Monday, May 30, 2016

The Shadowy Reflection – Erich

As we travel the world we find that many places are exactly like the United States. Except different. But there are such similarities, and yet almost like we have gone into the Mirror, Mirror universe where Spock has a beard or a time altered version of Springfield where it rains doughnuts.

If you don't understand my references, don't worry, they aren't important to the post. What is important are some of the many elements we have discovered here in Istanbul that remind us, sort of, of home.

At home, there are urban parks. Some are small, some are large. The same is true in Istanbul. They have playgrounds for the kids to enjoy. Another feature that is super common to the parks of Istanbul is exercise equipment. You see such a thing occasionally in the U.S. But even then it is usually a trail you follow where this station tells you to do sit ups and that station has you do hamstring stretches. Here, it is more fixed equipment, like a stationary bike, or device in which you put your feet on two large platforms and then lift your legs to the sides.

Just like in the States, sometimes you see wildlife in the parks, smaller things like squirrels and rabbits. In New Jersey, we used to see groundhogs a lot too. But I bet you never saw a rabbit so tame it let you come right up and pet it!
Love him and squeeze him and call him George
Istanbul has some level parts, but much of it is hilly. I don't just mean a few hills. I mean incredibly and steeply hilly. So while at home we might have a stoop of five or six steps up to our front door, here you might need to climb 70 steps to get home.

Between one street and the next one parallel to it, there could be over 100 feet change in elevation. So there are stairs all over. Some of the stairs are even labeled with street names, because there are houses along those staircases. The address of that house is there, on the stairs, not on a street. You can't drive to get to that home. You can park above and walk down. You can park below and walk up. But you can't park at the home.
Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!
Still, we did see a pretty rare sight, even for Istanbul. Check out this staircase used to get down from street level to the main entry of a house. I'm not sure I would feel comfortable using this several times a day. Especially in high wind.
Red, the blood of angry men
Like any city, Istanbul has to be able to fight fires. And so they have fire hydrants. But the hydrants here are like the lanky cousins of ours back home. They are tall and thin. Here are two pictures of a hydrant. I included the kids in the second one to give you an idea of scale, how tall these things actually are. (I should note that if you then ask me how tall the kids are, I can't tell you. One element of traveling with so little is that I have no way to make everyday measurements like heights or weights of people.)
If someone in a movie show yelled "Fire in the second row!" you'd notice him.
The grocery store is always an adventure in any new culture. What foods do they eat? What foods do they lack? As an example, breakfast cereal is not the thing here. You don't find oatmeal or porridge at all. There is a bit of cold cereal, always in bags, not boxes. And you really only have a very few choices. There are some muesli like ones with fruits, chocolate spherical ones, and corn flakes.

But sometimes you find you have many choices. For example, in potato chips, we have several. (Interestingly in corn chips we don't have nearly so many.) We even have familiar brands. But they offer flavors abroad that you never see at home. In South Africa, for example, there were spare ribs flavored chips. They were okay.
When the oceans turn to yogurt
Here in Turkey we see these. They translate as Yogurt and Seasonal Greens. They're good. We better enjoy them while we can, because we probably won't see them in many other places.

Today, we visited the mall. It can't all be palaces and museums. Sometimes your clothing is getting worn out and needs a fresh infusion. We only have three shirts each for example. When you wear the same three shirts over and over, they don't last nearly as long. So today we had to go get some new clothing, some shirts for the girls, and some shorts for the adults. Carver needed nothing and certainly had no strong desire to try on clothing.

The mall had its characteristics that made it like ours at home. Multiple floors, lots of clothing shops, and, of course, a food court. There were some familiar choices like McDonalds, and some specifically Turkish choices.

Now, don't be disappointed, but today for lunch, we all ate American food. Let me explain. First, it's always fun to see how things aren't quite the same. And second, when you are gone for long, long stretches, sometimes a taste that reminds you of home is exactly what you need.
Head for the mountains!
Syarra got fries with her meal, and they came with packets of ketchup and mayonnaise. (Mayonnaise on fries is big here.) Both of these are, as you can see, classic Colorado. I didn't know Colorado has its own classic ketchup, but hey, there it is, written on the packet. So it must be true. This is particularly sad because my brother even lives in Colorado. Any time I have visited him, he must have purposely hidden the Classic Colorado Ketchup from me! The gall! And to think, we he visited me in Pennsylvania, I let him have Heinz Ketchup, a Pennsylvania company, and it has the keystone right on the bottle!
Left turn at Albuquerque
As you might expect, the mall offers its patrons restrooms. But as you go down the hall to the restroom, you can also turn off to the prayer rooms, the mescit. There are two, one for men and one for women. I looked in the one for men, it has a front room with lockers. And then there is a room beyond that I would guess is for laying down your prayer mat and praying. I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to go in, and certainly didn't take any pictures.

I find it is these little difference, but also the little similarities that mean so much. These are the way I understand a people trying to keep its own culture, but also being part of the wider world. And I know that they are just like me. Or at least more like me than they are like bearded Spock.


  1. The lays are probably better than some of the odd flavor combinations they try in the states each year... You should save some for your friends and family back home. Lol

    1. I think by the time we brought them through so many flights, they would be powder.