here. Candace has been working on fellowship applications that have to be sent out in the next week or so, and Peter had started some new art projects. But we've also been enjoying our first full week of being at home in Istanbul with no traveling.

Last weekend was the birthday of one of the senior fellows here, Dror Zeevi, who is an Ottoman historian from Ben Gurion University in Israel. He's lived in Istanbul before so when some of us offered to take him out to dinner, he suggested a traditional Ottoman restaurant in our neighborhood. It's actually one of the oldest continuously-operating restaurants in Istanbul. It's alled Haci Abdullah, and was quite good. Some of you have been asking about our new friends at the RCAC, so here's a picture of the group that went out that night, who are some of the people we have been spending the most time with. Starting with Peter and I and going down the table, there is Rossitsa Gradeva, a professor of Ottoman history from the Institute of Balkan Studies in Bulgaria. Across the table is Dror, the birthday boy. To his left is Alyson Wharton, a Junior fellow from the University of London who works on late Ottoman architecture, then Amanda Flaata from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She is one of only two other Fellows besides Candace who work on classical archaeology (all Junior Fellows) -- she studies the worship of Meter, the Mother Goddess (some of you might know her as Cybele). Like Candace she works on Ephesus, and there is a slight chance she might also sign on to work there this summer, which would be great. The other young lady, Ivana Jevtic, is one of the Senior Fellows, a professor of Byzantine Art History from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, but she hails originally from Serbia. They are all extremely nice and interesting people, and we really like them!

After dinner Dror wanted to go out for a drink, and he wanted it to be on one of the beautiful terraces that are on the tops of the Ottoman buildings in our neighborhood. Normally this would not be a problem, but unfortunately it was a Saturday night and, to make things more complicated, Turkey was playing in an important football (soccer) match. So we went to place after place only to find out there was no room on the rooftop terrace. This would not have been such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that to get to each of the roofs requires a climb of 90-100 stairs! We were all pretty winded by the time we finally found a place to sit down, and several people had knee and leg pain complaints the next day (neither of us thankfully), which reminded us all of what poor health we academics are in! Interestingly, we did finally end up on a wonderful rooftop terrace overlooking the city (on top of a building with an elevator, thankfully), only a block from the Research Institute, and it happened to be the one rooftop terrace bar that Candace had ever been to in Istanbul. So, Dan and Christina, do you remember when Evren's cousins took us out two years ago? Well, if you do, now you know basically where we live. If anyone comes to visit, we will definitely take you there! Here is another picture of the group of us, enjoying that rooftop, although the person who took the picture for us somehow cut Alyson and Peter off of the ends.

Most of the rest of the week, as already mentioned, has been taken up with work. But we have found the time to try out some of the restaurants around us. In particular, we have experimented with some of the non-Turkish cuisine, which has been interesting. There is a Chinese place just up the street from us a ways which turned out to be quite good. They even gave us chopsticks (the brandname was "Golden Smell"!), which we were a bit surprised by. The directions did say "Welcome to Chinese Restaurant. Please try your Nice Chinese Food with Chopsticks the traditional and typical of Chinese glonous history and cultual" -- not quite 100% on the English there, but pretty much what you would expect in the US!

We also tried a Thai place, along with Amanda and Ivana. We had a great time and the food was pretty good, although not traditional Thai. Next on our list is the Mexican place we found a few blocks away from the Research Center. The name sounds good but judging by the description on their own sign, we aren't expecting too much (click on the picture). We'll keep all you Texans posted on that anyway.

Other than our culinary adventures, the main news from this week is that Candace is now officially a resident of Turkey. It only took two rather grueling trips to the Emniyet Mudurlugu (or, as it is translated into English somewhat threateningly, the "Police Department for Aliens") to get it done, and it was basically painless. Plus it was a great chance to see Ottoman bureaucracy at work. A representative of Koc University met us there -- we went in groups of four. We met him at 7:30 am, but he had been waiting there since 7:00 to make sure we were the first in line. The first line was only to get called through security and have our passports checked. Once we were through that line we were escorted to a second line where we stood to get up to a kiosk where we were given our tickets that had the numbers that told us where to stand in the NEXT line. So Candace was line 10, spot number 2 and others were line 13, spot number three, etc. There seemed to be no relation between what number you were in the second line and the number you got in the third line, so when the 150 or so people who had been in the first two lines made it into the room with the REAL lines, we all had to find the correct window (Banco), then compare our little tickets and get ourselves in the correct order. Then we all waited, crammed in like sardines, on one side of a bank of windows for the clerks to prepare our papers. They were supposed to start work at 8:00, which is when we were all lined up in the room, but instead they all got their coffee and simit (Turkish bagels) and sat down at the desks behind the windows, literally 12 inches from the people in line, and calmly ate and drank...then drank more...then had a third cup...then, about 20 minutes after they were supposed to start working, they VERY slowly started looking through the papers of the first person in line. You can imagine how long this process took for all of us to get through, and how frustrating it was. But at least now we know why there are so many stores that are dedicated to selling nothing but stamps and ink pads -- every piece of paper had to be stamped, then signed, then stamped again.

After making it through that first long appointment with multiple lines, we were told to come back in a couple of days to pick up our completed paperwork. Of course this involved more standing in lines, and more people pushing and shoving. At one point it seemed like some sort of Monty Python skit. A policeman with dozens of people standing in front of his desk waiting to be told what to do next calmly took out a massive stack of paperwork and lined the individual sheets up in several overlapping lines on his desk, made sure all of the edges were nice and neat, then slowly stamped them all down one side (stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp), then signed each one of the stamps, then got two MORE stamps, lined them up with each other, and stamped each of the pieces of paper UP the other side (stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp), then just put them back in a big pile on the other side of the desk and looked at all of us like "What are you doing here?" It was pretty incredible. But, the important thing is that at least one of us is legal now. For Peter we will plan to leave the country every three months, cross the border to Greece (or somewhere else) and come back in so he can get a new tourist visa. Without a studen status through Koc, the resident paperwork is just too much of a nightmare.

There was also a bit of sightseeing done this week. While Candace was hard at work, Peter took a very long walk through the Fatih neighborhood (the same neighborhood with the Police Department for Aliens) to see some of the old mosques, a nicely-preserved Roman aqueduct, and some of the remaining Byzantine walls. If you have been to Istanbul and driven or walked around this part of town, you would probably remember it as the area where the gypsys live, some of them basically camped out with their horses tied in the shadow of the Byzantine walls. It is one of the more traditionally Muslim areas of the city, as you can see from this picture:

One of the most interesting things was a statue of Mehmet the Conqueror "flying" through the gates of Byzantium when he took the city from the Christians:

We were also finally able to get into Hagia Sophia, which Peter had yet to see. There are still a lot of tourists here this time of year, but there seemed to be a lot less than there were a few weeks ago, which was nice. Here are a few photos of that, including the obligatory cat photo:

The stained glass windows and shrine (sorry, I don't know what it's called) were added by the Muslims at some point after 1453:

Cat (Kedi in Turkish)

Oh, and we noticed something new about Hagia Sophia. Those of you who have been in, I wonder if you have seen this? It's a bit hidden. Behind the big roundels with Arabic script on them, there are areas of the wall on the level of the second-floor gallery that are painted like this:

But when you look up at them from the floor, they look like this (the arch on the right that's a duller color than the others):

Pretty cool, huh? It's amazing that even in such a massive open space, the people who were painting the walls (in the Islamic period) decided they had to use a visual trick to make it look even MORE open!

Here's one more nice picture Peter took -- it's the inside of the Yeni Mosque (New Mosque) which is right by the Golden Horn, next to the Spice Market:

And one more thing that's kind of amusing. We went into a huge junk store, and at the back they had a used book section. Who knew that there were Muslim "New Age" books in used book stores over here? I guess no one can escape it!


Maria said...

Hi Candace and Peter! It sounds like you're having a magnificent time! I'm really enjoying reading about your adventures. Thanks for all the great photos too!

Dan N. said...

I can't recall what the Roman term for Trompe-l'œil is at all. I don't recall that behind the medallions, but do recall the faux marble wainscoting.

It's a bit difficult to tell from that picture, but I think I could expand my appreciation of architecture to include late Ottoman.

Dan N. said...

Addendum: That terrace was great! When I get around to returning I certainly want to return there as well.