Friday, July 23, 2010

a little update

My shoes are finally dry, clothes washed in metallic water are hanging in the bathroom, and my nose is desperately trying to expel the dust hidden inside my head. Life in Kathmandu is slow, rolling on much like the massive, silent monsoon clouds above— though with much more noise. I am heading northwest for a bit of adventure on Tuesday, chasing the white peaks that have so far eluded me. Annapurna and Machhapuchhare, I hope to see you soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Plans have changed, as they often do in Nepal— the monsoon has prevented me from going to Bandipur, and fortuitously kept me in Kathmandu, where I am volunteering at the Shree Mangal Dvip School for Himalayan Children. The students at SMD are bright, energetic and inspiring, in fact I find it difficult to find an adjective that is adequate for describing how wonderful they are. When the opportunity to volunteer at SMD was presented, I jumped at the chance.

Nights in Kathmandu are a symphony of dog barks, staticky radios, the clinking and tapping from metal workshops, and frogs. Nepali and Tibetan escape unseen lips hidden in the darkness of the city's frequent blackouts. With load-shedding comes the warm flickering of candles, the hum of generators and cries of excitement when the power is restored. Battleship clouds silently creep in and change into a myriad of shapes, threatening to pour and flood, while veiling the mountains that surround us. Mysterious mountains, the Himalaya, home of snow.

I have never had a mirror so clear held to my life, never seen such colour, never seen so much grey. What seemed essential, what seemed enormous, now holds so little weight. What thoughts that floated through my mind like seeds, have landed and begun to root, with the honesty of an open wound, the frankness of a blank page.

Red-robed monks toying with wooden rosaries while circling the stupa, Tibetan ancients prostrating on their bellies in the rain, children playing those same games that transcend geography and culture. The dust in my eyes, on my skin, in my mouth and in my lungs, the smell of chillies, garlic and incense, the sound of a young boy singing something incomprehensible to my foreign ears.

If we carry within us pieces of what we've seen, heard, tasted, smelled and touched, I don't know how I'll walk again. I imagine stacks of suitcases of all sizes, shapes and colours inside me— bursting at the seams and latches with life, and I don't know how I can possibly walk with all this gratitude and joy that I feel.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I thought I'd leave you with this before I go...
I found it in an old book of photos at my mum's house.

Monday, July 5, 2010

into the monsoon

Off to Kathmandu!

Well my friends, I'm off to Kathmandu. I'll have limited access to the internet for a month, but if I happen to find myself around a computer with some spare time, I'll be sure to let you know how I'm doing and what I'm up to. I've packed my camera, sketchbook and drawing tools to document the trip— hopefully there will be some breaks in the monsoon rain so I can get a range of images— I suspect I'll have a lot of tea house drawings. I still can't quite believe that I'm actually going to be standing on soil I only dreamt of, breathing in mountains and valleys that seemed so far out of my reach. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'll be volunteering at a school in a town between Kathmandu and Pokhara. I can't wait to meet the students, and I'm looking forward to meeting my host family. I have little idea of what to expect, but I'm really excited. I'll be back in Istanbul sometime in August, so until then dear friends, I'm signing off.

Have a harika summer!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

flavours of the day

I needed a few things before heading off to Kathmandu, like some pants (I only have one suitable pair), a bag (mine has worn down into holes), and one more delicious lunch at Çiya. Tilly had yet to experience the wonders of Çiya, so we took the 11:45 ferry to Kadıköy for a small feast and a wander about town.

Immediately upon entering the restaurant (as I have the past three Çiya visits), I sashayed up to the hot dish counter and enquired about the availability of their heavenly sour cherry kebap, which I've been repeatedly told is out of season until summertime. When does "summertime" begin, according to the chefs? Apparently, July! To my absolute joy, to my "vişne kebap var mı?", came the words I've been waiting to hear for a year: "Evet, var."

Sour, slightly sweet and dark, bits of sauce-soaked spongy bread, melting meat and bursting cherries...

Oh how patiently I had waited! There was only one thing to do after such an experience, and since I don't smoke, a good strong Turkish coffee would have to do.

After a tiny cup of silty coffee, a lokum and lively conversation, we moved on. This lovely lady offered us some fresh fruit juice, and with such a thick summer heat hanging in the air, how could we resist? Grapefruit was added to the flavours of the day.

I eventually found what I was looking for.

Friday, July 2, 2010

the burger and the martini

I am not a huge burger eater. In fact I probably have one or two a year if at all, and I never, ever eat at fast food chains. Decent burgers in Istanbul are as unusual as snow in July— they just never taste right. After spotting a fairly new burger joint off Istiklal called Mano Burger, whilst in the midst of an odd craving for a patty, Tilly and I decided to try our luck. The place was packed with trendy young Turks, and the décor had an element of garage-chic. The menu was simple, about six choices of burgers, all with a Turkish twist to them— in place of American cheese melted a salty hellim from Cyprus, instead of ketchup or a mustard was smeared a smoky baba ghanoush. Intriguing.

We both ordered the "Ototoman": two patties, caramelised onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and the afore mentioned baba ghanoush and hellim cheese, nestled between the halves of a sesame seed bun. Wow. If only they had a root beer to wash it all down with! The fries were a bit lacking, but who cares when the burger is that good.

Feeling satisfied and desiring a cocktail after an uneven day— I had been running around like a madwoman trying to prepare for my Kathmandu trip in the midst of some strange dramas— we peeled ourselves off our chairs and wandered across the street to Tünel, in search of a nice place to unwind. To our delight, passing in front of us was a modified tram car pulled by the usual one, that had been converted into a stage for a rock band! This is what I love about Istanbul— this passion for invention.

In the sardine-crammed alleys of Tünel, we managed to find an outdoor table at a café which surprisingly offered a martini on the menu. Finding a martini (and a good one, at that) is as rare as finding a good burger, but since we were feeling lucky, we decided to order one. We were soon disappointed to discover that "martini" meant Martini & Rossi, the brand of vermouth— something neither of us wanted. We had found a burger, so perhaps we could tell the bartender how to craft us a lovely cocktail.

Though I patiently explained the contents of a gin martini, I was presented with something yellowish in a tumbler that reeked of Southern Comfort. How Southern Comfort ended up in there is beyond me, so I explained with a series of diagrams to a nodding waiter and bartender, what goes into a martini and how it should be prepared and served.

The diagrams seemed to have helped somewhat— while the cocktails were mixed decently, there were ice cubes in the martinis, which were served in margarita glasses with lime wedges. We eventually got our olives, which though were not pitted, were absolutely delicious. While certain things aren't readily available in Istanbul, there's always someone willing to help you get what you want or need.

Mano Burger
Şahkulu mah. Galip dede cd. No: 5 Tünel / Beyoğlu / İSTANBUL
0 212 292 75 42