çay thoughts.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nothing says time to write an insightful and reflective blog entry like a cup of steaming çay on an overcast afternoon.

Quite possibly the Turkish equivalent of a Starbucks, where I study/blog.

It's Wednesday afternoon, my homework is done and I have an hour and a half to spare before we head off to our service project this afternoon, so here is a more reflective entry on recent happenings and how I am processing all that this semester is presenting me with.

We're more than halfway through this semester, through this life-changing four months, through this trip that once looked so huge and scary, and now feels like home. When did that happen? When did Turkey suddenly become "normal" and everything in the US seem unnatural and weird? When did I finally come to terms that I live here and that I'm not going to step foot back on American soil until May? Somewhere along the lines I stopped feeling like a tourist and found myself feeling at home here where everything was completely unnatural at first. Somewhere in this trip I found myself full of joy and happy to be in such an unfamiliar place - something I usually get stressed and scared about. And now - I love it. I love being in a place where I can't understand the conversation next to me because my Turkish language skills are still pretty low. I love seeing people different than me, seeing the sunset over a skyline dotted with minarets, hearing the call to prayer and being a religious minority. I love feeling different.

Now that we are in our final stretch back at Yeditepe I am coming to terms with how quickly this semester has passed by. I remember touching down in Istanbul after a bumpy plane ride from Germany, our team peering eagerly out of their airplane windows to catch their first glance of Turkey. I remember being greeted by Dana, Kurt, Jim and Heather at the airport, feeling so accomplished that all of us and our luggage made it safely to Turkey. Moving into Manzara and beginning Turkish lessons. Eating my first tavuk doner pide and having my first cup of çay. Our daily lunches with our language teachers. The first trip to Sultanahmet. Everything felt so new - unnatural and different.

And look how far we have come.

Truly an accomplishment. A significant moment in our lives. Something to feel happy and joyful over. Something to be remembered always. This is what this trip has meant to me so far. Stepping far, far, outside my comfort zone and loving how far I have come. Taking the leap of faith that has taught me so much about myself, and I can't feel anything else except joyful about it. This trip has been amazing so far, and as we enter the second half, which will probably fly by just as quick, if not faster, than the first, I am making it a habit to soak up as much of Turkey as I can. Because when March is over, we leave. And we don't come back. Actually, we can't come back - our visas expire and that means we have to leave the country for at least three months. So...goodbye Turkey till who knows when.

I don't even want to think about leaving this place that I now consider home. It's funny how quickly I consider Turkey home when it took me almost twice this long to consider Westmont home. But the fact is, I love this place, this country, this community and everything else that Turkey offers. I do plan on coming back one day - I don't think I could let myself live if I didn't come back to Turkey at least one more time in my life. Come back "home" to a place that is now dear to my heart.

Okay. Enough with the emotional outpouring of my heart, let's do a quick photo update of the sights I have seen/experienced in the end of my four-day weekend.

Found my way to the Yeni Camii, on the coastline of Eminonu. Beautiful, huge, not extremely touristy and stunning in every way, shape, and form. I also ate lunch listening to the call to prayer from this moque. Amazing stuff. 

More exterior and interior shots of the "new" mosque which is actually 350 years old.

A spontaneous jam session in the Grand Bazaar, with a shop keeper who generously let me play a guitar he was selling (that I was also not interested in buying) and taught me simply chords on the traditional Turkish guitar he is playing in this photo.  

More photos from the Grand Bazaar, from top left moving clockwise: small music shop, prayer beads, turkish delight selection, and a walkway through the bazaar.

Nothing screams "I-LOVE-TURKEY" like a grand selection of Turkish delight for sale. My favorite that I have sampled has been honey-pistachio, super delicious and flavorful!

The best cake you can get from the Galata Konak cafe - a banana creme caramel concoction that will drive your taste buds nuts. And only for 5TL ($2.50)? Worth the hour and a half commute from Yeditepe.

Dore Music in the Galata district, which I have deemed the guitar center of Turkey. So many amazing guitars, I could have spent hours in here playing and looking at their selection. Okay, maybe I did. But this is absolutely my kind of store!

A sufi demonstration I attended where I got to see a sacred religious ceremony involving the famous "whirling dervishes." How they manage to not get dizzy, the world may never know. It was a refreshing take on Islam and quite the mystifying performance. 

Respectfully submitted,