Adventures in Turkey pt. 6: Exploring More Ancient Cities

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Every night, I climb into bed and think to myself, “Today was by far the best day of the trip,” only to say the same thing the next night, and the next night, and the next.

Muhammad had been disappointed last night when his pleas to skip school had been turned down, but we promised him that we would look for him in the morning, since we were staying in some of the dorm rooms connected to his school. As we were walking with our luggage to the bus, Dramell yelled, “Hey, Muhammed!” as he spotted him in the crowd, and the young boy came running over to give him a hug and then chatter excitedly in half-English, half Turkish as his friends gazed up in awe at Dramell. One of them punched Muhammed playfully on the arm, shaking his head in admiration, and Muhammed beamed at us and said, “He did not believe me when I told him that you all came to my house last night.”

We headed off to the other host family’s apartment for breakfast, where the host was extremely interested in all of us and asked each of us what we were studying. Of course, Salih told the Salgam story again, to gales of laughter. More extended family members and friends joined the apartment, as well.

As we were leaving to head to Laodicea, I took the grandmother’s hand in mine, thanked her in Turkish (no easy feat!) and handed her one of the mugs we had brought. Though I’m sure I butchered the pronunciation, she clasped her hands in delight and kissed both of my cheeks, warm words flowing from her mouth. She stood in the doorway and watched us leave, proudly waving.

Highschool student Aprul and her father joined us on the trip. We chatted with her on the bus, and Dramell was asking her what she knew about American culture. Yes, she had heard of Katy Perry and enjoyed her music; no, she did not like One Direction. This led to questions of other American music, after which someone facetiously started the “Fresh Prince of Bell Air” rap; of course, we all had to join in. This led to an announcement by Brynn that her father was quite the rapper himself; it took some convincing and he was reluctant at first, but eventually Dr. B, provost and professor of religion and philosophy at Rochester College, treated us to, “Roxanne, Roxanne.”

Once we arrived at Laodicea, we tumbled off of the bus, eager to explore. I was so thankful for the sunny, 70 degree weather we experienced in Ephesus, but it seemed only right that ominous storm clouds rolled in over the city that was strongly rebuked in Revelation. I was also thankful to be currently enrolled in Dr. Stevenson’s Revelation class and to apply the knowledge I learned from him firsthand. Laodicea, a city far away from both Pamukkale’s hot springs and other sources of cold water, had to have all of its water piped in to the city. By the time the hot water from the north reached the city, it was lukewarm; by the time cold water was brought in from the west, it was also lukewarm. Revelation 3:15-17 states of Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” All of these admonitions are significant; Laodicea with only access to lukewarm water, too cold to have healing properties but too warm to drink, was only used by doctors to induce vomiting in their patients–hence “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” It was not flirting dangerously with idolatry like some of the other churches written to in Revelation, but it was also not faithful: it was lukewarm, just like its water, and therefore useless.

Laodicea was also a proud city; after natural disasters such as earthquakes, the government would offer financial assistance to rebuild, of course on their terms and with heavy interest. Laodicea often boasted that they never needed to be reliant on the government, as they had stores of wealth in their banks and were able to be financially independent. They didn’t realize that they were poor spiritually, which John tries to tell them about.

It was significant in both the textile and medical fields; they were famous for their black garments and eye salve, which was used to help treat and cure various eye diseases. John takes all of these aspects that make up their very identity and uses it as a word picture to show them where they are lacking spiritually.

I knew it was going to be cool to visit some of the churches that I was studying in my Revelation class, but it especially hit home walking through this city.

Unlike Ephesus, ongoing work is being done to Laodicea, and Allyson said a significant portion of what we walked through had been buried when she had been here two years prior.

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More English major pics in the library

More English major pics in the library

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After Laodicea, we were off to Pamukkale “cotton castles” hot springs, where calcium deposits in the water form a hardened, slippery, calcified floor. We removed our shoes and socks and rolled up our jeans, excited for this new adventure. As Salih turned back to warn us to be careful, he slipped and fell, landing hard on his wrist. With words like “fracture,” flying around his pained face, the spirit of excitement and adventure fizzled out a bit, and I eyed the roads ahead of me with a bit of trepidation. Picking our way slowly, we gained our footing and became more confident as we splashed through the warm water. Although I was slightly relieved when we reached the end of the springs and I could put my shoes back on solid, non-treacherous ground, the view was well worth it and I loved living yet another once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Creepy Sarcophagi walking on the path to the springs

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As Salih headed to the hospital for X-rays, we went for lunch and then took off for a visit to a high school, where we learned about academics and sat in a classroom (that looks nothing like high schools back in America) before heading to the airport and flying back to Istanbul. We have another full day tomorrow and I’m exhausted!

If you missed previous entries:

Adventures in Turkey pt. 5: EPHESUS

Adventures in Turkey pt. 4: Confronting my Own Ignorance

Adventures in Turkey pt. 3: Some Heartfelt but Definite Jet-Lagged Rambling

Adventures in Turkey pt. 2: In Which We Hit the Ground Running

Adventures in Turkey pt. 1: Anxiety and Excitement

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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.)

Being a Pioneer

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I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Bachelor’s degree from Rochester College yesterday, in the top 10% of my class and the first of two students to ever graduate through the Honors College.

As excited as I am to finish this chapter of my life and start new adventures, it’s also a little bit strange. I’ve spent the last four years of my life preparing for this moment, working as hard as I could to be the best that I could be and graduate with a 3.9 GPA (I’ll never forgive that B+ in my math class.) And now, suddenly, it’s all over; honestly, this morning, I automatically sat down at my desk to check and see what was left on my to-do list. It’s a surreal feeling to stare at it and see every item crossed off.

As I prepare for grad school this fall and all of the new, exciting changes that are sure to come along with it, I’ve found my theme song.

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When Beckah Shae announced that she had a new single on iTunes, I immediately went and purchased it. As I listened to it for the first time (and then kept it on repeat for the next five days) I knew that this incredibly encouraging song was going to become my anthem.

I’m holding these words and God’s promises close to my heart as I step out into new adventures. It feels pretty awesome.

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Farewell, Rochester College

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Warning: Many tears were shed in the creation of this post.

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To say that it is a difficult task to write about the past four years of my college education, express my gratitude to all of the wonderful professors who have supported and guided me, and attempt to say goodbye to all of the friends I have made during one of the most incredible experiences of my life in one article is most definitely the understatement of the year.

 

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Since transferring to Rochester College my sophomore year, I have not only had the chance to gain an education, but also to form lifelong friendships, grow, change and become both a better person and student.

 

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I have gained a vision for my life and future, and am excited about starting grad school this fall. Working as both a supplemental instructor and English tutor through the ACE lab has deepened my love for the English language and literature and cemented my desire to become an English professor and teach at the college level.

 

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I have made incredible friendships through various classes, writing clubs and Sigma Phi Delta Nu, of which I’m proud to be a member.

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I have thousands of pictures, memories, stories and jokes from the countless hours I’ve spent with my friends studying, learning and spending time together. I am beyond blessed to have found and formed friendships with people who have encouraged me, laughed with me and cried with me.

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Throughout the classes that I have taken here, I have learned more than I thought possible (especially because I have had to read Hamlet nine times in various courses!) I have been taught more than simply academics; I have learned spiritual, practical and life lessons. Professors have been more than instructors. They have supported and championed for me, welcomed me into their homes and given me their time and attention. If I can someday be half as influential and incredible as the professors I have had here, I’ll consider that a great accomplishment.

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I am thankful for more than simply the educational accomplishments I have had here, however. Through Rochester College, I have travelled multiple times to the Hillberry Theatre, Stratford, Rock Glen in Arkona, Canada and more recently, Istanbul and Izmir in Turkey, where I walked through the ancient cities of Ephesus and Laodicea. I experienced Turkish culture and the Muslim religion firsthand by visiting mosques and various families. It was a life-changing opportunity that I will never forget.family turkey laodicea

Even as a writer, it seems as though words are not enough to convey the depth of emotions I feel upon preparing to leave here; I am grateful, excited, sad and looking forward to the future.

 

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderful three years, RC. It’s been one heck of a ride.

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