Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turkey Vignette #3: Up Yours Too!

Scene: My two friends and I are walking to the Hagia Sophia. It feels like it's about 5,000 degrees, and we all feel absolutely disgusting. We're chatting away while walking under the blazing sun. Then, all of a sudden, this old Muslim woman and gives us the following gesture.

Me: "What the fuck was that?"

My friend, S: "Uh. I have no idea."

(We continue with our sightseeing. Later on, at hour hotel, we talk about the thumb's up we received).

Me: "What the hell was that woman giving us the thumb's up for? Did we do something?"

My friend, M: "You know, I think in Muslim countries, giving the thumb's up is like giving the middle finger."

My friend, S: "What?!? What the hell were we doing?"

Me: "I have no idea. We were just talking. Maybe she just doesn't like Americans."

My friend, M: "Well that was kind of stupid. She's trying to insult us, and we don't even understand what she means."

Me: "It's a good thing we didn't understand, because, let me tell you, in those type of situations, I have a mouth."

(We all triumph in our intellectual superiority, but wishing that it really meant something.)


Monday, October 22, 2007

Turkey Vignette #2: Turkish Fashion

Scene: My two friends and I are waiting to get into the Sultanahmet Mosque. For the past 30 minutes, we had been hearing the Islamic prayer chants, calling for prayer, and we had to wait until everyone was done. My two friends, both of whom are female, had dressed for the occassion or had brought items to make them look the part. One friend was wearing pants that day, even though it was about 5,000 degrees outside, while the other friend had a brought a long black scarf so she could wrap it around her legs. I, on the other hand, am wearing a polo shirt and shorts. We are all feeling sticky, gross and more than ready for a shower.

Me: "Oh, finally, they're done. We can go in now."

(We approach the entrance to the mosque. My friend gets out her scarf, and starts wrapping it around her waist. We all untie our shoes to put in bags provided by the mosque.)

Me, pointing to my shorts: "Are these ok?"

Entrance guard: "Yes, yes. Go ahead." (Then the guard looks at my friends and points to them.) Wear this. (The guard gives both my friends another two scarves each.)

My friend, S: "Put this on? Where?"

Entrance guard: "Over your head."

(We enter the mosque and step on to a very plush carpet. The place is cavernous, and it's at least 10 degrees cooler inside. I'm bouncing around in my socks on the thick carpet, and spinning around, and looking up at the walls and ceiling.)

Me: "OMG. I feel so much better in here, and this carpet is so comfortable."

My friend, M: "Terence, you're running around like this is Romper Room."

Me: "Well, look at all the kids in here. It's like a big Rec Room. There aren't any pews here like in a cathedral. Just all this open space that begs for running around."

My friend, S, laughing: "Terence, you should just chill here for the rest of the day in the mosque."

Me: "Hmmm. That's a good idea." (I looked at my friends then, and just realized how crazy they looked. Picture two girls dressed in western clothes with mismatched scarves draped over their heads and their legs and ankles). "By the way, you guys look like bag ladies."

My friend, M: "Thanks. Damn these scarves stink."

(I chuckle to myself at the arbitrariness of the advantages of being a male.)


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Turkey Vignette #1: Would You Like Some Bread With Your Butter?

I got to Istanbul really late around 3AM, local Istanbul time. My connecting flight in Frankfurt, where I had originally planned to spend the night, but instead just passed through, was delayed. That gave me time to catch my breath after the little run I had taken from my Milan flight gate. To get to my Istanbul flight, I had to get to the opposite end of the airport, and there's no little train or anything connecting the two sections. It was so far, I thought I was walking to Istanbul.

I finally got to Istanbul, safe and sound and got my bags and into a cab with relative ease. The bellman helped me with my bags. When we got to my room, I started to open the door, and then turn around and raised my finger to my lips and said to the bellman, "Shhhh. My friend is sleeping." Then my friend pipes up and shouts "Don't worry! I'm wide awake!"

It was around 4AM, and I needed to sleep, but my friend and I of course spent the night chatting away, and she was telling me about her first day in Istanbul. She walked around and saw some sights and then had dinner in the hotel. She got all dressed up because she thought the hotel restaurant would be crowded. Instead, there were all of two people there, she told me.

Scene: At the dinner table, in a business hotel in Istabul, my friend, S, is contemplating what to have from the Turkish buffet. After an indistinguishable moment of careful consideration, she decides to start with some cheese and cuts her self a piece. Everything is very serious, as this is a vignette, after all.

My friend, S, sits down and lays her napkin on her nap. She picks up a piece cheese and tastes something creamy and greasy in her mouth. It was butter!

(Sidebar: Writing this, I am reminded of my friend who liked butter so much, I think he'd probably have a snack of butter and salt, because he was too lazy to make popcorn. He also like butter cookies, like those Pepperidge Farm chessmen, which alarmingly taste way too much like butter.)

Discretely, my friend brings her napkin to her mouth and spits the butter snack into her napkin. She bravely finishes the rest of her meal.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

TCho Walks the Catwalks of Milan

Before I arrived in Istanbul, I spent a couple of days in Milan for a brief shopping excursion. I kind of had a crazy flight itinerary, where I flew from JFK into Istanbul, and then back West to Milan via Frankfurt. Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted when I finally got to Milan.

Let me tell you, Milan Malpensa airport is freaking far from the actual city of Milan. By car, it takes about an hour to get to downtown Milan, and the cab fare can be over 100 Euros. The best option to get to downtown is to take the Malpensa Express train, but that had stopped running by the time I landed at around 12:30AM. Well, resourceful me had prearranged a car and soon I was on my way downtown.

Milan is a pretty boring city. Other than The Last Supper and shopping, there is nothing to see or do. I am glad to have seen The Last Supper even though I had to hoof it there to the chapel where it's housed. When I left my hotel that morning, I asked the bellman to point me in the direction of the Santa Maria della Grazie. He kind of pointed left, and off I went. But after a while, I realized I should have asked him to be a bit more specific because I had somehow started walking on a street going south instead of west. I retraced my steps and finally got to the chapel and ran inside, all sweaty and breathing heavy, frantically looking around for a big painting.

The reason for my panic was because you have to make an appointment in order to see The Last Supper, and if you're late, tough. You don't get to see it then unless there's an opening later, which is doubtful. All the guidebooks say you need to reserve your ticket ahead of time and they're right. But what they really mean is "Reserve your ticket before you come to Italy, doofus." There's usually a 4-6 week waiting list.

As soon as I entered the chapel, I was like "Where the fuck is this thing?" I went down the aisle, took a tour of the quick hall, went out to the back to the gardens, passed the gift shop and cafeteria, with no Da Vinci code primer in sight. Finally, when I passed through the gift shop for the fourth time, I dug out my guide book and pointed to a picture of The Last Supper to the old woman gift shop lady, who in turn dug out a post card to show me ANOTHER building that I had no recollection of. My Italian isn't what it used to be (and it used to suck), but even I understood that there was some other mystery building and I was in the wrong one.

I ran outside, and saw the building (actually, I think the correct term is an refectory), and rushed inside. I kind of had to beg and plead, but they finally let me join my group late. Soon enough, I was inside and standing 5 feet in front of The Last Supper.

It was worth the effort and the drama of getting in. There are all sorts of impressive things about The Last Supper. First of all, the thing is freaking big. I don't know what size I thought it was, but I was pretty impressed. Secondly, to hear how that The Last Supper somehow survived during a WWII bombing (the ONLY wall of the building to do so) makes you wonder if there is a such thing as "divine intervention."

Then, finally, you wouldn't be American, if you didn't look for Dan Brown's Last Supper imagery--like whether John is really Mary Magdalene, or who is holding the knife and if there really is a "V" between Jesus and John the Apostle. You can see all that, but it's easy to forget about it all (and plus I hate that book), and just look at all of the figures. You can see the emotion in each of the disciples. It's almost too difficult to describe it. You just need to see it.

The rest of my stay in Milan consisted of shopping and visiting a friend. I bought some nice leather things at Trussardi and Valextra, a pair of pants at Cruciani, and saw a coat at Etro that I would have given my right hand for, but they didn't have my size (sorry for the name dropping.) I also met up with a friend of mine and he showed me around a bit.

My visit ended with a rejection by a Japanese tourist couple. I was walking around the Duomo plaza, the main square in Milan, and asked a Japanese guy if he could take my picture. OMG, the guy just shook his head and walked past me! How fucking rude! Or maybe he was just a master of dark comedy. Who knows.

When I get my ass in gear, I'll have the one picture of me that I did end up taking that day posted here.

More to come from TCho European edition!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sometimes I'm Just A Tired Wombie (Not That I Have Any Idea What A Wombie Is)

I know things have been a little slow and off schedule here, and I wish I could say that I had a very good reason for it. Like that I've been busy with another project or something. I was thinking of some possible projects that I wish I could say that I've been working on. For instance, it would make me sound so over-achieving if I had been working on a book. And better yet, it would be cool if I could say that it's some sort of project that I couldn't really talk about. Like some secret habit of mine. I was trying to think of all the possible activities: 1) new TV season? nah, all the new shows, except Chuck, suck this year; 2) Fantasy Football? I don't even understand the real thing, and as far as I'm concerned, Fantasy Football is like a lame version of Dungeons & Dragons, except with a ball; 3) new job? Sadly, nothing has been going on, on that front; 4) new boyfriend? Well, I was kind of seeing a guy for a couple months for a bit, but he ended up being a real jerk, and I don't hang out with him anymore.

The truth is that I've just been tired. After my tour of Europe, I headed out to middle America, and then out to the West coast again, and I only just got back last week. I didn't expect to take this long of a blogging break, but here's my first post to welcome me back (a pretty uninspiring one, if you ask me). Sorry to disappear on everyone both as a blogger and reader. Hope everyone enjoyed the extra three minutes a day (if I posted daily) they didn't spend reading my opinions and misadventures and did something productive instead, unlike what I did with my three weeks.