An Afternoon at Miniatürk

On yet another sunny day in Istanbul, I took the kids to Miniatürk. It’s an outdoor play area on the northern end of the Golden Horn that contains miniature reconstructions of historical buildings and places in Turkey or related to Turkey.

It’s a big place.

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The kids headed straight to the playground, which includes this Trojan Horse. (The Trojan Horse is not part of the miniatures.)

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When you enter you are given a map and a little sheet of paper with a bar code. You place the bar code next to a small scanner near each exhibit and you can listen to a short history of the building in either Turkish or English (depending on the code you were given). I put the sheet next to the scanner and listened to a few of the explanations. Meredith told me I should stop doing that because it was annoying. She was not interested in the history of the buildings. She was interested in running around the place and eating ice cream. Which she and her brother did.

Then the kids got to operate a car ferry.

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We saw a few places we’ve seen in real life and many more that I’d like to see in real life.

Hagia Sophia

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Dolmabahçe Clock Tower and Palace

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Aspendos Amphitheatre

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Atatürk Olympic Stadium

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Eyup Sultan Mosque

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Pamukkale

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The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia (complete with hot air balloons)

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Henry said he wanted to ride in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia. He says that now. But he’s afraid of heights. He didn’t last long yesterday (Sunday) at the top of Galata Tower. I highly doubt he’d get into a hot air balloon.

We didn’t see all of the miniatures. According to my map there are 116 of them at Miniatürk. Henry would like to go back. I’m not sure if it’s for the miniatures or the Magic Corn he snacked on sold at one of the stands inside the place. Magic Corn is nothing more than corn kernels that are cooked, mixed with butter and salt, and then placed in a cup. You eat it with a spoon. Henry thought it was great.

But not Meredith. One trip to Miniatürk was enough for her. On the way back to our apartment, she fell asleep on the bus.

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To Run a Race on Two Continents

When running in Istanbul, you don’t really have to worry much about doing Hill Work. The hills find you. They’re everywhere.

My initial forays into running here have taken me to and around Maçka Park. It’s a nice park, relatively narrow, on the side of a hill facing the Bosphorus. I often do circuits around the outside of the park. Getting there from where I live is downhill. Part of the clockwise route is flat, then it goes down and then back up to the top of the park. I’m getting a lot of practice going up and down hills.

For doing tempo runs and my Sunday long(ish) runs, I’ve been running along the Marmara Sea. There’s a path on parts of the coast there between the Galata Bridge and beyond the Yenikapi ferry station. It’s not unobstructed. There are very few places you can run here that are unobstructed. I have to navigate around the cars coming into and out of a car ferry terminal, and around the metal fencing topped with razor wire that might or might not indicate construction.

It takes me about 45 minutes to get there though. So I have to do a bit of planning to get there. I’ve got an Amphipod water bottle that I carry on my hand. It has a small zippered case that I stash a 1 Lira coin (in case I need to use the toilet; the WC near the Eminönü ferry docks does not let you use your transit card to pay, only cash) and a granola bar to eat at the end of my run.

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There they are, my two running companions: my Amphipod and my iPod nano. One for sustenance on long runs, the other for its ballpark-figure accurate pedometer and musical accompaniment.

I’m hoping that as I increase my mileage I’ll be in good shape to run my next race, a 15K on Sunday November 17th. It’s a race that’s part of the Istanbul Marathon. I am not doing the marathon. I’m in no shape to run a marathon. I’d prefer to run a few half-marathons, to see how I can handle the training and the distance, before I attempt a full marathon.

The course for the marathon and 15K starts on the Asian side, crosses the Bosphorus bridge (the only time pedestrians are allowed on the bridge) to the European side, where it winds its way along the Bosphorus and then across the Golden Horn.

If I complete the race, I will have raced my first 15K and have raced on two new (for me) continents (Asia and Europe). How cool is that for running milestones?

My wonderful sister will be joining me for the race. She’s a runner. She flies often for her job and so she has lots of frequent flier miles that she can cash in to fly to Istanbul. Which means it will also be the first race I’ve ever run with my sister; one more milestone to add.

P.S. I am running free of pain thanks to a lot of stretching of the muscles on and near my feet for that dreaded plantar fasciitis. Sometimes I feel tightness in the morning, but no pain.

Call to Metal (Early Morning Rant)

Update: At the bottom of this post I’ve added a link to some video footage of the pre-dawn melange of calls to prayer as heard from our back terrace.

I find that Metallica, NIN, and Ministry in my earphones are effective at mostly blocking out the morning Call to Prayer.

“If you live near a mosque you’ll have to hear the Call to Prayer,” you are warned by expats and guidebooks about choosing a place to stay or live.

This is Istanbul. There are mosques everywhere. There is nowhere you can live where you will not hear the Call to Prayer. The reason hotels here advertise soundproof windows is not for the regular sounds of the city (traffic, sirens, shouting Turks resolving conflicts, etc.). It’s because hotel owners know jet-lagged Western travelers (except Rick Steves) don’t want to be woken up well before dawn by the nearby mosques.

I’ve been here less than a month and I already hate the Call to Prayer. Few things are more jarring than walking down a street when the CALL leaps out of some tinny loudspeaker in the building next to you that doesn’t look like a mosque and pierces your head like a knitting needle through one ear and out the other. Istanbul residents just keep walking as if nothing happened. I hope to get like them.

(I will say this: the Call is not as jarring as the two stray dogs were who tried to attack me yesterday morning during the last 200 meters of my run. Dogs long ago declared war on runners for some unknown reason. At times I have wanted every dog that ever chased or bit a harmless runner to be put down along with its owner. But stray dogs are sacred in Istanbul.)

Some mosques are old, obvious, and beautiful to look at and admire. Many look like every other building squeezed next to one another here. So unless you notice the sign for it amid all the other signs above all the other jam-packed building entrances, you won’t realize you’re standing next to a mosque until you’re hit through the loudspeaker with the prayer shout.

I’m up at 5am to write. Which means I’m up before the morning Call to Prayer. For some reason this morning, the calls were all very long, over 15 minutes. I turned up the volume on my computer.

It isn’t just one call from one mosque. Throughout the day, I can often hear three, four, or five different calls at the same time from three, four, or five nearby mosques. Three, four, or five different calls at the same time produce an unmitigated thrashing of harmony that only lovers of Arnold Schoenberg would admire.

One morning, I heard a soothing voice with a very calm-sounding prayer. I thought, now that’s a nice way to ease into the day. I haven’t heard a voice or prayer sung so serenely since. Some of these guys (no women heard as of yet) sing with all the precision of a loose fire hose. God might have called some of these men to spread the Word, but he didn’t give them the Voice to sing it. (This is also true of some Catholic priests I recall from my youth.)

The Unrepentant Ass in me wishes he had a loud stereo. He would place the speakers out on the terrace. When the morning call to prayer would start, he would then turn the stereo up to 11 and select something like Black Sabbath, Metallica, Iron Maiden, or Slayer. When the police showed up he would claim it was his morning Call to Metal and that he was a worshiper here at the “Metal Church.”

The unrepentant ass would probably be deported back to the U.S. that day. So it’s a good thing there isn’t a loud stereo in this apartment.

I think it’s best if I just have a shot of Turkish coffee while I sit and read as the sun brightens the city.

Addendum: Here’s some video of what it sounds like most mornings with the window open. When the windows are closed, it’s not as loud.

Fresh

My after lunch snack: chocolate cookie with nuts inside, baklava, and Turkish coffee,

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coupled with the view from our terrace,

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makes for a relaxing and productive afternoon.

It’s another sunny day in Istanbul. Sometimes when you get very irritated (like me) because you have to take a subway to a funicular to a tram (45 minutes) in order to get to a seaside running path so you can run with fewer obstructions in order to do a tempo run, it’s good to remind yourself that there are small pleasures to be enjoyed. That these small pleasures are fresh and require only a short walk and a few lira at most.

There are several bakeries and markets near our apartment building. Every day there are fresh-baked goods, from bread, to cookies, to rolls, to the many varieties of baklava that can be bought. The markets have fresh fruit and vegetables, including dates, nectarines, apples, peaches, strawberries, beans, and tomatoes.

They do not last long. What you buy has to be eaten within a day or two or three, at most, or frozen. A cookie in its paper bag soon starts to leak out its butter, which is why they crumble in your mouth and impart such a full, sweet taste. The sweets go very well with the thick coffee.

It’s been a little hard to shift from my American focus of buy-a-lot-in-one-trip, versus buy-what-you-need-for-the-next-day-or-so. The shift has been made easier by the fact that you can only buy what you can carry here. No car to transport large numbers of things.

I’m working on shifting to a more fresh-minded attitude towards food. With every taste it gets little easier.

“Galatasaray! Galatasaray! Cim Bom Bom!”

My first lesson in attending a football match in Turkey had to do with coins.

“Do you have any coins?” Mert asked as we headed toward the steps of the Metro station.

“Uh, yeah,” I said. I’d grabbed plenty before I’d left the apartment to meet up with him.

“How many?”

My pocket was full of coins. I pulled out a handful and showed them to him.

“Okay. We have to get rid of them. They won’t let you take coins into the stadium.”

“What? Why?”

He made a throwing motion with his arm. “People throw them on the field.”

I explained that the reason I had so many was that it’s very hard to get lira coins but you need them because Turkish shopkeepers don’t like to make change for anything bigger than a ten lira note.

We counted out my change and I had ten lira. Mert took it from me. “No problem,” he said. We went down into the Metro station and then we went from shop to shop trying to see if they would exchange the coins for a ten lira note. Several shops wouldn’t. At one shop we bought two half-liter bottles of water for a couple of lira and then they gave us a ten lira note for all of the change I had.

Lighter in my pockets, we rode the trains which were tightly-packed with people in red and yellow jerseys to Turk Telecom Arena for the match.

Our friend Murat has season tickets to Galatasaray matches. Murat was out of town for a conference so he couldn’t go to the match. He offered me his ticket and I took him up on it. I met with his friend Mert and that’s when I was given the lesson on coins and football matches.

Mert proved to be a cheerful, amiable guide and companion to this largely football-illiterate American.

Once outside the arena, Mert and I went through several ticket and security checks. I don’t have a ticket as a souvenir. Season ticket holders have debit card that is linked with the seat and the price of the tickets. At the final security check, you hand the card to the ticket agent and he places it in a slot next to a floor-to-ceiling turn-style gate. When the light on the slot turns green, you go through and the agent hands you back your card. (I had never seen this before. It was new to me. Maybe I need to get out more often.)

The final check also required the donation of your coins into a clear plastic box. I donated the leftover 70 kurus that had remained in my pocket.

In the U.S., no professional sports arena is going to prohibit you from bringing money inside, regardless of the denomination. Any money you bring inside is potential revenue at the many food and souvenir stands. The goal of professional sports teams in the U.S. isn’t often to have a winning team, it’s to separate you from your money (much like a Vegas casino). I should note that Turk Telecom has far fewer food and souvenir stands than the average U.S. arena.

Water bottles are also prohibited. So we had to down our water. It was a warm night so I didn’t mind. Mert explained that it could be filled with water or piss and thrown onto the field.

Pretty much anything that could be thrown on the field that could cause harm is prohibited inside Turk Telecom Arena.

Our seats were on the upper level, just above the main cheering section. This section, on the bottom level behind one of the goals, contains the fans who lead all of the chants throughout the match. There are drums which are pounded almost constantly. I don’t know if you can see them below.

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Then there was this guy.

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He stood the entire match on the railing of that platform waving his arms in helping lead the chants.

The chants started a half-hour before the match. Those were mostly a warm-up. There was a tribute to Metin Oktay, a legendary Galatasaray player.

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And then the national anthem was played.

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Notice the section in the upper-left that is empty? That’s for fans of the opposing team. It’s completely fenced off and has its own entrance. That’s to keep them from getting the crap beat out of them by the Gala fans.

By the time the match against Antalya started, the entire arena was roaring so loudly that any conversation I and Mert attempted to have had to be shouted. The cheering is constant. The only real break in the cheering is during the break at the half. Mert pointed out that the people down in the cheering section often aren’t even paying attention to the match, they’re so busy with their chants.

I asked Mert about the chants, “Cim Bom Bom” (pronounced “Jeem Boam Boam”) being the most used. He told me how that was the team’s nickname and how no one knows just how it came to be. But the fans sing the Galatasaray march and various chants that feature the nickname. He also told me that some of the phrases the fans shout can be translated as things like “We’ll fuck your mother! We’ll fuck you in the shower! etc.” He wouldn’t tell me the phrases. I was like, hey, I need to learn Turkish slang, too!

Whenever there was a goalie kick for the opposing team, the whistling started. Thousands of people whistling in unison is the definition of an ear-splitting sound.

Mert warned me that at 34 minutes into the match there would be a Taksim Square chant. Why 34? Because that’s the postal code for Istanbul. So at 34 minutes into the match a large section of the crowd chanted (in Turkish) “Everywhere is Taksim. Everywhere is resistance.”

This is no small thing. It gets picked up on the TV and radio broadcasts, which the broadcasters try to censor. It also can lead to the broadcasters turning off the sound for the match. The government is now even more annoyed by Turkish football fans.

A couple of weeks ago, [Interior Minister Muammer Guler] announced plans to turn a 2011 law intended to control violence at soccer games into a tool for controlling politics at the matches as well. A current prohibition against “slogans exceeding the limits of sports” is to be more widely interpreted to also include political comments. To be in compliance, the Besiktas club is asking its season-ticket holders to sign a pledge “not to insult in a manner that could ignite social, political and ideological incidents or that would target a certain group of people.”

There’s a small park not far from here in Istanbul that has a large block with Article 19 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights on it, written in both Turkish and English. It reads:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Another friend told me that the government has done something that had been thought impossible: it has united a majority of the Besiktas, Fenerbahce, and Galatasaray fans. These are the three Istanbul teams. They form an intense rivalry among each other, with Fenerbahce and Galatasaray being the most intense.

I had a fantastic time with Mert at the match Friday night, though it ended in a tie, 1-1. At the end of the night, my ears weren’t quite ringing but my hearing was muffled. Mert was hoarse. My own voice was only a few levels above from hoarse. It’s very easy to get caught up in the cheering. It’s an experience far more intense than any American football, baseball, or basketball game. In my experience, it’s much closer to the intensity of a NIN or Social Distortion concert.

Did I mention that the loudest crowd ever recorded was at Turk Telecom Arena?

Well, at least until last weekend….

I’d love to go again.

They Have My Name On Them

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I saw these shoes in a store on Istiklal Street.

I don’t know how much they cost. I should have just gone inside to find out the price. But I think I should buy them, regardless.

What say you, people of the Internet?

While we’re on the topic of fashion, I’ve been trying to convince my wife that she’d look great in jeggings or wearing the short skirts that fashionable Istanbul women prefer. Or even some of the risque lingerie she’s spotted on display in front of various stores. 😉

But she’s not buying it from me. Though she did buy a very nice dress yesterday. Now we need a babysitter so that I can take her out somewhere she can wear it.

How I Registered My Cell Phone in Turkey

Or How I Bumbled My Way Through the Turkish Bureaucracy in the Quest to Make a Foreign Phone Work in Turkey

I am sure I am not the first foreigner who, after attempting to follow the mysterious and complicated procedures of the Turkish government, recalls that the term “byzantine” emerged from this part of the world.

I tried to follow the directions given by the very useful expat site Yabangee.com to register my U.S. cellphone in Turkey. My quest went a little differently than the procedure they describe.

Side Note: why it’s called “Yabangee” is beyond me. The Turkish word for “foreigner” is “yabancı,” pronounced yah-bahn-JUH. Not yah-bahn-JEE.

For those interested in the actual procedure I followed, read the numbered list below. If you want to know the myriad intricate details of my adventure, skip ahead for the long and winding read.

  1. Register the phone at a tax office (Vergi Dairesi) at the cashier’s office. Price: 115 Turkish lira. You will need your passport, phone, and the phone’s IMEI number. They will ask you to call it up on your phone by dialing *#06#. After you pay the registration fee (115 Turkish Lira as of this writing) they will give you your proof of registration.
  2. Take the registration, phone, passport, and a photocopy of your passport (the page with your photo on it) and bring that to a Police Station. You’ll go to the Passport and Foreigner’s department (Pasaport ve Yabancılar Büro) where they’ll give you a form. You write your name, your address, and a phone number, then sign your name.
  3. Take the form they give you to another floor or department where it will get stamped. Then return back to the Pasaport ve Yabancılar department where someone, probably a Lieutenant, will sign it.
  4. Take the registration, phone, your passport, and the police form to a cell phone dealer. Keep in mind that not all cell phone dealers have the ability to register foreign phones. As of this writing, I can personally attest to the fact that the dealers at the Cevahir Mall do not.
  5. You’ll have to pay another registration fee and a fee for the SIM card. Then you’ll want to add money to your account.

Done!

I am not an expert when it comes to the Turkish government or expat living. As I write this, I’ve been in Turkey all of two weeks. I have no doubt the Turkish government will change the procedures and requirements. So don’t follow these procedure a month or two or more from now and tell me it’s wrong. I’m sure it’ll be wrong by 2:30pm next Wednesday when some bureaucrat returns from brooding over their tea and decides that the Yabancılar are catching on too quickly to the phone registration procedures, so let’s change things once again by basing the price of the registration fee at the Tax Office on the size of the phone or demanding a second stamp on the Police registration from the Çöp Department.

For those who want to see just how much of a glutton for bureaucratic punishment I can be, read on.

Why, you ask, am I registering my phone in Turkey. Because cell phones won’t just work in Turkey. You can put a SIM card from a cell phone service provider for awhile but then the government cuts off your phone from service if it’s not registered with the government. Also, cell phones are expensive here. The cheap phone my wife bought with a pay-as-you-go plan cost 170 lira + 45 for the SIM card. I get to use my Droid Razr M on Turkcell’s network for 160 lira + 45 for the SIM. I didn’t need another cheap phone to add to the landfills of Turkey. Besides, I really like my phone, even if I’m not going to have a data plan on it. And it still connects to wifi which we have here at our apartment.

My quest began by searching for a Tax Office. The nearest one I could find happens to be the one highlighted by Yabangee.com. In Turkey these are called “Vergi Dairesi.”

The Vergi Dairesi in Şişli is not next to the “Vergi Dairesi” bus stop in Şişli. The map provided by Yabangee.com shows where the bus stop is located, not the actual Vergi Dairesi. But when you’re in Istanbul, that’s usually the best you’re going to get. So you do what I did, you follow the map and go to that area, then you ask random people on the street where the Vergi Dairesi is located. I asked a local simit seller, who pointed me in the right direction. I found it, around a corner, down a street and around another corner from the bus stop.

I entered the building and went up a half-flight of stairs to the first floor. I figured I would just go up to someone and tell them in my badly broken Turkish that I want to register my cellphone.

On the other side of a long, low wall that was topped with glass sat an older man. With the perfunctory skill of someone who is in no mood for surprises, he was managing and servicing queries from many people who were holding slips of white paper in their hands. Behind him, two women sat at a table sipping their tea. It was the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday. I used the Turkish-English translator on my phone to translate the sign above him: Cashier’s Office, or something to that effect.

After awhile, I managed to move up in the loosely-formed line. “Line” isn’t the right word. It’s more like a small crowd in which “dibs” have been declared. Less formal than US and UK custom of lining up but more orderly than the Chinese patented push-and-shove-your-way-to-the-front method.

One of the women who had been drinking tea, said something which was interpreted as being that she would help who was next, again with all the perfunctory skill of someone who was in no mood for surprises.

I turned on the phone and went to the “About” section and opened it to the page which displayed various information about the phone, including, most importantly, the IMEI number. I knew this number is required, because it’s the phone’s unique identifier. She looked at my phone then handed it back to me and told me a bunch of things. I could only make out *06. So I dialed that and nothing happened.

I showed her the phone and she barked at me.

In the US, my ears are trained to hear “blah, blah, blah” when I don’t understand something. Here in Turkey, my ears are fast training themselves to here “blahsh, blahsh, blahsh.” So her request come out as: “STAR-BLAHSH-ZERO-SIX-BLAHSH!” I couldn’t understand. She said it louder a few more times.

“STAR-BLAHSH-ZERO-SIX-BLAHSH!”

Finally, she said something to the guy who had dibs in line behind me and he touched the hash mark on my phone and the IMEI number appeared. She could have been saying “hash” but it didn’t sound like it, dumb foreigner that I am.

Apparently, showing them the IMEI number is not enough. It has to be found by hitting those symbols on the keypad.

Then she sent me down the line where I paid 115 Turkish Lira to the older man and was handed my registration. I thought, great, now I’ll just head over to a cellphone dealer to get my phone working here.

I couldn’t go right away because I needed to go back to our apartment to be there when the kids came home from school. So after dinner I went up to Cevahir Mall and that’s how I found out that not all cell phone dealers register phones bought in other countries. A worker at a Vodaphone explained in English that the mistaken word had been given out that the cellphone dealers at the Cevahir Mall register foreign phones. (I myself had heard it from a guy from the UK who was in line behind me at the Tax Office trying to do what I had just done. He’d been sent from floor-to-floor and was hoping to finally find someone who could at least tell him where to go to register his phone.) He told me that not all cell phone dealers have the ability to register foreign phones.

The next day, Wednesday, I headed down to Istiklal Street in the morning, figuring that the heavily trafficked shopping area ought to have cell phone dealers who can deal with foreign phones. I was right. I went into a Turkcell, waited for the guy who knew how to register foreign phones, gave him my phone and registration, and explained I wanted to register and use my phone. He explained in Turkish that I needed something from the police department. Then he vaguely pointed me in the direction of the local police department.

I walked down Istiklal street for awhile, trying to remember if I’d even seen a police station. Finally, I saw another Turkcell and explained to the worker standing at the entrance what I needed, showing my phone and registration. He told me the police station was over on a Tarlabaşı Street and then another 200 meters up.

I walked some more and there it was on Tarlabaşı Street: the Beyoğlu police station.

At the entrance I had to pass through security, stating my business. I showed the man my phone and the registration, he pointed me up to the first floor. Up on the first floor there were two offices. I chose the Pasaport ve Yabancılar department. I figured any department that deals with passports and foreigners ought to be able to help me.

Inside, I again showed my phone and the registration and one of the men told me I needed a photocopy of my passport. Which I of course didn’t have because I didn’t know I needed a photocopy of the picture page of my passport, let alone that I needed something from the local police in order to use my phone in Turkey. Okay.

There are hundreds of places in Istanbul that provide copying services. They just don’t ever happen to be nearby when you need them. I walked a bit down Tarlabaşı but didn’t find any. I passed a simit seller and bought a simit because I was getting hungry from all the walking. I ate while I walked down a side street and then another off Istiklal and found a place that made copies. The man spoke English and asked me “color or black and white?” I thought for a moment and said “color.” I didn’t want to take the chance that black and white wasn’t good enough. At this point, I had no idea what new requirements would be thrown at me.

Photocopy in hand, I returned to the police station, went through security, and up to the office. I handed the man my phone, the registration, my passport, and the photocopy of the passport. He looked everything over and handed me a form and a pen.

I had to write my name and address, sign my name, and then provide a phone number. I paused at this last one. I mean, if I had a phone number I wouldn’t be trying to register my phone IN THE FIRST PLACE….Thankfully, my wife bought a cheap basic phone with a pay-as-you-go SIM card from Turkcell a few days after we arrived in Istanbul. So I used her number.

The man looked everything over. He stapled the photocopy of my passport to the sheet I had just filled out and said I had to go up to the second floor to get the papers stamped. Riiii-iight.

Up to the second floor I went. In an office there, a man took my papers, typed a few things on his computer, stamped the papers, typed some more things on his computer, then handed me my papers and said I could go.

Back downstairs I handed in my stamped papers. That’s when they told me that it needed to be signed by their lieutenant. He wouldn’t be in the office until the afternoon, so I should return around 2 o’clock.

I went back to our apartment.

“Any luck?” asked my wife. I said, “Yes and no.” And I explained what I’d spent my morning doing.

“At least they told you when to come back.”

I ate lunch, read a little (Orlando by Virginia Woolf), and started to work on this blog post. At 2 o’clock I left the apartment and returned to the police station, going through security, etc.

The lieutenant, who was the only person there in the Pasaport ve Yabancılar office wearing a uniform, was expecting me. He said everything was fine but that he had some questions for me. I’m thinking they must be questions about my purpose in Turkey or something related to my phone. No. He wanted to know if the word “saw” meant a tool for cutting and what the word “hummingbirds” meant. I guess he was checking on some new English words he’d come across. I wasn’t about to explain how “saw” is also a conjugation for the verb “to see.”

Then the lieutenant gave me a sheet of paper with the police department’s okay on it. I took that, the registration, and my phone back to the original Turkcell I had visited earlier that day. By then it was 3 o’clock and it was Rush Hour in there. I waited for awhile, but there were so many other people in front of me, and I was tired. Between all the walking around and the fact I’d been up well before dawn thanks to a bout of diarrhea, I thought it best to call it a day.

This morning, I walked down our street and into the first Turkcell I saw, I went inside and showed the registration, the police form, and my phone. One woman spoke some English and explained to another woman what was needed and explained to me how much it would all cost.

I had a minor panic when the young woman who was setting up my phone couldn’t get the SIM card in my phone. I tried and I couldn’t get it to go in either. Oh, this is great, I thought, I’ve spent the better part of the previous two days, walking around Istanbul chasing down documents and paying a lot of lira to use a phone in a country that has SIM cards that don’t fit.

The woman who spoke some English came over, flipped the SIM card around, and pushed it in. Voila!

I paid 90 Turkish Lira to Turkcell (45 for the SIM card and 45 for their registration fee). For those keeping count, that’s three forms of registration as far as I can tell: Tax Office, Police Station, and Cell Phone provider.

But my phone now works in Turkey. So my wife and friends here can actually call me and vice versa.

What did I learn from this experience?

That I could increase my patience and my tolerance for absurdity. Not once did I lose my temper. Normally, I think of myself as an impatient, hot-headed bastard when things don’t go the way I expect them to go. Quite honestly, what the hell would a shit-fit have done for me? Nothing. I’m in a country with rules I don’t understand, whose people speak a language I don’t yet understand. Given my position, which is a complete lack of control over things, it was best for me to just roll with it and bumble along.

Final Note: You know what my wife and I needed to use our several years-old, cheap, GSM T-Mobile phones in China last summer? SIM cards from a Chinese phone company. That’s it.