East Meets West

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I have a confession to make.

It could cost my career as an ar-teest, but here it goes....I....have.......cellulite. You're probably wondering 'big deal, who doesn't?!' Frankly I am too, but it's hard to avoid the fact that this type of fat is so controversial in Turkey this summer.

It all started out when uber-star Hülya Avşar was caught on film crawling out of the sea with super dimply thighs. She later tried to rectify her image by romping near reporters, making sure they were catching her in the right lighting (apparently lighting has everything to do with how severe your fat looks - who knew?). Then there was a slew of stars filmed on boats in shorts and sarongs, to which TV programs claimed they must be hiding something.

Clearly creams don't work. Nor does spending thousands of dollars on special cellulite massages. So what's a gal to do? Fortunately, an American sistah has come to the rescue. Instead of creating a gossip vortex, the revelation that J. Lo has cellulite was met with not just low-key reportage, but actual sympathy.

Who knows - maybe having cellulite will actually become all the rage. Cellulite could just be the new body trend of 2008...


Sunday, July 22, 2007


Today millions of Turks go to the polls to elect the next parliament. This election is more controversial than previous ones as the ruling AK Party, which has Islamic roots, is expected to win, while secularists believe if they do win and appoint a president from their party they will revise the constitution and put Turkey under Sharia Law.

Over the weeks leading up to the election, I've heard some interesting comments from the man on the street as well as some candidates:

"Anybody who votes for Erdogan
(AK Party) will go to hell!"
- Erbakan, former head of the conservative Islamic Saadet Party. Both Erbakan and Erdogan are from the now-defunct Welfare Party.

"I support CHP, Ataturk's party. If the head were Mustafa Sarigul
(the CHP leader of an affluent district in Istanbul), I would give them my vote. But Baykal (the party head) is a maniac who is full of hot air and has done nothing to help the Turkish people. So I voted for MHP." -
Taxi driver itching to tell me who he voted for. CHP is the leftist party founded by Ataturk that supports secularism. MHP also supports secularism, but is more nationalist.

"Americans don't understand the seriousness of the situation. If AK Party wins, they will slowly impose Islam on our country. You won't notice it at first, but they will change the constitution to Sharia Law and Turkey will become another Iran."
- Turkish woman expressing what many secularists fear will happen if AK Party stays in power.

"There are people who say 'I am the leader of Ataturk's party'. But if Ataturk were alive today, he would be ashamed of its leadership."
- Prime Minister Erdogan about the leader of the CHP.

"I'm religious, I pray every day, and I have many friends like me who are voting for CHP. I don't like the fact they are making money over religion."
- Young professional in Istanbul on his election choice and views about the ruling party.

"I'm definitely voting for AK Party because under their rule, the price of cooking oil has dropped, there is very little inflation and the cost of my utilities has stayed the same."
- Taxi driver on why he supports AK Party.


Saturday, July 07, 2007


If there's something Turks love almost as much as football, it's driving like maniacs. It doesn't matter how many cars (or pedestrians) are on the road. The person behind the wheel has the right of way and the right to speed.

So it really comes as not surprise that Turkey has been ranked best in the world for something that combines food (another one of Turkey's loves) with quick driving. After inspection in 60 countries and a review of rankings based on several criteria including customer satisfaction and delivery speed, the parent company has selected Domino's Turkey as the best in the world!

And if you see how the delivery guys drive in Turkey, you'll understand how they scored high points on delivery speed...


Saturday, May 26, 2007


Like many a starlet, model/actress Aysun Kayaci is not so happy about her image as a ditzy bombshell. So at a recent press conference for a new ad campaign she's featured in, when she was asked about some nude photos she posed for a couple years back I thought 'we were all young and stupid once-cut the girl some slack'.

Until I saw the ad.

A 20-something guy takes a sip of PepsiMax, and suddenly finds Aysun's face planted on his. He can't believe it, so he takes another sip and there she is again. His friend looks at him and tries his luck with the same results.

What a way to reposition your career! Revealing photos taken once upon a time when you needed to pay the bills are one thing. People may hear about them, but to see them you actually have to go out and search for them. On the other hand, snogging everything in sight on national television where every Emre, Ayse and little Ahmet can see is something entirely different.

The ad is not even clever - the message is 'drink Pepsi Max, get snogged'. (The Turkish version of American beer ads?!). And to think she only made 250,000 YTL ($185,000) for the ads...

Saturday, March 24, 2007


A great thing about Istanbul is despite the fact that there are over 20 million people living here, you don't have to go very far to find nature.

And now that spring has sprung, it's completely in my face. Not that there has been a lack - the winter was so warm that my plants just took a disco nap instead of hibernating! But now that March is here, Mother Nature is putting on a spectacular that can only be compared with Carnival in Rio:

Blossoms are exploding on trees. As I watch the skyscrapers pass by on the way to work, my attention gets pulled to trees I hadn't noticed before that have turned fluffy pinks, yellows and white.

Cats were just fighting during the warm winter. Now the screeches have turned to purring as felines everywhere have taken to courting and many a swollen belly can be seen waddling around our neighborhood. Soon the place will be 'litter'ally crawling with kittens!

Besides a great view of a construction site outside my window there are birds that visit me throughout the day. (I'd like to think they're visiting me - they're probably just checking out their reflection in the window!). They've been busy this week hauling twigs, cotton and pieces of paper to the floor above us where they are building a nest and there soon will be baby birds chirping away. This guy (right) was struggling to carry the equivalent of an avian chandelier up to his new pad. I could just picture the missus shaking her head and saying 'I told you that will never go with the designer newspaper and spittle sofas!'

Ah yes, it's great to be so close to nature. I'm just thankful that my work neighborhood is far from my home, where baby birds would be a tasty treat for all the newborn kitties. A side of nature I'd rather not witness!

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Saturday, March 10, 2007


I prefer this blog be a place of social rather than political commentary. But I just read an article in this week’s Economist that brought an interesting point to my attention.

There are many hot topics of discussion in and about Turkey, and one of the hottest is the Armenian situation during WWI, when hundreds of thousands of Armenians died while being forced into exile.

The article on
Turkish nationalism states that the US Congress has pledged to adopt a resolution calling the mass slaughter genocide. This raises a lot of questions for me:
  • What gives the US Government the right to pass resolutions on other countries’ domestic policies, especially ones from nearly a century ago? And what is congress doing with taxpayers’ money?!
  • Has the US Government admitted that the mass slaughter of Native Americans - where entire tribes were annihilated - was genocide?
  • If there were Native Americans who could flee during the massacres and relocate to Turkey (and France and the UK and Russia), and who lobbied those governments for a similar resolution, how would the US react?
I am no expert on the subject, but what I understand is this:
  • Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died and many were killed while being sent into exile.
  • These Armenians were also fighting for an independent country (which involved killing Turks and Kurds) and were supported by Russia, a country Turkey was at war with. At that time Turkey was fighting a bloody war on five fronts with Russia’s allies - UK and France. If American Cubans were fighting for an independent state with support from Al Qaeda, and innocent Americans were being killed, would the US react in a humane way?
  • Unlike Native Americans, many Armenians were able to flee and build successful lives in other countries
  • Armenians now have their own country.
  • There are still many Armenians in Turkey, who live prosperous lives and in harmony with the rest of Turkey – including Jews, Kurds, Arabs and other Christians.
I’m not excusing what happened way back in 1915. But if you look at the history of genocides, the beginning years of the 20th century were clearly troubling times. Nothing is black and white, especially in this part of the world. Only through dialogue can such issues be resolved. And I encourage governments to resolve their own issues regarding their past before meddling in other governments’ domestic policy.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


A couple weeks ago we celebrated Eid Al Adha – the Feast of the Sacrifice in Turkey. Turks practice many pagan rituals that have been adapted to Islam and/or modern Turkish culture, and the sacrifice is one example.

Apart from this holiday, folks sacrifice animals throughout the year to celebrate, give thanks and to bring good luck. When the last of a troublesome model of planes was sent back to the UK by Turkish Airlines, some of the workers celebrated by sacrificing a camel
at the airport. A friend of mine refused to sacrifice an animal when they bought a new vehicle for their business and the van had several accidents and incidents throughout the year.

This year Mahmut and his family sacrificed a sheep. A prayer is said to the animal, the butcher makes a quick slit to the throat, the animal is carved up and some of the meat goes to the family and the rest to the poor.

I love my meat – be it a nice steak, some lamb chops or a sizzling shish kebab. I also don’t get queasy easily. But when they brought back the meat and Mahmut’s 10 year old nephew called out ‘it’s still warm!’ I had to leave the room. I didn’t want to be the sissy foreigner, so I popped my head into the kitchen from time to time while they were carving the meat into more manageable pieces. I was able to tolerate the concept more, until Mahmut’s Mom called me over to show me something ‘Look at this! The vein is still throbbing!’. They finally had to leave the meat on the balcony to cool down because, as I learned that day, warm meat is more difficult to cut than cold meat.

Needless to say, I didn’t take any lamb home with me, and it was a few days before I could stomach a piece of meat. I will still have my steak any day – just don’t remind me where it came from!

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