Sunday, June 29, 2009/Day 1
in the hotel, everyone’s asleep --
I just want to make sure I recap my first day in Istanbul before I forget anything!
Hectic, crazy mad rush getting onto my BA flight in London heathrow. Great to see jeff, have a travel buddy and finally be able to breathe easily. Met a couple of nice Turkish fellows who sat in front of us (well, one switched seats to let jeff and I sit together). One lived in austin and is returning to do military service (apparently compulsory for all male citizens!) and the other is actually residing half in san diego, half in Istanbul. Small world. Both knew very well of bogazici, of course, and were excited to hear that I was going there!
On the flight, I really got excited to be in Istanbul. Really “hit me” that it was all beginning NOW-- my short six month adventure was NOW. Couldn’t stop smiling with excitement.
but to the title of this first post from istanbul: my bags are lost. somehow i really knew this would happen -- ate called it, too. thank goodness that i packed a few more clothes, just in case. it was absolute madness trying to get the transport service to bring them to the hotel. Took like 2.5 hours to finally get everything settled. but i had some wonderful help from a kind turkish-american stranger. (it's surprising how comforting it is to see people holding USA passports).
our bus driver, anul, was obviously NOT HAPPY with us, after waiting 2.5 hours. We (Josh, jeff and i) got him to warm up soon, though. After many apologies, some energetic questions and jokes, our drive back to the hotel was pleasant, filled with little Turkish language lessons and food/nighttime outing recommendations.
Walked out to the Sultanahmet mosque and sat in the courtyard. Relaxing, wonderful, beautiful. Can’t wait to do this all the time, hopefully get some excellent journal entries in!
Met up with Bo back at the hotel and finally decided to eat upstairs at the hotel restaurant with a gorgeous view of the bosphorus. If it weren’t for the fact that I was ridiculously exhausted, i reallllyyyy would’ve enjoyed that more.
Came back, wiped out for a bit, sad that my luggage hasn’t come yet…finally gave up and showered. Now eveyrone's asleep and I’m doing this.
Okay, that’s day 1 narrated. My emotional reaction is mixed. The city has beauty, absolutely, but its paired with sort of disparaging dirtiness, litter at monuments that I’ve read about. That sort of juxtaposition of urban decay and historical wealth is a little confusing. i’m looking forward to a bit more time alone with my thoughts.
That’s all for now, I think.
Monday, June 29th, 2009/ Day 2
what an amazing day. finding the beauty of istanbul!!!! woke up to the sun rising over aya sofya at 7:30. the four of us were determined to learn some turkish today, and THAT WE DID :).
a great day of exploration -- wandering the city "correctly." some relaxing time sipping turkish apple tea (ordered in turkish!!!), doing some reading, and writing my first postcards. it was the kind of scene you picture yourself in from home, except it was actually happening.
and after a morning of practicing all our new turkish, we returned to all the other students from our program arriving. i'm so happy with my room, with a window to let some nice natural light in, a perfect amount of space. and certainly happy to be sharing it with grace, a new ucsd graduate.
we figured out how hungry we were and quickly left the hotel to grab some simit from the vendors at the mosque. spent some more time today at suleymanii camii in the courtyard. also jeff discovered a stunning new view of aya sofya - wow, breathtaking. really just not comparable to anything -- the size of it alone is amazing, then add on the creativity and imagination the architects must have employed to construct these.
kept exploring and stumbled upon topkapi palace gardens. yeah, we just wandered into a gateway and found ourselves at the palace. the view of the bosporous, the cool breeze in the shade -- a treasured discovery. we will be back soon to picnic and read there.
returned with plans to sip a few drinks at the palazade restaurant, and everyone got all cute and dressed up, haha. dinner with the entire group for the first time. walked down a new street for dinner and found a completely new istanbul. i know this is going to happen every day -- turn a street corner and discover something new and beautiful...i'm looking forward to each breathtakign surprise. yeni camii and the golden horn in sight, we had a huge turkish dinner with our tour guides and professor. at the request of my colleagues, i proffered a toast to the next 5 weeks of discovering istanbul and equally importantly, discovering parts of ourselves.
so day 2 in sum: expanded knowledge of turkish a billion-fold, explored literally majestic grounds in istanbul, ate great food, and ended the day looking forward to these daily adventures.