Saturday, January 9, 2010

...Yokomoestro Salvador...

One of the downsides to Istanbul being such a modern city (which really really is, the tram system is great, the Turkish bathrooms everyone sqeams about are totally avoidable, and the Turkish culture is marketed much like it is in Marrakesh, only with more class) is that it means two things:

1) ALL hostels have motion sensor lights. This is a fact which makes doing things like walking to the bathroom and brushing your teeth impossible on Shabbat. So I found a hostel that was bit more expensive but had a single room that wasn't upstairs, and was instead on the ground floor where I would encounter no automated lighting but where I would trade that unfortunate appliance for an earful (and eyeful) of people eating at the restaurant adjacent to my window. As in, right outside. But it was OK- I left on the bathroom light. I stole Turkish Airlines silverware and bought nuts and bread and vegis and -- get read -- Happy Cow cheese!!!!! -- from the Egyptian market to my traditional Friday night sandwhich after which I executed my traditional Friday night read-alone-in-the-bathroom-because-that's-where-there's-light.

2) The Jews have seriously high-tech secuiry. I had to fax my passport to the cheif rabbi's office, along with my address and phone number, only to have the secretary call me and ask me "What you want". I told her that I wanted to go to synagogue. She directed me to one -- poorly, but I got there. I've learned to allow myself to get lost at least once whenever trying to get somewhere new for the first time. I made it just in time for Kabbalat Shabbat with my passport in my pocket.

About the passport: What a disaster. I had to leave it at the shul because, like Moroccan Jews, Turkish Jews are, well, er, more linient when it comes to things like electricity and eruv (which they don't have) on Shabbat. So they didn't care that I might have an issue with that - but I worked it out. I left it there. I left it with one of the men who seemed to be a gabbai-sort of guy who called himself, as he took my passport, "Bank Leumi" (the national bank of Israel). He is going to meet me tomorrow at a concert of maqamim that will take place at a differnet synagogue that I was already planning on attending. I know that, given my record with passports, this sounds dumb (yes, mother). But for better or worse, I trust my man, Bank Leumi.

So they don't have an eruv. But they DO say Mizmor Shir l'Shabbat with the tunes I know from home and sing Ein Kelokeinu in LADINO! I was so excited. They also do weird things like blow a kiss off somewhere when they say Barchu after Aleinu, rub their bellies when the mishebeirachs mention the word "refuah" (healing) and wave the air like they're sending off a spirit when they say something else (I forget -- it was weird). They were very nice, and as usual, some spoke English and some spoke odd broken Hebrew, but they invited me to their "seuda" on Shabbat day - so I went. Everyone got a plate of bourekas, two types of cheese, and a piece of cake. And lots of Turkish tea. Much better than the stuff on the street.

That "seuda" turned out to be the only food I ate all day since I spent the rest of the day across the Bosphorus reading in an expat coffeeshop reading with my boots off, meeting interesting people, and listening to a poetry reading by an Istanbulian from Maine that sounded (to my untrained ear) more like the ramblings of a sophomore-year fratboy rap with subjects like "butter" and "fruit salad" most of the time contianing not-so-subtle sexual innuendos.

So that was my Shabbat in Istanbul. Looks like my friend who was supposed to come in today had her flight delayed from Ireland -- so I'm solo tonight again and back in my cheapo hostel. We'll see what sort of trouble I can get into in a night on my own.

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