Friday, October 26, 2012

A Day On Henna Island

Kınalıada or Henna Island is one of the Princes' Islands and is part of the Adalar district of İstanbul. Ada means island, adalar islands, and Kınalıada's name comes from the color of the land there which is rich in iron and copper.

B. and I had been planning a trip there - or perhaps we'd go to Burgazada, another of the islands, but then settled on Kınalıada. Monday was a sunny day and perfect weather for our trip, so I grabbed the ferry at Kabataş and watched the seagulls fly by (I know they were looking for pieces of bread or simit - I only had teeny, tiny sandwiches - more about them in another post - and those were off limits. The man from Saudi Arabia wanted them to eat bread from his hand. I told him they wouldn't and they didn't. But here they are flying.)

We stopped in Kadıköy and B. joined me. She brought simit which we ate (sorry, seagulls.) I drank coffee and she had an ice tea and after 25 minutes we arrived in Kınalıada.

Which way should we go? Let's go right, B. suggested. Sounded good to me and off we went. I don't know what it is. I love dilapidated old houses. I just love them. I am not sure if the love comes from my deep love of real estate or my deep love of stories. I can tell you, this house had a lot of both.

For the past year or so I have been obsessed with Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Mrs. Clennam in Little Dorrit also lives in a dilapidated old house, but Miss Havisham in infinitely more fascinating. After being swindled and left at the altar, Miss Havisham sits in her decaying mansion wearing one shoe and her wedding dress. You can understand why she's gone mad and what an amazing symbol of inertia she is. So, that being said, what is it with Dickens and women in old dilapidated houses - there's an academic paper just asking to be written (if it hasn't already been written to death.) And what is it with me and dilapidated old houses?

Here's the front view.

And here's a majestic island house in all her glory.

B. and I walked and talked. We caught up on a lot of things. I stopped to take photos of flowers.


Kittens sleeping in flowers.

I wanted to take a teeny, tiny one home. But then thought, no. Step away from the kitten, B. said. I stepped away. Though this was my first step at looking at my commitment issues. Today I bought a bamboo plant. I'll start slow.

It was a gorgeous day. We walked up to the monastery. The directions were kind of iffy, in that way that Turkish people give directions. We came to a kid's park. The monastery was supposed to be visible, so I climbed up the jungle gym to get a good view. I don't have a picture of that. But I do have a picture of our wrong turn.

We found the monastery. I don't have a picture of that either. It was kind of dull on the outside - but a window had been closed on an old, white lace curtain and part of it was outside and part of it was inside. Is that you, Miss Havishamopoulos?

We walked into town and sat and talked by the sea. I was struck by the textures.

And the color of henna.


And again.

It was a lovely day. I cannot wait to go back. We'll see about the kitten.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Nope, I’m not going to write about the A.S. Byatt novel or a remake of The Exorcist . I want to write about things. When I left New York I gave away all of my possessions except for a box of books, a suitcase filled with shoes and two Rubbermaid containers of clothes and art and some writing I wanted to keep. It was one of the most liberating things I have ever done. I had too much stuff. In New York you would never have convinced me of it, I had too little space I would have argued. And while apartment space is smaller in New York I had a whole lot of sh*t.

So now that I have my own space in İstanbul I am really careful. I don’t believe I should only have 100 possessions, but everything I buy is something I really need or will make me very happy using. I still have a problem with paper products (I like them and they make me feel like there is a world of writing possibility out there that I can now tap into because I have the right notebook. Right notebook = right genius book in the world of my imagining.)

In any case, here are my ‘can’t-live-without-them’ 5 possessions.

1. and 2. My salt shakers. Yes, I have two.

1. I bought this red one first. It’s perfect for salting the water for pasta, but a disaster when trying to salt food. I love its big, beautiful salt shaker shape, the color of the red cap and cover and how it looks when it is filled with salt. I had to buy the second one because no matter how lightly I tapped this one too much salt ended up on my food.

2. This is not the salt shaker I intended to buy. It was the only one I could buy singly and it was cheap (1.50TL, about 80 cents U.S.) I had wanted to buy a squarer, fatter one – kind of like the ones you find in American diners – but I am so glad I found this one. I love the way it fits in my hand. I love how elegant it is. I call this my Madame X salt shaker. It reminds me of this painting by John Singer Sargent.

When I put my salt shakers together it kind of looks like the Haiga Sofia, don’t you think?

3. Rosewater – and not just any rosewater, but vor-mag energy-enriched rosewater. Rosewater is known as the beauty secret of Turkish women. I use it as part of one of my daily rituals. I love the scent and the lovely and loving energy it awakens in me.

4. Alligator stapler – This is just the perfect stapler. It’s the perfect size. It’s whimsical (it’s an alligator – or, if I am mistaken, then a crocodile) and it makes me happy just to look at it. Collate and staple, people, collate and staple.

5. Oh, this was a hard one, but hands down this is my most important possession. Moka express. One cup. Every morning. Love. Happiness. Espresso. Every day is a happy one.

What are your most important possessions?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sevgili Türkiye

A lot of you know that I blog for Hürriyet Daily News in English. One of my first pieces (actually, it was my first, but I bumped it because I wanted to write about my experiences on the James Bond set) was something called Dear Turkey, a love letter to the Turkish people about my love of Turkish food. My sweet, dear and talented friend Ayşe Ermert loved it and thought it was a shame that only English readers should enjoy it. Since she is an amazing translator, she decided to translate it into Turkish for Turkish readers to enjoy as well. So today I share with you all Ayşe's lovely translation.

Sevgili Türkiye,

Sana bu mektubu yazıyorum çünkü seni seviyorum ve senin için neler hissettiğimi bilmelisin.

Bence bu dünyaya değer katıyorsun, ancak çok utangaçsın ve sana bahşedilen harika hediyelerden bahsetmek konusunda çekimsersin. Yani şunu söylemek isterim ki uyanmanın ve tüm dünyaya ne kadar mükemmel olduğunu, yemeklerinin ne kadar lezzetli oldugunu söylemenin vakti geldi.

Bunu neden söylediğimi anlatmama izin ver. Biliyorsun ben İtalyan'ım ve bildiğin gibi İtalyanlar dünyaya pizzayı, makarnayı ve Rönesans'ı hediye ettiler. Ve biz durmadan bunlardan söz eder dururuz. Son zamanlarda ise, berbat poltikamız ve kimsenin satın alamayacağı kadar pahalı, güzel elbiselerimizle ünlüyüz.

Ve halen dünyanın neresine gitseniz, insanlar İtalyan yemeklerini sevdiklerini söylerler. Neden? Çünkü İtalyanlar sürekli yemeklerinin ne kadar mükemmel olduğundan bahsederler.

Nereye giderlerse gitsinler İtalyan yemeklerinin daha iyi olduğunu söylerler. İtalyanlar bunu birbirlerine ve herkese kitaplarda, dergilerde, billboardlarda, bloglarda, tweetlerde ve tv programlarında yüksek sesle anlatırlar.

Çok sevgili Türkiye'm, sen neden bu kadar sessiz kaldın? Neden bizim pizzalarımız için söylediğimiz şarkılar gibi senin piden hakkında şarkılar duymuyorum? Neden mantı ve sarma hakkında filmler yok? Neden kimse döner hakkında şiir yazmıyor? Neden? Senin yemeklerin İtalyan yemekleriyle yarışabilir. Ben bunu kanıtlamak için fazladan 8 kg aldım. Türkiye'de tattığım herşeye bayıldım, kokoreç hariç. (ben işkembe de sevmem zaten)

Kendine güvenmeye başla Türkiye! Seni seviyorum ve herkes seni sevdiğimi biliyor. Seni gerçekten seviyoruz, ama sahip olduklarını paylaşmalısın. Biliyorsun Rönesans yıllar önceydi ve biz İtalyanlar hala bu sebeple epey övgü alıyoruz. Sen, künefeyle veya kaymakla neler başarabilir, ne övgüler alabilirsin bir hayal et. Kaymak'la dünyayı bile fethedebilirsin.

Türkiye, artık tam zamanıdır! Anneanneler ve babaanneler pencerelerinizi açın ve böreğinizin lezzetini anlatın bağırarak. Babalar, iskender tabağını havaya kaldırın ki herkes ne kadar iştah kabartıcı olduğunu görebilsin. Çocuklar siz de dondurmayı.

Türkiye, uyan, ayağa kalk ve lütfen kulağı duyan herkese Türk kahvaltısından bahset!