The other night we went out to brave the Taksim crowd. That’s literally what Taksim is: a crowd. Well, it’s a district of Istanbul, but you won’t see much of it because of all the people. Taksim square hosts numerous events throughout the year -New Years being one of which to AVOID if you have any smart genes whatsoever- and its surface area consists entirely of shopping, restaurants, and clubs.

Nightlife. Happens. Here.

So when 9pm rolls around I think to myself, hey, I should catch a bus to Taksim… not. Not unless there’s a good reason. And last week, we had one. A good reason. A reason every nerve in my body wanted to dismiss. I mean, I’d rather be curling up with a bedtime book when moonlight’s at full beam through my window. But this was too good. Too risky. Too curious. Too uncomfortable.

Before I could change my mind, I forced my arms into my winter jacket, pulled on the boots, and locked the door behind me.

Taksim was, as predicted, crowded. We followed scrawled directions, heads on a swivel, and linked together against the masses as we searched street signs. Trusting the sign above a door, we climbed the narrow swirling staircase to the top.

Five Americans entered a Turkish comedy club.

I mean, come on, that sounds like a joke in itself!

We were here by invitation of a friend my roommate met in the next door action figurine shop. Ah. Of course he would be part of a comedy club. Would we like to come see him perform? Sure- I’d love to subject myself to Turkish humor I can’t understand a word of.

It turned out to be much like a “Who’s line is it anyway?” and for 2 hours I was entertained by unpracticed theatrical skits using ideas shouted out by the audience. Whatever I understood I laughed at. They were hilarious.

Like most comedy shows, audience interaction and involvement was huge, so volunteers were used for several of their stunts. I caught this hint and purposefully never made eye contact, slouching low and praying not to be chosen. My comrade, however, was not so lucky; they literally pulled her out of her seat and unto the stage. Using language barriers to their full advantage, the American on stage added a whole new level of hilarity…

Some words in English– ones that are best not to be said because they have an unpleasant meaning in Turkish– she said. I laughed until I cried. Feeling awful for my friend but, not unlike the chairs filled with Turks around me, appreciating the belly aching laughter created at her expense. She was a great sport.

Still laughing, the five Americans filed out of the row and down the winding stairs, heads spinning from rapid shotfires of Turkish and the sea of people they just re-entered, but what should have been overwhelming was not, for their hearty spirit hangovers outweighed it all.


Weirdly Expectant

My Turkish friends got a kick out of this, so perhaps you will too…

It all started yesterday morning. I woke up and felt something different about my day. Something was going to happen. I just knew it. Now, as to what or who or when I had no clue. The air was simply filled with an unexplainable anticipation for the day’s events. So I was expectant.

I was expectant when I walked down Taksim’s Beyoglu Istiklal. Then, like so many times before, it happened: a turkish girl doing a survey stepped in front of me asking if I had a minute. I checked my watch- yeah, I had time. Usually I would have responded with a “I’m so sorry but I’m learning turkish and can’t speak very much yet.” But today was different.

Five minutes into the conversation and I realized I understood everything she was saying and participated in the survey.

I wish.

Actually it wasn’t like that at all. Five minutes into the conversation and I was totally and completely lost. Not a single word was making sense. Apologetic I stop her and recite my usual excuse. I offer her a smile and a good day, and then walk away. Frustrated. But hey, at least I tried. Plus it was early, and I hadn’t had coffee yet… Forced self-talk to justify my failed attempt. C’mon girl- chin up.

But then I enter a room where at least 5 languages are being spoken- none of them English. Overwhelmed, I wanted to cry. I thought today was going to be different. A mad breakthrough. Something!!!

Seven hours later, I’ve nearly arrived at my street corner and it happens again: I’m stopped mid-stride, nearly colliding with the girl who stepped in my path. She tries to get me to take a brochure. No. No thanks. But she wouldn’t let up. So I eventually take it. Whereupon she grabs my arm and pulls me towards a building’s entrance. I try and politely loosen her grasp. But she persists and before I can even think “oh no- I’m being taken!” she somehow pushes me through the door, up 2 flights of stairs, and lands me in an office. I give a desk clerk a fake phone number and am told to sit, so I sit. I look around and plan my emergency escape route.

The room is brilliantly white. Mirrors of all sizes adorn the entire back wall. A chandelier sparkles from the ceiling. Across from me double-doors swing open and my name is called. I pick myself up and transition into the next room, as brilliant as the one I had left. The perfectly primped woman behind the desk begins to speak rapidly. I ask her to slow down. She does so graciously, and before I know it I’ve been there an hour.

Her intentions to persuade me to sign-up for a laser hair removal package were quickly dropped when I explained that I like my arm hair, so we instead had a lovely cultural exchange. We chatted about fashion. Comparing Americans and Turks. And why in the world would I color my hair brown? A knock on the door signaled her time with me was up. As I left, she commended me on my Turkish and invited me back for Turkish coffee. It was delightful.

Unable to contain myself, I giggled the entire way home.

Maybe it wasn’t what I was expecting to expect, but it was exactly what I needed after my defeat that morning and then after a day of trying to figure out peoples’ needs that I couldn’t even communicate with.

I went to bed last night reflecting on the day’s comic turn of events, thankful for Turkish breakthroughs, but more-so relieved that I didn’t get taken.

My Starbucks Identity


At every single Starbucks I have ever ordered a coffee at, when they ask for a name to write on that  siren stamped paper cup, 90% of the time I’ll say Kim. Sometimes I say it with a hint of question- my tone higher- and I think: Ugh, why do I do that? My name is not a question and I am not British (though I’m certain I must have a British drop of blood in me somewhere). Any Pub.Com or English prof would crinkle their nose at how words escape my mouth. Besides my dialect, they would also raise their eyebrows in inquiry- Kim? Yes, Kim. Even though for as long as I can remember, Kimmy was the name I wrote on all my spelling tests, papers, and lunch bags. It’s what my friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances know me by. It’s who I am, EXCEPT at Starbucks. Well, at every AMERICAN Starbucks.

The times they asked a name and I gave the response Kimmy, they never got it right. What? Cammy? Timmy? Jimmy? No. Kimmy. So I avoided the hassle this always brought up and dropped the ‘–my’. From then on, my Starbucks order was smooth sailin’. Grande iced coffee with 2 pumps caramel and an inch of soy, please. For Kim. Easy.

In Turkish Starbucks, however, I have to now unlearn this manner of response. Kim, in Turkish, means who?… Yupp. That would be problematic. So, I went into my first Turkish Starbucks mentally prepared and knowledgeable about what my typical Starbucks name signifies, and equally as excited to finally tell Starbucks my real name… but habit doesn’t break easily.

When it came time, they asked my name, and I blurted out Kim. Of course there was confusion and they repeated the question. I caught my foolishly preventable error and quickly said, Adim Kimmy. Whew. Coffee ordered and in my hands. With the first sip I was already thinking ahead to the next time, how I would not make that practiced mistake. Yet still I smiled silly to myself: thank you Turkish Starbucks. By way of cultural conundrum, you have restored my identity.