Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rome vs. Istanbul in the Eyes of Christine

Rome Market Istanbul Market Each series of three photographs come together into one theme: the Market World. The style as if these were taken from a photo booth, these scenes are seen through the eyes of a foreigner who lived in these cities for only a time long enough merely to reveal their first impressions. Walking through the market in Rome is a smooth stream while in Istanbul it was more like trying to swim in agar. What I see in people's walking, and eventually mold into doing the same: Laid-back mosey (Rome) versus directionally determined shuffling (Istanbul). What do these two markets have in common? An overwhelming mix of tourists and residents where the latter is mainly playing the role of the vendor. Merchants will try anything to get your attention. They will try to guess where I am from or shout out any Asian language they know in hopes of reeling me toward their stand. In Rome, there was a larger range in languages (Chinese, Japanese, English) whereas in Istanbul they would generally stick with English. Initially it was difficult not to feel insulted by their horribly pronounced words, but then seeing the smile on their faces made me pity their desperate attempts. A smile in return was all I could give them because I was usually not interested in buying anything. They must think I am just a waste of time. Merchants in Rome sure made me feel this way. If I was not going to buy anything, then it is not worth talking to me. I guess this is true in general for most people who are trying to sell their products, but I did not feel this sort of pressure as strongly in Istanbul as I did in Rome. Food, food, food. I cannot get enough. But to get the best price for the same product? You have to scope through as many stands as possible before you make your purchase. In both cities, the food remained about the same in each stand. Sometimes, I am proud of myself for having skipped a stand that sold an orange for 1 euro when the next one over was selling one for half the price. I know its not much, especially when I was going to spend 80 euros on a leather purse, but I think that if I save a little bit each day I can save a lot by the end of the trip. The market in the Campo de Fiori had stands that sold mostly the same thing for relatively the same prices; it just depended on which one you preferred to walk to. However, in Istanbul I had found Turkish delight for 20 Lira in one stand and the same types of Turkish delight for 10 in another. This was the same for other things such as scarves, towels, jewelry, and pottery. The vendors that I encountered were also more sincere than the ones I tried to speak with in Rome. If I stopped to talk to them, they were interested in having a real conversation rather than just trying to sell me their Pashminas. Even if I left without buying anything, they would wave good-bye with such enthusiasm that it just made my day. Overall, there was a specific identity that merchants had in Istanbul that I did not see in Rome. Were they selling products that the city or country was known for? I don't know if it was my lack of research but I had a long list of things to get in Istanbul (Simit, Turkish coffee, Pashmina, Turkish ice cream, towels, copper, Turkish black tea, and Turkish Delight just to name a few) because these were things that they were specialized in making; in Rome, there weren't many specific things I "had" to buy (except, of course, for my leather purse; espresso at Magnolia; Gelateria del Teatro gelato; pizza; and pasta) that were identity-oriented. It could have been that it was too obvious for anyone to say to me "You have to try this. Italy's _____ is amazing you can't get it anywhere else". Sure, pizza is an obvious choice to Americans and is so much better there than in the US. I usually despise the taste of pizza in the States but I was beginning to convert into a pizza-lover by the 4th week. Is pizza known as an Italian thing though? I guess having a class that constantly questioned what "Italian" means had made me uncertain because I honestly do not know. Maybe it was also that Turkey's specialty products are not well-known to students in the program so the topic was brought up more often. I certainly did not hear as much about Turkish Delight than I did about Simit because everyone had already heard of Turkish Delights. As someone who loves bread, Simit became my favorite food throughout the whole program. Istanbul and Rome. Rome and Istanbul. They are so different, and yet, this is why I love both. If I am able to finance my plan to visit a different country each month for a year by 2013, I know that I will definitely be hitting up Istanbul, Turkey and Rome, Italy.

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