Thursday, November 30, 2006

Japanese Animation and the Sailing Channel

For my kids, living in Turkey has come with a bonus: TV. In SoCal we have no television (we do watch dvds). So for the first time in their lives, my boys are watching some mostly-non-violent-if-we-can-help-it commercial TV every day. Kid.02, already big on superheroes, has become obsessed, and Kid.01 is now Mr. Know-It-All thanks to the Discovery Channel. Thanks, Digiturk!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One of those Awkward Moments

The Pope is here causing all sorts of chaos, paying attention to a TINY Christian minority, and I remembered this doozy:
Went to the police station a few weeks ago for our residence permits. A young policeman who looked like he could have stepped out of a Mannerist painting filled out our paperwork. He asked my parents’ names (lied, too messy to explain divorce and remarriage) and then what is my religion. BLANK… And then I choked out Christian because that was what he expected and was easiest, but is far from the current truth. Amazing that such a simple question could affect me like that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Speaking of Drinking

This culture is powered by caffeine. I normally drink filtered coffee at home in the morning, then have a Nescafe (I know, I know…) break midmorning at school, cappuccino at the faculty restaurant after lunch, and tea in the late afternoon. If we have guests for dinner I make decaf coffee for them with dessert. Hubby also drinks Turkish coffee given the opportunity. Any visit to friend or colleague comes with an invitation to “drink something,” a lovely gesture of hospitality.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I am in Ankara doing something that is quite trendy in SoCal–knitting and drinking beer! I never tried it before and it’s actually a match made in Heaven: knit a row, take a swig… I’m sure the waiter thought I was quite the mad American. Anyway, I’m just glad I had a few moments of rest in this hectic city for a quiet sit down. Maybe we made the right decision after all to live in our small Anatolian City rather than the capitol.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ankara Artforum

While in Ankara I went to a commercial art fair where galleries from the big Turkish cities showed work for sale. Very conservative: almost all painting, a few photos, prints, and small sculpture, no drawings or mixed media or digital stuff. Turkish painters are a serious bunch–there’s not much irony, sex or pop influence in their work, as there is in American contemporary art. I’ve been to several art fairs in LA and NYC, and your head just aches after plowing through aisle after aisle of amazing but pretty radical work. At least there is an art market here, and design and home magazines do show Turkish painters in glossy layouts.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Consorting with Artsy Types

Here I am cozying up to Ibrahim Demirel, renown Turkish photographer, curator and gallerist. When we stopped by his art gallery in Ankara late in the day several artists were there, drinking raki and discussing art, salon style. Pretty soon they ordered food and broke out the catalogs and books; I appreciated them letting me hang, both as a woman and as someone who can’t really participate due to the language barrier.
Ibrahim is full of contradictions, like several other Turkish artists I know. He recently created a fantastic photo exhibition about Kurban Bayram, the Sacrifice Holiday, in which he shot the animals being slaughtered in the streets (the bloodshed is coming up, I’ll be sharing its glory with you soon). But he also does slick commercial and non-content based work, as if his Turkish business acumen can’t be held back. I think many American “high artists” wouldn’t sully their names doing both kinds of work. Ibrahim is both extremely generous and in love with his own image; luckily I don’t have this problem.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I know you are all wondering if any crystal was broken or any tantrums thrown at the Ambassador’s house. I am happy to report I have perfect angels for kids. Our dinner was a very formal event, and they were the only kids among all the senior diplomats. This was definitely the fanciest Thanksgiving party I’ve ever been to, complete with California wine (Kendall Jackson) and cognac and chocolates to finish.
Anyway, we’re missing family back home in SoCal, NoCal, and AZ. Hope you all had a wonderful day, with as much to give thanks for as we have.
With love, Kloe

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Taking Art to the Limit without Crossing the Line

Today I had an interesting discussion with my fourth year painting students (who are a mature lot), which continued over dinner with a Turkish artist friend. A few days ago a student drawing was hung in the hallway of the Art Faculty at our University that depicts Jesus with a crown of thorns. Well and fine. But hanging around his neck is an upside-down cross. I’m not at all squeamish, and have done lots of controversial artmaking addressing Old Testament mythology, but this image crossed the line with me, especially as there is no reason for this cross. A Polish student said it bothered her too.
So is it OK to comment on cultural subjects you don’t really understand? Can I make artwork as if I am a man, or a black person, or a gay person? Can a Moslem make imagery degrading Jesus in a school setting? What’s OK for Jeff Koons to display in a museum would not be OK in a public library. Well, anyway, it got the students thinking, I hope.
To my friend, now that I know you are checking on this blog, I’ll try to be more circumspect, especially writing about feminine issues, but I must warn you, it’s not in my nature to be discreet. I take refuge in my blondness. Love and kisses.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The anniversary of his death was November 10. Big ceremonies on campus. Displays of his portraits at the grammar schools, flowers, flags. It’s hard to underestimate the influence he still has here, the reverence he is still owed. Imagine a portrait of Abraham Lincoln or George Washington in every office. Plus Ataturk was a really charismatic guy, besides being a brilliant politician, general, and leader. He enjoyed drink and women. If Arnie-Baby ever does something great, like form a country, he’d be comparible…
The Embassy person was a diplomat who had to defend our policies in Turkey and beyond. What a rotten job! She did have a great suit on, though. We are going to the Ambassador's house for Thanksgiving. Ooh la la.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I am not an Exhibitionist, am I?

OK, the Mexican Party was a lot of work, but I think it was worth it. We had about 30 adults and 12 kids, all boys except one. Luckily we had found a babysitter the night before, and she took all the kids to the empty apartment upstairs and they had their own party up there (we paid her mucho bucks, poor thing). Our guests seemed to like the tacos, and they ate hot red chili peppers and drank margaritas. Then everyone just sort of sat around and stayed for a couple of hours. Not like Americans, who eat, drink and run. The only thing I regret is that hubby and I were convinced to dance some salsa and swing, and it felt a bit exhibitionist. Which I am not.
I’m totally psyched today because I found out my paintings will go into a show in Istanbul with a catalog next month! And tomorrow someone arrives from the Embassy who wants to meet me. Hmmm.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There is No Downside to Chickens

The Mexican Party was a success, I’ll write about it soon.
Right now I’m tired and missing my chickens, so I’m going to list their wonders:
1. Chickens lay the most beautiful and delicious eggs. Three of my girls lay brown ones and two lay green ones.
2. Chickens eat bugs. Need I say more?
3. Chickens eat table scraps, even meat scraps you know you shouldn’t be throwing in your compost bin.
4. Chicken poop is great for the garden.
5. Chickens are fun pets. My girls follow me around. They get the kids out in the yard for hours.
6. Baby chicks are adorable.
Congrats to me, this is my 50th post!
Love, Kloe

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Kloe-Martha Among the Turks

We’re having a “Mexican Party” tonight–late Day of the Dead, early Posada. I’m making tacos from corn tortillas I brought in my luggage. I also brought cans of refried beans and chipotle sauce. Found flour tortillas and tequila (small bottle, $30) here at Migros. Ice is not customary in Turkey, and you definitely can’t buy a bag, so I’m making it in my incredibly small ice trays in my non-frost-free freezer that is getting smaller each week. It’ll be a trick to try to feed a lot of people, including kids, out of my small fridge and oven.
We’ve invited almost everyone we know, so we’ll see how Turks party.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shameless Promo

Here’s how my paintings look in the exhibition. Acrylic on paper mounted on board. What do you think? It’s my colorful Agnes Martin phase…

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

To get into the Fine Arts or Graphic Design Departments of a university here, a student must pass not only the regular academic exams, but also a drawing exam. So every one of my Turkish students draws as well as the top 5% of my students in the U.S. If I give the Turks some technical criticism, my ideas are immediately reflected in their work, to my immense gratification. I almost can’t teach them technical skills. BUT, their conceptual skills are behind those of American students. It seems that end product is more valued than process, which may not produce the best artists in the long run. Anyway, it’s a totally different system.
These drawings are by a second year ceramics student.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Trust and Good Business

Every now and then something astounds me here, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad. Yesterday I stopped by my local art supply shop to see if they had the spray mount I requested. They had two cans of the stuff, one blue, one purple, and the labels were in Cyrillic. I asked which glue was stronger, but the clerk didn’t know. I was prepared to give up when he told me to get both of them and then return the one I didn’t want. He bagged them up and I pulled out 70 lira (about $50, yep, one of those expensive imports), but then he said “para yok” which means no money. He trusted me to take the cans without a receipt, and to return and pay later. Isn’t that just amazing?

Monday, November 13, 2006

M-Bags Like Early Christmas

My books arrived!!! Three boxes, about $150 for 150 pounds. It was well worth it, and it only took two months. Novels, kid lit, school books, hubby geek stuff, and art books. A girl like me needs books in every room of her house. I’ve even got my best cookbook, the big new Gourmet tomb.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kloe Goes to the Theater

There has been a performing arts festival in Our Anatolian City. I saw a Finnish tenor, a German chamber orchestra with a fantastic cellist, and a Russian puppet show that got a bit racy for the kids (imagine a puppet pole dance…). Just what I needed, a bit of culture.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Faculty Show

Today was the opening of the Faculty Show of our university for the Fine Arts Department. The gallery was quite strange; sponsored by an electronics store, it was above the refrigerator showroom. Apparently the store owner is an art lover. As in many small cities everywhere, this town can’t really support art galleries, which pop up and then die quick deaths. Note the blue sky ceiling…
I was gratified to see that my work fit right in with that of the Turkish artists. Only one other foreigner, a glass teacher from Estonia. It was my first night out in Turkey without kids, and I was quite relieved not to have to worry about watching them. It’s impossible to be taken seriously if someone is putting his little hand up your skirt.
Nice spread, huh? Hard alcohol, too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


We were living in Turkey the day the U.S. invaded Iraq three and a half years ago. Very scary. I had an emergency suitcase packed in the closet in case we had to get out of our situation fast, and we kept Kid.01 home from his preschool. We really didn’t know how Turks would react to the invasion (in the end, we never felt any animosity toward us personally). I was glad it was freezing that day so I could cover my head with a scarf to hide my blondness. Kid.02 was just a baby at that time, and he sang “Row, Row, Row your Boat” at the top of his lungs as we strolled to school. So much for my low profile.
Let’s just say I am thrilled at the results of the election back home! I'm not even upset that Arnie-Baby won again.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Things I Would Bring Back if I Could Go to the USA for a Day

Fresh ginger
Battery powered pencil sharpener
Tampons and more tampons (what the fuck is wrong with this picture???)
Paint brushes, filbert bristle
California Chardonnay (I can’t believe I miss this)
My sister and nieces
New cowboy boots
A BIG roast beef
My chickens and a puppy
Baking powder
My friends
Books (my m-bag books haven’t arrived yet)
My car (oh yeah, we sold it)
My mom and gram
A piano and some Bach
High heels
A babysitter and a reason to use a babysitter
My hair dresser

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Office with a View and Students to Match

Students have started to find me in my lux office/studio. They come with their work and stories, anxious for a yabanci’s opinion. Their enthusiasm is so charming. I am complimented and touched that they care what I think. It makes my being here worth it.
Tomorrow is the election. Expats like me all over the world must be waiting with bated Marilyn Monroe breath.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Someplace to Go When the Weather is Bad and the Kids are Bored

In our Anatolian City three large shopping centers are currently under construction. When they are finished business will drastically change here. There is one “mall” in the city center now, but it follows the traditional pattern of small shops grouped together (all the pet stores are in the basement, all lingerie shops on the 4th floor, etc.). These shops are not self serve; you see what you want in the window display, then ask the salesperson for your size. These new malls are going with big chains, so the little business people will be out of luck. And yes, we are expecting Starbucks to arrive in our City.
It snowed for the first time today and the kids were beside themselves with excitement.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wow, and You Wonder What Would Happen in a Real Crisis

The Prime Minister of Turkey fainted in his car during one of the Ramadan fasting days. His bodyguards panicked, and all jumped out of the car to get help, including the driver. The car’s automatic locks then kicked in, locking the incapacitated Prime Minister of Turkey inside. So then someone got a sledgehammer from a nearby construction site and smashed the car windows to get the poor man out. Now there’s talk in the Turkish media that a potential prime minister should have to pass a health test. And someone bought the sledgehammer as a momento… (all this would probably have been hushed up, but bystanders caught the incident with their cell phones).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pets, Guilt, and Winter Arriving

I’m missing my animals. I’m particularly drawn to stray dogs, but luckily, there aren’t too many around here. Thinking about turtles, which are a poor substitute for my sweet chickens, but more practical for apartment living. Will take the kids to pet stores in the city tomorrow. And it’s time for a trip to McD’s. I’m feeling so guilty right now they could probably get whatever they want–let’s hope they don’t figure this out.
Also, although this morning it was relatively warm, by noon the temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees. Feels like snow, which is exciting for Socal yabancis.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


We totally missed the big night and my poor kids are still in the dark about it. I had to skip it and I feel terrible, terribly guilty, and so homesick. There are just no other Americans here, no one’s door to knock on, and we have no car to drive anywhere. I had a pumpkin, but it was too hard to carve (different type with extra-thick skin). Hubby was away, it was a school night and I had taught eight hours that day. So many excuses. This is bad, very bad.