1. Land of the Tan Bulls

    Mehraba bitches. Shockingly enough, my first blog post since being abroad is more than a month into the program. Barcelona ruined the mojito for me, George you’ll have to work pretty damn hard to beat it, and the Sagrada Familia miraculously did NOT come crashing down when a heathen such as myself passed through its threshold. I wish I’d started blogging sooner because I don’t even know where to begin on the last month, but alas, as the French say: c’est la vie. Except they totally stole that from B*Witched.

    I guess I could sit here and talk about how beautiful all the sightseeing I’ve done is, but I would end up using a plethora of words that all convey the same thing: the city is breathtaking. Besides, if you’re bothering to read this blog then you’ve most definitely taken a little creep-a-leek or two at my stalkbook albums…a picture paints a thousand words and all that, so it’s settled. But even with all the crappy weather we’ve had and the THREE DAYS OF SNOW that just passed—seriously, the shit stalks me, I can honestly say that: I, Gabriella Mozelle Pineda, hater of all weather below 60 degrees, saw past this and was awed by it all. Up until today there hadn’t been much sun and we hadn’t broken temperatures warmer than 52, if we were lucky. Still, it was easy to appreciate the beauty of the Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, and my University’s waterfront (!) positioning on the Bosporus. And all of these within 30 minutes of each other? It really can’t get any better.

    Ok, that was a lie, because then there is the nightlife. If you ever come to Istanbul, everyone will recommend Taksim as one of the main places to go out. Taksim is the neighborhood in which lies Istiklal Street, or the Holy Land as I like to think of it. This street is probably a mile long, and has tons of restaurants, shops, and even a few clubs on it. But the real treat is what lies beneath, or behind rather. As you’re walking down there are plenty of little streets, about a car-width wide that branch off of it. Each of these little streets has alleys that branch off of them that are lined with tons of bars, shot bars, pubs, and clubs. I have yet to see any of these NOT packed on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night and even on the slower nights you couldn’t really refer to them as anywhere near ‘dead’. I think someone gave me a figure that over 3000 drinking establishments surround Istiklal. My favorite thing though is that everyone is so nice, within seconds of entering a bar you’ll find a handful of Turks that already consider you their best friend and each morning you wake up with new numbers of friends that you’ve sadly forgotten, probably due to that pesky side effect of alcohol—I think the kids call it browning out? Blacking out?

    Which leads me to my final point in this novel I seem to be writing. The people of Istanbul match NOLA’s in friendliness and charisma. They also match us in our lack of discreetness. Every single day I get asked by strangers where I am from, saving the hello for after. So far my Isty peeps have guessed that I’m Armenian, Kuwaiti, and Pakistani—to name a few. One particular conversation that sticks out in my memory was at the Grand Bazaar. As I perused some scarves, an old man at the shop next door walked over and called “excuse me miss, where are you from?” Still not used to the fact that people assume I’m 100% middle-Eastern, I gave the reflex answer: “America”. Unsatisfied, he said, “no no no no no, where are you ORIGINALLY from?” I then replied I was the love child of Marilyn Manson and Joan Rivers. This inevitably set him up for disappointment when the truth came out that I was half-Iranian and half-Nicaraguan. He looked me up and down, stated, “No. You are Turkish,” stuck his pipe back in his mouth and returned to his shop.

    Anywho, I have so much more I could write about—such as the Turkish baths, where I received the most action I’ve gotten in weeks (or months—but for my ego’s sake I’ll leave that one a mystery). However, I’ll save that for my next post. For now, this is all. And if you ain’t satisfied or can’t get none, the Rolling Stones made somewhere around 24 albums, so there’s hope for you yet.

    Peace, love, and kebabs,

    the notorious G.A.B.