Byzantine

#FilmHerStory: Anicia Juliana

For women's history month,  #filmherstory, an addictive Twitter meme calls attention to female protagonists and their forgotten, ignored, or too-little-known stories we want to see on screen...there are so so many. As far as I can tell, it was started by  curator Shaula Evans, film producer Cat Cooper, Miriam Bale and film and TV creator Lexi Alexander. Read through the suggestions in that Twitter hashtag, and suggest your own.

I suggested a story I've been researching and developing for years, the story of a forgotten monumental woman builder who built the most decorated building in the world and spurred an emperor to best her.

Here's where you can see more about my Byzantine princess story in development, including images and research:

 Click on this mind map to get the scope of the story:ANICIA JULIANA & her church of PolyeuktosScreen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.04.21 PM

I’ve been developing this story since, while creating an Istanbul walking tour for National Geographic Traveler, I literally tripped over the foundations of a social grudge between my superlative-but-forgotten 6th century princess and Justinian — which prompted the Holy Roman Emperor to build his world-beating Haghia Sophia Church a mile down the road. The man needed to best Anicia Juliana. See my Pinterest board about it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.12.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.12.18 PM

Byzantine Paving Stones For My Istanbul Intern Marina Khonina

Marina KhoninaSO PLEASED to be able to provide this LinkedIn reference to my Byzantinist intern Marina Khonina on her road to applying to grad school!

And what a fun walk down memory lane on my pop cultural/historical project that remains in development...

Marina was a joy to work with in Istanbul on my pop cultural, Byzantinist research project about the Church of Polyeuktos.

Her facility with Byzantine history and exuberant curiosity helped me develop the outline for an art historical saga of interest to a modern audience about a Byzantine aristocrat, Anicia Juliana, and her architectural rivalry with Emperor Justinian which resulted in him building a wonder of the ancient world and seat of Christianity for 1,000 years (Haghia Sophia), and her forgotten.

Marina contributed valuable context and insight into the story’s most compelling themes of religious symbolism and gender roles, including the link between Jerusalem and Constantinople and

  • what it meant for a woman to be a non-royal patron of the arts
  • what it meant to equate herself with King Solomon and the emperor
  • what it meant to claim she was head of the Christian church

...all of which Juliana did in building her edifice.

 

(You begin to see why I picked this subject to develop.)

Marina added rich new perspective to how Juliana was misrepresented historically vis a vis the lesser-accomplished Empress Theodora, and the daring Chalcedonian statement Juliana made in restoring another woman’s building project.

I’d recommend Marina for inclusion in any advanced research venture.

My Interview With Asian Geographic Passport Magazine

This Singapore-based magazine with a worldwide distribution approached me for an interview about being an expat in Turkey for the February 2012 issue. Here are my answers:  

Where are you from? What's your job? Could you tell me a bit about your background?

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and have lived abroad for almost 15 years.

I was in Kuala Lumpur for five years in the ‘90s, where I learned some good lessons about what it takes to survive and thrive as an expat.

I drew on those realizations a lot during my time in Istanbul, and they inform much of the work I now do as the founder of GlobalNiche.net, a work-life initiative for cultural creatives, mobile progressives and other global souls.

When did you move to Turkey? What brought you to Turkey?

I moved with my Turkish-born husband in 2003 (and we relocated to San Francisco at the end of 2011.) But even before that, we chose an Ottoman palace in Istanbul as the site of our 2001 wedding. So maybe a stint living there was fated?

Could you speak a bit Turkish after living there for almost 10 years?

Yes. I took a month-long course at a language school when I first arrived, and then employed a private tutor a couple of years later to consolidate what I’d held on to and work on advancing my conversational skills.

I get along just fine with transport and shopping but since my work is English-language based and I’m not a linguist (I’ve studied 8 languages and am proficient in none!) my Turkish has never allowed me to express complex thoughts. I no longer agree to Turkish-only business meetings, and swore off Turkish language television appearances after it became clear that they didn’t work well for me.

I have been surrounded by only-Turkish conversation for untold hours, zoning in and out. Sometimes understanding perfectly, responding in English. Other times, lost!

It’s an agglutinative language -- meaning you keep adding endings and some words have 20 letters in them -- and the word order in a sentence is backwards to what I’m used to with English. You have to back into a sentence -- sometimes you never make it to the end. The funny thing is, people either say “Turkish is really easy, isn’t it?” or “Turkish is really hard, right?” and both groups are correct. Most Turks love to hear you try. There are conventional things to say which you can use a lot on a visit. Pick those up.

Which part of Turkey do you think remain pretty much untouched by mass tourism?

Anywhere off the beaten path.

You can even find this in Istanbul, where massive cruise ships dock and zillions of people get off and go to one or two spots.

I suggest you go down a back street, don’t stay in a tourist neighborhood if you can help it, don’t eat at restaurants with menus in English or other non-Turkish languages (or menus at all -- Turks don’t order from the menu, they ask what’s fresh, in season, special).

Try Beyoglu, or the Asian side of town. Try some walking tours to explore areas you might not find otherwise.

Head the opposite direction of crowds, you will find something. If you want to see a mosque choose one by master architect Mimar Sinan, not the one with the big line in front of it.

How would you spend your weekend in Turkey?

Walking along the Bosphorus Strait, eating and drinking with friends at all the cafes and restaurants and bars and clubs along Istiklal, the pedestrian street in the European quarter of Beyoglu. Museums, film festivals, nargile establishments, tea houses. For glitzier occasions, events at a multitude of ancient and antique locations that are now nightclubs and restaurants, concert venues and other hangouts.

How about your food experience? Apart from the traditional dishes like kebab, baklava, what is your favourite and where to try it?

Neither of those are favorites of mine -- in fact, there’s so much more depth in traditional Turkish cuisine than kebab and baklava.

Turkish food is the cuisine of a vast empire, after all. Lots of taste and ingredient influences, and many dishes perfected for the sultan. Try the stewed homestyle dishes made with olive oil (called “zeytinyagli”), the roasted lamb on a bed of eggplant pureed with cheese (“hunkar beyendi”), or a tangy okra stew.

With four different seacoastlines (Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean), Turks do great fish and seafood dishes. A spicy shrimp sauteed in butter and red pepper flakes...grilled octopus. Dreamy! If you visit during the turbot season in winter it’s worth going to a place that specializes in this huge, flat and spiky Black Sea fish.

Desserts:

I’ve been partial to the chewy lokum (what you may know as “Turkish delight”) since I was a child in California, with my recent favorite being the pomegranate lokum studded with pistachios. Malatya Pazari is a national chain that sells it.

Try the different milky puddings at Saray or other traditional restaurants, one even has chicken breast in it.

Basically I could talk about Turkish food all day and not mention kebab or baklava.

If you’re staying in the old town, go to Beyoglu to eat. Greasy bland tourist food is an awful waste of your palate. If you’re after a spicy kebab though, ask for the ground lamb Adana kebab from the Southeast of the country.

What are your favourite nooks and crannies or hidden retreats in Turkey?

I like the private waterside setting of Assk Cafe in Kurucesme, the wild surf around red-roofed Amasra, the archaeology museum in the grounds of the Topkapi Palace and the overlooked mosaic museum under the Arasta Bazaar -- which is where you can see the decor of Emperor Constantine’s palace. He’s the Roman who founded the Eastern Roman empire, and why the city became known as Constantinople.

Hidden retreats are everywhere but most recently I enjoyed a hotel at the top of Assos on the Aegean. If you stay there you can visit the Temple of Athena at sunset, when it’s deserted and the Doric columns are bathed in an orange light. Great for portrait photography.

Do you know anything about the working culture in Turkey?

Yes. I worked fulltime as a cultural writer and producer which means I worked solo but in collaboration with many individuals and organizations. I pitched, sold, edited and published two books with a major Turkish publisher. That’s the anthology Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey, and its Turkish translation, both in 2005.

I also wrote for Cornucopia, a magazine for international connoisseurs of Turkish culture published in Istanbul, as well as web consulting for Turkish companies. The work culture differs from my own personal work culture -- closely tracking along cultural differences, as you can imagine.

I suggest you learn as much as you can about Turkish culture if you’re interested in working in Turkey or with a Turkish company. It affects what people expect around deadlines and goals and standards and other basics like that.

It’s good to know what people mean when they say “yes”. Turkey is a Eurasian culture so it’s got a bit of the west and a lot of the east in it.

Is there any particular myths you heard most about Turkey? How much of it you found to be true?

All the cliches.

Wolfish rug dealers. Men in mustaches and tweed suit jackets. Coffee shops with no women present.

That’s all there, but that’s not all there is.

In fact, the reason those things are cliche is because the details in between the lines are missing. Who those people are, why they behave that way, where the women really are.

There’s a huge spectrum of Turkish society from the most rural and conservative to the most urban and secular, and a very young, forward-looking population. There are also deep traditions, an interdependent culture, and a multiethnic population. It’s an ancient place and a modern republic, its contradictions and tensions spring from the ground itself.

Overall, what do you think about Turkey in terms of a place for expats to work and live?

I think there are opportunities -- the Turkish economy is strong and has been only minorly affected by the worldwide economic crisis -- and the lifestyle can be really good.

However, like any foreign country it’s best if you do your homework. Come visit a few times before you try living here.

Make some contacts in both the expat and Turkish communities, and preferably in communities that contain both expats and Turks.

You want to be able to live in a bridged way, not in a bubble.

You’ll also want to know what kind of work you want to do, and where in the country you want to live. Even what neighborhood. The more you know before you commit the better off you’re going to be. Try poking around at an active online forum like TurkeyTravelPlanner.com.

That’s where you’ll pick up some useful lessons of cultural awareness like how to walk through the Grand Bazaar area without being harrassed (hint: it’s things like body language, and appropriate dress).

I have also written a lot about life in Turkey which you can find at my neoculture discussion site expat+HAREM  (www.expatharem.com).

My Forgotten Footnote To The Haghia Sophia

The Byzantine world claimed another devotee when I discovered the architectural gauntlet thrown down by a scorned princess.

My Near Eastern archaeology baccalaureate program ended with Constantine founding New Rome at Byzantium.  I left the Byzantine world undiscovered when I forgot my college diploma in a rental car and professionally drifted toward pop-culture...tv, music, film. Later when I married a Turk and moved to Istanbul it was natural to neglect Constantinople’s first millennium since Ottoman civilization felt much closer to home.  Then in the summer of 2007 near the aqueduct of Valens, I stumbled over a patch of lumpy turf and found a forgotten footnote to the world’s most famous Byzantine landmark.

Opposite the glass Istanbul Municipality building, a triangular plot of land on Atatürk Bulvarı was inexplicably not developed. Perhaps I could use it.  I needed another attraction to round out the Süleymaniye-area walking tour I was creating for National Geographic Traveler. Travel historian Saffet Emre Tonguç confirmed the overgrown archaeological site above the Haşim Işcan underpass was indeed notable if not much to look at. The sixth century remains of Anicia Juliana’s palace church, Haghios Polyeuktos. I needed more detail. Not for me of course, for National Geographic.

A sensational, gossipy twist:

My friend Edda Renker Weissenbacher, author of books on the Chora church and Iznik tiles, added that the massive ruin, mostly unexcavated, represented a social grudge of royal proportion. A little research showed that the obscure-sounding princess Juliana of the Anicii (462-529) was the wealthiest and most aristocratic resident of Constantinople. She could trace her roots to Constantine the Great and counted other Western and Eastern Roman emperors in her lineage. But the glory was coming to an unbearable end. Offered the throne when a revolt seemed likely her husband, a general, ran off in fear. Her only son had married into the ruling emperor’s family yet the commoners Justin and his nephew Justinian ascended to the throne instead.

Juliana struck back with the most patrician of socio-political weapons: faith-based art and architecture patronage.  By 527 she had enlarged her ancestral church, making it the capital city’s vastest and richest. Carved with pomegranate flowers, cherubim, palmette -- and peacocks, the symbol of empresses –  in pointed ways it proclaimed her fitness for the throne.  At the 2006 Byzantine Studies Congress art historian Matthew Canepa described Juliana’s use of Oriental motifs as the kind of “cross-cultural political savvy” that could only spring from an imperial background, someone familiar with diplomatic gifts and spoils of war from the East.

The project also conveniently sunk her fortune into her own legacy. New peasant dynasts planned to expand the empire but they wouldn’t be doing it on her dime! Kateryna Kovalchuk, a Byzantine doctoral student in Belgium I stalked online, directed me to a 6th century story told by Gregory of Tours which describes Juliana receiving the young Justinian on a fund-raising mission. The princess pointed upwards.  Her gold was pounded into tiles and affixed to the church roof.

Recalling that the adjective ‘byzantine’ characterizes elaborate scheming to gain political power, I checked the date of Juliana’s architectural ultimatum. Polyeuktos, described by scholars as perhaps the most decorated building in history, predated the world-changing Haghia Sophia by ten years. Justinian’s response, and response it was indeed, had a much sparer design and was fifty percent bigger. Other irresistible facts: The emperor’s wife and co-ruler Theodora was the daughter of a bearkeeper and a scandalous carny if ancient historian Procopius was to be believed. He sniped in his Secret History that she raised her skirts “to show off her feminine secrets”.  My scorned princess -- yes Juliana was now mine -- built a pious hot-seat for a low-born ruler and his checkered-past queen!

Why hadn’t the pivotal Juliana and her provocative church lived on in the general imagination? A special-permission visit to the library at verdant Robert College in Arnavutköy showed it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I was now officially losing money on the National Geographic assignment as I pored over dig reports in A Temple for Byzantium by Martin Harrison, head of Harvard University’s Center for Byzantine Studies.  Mysterious relics are often uncovered in Istanbul but when foundations were dug at the civic center in 1960 the marble arches found were unusually explicit. Greek inscriptions identified a ruin known through literature to historians since at least the 10th century. (The grandiose verses, from the Palatine Anthology’s collection of classical and Byzantine poetry, recounted the construction and dynasty of its patroness.)

Houseguests came to town.

I spirited them to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, whose Turkish archaeologists also took part in six seasons of excavations at the site. The small H. Polyeuktos section was crowded by a marble column inlaid with amethyst and green and gold glass that once held a canopy over the altar, as well as epigrammed arches decorated with acanthus vines and feathery tails of peacocks. Preeminent Byzantine historian Steven Runciman detected immense meaning in these few Juliana commissions. He thought they display the elusive origin of Byzantine style: the first combination of Roman craftsmanship, Greek balance and Oriental ornamentation, for the purpose of Christian ritual.

If the technique of Polyeuktos was mid-6th century zeitgeist, Juliana upped the ante with its decidedly nostalgic form. Laid out in the Biblical measurement of royal cubit, the floor plan matched a Holy Writ account of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem – a legendary structure intended to house the Ark of the Covenant and itself modeled after Moses’s moveable Tabernacle. A supremely tough act to follow, even for an emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  It’s no wonder when Justinian dedicated his Haghia Sophia he exclaimed ‘Solomon, I have surpassed you!’  He meant to best the Queen of Kings down the road.

Anicia Juliana has never really been lost to history, or to us.

Along with the throngs, I’ve unwittingly admired her pioneering handiwork scattered in the gardens of the Haghia Sophia and the Topkapı Palace, as well as in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.  Three deeply carved basket weave capitals from the Polyeuktos adorn the western façade of the Venetian basilica, while a majestic duo of pomegranate-flowered piers guard its south door across from the Doges Palace – all plundered during the Fourth Crusade.  Those knights failed to reach Jerusalem to wrest the Temple of Solomon from the Muslims, but returning with Juliana’s inspired replicas I imagine them rationalizing a mission complete.

My own mission has just begun. Juliana awaits underfoot.  Who wants to sign my petition to have the municipality building relocated to a new site?

 

See my Byzantine princess board at Pinterest, and my Ottoman & Byzantine board.

My Byzantine Princess Project

An art historical soap opera of imperial proportion. (See my Pinterest board of  images related to this particular story here.) I've been developing this story since, while creating an Istanbul walking tour for National Geographic Traveler, I literally tripped over the foundations of a social grudge between my superlative-but-forgotten 6th century princess and Justinian -- which prompted the Holy Roman Emperor to build his world-beating Haghia Sophia Church a mile down the road. The man needed to best Anicia Juliana. See my Pinterest board of Byzantine popular culture trends.

Multiple story delivery methods in development.

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My 2nd Foreign Correspondence Interview For Knight Ridder

Excerpts from my Foreign Correspondence interview with John Bordsen of The Charlotte Observer. It was syndicated in numerous Knight Ridder newspapers across America.  

Istanbul is a fabled place - but what are the most amazing places to visit outside the city? * * It depends on your interests. If you like ARCHAEOLOGICAL adventure, it would probably be Ephesus - one of the best-preserved ancient ROMAN cities in the world. It was the capital of Asia Minor. Ephesus is like Pompeii, IN ITALY, only on a MUCH grander scale. IT WAS FOUNDED BY THE AMAZONS, AND LATER RENOVATED BY THE ULTRARICH KING CROESUS. * Ephesus was the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. IT’S about AN HOUR FLIGHT from Istanbul. YOU CAN ALSO MAKE A PILGRIMAGE TO THE VIRGIN MARY’S LAST HOME WHICH IS NEARBY, OR VISIT A VAST GLADIATOR GRAVEYARD.

* * * When Americans think of visiting the Aegean, Greece comes to mind. Is the Turkish side of the sea different? * * It's all the same BEAUTIFUL WATER, AND land. PERHAPS LESS DEVELOPED. You'll see TYPICALLY Greek villages from the days when the coast was inhabited by Greeks. Whitewashed buildings that are pristine and simple. You'll find them in the AEGEAN TOWN of Bodrum, SURROUNDING ITS CRUSADER CASTLE IN THE HARBOR.

* BODRUM’S a rocky coast. THE Turks make IT ENJOYABLE BY BUILDING wooden decks along the rocks, so you can sunbathe, dine or dance over the water, with the backdrop of HILLS behind you. It's visually spectacular. * * Who visits the Turkish Aegean? * * Bodrum is on a peninsula. THE MAIN TOWN ATTRACTS A LOT OF Europeans, BOATERS. On the OTHER side, it's mostly Turks IN A PLACE considered the TURKISH RIVIERA. MANY LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL CELEBRITIES FREQUENT THE CLUBS AND HOTELS THERE. If you go to Bodrum, DEFINITELY take a day trip to TURKBUKU, or get a hotel there. THE BEACH CLUBS ARE very chic. * * Turkey has shoreline on the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Sea OF Marmara that links them. There's also its Mediterranean coast to the south. How do they differ? * I'm biased toward the Aegean and its very charming coastline OF COVES. The Mediterranean is GORGEOUS but MORE HUMID, AND you can be at the beach and feel like you're looking out into nothingness because the Mediterranean is such a vast expanse. The Sea of Marmara is like marble - which is A SIMILAR WORD in Turkish. It's very flat. There are vacation spots there, QUAINT ISLANDS TO GET AWAY FROM THE CITY, WHERE THE ISTANBUL SULTANS USED TO EXILE THEIR RELATIVES. NOT SO BAD! It's also where HUGE CARGO ships wait for permission to go through the Bosphorus to enter the Black Sea. The BOSPHORUS is one of the world's MAJOR shipping lanes, AND NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE. LOTS OF TWISTS AND TURNS, AND CHANGING CURRENTS. JASON AND HIS ARGONAUTS ALSO FOUND IT DIFFICULT WHEN THEY SAILED UP IT LOOKING FOR THE GOLDEN FLEECE.

The Black Sea isn't called "black" because of what the water looks like. In ANCIENT TIMES DIRECTIONS WERE INDICATED IN COLORS. BLACK MEANT NORTH, WHITE WAS SOUTH. THE TURKS STILL CALL THE MEDITERRANEAN THE WHITE SEA.

The Black Sea was thought to have been created by an earthquake; THE SEA OF MARMARA rushed through A NEW CREVICE THAT BECAME THE BOSPHORUS into a much smaller FRESHWATER lake. SCIENTISTS ARE finding whole submerged villages in the center of the Black Sea, where the original coastline was. FOLK stories about A GREAT flood began WITH PEOPLE in the Black Sea area and worked their way south, into the Middle East. And Mount Ararat, where MANY BELIEVE Noah's Ark STILL RESTS, is in northeast Turkey. HERE IN TURKEY IT's EERIE how these OLD STORIES KEEP adding up!

Interviewed By Istanbullum Magazine

When did you move to Istanbul? What is the first memory you have about Istanbul? AA: My husband and I moved in 2003 and stayed in Ulus with my brother-in-law for a few months, so my impressions from those days are of the sun setting over the Topkapi Palace far in the distance as the family ate barbequed lamb chops on the balcony, an assembly line of kuzu izgara. Sprinkling dried marjoram and oregano on the chops. But my first memories started when I visited in 2000 ( I felt ages of winter chill emanating from AyaSofya’s old stones as I gazed up at the Byzantine mosaics). Then when I married in Istanbul the balmy summer of 2001, at Esma Sultan in Ortakoy, the memories punctuated by the flashbulbs of a glitzy Turkish wedding. The overall memory of Istanbul? A lot of kisses, for everyone, coming and going, every day, every night.

What does Istanbul mean to you? 

AA: Since I have a degree in Classical Greek, Roman and Near Eastern Archaeology,  Istanbul’s historical significance as the center of the ancient civilized world is never far from my consciousness. It’s a place of power and energy and ideas, and has been for centuries. There is no mistaking that this is an important place on the globe.  But as a New World woman from cutting edge California, I also love that with its heavy history it’s not musty and dead like a forgotten museum. I can appreciate its new layers of lives and dreams, and find modern day Istanbul to have more than its share of fabulous places, people and events.

Which part of the city do you live in? How do you like it?

AA: I lived in bohemian Cihangir for four years and loved my scenic view of the Bosphorus overlooking Kabatas ferry terminal. Perched on the cliff the view had all the energy of a transportation hub but at the same time was completely serene – and quiet, if you don’t count the taxicabs honking at all hours of the night! The proximity to Taksim and Istiklal was wonderful, and with the new tramway and metro extension, it really felt like the center of the world! My husband couldn’t take the commute to his Maslak office though so we just moved to Istinye, where we have a much more intimate view of the bay with its teal-colored water. I’m liking all the hillsides covered in wildflowers. But I’ll miss the cafes of Cihangir, like Miss Pizza, and Savoy Pastanesi for simit toast on Sundays and of course in a neighborhood so full of feisty street cats, the great veterinarians. I adopted my cat Bunny from Kazanci Sokagi, so where ever I go I’ll always have a bit of Cihangir in my heart, and in my home.

How does Istanbul look like from U.S.? Are there any misconceptions about the city?

AA: Physically I think the general image of Istanbul does not include so much water, waterways, vistas of water. The hills are also a surprise to many people.  It’s hard to conceive of a metropolis made of so many small villages, how Istanbul can go on for miles and still be Istanbul, even if each kilometer is like a new world.

Do you have any favorite spots in the city?

AA: My favorites are the ones I haven’t been to yet! They exist in my dream of Istanbul. There are so many places I yearn to go. Like the Ilhamur Kosku in Muradiye, the Beykoz pavilion, and Beylerbeyi Palace. The Horhor market in Eyup with its Levantine antiques. A strange restaurant in Gunesli specializing in huge platters of chicken wings.  Things you hear about, things you see from a distance, things you have to find a special time to do. The problem is more time I live in Istanbul, the longer my list grows.

Some of the stories take place in Istanbul in the book “Tales from the Expat Harem”. Is Istanbul a good setting for works of literature?

AA: I think so, (and for film too! Why aren’t there more films set in Istanbul?)  The Expat Harem tales set in Istanbul show that the city offers a colorful and diverse backdrop for personal histories, and adds true depth to the narrator’s every day life. When a young Guatemalan woman recognizes two hatun speaking Ladino on a Mecediyekoy bus, she feels pride in her Spanish linguistic connection -- and at the same time she acknowledges the chain of history that brought this medieval language to Istanbul.  What echoes in that moment is that the Guatemalan came to Istanbul through her own chain of history…

 What does Istanbul need? How would it be better?

AA: A more extensive Metro network, servicing coastal spots like Beskitas, Ortakoy and Bebek. Imagine how that would alleviate street traffic!

 What are your future writing projects? Is Istanbul somehow in them?

AA: Istanbul absolutely will play a role in many of my upcoming cultural essays, in fact the title of my travel memoir in progress is “Berkeley to Byzantium: The Reorientation of a West Coast Adventuress”. It’s about the physical (and metaphysical!) journey from my utopian hometown in California, around the world through classical Italy and the media worlds of New York and Hollywood, to the plantations and palaces of South East Asia, finally ending up in Istanbul. The challenge is to fully explain how my life has culminated in this incredibly meaningful place. Another challenge is to stay home and write when Istanbul beckons!

 What do you think about Istanbul being the “European Culture Capital for 2010”?

AA: It’s about time! It seems to me that Istanbul makes good use of its breathtaking monuments and historic settings for cultural activities (like concerts at Rumeli Hisari and the Aya Irini, and exhibits at the Darphane and Tophane-i Amire, and receptions at Feriye and Dolmabahce), and the yearlong festival will be a perfect opportunity to show off  to the world the city’s priceless heritage, and the life that the people of Istanbul inject into these wondrous spots.

How is the expat life in Istanbul? Is Istanbul an easy city for expat living? 

AA: There are tons of options for expatriates in Istanbul, social and business clubs and general communities, and lots of support networks and foreign language media. I’ve been an expat in Rome and Kuala Lumpur where I learned some expat survival techniques and put them into practice as soon as I arrived here.  I think Jennifer Gokmen would agree that making the anthology helped make sense of our own lives in Turkey as foreigners -- the Expat Harem is an apt metaphor for us.  The title positively reclaims the concept of the Eastern harem just as we consider ourselves and our writers inextricably wedded to Turkish culture, embedded in it, though forever foreign. The virtual walls are there: our initial lack of language skills, undeveloped understanding of the culture, and even some of the ethnocentricities that we cling to.  Luckily for us, Istanbul has a long history of welcoming foreigners, and being able to accomodate many different cultures and mindsets.

My 1st Knight Ridder Foreign Correspondence Interview is ESL Training For Taiwanese Businesspeople

Anastasia Ashman Knight-Ridder interview used for ESL training

My foreign correspondence interview with Knight Ridder newspapers becomes an English as Second Language training for biz people in Taiwan.

Those poor people, what a work out!

Knight-Ridder Foreign Correspondence article is ESL curriculum for business people in Taiwan