Sunday, February 06, 2005

Not constant in Opal?

Istanbul Çok Guzel as a bloke called Kayahan was singing when I lived in Turkey back in the mists of time. Or the early 90s anyway. Well, it is definitely çok guzel (very beautiful) in the normal scheme of things, but it is difficult to tell on a day like today. It’s pretty much a full on blizzard outside (although after 6 winters in Vermont, I’m reluctant to bandy the word “blizzard” around lightly). The visibility is almost zero (or what meteorologists refer to as dead fucking foggy). It looks cold, wet, and frankly miserable.

I say “it looks” because I haven’t actually been out in it. I am stopped over between Bishkek and Bucharest, and was looking forward to spending the day wandering around Istanbul, which is one of my favourite cities in the world. Poking around the back streets of Sultanahmet, pausing to take in the splendour of the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya, wandering over the Galata bridge and up the main street towards Taksim Square. It sounds the perfect way to spend a Sunday. However, I have put this delightful plan on ice, because of the weather (do you see what I did there?). While ambling round the minarets of the old heart of Istanbul is a delightful thought, ambling round cold, wet and buffeted by storms is less of one. So much to my own personal disgust I have elected to spend my hours here at the airport. At the moment I don’t regret it, but I’m sure by the time I’ve been here about 4 hours I’ll be going neon-light-crazy. My big fear of course is that my flight will not be able to take off and take me home. In which case this time spent in the airport is a complete waste and I might just as well be in some back street hotel in downtown Istanbul.

One thing I’m struggling with is my first encounter with Wi-Fi (pronounced “wife – I”). This laptop is fairly new and the fact that I can hook into networks and check my email while sitting at a table in the Divan Pub (which is where I am typing this) is dead cool. Except of course that I must be doing something wrong. My computer happily hooks up to the network and tells me that the signal strength is excellent, and that, shockingly the speed of the connection is 11Mbps. The best speed of connection I ever had in Bishkek was 28.0 Kbps, and by my calculations this connection is therefore approximately 400 times as fast as that one was. But despite this theoretically wonderful connection, I cannot actually get online. I’m hooked to the network, but I just get “The page cannot be displayed” messages. After a baffling and headache inducing cruise through the wondrs of Microsoft “help”, and coming up short with pinging IP addresses and checking my WSP (whatever that is), I have basically given up. Which is disappointing in the extreme*.

The wireless network at Istanbul airport is called "tsunami" (all wireless networks have names for whatever reason). Now, my guess is that when they set it up they thought they should choose some cool ethnic internationally recognised word. Like Cosmonaut or Quetzalcoatl or Inshallah or Krishna or Kebab or something. Tsunami must have seemed like the perfect choice. Sufficiently go-getting and thrusting sounding, while still sounding cool when tripping off the tongue. I bet they're regretting it now. While two months ago "tsunami" was a cool word, now it's moved from the category of trendy international word to well known for the wrong reasons international word - like Blitzkrieg or Jihad or Nagasaki or Srebrenice.

*Woohoo! I got online. No idea really what I did but I fiddled with my internet settings until voila, here I am. So, I'll post this now. Hope you're all well, whoever and wherever you are.

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