Friday, November 19, 2010

Buona notte, Venezia! Buona notte, luna!

I've finally stopped answering the Italians in Turkish, and the whole island seems to be rocking like I'm on an eternal waterbus ride, but, alas, it is time to go...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Things that Surprise Me about Venice

1) There are no coffee shops, the kind that you can stay in for hours, drinking little, but slowly, while reading or working on your laptop.

2) Three- or four-course meals are not long and drawn out affairs. Rather, plates overlap or appear in immediate succession (#1 and #2 create a rushed feeling to ingesting liquid and matter... slowness is reserved for wandering the streets).

3) The locals cart backpacks on wheels behind them. What they carry inside them, God only knows.

4) I think I could live here, on this tiny, tightly woven web of stone and water, the Dolomites only 3 hours away by train.

5) Wine is as cheap as water (maybe not surprising?).

6) Men actually do say, "Ciao, Bella!" It's not just a T-shirt.

7) It's rare to find a wi-fi hotspot (maybe relates to #1).

8) A 1/4 bottle of wine still makes me tipsy, even in Italy. I'm such a waif.

9) Espresso immediately drunk after wine, ironically, does not work immediately.

10) This city was actually built! It didn't just stop at an idea. And it suffers from so many problems that must have been foreseeable while planning: in the Winter at high tide, parts of the city (like San Marco square) flood for two hours every day; motorboats' reverberations are disturbing buildings' foundations; wastewater? where does it go?; the lagoon is polluted; building facades are crumbling down, materials wet and saturated. All these problems must have been present in the minds of those who planned this city, and yet, they built it! And despite all these ridiculous problems, the city is enchanting because the idea is magical, kid-like.

Daytime in Venice: A Photo Essay

20 Things I Love About Venice

Prologue: I am staying in Venice for a week, and other than a few pre-arranged dates with couchsurfers to make sure I don't go insane, I am largely wandering the streets alone, putting my thoughts to paper, and loving it. I made a pact with myself to leave my camera in the apartment every time I venture out, so I will record my thoughts and observations with a pen, because this trip is largely about recapturing the poet's spirit I felt so strongly here when with my Ezra Pound classmates two summers ago.

Today, I shall post for you pictures of my apartment and the view from its balcony (because I am not cheating if I take pictures from within the apartment, you see), and also list some things I love about this city. Perhaps you can feel it or see it without my sharing pictures (however, I am going to take my camera out one afternoon and "write with light," because I just can't help myself).

Note: I have begun publishing my poetry on a sister blogpage, There will be a delay before anything Venetian appears on it, as I like to spend some time with a poem before putting it out there, but I have been updating the site with recently finished material.

20 Things I Love About Venice

1) When saying goodbye on the phone, Italians say between 3-5 "ciao"s spoken fast and in a row.

2) Italians pronounce every vowel in ciao.

3) Men frequently sing to themselves on the street, in rain or fog.

4) Nowhere else in the world would I feel so safe in poorly-lit, tall, narrow alleys.

5) It is impossible to access one's sense of direction while wandering the winding streets of Venice.

6) Culturally-rich surprises can be found around corners, ie, the extended exhibit of Stanley Kubrick's photography from the 1950s.

7) The city is sinking unevenly, and there is a church tower leaning dangerously over a canal.

8) There are no cars.

9) Public transport is by boat.

10) The lagoon water is opaque emerald green.

11) There are umbrella stands inside the doors of all shops, and wellies are for sale around every corner. Winter flooding is a matter of fact.

12) Shopkeepers don't stand at their doorways yelling at me, "Yes, please!" and they don't follow my around in the store. (Sorry, Turkey. There are many things I love about you, but this is not one of them.)

13) Every time I leave the apartment with a certain goal in mind, I get lost or sidetracked. Plans get me out the door, but end there.

14) Italian is not a quickly-spoken language. The second to last syllable of every word is drawn out and stressed.

15) Women wear tall boots, colored or patterned tights, and short skirts.

16) The food is putting a kind of hearty nourishment into my body which Turkish tummy has deprived me of for two years.

17) Venice is home of tiramisu.

18) The view from my balcony of red-tiled roofs is evoking in me some kind of childhood memory of a Disney movie.

19) I am at a concert in the Salon of La Fenice, one of the most famous opera houses which burnt down and was rebuilt twice, and I have no idea what kind of music I purchased a ticket for, but there are exactly 15 different drums on stage.

20) My apartment is in an attic and has eaves. I've always wanted a "writing room" in such a space.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Making Yaprak Sarma with Rukiye

Yaprak sarma is one of my favorite Turkish foods. It's grape leaves wrapped around a rice mixture topped with yogurt and maybe tomato sauce depending on the region of Turkey you're in. I regularly crave it, and have narrowed down a few restaurants in Ankara that serve the best sarma.

My Turkish friend, Rukiye, had me over one rainy Saturday to teach me the Izmir way of making it. Izmir is a city on the Aegean Coast where she is from. I can't tell you exactly how to make it, because it seems more of a kinesthetic, pass-it-on-in-person kind of tradition, but I can tell you what's in Rukiye's mixture: rice, onion, fresh parsley, fresh mint, and tomato pulp. I've also tried making the stuffing with currants, pine nuts, and cinnamon. And I've had it with ground meat as well.

Rukiye had planned for us to roll about 100 of these little guys, a tedious process, but like an Turkish tradition, there were lots of breaks to drink tea, eat sweets, and chat.

Rukiye is a Turkish Literature teacher, and her English is about as good as my Turkish. If anyone were to watch us spend time together, they would have to laugh, because I speak in Turkish and she speaks in English so we can both practice. We're never speaking the same language at the same time, and we're each speaking at a 4-year-old's level in the language that the other person teaches IB literature in!! At one point, when Rukiye noticed I was tiring of rolling the yaprak sarma, she suggested I read aloud to her a child's picture book called "The Polar Bear," because she is working on reading it, and wanted to listen to it in English. I started to read it earnestly, and then we both suddenly caught the giggles at the ridiculousness of two grown woman sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, the Turkish woman rolling yaprak sarma while the American woman reads aloud a children's picture book.