"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Expat Birthdays, Two Hostel Stays, and One Very Yummy Fish Sandwich

I know I promised you all a Teaching Exposé, and it's coming.  But in the spirit of Focusing on the Good Parts, here's a rundown of some hours recently spent not at school.

Two weekends ago, I finally got myself over to the Asian Side!  My friend Dan from TLG has also found himself teaching in Istanbul, but since we basically live on either end of the Istanbul Planet, I hadn't had a chance to see him until two Fridays past when I braved the Bosphorus to celebrate Dan's birthday at an Irish bar.

Door-to-door, it took something like two hours to get from my house in Sirinevler to my hostel in Kadikoy.  (This includes 10 or so minutes of being lost.)  And yes, you read that right -- rather than deal with sketchy mass transit or an 80-lira cab ride, I opted to get a hostel bed for the night.  At 25 TL, it wasn't a bad deal, and it was walking distance to Dan's birthday bar.

The party was pretty awesome, and I really loved seeing Dan again.  We Gaumarjosed and reminisced and told stories to the rest of the table.  An excellent night, but I have no photos as proof of shenanigans because I am an idiot and left my camera battery charger in America.  (My parents sent it along and it has since arrived safely, but there is an undeniable gap in my Istanbul Photo Diary.  Oh well.)

The next day I wanted to explore Kadikoy, but the weather gods did not agree.  It was freezing and pouring rain.  I got a very good lunch at a restaurant in my hostel's neighborhood, and lingered over my hangover beer just wishing more than anything I could have gotten posted on the Asian side.  Kadikoy looks like a lot of fun; compared to Sirinevler it is an Expat Urban Paradise.  Maybe in the autumn, if I decide to come back.

The weather was too bad for wandering alleys and outdoor markets, so I got my first Bosphorus Ferry over to Sultanahmet.  I thought I'd finally see the Topkapi Palace, but it had closed for the day already.  I was meeting friends later in Sultanahmet to celebrate another birthday, my friend Joshua's. But I had two hours so instead I called Joshua to see if he felt like meeting early.  He did.

Joshua's birthday night was fun, but tinged with sadness as he had recently decided that all this teaching BS was strictly not worth it, and had handed in his notice.  So it was a combination Birthday and Farewell celebration.  We kept our spirits up with Chinese Food (found an honest-to-Jesus Chinese restaurant!), followed by beers and nargile at a lovely rooftop cafe overlooking the incredible Blue Mosque.

Me, Mallory, Joshua, Rachel
I will miss Joshua quite a bit.  I certainly can't blame him for leaving though.  Hopefully our traveling paths will cross again one day.

But now, let's just skip right past all the unpleasantness of the work week and land ourselves at this past weekend.  This Saturday it was Mallory's birthday!  So she came over in the afternoon and we had drinks and birthday cake, then got ourselves all pretty and went into Taksim.

Mallory and I had gotten a hostel again, because honestly it's not much cheaper than late-night transit home and it is both a helluva lot safer and more convenient.  We found it, checked in, and braved the madness of Istiklal Street.

The place we eventually chose for dinner turned out to be just your basic touristy deal, but the food was pretty good and the waitstaff were nice.  They had live music in the form of a trio who would come right up to your table and sing for you.  Kind of loud, but fun.

Mallory (with her birthday flower tiara), and Rachel
After dinner we found that Irish bar that Rachel and I had been to before, and settled in.  Rachel left shortly before midnight, but Mallory and I ended up staying quite late, having some good conversation and a couple free shots courtesy of the distinctly un-Irish but very nice bartender.

I was kind of expecting Sunday morning to suck, but ended up feeling pretty okay. :)  And the sun was actually shining!  It was sort of almost warm even!  We have not had many nice days in Istanbul so far, so this was special.  Mallory and I got a breakfast Starbucks (White Chocolate Mocha Latte, BLISS!), and wandered around.

Galata Tower

We walked down to the Bosphorus and came upon this very awesome, very random fish market and sidewalk fish cafes.  I loved it immediately.

Does not capture the chaos.
We decided to walk over the Galata Bridge, but didn't make it as we stopped halfway across for a drink.  The bottom tier of the bridge is lined with restaurants and cafes, which are probably fantastic on a summer evening.  I think I lamented about fifty times that day about how far away I was from all this.

Where the fish come from.
And then, we succumbed to the inevitable and went back to get one of those street vendor fish sandwiches for lunch.  Holy crap, Best.  Idea.  Ever.  I have had dreams about this sandwich.

Mallory, with the mighty Ufuk in the background.
 One of the obligatory things you have to do when visiting Istanbul is take a cruise on the Bosphorus.  I'd naturally assumed this would be quite pricey, but when we checked the ticket booth it turned out to only be 12 TL for a 90-minute cruise.  And had one leaving in half an hour.  So, why not??

One more checkmark on the Istanbul Bucket List!

And then we went back to the hostel for our bags and girded our loins for the Big Giant Suffer Fest that is Istanbul mass transit.  An hour and 15 minutes door-to-door for me, and longer for Mallory who lives even further out.  Ugh.

But it was an excellent day, full of the perfect mix of tourist history, local color, and randomness.  Unfortunately the next two weekends are going to have to be full of things that have that and are also free.  I kind of broke the bank this weekend.  Totally worth it.

Today was just pretty much like any quiet day at home, whether you're in Istanbul or Springfield, VA.  I cleaned the apartment, did a load of laundry, cooked up a bunch of chicken breasts to eat throughout the week, went grocery shopping, and paid my wireless bill.  Oh, and wrote a blog post.  Now I'm off to watch some Doctor Who.

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