Someone’s Turkish Experience

An Istanbul Diary

Sat Day 1 

Arrived jet lagged having got up at 1am to get an early flight from Heathrow on Turkish Airlines.

Stayed at hotel on the other side of the airport – 45 minute journey into the centre (using the metrobus and metro)

Evening = got a Istanbul ‘oystercard’ and went to Sultanahmet Square and had dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the blue mosque.

Sun Day 2

Visited the Tourist information Centre at Sultanahmet Square and visited the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Museum. Had Turkish tea and coffee in the café opposite the Blue Mosque. Went to see the whirling dervishers at Hodjapasha.

Mon Day 3

Visited the travelagent at Cemberlitas to find the prices for day trip to Ephesus. Thereafter went to Grand Bazaar ( which was quite a maze!) and bought most of the souvenirs there and went to try a Turkish bath at Cemberlitas Hamami. Got travel tickets for Ephesus.

Tues Day 4

Visited East Istanbul (the Asian part) – Kadiko and Uskadat by metrobus. It was really cool today and had Turkish tea at coffee at a café that lent wrap a rounds.

Visited Eminonu station famous for Orient Express. Went to a café under the bridge and then a small market under the bypass and met a Turkish guy who lived in Haringey!

Wed Day 5

Visited Eminonu station again and went into the Orient Express Café for tea, Orient Express museum, and took photos of the platform and building. Took photos of the Blue Mosque from the Kadikoy ferry boat. Then did a two mile trek from the Eminonu station to the North side of Istanbul to visit Pera Hotel via the Galato tower. Tower was expensive to go up so took photos. Then visited and spent £15 on an afternoon tea at the Pera Hotel where famous people stayed including Agatha Christie. Very posh and they had a small museum piece as well as the Agatha Christie Restaurant.

Then walked further to the Oxford street of Istanbul called Istiklal C and great street with typical Oxford street shops. Got a cd of oriental music. Ended up at Taksim Square.

Thurs Day 6

Woke up early at 4am to get to the airport for Izmir to visit Ephesus on atlas jet. So glad I did this as it was the first time I had seen a an ancient city in full. Again temperature here was early 30s. Well worth a visit but very tiring to do in one day. Got back at 10pm.

Fri Day 7

Got up late on the last day and visited Topkapi Palace where all the Sultans lived. Really regal and huge but great photos and gardens. You could stay for a day here. All in all spent around £40 on the Turkish ‘oystercard’ and used rather well.

Sat Day 8

Got up at 4am again to get to Ataturk airport. Really surprised on the 777 jet as I thought we were in the business class but no it was economy was so much leg room, comfortable seats, your personal tv screens with remote controls and game consoles and three course breakfast!. Saw two movies: Woman in Gold and the latest Terminator.

Got back to Terminal 2 at Heathrow and had a cup of English tea at Café Nero listening to a singer songwriter!

Its good to be home!

End of Diary.

P.S 

Recommendations

The train from Ataturk airport travels along the sea front to central Istanbul – fabulous views.

If you get a chance to go to Istanbul,  its highly recommend visiting the Princes Islands.  You can get a boat and do as a day trip from Istanbul. Cars are banned on the islands so you have to travel by horse and cart (or on foot). There are loads of beautiful yali or villas and the views are amazing.

My indecipherable thoughts 

I kinda grew up living but always learning – and each time I had an evaluation of events, I may have always thought there was a pattern. So I play the victim but I am not the victim, in fact no one is the victim and from my evaluations I drew up patterns. But patterns don’t necessarily tell accurate stories in reality except in business management and data systems. Psychotherapists and psychologists may argue differently. My patterns are not thematic!!
This I know. I was scared of imperfections not because I was perfect but maybe I needed a bit more stability in my life. And that’s ok. But a good balance of stability comes with a strive, an effort to attain perfection. Well, almost.

I knew I couldn’t have ‘perfect’ but I wanted it. Perfection in a loved one. Next to perfect in a job. Maybe by perfection in a loved one, I wanted simplicity, compatibility, compassion, and love. Maybe I wanted more?

I learnt I had to accept the roses with the thorns 

They say you ‘settle’ if you can’t find that exact standard you set or at least some balance (of compromise); over-comprise if I am being more precise. 

Compromise comes with personal (sometimes societal standards and other times, a combination of both)

Standards are aligned to acceptance, tolerance of values, norms, forms, people. 

Acceptance is aligned to choices 

Our choices are borne of free will. Free will is nature.

Generally, we as human beings don’t like to live with the consequences of our choices. Not all the time. Especially if/when we know there were not great choices. We want the consequence to go away quite quickly, cease to exist. So we judge our standards (the ones we chose as a result of that consequence) and often conclude we ‘settled’ or made a mistake. But by whose standards do we measure ‘settling’/mistakes? And where are these rules? Whose standards are right or wrong? Didn’t Hitler’s followers think of him as a great leader by their standards? If you chose to eat dinner for breakfast, does that mean it’s a wrong decision? There could be consequences for eating dinner for breakfast but does that make it a mistake when the decision was borne out of a conscious choice, freewill? Is a mistake often an accurate representation of what we think it is?

I have often wondered if the word ‘settling’ is a nice word to address human beings? Like a friend said to me sometime recently, with a direct reference to my current partner ‘I think you may have settled”. …Perhaps, by her standards or in comparison to what she perceives as my standards – which may be borne from what she thinks I am worthy of. Which is fine. This could be her judgement and perception of my standards due to aspects which form my personality perhaps my physical and mental qualities, no? So I ask, does that mean if we shouldn’t be ‘settling’ for these people, these jobs, these standards of services then someone else less worthy than ourselves should have them or ‘settle’ with/for them? So if something or someone is considered so bad, less worthy, so wrong for us, due to judgments which stem from personal standards then it’s ok for them or the situation not to be linked to us as we don’t want to be seen to ‘settle’. However, it’s ok for other people to have the rejected person, product, service, situation. As long as it’s not us! Because that’s fine. We don’t honestly care! And maybe that’s ok because we are different. I could assume a job which my predecessor so dreaded and I would love it because we have different standards. I could meet a man whom his exes believe is a right jerk, but I can’t see myself existing without him. Or I go into a store and someone could say ‘I would never wear that, it’s tacky’ but I would go for it because I have dreamt of having that style all my life. So what are standards. Whose are right or wrong? What is settling? Why do we use that word? Is it a kind word to address our associations with another human being?

I struggled to accept that I needed to adhere to these stupid rules. 

What if I am happy? But what does happiness mean to me? I often evaluate that. What does it mean to you?

Is it when you are capable of laughing all the time?

Is it when you are at peace with your inner self? When you have a great job?

Is it when your consciousness is healthy? 

Is it when you are upset but you are able to let go? Knowing that being upset also comes with a healthy consciousness.

Is it giving? Sharing? And feeling great for doing it without expecting back because you gave with a positive consciousness. Is it the ability to love unconditionally and be loved back? What does being happy ensue? 

Is it ‘settling’. Am I settling for a job I find fulfilling even when my boss is a right pain in the arse? Is it that one aspect of the entire picture which skews it all up and makes me say ‘I am unhappy in this job or relationship and therefore conclude that perhaps I may have settled? Is it the relationship that I find so amazing. However, my man is imperfect (as I am) and therefore when our personalities clash and we face conflicts then I decide I am unhappy and perhaps I may have settled because my consciusness is convincing me that there is ‘better’ somewhere out there and therefore I can get ‘better’. What is ‘better’ though? Again, by whose standards? As long as the quality of your life is not at risk of suffering i.e abuse, risk of death etc then what is the definition of finding ‘better’ outside what you have? What is the guarantee that ‘better’ is somewhere lurching for us. I accept that sometimes this is the level of delusion that baffles me because it keeps me chasing shadows, shadows of perfection that are so imperfect because mankind is infallible. Without stating the obvious, knowing it’s the damn truth! Why am I trying to discover my errs as if it’s one of the mysteries that has befuddled mankind’s greatest and sophisticated minds (Stephen Hawking was said to be struggling with it) No, he wasn’t. I am! 

I did!

If I dare say, it was the loneliest of times, the best of times, the worse of age, the best of laugh, a situation of choice, a step closer to my haven.
My deadpan heart
I embraced it all
We glanced at jealousy 
At paranoia, an ugly picture of an improbable fate.  
I begged them 
Please keep your claws off my man
My recollections of about a century of weeks ago where I walked into the store of greatness and I found him in the isle of cream and luxury 
Shades of light 
I picked him up
He was heavy as I had him sit in the bags of my burdens
He weighed so much in qualities and yes I paid for what had become my (his) excess baggage
With an existing burden of proof 
I trolled on
To get to my destination 
That one where I wrote about finishing and finding ‘perfect’ was such an imperfect move 
I can’t even wait to see my own destiny 
The world watches with eagerness as their hearts stop for a second when they sense I am a step closer 
One seed of hope 
My teething phases leap to the bed of the sea of my heart 
The waves of love more resounding than ever 
The one I dream of 
Ever there in a generation of years 
Leeching in his own shadows 
Waiting for what I know nothing of His heart on an edge of a steep hill
Because I/he knows what we are both capable of
Yet we stay
Yet we love
Yet we breathe 
Cheek to cheek
His whisper only brings me close to a potential bridge of a firmed conclusion 
Time, only, only time will tell us where we head thus far 
As Shakespeare eluded to
Perhaps I am his be-all and end-all 
And so he be to me.

E10

Somewhere in E10, riding on the bus, texting my sister. I look up and the bus going the opposite direction drew really close to the bus I was seated. The female driver driving the other bus, reached out and held hands with the male driver of the bus I was seated. I thought there was something quite romantic and special about it. Some passengers stared and I smiled. London Town is beaut!

My incurable disease

On 1st September – we had a small end-user consultation session for the Wellcome Trust Application organised by UCL/Kings College clinical partners at the Institute of Child Health close to Great Ormond Street by Russell Square. The aims were to provide information on a possible new treatment approach to sickle cell anemia called the In-utero transplantation & Fetal Gene Therapy and also answer questions/ get feedback on:

  • the concept of the fetal stem cell gene therapy approach
  • possible clinical trial
  • ethical concerns related to the approach
  • how they would want to engage in the grant and practicalities
  • to improve chances of WT funding and MHRA approval in future.

I work part-time, one day a week for the UK Sickle Cell Society, a charity that supports people living with sickle cell anaemia. I am the Volunteer Co-ordinator.

My role was to facilitate the attendance of about 8-10 patients who had attended the Annual General Meeting(AGM) of the Sickle Cell Society, earlier in the summer. The event was very much geared to obtain feedback (as much as possible) from these specific patients. You see, those patients who had attended the AGM had prior context and some background around the topic as Dr Stavros had introduced and presented the subject at the AGM. I succeeded in recruiting 8 people who also happen to be friends of mine. However, due to personal commitments and sickness, only 4 of us could attend.

The event started at 5:30pm which was great as I left Cockfosters on the Piccadilly line after work directly to R. Square.

There was light meals & refreshments before the meeting and wine/snacks after, which was nice. We also got refunds for our travel expenses.

We had 4 incredible clinicians address us:

  • Dr Michael Antoniou, Gene Expression and Therapy Group, King’s College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics.
  • Dr Stavros Loukogeorgakis – (he presented at the AGM earlier in the summer) and oops, I forgot his title!! I think he is a Peadiatric Surgeon.
  • Dr Anna David- Consultant in Obstetrics and Maternal/Fetal, Medicine at UCL Hospitals and Reader at the UCL Institute, for Women’s Health. (Basically, she is a specialist in Fetal Medicine and Pregnancy).
  • Professor Paola De Coppi- Consultant Paediatric Surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Professor of Paediatric Surgery at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London (I recall he was in surgery and arrived later. My immediate thought was- how normal it was for these wonderful and sophisticated minds to carry out invasive surgeries one minute and then stand in front of an audience a minute after (quite untraumatised and unperturbed I must add). The sight alone of watching my sister give birth to her first child and the amount of blood around literally made me pass out! I am not lying. I am too sqeamish! Took weeks to recover!

Anyway, We were told this trial had happened in Milan. Basically in my own language, Bone marrow transplant (the only known and tested cure for sickle cell) works when you extract the bone marrow, genetically correct them and then put them back. It’s rarely successful and has been reported to be life threatening with high evidence of mortalities. No, thanks!

 In fetal gene therapy, it’s easier and cheaper to administer anywhere in the world. It reduces the problems around screening. This procedure requires sophisticated infrastructure. They basically treat the foetus in the womb, safely in the amniotic fluids; before its born. It is one of the most advanced discoveries in medicine to date. The clinicians discussed risks, challenges, and the safety of this procedure. It was very re-assuring as they answered 99% of questions and when they were not sure, they admittedly accepted, reassuring us they can come back to us with an answer. 

The challenge is to get resources to move to the clinical trial level and they reported this had become a very timely co-incidence for the possibility of the WT application.

My role and those of other patients?? To provide an endorsement from sickle patients to these wonderful clinicians to pursue the approach. If that’s what it takes to give them the go ahead to make a global impact, I would be willing to contribute my kidneys.

We went away thinking of the 3 concepts or principles which they sought to achieve:

  • Confidence of the treatment 
  • Involvement of patients
  • Obtaining the grant and how they engage with us.

Basically, if they succeed in getting this treatment around the world within this, or the next generation, these guys have made a major global impact of an incurable disease that has existed since the 17th C.

I have hope…I was elated. I want to be a part of this legacy, a part of this change. This is why I support the cause. I, people living with this debilitating sickness have suffered incredibly. It would be great to not have future generations suffer further.

White Teeth

I must confess I am fascinated by Zadie Smith.

I was reading Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ today on the tube. You know that moment when you are deeply immersed, engulfed in a book and completely oblivious of your surroundings? That was this morning.

I was sat on the priority seat of the train for older, disabled people, pregnant women, you know, women with young children etc.  Now please tell me how one is meant to be oblivious, yet aware of every single person who has walked into the train.

I notice the person next to me got up and another woman sat. She was pregnant. I look up. I look around, I got the ugly looks of “you are such a horrible person”. It’s as if this pregnant woman had stood for a second longer than she should and people were anticipating that my oblivion would end due to this and in an instance I would be more ‘human’ to notice, perhaps with the eyes on my forehead. But I didn’t. After pregnant lady is seated, this even attracts more attention and then more of the evil stares of murder, as I rapidly buried my face back into my book. I am not a bad person, honestly. I usually give up my seats for older citizens and even those who look ‘old’. I give up my seat for pregnant women and for those ladies who I am not particularly sure if they are pregnant or just have enormous bellies. I used to contemplate whether to get up when I wasn’t sure as it was quite offensive when I realized they were not actually always pregnant;  but now I just say ‘to hell with it’ if having a big belle is what it takes to get a seat on the tube, have it. sod it! You might as well.. ‘White Teeth’ …(no comments)

P.S I have always wondered what disabilities mean to people. If I were mentally disabled, are people supposed to somehow figure that one out, – and then give up their seats on the train for me? I guess not! Maybe these priority signs need to be more specific on disabilities. The last time I recall seeing a mentally disabled person (I.e the psychotic depressive maniac) on the train, people were not just giving up their seats, they ran out hysterically off the train!!!  Oh well…

WHITETEETH

A message from spring by folklore

Sometime just before spring this year, I received a letter in a sealed envelope addressed to me from a lovely lady, a beautiful friend Eli, (my pet name for her) asking me not to open the envelope until the first of March. In my curiosity, I kept fiddling with the envelope trying to get cues of what may be contained in it. I gave up and decided to be patient. On 1st March, I opened it and found a handmade red and white bracelet made from wool and a letter in it.

From Miss Petrova, the one who cares for me

It was a letter written from Eli to me and it read::

Chestita Baba Marta, June (In Bulgaria: Честита Баба Марта , June)

(This is something little from Bulgaria)

On the first of March, Bulgarian people celebrate a traditional holiday called Baba Marta (or Grandma Marta in English) and it is related to welcoming the approaching spring. People all over the world meet spring with joy and new hopes but in Bulgaria, it is saved as an ancient tradition.

On that day, Bulgarians exchange so called “Martenitsi” (“Martenitsa”- singular, “Martenitsi”- plural) and tell each other, Chestita Baba Marta!” (Happy Grandma Marta). This custom is essentially to wish great health, good luck and happiness to family and friends. The name “Martenitsa” is taken from the Bulgarian word for March, or as a legend tells, an angry old lady called Grandma Marta- Baba Marta in Bulgarian (“baba” means grandmother and Marta comes from the word “mart”, which means March in Bulgarian)

In Bulgarian folklore, Baba Marta is a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly and it reflects in the changeable March weather. When she is smiling the weather sunny and warm, but if she gets angry, the cold will stay for longer and it may even snow. By wearing the red and white colours of the Martenitsa, our predecessors asked Baba Marta for mercy. They hoped that it will make winter pass faster and bring spring.

The Martenitsa is made of twined red and white threads- woollen, silk, or cotton. The white is a symbol of strength, purity and happiness. The red is associated with health, blood, conception, and fertility.

The most typical Martenitsa represents two small wool dolls – Pizho and Penda. Pizho is the male doll, usually dominating in white colour. Penda is the female doll, usually dominating in red colour and distinguished by her skirt. There are many other variations and forms. Out of twined red and white threads are also made bracelets, necklaces, tassels, pompons, balls, squares, human or animal figures. Over the past several decades, the tradition has been innovated by attaching all kinds of representations and symbols made of wood, leather, ceramics, and metal foil to the thread-made Martenitsas.

When someone gives you a Martenitsa, you should wear it either pinned on your clothes, on the hand tied around the wrist, or around your neck until you see a stork or a fruit tree in blossom for the first time in the season. After that you can tie it on a blossoming tree for fertility. It is believed that the Martenitsa brings health, happiness and longevity. Like kind of an amulet, Martenitsa was attributed to a magic power believed to protect folks from “ill fortune”, diseases and an “evil eye”.

The custom of wearing Martenitsa is probably one of the most interesting Bulgarian (pagan) traditions and it is considered to be unique to Bulgaria. According to one of the many legends, this tradition is also related to the finding of the Bulgarian state in 681AD.

This exceptional piece of folklore /folktale became an education. A fact. This story was re-authored by Eli in a personalised letter to me. It left me fascinated into this revelation of how beautiful Eli and her people are. It’s the little things that matter…Lover of culture#, lover of tradition#, lover of people#Jtheexplorer#