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Category Archives: turkey

picture time!

whoohooo!

all of the pictures below were shot on my new superduper Nokia N95 8GB with its 5 megapixel camera with carl zeiss optics. i havent done anything to the photos apart from shrink them in size from a full 5 meg original pic.

lets start with where my last post ended picture wise. that was Istiklal street during the afternoon, on a weekday.

heres a repost of the pic:

istiklal.jpg

pretty busy right?

rather crowded?

well,…..this is taksim on a friday night. by the way, their weekends are saturday/sunday.

taskim-night.jpg

and bear in mind, that a) you cant see where the people end because b) this street is 3-4 kilometers or so long, and its just as crowded from start to end. actually it tends to be more crowded at the ends since people loiter. turks love to loiter 😛

basically this street is where you get all your levis, next, quicksliver, blah,blah,blah, shops,….. the kind you see in every city or every mall,…. like this one:

cevahir.jpg

this is Cevahir mall, the largest mall in europe and supposedly the second largest in the world after the one in the US. oh and Kuwait Investment Authority bought it a while ago.

at one end of Istiklal street, it turns into beyoglu, i think. anyway its where the hill goes down an there are music instrument shops everywhere. of course i forgot to take a picture of them but instead took one of the cafe outside which i ate a turkish shawerma:

near-tower.jpg

remember the first picture?

well this is down an alley off of Istiklal street:

taksim-back-street.jpg

just about everything here is local made i think, and just about everything costs 10 YTL ( new turkish lira) which right now is the equivalent to US$10. so yeah some things are still cheap like clothes that are locally made since turkey has a massive textile industry. and chances are if you look in your cupboard you’ll find a couple of things made in turkey even tho they carry a big designer name.

so is the stuff in this alley way “stuff that fell off the back of a truck” ?

does it really matter ?

😛

anyway, if youre after odd quirky and relatively cheaper everyday clothes then dont stay on istkilal, scoot down one of the many alleyways and i think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

this is down another alley way:

taksim-backstreet-2.jpg

it may look crappy, and it probably is, but since its just off Istiklal it sure aint cheap.

and no its not the ghetto.

this is:

tarlabasi1.jpg

or rather one building in the ghetto.

its called Tarlabasi, and its dangerous and populated by pimps, hookers, and junkies.

of course i didnt know this at the time, but atleast pimps, hookers and junkies tend to sleep late on sunday mornings so i didnt have any trouble 😛

the interesting thing is that tarlabasi runs parallel to Istiklal street.

this is tarbalasi avenue:

tarlabasi-avenue.jpg

so picture this.

the abandonded building is behind me as i’m taking this picture.

and Istiklal street is just across the road and up a little hill.

ahhh i cant wait to get back there!

.

.

and i normally dont fall in love with inanimate objects,…. but i really do love my new phone 😀

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wouldnt that make a great pub name? 😛

before i went i had heard that turkey had blocked access to wordpress, but i was really hoping that it was only a temporary thing. saddly it wasnt and its still there as you can see:

wordpress-block.jpg

does make a nice change from “ACCESS FORBIDDEN!” a la kuwaiti ISP’s dontcha think?

anywhoo, i had a brilliant time in istanbul and i cant wait to get back there. there are a couple of niggling thoughts in the back of my head but i’m pretty much decided on moving there. those niggling thoughts shall, i’m sure, be exterminated within due course.

my main reason for going was to check it out as a possible base of operations for the middle east. geographically its great since its only a few hours into the gulf, iraq, egypt, or just about anywhere including iraq as i would find out from an iraqi who was staying in the same hotel.

whoohoo! 1 point to the skunk for getting basic analysis right! 😛

my second reason for going was to stick my eyes under a laser.

i cant remember exactly when i started wearing glasses, but i know it was around the age of 9 or 10 give or take a year. i do remember my parents picking up a pair of glasses tho, and i do remember them being practical as ever,…. which roughly translates into “the biggest possible glasses the shop made”,…. you know so i could see eeeeeeverything.

they made me look like this:

and for the longest time i’ve wanted to get my eyes lightsabered ever since it became a viable alternative to spectacles.

for a number of reasons however, things never really seemed right,…. it was either too new, too expensive, the procedure sounded too crude, or the “clinic” looked like a hi-tech McDonalds, and in some cases were actually located in shopping malls.

where ever i was about to travel i googled “lasik + (insert destination) “, mostly just out of curiosity. most times the usual stuff would come up, ie : adverts, horror stories from locals who had it done, etc., but it was mostly local people talking about local eye surgeons. which is fine, just not that special.

istanbul, however, turned up something different.

i was expecting a whole bunch of turkish forums and reviews in turkish, but lo and behold, my google page gets filled with german, dutch, danish and swedish hits.

and so my adventures began.

thanks to google translate i came to these following conclusions:

– google translate sucks ass, but its pretty good considering the way people butcher various languages in forums or blogs ( one of which would be mine i’m sure 😛 )

– a whole bunch of germans have gotten their eyes and other bits of themselves done in istanbul. as did a whole bunch of swedes, danes and the dutch. and a good number of them have come back with great results complimenting both the turkish doctors and the facilities when compared to the facilities in their more “developed” EU nations. coming from german dudes thats one hell of a compliment,…. its like a japanese guy complimenting the non-japanese chef at a japanese restaraunt in the desert.

– i figured out who the best doctor was for my operation, and i got in touch with a german agency who arranged my trip with typical german efficiency, especially considering i spoke with them only a few days before i left. i thought it might have too short a notice but they managed to sort things out for me.

– google translate cant handle slang. which i think is a good thing.

– therefore i have decided that the day google translate can handle slang and can translate everything perfectly, will be the day the anti-christ announces his acquisition of 99.99% of all the banking shares in the known universe.

so heres what i decided on:

– the leading eye surgeon is a dude named dr sinan goeker.
– he’s accredited in the us and i think in germany as well. (not sure about the germany bit so do check it yourself and dont take my word for it)
– he’s trained quite a few other surgeons who are from all over,…. many of them from western europe who later go back home to open their own surgeries.
– talking to a danish and a german patient, they were impressed with the equipment saying it all looked well up to date,… apparently the ones back home were kinda crusty looking.

so i went for it.

you can contact the hospital yourself if you want, but i decided it might a good idea to go with a company called Laser Travel who are based in germany.

from first contact they were very efficient and very fast. they asked when i would like to travel and what kind of accommodation i would like. so all i had to do was pick up my ticket from turkish airlines, pack some clothes and get my ass to the airport.

they picked me up at the airport, gave me an appointment time for the next day, and i crashed in my hotel room until lunch time.

one thing i noticed: – it took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel, and yes, the turks drive like the arabs do, but with a difference,… they know how to handle wet and slippery roads.

the shittiest thing about the whole trip is the time slot that turkish airlines have. the plane leaves at 3:10am from kuwait, it takes just over 3 hours, so you get out of the airport at about 6ish in the am. you manage to get a couple hours sleep on the plane but its just not enough to gear you up for the whole day so you wind up crashing.

i crash for about 4 hours and wake up to istanbul at lunch time. i figure i might as well walk around and make some calls and have an early night, for tomorrow is the big day!

istiklal.jpg

^ thats istiklal street, during a week day afternoon,…. no holiday nothing,…. so yes there are a lot of people in instabul!

the next day, 830am the 28th of november, i’m chilling downstairs in the lobby. and the driver is late. not that its his fault. the day before the driver couldnt find the hotel either. its in a hotel area in the taksim area, but for some reason its the only hotel without a big ass sign out front.

the dude eventually gets to me, and we head off to pick up a patient from the day before, a german woman wearing big ass elton john shades during his wear-a-frilly-dress period.

i didnt know she had her eyes done yesterday,… i just thought she had crap taste in sunglasses 😛

the hospital:

again, if you speak german then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. the nurses there spoke fluent german, and the senior nurses speak great english. so once they realised i wasnt german, or a german speaker their english flowed forth.

Ms Asli from laser travel’s istanbul office was there to meet me and she went thru the steps that i would be going thru. not only did she inform me about what was going to happen, but while the testing was going on she kept asking the doctors about their opinion and if everything was ok. and it was really genuine, as in she was very active making sure everything was ok.

the thing is that they have to check your eyes to see if your cornea is of a decent thickness so they can slice it open without too much trouble. they also scan the surface to see how uneven it is. your eye might be a sphere but its hardly a perfect sphere so they gotta check that out.

let me get down the steps as far as i can remember:

– murat, one of the male nurses took me upstairs with a female nurse to a testing room. there they scanned my eyes in 2 different machines. you basically look into something that looks like those 60’s movies swirling pattern things, you know, when they try and hypnotise someone.

but it doesnt actually swirl, and its just circles of black and white.

“open our eyes as wide as you can,…. dont blink,… now you can blink,…”

you hear that all day basically.

after the scanning i was sent down to get examined by my doctor, one Dr Mehir.

he ran thru a series of your average tests, read the bottom line, which ones better, this or that? anyone with glasses knows what i mean.

Dr Mehir was a really fun jovial kind of guy, he chatted to make you feel at ease, but he didnt chat too much like some doctors do. he did a whole bunch of other tests and then said that he would have to dilate my pupils.

i thought sure go on that couldnt possibly hurt.

and it didnt,….

but heres what happens,….

they stick some drops in your eyes. then they send you to a room, sit you down and they say look at the wall infront of you. then the nurse gets some little instrument that looks like a little travel pen with a black coil and sticks it infront of your eye. “infront” mind you not “into”. i flinched cos i thought she was gonna stick it in, but she said to relax and that it wasnt going to touch my eye. and then she switches it on,…..

and it dilates your pupils or something like that.

it was weird.

its like when you look thru the viewfinder of your camera, and you quickly rotate the zoom lens,… zoom in, zoom out, zoom in, zoom out,… only it feels weird cos you dont expect it and you dont feel anything, you dont even feel your eyes refocusing. 😛

it was such a weird cool experience.

after that they send me out into the waiting room once again and this time a rather pretty nurse comes and administers eye drops that will further dilate my pupils. every five minutes. and yup, she gets it spot on, every five minutes literally. seriously these guys are proper professionals with the ability to multi task and juggle patients so well that you dont feel like youre being juggled.

the docotor also checks every 5 minutes to see how dilated your pupils are.

oh yeah and he warned me that i wouldnt be able to see clearly for about 24 hours after the drops.

i thought i saw fine, until later….

once all the checks were done and my pupils were dilated they said ok come back at 330 and we’ll do the procedure.

i asked how i could pay for it all and they said they prefered cash, and that the system for credit cards was down so cash would be the best. since i didnt have the cash on me i figured ok i could go get the cash and get some lunch then head back.

one word of advice,…. get the cash before you go for your testing and pupil dilation.

the second i stepped out into the sun i turned into count bloody dracula!

dilated pupils means more than usual amounts of sunlight get into your eyes, and trust me when i say aaaAAAaaarrrgghhhh!!!!!

ok it wasnt painful, but it was discomforting. and when ever i was facing the sun i had to walk with my eyes closed, head down, only occasionally squinting to make sure i didnt walk into traffic.

the other crap thing was that your near vision gets all messed up.

i couldnt see the time on my phone. i couldnt seem my fingers clearly!

which made the prospect of withdrawing money from a foriegn ATM scary!

my far vision was fine tho.

murat the male nurse from earlier said i could go to garanti bank around the corner and get the cash, but when i went to them they said the machines had a daily limit. and thus began my adventure to an area called besiktas to ask the bank there. they said the same thing. and so did the next one and the next one.

eventually i found a citibank. and they had someone that spoke english who explained to me that their machine had a limit too,…. but if i was using visa electron i could withdraw as much as i wanted over several goes.

i told them about my near sight problem and the woman helped me punch in the numbers a couple of times until i got used to their machines. and yes they have an english option so dont worry.

anyway, i was stupid that day cos i should have just tried the bank round the corner from the hospital,… i only found out today, when i needed some extra cash, that garanti bank machines do let you take out how ever much you want. so yeah if youre going to the istanbul surgery hospital then just use the garanti bank ATM round the corner.

and dont bother with the newspaper for while youre waiting, you cant see shit up close.

your best bet would be to bring your ipod and listen to an audio book or some music.

i got back to the hospital at 330pm and since we elected to get our operation done with dr goeker we had to wait around until he came in. the danish guy was there and we started chatting. chances are the person next to you is getting the same operation so everyone is eager to talk.

dr goeker came in around 5ish so yeah we waited for quite a while.

but once he was there it was quick.

he called me in and examined my chart and my eyes again. and we had a nice chat about what was going to happen upstairs during the surgery.

once again, very professional and very friendly. he went thru the steps and basically said just look at the green light.

then we got escorted upstairs, and since the waiting room was full, myself and the danish guy waited by the stairs.

and we watched as one after another patients started walking out, wearing skiing goggles and little blue booties around their shoes.

and yes, the both of us were waiting to see if any of them fell down the steps 😛

but no one did, and you can tell that the person that came with the patient couldnt believe it either.

about an hour later myself and the danish guy were told to step into the operating area. the first room was darkened and that was where the nurse washed and wiped out eyes.

we also got loverly blue showercaps and blue plastic foot bootie type things.

the operation:

look into the green light.

thats about all you have to do. oh and enjoy the blues music dr goeker listens to. i think it was blues but it could just as well have been jazz given the nervous state i was in.

the amazing thing is that the laser tracks your eye movements and makes adjustments to its calculations in real time. in the case that you do something silly and panic, the laser will automatically shut off and reaquire your eye to track it again.

before anyone asks, no you dont feel anything during the procedure.

you do, however, feel the retractor they stick on your eye to keep you from blinking.

all i could think of when that thing went on was wouldnt this make a great SAW movie story 😛

but once thats done they wash your eye out and wash it with anaesthetic.

then you look at the green light.

and it begins!

while staring at the the green light dr goeker tells you exactly whats going to happen and when its done. so first things first the ring is lowered around your eye and you feel a bit of pressure. its harder to focus on the green light, but its stil there.

along with what looked like red confetti everywhere, which no one mentioned before so i was worried. but i mentioned it and the dr said it was normal.

for a split second everything goes black.

and a second feels like forever.

but then you hear the laser work.

and the disturbing thing is that you smell a burning,…. yup, youre getting your eye cooked.

never thought i would ever live to say i smelled myself burn!

it wasnt bad and i didnt feel anything, and to be honest i was more intrigued about smelling the burning than worried.

and in a few minutes it was all over for one eye and time for the next one.

oddly enough i didnt notice the smell from the second one.

and before i knew it that was done too.

now dont get me wrong, i wasnt exactly the most relaxed person in there. i definately had a death grip on the sides of the bed, that had more to do with expecting pain with the pressure. but no pain came. none whatsoever.

when it was over and i stood up i could see much clearer already!

mustafa the nurse was clearish,…. i could see but everything had a milky look to it. but i could focus unlike before when i took my glasses off! the milky thing is normal so dont worry about it.

one more quick check to make sure the flaps were correctly placed, and then it was our turn to wear the dorky skiing goggles.

and yup we have to wear them when we sleep for that first night.

they gave us 2 bottles of eye drops, each to be taken at different times, painkillers and sleeping pills. our instructions were to go home, eat, take the sleeping pills and the painkillers if necessary, and go to bed.

having gotten back to my hotel room i ordered room service, did the eye drops and poped the painkillers and sleeping pills.

i only woke up once to pee, but already i could see properly,…. the milky stuff was gone.

never have i enjoyed watching pee cascade into the toilet so much!

when i finally got up inthe morning we werent allowed to wash our faces, so i showered with the skiing goggles on 😛

i didnt experience any pain myself, but the german girl said she didnt get painkillers so it was painfull for her, and the danish guy said he experienced some pain. it sounded quite bad but as soon as he popped the painkillers it was gone and he fell asleep.

so i guess i did the right thing, i popped them before the anaeasthetic wore off and before pain starterd so i didnt feel a thing.

the next morning we headed back to the hospital for one last checkup.

everything was cool, except my right eye was a little blurry, and the sunlight still hurt my eyes. but that was minor compared to the excitement i felt at being able to see without glasses!

yeah i even forgot to ask the doctor for my new numbers.

well we got a nice going away gift of turkish delight in a nice wooden box which all three of us ate at the cevahir shopping mall that we went to when our check ups were done.

theres nothing better than testing your new eyes out in a mall with all the glittering and shiy stuff. a shame christmas wasnt closer cos that really could have been something!

the light was stil a problem, and we went looking for sunglasses to buy. we didnt find anything we liked but since it was getting darker we forgot about them and wound up chatting over a cup of coffee.

during the brief moments of silence i could see that they were doing exactly what i was doing, which was reading every damn sign in sight! and not just signs,… licence plates, logos on peoples clothes, checking out what kind of cake our neighbours were eating, reading over peoples shoulders.

over the course of the next few days i’ve gotten used to my new eyes, and my right eye corrected itself. at times there was a bit of dryness but the eye drops took care of that, and sometimes my vision fluctuates very minorly.

the one thing i’ve noticed is that when i stare at this screen or anything up close for a while, and then i look up, it takes a while, like 0.5 seconds, for my eyes to adjust. but they did say that the healing process will be complete in 6 months time. i mean its cool now and i did rub my eyes by accident one night and nothing happened, but i did ask the doctor about it.

i always rub my eyes after i wake up so i asked him and he said to try and not to, but lightly is fine.

but i think the 3-6 months recovery time has more to do with your pupils adjusting after the glasses, as in the refocus time….cos the pupil is after all a muscle.

the other thing,…

colours are much more vivid!

facial skin problems like zits are much more vivid!

and i’m still reading everything!

if youre only a few hours away from istanbul, and your thinking of lasik, then i cant think of anyone better than laser travel and the istanbul surgery hospital. when my local friends heard i was going to get it done there they told me what a great place it is and how bummed they were that their new health insurance wasnt affilitated to that hospital anymore. they told me about a number of other operations that their families had there, and all were glowing reports.

today is the 10th day after the operation and i’ve got nothing to complain about.

my right and left eyes have both stabilised. the thing about my right eye being a bit blurry has gone away so everything is cool and my vision is much better than it was before with my glasses.

lights and night vision has levelled out to be just like it was when i was wearing my glasses. there is an ever so slight halo around lights at night, but if youre used to glasses and lenses then you may not notice it much. apparently it goes after a while, and i can say this,…. its nowhere near as bad as those “this is a photoshoped pic of my vision at night” pics you see online.

maybe theirs was like that but mine is barely noticable.

my eyes do get dry in the mornings especially when i first wake up, but bear in mind that i was diagnosed with dry eyes, and i’ve been living in a dusty dry desert environment for the past 7 years. which probably has something to do with it. anyway, a couple of drops of the natural tears and i’m good to go.

theres no sign of fatigue when looking at a screen for long periods of time. so i’m happy to say that tracking on renoise wont be a problem 😀

the funny thing is that i still forget that i dont have my glasses on.

i’ll be getting ready for a shower, testing the water,…. and then i’ll reach to take my glasses off. or do the same before i put my shirt on. and last night i was reading a book and wanted to push my glasses up higher on my nose for some reason.

i chuckle a bit each time 😛

all i can say is that its been worth every euro cent i paid for it, and i probably would have happily paid double and done it sooner had i know it was going to be this amazing.

i got me new superduper phone with a superduper camera built in,….

♦♦

i got my hoodie ready,…

and my nice warm coat,…

cos apparently its colder than a teet that belongs to a goat.

12 hours to go, and more than enough time to play with my new toy business expense 😛

see you guys on the other side.

since i tend to go into holiday mode when i fly, even if its for business, i figured this would be a good way for me to keep track of the important stuff i need to do.

so heres a note to self.

hey skunk, dont forget:

– you have a Lasik appointment on the 28th. hopefully they’ll say its ok to stick a laser in your eyes. if all systems are go and its done onthe 28th then you’ll have a follow up on the 29th.

– you have to pass by the istanbul stock exchange and ask about the international market, the isx free zone as a base of operations for your company and the effects of taxes on your profits. also ask about what happened during the new currency introduction. and walk around emirgan.

– dont forget to pass by the fish and vegetable markets. if youre living there you probably wont be shopping at the tesco/carrefour all the time.

– have a look at some real estate outside the city. there should be a list of towns in your phone by the time you leave.

– pay attention to the traffic, it cant be that much worse than here.

– head down to beygolu one day and talk to someone about the music scene. best time might be on the weekend, and look for weirdly dressed peoples cos theyre always fun to talk to.

– visit some banks and ask about the green dollar.

– eat eat eat eat. look for really shitty looking joints and try not to get dysentry.

well, theres not much more else that i absolutely must do. the typical tourist sites can wait, and all these things gives me something to do every day, with a nice wide margin for error or the last minute spontaneous “jump on a bus without knowing where its going”.

i will most definately be blogging from there so until the 27th i bid you farewell.

😀

mad_max_ver1.jpg

or lack there of,……

consider this:

if US$ 50-70 a barrel made it financially feasible to extract oil from oily sand,….

and in so doing made Canada, of all countries, now the country with the worlds second ( i think ) largest reserves in the world,….

and if its no longer a silly idea to grow corn in your back yard to run your car,…

and if its no longer silly to think that what you put in your tea and coffee can also drive your kids to school,…

and if its no longer silly to think that the Una-Bomber was right,….

and Al Gore wins a Nobel Peace prize for growing a beard!

then what price would oil have to be for it to no longer be silly for entire nations to send their armies across borders to secure their current future energy needs?

answer:

perhaps when oil starts getting so expensive that its actually getting too expensive to live in an oil producing country?

especially since almost everything is imported.

and if the price of everything is going up, partly becuase of the price to transport them ie the price of oil,….

what comes next after secureing the oil?

clean drinking water.

is it just me or is the world turning into a pre-madmax science fiction pre-apocalypse type thing?

take turkey’s recent military moves on iraqs northern border.

now could it really be a coincidence that theyre moving their army only a couple of weeks after the kurds announced that they were selling some pretty hefty oil contracts?

the oil law in iraq hasnt been passed yet, so the kurds are doing this on their own, probably with the funds going into their own accounts rather than that of the iraqi central government.

and while the yanks might be all “we urge restraint”,… they really dont seem too bothered.

hmmmmm,……

perhaps its time i checked ebay for a pair of black leather pants like mel wore in mad max.

and i really cant be bothered anymore.

i’ve had it with the bitching and the moaning and all the “arrghhh you moron!” ‘s .

i’ve been rather unpleasant for the past few days and i just cant seem to figure out why.

so i’m just going to put it down to being tired.

there really isnt much these days that excites me here or gets me aggravated enough to get even a little pissed off.

i used to secretly love all the stupidity.

but now it all just seems, rather,…. well stupid.

but,….

instead of being just another complaining foreigner i’m actually going to do something about it.

no dont be silly, i’m not going to “make a change” or “make a difference”,… hahaha!

i’ve decided to pack things up.

and pack it in.

i’ve said it before.

the difference now is i’ve decided to actually put a proper timetable on it all.

and the other difference is that now is the first time in years that i can actually put a timetable to something.

come mid november i’ll be reconnoitering my new stomping grounds,…

then come spring, at the latest, hopefully earlier,….

it will be time for the skunk to set up shop in the only city in the world that exists on two seperate continents.

so actually,…. yes,….

i’m just going to go elsewhere to find stuff to bitch and moan about 😛