About Susannah Woodbury

Susannah Woodbury

Susannah Woodbury is an ayruveda-loving expatriate yogic English tutor conquering the world one wipe-off activity book at a time. She writes collections on The English Tutor, which are experiences from a young vagabond living and working in Turkey. She explores what it means to live far outside of your comfort zone--and have the courage to walk into a new yoga studio halfway around the world.


Latest Posts by Susannah Woodbury

Snapshots of Bebek, Istanbul

February 3, 2011 by  

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Bosphorus waterfront. Weathered old fishermen. Seaside cafes. The imposing Rumeli Fortress. Sun setting over the edge of Istanbul. What more could you ask of an evening?

Minnows loving their new home in a  Erikli water bottle.
Offering to share their trash can fire.
Three little boats, all in a row.
Perched on an old yogurt bucket.
“Leaf in Love” is the name of this beauty.

Celebrating the European Capital of Culture 2010

December 27, 2010 by  

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Istanbul (not Constantinople) was celebrated as the European Capital of Culture for 2010. As the cities mightiest reign since the days of the Ottoman Empire comes to a close just as 2010 gets ready to become 2011, here are some of my favorite posters from the travel world’s year long obsession is Istanbul:

Çok Çok Mutlu Noel

December 24, 2010 by  

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{12} Tiny tea cups

{11} Whirling Dervishes a’twirling

{10} Vendors hawking

{9} Cats a’begging

{8} Nargile smokers

{7} Children frolicking

{6} Au Pairs scolding

{5} Calls to prayer

{4} Secret Santas

{3} Rakı cups

{2} Shopping centers

And  asleep before midnight.

Merry Christmas and Mutlu Yıllar from İstanbul!

Notes on Turkish Bidets

December 20, 2010 by  

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Author’s note: this post contains potty humor and a rather graphic Victorian-era sketch.

Bidet is the French for pony. Etymologists find that this word stems from the notion that one “rides” a bidet much like one “rides” a pony. Well, what is a bidet? And why does this post seem to be heading in a rather PG-13 direction only five sentences in?

Bidet refers to the small nozzle integrated in many modern toilets. Popularized by the “paperless toilet” launched in Japan in the 1980′s, bidets are now widely used and quite popular the world over, with this gadget seeing bottoms in anywhere from the UK, to Africa, to South Korea. Bidets are standard features in most Arab countries and in all of Turkey. Yes, Turkey, where I happened upon my first bidet experience.

The time was 6pm, almost bath time. And I was, well, doing my business. Curious about the spout spouting out of the back of the toilet, and the small hose running from the bowl to a knob mounted on the wall, in about the place the toilet brush would be–if you needed a more precise location–I turn the knob. The water is freezing, but only a trickle. I turn the knob again. This is hilarious, I think, and laugh out loud. Freezing water shooting in the direction of my bottom, with the purpose of cleansing me in a way some people apparently do not think regular toilet paper can not. How can anyone be taking this seriously? I turn the knob again. Only this time, I’ve turned too far. My echoing laughter stops abruptly. The knob has reached it’s capacity for turning, and off it falls, rolling under the toilet. The arctic water is spraying at full blast. I panic, groping blindly under the toilet bowl for the knob that I can see, but is just out of reach. I lean slightly to the right to better my chances of reaching it, and in doing so, happen to separate my knees to balance myself…and out shoots the stream of water from between my legs, clear across the  bathroom. I now have to figure out how to contort myself into a position in which I can reach the bidet knob, which I’ve managed to knock further behind the toilet, without opening my legs for fear of flooding the bathroom with these baptismal waters. I hurriedly glance around for any supplies that might be useful in fishing out the knob. I have only a garbage can and the toilet brush at my current disposal. I grab the toilet brush. I am now whipping the brush around beside and behind the toilet, fishing for the damn knob that is no longer just out of reach, but out of sight. I’ve located the knob and toilet-brush it near enough that I can grab it in hand, letting slip a few more torrents of water from behind my clenched knees in the process. I have the knob, and fumbling…still fumbling, finally screw it back on it’s rightful post and end the waterfall.

18th century of ladies “mounted” on bidets (original caption)

There really is no moral to this story.

Istanbul in Colors

December 17, 2010 by  

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The Bosphorus River, as seen from İstanbul Modern
An unnamed cafe in a tree lined alley where we dined on nohut (chickpeas) and pilaf (rice) and mercimek çorbası (lentil soup) for less than 3 TL.
My favorite, favorite girlfriends in İstanbul


Nargile (hookah) pipes

How the Turks DO Italian Food

December 13, 2010 by  

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Happening upon the Rumeli Cafe one blustery day in Nişantaşı and unable to withstand the freezing winds and driving rains any longer, I duck inside. One successful attempt at asking for a menu later (menu alabilirmiyim? Can I get a menu?) and a trip up three flights of stairs to the toilet, I cozy up in my armchair to await my order of classic Italian minestrone and a caffe latte.

Delicious spaghetti-corn-spinach soup in mystery broth.
The latte was amazing–strong, sweet espresso with a thick foam that held up throughout my entire meal. The minestrone turned out to be an awkward Turkish version made with broccoli, corn, spinach, canned mushrooms, and spaghetti noodles swimming in a savory, yet not unsatisfactory, broth whose stock came from an unidentifiable origin. Despite these momentary setbacks, it was quite an acceptable form of my ultimate comfort food. Remember the Cream of Lettuce Soup incident? Which was not a joke, but in fact a joke I believe was played upon the travelers by Delta’s Business Class Elite Staff for making us all believe that cream of lettuce soup is the new avant-garde food of the moment. Again, I restate my disclaimer that I will always go for the soup…no matter what.

A Visual Glimpse of the Grand Bazaar

December 13, 2010 by  

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The Grand Bazaar in photos.

The Juice Man, serving up a concoction of lemon, orange, apple, something, and cinnamon.

İstanbul Üniversitesi. I want to go to school here!

Suleymaniye Mosque

Never Ending Madness of the Istanbul Bus System

December 7, 2010 by  

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Spacial issues. Not an “issue” topping my list my first few weeks in the city, although I’d been warned that compared to American Spacial Bubbles, (which are like……………….this) Turkish Spacial Bubbles are like…this. This only become apparent my third Sunday in Istanbul as I attempted to make my way to Taksim Square. Not being able to blame Bayram for the non-existent shuttle service on Sunday’s, I learned the hard way that the only way to get into the city at noon on the weekends is to take bus 48 (not to be confused with 48A) and pray that the person next to you remembered to at least apply the ineffective watery roll-on deodorant that so many unfortunately sweaty people seem to wear.

Taksim Square. A large breath of pedestrian fresh air.

I took bus 48A (yes, the wrong bus) from Kemerburgaz. The bus was as crowded as a sardine can when I boarded, the next stop saw 10-15 more people climb aboard, and the next stop just as many, if not more, without a soul hesitating to clamor onto the humid, smelly bus and sweat out the hour long ride to Eyüp with one hundred and fifty of their closest cousins and neighbors. A crotchety old Turkish women had it out with the bus driver as her kinsmen squeaked past her, the crush of bodies allowing for many to bypass payment amongst the confusion. The man in front of me, who’s jacket I was pressed against, smelt of pickles and cigar smoke. Babes in back seats were crying with abandon. At this point, panic was rising in my chest and beads of sweat started breaking out on my forehead. No one else seemed to be suffering from the same crippling claustrophobia. One of my eyes may or may not have been twitching. The terrifying combination of motion sickness and nausea from the jolting bus ride, horrible road conditions and claustrophobia mingling with my impending panic attack forced me to elbow my way out of the bus only 20 minutes into my trip–as at least 10 more people were still waiting to board–leaving vapors of profanities riding on the smoky haze inside the bus as bewildered Turkish folk made way for the crazed American girl with a twitch in her eye and a sharp elbow to boot.

Metaphorically called “The Heart of İstanbul”
Juice vendors galore.

I consolded myself with an apple, a packet of pretzel sticks (good for at least twenty mintues of mindless snacking) and an Aldeni bar (a Turkish confection that tastes like soggy biscotti covered in caramel and sütlü çikolata–milk chocolate) from the mağaza across the street and sat down to wait. I waited for a good hour and a half, and watched two more buses come and go, for one that was empty enough for this spacial issue ridden Western girl to ride in relative peace.This bus never came. I realized if I was going to go anywhere at all today, I had to suck it up, plug my iPod into my ears, and watch out the nearest window to keep the Albeni bar from exiting my already churning stomach. I was in obvious distress, and my fellow passengers knew it. One elderly Turkish man seemed so alarmed by the way my actions seemd to mirror a frightened wild animal, that he said something earnest to me in Turkish as he patted his shoulder and mimicked the swaying of the bus, seeming to be offering a shoulder to lean on should I topple over. Kindly fellow. I replied, tamam (okay) and went back to staring out the window. I made it to Eyüp (albiet the wrong destination, but finding my way to Taksim was a breeze from there) by some unknown force of the Universe that seriously had my back that day.

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