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    On Istiklal Caddesi

    Child labor is not a secret here. It plainly happens. Children roast nuts, play accordions, sell rice from wheeled street carts, and hawk kerchiefs. Two days ago, I found this beautiful, young girl on Istiklal Caddesi, a main boulevard that runs down the “heart” of Istanbul. As you can see, she was singing a song, which I don’t know. And, as she played, there was something very sad and touching about her body language. Even as she worked like an adult — performing for change — her body language was so childish.

    She can’t be more than seven years old.

    Can you see the "United Colors of Benetton" storefront in the window's reflection? As a store known for its politically-correct ad campaigns, there is something unsettling about a child street performer, working a mere few feet away.

    Another child musician, probably from the same family, offers to take over (a "shift change").

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    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.