Adventures in Turkey pt. 1: Anxiety and Excitement

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I’ve really been having to fight the travel bug lately. Someone asked me the other day why I can’t just be content to stay here in the United States, and I burst out, “But how can I be when there are so many interesting countries I haven’t even seen yet?!” They didn’t understand and were slightly unsympathetic.

In order to pacify myself, I’ve been reading through my travel journals again. My stories from Turkey, especially, make me laugh, partly because the memories are so wonderful and partly because I was always in such a hurry to write everything down, my entries are jumbled with excited ranting that jumps from subject to subject. I thought about cleaning them up to be more edited and polished for these posts, but that would take away from the charm and excitement so clearly found in all of the random pages. Enjoy! (More entries detailing my Turkish adventures will be posted, so make sure you press that “follow” button!)

Despite the fact that I spent the night before I left home on the floor in front of a nearly empty suitcase fighting back tears, I’ve made it to Turkey!

On the bus leaving for Chicago; you can tell I'm still nervous here. My lips say, "Yay!" but my eyes say, "Maybe I just want to stay in the States..."

On the bus leaving for Chicago; you can tell I’m still nervous here. My lips say, “Yay!” but my eyes say, “Maybe I do just want to stay in the States…”

 

It’s seriously amazing here. Traffic is INSANE and there are cats running everywhere and literally everyone smokes cigarettes, but I love it. It’s 8am here now so we have half an hour before we have to be down for breakfast and then we take off for the old city to see the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, and an ancient palace. Jet lag hasn’t been too bad. I woke up at 3am Turkey time because it was 8pm back in the States, but I was able to get back to sleep. I’m a little tired now but that’s because it’s 1am in MI. We’re staying at an all girls boarding school and it’s the cutest place ever. We have a mineret right across the street so I woke up this morning at 5 am from the call to prayer which scared me awake (I almost fell out of bed!) but after a while of laying there listening to the chanting, I decided it was beautiful, in a haunting kind of way.

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We had a great flight (I slept almost the whole 10 or 12 or however long it was hours) and made it through security and customs with absolutely no problem. Salih (our translator) is super nice and keeps begging us to “have ourselves at home” (meaning make ourselves at home). We ate at the most amazing Turkish restaurant when we got here for dinner last night and there was SO MUCH FOOD. We literally only ate one bite of everything because it just kept coming! Dr. B convinced everyone to order Ayran, a yogurt drink that he raved on and on about….but no one else liked it. There’s just something about drinking slightly warm, salty yogurt that didn’t really appeal to us, excluding Dr. B, who drank three glasses.

I’ve already picked up a little bit of Turkish! I really wanted to so I’ve been paying a lot of attention to various signs and words and asking Allyson (who’s been here before) about it. I pronounce things wrong a lot because sometimes Gs are pronounced as Ws and Cs as Hs and Ss as Hs and Is can be a long E or a U sound depending on accents which are super confusing but I can say hello, peach, thank you, and emergency exit. I like to think these words will provide me with enough help in a situation.
Nutella is Sorelle here and very popular because Turkey is known for both Hazelnuts and pistachios (my dad would have loved the dessert we had yesterday) so both are everywhere in meals, super fresh and cheap. We drink tea all the time and it’s so good! We’re not visiting a family until Sunday because Salih wants us to be totally over jet lag for visiting.
Everyone hosting us has been amazing, despite the incident last night when I was convinced I was going to be shipped back to the States. We went up the elevator to our floor in shifts, with Salih staying behind to corral everyone up. Those of us standing in the lobby decided to go exploring in the rooms, but we hadn’t made it very far before Salih called us back, asked us all to wait in the lobby, and then he and the man in charge went in a back room and yelled at each other in Turkish for 20 minutes. Of course my anxiety kicked in, and I started telling myself that the problem was somehow with me because I’d joined the trip so last minute. Someone suggested that maybe we’d done something wrong by having single guys and girls exploring in the same bedrooms, and those of us who had done so exchanged nervous, guilty looks. After several minutes, Salih came out and asked to talk to Dr. B privately, and then we got REALLY nervous. Dr. B came out laughing a few minutes later while Salih stood behind him giving disapproving looks to the man in charge who was wringing his hands. Dr. B said they were arguing because they were worried about the room arrangements. The director had thought that we were all a huge family and had pushed all the beds together in the rooms; they were terrified that, as Americans, we would find that offensive.
Two twin beds pushed together. Allyson and I are roomies

Two twin beds pushed together.

We were just so relieved that we hadn’t offended anyone and weren’t in trouble, and I secretly vowed to not go looking around again without permission, even just inside the school. The boundaries are very clear: the boys aren’t even allowed in the back of the school (where our rooms are) unless they’re headed to the dining room for meals. We girls took the rooms with the beds pushed together and the boys got the two separate beds because Dr. B said he didn’t care if he was being sexist; he thought it’d be better for the girls to be close together because he personally did not want to cuddle with Mr. N. Allyson and I are rooming together!
It felt SO good to get here yesterday and take a shower. We’d been on a plane or bus for 18 of the last 19 hours. I don’t remember our exact itinerary but I think we’re here for three more days and then we fly out of Istanbul into Izmir, where we spend a few days and then drive to…a city that starts with a D that I forget. (Maybe jet lag is affecting me more than I realize.)
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