Thursday, November 21, 2013

Istanbul not Constantinople

You simply don't get too many opportunities in your lifetime to be in two continents at the same time.  It's a shame, but luckily I got the chance to do just that this last weekend.  Our trip started on a Friday, and the wonderful time of 1:30 a.m.  I stayed up planning to get sleep on the bus, but then ended up not sleeping on the bus either.  I really should have known myself better than that.  We started the trip off singing random songs "Sweet Dreams are Made of This" "Bohemian Rhapsody" and all those other goodies.  I should clarify that "we" was about six or seven of us in the back of the bus that were probably ticking off every other person who wasn't singing at the time.  But that's what car trips are all about right?  Singing and annoying people?  Maybe I've been raised wrong.  After about a half hour of that we settled down and divvied up into our sections of the bus.  We finally arrived to Istanbul at about 11:00 in the morning and started sight-seeing immediately.  You really couldn't have asked us to look more touristy than we did at that moment.  We were all in slouchy bus clothes because we thought we were going to stop at the hotel before seeing everything, and we were a huge pack of foreigners, most of us carrying backpacks.  The only thing that could have made it worse would be a fanny pack.

I'm really not going to try and describe the sights we saw, they were just too incredible for words.  Over the course of the weekend I also had the delight of meeting up with a friend I made from the Central States rotary conference who is on exchange currently in Istanbul. We went for waffles and had a chance to talk about how each of our exchanges is going. Hopefully we'll be able to meet again when the kids from Istanbul come to Izmir to visit Ephesus and the Virgin Mary.

We had a great time in Istanbul, and I really hope I get another chance to go there throughout the course of my year.
Our first view of Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia

The Harem at Topkapi Palace, in which the Sultan's wives, concubines, and Eunichs were kept

The Harem was built of at least 400 rooms and the wall work was simply stunning

The Biscilica Cistern, and yes, that's water not a shiny floor

Medusa being cursed for having been more beautiful than the gods

The Blue Mosque

The Grand Bazaar! filled with over 4,000 shops and many people who call any group of foreigners walking by "Spice girls"

Beautiful Istanbul

It's been pretty low-key since I arrived back in Izmir, but I feel as if I'm starting to become more of a person of Izmir than just a visitor.  On Thursday I hung out with my Turkish friends for the first time outside of school.  It was my friend Ceren's birthday, so we went to a nice restaurant and then watched "The Ender's Game" (which wasn't all that great, but still fun to make fun of with friends!)  On Saturday I was invited to two more birthday parties after my language courses, sadly, I could only make one.

I've been asked by some if I'm learning the language at a slower rate because of the multitude of people who speak perfect English at my school.  To answer that, I've been learning Turkish just as well as all the other exchange students, but it is true that if I went to a different school I might be better at the language at this point.  However, I've come to realize that I'm willing to make the sacrifice of learning the language at a bit slower rate if that means I can make better friends in the long run because we can actually understand one another.  I am still working very hard and diligently to learn the language though.

Yesterday and today I had dinner with some of the other exchange students.  I love getting together with other exchange students because 1) they understand more than anyone what you're going through during this whole process and 2) they're way more open to intellectual and meaningful conversations than most people I know.  

At the moment I'm feeling incredibly content.  I'm finally finding a balance between my Turkish and exchange friends, and the amount of time I should spend at home compared to going out.  I'm learning the language more and more every day, and I'm really starting to believe I'll get to a fairly conversational point within the next few months.  I'm also hoping I'll be getting a musical gift in the mail sometime soon, so I may finally be able to play the cello again!