A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Ok, call me immature, but sometimes Chinglish just gets the best of me. I was watching the Amazing Race on tudou.com, a Chinese video sharing site, and I got the following ad:

Couldn't help but laugh. I wonder where I can find me some virgin oil...

And so we can class up this post a bit, here's an interesting IHT article on Hinglish coming into its own that you might find worthwhile.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

The Asian Side

If the European side of Istanbul is a destination in and of itself, the Asian side seems to me a point de depart (in the various senses of the term). I took the ferry across this morning, hoping to escape the steady rain that was beating down in the old town. It was a breezy journey of twenty minutes. I managed to pick the smoking "cabin" (which had lots of open windows to let out the smoke) which was a bit of a mistake, but I loved the players in the scene. An old man sat next to the window puffing away as rings of smoke circled above his wrinkly face. With a toothless smile he chatted with the tea servers who, dressed in bright blue jump suits, had also hurried to the front for a cigarette break.

There were others munching on what I can only describe as circular pretzels covered in sesame seeds, and tea...

And I think I'm going to stop it there as the Internet cafe I'm at has been 'invaded' by the police who are now looking at everyone's IDs. Not sure what that's about, but they left me alone when I only spoke to them in English. I've had to register my passport number before in China to use an internet cafe, but this is the most obvious incursion on free speech that I've ever experienced before!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Istanbul: Hardly "Nobody's Business but the Turks"

Arriving at the uber-modern Ataturk airport in Istanbul last night, any preconceptions I had about the place were shattered.

I suppose that I didn't really know what to expect. Probably something along the lines of Marrakesh or Casablanca (though Istanbul is significantly bigger than either), but my visit to Delhi (with the international airport shielded by a corrugated tin roof!) has taught me not to set my expectations too high.

If anything, upon arriving I felt a strange mixture of China (with recently developed infrastructure such as the lovely airport and the light rail train that I took into the centre of the city) and France, of which the old town (Constantinople proper) is highly reminiscent. Really, Istanbul feels like it could just be any other city in Europe with ubiquitous mosques substituting for churches. Perhaps the Ikea adverts add to this ambiance.

In any case, I spent most of yesterday and today exploring. Last night, after finding a place to stay the night, I wandered down to the Galata bridge to see the sea. I have never in my life seen such a bridge though, with restaurants tucked neatly underneath,presumably floating or somehow attached to the undergirdings of the bridge. I was fascinated, so decided to eat there.

I found a place playing almost haunting (but very enjoyable!) live music, and sat outside to enjoy the view despite the chill. I supped on a rather plain (and worryingly chewy) steak baguette chased down with a beer as I was transported by the music and the scenery. Occasionally, one of the fisherpeople (who were fishing from on top of the bridge, so their lines basically went down into the water right in front of me) would haul up their catch: fish the size of an adult finger. Seemed to me a rather fruitless (or at least highly labour intensive!) task for a Saturday night, but they didn't seem to mind and the fish were plentiful if small.

Today I made it to the Hagia Sofia church/mosque/museum and saw the underground cistern. Tomorrow we'll try crossing the bridge and making a triumphant return to Asia before I head off to Cairo! Three continents in one day wouldn't be too bad for a day's non-work, would it?

Now let's see if I can get out of here before the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, returns from the US and decides it's time to invade Iraq... Last night as I was wandering around Istanbul I stumbled across a rail yard and saw lines of army trucks sitting as cargo on a train. Don't know where it was headed for sure, but it doesn't take much of an imagination to guess!

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