Wednesday, December 30, 2009

bye bye 2009!

Stack of Samantha Zaza's sketchbooks of 2009.
These are all the sketchbooks I've filled in 2009— that's 928 pages front and back, full of scribbles and sketches— not including the work I've done in the International Moleskine Exchange! I wonder if I can beat that next year...

I'm not big on resolutions. I, like most people, rarely stick to them, and end up with that December guilt of never having reached the goals I had set for myself twelve months earlier. 2009 has been a year full of change— I moved halfway across the world, discovered a new career path, met all sorts of wonderful people, visited two cities I've always dreamed of seeing— Prague and Budapest— and I bought a fish from a fishmonger in Turkish.

So what do I have planned for 2010? I've decided to tackle this new year's goals in four ways: art, language, travel and sport. Regarding art, I will continue to work on my drawings and paintings, hopefully getting an exhibition and finishing the comic I've been working on. Language— I want to improve my Turkish. If I have time, I'd like to get back my German. In travel, I will spend a month volunteering in Kathmandu this summer, and I hope to make it to Barcelona and Athens or Oslo. Finally, sport: since I have found nowhere to trapeze in Istanbul, I will take up fencing.

As usual, I want to floss more regularly and read more. I'd love to take up the accordion, but with all the painting, travelling and fencing in Turkish I've got planned, I'm not sure if I can realistically fit it in. We'll see. It's a skill I've been longing to collect.

What are your plans for 2010?

heading home

Snowy woods in New Hampshire.
The last day in New Hampshire was white with snow. Loads of it. I began to get concerned that Natasha and I would not be making it back to Istanbul as planned— but oh, how it was gorgeous. When we awoke to an empty sky on Tuesday, we were both relieved and sad, as this was the last time she would see our parents and littlest sister before she moved to Dubai. While I am over the moon for Natasha and her new job, I can't help but feel a little selfish and want to keep her here with me. Life is movement— and there's nothing in the world like a sister.

Bare tree branches lined with snow.
We got to Boston Logan Airport three hours ahead of time, curious about the new security measures in place. Relatives had phoned us the night before with rumours of invasive pat-downs and restrictions on what you could and couldn't take on a plane with you. We breezed through the usual security lines and found ourselves with hours to kill. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar orange and magenta sign, grabbed Natasha's arm and ran toward it.

My college years in Rhode Island were dotted with orange and magenta memories. Feeling an extreme wave of nostalgia, I needed to order what I missed most about Dunkin' Donuts: an egg, sausage, bacon and cheese sandwich on an everything bagel and a hazelnut coffee. It's a heart attack in breakfast form, and absolutely delicious. Since the airport D&D was out of everything bagels, I settled for the next best thing, an English muffin.
Nostalgia tastes incredibly good.

Dunkin' Donuts egg, cheese, sausage and breakfast sandwich with a coffee.
The ride to New York's JFK airport was fraught with disappearing stomachs and sweaty palms. The plane, a Delta heap of metal from most probably the eighties, shook and fell and bumped and lurched its way down the East Coast. I can take turbulence, but I need to have confidence in what's holding me up in the sky. Fortunately, the flight was only 76 minutes.

We arrived with only ten minutes to reach our connecting flight to Istanbul, and hurried towards the gate on wobbly legs. The flight was full, the seats small. The man in front of me seemed completely unaware of his surroundings, crushing my left toes under his big boat of a shoe, oblivious to my yelling and seemingly unable to feel my foot under him. Eventually I was released from his torturous hold, and he sat down with an expressionless "sorry." I grabbed my foot and rocked back and forth in my seat, ow-ing and wondering if he was on drugs. Ok, it was an accident and nothing was broken, whatever. I had nine hours to let it go. As soon as we were airborne, his seat crashed down into my knee— which I expected, and decided to ignore. As I reached into my bag on the floor, suddenly his elbow swings back— right into my forehead.

The rest of the flight was fine. Exhausting, but fine. While I was doing some light stretching in the back of the plane, a flight attendant called out to her co-worker, "Hey Fiona!" (or something like that) "Come look at her tramp stamp!" This, of course, referred to the large tattoo on my back. Then she asked if Turkish men were afraid of me because of it, and tried to set me up with another passenger, then decided he was too young for me.

It never ceases to amaze me how some people have no filters.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

back to the drawing board

Sadly my friends, despite our efforts, I did not win the Fluevog Creative competition. I so badly wanted to have the opportunity to not only get published, but to do the ad for the shoes I designed. There are more briefs that I might participate in, but I did not enjoy the stress of blasting out emails and facebook messages, etc. to try and win. If I choose to compete again, I'll just toss my piece into the mix and see what happens. Anyhow, ads come and go, but the shoes, they will stay— and those shoes are Zazas. I bought myself a bright red lipstick and got back to what I do best: drawing.

Thank you all for your support and words of kindness— surely I wouldn't have gotten as close as I did without you. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

Have a marvellous holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

winter wonderland

Snowing in a wooded area in New Hampshire.Stop light at a snow-covered intersection in New Hampshire.Leafless trees in winter.Snow-covered field in New Hampshire with a house and silo.
I had forgotten how cold New England winters are.

And dear friends, please don't forget to vote for me at to help me get my art published in international magazines over 250,000 times. Voting ends in two days and it's oh so close!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

america bound

Breakfast on KLM.
My sister Natasha and I just underwent what felt like the longest journey we've taken in ages— a 5:55 am flight out of Istanbul to Amsterdam with a six hour layover, then a seven and a half hour flight to Boston, and a two and a half hour bus ride to New Hampshire. The past week has been an absolute whirlwind of work, art, travel and nerves, that I forgot to mention I was going to the States.

With the flight to Amsterdam being so early, we only had about two hours of sleep and were barely awake when we boarded our flight. When I peeked into the pocket of the seat in front of me, I caught a glimpse of that familiar yellow spine— someone had left behind a National Geographic! Having been a subscriber for about nine years, I was ecstatic. I pulled it out with the excitement of a five year old, and discovered it was in Norwegian. This made Natasha burst out laughing, for I've had this long-standing joke about finding and marrying a Norwegian polar explorer.

"It's fate." She yawned, between giggles.

The main article was about Angkor Wat— a place I've always dreamed of visiting, and oddly enough, was just discussing yesterday with a friend of mine. It's funny how life can toss in these little coincidences.

When the breakfast cart came around, I decided to order a tomato juice for the first time in my life, in hopes of understanding why people order tomato juice on flights. I've never seen anyone sipping on a glass of tomato juice in a restaurant, but time after time, I've watched flight attendants handing small plastic cups of it to passengers with hospitable smiles. Looking at the thick red liquid at six something in the morning, my stomach churned, but I drank it anyway. It wasn't bad. I still don't get it.

Flying over Amsterdam at sunrise.My sister Natasha catching some sleep in Schiphol's Starbucks.My sketch of the scene outside the airport window of planes.
Six hours in Schiphol Airport is not very exciting or interesting. We walked up and down the length of the airport for the sake of exercise and exploration, then settled down in a Starbucks for some coffee and a shared BLT. Natasha passed out and I decided to draw.

Our flight to Boston was supposed to be a Northwest flight, so I was horrified to see a Delta logo out the window as we were boarding. Delta and I have not been friends— I've never had anything but nightmarish voyages on their flights. The flight attendants were generally rude— and once, while I was sitting next to the exit door, my pant leg was mysteriously stuck to the cabin wall. Confused and suddenly freezing, I looked down at my leg to discover that the entire cabin wall beside me was covered in ice. There was a leak in the exit door seal! Seconds later, the guy sitting in front of me yelped in shock, having realised he too, was stuck to the icy wall. When everyone surrounding us grew concerned, we called over a flight attendant who told us this was normal and not her problem. Normal?! And this is just one of my Delta flight stories.

So when I sat down in my comfortable seat and found it had its own video screen and remote control— in economy— I was pleasantly surprised. When the crew were nice to me and offered my sister and I huge glasses of wine, I was shocked. The food was decent and everything was functioning properly. How was this Delta? While I was hanging out by the galley to do some stretching, I felt compelled to ask one of the flight attendants what was up.

"You've all been so nice, and this flight has been really great so far— not my usual experience with Delta."

He listened with a thoughtful expression and a sympathetic smile as I began to tell him brief versions of my collection of horror stories.

"Hmm... I've heard this sort of thing before and I'm very sorry. But you want to know what the secret is?" He leans in close, and with a hushed voice and a grin, whispers "This is a Northwest flight in a Delta painted plane. We're the Northwest crew."

So there you have it.

Landing at Boston Logan Airport.
I'll be in New Hampshire for the next ten days— sitting by a fire, drinking tea and drawing, spending time with relatives, and stocking up on the things I can't find in Turkey. I'll be back in Istanbul in time for a fun New Year's.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

thirty seconds on istiklal

Istanbul is a symphony of sounds.
This is what thirty seconds sound like walking down Istiklal Caddesi.
It's my first attempt at a sound recording, hopefully it's alright!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

fluevog creative

Fluevog has opened their doors to us shoe lovers to create an ad for a selection of their oh-so fabulous shoes. The lucky winners get to have their artwork, name and url printed over 250,000 times in the snazziest of magazines— oh and to top it off, $1000 worth of Fluevogs! Did I enter?
You betcha. I sent my drawing in at the last minute for my shoe, the Mini Zaza, and as fantastic luck would have it, I'm one of the finalists!
Am I hopping up and down as I type this?
Yes, yes I am.

So dear friends, if you like my ad, go to and vote for me.
If you feel moved by the shoes currently involved (and I'm sure you will be), enter your own creation for a chance at shoe heaven.

Also, if you have a dream shoe kicking around in your brain and would like a chance at getting it made into a real shoe, draw it up and submit it to
Fluevog's Open Source Footwear. If your shoe is chosen, you have the glory of having a Fluevog named after you! It's a marvellous thing, I tell you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

one year + one day

Filleted Black Sea bass with the heads and fins still on.
I was rifling through a box of vintage photos and postcards at a used bookstore off Istiklal, and had a nice little conversation with the shop owner— entirely in Turkish. Granted it was a simple discussion about why I am here and what I do, but she was patient and grinning from ear to ear, and I was encouraged. When I left the shop I felt so confident, I went to the post office. After mailing a fistful of the vintage postcards I had just purchased, I headed home with a hop in my step. I had survived the post office.

As my minibus approached the balıkçı at the bottom of my hill, I felt a tiny flutter in the bottom of my stomach. Today is the day.

Işıkta inecek var! I belted out.

Eyes focused on the round red crates of fish, I crossed the street and began to choose which fishmonger was going to sell me my first fish. Hands in my pockets, I strode up to a kind-faced man in a dark apron with some good looking sea bass.

Buyrun, he smiles.
Levrek ne kadar?

He selects a good-sized shiny fish and weighs it.

Beş lira.

Suddenly, I realise I'm not sure how to ask to have the fish cleaned and filleted. I throw out words like temizleme and fillet (which I hope is the same in Turkish), and turn one hand into a fish and the other into the knife that's gutting it. Now we're laughing at my silly signing and spouting of random words, and before I know it, we're having a conversation about how the Black Sea has better tasting fish than the Aegean, and that Turkish fish are more delicious than American. He disappears for a few minutes behind the stand, leaving me to bounce up and down in the cold, watching my breath cloud out of my mouth. He returns with a neatly packaged parcel in a plastic bag.

Crates of fish at a fishmonger in Istanbul, at night.
Çok teşekkürler, iyi akşamlar!
I sing out, and practically skip off to my next minibus, the weight of the fish so pleasing in my hands. I want to tell my fellow passengers that I just bought my first fish, and that I'm going to cook it up and eat it with triumph— but I smile in the dark instead.

Once home, I thrown down my bag and coat, and carefully place my treasure on the kitchen counter. I rummage through fridge and cupboard, pulling out a bottle of olive oil, some garlic, lemons, sea salt and pepper, and a bottle of white wine. I start to unwrap the plastic layers, careful not to drip any of the pinkish liquid on the counter. Suddenly, I find myself before a sight that takes me back to high school biology.

Fishmonger at night in Istanbul.
Decapitation was nowhere in this fantasy.
Luckilly I'm not a squeamish girl.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

harika turns one

Turkish coffee cake with candle, celebrating Harika's one year anniversary and my move to Istanbul.
I was sitting on the bare wooden floor of my empty apartment in San Francisco, hitting "publish post" for the first time on my new blog, bags packed, waiting for the airport shuttle to carry me away to my new life in Istanbul.

One year. I can't believe how quickly it flew by— I still don't quite believe I've done it. Tomorrow marks my first day here.

Looking back over my posts, I can't help but marvel at all the things I've been lucky to see and do. While I miss my beloved San Francisco— my friends, trapeze class, and my beautiful apartment, I am thankful to have met a wonderful new set of friends, to have travelled so much this year, and to be closer to my sisters.

To celebrate this massive life shift, I played mad scientist in the kitchen and baked a batch of mini Turkish coffee cakes. I mixed up a mess of sugar, butter, flour and eggs, with Turkish coffee, cloves, vanilla and cinnamon, hoping something delicious would come of it. Baking is not my forté, but I guess this was my day— it's really not bad!

Happy anniversary, my dear friends. Thank you for your support and kind words over the past year. What began as a simple little project to keep me connected with my SF crew, turned into something so much more.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the fishmonger challenge

Beneath a bowing blue tarpaulin, silver scales shine under bare bulbs, arranged in eye-pleasing patterns that tempt. Flashes of red gills, pinkish crustacean shells, a row of patient cats. Seagulls stalk from lamp posts across the street. Men in blue aprons and Wellies sing out the names of fish and necessary numbers— how much the levrek is today, how many kilos of karides for how many lira.

I whole-heartedly believe that if I can muster up the courage to ask one of the fishmongers for a fish, have him clean and fillet it, I will have accomplished something great. I've bought fruit from the manav, and bread from the fırıncı, but so far, no fish from the balıkçı. I ask myself why, every time I squish past the puddles of seawater on the pavement, why I don't just do it. I think it has something to do with the fact that my minibus stand is right next to the balıkçı, and if I do something unbearably yabancı— foreign— I'll be faced with the grins and yabancı-related comments every day. And some days you just want to blend in.

But who cares, right? I am a yabancı, and I want to buy a fish. Why should I worry if I reveal my spotty Turkish to a bunch of fishmongers? I have no fear of blurting out the wrong words anywhere else. So I've decided, by the end of this week, I will march up to the balıkçı and buy some fish. I will take my fish on the minibus with pride. I will walk it home, all clean and filleted, and I will cook it up deliciously.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

szaza the hermit

Detail of an ink drawing of a simit salesman, or simitci, in progress, by Samantha Zaza.
I've been a bit of a hermit lately. I'm in this stay-at-home-with-tea-and-thick-socks-on kind of mood. It's perfectly grey out, the best time to read— and I have fallen way short of my 12 books goal this year— but I've been drawing. I'm working on the largest ink drawing I have ever done, and while I've spent well over 20 hours on it, it's so detailed and large that I can't seem to see much progress. Plus, I'm drawing on the floor since I don't have a board or an easel, which is surprisingly exhausting.

Harika's one year anniversary is coming up in less than two weeks— I can't believe how quickly 2009 flew by! I'll have to mark the occasion with a cake or something. I've never been capable of keeping a diary or journal; I always start out with excitement and philosophical wanderings, then forget all about it. This has been the first time I've managed with relative frequency and dedication to document my life. It's been really fun.

Alright. Back to the drawing.

Detail of an ink drawing of a simit salesman, or simitci, in progress, by Samantha Zaza. Alternate view.

Monday, November 30, 2009

tarragona dona

Ink, gouache and tea painting of a woman hiding behind her hair, by Samantha Zaza
This lady of mine will be in Tarragona at Espai Cromàtic for the DONA Showcase from December 12th– February 4th. DONA, Catalan for woman, is an illustration exhibition dedicated to the idea of woman. I am thrilled to have been invited by the good people of Espai Cromàtic to contribute a piece to this pool of talented artists. If you happen to be in town during the next two months, have a stop in the gallery and say hi for me!

My piece, titled "Hide," was drawn in India ink and coloured with touches of gouache. The background was stained with tea. Please click on the image to see it larger.

Espai Cromàtic
c/ Barcelona, 2
43004 Tarragona

...and a little bit of charcoal

the things i saw on november 17, 2009

Click on the image to see it larger.