International traveling is hard…

...but this bed is making things better.

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Clover – she’s here!

Well. Wow. The Turkish Consulate in Houston made it sound SO easy to get a dog to Turkey. And in the grand scheme of things, because there is no quarantine, it is. However…

They say, “You only need two forms. Then follow instructions of the cargo carrier.” Sounds simple, right?

My brave international doggie

Well, first is the hassle at the vet’s office. You need a Form 7001, dated within 10 days of the pet’s arrival in the foreign country. And a signed letter stating that you dog has had the rabies vaccination. This is harder than it sounds. That Form 7001? It basically has to list all of your pets vaccinations, so you just go ahead and get them all. And you re-do the rabies shot, so you can say – even though your pet has had rabies shots – that it was done within 10 days of arrival. Total: $250 and about 3 hours of time.

Then, you call around trying to find the best and cheapest option for the flight. And the cost is based on the size of the crate, not the weight. So interesting. And you don’t pay for the flight until they accept the shipment. So, you spend alo

t of time on the phone and then when you drop the pet off, your cross your fingers that everything works. My mom, bless her, too

k Clover to the Houston airport, since I was already in Turkey. Total: $940 for flight, $60 for crate, 4 hours time.

Last, I go to pick her up. I wanted a man who speaks Turkish to go with me. Turns out, this was not just a good idea, but completely essential. The cargo world? All men. Everywhere. And no English. Anywhere. I knew we’d probably wait 1 or 2 hours. I did not expect a 7-hour wait. Um. Yes. I was amazed at the amount of paper they still use – and carbon sheets – remember those? everyone had them! We went from building to building- mind you, you have to drive to them.

At least 20 people looked at the paperwork. Most of them looked at it no less than three times. And the fees! First, 114 Turkish lira for an “import fee”. Then, I finally got to see Clover. At which point they told me that I had two choices – take my paperwork for signature to this one vet on the Asian side (ensuring that Clover would be left in the warehouse overnight, stuck in her

crate), or – surprise! – I could pay 400 lira to bypass this step. We made the round of buildings again, they told me everything was DONE, but it wasn’t. This was about hour six. We got the blessing of the final customs guy, then they politely asked me for 240 turkish lira. Which is the moment that Jessica threw a fit.

I typed furiously into Google translate, telling them that I had already paid 515 lira, and had been there six hours, and had NO DOG. They didn’t seem to be so concerned. I finally typed that if I paid the money, I had better get Clover NOW. No

more signatures. No more people. No more buildings, driving around, no more money. So, I paid. Total: 755 lira, 7 hours.

So, after $1,660 and 15 hours, I have my girl. She is safe, healthy and happy. We took a walk around the Sultanahmet last night, and by the banks of the Marmara Sea today. She’s extremely popular, already. I should not be surprised by this. She’s loving all the new smells, and oh, my – all the street cats, which are everywhere here.

I’m happy (albeit poor), she’s happy, and now all she and I need is a cute little apartment to make our little life here complete. Updates on that to come very soon…

The noise of a big city

This city is noisy.  Pure and simple.  I love it.

I just finished reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  (If you haven’t read it, please do.  Immediately.)  There is a scene where a young man that has grown up in Addis Ababa visits New York for the first time.  And he’s amazed by the quiet of the city on the freeway.

…the silence was unreal.  In Africa, the cars ran not on petrol but on the squawk and blare of their horns.  Not so here: the cars were near silent, like a school of fish.

I feel like Houston was that school of fish.  Despite the traffic.

In Istanbul, you hear everything.  Partly because the weather (until winter, anyway) is gorgeous, and the house windows are all open.  There are no A/C’s running.  But mostly because the drivers – taxis and otherwise – communicate through horns and yelling.

And the street dogs bark, one answering another.  The street cats fight, and you hear them yowling.

And the call to prayer sings out five times per day.

And the people walk by on the street, holding hands, linking arms, and laughing or calling to one another.

And the people here love their techno music, and play it in their cars, of which the windows are of course rolled down.

It’s a big part of what contributes to the “alive-ness” of the city.  And it’s alive at all hours.

By the way – it was really nice to read, and finish, a book.  I’m an avid reader but haven’t been able to concentrate on a book for two months.  Too many things swimming in my head.  But now, I’m grateful to quiet my head for a little while.  It’s a nice respite from thinking about how to find an apartment, whether or not I would find my way home that day, or trying desperately to communicate without a shared language.

Tongue twisters

Learning Turkish is kind of fun.  I’m working on it daily, learning new words and improving my pronunciation as I go.

I’m spending alot of time during the day at Ozen’s hotel – it’s good, as I get into the city, and it is near services I need (banks, cell phone shop, etc.).  And they have wireless internet.  So, I’m starting to get to know the staff quite well.  And they now are pestering me to speak only Turkish to them – no English!  I told them this would make for very limited conversations, but overall, they are patient with me, and are having fun helping to teach me.

Today, I had an “AHA” moment.  In the shower, of course.  It is where I do my very best thinking.

The Turkish alphabet includes several letters we do not have.  I have been struggling with the ö and the ü. These sounds come from deep in the throat – we just don’t have these sounds in English.  These letters are in many of the words, and in most people’s  names, so it’s not like I can just mumble through them and hope no one notices.  But today, I turned a corner.

I can now say (correctly!) both vowel sounds.  A good test is the name of both my ferry station and a tram stop called Eminönü.  E’s and i’s and umlats galore.  But I say it almost like a real Turkish person now – hooray!

Meet my new friends

From L to R, that's Ahmet, Deniz, Mat, Selma, and Ozen. Aren't they lovely?

I have been so lucky to have my friend Ozen to help my transition to living in Istanbul.  I met her two and a half years ago, when Kim and I first came to Turkey.  She manages a great hotel called the Emine Sultan – this is how we met.

She and I have stayed in touch, and when I told her I was moving, she was really happy for me, and immediately told me to stay with her while looking for an apartment.  She’s been great, helping me with everything, supporting me, feeding me, helping me with my Turkish.  I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have her as a friend.

When I first arrived, she also had friends from Ankara coming to stay with her.  So, it was like a big reunion/slumber party!  Her friends are funny and smart and lovely, and they treated me so nicely.  A couple speak English, some understand it but don’t speak it, and one other doesn’t speak English at all.  But somehow it all worked.  Even when they were all speaking just in Turkish, it was lovely to listen to, and good for me as I continue to develop my pronunciation and the rhythms of this language.

I was sad to see my new friends leave, but they told me they will look forward to visiting my apartment when they return.  That made me feel great, and I would be thrilled to have them.  I’m already thinking ahead to what I should cook for them!

It’s the little things…

I had a fairly rough day yesterday…trying to get your life set up in a foreign country really is quite challenging.  At many points, I was ready to plop down in the middle of the busy sidewalk and cry.  But overall, it was good, I learned from it, and things are moving forward, slowly but surely.

It’s funny – as soon as I get down, something good happens – whether it is someone smiling at me, encouraging me

Soon, she will hold my own keys.

with my bumbling Turkish, or seeing the funny hats of the futbol fans (there was a big game yesterday, and the good guys won.)

I was so happy to get to have dinner with my friend Teresa, who happens to be here on vacation.  We found a pub on Istiklal Street where we were the only non-Turks.  We drank Turkish beer and wine while listening to Guns N Roses and The Beatles.

And I bought this keychain.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.  And holds the promise of my own apartment keys, soon.

Turkish çay

In Turkish, the letter ç is pronounced as the English “ch” sound.  So, if you read the title of this post again, you might recognize a more familiar spelling of chai – or tea. 

Everywhere you go here, çay is offered.  After a meal, on the ferry, at the carpet shop, at a friend’s home…it’s delicious.  It served in little glass cups that are supposed to resemble a tulip – Turkey’s national flower.  Turkey actually brought the tulip to Holland, but now Holland gets all the credit for them.  Much like France gets credit for the Belgian “french” fry.

One of my first purchases once I get my apartment will be a Turkish çay kettle and glasses so I will be able to serve this to my friends.

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