• scissors
    December 3rd, 2010adminActivism, Economy, Graffiti/Street Art, Greece

    The graffiti crews of Greece...

    This above photo  is the first image I captured after arriving in Thessaloniki. Maybe I took the picture because I feel like graffiti is very Greek, at least of late. Of course, I could also bring up this whole historical saga related to classical Greek and Roman graffiti — but that is not what I mean. Rather, I’m talking about the Greece of the 21st century, which I saw already in upheaval when I visited Athens and surrounding cities in the summer of 2009. Now, in 2010, the problems already highlighted one year ago — social and economic — are even more urgent. While this piece does not suggest social upheaval (it’s plainly graffiti, like something you could see in Rome, Berlin or New York), it was eye-catching …and I’m always drawn to street art in different cities.

    Smashing something so big to make it feel more small.

    One night, my friend,  Adriane, wanted to withdraw some euros from the ATM. We were planning to head to the Ladadika district for some drinks (which, incidentally, used to be a part of the Jewish district,  but that’s for another post). Anyway, we absolutely could not find an open ATM. All the bank machines were locked up behind heavy metal doors.

    A photo that accurately conveys much of my Athens experience in 2009. This photo, by the way, was taken across the street from my ghetto hostel.

    However, we soon discovered why. Upon passing a bank, with smashed windows and “Sabotage the system” stencil art, we made the connection. Yes, there had been a protest earlier, commemorating the police shooting of an innocent young boy in Athens ten years ago. And, on this anniversary, the ardent and angry young Greeks took to the streets. Perhaps their anger was larger and heavier than just one tragedy. Perhaps it was a passionate dissidence against a clearly broken system, a thoroughly distressed people, a stagnant political order. But I’m not Greek. I was just a tourist, looking for a drink. So, who am I say?

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  • scissors
    September 3rd, 2010adminEconomy, Food, Mundane Everyday

    Bulk packs of çay (or "chai" in English) sold at a grocery down the road from my apartment.

    This grocery store isn’t special. Or extraordinary. It’s just the local market down the road from my apartment. But, for that reason, it’s interesting, specifically because it’s not the biggest and best. It’s just an average market — a place where locals buy çay (tea), şeker (sugar), lavaş (pita-type bread), peynir (cheese), yoğurt (yogurt) and other Turkish kitchen staples.

    Yogurt is serious business in the Eastern Mediterranean countries. Turkey is no exception. My breakfast favorite is as follows: yogurt, muesli and chopped peach. Yes, it is common to find muesli in Turkish markets. I assume this came about with the influx of Turkish migrants in Germany, who first arrived in the 1960s.

    If you’re interested, check out the prices. How do they compare with hometown prices in, say, San Francisco or New York? Food is cheaper here. The markets aren’t dirt cheap. But things are generally much more affordable, especially when you convert from dollars to Turkish liras!

    A wonderful reminder that Dorothy is not in Kansas anymore. Divine figs and dried fruits.

    As a side note, I’ll be taking a short trip to Bulgaria soon — probably Sofia. So, look out for pictures in the weeks to come!

  • scissors
    August 5th, 2010adminEconomy, Istanbul, Money, San Francisco
    Trump Towers in Istanbul

    Computer-Generated Image of Trump Towers in Istanbul (yet to be completed), apparently financed by Arab investors who purchased the Trump name. Definitely a sign of the changing/growing economy. In the picture, look below at the low-level buildings directly under the towers. That's where I live!

    What’s expensive in San Francisco? Well, just about everything (except solidly good Chinese, Vietnamese & Thai food). So, it’s funny to come here and realize that I have an affordable life! While Turkey is a fast-growing economy — in fact, the 2nd fastest in the world, after China, according to the NY Times — it is still very affordable. My rent is affordable. My food is affordable. And my clothing is dirt cheap, thanks to the Turkish textile industry. Yes, this is very strange to me.

    Living in San Francisco, I resigned myself to low economic expectations. In large part, this was due to the economic crisis, as well as changes in my own industries (i.e. journalism, editorial management and general writing/editing). Okay, I wasn’t always negative. But, as the US economy worsened, I lost a great deal of my faith in the “American Dream.” It may come back (maybe!). But I’m content to be on hiatus at the moment.

    As I wrote, Istanbul is obviously cheaper. But there are two notable exceptions: Petrol and alcohol. Late-night joints, particularly in trendy areas like Taksim, serve very expensive cocktails. Of course, you can get a reasonably-priced Efes (the main beer brand here, named after the famous classical city that once boasted the Temple of Artemis). People complain about Efes but, if you prefer light beers, it’s fine. And I would say it’s better than the main Greek beer, Mythos.

    The second is gas. The average prices here, according to my friend, Fatih, are the following: $2.48 per liter (petrol) and $2.00 per liter (diesel). Now, remember, this is LITERS not GALLONS. In the USA, we measure oil by gallons.  There are 3.78541178 liters in a gallon. If you do the math, it doesn’t look too pretty. So, driving a car here is a luxury.

    But I don’t drive. And I’m not a big drinker. Yet, I am a renter. And guess what? I love my apartment — and, best of all, I love what I pay for it.