Thursday, July 2, 2009

a quick thanks to important sponsors


in error, i have neglected to say thank you to the people who have made this trip possible!

to the eleanor roosevelt college parent fund, which spared me $500 in the midst of an incredible budget crisis for this summer's seminar. i am writing a postcard to you now and missing all the wonderful staff and former coworkers in the provost's office.

to the chi omega foundation, which also sent $500 my way, thank you for the amazing sisterhood and now, financial support, which has helped me take money off my mind so that i may focus in on making the most of my time abroad.

to the friends of the international center, who kindly awarded me a $1000 scholarship for this summer's seminar, thank you for not only the financial support but a wonderful experience meeting the 28 other award recipients, connecting me with Dr. Spriggs and his assistant Catharine Nance (whose experience in USAID and the Turkish embassy in Istanbul have been invaluable), and for just being so wonderful and "friendly" :).

my biggest aid comes from my parents, who have always taught me to "do my best and let them do the rest," i hope i'm living up to all the support you've provided through the years. i'm looking forward to seeing you in istanbul very soon and hopefully sharing with you all the reasons that this is money and time well spent!!

thanks for the endless, infinite, invaluable love and support both before i left and now as i'm abroad from my bestest friends and bestest sisters - you know exactly who you are.

alright, just wanted to say "ÇOK TEŞEKKÜR EDERIM!!!" thank you very much :).

and now i'm off to explore justinian's basillica cistern.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

july 2nd, 2009

so over the past 2 days, i have toured aya sofya, learned a bunch of turkish, purchased stamps at the post office, seen istanbul from the from the tops of the theodosian walls and the castle of 7 towers, crossed the golden horn, taken my first ride on the metro, and everything in between that i cant list.

i'm already beginning to be so overwhelmed with blog-worthy experiences that i just cant write about all of them. so this is my effort to highlight some of the cool things i hope you'll enjoy reading about!

a picture of the turkish post office. really gorgeous, and of course an exciting trip because i purchased turkish stamps in turkish! not difficult turkish, but just exciting to begin making transactions in a new language. also so much fun to be learning turkish and venturing into the city using it left and right and all around! of course, i only have simple phrases up my sleeve, but its unbelievably fun nonetheless. the postale:

a view from inside aya sofya, aka hagia sophia. a manifestation of the transfers of power in byzantium/constantinople/istanbul over the past 2000 years. without a doubt its an incredible achievement by the romans -- as i've said earlier the creativity, devotion to detail, massiveness all baffle me -- and built in just 5 years! i've seen nothing like it, ever. but also a physical depiction of the struggle that istanbul appears to be waging. hagia sophia desperately needs restoration, but what parts to restore? the roman christian mosaics? the ottoman islamic elements? the political and cultural issues surrounding the controversy leave modernization in a stalemate. fittingly, as the debate continues over which history to embrace, the history is slowly, sadly literally decroding, in desperate need of action.

one of the few big still-sparking mosaics in hagia sophia. Jesus, crazy sparkling in the light. nuff said.

in the evening, we chose to return to galata koprusu to explore the golden horn. paid 1 ytl (or josh did, actually hahha) for me to use the bayan wc under the bridge, but didnt cross that night! funny story. anyways we went back this morning to do it!

morning adventures are good because its not too hot yet. however, after this walk along the shore we were in a rush to return to the hotel for our first day of class with professor herbst. so we decided to venture on the metro for our first time! sweaty, a little smelly :P , but people were friendly and it got us home pretty fast. plus, i'm going to have to get good at this metro!!!!

our byzantine history course was really engaging. since we only have 15 students, i approach it anticipating the same sort of discussion style, socratic seminar-esque dyanamic of my colloqium in the spring. i'm sure we will get there soon :).

anyways it is an incredible thing, like really freakin incredible to discuss something in the classroom, and then straight up go freakin SEE what you're learning about. case and point: theodosius II's walls! again, the juxtaposition in istanbul of super old and also super new is insane. these walls, built in the 5th century, remain erected around the city, bordering modern roads, statues of ataturk, and draped in turkish flags.

** NOTE: proximity of huge turkish flag in background of this complex! the ottomans used theodosius II's wall and added 4 more in the 15th century to create this fortress called the castle of the 7 towers. now the moat is used for agriculture, and just beyond the moat is 'suburban' istanbul. oh also, we walked into the hella shady room that sultan osman I was assasinated in. it seemed pretty obvious that one would be assasinated if taken to that room. (not funny, but i still laughed).

ironic that we're smiling, bc this is definitely a torture chamber. behind us, there is a....."trash shoot" for bodies.

also great to see things that i've learned about in the past. case in point: this fountain, a gift from kaiser wilhelm's to the ottoman sultan abdul hamid in 1898, as the germans and ottomans were getting supa close. "berlin to baghdad". anyways i saw the picture of this, taken by prof. michael provence, a couple of quarters ago. and now, here i am, taking a picture with it :). note to self: send this blogpost to professor provence!

then, it was time to hit the books! lots of reading to keep up with amidst all the adventuring. decided to pick a tea place in the arasta bazaar to get some work done, which we did. met a nice family from saudi arabia sititng at the table next to us, too :). on the way back, we caught aya sofya at night.

and now, good night from istanbul.

Monday, June 29, 2009

days 1 and 2: lost and finding.

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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

somewhere over nova scotia

saturday, june 27th, 2009

as i leave the country it seems appropriate for me to again explore my departure feelings, anxieties, concerns, and most importantly, my aspirations. having just watched the motorcycle diaries aboard my flight, i can easily begin by saying that i don't expect a revolution out of my six month adventure. however, i do depart hoping that i will find something in myself, in the city, in the culture and history that invigorate my already burgeoning passion for study. my time abroad will help me determine the viability of living abroad in the long term, of pursuing a career studying turkey and the middle east, islam and europe, american diplomatic history in the region, etc.

in this first blog post, i'm going to write a bit about istanbul and also about "leaving" loved ones behind.

so i'm picturing the nighttime view of the Bosporous, and it makes my heart beat a little faster. I know there is such rich, incredible culture for me to explore in the next six months, and the excitement is so encouraging in a moment when i feel ervous about leaving the most important people in my life behind. i think the city will keep me alive, engaged (i'm romanticizing already), and of course, what i look forward to the most, passionate.

istanbul is a place of stunning physical beauty, and that always touches me. and each monument has a long, enticing, meaningful existence. this is par of course, of the true essence of history -- giving meaning to so much that otherwise just exists. and after months of getting ready, the time is ripe to do this. more to come over my first cup of turkish tea from istanbul...

on loved ones: over the past few weeks i've really lost my footing with the people i care for so much in the chaotic midst of mom's mastectomy. but in the few days preceding my departure, and now as i leave the country, things have become so much more clear. i know that i will miss you more than i can conceive right now. but my once paralyzing anxiety about truly being on my own for the first time in years has now transformed into anticipation for embarking on the adventure i always promised myself i would have.

at once, i am looking forward to it all, and also realizing the value and wonderful comfort of having the ones you love at your side.

in the last 3 years, i've taken "leaps" and made vulnerable commitments -- always with the confidence that i can turn to those bestest friends and family to love me unconditionally, to hold me, talk to me, guide me out of that vulnerability back into confidence. but now, i really must test myself, i need to do this to see what i can accomplish standing on my own. i am who i am because of the support and love you've given me thus far -- now is the time for me to see what i can do, just me, abroad.