Monday, June 30, 2008
The train station is being refurbished - note the small copper glow near the bottom of the photograph.
I had never seen the station from this angle and couldn't resist taking this shot.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
The referee has disappointed a couple of times in the first half, thankfully it ended with the Spanish ahead in spite of the Italian referee.
So ummm yes, with the Italians and Turks out of the finals, I'm on Spain's side.
Erin gives a snapshot over football fever over here ...
She writes, 'Rumor has it we have 3 giant screens in the Plaza tonight.'
Meanwhile, there's us in our apartment in Belgie, shouting for Spain ...
Deadly Jelly is completely to blame for this.
Bill Bailey also did a clip on News Themes and then there was foreign ambulance sirens.
I was remembering a time when I woke early in the wilds of New Zealand, within sight of Mount Cook, climbed out of my sleeping bag, made coffee and walked until there was a fencepost to lean back on and view of the sunrise.
I love the raw power of New Zealand's Nature.
It's something like drinking the very best wine, an experience that overwhelms the senses, making you feel in ways that can't be described only felt.
Rome is like that in another way.
The city overwhelms me to the point where there is a feeling of pure joy as I do something as simple as wander the sun-filled streets at dawn with my camera.
It was like that with our guests yesterday.
We met Paola and Simon just as Veronica was leaving the flatlands, at a party at our place. We stayed in touch and I wandered over to Brussels to photograph their beautiful family a couple of months ago.
Yesterday they arrived mid-afternoon and we watched as the 3 little girls under 5 became friends, playing throughout the afternoon and into the evening as we ate dinner and talked about all kinds of interesting things.
It was good in so many ways ... for the first time in a week, I could actually taste the wine and drinking a little didn't set off a sinus headache. And the weather was warm enough to sit out on the balcony - for as long as we could stand the 'exuberant' breeze. And this morning, this morning the apartment is still clean after yesterday's efforts.
It was a good way to spend a day.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
You're a stranger in a strange land and you can't quite resist reading the letter written to your doctor, the one you're meant to deliver with the results of your x-rays and ultrasound on your knee and tendon.
Tubercula, if read in a particular way (ie: a fragile state of mind) looks a lot like tuberculosis, and if your great aunt walked with a peculiar gait due to 'tb ankle' well ... the skies could be the limit in a creative mind.
Gert came home all those weeks ago and kind of laughed at me. He went online, looked up what the letter said and explained.
In true Di Style, I headed off to Rome a couple of days later, leaving the results packet on my desk, to be delivered after my return ... maybe.
My sinuses filled up with gunk a couple of days ago, coinciding with the doctor asking Jessie if her mum might be coming to see her soon. Our doctor is an angel, it has to be said.
So today, after 2 failed attempts at phoning for an appointment, I did it.
The doctor thanked me for coming.
We laughed a lot really.
Well actually, she may have laughed more than me but I was amusing ... sigh.
It turns out that, in true kiwi style, I had wandered off on a knee full of fluid and a lower leg with tendonitis, walking through that pain and feeling rather proud of myself however ... it seems, if ignored one runs the risk of the tendon snapping or tearing.
Well, she would quite like to have some steroid injections applied to the site.
I asked if I might not begin with a little physiotherapy.
She said there are really only 2 cures ... injections or a plaster cast and complete rest.
She has given me some physio treatments though, so lets see how that goes.
It's amusing at one level but I only recently realised that wanderers do get ill if they don't take care of themselves. I had had this unexamined idea that if I stayed out there and doing, I would be just fine.
So I took my limpy leg into the doctor.
I have a nose-spray for my sinuses. She was going to give me 2, then saw my sad face and said 'Okay then, just one but please use it 4 times a day.'
I do like her.
For those not in the know, Mark sent me the television series 'Dead Like Me' and I promised to watch it. For bizarre and unknown reasons (because I really enjoy this show), I haven't watched more than the first 2 episodes.
Mark continues to mock me about this ... hence today's Tui Billboard, just for me.
To be read in a laconic kiwi bloke voice ...
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
This Northern Hemisphere world is surely confusing if I'm not thinking about the reality of June up here in Belgium.
To prove my point, I just received this email from home and thought I would post it here, so you understand how odd it is for me to be doing summer in June ...
Thank you John.
Weather warning issued for Sth Island
Jun 23, 2008 9:24 PM
A severe weather warning has been issued for the lower South Island and the central North Island high country.
MetService is warning of strong, bitterly cold southwesterlies over the South Island tonight, bringing snow showers to near sea level in Southland and Otago.
The combination of snow and strong winds may produce large drifts and blizzard conditions in some exposed areas, with wind chill temperatures below minus five degrees.
These conditions are likely to affect many inland roads, and put extreme stress on exposed livestock.
The front bringing the cold unsettled weather is forecast to cross the North Island around the middle of tomorrow, followed by heavy showers and possible thunderstorms.
Heavy snow should hit the central North Island high country from early afternoon - affecting many roads in the area - including the Desert Road and the alternative State Highway Four through National Park.
My photographs could easily lead you to believe that Istanbul is all ancient buildings and horse-drawn carriages, leeches in markets and cats as the new city conquerors but that would be so misleading.
In reality, every age exists in Istanbul and in spectacular ways. Cars are a way of revealing the wealth of a person or family when a home fails to, so cars are huge status symbols and you will see some beautiful vehicles out on the roads.
Gert took this view from the balcony of our friends, a view that became familiar over the 8 nights I had in the city. We were staying in Levent, one of the more affluent neighbourhoods inside the city, with Akmerkez shopping mall just a short walk away.
The Akmerkez complex covers an area of 180,000 m² and is comprised of a four-storey shopping area, with two towers offering 14 and 17 stories of office space, and a third tower with 24 stories of residential areas. The shopping area, offering visitors close to 250 stores, is spread over a triangular area connected to the surrounding main roads through 3 atria. There are 41 escalators, 2 panoramic elevators and 30 elevators providing greater speed and easy access for visitors. 2-2.5 million people visit the shopping center monthly.
Of course, being a foreigner, I'm always going to prefer the atmosphere and colour of the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 6,000 shops, it has between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.
Wandering in the grounds of this historic fortress was surprisingly peaceful. The ruins are welcoming, it was a place that made both Lisen and I feel like lingering, or even bringing a picnic or a book ... to just hang out in the 556 year old fortress for a day.
It didn't feel like a place of war, it was a place of beauty oddly enough. I was even more intrigued when I learned it was built in 3 months. There seemed nothing shoddy in the workmanship.
For the equivalent of 1euro, you can wander at will amongst this suprisingly sturdy ruin overlooking the Bosphorus Strait, then wander back down the hill and along to Bebek, to 'the' Istanbul Starbucks cafe.
'The' as in the one to be seen in as Istanbul has been completely invaded by both Starbucks and Gloria Jeans.
At 660 metres, the width of the Bosphorus Strait was narrowest at the point where this fortress was built in 1452. Actually Rumeli Hisari is considered one of the world's most beautiful pieces of military architecture.
It was built by Mehmed II, a then 21 year old leader who decided to conquer what he considered to be the politically, militarily and socially decaying Byzantium and so he built two forts, one on either side of the Bosphorus Strait. The Rumeli Hisari on the European side and the Anadolu Hisari on the Asian side of the strait, with the intention of controlling the traffic of foreign ships sailing to and from the Black Sea.
It was effective and in November 1452, a Venetian line of battleship under the direction of Antonio Rizo was sunk for having disregarded the signals given by the fort.
Source: 'A Guide to Istanbul' by Çelik Gülersoy
Monday, June 23, 2008
The best way of being a reporter, the best way of writing whether it be an opinion piece or a news story with your own passionate feelings in it, is that you’re writing a letter to a friend. You want the readers to be your friend, you want to convince them, so you write a letter to your friend, and that’s what a newspaper reporter should be doing. Not writing a letter looking over his shoulder at the government and press officers.
Robert Fisk, in an interview with Anita McNaught.
Sigh, I hope these guys were okay last night.
After a long match, made longer by half an hour of extra play because of the 0-0 score, the European Championship match was decided by 5 players from each side taking turns to kick the ball directly into the goal ...writes the kiwi woman more familiar with rugby
Nail-bitingly terrible, although I was so sure the much-revered Italian goalie, Buffon would save Italy. Sadly, Spain's goal-keeper continued with his rather impressive series of saves and Spain is through - Italy is out.
Oh, and the butcher guys ... they were at work in the narrow back streets of Rome, close to the Pantheon.
It's so hard to sit here at the desk and concentrate on matters to hand ...
I have a family photo session to finish today, burn to cd and post.
I have a house to clean (I have this theory that housewives really 'get' the movie 'Groundhog Day' because of the repetitive nature of house work ...)
I want to be back in Rome!
I took this shot from Ponte S Angelo, just next to Castel Sant 'Angelo, crossing the River Tiber before 6am.
My habit of waking at 5am stayed with me in Rome and the light was just superb. To walk in the quiet of early morning Rome with a camera is truly sublime.
See how the Romans knew about colour and shape ...
I miss that city.
Anita McNaught is one of my heroes.
I first saw her on New Zealand television while she was working there in the 90s - an Englishwoman in the colonies. England eventually stole her back and now, much to my surprise, she's working for Fox News in the States.
I loved what she said of Kiwis in the quoted extract above.
The rest of the interview is here.
Robert Fisk is another hero of mine, so it was with some delight I found that Anita had once interviewed Robert.
In it he answers a question people who know his work have often wondered about. Why does he stay reporting on the Middle East when it's clearly been so dangerous during his many years there.
You know what it’s like for me? I still feel like I’m 29 years old which is the age I was when I went to Lebanon in 1976, but for me it’s like you know you can read a book late at night, a gripping history book, very vividly written, and you think: Just one more chapter, so you hang on to see what’s next in Iran, what’s next in Afghanistan, one more chapter, or in Iraq, now, and you look at the clock and its 2.30am, and before you know it you can see the dawn peeping through the curtains. That’s what it’s like in the Middle East, that’s why I stay.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I had never heard of it before but it's 1g of paracetamol and quite marvellous with flu pain.
Gert's bemused by my delight but not only is this an effective pain med, it's also effervescent and anyone who knows the reality of me knows about me and my effervescents.
Best moment today?
Picking up the phone and hearing my little sister on the other end of it.
We caught up on news, she's traveling to Australia soon to visit our baby brother. She's giving up the part-time office job but still working as a registered nurse at the hospice. Her two girls are still lovely and little Miss 3 had us all laughing when she asked about 'that boy' that 'Auntie' Sandra lives with.
'That boy' is Sandra's husband, Miss Three's Great Uncle and he's older than 40 ...
Yes, it was a sweet way to begin a day.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I completed the third in a series of really enjoyable family photography sessions.
Today was all about 2 little boys and their mum and dad.
Tervuren Park, Brussels was the location and I loved being out there and doing again after the wandering.
My photographic 'style' is to hang out with whoever I'm photographing, talking and listening as we work, hoping to develop that trust that makes truly beautiful images.
We wandered the park for a couple of hours and tonight I'm smiling over some of the 'captures' I made. They were beautiful people, inside and out, and I have their permission to load up a gallery of them on my photography website - update of all galleries coming soon.
I have the photographs, it's been the problem of time.
I arrived home after 3pm and fell into bed with painkillers taken for flu. Feeling better tonight - let's see where this cough and this dripping nose takes me.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Sometimes, while out here and wandering, I've wondered whether the psyche of a nation isn't somehow hinted at by the way that they treat their street animals.
Istanbul is also a city of street cats and dogs and sure, sometimes their life is imperfect but so many are tagged and neutered and left free, fed by the people.
Here's one I found in the gardening section of the market at Eminonu ... up the back from the leeches and ducklings.
are the extremes.
You can go from ancient to post-modern architecture in Istanbul in moments, sometimes they stand next to each other.
So it was, over in Eminonu, that I moved from photographing the water-filled jars of leeches for sale to these cute and fluffy small ducklings.
It's a city of extremes and all the more beautiful for it.
Turkey versus Croatia.
Turkey must win!
I have her poems rss into my inbox whenever she posts.
The poem I found today ... I loved it.
And while I'm writing of poets whose work I love.
v-grrrl wrote something beautiful recently.
Vive les poetes!
After visiting Suleymaniye Mosque, the most important mosque in the city and presently undergoing reconstruction work, we wandered down through back streets to Balat.
For centuries after the Muslim conquest, Jews and Christians made up 40% of Istanbul's population. Balat was home to Greek-speaking Jews from the Byzantine era on, with Sephardic Jews coming from Spain in the 15th century.
These days UNESCO is protecting Balat, hoping to make time stand still. Walking there, it felt like they had succeeded. Apparently artists and others are moving in, I hope they're going there to maintain what is there.
Anyway, I was glad to be there when we were. Thanks to Lisen for taking us there.
I love Eminonu - it's the place where pigeons rule, fed seed by the people, where you can buy hot corn-on-the-cob in season, ice cream makers are there in the summer and the ever-present simit salesmen sell their delicious breads.
The New Mosque is there too, Yeni Cami.
Begun in 1597 by Safiye, mother of Mehmet III, building halted when the sultan died and his mother lost her position. It was completed around 1663 when Turhan Hadice, mother of Mehmet IV took over the project.
It's a beautiful mosque and one of the most prominent mosques in the city. I saw these two women just inside and couldn't resist taking a photograph.
Gert learned that his flu had become bronchitis and is taking antibiotics and decongestant. Jessie and little Miss Three are at the doctor's today, seeing if that's why they're still coughing, although Gert's is more impressive at this point, with the last of a fever and etc.
Jessie and I took books back to the library and I picked up some delicious movies (but of course, Mark, this doesn't mean that I won't make special time to watch DLM.) We detoured into Elfenatelier for bracelet-making supplies.
Jessie's the arty one in our world and I'm wearing a beautiful garnet-coloured bracelet, complete with a tiny mouse charm as I write this. It's a good wrist-companion to the gift Veronica gave me. I'm clearly in the bracelet stage of my life - whatever that means.
The newsletter went through its final edit and was sent out late last night.
Photo cds were sent off throughout Belgium, to Germany and over to Israel.
Bills were paid, and I realised again how much I love being able to pay my own bills after so long without money.
There was much more but already the fog of forgetting is sweeping over me as I race through this today, party-planning and sending out emails, pretending I don't see the housework that needs to be done.
Family photography session in Brussels tomorrow. I suggested 10am for the light, I do believe that equates to me being up exceedingly early in the morning. I'm trying to avoid thinking about that at the moment.
Housework ... must do some housework.
At this coffee shop in Rome.
Sigh, I miss it still ... there's something about an early morning walk down the hill following the wall of Vatican city, passing by St Peter's Square, heading left towards Castel Sant'Angelo, then crossing Bernini's bridge of the angels, and wandering into the narrow streets across the river to tiny little place of heavenly coffee and pastries.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Tonight, while catching up on news over on Frida's Notebook, I read that she has a photography exhibition happening in Wellington, starting this weekend.
So this is for you, Christine, Peter and Ashley, and maybe Inge might be interested too, and Harvey? And maybe I'm just wishful thinking because it sounds like a really nice way to pass an hour or so back home in New Zealand.
She writes: This weekend in Wellington, New Zealand, an exhibition of my photos from Ghor, Afghanistan will be going up in Deluxe Cafe.
I bought a new camera while I was living in Afghanistan and there were days, maybe even weeks, when I thought maybe the most useful thing I had done in that week was to take photos of people which I could then print out and give back to them.
Then I started sharing some of my photos here, on Flickr and on my photoblog and I noticed something interesting. A lot of people responded with more passion to a single photo of an Afghan father cuddling his daughters than they did to one of my lengthy diatribes on the importance of moving past stereotypes in our global relations.
So I decided maybe it is true, what the old folks say about a picture telling a thousand words.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Although if wolves attacked now, I'd just have to let them eat me as I couldn't run, much less walk away.
I have become the computer chair however the newsletter is all but done AND I finally processed Paola and Simon's family portrait session.
157 images that passed muster, and repassed the rigorous Gert-muster.
The lesson learned?
I can't travel and work on photography sessions no matter what I imagine I can do before setting out.
Tomorrow the cd is in the post, along with the full-resolution set of images for Berlin and my little catholic-reared soul can begin to repair its guilty self.
v-grrrl sent me this while I was traveling and I left it unread, suspecting I wouldn't be able to resist blogging it once it was read.
I can only point out that it was a North Island incident and I come from the south, where we never throw hedgehogs.
Did I wear pyjama pants and a singlet top with barefeet while sitting there all day?
Was I incredibly stressed by all that needed to be done?
Am I happier now that the newsletter half of it is done and Gert's serving me up some Clafoutis - a rather stunning French cherry dessert.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I don't know if my tendon puffed up slowly over the day or exploded while I walked home but it's unpleasant.
The good news ... hmmm where to begin.
First day back at work in a while and I love my office job. I caught up with everyone then learned that the NGO had won first place in its category for the religious diversity and anti-discrimination training program they developed.
We were delighted and it was the first item on the newsletter that goes out tomorrow.
Then later in the day, we learned that 2 applications for funding had been approved.
It was a good day to be at the office.
Oh, and one of my photography gigs added 200euro more to the price we had agreed on, as they were happy with my work.
So tonight alles goed except for that puffy ankle of mine.
I hope yours was a good day too.
Monday, June 16, 2008
I 'met' Mr Turkey on Rye quite some time ago. Reading his blog, I imagined he was wandering back home in New Zealand meanwhile he was writing retrospectively of his holiday there.
He forgave me my idiocy and we followed each others blogs for a while and then ... he did the almost unforgivable, he became a sometimes-blogger then appeared to hang up his blogging mitts - choosing the intensity of reality over this vastly interesting blog world.
Eventually I had to remove his stalled blog from my links list, unable to stand the disappointment of rocking up and finding he had forgotten his blogging duties ... she writes tongue-in-cheek, as we say back in New Zealand when we're teasing while trying to hide quiet laughter.
Twists of fates occasionally find Belgian-based kiwis in Istanbul city at the same time as Texan-based Turks flying home for business and things.
He had called by my blog before flying out and realised I was in Istanbul. We worked out we had one full day in the city together. We agreed we should meet and so we did, eventually ... after he talked me through his directions.
You see, there are 2 McDonalds in Taksim (and no, he wasn't referring to the Burger King near Taksim Square as I had imagined). And no, I wouldn't have recognised him either, due to the cap and sunglasses he was wearing in that photograph on his blog once.
We wandered through Taksim's back streets, looking for an elusive eatery finding a cafe with su borek and cay instead. It did just as well, and so it was, gently glowing (consuming vast quantities of liquid) in 30 celsius that we talked away his lunch break.
Enjoy the rest of your time in that beautiful crazy incredible city.
I'm happy to write that the bride and groom were delighted too.
I completed the final processing in the 36 hours I had in Belgium - after Rome and just before leaving for that new job in Berlin.
And now, as I burn photographs from the second Berlin assignment onto cd, having earlier downsized, zipped and emailed an initial viewing series, I realise I'm sending them more than 700.
Taken over 3 days of conference, through 3 dance performances and including the photographs intended for the surprise (to me) 'possible' limited edition print run of the art installation, this end result comes after some suffering (mostly self-inflicted) - over the selection (and deletion) till the final images were found, over occasional croppings in Photoshop CS2, after viewing each image intensively...
I had imagined I could do this while wandering but it turned out that the travel acted as more of a palate-cleansing sorbet and I came back to work refreshed. It's been a long day but very satisfying.
Meanwhile Gert is off work with his flu for 3 days. He was prescribed strong pain and fever meds, he's breathing in steam often and sleeping whenever he can.
The doctor confirmed what we suspected, it's highly contagious.
Wish me luck.
Jessie and Little Miss Three are just coming out the other side of it all.
Tot straks from this kiwi living in the flatlands of Belgie.
My favourite place in Rome, for those who haven't read of it already is Castel Sant' Angelo, located on the banks of the Tiber - not far from Vatican City.
My cousin had been teaching in Qatar and we met in Rome for 6 days of endless wandering. They were good days.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I haven't asked Kay if I could post her poem on but I feel compelled to share her delightful poem, linking you back to the place where you can find more and/or purchase her collections of poetry in book form.
The last to leave home, we’ll miss
his unwashed frying pan
thick with the amber lace of fried egg,
the abandoned, empty shoes looking helpless
and far too big for any son of ours.
His choice of adjectives; ‘wicked’ and ‘primo’;
the verb ‘gutted’, the phrase ‘pretty much sucks’.
The 4.00 a.m Sunday morning clank and creak
up the narrow hallway.
The toilet light left on all night, a blaring, lighthouse
-globe to guide moths through the peril
of open louvres. Yes, we’ll miss all that, plus
stretched out on the couch his crashed, sleeping body;
the tender snoring, his long, hairy legs
as sweet as baby pungas.
* pungas - a tree fern native to New Zealand with a characteristic 'hairy' trunk.
Kay McKenzie Cooke.
J K Rowling, Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.
I noticed people were blogging about this so I went to see ...
Part 2 is here, with Part 3 is here.
And about rushing to feed 10 year old stepson then cycling like a seriously crazy woman through Antwerpen city with Scout-stepson holding on to my waist for dear life as we raced to the Sunday Scout-meeting-place.
Home, via the Belgian bakery with 12 year old step-daughter who did the Nederlands thing and ordered 12 pistolets (crispy white bread buns), twee grote witte broden, hmmm 5 chocolade koffie koeken met pudding.
Breakfast done, I began work on the German gig, they want images by Tuesday but there was unpacking and washing to be done in-between.
He's so sick with a horrible flu that arrived as we flew home ... coughing up indescribable muck whenever he dares cough. He's been taking fever and pain medication.
So, photographs for Germany and photographs for the last pieces of travel-type website still under construction but almost done.
Then, the 5pm bicycle dash back across the city to pick up the Scout, remembering only when faced with many Scout parents in the car park that I hadn't dressed so well and I'd missed out on the shower.
Home ... dishes to wash, Persian chicken cooking as I write this, Little Miss Three wandering around in a fur hat Mary Lou bought as a gift for me back in our Istanbul days, me listening to Paul Kelly singing Midnight Rain through my earphones.
Madness ... pure madness, and that's how I know that I'm home.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Then again, I've just learned that we're leaving 35 degrees celsius here for 13 degrees celsius and rain back in Belgie.
I guess it all helps me stay home and work as of the morning.
Postcards were sent out Thursday. Fingers crossed they arrive as I might have confused some people but that's a story for another time (or never) ;)
Gule gule ...
It's going to be difficult to settle back into my Belgian life, although I have a solid week of photography combined with NGO work ahead of me. I suspect I won't spend much time away from the computer initially.
As I write this, Yakup is preparing a Turkish breakfast for us and Lisen is getting ready to head off to work. She has her own English language school for children here in the city.
Maybe I'll photograph this breakfast because Turkish food is surely amongst the very best food in the world. I miss it terribly when I'm not here.
The days became blurred as they filled with good people and interesting places. I guess I'll write a retrospective with photographs once I'm home in the spaces I make between work.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This man entertained the masses as we traveled over to the Princes' Islands. He was wearing a hat with teddy bears adorning it, singing and laughing with the crowds of people onboard.
Crowds, as in we were really fortunate to find ourselves seats on the way over.
Anyway, I caught him during a quiet moment.
So the cats rule on the island, as is the case all over Istanbul city ...
But this story turned sour.
At lunch the guys shooed the cats away instead of offering them tidbits and so it was my camera bag they revenge-sprayed with their exotic musky scent.
Me, the woman who looked round to share her kuzu sish with them only to find they had moved on to more rewarding pastures.
These horse-drawn phaetons competed with pedestrians and hired bicycles on the road to the top of the island. Surprisingly silent, the horses have had car tyre rubber tacked onto their horse shows - a fact I found fascinating.
We walked ... and took photographs, of course.
Heybeliada Island is a car-less island, as seen in this image of a guy delivering water and gas on his horse-drawn cart.
It's a beautiful place and so worth visiting is you find yourself in Istanbul.
The ferry is inexpensive and there's a choice of fast or slow ferry - the longer trip taking an hour. I hope to get back there in winter, just to see how it is when things are quieter.
His style of clarinet has been described as Turkish Roman and Rumelian style. Together with his clarinet, Sesler has also appeared in Fatih Akın's widely lauded films Head On and Crossing the Bridge.
If I wasn't already convinced about going to hear Selim play tonight then this would surely get me out of the apartment ..."And to hear the exquisitely winding clarinet of Selim Sesler as he continues his exploration of the folk music preceding and during Anatolian weddings is to be seduced through time and space, dragged off to one of the world's great cultural clearing houses."
Information borrowed from TurkishNY.com
Monday, June 09, 2008
Yesterday saw us setting out for Heybeliada.
Heybeliada is one of a group of small islands that make up the Princes' Islands and are touted as being a welcome break from the bustle of the city, just a short ferry ride southeast from Istanbul.
But that description in no way prepares you for what you find on this car-less island where horse and carriage rule the roads, where beauty is just how it is.
We walked past both gracious homes from times past when wealthy expatriates settled out on the islands and others more worn down by time. Big and small, with luscious gardens in full bloom. Actually Leon Trotsky lived on the largest of the islands - Buyukada Island - between 1923 and 1933.
Heybeliada is the second largest and home to the imposing former naval high school - Deniz Harp Okulu, built in 1942. The island is also home to a Greek Orthodox School of Theology (1841), with a library still famous amongst Orthodox scholars.
I was stunned by the beauty of the island and may have been heard hatching plans with Lisen about how we could get together and rent a place, the plan being to spend time writing there one day.
And of course ... a couple of hundred photographs were taken during our stroll through village streets and up over the hill in a loop that bought us back down into the main township area to lunch by the Marmara Sea.
One of the best things about returning to Istanbul has to be Turkish food. Yesterday I chose the kuzu sis (lamb shish kebap) while the others made happy noises about their kofte (meatballs). We shared a huge bowl of salad and another of bread, choosing Efes beer to wash it down while sitting out there in the sun.
Today has been all about walking the city ... metro to Taksim Square, a stroll down Istiklal caddesi, on down the narrow winding road to Galata Tower for that 360 degree view out of over Istanbul.
On down and across Galata Bridge, into Eminonu, onto the tram and up the hill into Sultanahmet for some more of the 'best ever' kofte, with pilav (rice) this time.
Tonight we're waiting for an old Istanbul friend and colleague to arrive so this isn't my best effort but anyway, Kagan was my walking friend on occasion, other times he and Fusun shared their family celebrations with me ... end of Ramadan feasts and an extended family sweet bayram holiday in Ankara too.
It will be good to see them again. Ege, an old college student met us for coffee this afternoon and that was just so good. He's immersed in French now ... my Yeni Zelanda English was a challenge one day before an important oral examination in French.
And Erkan, I didn't mention how good it was to catch up with Erkan on Friday night! I'm seeing him again Thursday for an interview, then Abdul on Wednesday but that's all ahead.
I guess it's clear - alles goed here in Istanbul city.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Many of the houses in Arnavutkoy were built illegally in the hope that at some point those in power would legalise their presence. And it often works out for the builders. The gece kondu houses (translates to landed in the night, referring to the fact that they are built in the night) were more normal than I had expected that type of building to be. As we strolled through the narrow streets, past houses with beautiful gardens and noisy with family life we agreed we could easily live there.
Crossing the main road, Lisen and I walked next to the vibrantly alive Bosphorous. For me, the Bosphorous has always felt like a living presence; a feeling I also had when I stood at the edge of America's Grand Canyon or sat on the shores of New Zealand's Lake Manapouri. It's as if the power of Nature sometimes translates into a feeling that this body of water or that mountain is a powerful living being or presence.
The Bosphorous was a deep turquoise blue yesterday, roiling with power, playing gracious host to the huge ships that sail between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. Fishermen were dotted along the pathway, there was a small smoky cooking fire on the grass and further along there were cooked corn cobs for sale ... it was a little like walking through a huge and happy picnic area, with buckets of the small silver Istavrit fish everywhere. The English translation is horse mackerel and they are fish that have been caught here in Istanbul since forever.
Our destination was the Rumeli Fortress up on the hill past Bebek.
Built between April and August back in 1452, it was located at the narrowest point on the Bosphorous so as to control the sea traffic and conquer Constantintinople - today's Istanbul. It covers an area of 30,000m2 and seems almost completely unrestored.
For 2 Turkish lire, the equivalent of 1euro, you have the freedom of both the grounds and the ruins. Sitting up on the stone battlements overlooking the Bosphorous, Lisen and I talked of how good it would be to simply wander in with a book and a picnic, spending the day lost in the serenity of its space.
I had to smile, New Zealand's health and safety inspectors would immediately close it down ... but I think sometimes we need to climb ancient stone stairways without handrails to hold onto and towalk across wooden planks that cover deep holes and to realise halfway across that the odd squeaking sound is actually bats directly over your vulnerable head.
One of the things I love most about Istanbul is this ... it's that you can wander from ancient to post-modern in the blink of an eye. I suspect that Istanbul is one of the only cities in the world to have achieved so highly at both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in-between and so it was that we left the peace of 1452 for coffee at 'the' Starbucks in Bebek. 'The' because this one is the one to be seen at, as it's not the only one here in the city.
I took photographs from our table there, as we sat next to the wide-open window on the edge of the Bosphorous ... simply because it was felt so good to be there.
The call to prayer started up just as I came to the end of this. It's so good to be back in this city I love!
Gule gule from Istanbul.
Friday, June 06, 2008
I'm not sure I believed I would get back here. It's been almost 3 years now.
And of course, true to form, the temperature soared on my first full day in the city and there I was, the sweaty yabanci changing my euros in Levent, catching the metro to Taksim, crossing crazy roads I feel more comfortable on since living in road-crazy Belgium.
The taxi driver and I talked of Istanbul as he took me to the hotel in a seedier part of the city. He couldn't help smiling over my happiness about being back in his city.
The week-long training I missed due to choosing Berlin would have been so good too. The group had jelled well and they were comfortable with allowing me to walk in as photographer. In the few hours I was there it felt like I might have begun some new friendships with people from all over Europe.
I couldn't resist wandering down Istiklal caddesi during the break between workshop and dinner, quietly bemused when I found my way back to the hotel afterwards.
I left after the presentation, the hotel staff put me into a taxi which whizzed me back through the city, passing my old neighbourhood in Mecidiyekoy even, dropping me off outside the school I used to work in for the short walk to Lisen and Yakup's.
We're meeting the lovely Erkan this evening and until then, I have some time to myself this morning to wash, organise and work on photographs.
Did I mention how good it is to be back in Istanbul ...
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Today was about saying good-bye to some of the incredible people I've met during these Berlin days, then afterwards, sitting in a Berlin cafe near the Brandenburg Gate, listening as the Palestian professor talked with the Paris-based professor who grew up in Haifa; listening to the German Florence-based professor discuss an exciting series of conferences, listening to my friend - the other German-based professor inviting me back for a project involving a well-known contemporary dancer/choreographer ... it seemed time to discretely pinch myself hard.
Tonight it is madness.
I thought I had packed the wrong Istanbul tickets then realised I hadn't.
It's been about ordering a 6.30am wake-up call, trying to find a last minute cash machine and then there was dinner ... but too late, it's corn chips and cola tonight.
Berlin has been friendly, not just those I was photographing but there were the strangers too.
There was the Greek student who struck up a conversation with me on the underground metro today, and then last night there was this interesting Berlin-based English woman who exchanged histories with me during our very short 3-stop trip together oh the S Bahn. Oh and the woman who spoke to me in the street near the reception last night, telling me her story of growing up in East Germany ...
But tonight ... tonight has been about packing and repacking, gluing email addresses and cards into my journal - with notes about who is who, and then there's the elation, the despair and the 'I think they're okay' as I look through my photographs.
My head is spinning with all that has to be done before landing in Istanbul in less than 24 hours. Lisen and Yakup will be at the airport and there's talk of home-made Borek for breakfast on Thursday. Even nicer, Lisen is vibrating with plans for my 10 days back in that city I love and a new Berlin friend is contacting an artist and a man involved with things sufi to see if they will talk with me ... mmmm, my head is a whirl as I write this at midnight.
I hope alles goed in your world tonight.
Monday, June 02, 2008
This morning, sigh ... I was sharing the breakfast room with a German professor of literature, an art critic, a man who also lectures on dance and I had this burden of 'ohmygoodness, what does on eat with their caviar?'
Fortunately, Crocodile Dundee has lowered the standards when it comes to what Europeans expect from people from the lands downunder. I calmly ate it with a little crossiant.
I love the taste but was a little uncertain about its viability as a breakfast dish ... I guess I'll experiment in the morning.
Today was the day of the hired lens which shifted my focus some. The next few jobs will be all about buying some new lenses I think. I'm just downloading the results as I write this but they seemed good on the screen ...
I'm taking photographs for a publication that will come out about this 3-day event and then ... during the reception, one of the big German banks approached me about buying a particular photograph for a project. I hope this goes well.
Then ... yes, there's more.
Then I returned to the hotel just now to find news that a magazine in West 57th Street, New York is publishing a photograph of mine so yes, it's been a good day.
Hot ... still hot though.
I'm hoping to post some photos tonight. I stepped outside from the reception and was fooling around photographing the Brandenburg Gate when I saw this photograph ... I'm hoping it's as good as it seemed on the screen.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
I could either continue to play the chicken and catch taxis, guaranteeing arrival, or work out how to use one of 2 S Bahns near my hotel and be less certain about arrival...
So I worked out the S Bahn on my return from the conference, with a little help from the German professor of literature and the Palestinian professor who gave a truly interesting lecture this afternoon.
A quick shower - did I mention the heat here ... and the S Bahn negotiated alone.
I popped up in the right place and set to work with the new flash which has been great for conference shots however this was tricky light and Ziya was dancing.
You can read more of Ziya at his website.
The performance was stunning, truly stunning and this was only rehearsal. I'm not allowed to use the camera flash tomorrow and it will be nice to just watch him at work.
I wandered 'home', thinking I might pop into the same pub for dinner, having saved so much by using the S Bahn but it's Sunday night Germany and everything round here is closed.
Yum ... Pringles and cola for dinner at 9.30pm, just what I never dreamed of but being here is worth going hungry and eating nasty things. Today's speakers spoke on 'Letter and Body: Qur'anic Investigations', 'The Sufi's Dance', and 'Negotiating Choreography and Law in Contemporary Dance'. I didn't realise how much I had missed listening in on academic discussions but this is surely food for my soul.
Tomorrow is looking even more delightful, although long. It begins at 10am and ends with a night-talk by the two artists starting 10pm.
Anyway, it's back to my Pringles and downloading today's work.
Auf Wiedersehen from this kiwi in Germany.