The Travels of Week 3.
Ok- where to start.
This past week was a mix between our first week of school, LOTS of touristy activities and spending hours trying to plan a group trip to Izmir while everyone’s credit card was being denied. I am lucky enough to have no classes on Thursdays or Fridays so I have more days to go explore than I do actually sitting in a classroom. So here it is…
These days are the dreaded class days. I really, really thought that after two months of having no class that I needed structure in my life again and something to do but I was 100% wrong. Sitting in class, I day dream of all the Euro-trips coming up and going into Istanbul to explore. However, I am taking 2 finance classes, a class on terrorism and insurgencies, a class on intercultural communication, and lastly basic Turkish. I have finally mastered the basic Turkish conversation and this did not come from Turkish class alone (keep reading for the full story). The terrorism and insurgencies class is very interesting and something that I have never studied before. While I am a couple of steps behind all of the International Relations majors in my terrorism class, I am enjoying listening and learning. Finance so far has been very different from the American style of teaching but I have enjoyed it.
Thursday was the day I had planned to meet up with a family friend Elena, who Enrico put me in touch with. I had my first public transportation journey alone on a series of buses but was very pleased that I was able to get somewhere by myself. Well- mostly by myself. I had only found the bus after sadly attempting to ask every storeowner in Turkish “Nerede autobus 25E?”. They would just look at me for a minute and say “I cannot understand- speak in English”. After my lame attempts and Turkish and flailing my body around trying to figure out directions from non-English speakers, I finally made it to where I was meeting Elena, which was an ice cream store that she owns called MUA. She started making me try every type of ice cream that she had in the store followed by a big cone of my favorite type. She invited an old employee who is a Turkish girl my age to give her some advice on a big interview coming up. It was obvious that all of Elena’s employees really love her and value her advice because of her success with her ice cream shop. After chatting for a while the 3 of us went to dinner at a beautiful place on the Bosphorus. Elena and I bitched about how the Turkish serve their red wine cold, we talked about boys, and she showed us the extravagant costume that she had made for the Carnivale celebration this week at the Italian consulate. We had a very good time and it was so nice to be around someone who has lived in Istanbul for so long. We parted ways after she had given me many recommendations of places to go and experience in the city, including giving me the number of a guy in the Grand Bazaar that makes the best knock-off purses.
Later that night, I met up with some of my friends in Taksim to go dancing. We enjoyed our time wandering in and out of different bars and dancing everywhere we went. We called it a night pretty early, and this is when my friends, Kate and Gabe and I got into a taxi that was absolutely the best cab ride of our lives. We got into the cab and struggled to tell him where we were trying to go and soon enough we all began to chat in the very little Turkish we knew. However, when you have had a glass of wine… or two…. your Turkish dramatically improves. We exchanged understanding as deep as that our drivers name was Farhat, he was a cab driver, and it was nice to meet you (memnun oldum). I think the words memnun oldum might have been spoken 80 times in that 20-minute cab ride. After the cab we left with hugs from Farhat who loved us so much and gave us his number to call anytime we all needed a ride from Taksim to Koc and most importantly left having mastered the basic Turkish convo. Below is a really bad quality video of our cab ride. Ignore my loud voice…
Not much happened Friday. I woke up with a terrible cold and took it easy for the day. I met up with some friends to try to plan a trip to Izmir, but all of our credit cards failed so we decided to go get a beer and some food at the local bar that’s about 5 minutes away from campus. We enjoyed some good burgers and petting the unenthused dog that lives at the bar.
We woke up early for a guided tour of Sultanhamet, the Old City. It was an amazing day! We started at the Hippodrome where there are large towers with Egyptian hieroglyphics all over them. We went into the Blue Mosque as a group. We went to the Hagia Sophia and learned about the amazing history of the building. The clash between Christianity and Islam religion is so amazing to see through the architecture and decor of the mosque. Right next to Arabic writing and Islamic mosaics there are paintings of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. After this, we took a break for lunch at a restaurant that is known for its Kofte, which is basically a deep fried meatball. Kofte is very popular here (below is a picture).
After lunch, we went to Topaki Palace, which is where the Sultans used to reside. I think this might have been the most impressive place I have seen so far. They had displays of the Sultan’s jewels and OMG I don’t think I have ever seen a diamond so big in my life. Diamonds and emeralds and rubies and ivory!!! I mean- these guys had rubies on their cereal bowls. I also saw some really old artifacts that I have no idea where located at the Palace. We saw Prophet Muhammad’s sword and footprint, the robes of some other prophets, beautiful mosaics that surrounded the circumcision rooms-lol, and the staff the Moses used to separate the Red Sea! I had no idea, and it was one of the best surprises yet.
Sunday morning our group of friends finally got someone’s credit card to work so it is now official! 6 of us will be going to Izmir and Ephesus this weekend!!!!
Sunday day was probably the most culture shock I have felt so far. We started out the day out visiting the Basilica Cistern, which is such a sight! It is so amazing to see because it is so different from anything many people have seen before. There are also the fattest fish in the water that we watched for a while and debated on “if I were a fish, I would want to cistern fish” and “no way I would want to be nemo fish”. After the cistern we split from the boys and my 3 girlfriends and I made our way to the Hammam, also known as the Turkish baths. I could write a whole different blog post on the Turkish baths. WHOA! We had no idea what to expect but if you picture in your mind what a communal bath looks like that’s exactly what it was. In our towels, we were led to a big wooden door that said “Bath Room” in big letters and when she opened the door I was greeted by what looked like a watering hole of naked women EVERYWHERE. No reservations here in Turkey. They don’t deal with the polite drape of towels and cloth over the private areas of your body like they do in America; they are there to get down to business. We were told to lie down on a hot marble slab so we could start sweating. I was soon after greeted by an attendant that slapped my bum to get my attention. I turned around and saw a big old naked woman who proceeded to scrub every crack and crevice of my body. I will stop there and leave the rest for imagination but it was a very rough procedure. Looking back, I enjoyed it, and it was very relaxing after you got over the initial shock. Needless to say, I have never had such soft skin.
So- that was my week. It was a good one. Also in news back at home, my friends and I all finally picked our rooms for our new home! I am so excited to see all of you soon and start decorating our first real home together. ☺
Soon to come will be a post about Izmir and Ephesus. It is not official, but I believe my friend Kate and I are planning to go with the exchange students to Cappadocia and go hot air ballooning.
Miss you all!