Tips for the Istanbul Atatürk Airport

I went through the Istanbul Atatürk Airport twice this past August on my way to Rome, once with a 6-hour layover, and once with a 4-hour. Here’s a few tips to help make your stay more comfortable.


Let’s be real, we all want to know about this one first. You can get two hours of free internet, but you need to have a working phone (so I assume you need to get a Turkish SIM card or maybe European SIM cards work here). Having a United States SIM card, this wasn’t possible. In this case, go to the Starbucks in the main shopping area of the airport. Technically you do not have to buy a drink, but if you use the space, I’d buy something. At the corner of the shop is a scanner where you can scan your boarding pass, get a PIN, and get two free hours of internet. You’ll have to open a new browser window and enter your PIN. However, you should know that this internet is QUITE slow, and I found it worked better on a laptop instead of a mobile phone. Some people were streaming videos on the internet. Don’t be those people.

I believe there may be internet at some of the other restaurants/bars, but I did not explore this further.


The first layover, I made a dumb mistake of sleeping in the 300s gates. Why? I don’t know. I was tired and thought this was all there was to the airport. Don’t sleep there. The benches are hard, it’s very noisy, there are long lines to the bathrooms. Instead, go up to the 200s gates and shopping areas and find a gate that isn’t quite full yet. The seats are much more cushy and you can stretch out more comfortably on the benches or on the floor without there being too much noise.


I didn’t find any water fountains while I was here, but I also didn’t look very hard. I bought bottles of water from the Starbucks. I suggest drinking as much water as you can on the plane, filling your water bottle up there, and grabbing some of the mini water bottles (assuming you’re taking Turkish Airlines).

There are free Turkish delight samples at some of the stores! Definitely one in the 300s gates area, and more around the main shopping area.

Most of the food I saw was Italian pastries, coffee, and American (burgers, salads). I ate at a Cakes & Bakes, only because I wanted a nice seat and a view of the shops below. The drinks itself are weak and they don’t heat the sandwiches up all the way. There are some Turkish pastries at the Starbucks, and the food there is pretty much what you would expect. If you pay in Euro, you will get change back in Turkish lira.


Finally: I traveled shortly after the terrorist attack and the attempted coup, but I felt quite safe the whole time I was in the airport. Security felt heightened without being overbearing or scary, and I was in the heart of the airport where it would have been tough to get past. I didn’t leave the airport at all, and probably wouldn’t have if I had a longer layover. If you’re reading this, hopefully things in Turkey are safe and secure. Good luck on your travels!

Theatre of the Oppressed: Joker Level 1 Training

“The theater itself is not revolutionary: it is a rehearsal for the revolution.”
– Augusto Boal

This January I had the opportunity to take Joker Level 1 training with Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, as hosted by the DC Coalition for Theatre and Social Justice. I was encouraged to take this workshop by Cristina Bejan, the co-founder of Bucharest Inside the Beltway, after we talked about my interest in theater for people of color and other marginalized groups. Side note: this training was to be held last July 2015, but I wasn’t able to make the full training and as it turns out the weekend workshop became a 3-hour compressed introduction to Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), which was also awesome.

I came to Joker Training with only a few expectations: learn about TO and use these new ideas in future theatre work. I was beautifully surprised by the end of training when I not only learned more about TO, but found it was widely applicable to all fields where you interact with people (especially in facilitation and participatory design, other areas of mine) and incredibly healing (more on that later).

Performance studies expert Ruth Laurion Bowman summarizes the Joker System as such:

As it is described by Boal, the Joker System is a flexible formula for adapting and staging extant texts, as well as for developing new ones (“Joker System”; Theatre of the Oppressed 159-97). […] The principal goal of the Joker System is to upset or destabilize the singular reality of the world as it is represented in the dramatic text (and as it is conventionally reproduced in performance) in order to explore alternate ways of representing and interpreting that world.

Or as we said in our workshop, “creating good confusion.”

No spoilers—I won’t go into all the games and debriefings we had, but we played a lot of games. Some of these games had to do with sound, some with movement, some with silence. They were simple enough that you could get in a rhythm, and some were silly enough that we would break face and roll with laughter. Some were intense—we had a few ‘ouch’ moments and many ‘mmm’ moments. In our debriefings, where we would talk about our reactions to a particular game or topic, the jokers would often ask, “Why?” and “What’s next?” in order to dig beneath the surface of our assumptions.

The workshop culminated in four different forum theatre performances based on stories of the participants. As explained by the Brecht Forum:

In what Boal calls “Forum Theater,” for example, the actors begin with a dramatic situation from everyday life and try to find solutions—parents trying to help a child on drugs, a neighbor who is being evicted from his home, and individual confronting racial or gender discrimination, or simply a student in a new community who is shy and has difficulty making friends. Audience members are urged to intervene by stopping the action, coming on stage to replace actors, and enacting their own ideas. […] The theatrical act is thus experienced as conscious intervention, as a rehearsal for social action rooted in a collective analysis of shared problems.

It was in these forum theatre performances that I felt the power of TO and its capability for healing and community. I shared my experience of my first few months after the birth of my daughter, where I experienced difficulties from various systems: healthcare, corporate, media (including social media, popular press, and institutional information). Our six-person forum theatre troupe developed the story, made it ours, and acted it out in a way that nearly brought me to tears. It was a story that has been so many mother’s stories: trouble with breastfeeding, uncaring medical professionals, difficulty returning to the work force, misunderstanding from mental health professionals, clamor of voices and advice. When an audience member raised her hand and offered to act as the Mother’s Boss, being an ally to the Mother so that she could work remotely while taking care of her baby, I wanted to hug her. Here she was, rehearsing social action for oppressed mothers—and not merely mothers, but anyone who has needed more time or flexible time due to medical or family issues.

Mixed media sculpture and collage made to accompany/inspire our forum troupe's play
Mixed media sculpture and collage made to accompany/inspire our forum troupe’s play

Coming to joker training felt as if part of my burden had been released, breathed in by a community and exhaled into the air, not to be my burden alone. Somehow, through seeing parts of my story embodied in other people, I felt a little less oppressed.

I’m not recommending joker training as therapy, though it was a gracious surprise that I felt buoyed that day. Rather, joker training is a way to bring creativity, theatre, social justice, and human rights together, in a way that empowers those who are oppressed and calls to action those of us who can help.