WNBA veteran Essence Carson went to Istanbul, Turkey shortly after helping the Los Angeles Sparks win the 2016 WNBA Championship, to play for Yakindogu Universitesi. The team is currently competing for the Eurocup.
Carson took some time out this week to talk about life in Turkey during basketball season.
What is Turkey like, compared to the U.S.? What are the outward differences?
Turkey is quite like the U.S. It’s a mass of land, with greenery, and an occasional skyscraper. Of course there are cultural differences, but you’ll always encounter that when you decide to leave the Western Hemisphere. It’s a predominantly Islamic culture. Outside of the terror attacks in more recent years, it has been a relatively peaceful place (first played here circa 2012). Terror has not and is not only confined within borders of Turkey. As we all should know by now, it is an eye-opening, life changing, and devastating facet of modern day ‘humanity’ that isn’t so humane, affecting many world wide. In other words- there are beautiful cities, architecture, and customs here in Turkey; so, before you judge a book its cover maybe you should crack it open and at least check out the forward.
Where do you stay when you’re there? An apartment, shared housing?
Like any other developed country, they have residential areas with building structures they’ve dubbed apartments. Go figure. I’ve been lucky enough to nab one of these bad boys in the city of Istanbul. Can’t go wrong with a modern high-rise. Sometimes, it even reminds me of New York City. If you haven’t had a chance, I reckon you pencil in some time to visit both cities.
Take us through a typical day for you, i.e. practices, down time, etc.
A typical day for me is pretty simple; I wake up, handle some personal hygiene, breakfast, hit the gym, handle some personal hygiene, lunch, enter the beginning stages of REM sleep, shave about two years off of my life from my alarm clock scaring me awake, hit the gym, handle personal some hygiene, dinner, lay down some music production, sleep. If you didn’t get anything from my daily schedule you should understand this one thing: shower!
How do you communicate with your coaches and teammates?
Normally we communicate with words, but if we’re feeling a little shifty/frisky, we’ll throw an eye-roll in there from time to time. I must also note that my teammates and our staff speak English. They’ve done a great job with making everything easy and accessible for us foreigners. Lord knows we can be demanding at times.
What do you do in your free time, when you do have some? What are the fun things to do in Turkey?
When I have free time I indulge in creating music. There are times when I just sit and play the keyboard, write potential lyrics for a couple forthcoming projects, and/or go shopping for a new instrument to teach myself how to play.
I’m pretty boring, but there are a multitude of things to do here in Turkey. If you’re a foodie, they have some pretty nice restaurants that will add another five pounds to that number on your scale. They also have amazing areas of each city to see. Since Turkey dates back into the Ottoman Empire, there’s a lot of history on each corner in every city. I’m no tour guide, so, I’d just suggest you contact a native Turkish citizen for a consultation.
There’s also a night life here in Istanbul. If you’re one that enjoys a night on the town that’s capped off with some good music and whatever else adults tend to do, there are several places you can “Ju Ju on that Beat” or even experience traditional Turkish belly dancing accompanied by dinner. Istanbul is a vibrant city with tons of history and tradition that spans across two continents (Europe and Asia). There’s always something to do!
Have you had any memorable funny or scary experiences, any home mishaps, any miscommunications due to language barriers?
I haven’t had any major mishaps due to a language barrier, but about 6 years ago in Hungary I was so wrapped up in finishing a production I was working on that I forgot I was cooking… *cues This Girl Is On Fire by Alicia Keys* Yeah, I set the kitchen on fire. Welp, I made it out alive. 🙂