kimberlybehlingrussell

I am not an adventurer by choice, but by fate. -Vincent van Gogh

Back To Reality

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It’s been less than 24 hours since I’ve been back in Boston. In so many ways, I’m so happy to be here. I’m reunited with my best friends, I am finally seeing my parents tomorrow and I’m back to a place I’m so familiar with.

But there’s also the other side of me. The side that realizes never again will I be in the exact same places with the exact people I was with. The need for productivity, the lust to explore, the curiosity to learn.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. -Nelson Mandela

It’s so true, to recognize the ways in which I’ve changed. Even just looking out the window I feel like I’m seeing new things. I have reached the brink of crying multiple times already, and I’m not alone. Over Facebook we’ve all been posting status updates describing our sadness to have left. It’s nice to know I don’t feel alone, but I can’t sit in my room to wait for Emily to come home anymore to vent to her, I can’t run downstairs a flight to visit Fer and Hannah. Of course I have told my roommates how bummed I am, but they can only relate so much.

On the last night, some of the girls and Carlene and I sat at a cafe, reflecting our trip, comparing stories. We went around the circle saying our favorite thing, something we regretted, and what we learned on this trip. Many of our answers were similar and related to one another, others were far off from the rest of the group. But in that circle, especially listening to things people learned, I couldn’t help but feel so connected to everyone.

Five weeks ago, I hardly knew anyone. I had classes with a few of the girls, but we were really only friends in class, rarely seeking each other’s company outside of class or school-related events. I came into the trip terrified because of this. Yet five weeks later, I feel like I’ve made a whole new set of friends – many whom I would consider among my best friends now. What a crazy thought – to know someone for five weeks, yet to trust them to such a level equivalent to people you’ve known for years and years. How blessed I feel to have shared this with such amazing people.

Without question I plan on returning to the Middle East. Amman was always on my mind in Istanbul, even though I was in a completely different culture. I loved Istanbul, but I have been to European cities before. In many ways it was different, but it didn’t challenge me the way Amman did. I wish I could return this very minute to Amman, to chip away at the learning surface I had barely scratched.

I have returned home invigorated, confident and at a place of peace I haven’t felt for as long as I remember.

I’m seeing a future in international study and journalism. I’m seeing a more appreciative side of myself, and I’m starting to understand that cultural differences are imperative to knowledge. If the whole world was globalized and similar, I never would have gone through this experience. Some of the people in our group would be angry that so few people spoke English. Yet, I always saw it the other way around. Did we really have any right to say anything? No, here we were expecting people to speak our language, the foreigners. I hardly had the decency to learn even the simplest phrases. Looking back I wish I had been more prepared, but I’m glad I recognize that.

I wish there was some way I could force everyone to go on this dialogue. It is an experience in life I will never forget. I miss it already, so, so much. I can’t wait for my friendships to continue – but most of all, I hope that all I learned about myself and the world will stay with me even when I’m not in these foreign countries. I don’t want to become unappreciative or ignorant again. I don’t want to fear loneliness or allow myself to grow dependent on others. I don’t want to become lazy, or refrain from exploring. Even here, at a place I consider somewhat of a home, there is so much to learn and explore. My feelings of wanderlust will forever live, I know this. But for now, I will plan on reaching out within this community, in ways I never did before. And I look forward to continuing my blogs, whether it be here or another website.

Thank you everyone who experienced this with me, whether by being alongside me on our adventures or simply reading this blog. Thank you especially to our teachers and SIT for preparing such an incredible trip.

To all of you who were on this journey, I salute you in so many ways. You all are so talented, I have been so inspired by you. I am so glad to have met all of you, please stay in touch.

I am almost embarrassed by my use of “touching” quotes but I can’t help it. Whenever I reminisce this is exactly what happens. I can’t help but want to quote the great men of our century. They always have a more intelligent way of saying how I feel.

Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes.  A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.  And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.  -Richard Bach

And so, farewell my new friends, I will see you all again soon.

xo,
Kimber

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Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm

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How’s your minute?

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Just before I left for this trip, my friend Robbie asked his buddy from home this question.

“I’m having an awesome minute, man,” said the friend, who then returned the question, “How’s your minute?”

This verbal exchange has lingered in my mind during this trip, because it reminds me the importance of a greeting. So often, greetings are passings of breath, socially required but mentally dismissed. A monotonous sequence of words, prototyped to something like this:

Person One: (Hey, how are ya? / Hey, what’s up? / How’ve you been?)

Person Two: (Good, you? / I’ve been doing alright, how bout you? / Not much, you? / [polite smile, potential chin raise])

I can’t remember the last time I answered a “how are you?” with any thought. Nor do I remember the last time I actually listened to a response when asking this. I just recitd the usual question in passing and assume the answer to follow routine.

For these boys, both the question and answer showed a genuine interest in one another’s well being, a moment of liberated man love.

It is easy to see why. For starters, it veers from the norm. It forces the person in whom the question is deferred to, to take a moment and think.

[Internal monologue of responder]: Did he just ask me how my minute was? That was unusual. Well, how was my minute?

Verbal Response: “My minute’s going great, just finished watching the Yankees trounce the Red Sox. What about you?”

Secondly, a minute brings in a whole new perspective. To think in terms of the last 60 seconds dilutes everything outside of that time period. The previous day’s concerns are of little importance, even the five minutes before the chat are inconsequential.

So, ask me how my day was, and I might just give the usual, “good” response out of habit. Ask me how my minute was, however, and I would say my minute is absolutely awesome, and it’s making me feel a whole heck of a lot better about the rest of my day.

You see, in this past minute, I received a praising e-mail from Carlene, I looked at the bracelet I bought as a reward for coming across my first international geocache, and finished a blog post based on a 3-word question.

So, how’s your minute? 

Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

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A Rant For Steve Jobs

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As a fairly technologically savvy person, I’d like to think I’m good with electronics. My upcoming co-op, in fact, will be working in the IT department of Harvard Business Publishing.

Yet, my attempts to create a perfect computer have failed me time and time again, seeing as my Mac book and I have had more than a few hardships.

I received my Macbook just before my freshman year of college. It was given to me by my parents as a “Congrats-on-graduating-hooray-for-getting-into-college” gift. I had been so excited.

I opened the box containing my sleek new computer, my heart fluttering in excitement at the possibilities. Easy organization, incredible art programs, ichat complete with video capabilities.

The first few months were amazing. I fell in love with my Mac, and I’d like to think my Mac loved me. Together, we excelled in college, leveled a Hunt-tard on World of Warcraft to 80, enjoyed hour upon hour chats with my then-boyfriend and endured the hardships and bore of being in Ohio. Yes, those first few months were perfect.

And then, everything changed. After spending far too many hours stuck in front of the World of Warcraft screen, I fell asleep. Somehow, in my sleep, I managed to knock a bottle of water onto my beloved Mac. Angry with me, my Mac refused to turn on. I aired it out, sang to it, wiped it gently with silk towels. But alas, the damage was done and I was forced to take my Mac to the beloved computer doctors at the Mac store.

For $900 my Mac was “fully prepared”. But was it?

No.

It wasn’t. From that moment on, my Mac was never the same – regardless of the genius’ claims that it was “fully restored and parts refurbished”.

Suddenly, my once lightning speed Mac was slower than my 5-year-old PC at home. I began to loathe my Mac, angry at my empty bank account, angry at the Mac store, angry at the world.

I recognize initially, I started the problem. But, Steve Jobs, if I pay $100 less than the initial paying price to get my computer “fixed”, I expect it to be completely fixed.

Denison was 45 minutes away from the nearest Mac Store. Going there was a hike, especially because I didn’t have a car. At Christmas break, I took it in again. The genius had the nerve to tell me nothing was wrong, and it was a user problem.

Three years later and my computer was hellishly slow. Then, my friend sat on my computer, unknowingly. I was livid. Who sits on a computer!? Like, honestly, it was the most bizarre thing I had ever encountered. Worst part was, he wouldn’t even admit to it – though I saw it with my own eyes!

Back to the Mac store. $500 later, and I was promised the same thing as the first time.

And now, here I am, with a computer that was “completely fixed” slightly over a month ago.

Completely fixed? I smell a rat. Can Steve Jobs explain to me, why, then, my computer cannot stay on longer than 15 minutes without shutting down? Or why it freezes every time I open a new window? Or why it sounds like it’s overheating even before I turn it on?

It saddens me to say this may be my last experience with a Mac. But I find myself hourly wishing to toss my computer off the nearest window ledge and finding a new computer friend.

If you’re going to buy a Mac, I insist you look into what you’re buying. My machine has been somewhat of a nightmare on many counts, the insurance plan is absolutely awful, the programs are far more expensive than Windows programs, and the computer will give you a love-hate relationship that will never seem to fade.

Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 9, 2011 at 10:07 am

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Preparing for June 12th.

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Yesterday afternoon, Kaileigh expressed her frustration with her story topic, the upcoming election of June 12th in Turkey. I’ve been pretty interested in them on my own, so I offered to join her on the story. Lucky for me, she accepted, and here we are at a local internet cafe, researching and preparing.

Drink and eats of choice: hummus and iced coffee (topped with a huge glob of whipped cream).

No complaints here. Both the hummus and coffee are BOMB.

This evening, we will be attending an AKP rally at 5pm. Very curious to see hot that is going to go. Perhaps we’ll even make a friend who will tell us what went on in English!

Elections here are pretty complicated, and the political sphere is very different from most countries. Some points to outline what we’re dealing with in this election:

  • Current ruling party is the Justice and Development Party (i.e., AKP, the party tonight’s rally will be backing)
  • Turkey is notoriously conservative, 2/3 populace votes for right-side parties
  • Turkey became multi-party democracy 57 years ago, only 2 of which have been ruled by left-wing parties
  • AKP is “rooted” in Islamist Welfare Party (RP)
  • AKP came to power in 2002 after Turkey’s economic crisis, they originally held a very center-right stance
  • There is a 10% electoral threshold for representation in the legislature, although secular parties gained more than 40% of the votes last election, none besides the Republican People’s Party (CHP) reached the threshold, thus, even though only 1/3 of the populace supported AKP, they received 2/3 of the legislative seats

Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 5, 2011 at 10:07 am

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Chasing the “other” Kurt V…

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Emily, my assigned roommate via Northeastern Abroad Programs, has once again left me speechless.

Miss Emily just informed me via Facebook wall that she “ran into” Kurt Vile at the Spice Bazaar. Just my luck. One of the few times I am apart from her and she manages to meet an artist who once dominated my iTunes top-25 Most Played.

Some background info: Kurt Vile is a singer/songwriter from Emily’s home city, Philadelphia. Back in my last year of high school, I listened to him fairly regularly, my song of choice being “Blackberry Song”.

Blackberry Song by Kurt Vile

At some point during my freshman year, my hard drive was wiped. Forgotten, Vile was no longer my music flavor of choice, as I began creating a brand new iTunes Library.

Fast forward two years:

Emily off-handedly mentioned that there was a concert she wouldn’t mind seeing, I thought little of it, figuring I’d go with her for the sake of the experience.

Fast forward two hours:

Kurt Vile performing at a music venue named Ghetto.

My mind flew back to my days of making playlist after playlist with names like “Acoustic Indie”, “Indie is for Lovers”, “Sufjan, Kurt, Alexi” (two side notes: 1.] my second time being thrown back into my old infatuation with the ‘indie’ scene and 2.] I am not proud of my creative playlist names, don’t hold it against me).

Fast forward to two hours…pre-concert:

I experienced a bit of overly eager indie-happyness yesterday, and decided to play Kurt Vile’s youtube mix all day, while checking and double checking the websites to make sure I knew where the venue was, when he was playing, how to get there and what to wear.

I was fairly confident the show started at 8, and after borrowing an outfit from Fer, I was ready to go about two hours before the show started. My friends weren’t as eager to get there, so it was another hour and a half before we left.

7:30 rolled around and we were finally gathered, ready to go.

After a smelly ride in the tram, and five different attempts at getting directions (four of which were off the mark) we finally made it to Ghetto. Turns out, the show didn’t start until 9:30.

My friends were troopers – we grabbed some dinner, chosen by Hannah, thanks to her interest in its miniature stools. Apparently dinner was good (I didn’t order dinner, I was shockingly still full from lunch).

I went to the concert at 9:45: 20L and I was in.

The concert was…interesting, to say the least. I had been expecting a much more acoustic set, and was pretty shocked by the first few songs.

The sound system was not great, the sound was way too loud and no one seemed to know the music (nor did I, as it was off his newer and less popular album). Halfway through, I stepped outside to grab some air, and when I came back in I was finally listening to the music I had longed to hear.

He was great, especially on his own, but I think he’s a much better performer alone.

His band was alright, though I only loved the drummer because he used a maraca as a drum stick – awesome.

Note: I wouldn’t highly recommend Vile’s concert with his band, the Violaters. But if it’s an acoustic set with just Vile, absolutely yes. Nothing will ever be as fresh as them blackberries.

Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 3, 2011 at 6:02 pm

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Kings for the Day

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You know when you learn something new, and then all of a sudden you start noticing it everywhere?

Well, this has been happening to me over a topic that I find humorous: male circumcision in Turkey.

It started the other day when we went to the Sultan’s palace. Rob, the photography teacher, had earlier seen a young boy dressed as a king. Apparently, he’d seen it many times before, as did some of the other students. Naturally, he inquired about it to our tour guide, who luckily spoke English.

The conversation went something like this:

Rob: “So what’s with all these kids dressed up as kings? Is there a festival or parade going on or something?

Tour Guide (after snickering): Ahhh, no…those boys are becoming men when they wear that outfit.

Me: Uhh, what does that mean

Tour Guide (snickers again): Well…he’s getting his…you know…(points to his trousers)…cut off…

Rob: Ahhhh (nods in understanding) circumcision.

It was one of those moments where I was completely blindsided. It didn’t really process at all at first. I just stood there for a moment, trying to sort this information out in my head. Unfortunately, I have the habit of being unable to contain my thoughts, and through my verbal diarrhea I muttered, “Wait so…they dress like a king to get their foreskin cut off?”

Luckily, Rob is good-natured, and our tour guide was awesome. They both got a good laugh out of it, and managed to take any awkward edge off the conversation.

“Well, yeah!” said the tour guide.

The conversation (shockingly) continued, and somehow weaved into our tour guide talking about his personal circumcision story.

“I was so proud all day, my family had a party for me, I got lots of candy and gifts. Everyone was so proud I was becoming a man. The doctor had this white van, and he only came into town when he had to do a circumcision. If you saw the white van, you knew he was in town. The second I saw that van come down the road, I tried to run away. It took two or three relatives to catch me and contain me.”

And that was the day our tour guide became a man.

The conversation ended soon after, and I forgot what I had learned about the Turkish ritual of male circumcision.

That is, until a tram ride about an hour ago. I had been at an Internet cafe working on my soccer story edits. Erin and I decided to go home, and while we were seated on the tram, two young boys were dressed in, sure enough, attire worthy of a king. It was one of those moments I resented myself for not purchasing a new camera.

They were wearing all white suits with little gold buttons and gold fringe. They each had a white top hat with a golden ribbon complete with a vertical white feather. To really emphasize the “king attire”, they each carried a golden wand and had a white satin cape, also with feathers and gold ornaments.

To my happy surprise, they chose the seat right in front of us. I sat there for a moment looking from boy to boy, and Erin nudged me and pointed at them.

In my mind, I knew what they were dressed for. Alas, I had just learned about this lovely tradition just days ago. But, I knew Erin didn’t know. She seemed puzzled by the costumes, but I wasn’t about to start whispering to her about how they were entering manhood.

So, I carefully planned out in my head exactly how I was going to maneuver this situation. I had remembered the tour guide mentioned many boys did it on their birthdays. It was perfect: I had “the in”.

The man standing with them, whom I assume was a fatherly figure, had previously smiled at us as he walked by. He seemed nice enough, so I simply asked him, while pointing to the boys’ outfit, “Birthdays?”

He didn’t miss a beat, didn’t shift in discomfort or dart his eyes awkwardly. The guy hardly bat an eyelash until he said, very matter-of-factly, “Oh, no. He’s getting his…I don’t know how you say it…(points to trousers).”

I opened my eyes widely and nodded, pretending to be delighted by this, hoping Erin understood. She clearly didn’t, and looked to me for an explanation. The man looked at me and said, “How you say in English?”

My mind works in mysterious ways. Looking back, I’m shocked at how I handled the situation. Instead of whispering the answer, I decided to just come out with it, keeping the non-awkward momentum of the conversation. “Circumcision!” I said loudly.

I heard two men chuckle, yet no one else seemed at all shocked by my announcement of the word. And, of course, it turned out the two men chuckling were American, at least, their accents sounded like it.

I went on to explain to Erin what the tour guide had told me. The great thing about Erin is she’s very open-minded to these things. I think we both realized that since we were in a different culture, it would not be appropriate to express our own feelings towards a 9-year-old dressed as a king, on his way to get his foreskin cut off.

Instead, we both talked about how it was such an interesting and sensical way to grow into manhood. The man, picking up bits and pieces of our conversation, seemed delighted that we shared his enthusiasm of the procedure. He even waved to us as we exited the tram, and we waved back.

I’m not a boy, so perhaps it is not my right to say this, but in some ways, I think it’s pretty awesome that it’s become such a celebrated event for these boys.

As far as I know, most of my friends who have been circumcised probably don’t remember it, seeing as in America it is within tradition to have it done as a baby.

As I’ve returned home, I’ve been briefly looking up this tradition, and think it’s so interesting. Our tour guide told us most Turkish boys did it, regardless of religion, because it’s become so engrained in their culture. I found this website that was very informative on the tradition, check it out:

http://www.circlist.com/rites/moslem.html

Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 3, 2011 at 5:57 pm

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A Traveler’s Guide to Istanbul!

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So earlier today, Dennis was saying that we should make a guide for the next group of kids who are coming to Istanbul. Naturally, I took it upon myself to create such a beast. It’s going to be a work in progress, as I’ll add things as we encounter them. So check in every once in a while to see new additions if you’re heading to the land of Istanbul.

The Prince’s Island

  • We went to the Island farthest away from the mainland, and it’s quite beautiful, but be warned: there isn’t much swimming to do around here. If you’re looking to swim, there is a ferry to another island with swimming, but it costs 20L for the ferry, beach & towel combined.
  • I purchased a pink bike to use for 8L a day. They will charge you 10L initially, but normally you can bring it down to 8L, especially if you’re with a group.
  • You can also purchase a bike for 5L for on hour of use. I’m not sure if they will lower the price, but looking back I think it probably would have been better for me to purchase that, seeing as I didn’t do as much biking as expected.
  • There’s not much to bike around that I saw, and it was somewhat hilly. It’s not extremely difficult to bike around the area, though it gets very crowded around the town, so I generally just walked the bike around that area.
  • Feel free to bring a book or school material along with you. There is a Starbucks that isn’t too expensive (especially compared to some on the main streets of Istanbul). It’s on the main strip of the Island, and right outside of the starbucks is a cute little pond with chairs and tables, and is quite a pleasant place to read and do work.
  • I know the flower headbands are adorable girls, but they cost 4L. You can get the same exact thing in Taxim Square for 2L. Never buy one of them for more than 2L.
  • There is a store called Gonu Silver (or Guno Silver or Silver Gonu/Guno, something like that). It has primarily silver jewelry, but all of it is absolutely stunning, and by far the least expensive well-made jewelry I’ve ever seen. I purchased a charm there, with a beautiful stone in the middle for 10L, and a leather chain for it, for an additional 4L. I asked the owners of the store how the jewelry was so inexpensive, and apparently it is because they get it directly from wholesale retailers and do not jack up the price significantly. I definitely recommend this store.
  • If you go to the Island alone, remember you are going to take the Kabatas ferry back to the main land.

Bargaining

  • Generally speaking, bargaining is acceptable at street vendors, but unacceptable in stores (exception being the Bazaars).
  • My rule of thumb: if something has a price tag, normally they won’t budge. If not, you can bargain. Also, you can usually buy things in groups for cheaper, so bring some friends with you shopping and you might be able to get better deals.
  • Know how much you want to spend before you get into the bargaining process (at least know the maximum). Don’t wait for them to tell you how much. Then, divide that number in half, and work from there. Never, ever spend more than your initial maximum. Sometimes they will cite a very high number and you will end up paying for something that’s completely not worth the price, but you’ll be convinced you got a great deal. Unfortunately, they’re skilled at this and know how to trick you into these things – it doesn’t mean you got a good deal. And yes, they’ll tell you you’re pretty and have the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever seen, and that’s why you got such a “low” price. As beautiful as you may be, this doesn’t mean you got a special price. It means they manipulated you into thinking so.
  • Unless something is ridiculously cheap, look around a bit before purchasing anything. A lot of times you can find the exact same thing for less money elsewhere, which can also be a tool for bargaining. Even if they tell you theirs is more expensive because it’s better quality, it’s not.

The Bazaars

  • The Grand Bazaar is NOT the cheapest. In fact, it’s pretty expensive at a lot of places.
  • Don’t go here alone. That’s my biggest piece of advice. I’m a very friendly person, and as a result I got a few pieces of jewelry free from “men with wandering eyes”. I accepted the jewelry, but immediately left with my friends. They can be very inappropriate. If they are, ignore and walk away. Don’t egg them on, they can get seriously creepy.
  • The best prices are at the Asian Bazaar, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Follow the bargaining rule of thumb here: if there is a price tag, they won’t change the price, and often get frustrated with customers who try to bargain. Remember: a lot of the things that are sold here are their excess product or products they can’t sell, so they’re trying to get rid of it. Thus, the prices are by far the best around. It’s well worth the trip.
  • Asian Bazaar is only open on Tuesdays & Fridays, so be mindful of that when planning the trip.
  • It’s probably the best place to buy little trinkets for friends, I was able to get 5 little red bracelets with evil eyes on them for my roommates for 5L total. That’s less than a dollar apiece, and they’re very cute.
  • The Asian Bazaar also has some clothes for very cheap. There isn’t a huge supply of “cute” clothes – but if anything happens to your suitcase, this is probably the best place to go. They have t-shirts, underwear, bras, etc.
  • The Spice Bazaar is also very cool. Get some of the tea spices, I tried some and they’re really good. Also, it’s a great gift for a cook-happy mother, and you won’t find good spices this cheap ever.e
  • Go on the “side streets” of the Spice Bazaar. Normally, the prices are slightly cheaper and normally the spices are cleaner because less people are going through them.
  • In between the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar, there are many little shops. I’ve found that these have a lot of the same merchandise as the two Bazaars for slightly cheaper.

Tacsim Square

  • If you’re looking for trinkets, try the Asian Bazaar first, it’s much cheaper. However, if you’re still interested, check the side streets off of Istiklal for them. Some places will bargain, some won’t. Don’t push it, and follow the rule of thumb, especially here.
  • If you’re looking for an internet café, the best ones are at the beginning of Istiklal Street. Some will say they don’t have internet, but generally if you say you’re just checking the weather/e-mail, they will give you a Username and Password, or sign you under their name.
  • Some of the stores, at first glance, seem super expensive. However, a ton of the stores have “outlets” in the basement, where the clothes are dirt cheap (and often super cute). For example, we went into a store Mango, where on the main floor, simple shirts were sold for 100L. However, we went to the basement, and there were shirts for less than 10L that were cute.
  • Tacsim is also home to some of the most expensive and least expensive restaurants and bars in Istanbul. Even if your friends are looking to go one place, but you’d prefer another, they’re all within walking distance and give you an array of options from clubs to Irish pubs to American-esque bars.
  • Whenever I’m in Tacsim, I always go up to the bouncers of the clubs and ask how much a beer is. If beers are ever more than 7L, I normally won’t go into them, because many of the bars will sell beer for as little as 4L. When the beer is cheaper, the other drinks generally are as well.

The Sultan’s Palace

  • Sightseeing isn’t for everyone, but regardless of if it’s your cup of tea, I highly recommend seeing the Sultan’s Palace.
  • We had a tour guide here, which made it very interesting, but even without a tour guide I would have loved it.
  • It’s a huge mansion where the Sultan’s once lived and Ataturk died here. The gardening is incredible, the mansion is amazing and it really gives you a sense of how wealthy and decadent these Sultan’s lived. I would recommend learning about the Sultan’s and Ataturk a bit before you go, I think it made it much more interesting for me.
  • You can purchase the standard tour tickets, but there is also another ticket available which allows you to see the room where Ataturk died. Seeing where a revolutionary died did not excite me, so I chose not to purchase it, but our tour guide highly recommended it.

Random Tips

  • It’s not a bad idea to wear a ring on your ring finger. I did this, and whenever a guy was being creepy, I’d just say I was engaged. Sometimes they’ll continue harassing you, but a lot of times that will cut it off and keep things appropriate.
  • I haven’t noticed a ton of women wearing shorts, though short dresses are frequent.
  • Don’t show too much cleavage. Guys are much more forward here, try and cover up. As flattering as the attention can be, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation you can’t get out of.
  • To figure out the conversion from Lira to American dollars, get a calculator and divide whatever the Lira price is by 1.6. A lot of stuff will be more inexpensive than you think.
  • There are some really fun ice cream venues where they will put a show on for you. The man will start off by giving you a large ice cream cone to hold. SAY NO. Ask for the smallest one. You’ll get the same show, and a decent amount of ice cream. I got scammed from this, and ended up paying 8L for an ice cream cone that I couldn’t even finish, because I was too wrapped up in the show to realize what was going on.
  • Finding people who speak English is sometimes really hard. I’ve noticed many people, however, can read English. Carry a little notepad with you, or even a pack of Post-Its (your hotel room will most likely have some on the nightstand you can grab). I’m a vegetarian, so whenever a waiter struggles to understand what I’m saying, I’ll just write on these cards, “NO MEAT”.
  • People are going to call out to you to go in their stores or restaurants. Get used to it. If you’re not interested, just walk by as if you never heard. They will eventually stop following you. It’s uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it.
  • Don’t expect drinking to be super cheap in Istanbul. I have yet to find a place that’s significantly cheaper than American prices. Also, there are many places where the cocktails will be between 30-50L such as Reina and Club Angelique. They’re fun to go to, but if you plan on going, expect to drop a lot of money. However, sometimes, men will buy you drinks if you’re a girl.

Packing

  • Pack your clothes according to how long you’ll be there. Getting your laundry done is not cheap, but I survived a month long trip with about a weeks worth of outfits. Get good mix-and-match clothes, I was able to make tons of outfits by doing that. Laundry is NOT cheap in Istanbul, and some people on our trip got scammed from laundry. Me and my roommate bought a container of clothing detergent and a loofah and just did our laundry in our tub. For most clothes, we were able to sufficiently clean them.
  • Pack a light jacket and lots of shawls or scarves. Scarves are great because you can make headbands out of them too (you can buy scarves for between 5L-10L at the Asian market). But no matter what the weather says, pack a light jacket – you never know when you’ll want it. A poncho would be good too, at Target you can get these ponchos that fit into a tiny plastic bag, they’re great to have and don’t take up much space.
  • Pack a converter. You’ll need one for your computer/phone/whatever. They don’t use the same outlets.
  • Girls: pack tampons, even if you’re on not supposed to get your period. It’s not easy to find them around here, and when you’re surrounded by girls so much, sometimes your cycle will change. Always keep a few on you, as well.
  • Bring a camera that has video abilities. There are definitely some things that are worth a video around here.
  • I packed a pair of sneakers, a pair of Keane’s, a pair of Tom’s and a pair of flip flops and ended up having to buy a pair of heels to go to a bar that required no sandle-esque shoes. So I’d say pack a pair of heels if you have room (or nice flats). Otherwise, this selection of shoes was perfect, though I probably could have chosen either the Keane’s or sneakers. Tom’s (or comfortable walking shoes that aren’t sneakers) are awesome to have. A lot of girls on our trip packed them.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Per Carlene’s request, I always carry around Kleenex with me. You may run into places without toilet paper, I have many times, and am always happy to have my little bag of tissues during these times.
  • Carry Purel. You’ll come to find they are not as anal as Americans at keeping things clean. I walked off the ferry the other day only to find my hands completely covered in dirt from the railing.

Miscellaneous

  • Tattoos and piercings are cheaper in Istanbul, but be aware it might not be as clean. Make sure, if you do this, that you watch them clean the tools. You don’t want an infection while you’re abroad, it’s just a hassle.
  • Don’t do this drunk. Just don’t. I heard a story of a boy who drunkenly got a tattoo that said “Titties and Tator Tots”. Yes, it’s funny, but you don’t want to be the girl who comes home with a tattoo of a cupcake that covers your back.
  • In all honesty, just don’t get too drunk. If you’re going to drink, be aware of your surroundings and ALWAYS be with someone. No one wants to take care of you and have their night ruined, nor do you want to be the person who does that to other people. Remember, you’re in an unfamiliar country and people don’t act the same.
  • A lot of people will say “Your Welcome” before you even say thankyou. They’re not trying to be rude, it’s just what happens, so don’t make a snarky remark about it.
  • Universal hand motions are great. Use them often. They can be quite helpful in situations.
  • Bring around a business card of your hotel. Just in case you get separated or lost, it’s a great thing to have. When in doubt, go back to the hotel.
  • I didn’t have a phone during my trip, and found it to work out just fine. But if you do get a phone, some places offer a deal where you buy the phone and then sell it back for about half the price.

Fun Facts:

  • If you see a boy dressed in a King-like outfit, that means he’s getting circumcised. Parties are held for these boys all day to celebrate their “coming of age”.

Written by kimberlybehlingrussell

June 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized