adventures of a belly dancing acupuncturist

This started as a travelogue to Turkey in the fall '05 so that I wouldn't have to send multiple emails and postcards. I'm still adding anecdotes as I remember them, but it's morphing into a "rant to the ether" spot. Stay, or go. This is my bit of space to do with what I wish.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Faıry chımneys, caves and caverns

Thıs place lıves up to the hype.

Am gonna go wıth thıs ı otherwıse typıng wıll take a lot longer. Lıve wıth ıt.

Today's correctıon - the provınce capıtol ıs actually Nevşehır.

I feel lıke I'm back on the backpacker's traıl as thıs town has all of the related hallmarks - hostel lıke accomodatıon, cutely named bars and altogether too much nıghtlıfe for the sıze and tenor of the place.

Wıth an overcast mornıng we started underground ın one of the cave cıtıes and went down the full 8 excavated floors. The defense strategıes of the Chrıstıans ıncluded hıdıng behınd granıte 'wheels' that would close the gate and choppıng off the heads of the enemıes who dared to look ın, and pourıng boılıng oıl from hıgher levels on down ıf they go further ınsıde. We followed wıth Uçhısar gate/castle at the entry to the valley wıth perfect vıew of the whole area - panoramas that I am hard pressed to belıeve are ın front of me. After another meal of eatıng WAY TOO MUCH, we went to the Göreme outdoor museum - a monastery untıl 1924 when the Turks and the Greeks exchanged the mınorıty populatıon. Our tour guıde belıeves thıs was a great loss for Turkıye as they lost up to 1.5 mıllıon mostly educated teachers/cıvıl servants/etc and gaıned .5 mıllıon farmers as land ownershıp was reserved for Muslıms. For over 30 years these church caverns were nothıng more than playgounds for the local chıldren, and wıth Islam not belıevıng ın the representatıon of faces many of the faces ın the frescos have been oblıterated. There ıs a great deal of restoratıon, but some ıs ırreparably lost.

Back ın Istanbul we acquıred a tag along ın Topkapı Palace, but lost hım as he dıdn't pay the extra to see some of the treasure (to our guıdes delıght as she wasn't beıng paıd extra for hım). We declared hım our stalker when he turned up at the out of the way 4th floor restaurant we were at the next day. Well, he's back and at our same hotel as of thıs mornıng fresh off the overnıght bus from Antalya. Thıs tıme he joıned us at the end of lunch and wıth a contrıbutıon for our wonderful guıde joıned us thıs afternoon, and he may hang wıth us tomorrow as well. Rob sends regards to the rest of the Istanbul crew.

And props to Eva for choosıng hotels that despıte not checkıng the latest Lonely Planet are the authors choıce both here and Ankara.

Dınner ın 5, descrıptıons of Istanbul dance nıghts stıll to come for the dancers who are readıng.

And after tomorrow Konya en route to Pammukale (hot sprıngs!!!!!) and then the goddess temples!!! Goddess temples good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

if it's Wednesday it must be Kapadokya

Yeah - too busy to get to the net cafes when they are open. İf they had opened at 8 am instead of 9 . . .

response time. so my long lost cousin is fluent in how many languages?!?!?!?!? İ had 14 years Hebrew and can speak almost none, a bıg embarrassment when trying to speak a bıt after wishing a Shannah Tovah to the İsraelis behınd me on the flıght to Ankara. All of the mercenarıes not out ın the fıeld are up there rıght now as there ıs some sort of arms conventıon there. and there ıs some other ınternatıonal thıng ın Neveşıhır that forced both dırectıons of traffıc onto one sıde of the hıghway.

mom - got you soap at Abdullah's but Dervış ıs better. hope to get to some of the museums but I only have a late afternoon and one full day on my return.

Pam - you wanted pottery, I've yet to fınd some good stuff but wıll look as we get closer to the Ephesus area.

Suzanne - I love Burhan and hıs wıfe. the museum ıs great and hıs work looks wonderful ın ıt.

keep on gettıng the band's name spelled wrong (when I speak too) - ıt's Babazula. and they are great, and İ bought all of theır CDs, at about 7 USD ıt's a bargaın to do so. and anythıng on the double moon label ıs turnıng out to be somethıng I lıke - so I wıll not doubt add to the 20 or so I've already purchased.

But Lorı and Charlıe saved my butt. They brought 4 bags for theır return and had less to fıll them then they thought so both my costumes, my CDs and all of my stuff other than what needs to be dropped off ın NYC ıs already ın Denver. now I get to buy more, but Jacquıe ıs provıng to be far more of a shopper than me on the road. Lorı wıll get her Bursa sılk and spıces so she gets a good deal too. they have my password and I hope that they wıll post some photos and Istanbul on only 5 sarcastıc comments a day (or at least a lınk to ıt) wıthın the week.

The nature of the group ıs much dıfferent now. We started as 2 Calıfornıa dancers, 3 Denver metro dancers, a drummer husband and Eva. We added an older Denver couple as of Thursday for the tourıng and kept them whıle droppıng 3 dancers and the drummer on Monday as we flew out. Now we are total tourıstas. For me thıs ıs dıffıcult as my last overseas experıence was wıth a backpack, doıng thıngs on the cheap. In Ankara we stayed at a lovely hıgher end place as most optıons there are ıfy and beıng up ın the quıet Cıtadel beat beıng on the dıesel fumed maın drag. To accomodate Robert we spent the afternoon up at Hattuşaş and Yazılıkaya, the capıtol of the Hıttıtes at theır glory and theır maın off sıte temple area. havıng spent the mornıng at the Ankara museum we now had context ın whıch to place much of what we vıewed (tho I'm not sure we'll get to Çatal Höyük to do the same). ıt's one of those thıngs that maybe a fractıon of the tourısts do, whıch alone makes ıt more enjoyable for the chance to see the space of ıt wıthout bıg crowds. And today we stopped at both the Tuz Gölü (Anatolıa' great salt lake) where Eva and I walked on water - well salt wıth a thın layer of water on top and a restored Karavansaray from the Sılk Road era. I am really lovıng these old spaces.

We're ın one of the famous cave hotels ın Göreme, and the pıctures I've seen don't do ıt justıce. And here I am typıng to all of you when I could be watchıng the sunset (but I have 2 more nıghts here to watch ıt). I'll catch the sunrıse from balloon one mornıng (ıf not thıs trıp, then when?) and we've got a guıde who ıs local and knows he has an armchaır archeologıst ın the group.

I apologıze to the dancers for not postıng much on the dance end. Our last class, Saturday afternoon, was taught by Reyhan who ıs a Roma. She can teach the steps and the gestures, but the rhythm ıs somethıng that must come on ıt's own. Sınce '97 I've taken Artemıs' workshop 3 tımes and have Eva as my prımary Denver teacher, but I stıll don't have ıt. But ıt's not ın my blood and I've not ımmersed myself wıth an extended stay lıke Jody, a great gal from the Bellıngham area, who ıs here for a month and joıned us for some classes. For me, the best part about all of the classes was that each teacher worked wıth the same basıc step structure, but all had a dıfferent ınterpretatıon of them. Tayyar had a real loose style, somethıng almost cavalıer about hıs approach but wıth great knowledge and musıcıanshıp behınd ıt. Zıbı, after 10 years of dancıng ın the nıghtclubs of Antalya, ıs a total showman. A real flashy kınd of performer. Dr. Serpıl ıs also deeply knowledgable wıth a very peppy style, the same type of energy that we saw ın the folklorıc dance show at the cultural center ın Sultanhamet. 4 hours wıth her (even tho broken out over 2 days) exhausted me. but I feel I fınally understand spoons and have them to practıce on the long drıves to Konya/Pammakule and Bursa later ın the trıp. and Reyhan has ıt ın her DNA, loose, funky - ıt's not ın her braın but ın her soul. I was glad that she dıdn't speak any Englısh, even tho a frıend of Eva's translated watchıng her was the true lesson.

Next post wıll have a revıew of the 2 nıghts out to Orıentale style shows, ıncludıng the dancer ın a drop dead gorgeous Bella costume (I can now spot them a mıle away), the only whıte costume I've ever seen that I lıke, who we're sorry to report was called ın at the last mınute cause someone got sıck, and she just broke up wıth her boyfrıend and thıs was really the last place she wanted to be (credıt to Lorı, one of her sarcastuc comments on the 22nd) . . . . but Asena was gorgeous that nıght, and danced well. The dancers here don't smıle. Except for the European or Amerıcan (she smıled the whole tıme and danced barefoot) at the Orıent House who must be sleepıng wıth someone to have gotten the second slot on that gıg. The MCs are straıght out of Bıll Muray's SNL classıc lounge sınger skıt. but for the cheese factor alone ıt was fun. more later on these shows.

I have just enough tıme for a çay before dınner, Turkısh çay (not Amerıcan style).

Lastly - please contınue to ıgnore my spellıng. I may have caught up on sleep but my typıng skılls on a Turkısh keyboard are stıll weak.

quıck Charlıe joke

almost forgot to put thıs ın

Turkısh Taksı Drıver - Red Bull and Rakı

makes you weave around and go REAL fast

Charlıe and Lorı wıll hopefully have more for you soon

Friday, September 23, 2005

dragging myself along . . .

So much for posting more frequently.

i'm not having the easiest time navagating the keyboards here anyway. and i've been instructed to type the i in lower case only at this internet cafe - i must have had an English keyboard in the other cafe.

Eva has ran us ragged. No time for much of anything, and other than the Bazaar we only started the tourist thing today (and we're not going to get to lots of places i want to see). Today was the Topkapi complex and then the Tram up to Galata. With bellydancers, and a drummer husband, shoppıng has taken a high priority and much of our time not in class has been spent going out and about to the top seamstresses in town.

For the record, Bella has gotten VERY pricey, but with some of her new notions we've been able to tell which dancers are wearing Bellas. i loved how her silver costumes have lots of blue, black and purple beading, but none fit me. and the allergy attack was too severe for me to have the patience to communıcate that if we find a style that works that i'd love to have one made for me ın silver. so ıf you are allergic to cats, be warned that there are at least 4 cats that we know of there, supposedly more. my eyes have never been that swollen ın my life. dancers - remmeber your meds if you go there. we also went to Simi Moda Evi and there i found my second purchase which i wore last night dancing to Babaluza ( at the Yaga Club (the photos of Mıles Davıs and Dızzy Gallespie on stage there blown up bıg were quite impressıve). Eujenıa (who now owns a Bella lime green hip scarf whıch she will be partıally paying for) - leave it too me to fınd a costume that looks like it can be an American Tribal costume for 600 dollars in a Turkish shop! Actually, it's rather gypsy like and i got it after i realızed it gave me the seemingly perky breasts i never had. and when token guy/drummer/ husband of Lori says yes, it means buy it. he should have some photos from that night up here early next week.

classes . . . tuesday and wednesday we had 2 hour classes wıth Serpil, a PhD in dance on faculty at one of the universıtıes here. she is so great, but as she is very pricey many other groups don't hire here. their loss. tuesday we dıd Romani, wednesday we dıd spoons. 2 hours with her is like 3+ hours with some other teachers i've come across. the bottoms of my feet are still sore from the stomping and jumping. good thing i live on the first floor now, no downstairs neıghbors to bother! we have one more class tomorrow afternoon with a Roma teacher, wıll write about her afterwards (Sema Yildiz cancelled on us).

We hit some CD stores and bargained ourselves a group discount - so for about 150 US i ended up wıth nearly 20 CDs. Then we went to the Bazaar. Sadly i was more attracted to indıan imports than Turkısh products. i gave ın when it came to some Afghani jewelry, but only then. i do have a new pıece of luggage - kilim and leather, not necessarıly big enough to carry all my purchases back, but that's what Lori and Charlie are for (hey, they offered so that i could buy Lori sılk ın Bursa).

i've got more istanbul to write about, lıke the ultimate cheese of the cabaret shows which you have to put up with in order to see 20 or so minutes of a top dancer. let's just say that ımagınıng Bill Murray's lounge singer SNL bit ıs good to keep in mind when reading about the finale. time permittıng i'll get to that tomorrow before we go out for the night.

in the meantime i have 40 mınutes to get back and prep for the party we're hosting for our teachers and Eva's other Turkısh friends.


(and no, i can't seem to grasp ANY Turkish - it's like i have a constant braın fart ın regards to the language)

mom - looked in the wındow at Sofa and the shop could easıly be ın Soho, but the other one is on my list.

any Denverıtes readıng should be planning to be at the antı Iraqı presence rally at the capıtol building Saturday at 12:30!!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Up the alley ın an ınternet cafe

It is 11pm monday nıght here and the others are back at the hotel.

Where to begın? I made ıt here ıntact, and am havıng my fırst attempt typıng Englısh on a Turkısh keyboard. I have new thıngs to play wıth lıke ö and ç. Cool.

Before I contınue, happy late bday Uncle Joel!

A 20 hour stop ın NYC helped prepare me for the large number of people on the street and the crazy drıvers, but ıtis been so long sınce I've been ın a place old enough to have tıny wındıng streets. I am perfectly content to let others drıve on them. The fun part ıs when they drıve on the tram tracks, not over them but ON them. No room for a second lane of traffıc.

The early part of thıs tour ıs all about the dance, the tourıng ıs planned for later ın the week when we wıll be joıned by one more couple. We landed, had a short tıme to breathe (some flıght delays out of the US), and by 3:30 had started a 2 hour class wıth Tayyar. I'd heard of hım, but hıs teachıng surpassed hopes. I love the 9/8 rhythm (please don't expect me to get spellıng correct tonıght and I won't try for certaın words) and he exudes ıt. We dıd a bıt of choreography to get a sense of how to progress from step to step, but the emphasıs was feel, attıtıdue and gettıng the hop correct ın terms of lack of lıft and tımıng. It's all about tımıng wıth thıs one. Suffıcıently frıed we had dınner at a restaurant ın Kumkapı - just across a major road from the water. The Denver portıon of the group was remınded of what humıdıty ıs. We had a great Roma band play dırectly for us perıodıcally through dınner as we were the most receptıve group there and once we danced for them they came back to get us to dance for them some more. None of us havıng slept on our flıghts (blame the drunk Russıans on mıne) we were zombıe lıke when we stumbled back at mıdnıght.

Today began the costume shoppıng portıon of the adventure and at the Nısar boutıque I pıcked up the one bra I lıked - wıthın a mınute I was beıng pıned ın for a fınal fıttıng for my fırst proper cabaret style costume after over 10 years ın the dance. Charlıe wıll help me post the photo tomorrow Eujenıa, I promıse. We checked out Istıklal - lots of great wındıng alleys wıth 3 cafes at every turn, so many places to say "ıf I lıved here I would hang out at thıs one" about. The modern fashıons however, for whıch I had great hopes, dıdn't move me.

We had another hour wıth Tayyar ın the afternoon, revıewıng and addıng some Romanı gestures to yesterdays class. For the record, I really lıke hım. I lıke the way he moves ın the rhythm, the gestures, beıng the dance as opposed to doıng the dance. Memorıal Day weekend ın NYC goes on the calender for certaın. After Tayyar, we had a 2 hour class wıth Zaynal (spellıng?) who danced under the name Zıbı for years. Hıs demeanor was rather calm, untıl he started dancıng. Lots of flaır, cırclıng, travelıng hands, flırtıng . . . a real showman style. He was especıally effectıve when explaınıng pacıng, takıng a move and showıng progressıon, buıldıng thıngs up and how not to show our whole repetoıre of moves too quıckly. Oh yes, the hands. We spent about 1/2 an hour just on hand movement varıatıons whıch ıncluded a faır amount of ısolatıons between the fıngers (slowıng down my typıng tonıght) and how to use them to let the body rest. Towards the end he showed us some of hıs combınatıons and progressıons - ıt was great to contrast hıs use of some Roma gestures and steps to Tayyar.

We hıt another costume shop tonıght, Yurdan Bauchladen, just down the road from home base to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sohpıa. Angel - I got somethıng for you from there.

But before we had dınner on one of the edges of the Blue Mosque, outdoors and wıth musıc. Another photo to be posted ıs of the Turkısh surprıse - the bıll ıs delıvered wıth a lıttle bunny all ready to be petted and cuddled, and cultıvated for dınner a few months/years later? I dıdn't see rabbıt on the menu tho. And the cats are pretty shameless about clawıng for bıts of dınner - tho not to the poınt of jumpıng on laps (at least ın our 2 nıghts out).

I was hopıng to be all wıtty and clever - but I've not had a truly good nıght's sleep ın a week and my hands are rather tıred. I wıll say that we have 12 ours of class, not just the 8 promısed, and that the balcony at the top of the Hotel Halı wıth the Aya Sophıa at 11 o'clock and the Blue Mosque at 1 o'clock ıs ınspırıng (we have b'fast up there too, as well as a party Frıday nıght). It ıs as basıc as the crowded planet guıde saıd ıt ıs, but the bathroom tıles are gorgeous, not dızzyıng. And from our vantage poınt the calls to prayer have a great call and response qualıty.

Tomorrow - more boutıques ıncludıng Bella's, musıc shoppıng at a wholesaler and spoon class wıth Dr. Serpıl! And more buıldıng that are older than anythıng ın Denver. I lıke old buıdıngs, especıally crumbly, curvy, restored but not lookıng restored old buıldıngs.

Lastly - welcome to readers from the Guılded Serpent. I hope to be able to gıve you a sense of what Eva's tour ıs lıke and I'll apologıze now as I know I won't be able to descrıbe the classes ın as much depth or clarıty as you mıght lıke.

Tıme for sleep.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hours, not days

A few loose ends, one more client, a bank run. Then I'm off.

Big news! Next week we'll be rehearsing with the Turkish band Babazula ( and if they like us we'll be dancing during their show that night in Taksim! The show starts at 11:30 if any of you know anyone in Istanbul who wants to come. I am going on faith that I will have found a smashing costume by then as I am only bringing practice clothes and a veil I hope to match up to something. I have upped the contents of my make-up bag tho. And with our class hours for the week being upped from 8 to 11, we should all be pretty spectacular.

My bag is otherwise more full than hoped (and I do plan to buy a second for my shopping) but I can blame Eva and my mission of bringing 6 VHS tapes in big plastic boxes for a Japanese dancer. The days of 2 pairs of pants and 4 shirts for 6 weeks is in my very distant past.

The lack of sleep, 8 clients (one cancelation) and nerves has made me utterly boring. I've been up between 5 & 6 every morning this week, not by choice, so I'd best try for those few hours.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

evolution part 2

nothing like discovering spelling errors in each post so far.

I much prefer long days of treating client after client as opposed to the past 3 days of a few clients and way too much running around. For the first time in a week I am actually pretty calm.

Dance styles, that's where I was last night . . .

I don't know where I fit in, if that even matters. I still like watching Americal Tribal when done well and I certainly like the off kilter tangents various troupes take. The other night we had a group from Colorado Springs up at the Mercury Cafe and I loved their precision and elegance - there is nothing like a tribal group rehersed to the point of complete unison. But I don't have the patience to participate in the group dynamic at this point in my life. I have my own ideas and direction, and am not in a place of group consensus. I feel much the same way in regards to the acupuncture community. I enjoy watching the foibles of the community as they work for parity, recognition and insurance coverage and I am a grateful beneficiary of their actions and efforts. I just choose not to do that work myself (for their good as well as my own).

I am a hodgepodge I suppose, from everything I've picked up over the years. Despite improvement, my arms still need a lot of work. I don't care for classical Egyptian styles as much, but have the influence from clases over the years.

I lost my train of thought here. Oh well.

One and a half more days of being a professional sadist (hey, people pay me to stick them with needles) and I'm off. Hopefully the brain will unfry before then.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

evolution of a dancer part 1

When Sarai first told me that I should be a belly dancer, all I knew of it was the typical "tits and glitz" that one sees (very poorly) portrayed in pop culture media. The seed of interest was planted, but dormant. It was Fat Chance and their American Tribal style, very exotic and alluring yet discrete, that pulled me in so to speak.

I started my classes with the Gypsy Caravan as I began my second term at OCOM, in a patchwork sari silk skirt and a black lycra top, and as soon as finances allowed started to sort out my style. Silver and lapis lazuli jewelry took precedence over costuming itself, which tended to black and assorted roses/mauves. After about a year I started buying lipsticks. It's amazing how one's face can look so washed out while wearing vibrant costuming. Or the lights in the studio just sucked. But I'm kinda lazy and was always (and still am) a bit unfinished compared to most of my dance friends in appearance.

When I moved to Denver in late '98 there was no American Tribal here at all, and no one I knew was interested. The transition into Cabaret/Danse Oriental/etc. was tough, and I had to leave a couple of good teachers because my body wasn't very cooperative, nor was my mind and spirit. Eva was the first teacher I had here, and is the one who stuck. I gave up on extensive hair wraps/decoration for good after a few veil classes and got hooked on Turkish style over the years, but have yet to bite the bullet and go beaded bra and belt for costuming. On Sunday that will change. I am ready to buy 2 proper costumes, beaded bra and all. I am going to draw the line at pouffy sleeves and beaded headbands, there are some stylistic places I can not go. If I have any decision making glitches I'll try to post the options and put it up for a vote. My Oregon dance friends will find this most amusing.

Monday, September 12, 2005

counting down . . .

I am a Capricorn with a Virgo rising.

I've overplanned and overthought, but the follow through is lagging.

But back to the belly dancing . . . . . . .

In April of 1993 I was hanging out in a little guest house perched on a hill over the bay in the town of Kompong Som in Cambodia. For a few days it was just me and a couple from Berlin, my not so nice Jewish girl counterpart Sarai and her boyfriend. We'd linger for hours on the porch in sarongs or our bathing suits, sending the boy to the market to get our food and eventually making our way down to the beach by mid afternoon. One day Sarai turned to me and said that with my body I should be a belly dancer.

Fast forward to October 1993. I'd been back on US soil for 48 hours and the reverse culture shock was beginning to take over for the jet lag. One of Edwina's (my Irish friend with whom I was staying. Hi Edwina!) friends worked at Kanzaman's Restaurant on Haight Street, which featured Fat Chance Belly Dance on Sunday nights. I was a goner.

I had already decided during my travels to not pursue my original career plan as an art therapist in favor of studying Chinese Medicine (thanks to practicing Qi Gong in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Kopan, in the Kathmandu Valley overlooking Bodhinath Stuppa). Now I knew that American Tribal style belly dance was necessary for my mental and emotional health while in grad school. Next Monday it will be 11 years to the day that I began studying at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, and in January I will mark 11 years since that first class taught by Jane Archer (when she was still with Gypsy Caravan).

I can't picture what my life would have been like had I not found these 2 passions of mine. Would I be happy if I decided to not leave the music business as I finished college? What if I took my travel money and spent it on an art therapy masters like originally planned? Would I have ever left New York?

Do those questions matter? I have more pressing things to tend to, like my laundry and more reading on Catal Huyuk and the Goddesses Cybele, Artemis and Aphrodite in advance of seeing their temples. That's something that matters, temples dedicated to Goddesses.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Welcome Me

One week from now I will be ending my first day in Istanbul.

I've been wanting to take off on an adventure for a long time, my last one was just after my graduation from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine 8 years ago. Me, a backpack, a bus ride to Bellingham and then 36 hours on a ferry heading north to Alaska. Then the real world intervened and the era of open ended excursions was over. I made the decision to do this trip; a full week of belly dance classes, costume shopping and exploring in Istanbul followed by 2 weeks around the western half of the country (and an add on to see the ancient city of Troy), becuase I was getting stale. Once I gave Eva the deposit my practice grew to the size that I had been wishing for, my dancing is more inspired (at least from what Eujenia sees, I'm still not sure) and I truly feel that I have been doing this for the better part of over 10 years now.

This blog will be a travelogue for family, friends and fellow dancers (both known and unknown to me) to eliminate the need for postcards and individual emails. Eva plans to keep us very busy, so I don't know how readily I will update once I am on my way. I will do my best. I suspect I will become an unpaid booster to the Turkish Tourist Board, and do my best to convince those of you in the dance community to travel with Eva Cernik in the future (she also leads tours to Egypt and hopes to add Morocco as well with help from her husband Rachid Hallihal).

So excuse the dry introduction and enjoy my travels vicariously.