Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A couple days into this trip and I am beginning to settle into a small rhythm. The days have been simple, but that is exactly what we have needed, now that jetlag has begun to set into our lives, and it is perhaps the most annoying thing I have had to deal with thus far abroad.

A basic layout of our days for the rest of this week and the next are very laid back. We wake up early in the morning, eat breakfast in our apartments (usually a mixture of bread, cheese, yogurt w/ honey, pomegranates and oranges, juice/coffee, etc) and then head out into the chilly morning to catch the metro down to the Levent station, where we have a short walk through the downtown to the building where we take Turkish lessons. Turkish is a difficult language, but we have been blessed with amazing teachers, who are working with us so hard to help us get a good grasp of the language in these two weeks. We now know greetings, introductions, basic questions and answers, and other bits and pieces that are helpful in navigating the city and pronouncing words. I've been loving it so far, even if it is draining. We are in class from 9:30-12:00, with a short break inbetween. During break we go to a cafe located in the bottom floor of our building and grab a bit of Turkish tea or coffee. *Side note: Turkish coffee is REALLY GOOD, but also super caffeinated.

After language lessons are over, we go with our teachers to a little restaurant to have lunch where we can chat and ask them questions about Turkey, the culture, the language, basically anything. Each day we are served a traditional Turkish meal. The first day we had menamen - which is basically scrambled eggs with veggies, and today we had hamis - a fish (like an anchovy or sardine) from the black sea that is lightly fried. Both were delicious, but very different from what I am used to in the states. That has happened with almost all of the food here, but it is all very good! I have grown very fond of the block cheese you can get at local markets and fresh squeezed (and 100%) juice you can buy for very cheap almost on every block in the city. Not to mention "çay" (pronounced "chai"), which is turkish for tea: less than a US dollar, and delicious! I have had two to three cups a day, it has a very light flavor and is perfect with a couple sugar cubes.

When we are done with lunch, we hop on a bus that drops us off in Taxism square, where we are free to go do whatever we want for the rest of the day. I am usually pretty tired by that time, so I hop on the metro back to Şişme, and come back to my apartment where I try to do a bit of homework, maybe take or nap, or simply enjoy the amazing view out of our window which looks out over the Bosporus to the Asian side of Istanbul - a stunning view of both the Aya Sophia and the Topkapi Palace. As the evening approaches, we sometimes make dinner here at the flat (my housemate Jenna makes outstanding food!), or eat out with another flat. I went to a small coffee shop with Shea one night to study Turkish and it had a sweet, American type atmosphere. I plan on exploring more of the city tomorrow and the rest of this week before studying gets more intense next week.

I don't really have words to describe what it's like to live in a city on the other side of the world. It's such a unique experience, I'm unsure I will be able to really grasp words to say until the trip is over. As for now, I am trying to soak in as much as I can, take photos and try all the local food. We fly to Izmir on the after next week, then traveling for two weeks to the 7 churches, and then moving back into Istanbul at a local university where we will stay for seven weeks taking our main courses. Finally, we move out of Turkey and into Cairo, then Israel, and finally Palestine before flying back home.

I have to constantly ask myself, "Is this even happening? Am I really here in another country, living here for four months and getting to do it with a group of 25 other amazing people?" I often have a David after Dentist moment where I have to sit back and ask "Is this real life?" Because honestly, I still cannot believe I am here. It is a wonderful feeling though, being able to put the traveling to Istanbul, the huge airports, passport checks, waiting at the gates, long plane rides and recycled air behind me.

It is almost midnight, and I have a 7am wake up call tomorrow to get ready for day three of Turkish lessons, meaning I need to go get ready for bed soon. Considering the rest of my flat is asleep, I need to go to bed before jetlag keeps me up for another ridiculous night of laying awake in my bed surfing the net on my iPhone for ways to help get rid of jetlag. True story.

Tomorrow brings another day of adventures, turkish coffee, and most likely rainy weather.

"I'm sweating because I'm laughing...do you ever laugh so much you start sweating??" 

Respectfully submitted,