by now the airport shuttle bus from attaturk international is driving over one of the many, many bridges that connect the city into a whole, and i can not only see the multitude of islamic mosques dominating the istanbuli skyline, but i can hear the muezzin’s call to mid day prayer, which for me, is the clearest sign that i’m no longer in the clutches of western civilization. the shuttle drops me in dead center of taksim square, for lack of a better comparison, the istanbuli equivalent to the big apple’s times square at 42nd and broadway. perhaps taksim should be called “the big olive”, because there seems to be all the energy and bustle of an 18 million person cosmopolitan capital hovering on the crossroads of two antithetical continents. but there, smiling at me welcomingly, is hassan, the manager of “istanbul apartments”, our home for the next 2 weeks. as i de-board the bus, i can hear the cacophony of arab-turkish “belly dance” music, mixed with the sounds of britney spears, turkish rap, and the loud voices of touts on megaphones, hawking their restaurants’ mid day discounts.