5 Observations from Istanbul
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
by Matt Lawyue / @mlawyue
1. Perhaps the biggest tourist attraction of Istanbul is Kapalıçarşı, or The Grand Bazaar. It’s miles and miles of vendors selling everything from kitchen utensils to olives to pashmina’s to kicks and most things inbetween. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the massive network of tunnels, back alleys and shops this market contains. If you don’t get lost or walk around in the same circle a couple of times, you’re not exploring properly. Not for a lack of direction, or a map, as I decided to venture, but because if you’re marking the hookah shop as your point of reference and think you’ve turned left already, you naturally turn right to see something new. Only problem is, that hookah shop is a different stall, only selling the exact same products, in the exact same colors, tricking you into a false reference point. Confusing enough?
And if you ever ask somebody to guide you in the right direction, you for sure as hell better ask a tourist and not a vendor. Asking a vendor for directions is the kiss of death. They’ll flirt with you, ask you where you’re from and make you feel comfortable. You tell yourself, no, not I, I won’t fall victim to their scam, their false sense of friendship. Next thing you know, you’re walking away 40 Turkish Lira lighter, with a probably Made In China pashmina and still without proper directions. Yes, you poor sucker, have been scammed by the best in the world. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Just submit defeat to crafty crafty veterans of the game.
2. Danny Granger made these comments about hygiene in Europe:
“im dying over here…. how come nobody in europe wears deodorant? guess they didnt get the memo … smellin like dead donkeys… no joke”
Like the broke just-out-of-college graduate I am, I declined the expensive media hotels, with their free shuttle to and from the arenas. I’ve learned to use the metro system instead, hustling and bustling with the everyday folk of this lovely city. Riding the metro everyday, this coming from a kid who grew up on NYC’s MTA, you experience one distinct smell. Now, I’m not saying Granger is wrong in his comments, but let’s not exaggerate and use “dead donkeys.” It’s distinctly body odor, sometimes so horrid, so nasal inhibiting, you smell it even when nobody’s around. I walked into an empty train yesterday and was greeted by its odor. It’s pungent in the worst kind of way. But not “dead donkeys” by any means.
3. European fans love their FIBA dancers. Across America in NBA arenas, fans are more or less blasé about the cheerleaders. Sure, they’ll clap when the routine is completed, maybe a little louder if the outfits are skimpier. But these FIBA dancers, boy, do they receive an ovation. Well deserved, however, when they have two girls climb up through the hoop and stand and perform acrobatic maneuvers on the backboard that should never be attempted by anyone, ever.
4. You’re taught in journalism classes to exhibit unbiased reporting, writing and editing as a journalist. Always provide both sides to the story and if at all possible, avoid
unanimous anonymous* sources. One of the hardest things I had to learn was not cheering while in press row, with a credential around my neck. The first game I covered was a Knicks game, and up until then, I knew know no* other way but to cheer and scream for my beloved clowns.
Now, I don’t know what’s taught in foreign journalism classes, but apparently displaying outright emotion for your country is acceptable behavior. Even while I type this, Chinese media were playing the part of fan while in press row, in their loss to Lithuania. They were jumping up and down, screaming, shouting, cheering and the like. Lithuanian journalists as well. It’s happened all tournament and something I still can’t put a finger on.
Right? Wrong? Ethical? Unethical? Unbiased? Biased?
Oh yeah, after losing to Team USA, some players from the opposing teams specifically seek out USA players for a photo op.
So who the hell knows what flies anymore.
5. If there’s ever a guy along a river grilling fish and selling it in bread, with a tomato, basil, cilantro, onion and lemon concoction, you buy one and eat it. This might be the greatest advice I’ll ever give you. Your life will change.