Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friends and Foes

From the January 4 Vakit Newspaper:
Results of a survey conducted by the Baskent Research Company: 91.5 percent of the Turkish people see Israel as an enemy state, followed by Armenia (88.7), Denmark (85.2), while 77.1 felt the same way about the United States… (friends include Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and Egypt) … According to the survey, U.S. President George Bush, followed by Israel’s Ehud Olmert, are the most unpopular world leaders for the Turkish nation.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Things That are Cheap in Turkey (Relative to SoCal Prices)

Glass of tea
Bread (and it is really good)
Rent in our City (although I’ve been informed that it’s higher than it should be due to student demand for apartments)
Produce in the open markets
Toys from China
Meals at family restaurants (no alcohol served)
Train and bus tickets
Pirated DVDs
Public university education

Monday, January 29, 2007

Can Art Rescue Me?

When people ask me if I am happy we came to Turkey—and let’s be clear, we came here because I got a grant of the kind you just don’t turn down in my world—I could answer both yes and no. For my work it’s been great. Other parts have been hard, and sadness/anger (for me, deeply linked) have been building up in me.
Yesterday I read Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture and took comfort. If you accuse me of anger, you see I am not alone. I have inserted the words in italics in this excerpt:

The question we writers/artists are asked most often, the favorite question is: Why do you write/make art?
I write/paint because I have an innate need to write/paint.
I write/make art because I can’t do normal work as other people do.
I write/paint because I want to read books/see paintings like the ones I write/paint.
I write/make art because I am angry at everyone.
I write/paint because I love sitting in a room all day writing/painting.
I write/make videos because I can partake of real life only by changing it.
I write/make images because I want others, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live in Istanbul, in Turkey, in SoCal…
I write/make art because it is a habit, a passion.
I write/make art because I am afraid of being forgotten…
I write/paint to be alone.
Perhaps I write/make art because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at everyone…
I write/make art because it is exciting to turn all life’s beauties and riches into words/images…
I write/make art because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go to but—as in a dream—can’t quite get to.
I write/make art because I have never managed to be happy.
I write/paint to be happy.

Translated, from Turkish, by Maureen Freely

Saturday, January 27, 2007

International Exchange

These two pretty women are my Erasmus students from Lithuania. Erasmus is an exchange program that allows European university students, including Turks, to study a semester or two in a different country. This semester I also worked with a Norwegian, a Pole, a Slovenian and a Slovak. I also had one American exchange student (a Filipino guy who was a total mystery to the Turks). All good kids.
On the last day of class I asked the yabancis what food from home they missed the most:
“normal soup”
“Hawaiian BBQ”
“carne asada burrito with guacamole” (me)
“pork anything”
“non-Turk beer”
“Mom’s cooking”

Friday, January 26, 2007

When I Need to Slow my Mind and Body Down

I think about the SoCal desert in winter. After it has just rained, how it smells. How the mountains are misty blue. The smoke trees are soft pink and the palo verdes are brilliant lime green. The ocatillo are bursting with red tips and the air is the same temperature as my skin. A coyote runs across the path, fur almost translucent in the early sunlight.
When my grandfather was still alive, he used to come down to the Chocolate Mountains and I’d drive out and stay with him. Those desolate highways. Those lonely, lonely people.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fish and Cars

Yesterday I finally had the perfect meal I’ve been waiting for in Turkey, in a most surprising place. Parents of friends invited us to “fish night” at the guest house of a government agency here in our Anatolian City. Only employees of this agency are admitted, and by the time we left at 9pm the place was filled with men playing backgammon and smoking, their wives at home.
Here’s what we ate:
Soup and bread (my least favorite part)
Fresh orange juice
Grilled trout on a bed of sweet onions with lemons
Side of arugula and parsley
Halva with lemon (eaten with the fish)
Citrus, apples and bananas
Simple, no choices, perfect. Even kid.02 loved the fish.
Today for the first time I drove a car that we have rented for the week. What a revelation. I normally don’t enjoy driving in SoCal, but here I suddenly felt free. For four months I have depended on walking, taxis, trams, services, and friends, but today I was in control. Today I didn’t need to hurry or lug all my bags or freeze my nose/ass off. I know, I’m spoiled brat, but to have a car…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Career Girl

Here’s a friend, she’s in her late twenties, who works 6-7 days a week (private companies seem to own their employees here). She's very smart. She and her boyfriend just got engaged. But I’m a bit worried about her. She comes from a modern family. Her boyfriend’s mother and sisters, whom she met for the first time at the engagement ceremony–talk about stress–wear headscarves. So how strong will his family traditions be? My friend and I talk about relationships and marriage, but I am hardly one to give advice.
She’s read this blog and it inspired her to create her own (sorry, it’s private and in Turkish). I’m complimented. I also trust her. One of the hardest, cruelest parts of being an expat, far from your close friends, is that you have no one to confide in. I have faith in you, S, for both of us.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Things That are Expensive in Turkey (Relative to SoCal Prices):

Cars, even used
Gas ($8 - $10 a gallon!!!)
Meat (including a package of 8 hot dogs from the grocery store for $7!)
Potted plants
Gym membership
Canned corn
Electronics, good and funky brands
Filtered coffee
Apartments (nice one in our city, $250,000)
Paper plates and cups
Laundry detergent
Toys from the USA

Monday, January 22, 2007

Good-Bye for Now, Istanbul

Will you ever be mine?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wide and Deep

This is the Bosporus, the thin waterway that separates West from East and divides Istanbul. How wide is the separation between the continents, for me, a far Westerner? Sometimes I cannot understand, and cannot be understood. And cannot be made to be understood, as much as I want to understand. Or maybe it is not my fault. I am trying, I have tried. Unfair, unfair.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Concentrate on Art

Yesterday on Istiklal Caddesi I saw a few art exhibitions, one that included work from John Baldessari and Jenny Holtzer (it was a group show on art and Freud) and another of some European performance artists. Today we revisited the Istanbul Modern Art Museum, saw some new Turkish painters. But my main success was that I got a catalog of my favorite Turkish artist, Inci Eviner, who I was pleased to find out is a woman. She uses many media, including sculpture, installation and video, but I really love her ink drawings. Her work often is about the body.
Here’s a quote:
Professionally, I do not think that women artists meet with any obstacles. Indeed, we outnumber the men. Unlike the female artists of Europe and America, we have experienced no difficulty finding a spot in the galleries and museums. On the other hand, we have an exceedingly muddled and agonizing sexual identity. For my generation (born in 50s), in particular, the female body was an arena for ideological models, which were insidiously connected to morality in general. The republican woman transferred the darkness of her own sexuality to men, in order to share their legal rights. In my view this was delusory. The body in socialist ideology, meanwhile, neutered the sexes and made them identical. In our own day, Islam controls women by covering them up. I feel that in Turkey the female body and the ideologies which surround it should be excavated and brought to light. Only then can there be a sound basis to discuss realms of freedom. If women in recent years have produced important work, it shows that they are traitors. They have betrayed the art training which was deemed suitable for their delicate natures, and betrayed as well their fathers, brothers and husbands.”
I’m trying to concentrate only on art and career right now, as the rest of my life is … I just got an exhibition for June in Ankara, so that’s good. I need to do a new project, maybe performance art starring me, Kloe, and critiquing an aspect of Turkish culture that is driving me mad… needs more thought.

Friday, January 19, 2007


These are the flower sellers on Taksim Square in Istanbul, where I spent the afternoon with an old friend. When we returned to the hotel we saw on the news that a well known Turkish-Armenian intellectual and newspaper writer had just been assassinated on the street in Taksim in broad daylight. My friend, who happens to be Kurdish and very left leaning, explained that the writer was outspoken on the Armenian genocide question. The tv images showed him in his study filled with books and art. He took three bullets to the head.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Jetson’s Lifestyle

We talk to our family in SoCal by video conference call several times a week. I can’t believe the difference this has made in us feeling OK about being away. Let’s just say the family was not pleased to hear we were going back to Turkey for a year. But now the kids chat with SoCal while eating breakfast in front of the camera; it’s almost like being at home with them.
A down side of video chatting is that my parents are making judgments about my emotional and physical state by seeing me—usually at 7am when I’m trying to get cocopuffs on the table, etc., or late at night when I’m tired. These are not my best moments. I wish I had one of those masks the Jetson’s mom used to wear when she got a video call (isn’t it weird the way some things stick in your mind?).
These same parents are arriving tomorrow and we are going to meet them in Istanbul. It still gives me a thrill to go to that Most Beautiful City, so exotic and amazing. I’ll be posting pics!

Why Did We Become Homeowners Again?

My God, there is a lot to be said about renting an apartment as opposed to living in a house. Like, NO YARDWORK. Like, if something breaks, someone else pays for it. Like, no $700 water bills because there was a broken water pipe that no one noticed. Like, smaller space, less stuff, less housework. Like, no alarm system that keeps going off for no reason.
Oh yeah, I remember, if you own a home you can have chickens…

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

100th Post Rant

Normally I don’t post more than one photo per day, but I want you to get the picture. These are just a few of the photo collages that currently grace our school hallway, a hallway I walk down multiple times each day. They are student work from a basic design course.
Now I know that 18-year-old college students, especially guys, think in imagery like this. They can’t help it. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to guide his students to make the right decisions. I like sexual exploration in art. But there is a difference between making a comment on sexual degradation of women (or men) and participating in that degradation.
So I’m getting all hot and bothered by these collages, and find out the teacher is a bit of an enigma (he doesn’t speak English, or I’d go talk to him in his smoke-filled office). He’s legendary for encouraging young students to let go of inhibitions, which are really present in Turkey. He’s a champion of free speech. A friend told me he’s even a bit of a feminist. But another friend told me he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and “walks in the snow but leaves no footprints.” Meaning he’s a sexist pig who gets off on his young students.
In any case, I find it appalling that the women in my faculty are subjected to this imagery. My female students are less ambitious and more insecure than my male students, and this sort of stuff doesn’t help. So should I make a scene about this? I have already raised a few eyebrows with the conceptual assignments in my classes, maybe I’d be pushing too much.

Monday, January 15, 2007

And for Contrast…

A painting created by the head of my department and most senior faculty member.

IR in NYC—can’t wait to see you. Am I being cryptic? For a doll, I am very open (at least my grandmother thinks so, too much so!).
XOXO, Kloe

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What Sells in Turkey

A painting of a colleague. His last show in Istanbul sold out completely.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Red vs. Blue

Here’s a cute item from the front page of Hurriet, a major Turkish newspaper, from last month, showing the culture wars here:
A Shepard from Konya arrived at a hospital “with severe pain and swelling in his testicles. An immediate ultrasound scan was requested, but radiologist xx refused to carry out the scan because examining male reproductive organs ran against her religious convictions. The patient was kept waiting until the morning, when Dr. yy showed up... unfortunately another headscarf-wearing woman… the 17-year-old patient only received a scan in the afternoon, when a male specialist arrived at the hospital. Doctors then operated on the young man, suffering from a condition called testicular torsion, and removed his left testis, which would almost certainly have been saved had the patient not lost one day at the hospital…” (not that the newspaper has an opinion on this rather racy story).
Sort of reminds me of American pharmacists who won’t fill prescriptions for birth control…

Friday, January 12, 2007


Oh, everything was hard today. It was freezing and hail-snowing. I am so thin I am about to disappear, but I can’t think of what I want to eat. Our Turkish teacher canceled the last class before the final exam, so no review.
And Hubby performed a rescue on my hard drive with all my stuff from SoCal on it. Thousands of documents, none labeled or organized anymore. Every one has to be opened. There are letters I’d written home from when we lived in Turkey three years ago. Although we had wonderful experiences at that time, it has all been tainted in my memory by a family tragedy that hit at the end of that trip. I lost my brother, and everything is defined by this event, like 9/11. Sometimes I feel like I’m inhabiting multiple lives, past and present, Kloe and not Kloe.
I thought it might be hard to live in the same apartment with the same university furniture as last time. And sometimes it is. The couch I lay on for three days as I tried to process the idea that my brother no longer existed is the one I’m sitting on now. I can remember the pity I saw in the eyes of my Turkish friends. And I still regret my decision not to return home right away. That $3000 ticket would have been worth it.
Anyway, I miss him, even though he was not really good at life. I’m not so sure I’m good at life either. I am not really making good decisions.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kloe’s New Year’s Resolutions

Get some new clothes.
Buy better wine (wine above about $10 is quite good here).
Get my hair done more often.
Don’t act my age.
Don’t discuss health issues.
Don’t talk about my kids in a professional setting. It hurts my career.
Get a job so support my other resolutions!
Take more risks. (And I took a doozy today. Can I talk about it? No. But I’m amazed at myself.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

If I Could Just Learn to Give Things Time

A few months ago I was feeling so alone here, discouraged that I was reaching out and couldn’t get through. Yesterday many Turkish friends reached out to me. My assistant gave me a nazarlik (evil eye for good luck) in a tiny box. My model offered her services in exchange for a small study (solving the problem of yesterday’s post!) My old friends helped me find medication I need. A new friend invited us to her birthday party this weekend. And others gave me warm greetings and Turkish kisses (both cheeks) throughout the day. Hubby is out drinking raki with the boys tonight, so I hope he’s happy too.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Naked Pictures

So I felt like painting during the holiday break. I have hired a model for my own work several times, but she’s a bit expensive, so I thought I’d work from myself in a mirror (I’m cheap). I’m doing these little fast paintings on paper to supplement my other work for a gallery show, as these nudes might sell easily here (well, more easily than my bigger conceptual paintings…)
But looking at them compared to some of the Turkish models, you can really tell which ones are Kloe, and I feel a bit weird about it. Maybe it’s a hang-up with my own body? I don’t know, but maybe I can’t show these studies in Turkey…

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Winter Tourism

Afyon hisar (castle is up on the cliff) and town center. Too bad the castle couldn’t be reached in the winter.
Back in our Anatolian City the weather continues to be incredibly mild. I was able to do my Sunday morning walk around the campus (I miss you A.W.) in a sweatshirt.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Imagine This

You are swimming in an indoor thermal pool that smells vaguely of lavender. You dive through a tunnel into the open night. Steam is rising off the water. And falling on your head are snowflakes, so you are both warm and chilled. Your seal-son is bobbing next to you, looking up into the dark and describing how he is traveling in space among the stars. And because you are from SoCal, you keep thinking it’s not snow but ash falling from the sky. This is Anatolia—it both stings because it is harsh and melts you completely because it is beautiful.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Party Girls and Boys

Last week was party week at school, and I went to lots, as I’m shared around between several departments. Early in the week was the Painting Dept. (pictured above), where students have a rock band that is pretty good. Next day was the Printmaking party, more formal, as the Dean is in this department. Then Graphic Design, great decorations, and Ceramics, with hot wine. At all of these parties the profs socialized with the students, something that doesn’t happen as much in the States. Sort of makes a nice atmosphere.
Looks like snow again here. We’re off to Afyon for a few days, where the kids can swim in a warm pool. See ya.


On recent house visits, where the t.v. has been on as background noise, I’ve seen two rather fascinating and appalling concerts. The first was by Cher. She sang oldies, she wore wigs, she did her best to look 30 when she must be near 60. Her neck has no wrinkles and her face is the same mask it was years ago. Her dancers and musicians didn’t outshine her, and were not thin. Smart. But Cher was so funny in the old days, making sport of her beauty, and now what? How do we age gracefully? When do we bow out?
The second concert was by Madonna. I had heard that she was bringing back the highcut leotard, and there she was, not only in 1970s feathered-bangs hairstyle but also wearing a unitard! She’s muscled, she keeps up with her East L.A. dancers, but who can look good in a unitard? And a white one, too!
During this concert I was having a rather heated conversation with a prof friend about demeaning images of women I see around our department (I’ll write about them in another post), when Madonna stuck her hand down her pants and then licked her fingers. Which caused me to have to get down on bended knee in front of my friend and beg for forgiveness for my sex as he laughed his head off. Hell and damnation, one step forward and two back.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Milk and Honey

For the benefit of my foodies in NoCal, here’s what we ate on New Year’s Eve:
Red lentil and bulgur balls with fresh mint
Grape leaves stuffed with cinnamon rice and pine nuts
Stewed sweet celery root and carrots
Grated celery root, walnut, garlic and yogurt salad
Red cabbage salad
Green salad with pears
Feta cheese and olives (of course)
Roasted red bell peppers and spicy green peppers
White beans
Mixed nuts
Homemade butter from Trabzon with village bread
Raki (men), cabernet (women)
Cheesecake, gingerbread and s’mores (marshmallows from the States)
For the kids:
Pasta and butter
Milk and honey (literally)

Monday, January 01, 2007

First Day of 2007

Kurban Bayram:
Upon arrival for the breakfast, everyone got in line, from oldest to youngest, in front of the 85 year old grandmother. Kissed her hand and touched in to our forehead.
The kids received money and presents.
At the breakfast I ate one piece of liver to be polite.
We then visited other houses, each time taking chocolate. Every house served a plate of food and gave the kids money.

New Year’s Eve:
Casual dining into the night.
Kids all stayed up with legos and hot wheels.
Kids decorated gingerbread cookies and I made a gingerbread house (this was new for Turks).
Big slumber party, and woke up to a warm day that melted most of the remaining snow.

Now what will 2007 bring?