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

Monday, April 15, 2013

ALL the episodes, plus a trip to Prince's Islands

Okay, so... not every post can be vitriol (love that word) and bitterness.  And while it is very true that I have not been having as much fun in Istanbul as I believe I should, not everything has been about work and its resulting misery.  For one thing, my roommate, Rachel, and I have bonded like long-lost sisters based largely because we both hate teaching here... but even more importantly, because several weeks ago I introduced her to the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff that is Doctor Who, and ever since that fateful day, that is pretty much all we do with our evenings.  It only took a few well-chosen episodes for her to declare we needed to watch ALL THE EPISODES, and since the end of March when we started, we have made it about halfway through Season 4.

Just pause for a moment, and reflect on how many episodes that averages out to be in a night.  I mean, it's only April 15 right now.

I am SO PROUD of the monster I have created. :)  However, since we are also concurrently watching episodes of Season 7 as they come out (thank goodness she doesn't care about order as much as I do), we are going to finish up WAY before it's time to come home again.  Hopefully we can find some Classic Who somewhere to download.

But yeah.  Our weeknights pretty much go like this.  Come home, bitch rant rave, talk about quitting, pour a drink, sit on the balcony (if weather permits) for more ranting and doritios, then inside to heat up dinner, pour a second drink, and fire up the TARDIS, otherwise known as Rachel's Macbook.

It's not a bad life.  Granted, it's not one that either one of us expected to have whilst in Istanbul, but even the worst day can be improved with some vodka and David Tennant.

It's not just ennui that has kept us in though.  Due to not working a full month in February, our March paycheck was cut significantly.  That meant that after living off of savings for our entire first month here, we had the pleasure of surviving March with a paycheck that was about 1000 lira less than it was supposed to be.  Both of us pretty  much completely ran out of money for the last two weeks before April's payday.

We did get out on Easter for a little bit though, and visited a park and man-made beach in Florya, nearish to my school.  It was a pretty nice day although the Bosphorus is one gross body of water.  Completely full of trash, and way more unpleasant than that, jellyfish.  The Bosphorus is a gigantic jellyfish soup.  I've never in my life seen so many of these things.  Even if they turn out not to be the stinging kind, I will not be swimming here.

We got lunch/dinner at a restaurant overlooking the water.  Pretty expensive, and especially for us as we were scraping the bottom of the barrel.  But the food was good at least!

And then... finally came the day when our patient suffering was at an end, and lo -- it was April 10th!  We've been here over two fucking months and this is the first full paycheck we've had!!  We celebrated.  I'd found a butcher's shop nearby and ordered up a kilo of ground beef (27 lira!), and the day before I'd made up a potato salad and picked up some fresh mint at a farmer's stand.  (This was an accident; I'd thought it was basil.)  Indoor Payday Barbecue, motherfuckers!  Cheeseburgers, potato salad, and mohitos because I needed something to do with the mint.

Except I very sadly discovered that a bottle of Bacardi in Istanbul costs 70 lira.  However, this depressing setback led me to discover that mohitos can still be pretty mohito-ish when made with cheap vodka.  When living abroad, sacrifices and experiments are called for!!

It was a completely amazing dinner.

Afterwards, we... watched more Doctor Who.  Why mess with a good thing?

I'd decided weeks back that I was going to see something new and exciting the first weekend I got paid, and picked the Prince's Islands, south of the Asian side in the Marmara.  Several sources had recommended them, and I figured I'd stay Friday and Saturday nights at that Kadikoy hostel I stayed in for Dan's birthday, see more of that area, catch up with folks in the evenings and spend Saturday on the islands.  I booked it, and all was well.  I'd come home on Friday after work, pack, and make the long trek over to Asia.

Except I dragged my sorry ass in the door on Friday evening and did not feel even the littlest bit like packing or navigating Istanbul's mass transit or even meeting any new hostel friends.  Rachel and I made our customary post-work cocktails and sat on the balcony... and then I called the hostel to change my nights to Saturday and Sunday, put on pajamas, and we... watched Doctor Who.

To use one of Rachel's weird British phrases, I was truly knackered, and even went to bed early (for me).  This meant I was able to wake refreshed to a gorgeous Saturday, do my packing and mass-transit navigating, and meet my friend Mallory over in Kadikoy.  We did what there is to do in Kadikoy, which is walk around perusing the countless restaurants, coffeehouses, bars, and pubs, and talk about any random thing while eating and drinking the item of the moment.  After Mallory left to go back to Europe, I met Dan and a few of his friends, and had a pretty good night.  Winning.

Except I then woke up on Sunday (my new designated day for visiting the islands), and it was chilly and grey and threatening rain.  I mean... of COURSE it was.  Nonetheless, I figured out the right ferry and headed off.

Blue Mosque (left) and Hagia Sophia (right)

I decided not to get off at Kinaliada or Burgazada, the first two ferry stops.  Lonely Planet said there wasn't much there, and I wanted sufficient time to explore the larger two.  When I did finally get off the boat at Heybeliada, this is what I found:

The island town was beautiful, but everywhere I looked all I could think of was that it was full of a sort of sad, lost grandeur.  Pretty much every house needed repair, and/or was currently under heavy renovation.  I think Heybeliada must have been an impressively gorgeous place once, and doubtless will someday be again.  But on the afternoon I was there, she seemed like an old lady rocking on her peeling-front porch and speaking quietly about the many beaux that used to come calling when she was a girl.

I found a path through the woods that eventually led here:

I followed the steps down, to this truly horrifying and disappointing sight:

This is doubtless the saddest beach I have ever seen, and I spent seven months on the Georgian Black Sea.  Utterly heartbreaking, but what really confused me was that that sign was not that old.  They couldn't possibly be suggesting people swim here.  How long does it take for a beach to get like this?  Also, I saw no sandwiches.

Walked back into town after this.  I didn't feel all that tremendously comfy being all isolated on my own, even with pepper spray.  With my luck and coordination skills I would end up dropping it or spraying my own face.  But other than the beach itself, I did see some incredible views.

Back at the pier, I grabbed a Turkish coffee and waited for the ferry to take me to Buyukada.

The first thing I noticed about Buyukada, the largest of the islands, was that it was WAY more crowded.  So right away I was put off. :)  All the same, it was way past time for some proper food, so I explored and eventually found a cute little restaurant and had some chicken skewers and rice.

The thing to do in Buyukada, other than shop, is hike up to this monastery.  I'd planned on doing that, but then the weather turned just slightly worse -- colder with the occasional drizzle.  I thought about it, and eventually decided to leave a hike up a mountain for another day.  Instead I walked around the town a little and got the ferry back to Kadikoy at 5:00.

Seagulls flocking in a rather ominous sky.
I enjoyed the Prince's Islands, although I'm aware I didn't see everything they had to offer.  As with most things, the key seems to be coming on a beautiful day and with plenty of money.  I have a guest or two visiting me here in Istanbul come May, and so will have a good excuse to visit the islands again if I feel I need to.

Today, I made it back home in time to take a nap, do some chores, and watch two episodes of Doctor Who with Rachel.  That is less than usual but she wanted to go to bed early. :)  And I guess it wouldn't hurt to start stretching them out!

Coming up, I have a long weekend.  Originally, the idea was to visit Cappadocia, but now Friday is really soon and once again I have not done one iota of planning.  Partly because no one has been able to tell me exactly which days we actually get off.  Ah, Eastern Europe.  Anyway, stay tuned.  I'm sure something will happen.  I mean, Rachel and I could decide to get really crazy and start watching Torchwood.

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