Monday, September 12, 2005

Moda hos geldiniz! (Welcome to Moda)

I have surfaced! Yes, folks, I am alive and well and living in Moda, Kadiköy, İstanbul. Well, today was an adventure: we moved out of the Taşlık Hotel this afternoon and into our apartments in Moda, Kadiköy. After taking a bus 45 minutes across the beautiful Bosphorus from Beşiktaş to Kadiköy, the driver refused to take us right to our apartments because he didn't want to block traffic for ten minutes while unloading our mountains of luggage. So we unloaded near a fountain in Moda and had to carry our luggage in waves to the four different apartments.

This brings me not to my first, but certainly my least favorable, experience with the "spirals of death", that is, Turkish staircases. Because of the incredibly space-starved nature of the sprawling megalopolis of İstanbul, staircases must occupy as little space as possible and thus take on a tight corkscrew configuration. The problem this creates is that near the center of the spiral the stairs are as little as two inches deep, leaving absolutely no space for your feet. Enter the five of us guys, carrying multiple fifty-pound suitcases up five flights of such stairs for multiple apartments. Oh, joy—not!

After hauling all our luggage up to our the fifth floor atop our landing-less staircase, we pulled out the keys to our new apartment, Pınar. After five minutes of frustrated attempts, we hit the sad realization that neither of our keys even remotely fit the keyhole. A series of phone calls in broken Turkish informed us that the butcher across the street had a key. What on earth?! But, hey, we got in and were mildly pleased to discover a rather large, Victorian America-themed apartment, replete with smoked-glass table lamps, a large buffet, and lace doilies. (They have all been since hidden or pitched, as they don't complement the 1960s plush yellow couches or our desired décor. See #3 below.) We also were greeted by a cruel experiment of Mother Nature: a deranged jackalope with walrus tusks and black wings.

Other joys of our apartment, which is actually the nicest of all STINT apartments: (1) We have a dishwasher!—but no oven. Can you believe that? And our fridge is little more than a glorified version of what many of us had in our college dorm rooms. (2) None of the lamps work, and there are no sheets or pillows. We had to remedy this at 23:00. (3) We have an inflatable moose head to adorn the walls of our hunting den. (4) Our balcony came with the gift of a four-foot-tall birdcage, which would make a perfect home for the jackalope. However, it instead contains two dead birds. Hmm…I can smell a prank coming on in one of the women's apartments.

Okay, this isn't apartment-related, but I'm really irked that getting change here is next to impossible. I've already been denied the ability to purchase a 2.00 YTL beverage because I only had a 10- or 20 YTL note. For this reason, believe it or not, a 5 YTL note is worth nearly as much as a 20 YTL note, because it's actually usable for most everyday purchases. Oh, well, at least inflation is finally in single digits, and some miracle of economic reform has brought about the Yeni Türk Lirası (YTL), the New Turkish Lira. This eliminated the old pricing system which, thanks to inflation, had an exchange rate of 1.5 million lira to the U.S. dollar!

The long day has finally come to an end. What adventures will tomorrow hold as we inventory what we need for our apartment, which is pretty much everything imaginable? We'll also need to move a full-size bed out of our apartment and move some desks and a bunk bed into it. Keep in mind that we have to carry all of this stuff a ten-minute walk down the packed streets of Kadiköy. But God is with us at every moment, and we're laughing together with him through this all. Remember, "It's not bad; it's just different!"

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