Elmina Slave Castle: Ghana, Africa

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I recently returned back to the States after nearly three weeks in Western Africa. It was an absolutely amazing, life-changing time, and I’m still reeling from all that I learned and experienced there.

One of the places I visited was Elmina Slave Castle. Located right on the coast, the gorgeous scenery is sharply contrasted by the horrors of its history. Poems are not my strong suit, but I composed one, anyway, following part of my journal entry about it.

 

 

May 15, 2015:

I’m more than overwhelmed as I try to sum up my emotions and experience from today.

We got up at 4:30am to head to the slave castles, which was a long drive away; I’m not even sure how long because I ended up falling asleep on the bus, still tired from the bustle of the last few days. After a quick breakfast on the road, we arrived at Elmina Slave Castle. Dr. E had told us prior to the trip that visiting this place (as well as Cape Coast Castle, which we experienced later) would be on the same caliber as visiting concentration camps in Europe, and it was absolutely true. We stepped inside the fortress, admiring the beautiful structure and the waves crashing along the shore, but everything changed when our guide started telling us about the history. For nearly two hundred years in this beautiful castle, African men and women were captured, held against their wills in unspeakable conditions, beaten, starved, tortured, and shipped off as slaves to Europe and the Americas, with women left behind to serve as sex slaves.

There was a cannon ball on the ground, and our guide explained that “rebellious” women were forced to stand chained to that cannon ball for days in the beating sun, with no food or water, and sometimes ordered to pick up the cannon ball and hold it, a difficult task for a healthy man, but nearly impossible for a starved woman. Zarek picked it up and I extended my hands.

“You won’t be able to,” he warned.

“Let me try.”

He slowly placed it into my outstretched hands, supporting most of the weight still himself, and even then, my arms began to shake under the weight of it. I tried to imagine how these women could have done it, and felt a lump rise in my throat. “Take it back,” I whispered, and he did, setting it back on the ground.

As we stepped into the female slave dungeon, I immediately got goose bumps and felt the hair on my arms rise. I don’t know how to describe what I felt. It was as if I could hear the voices of all of the women who experienced the horrors here while the Portuguese and Dutch soldiers enjoyed clean, luxurious rooms and went to church—church! I’m embarrassed to be a Christian—above these hellholes. I could sense their souls crying out to me. Mariah walked over to me and whispered, “Can you feel their spirits, too?”

I nodded wordlessly.

Our guide then took us to a holding “room” (if it can even be called that) with a heavy wooden door and a foreboding skull and crossbones above it. We all stepped inside and then he shut the door, which closed with an echoing thud and left us all in complete darkness.

“This,” he said slowly, heavily, from the other side of the door, “is where the women who attempted to fight off their traffickers were sent, to be made as an example for the other female slaves. They would be shut up in here with no food or water until they died of thirst and starvation.”

My heart was pounding, and I fought against the panic rising in my chest as the voices grew louder and louder, calling out for mercy, for peace, for justice. Our guide unlocked and opened the door and I stumbled out into the blinding sunshine of the courtyard, gasping and utterly overwhelmed. The tears I’d been fighting against all morning spilled over, streaming hot and silently down my face.

 

Elmina

Here in this place

where souls were extinguished

and humanity forgotten,

the sun’s warm embrace envelops me;

She is scorched and burned.

I run my hands along the cool stone wall

as she is thrown against it.

The ocean breeze gently kisses my face and caresses my hair;

soldiers strip away her clothes and dignity.

Waves beckon, inviting me to enjoy their frothy playground.

They carry her to her death.

Akwaaba! You are most welcome here!”

“Filthy whore.”

And as her lost voice cries out to me,

I open my eyes and realize

the salt on my cheeks is not from the sea.

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I’m Back!

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Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote on here! It’s inexcusable, really, but since I last “talked” to you guys, I’ve finished my first semester of grad school with a 4.0 (thank You, Jesus), started my new job (which I love), spent New Year’s Eve in Spain (SUCH a gorgeous country), found out I was accepted to the study abroad program to Ghana this summer (Ahhhhh!!!) was awarded a scholarship that will pay for nearly half of my expenses for studying abroad in Ghana (thank You again, Jesus!!), and spent an amazing, anointed, life-changing week in Jamaica with Beckah Shae, my favorite music artist. Stay tuned for blog posts on that trip; words can’t express how INCREDIBLE it was.)

So, is it any wonder that I haven’t written?! It’s amazing even to me to look at that list of blessings. And I have SO many more to report…coming soon!

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ~Numbers 6:24-26

xoxo,

Katie

Update on my Life (Well, Kinda)

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My life is pretty crazy right now.

And I don’t just mean being-in-grad-school-while-working-70-hours-a-week crazy. (Although that’s crazy, too. End of the semester, I’m waiting for you.)

I mean crazy in the sense that I’m living an amazing life with all of these incredible opportunities popping up. Doors keep swinging open. Just like Jesus promised, I keep asking, and I keep receiving.

Exactly three weeks from today (WHAT?!) I’ll be taking off for Madrid, Spain, with my best friend of 20+ years, where we’ll close out 2014 and ring in 2015 in the city square. I’ve never been to Europe, so I’m beyond thrilled!

Six weeks to the day from when I get back, I’ll be on a plane again, this one headed to Montego Bay, Jamaica, to volunteer in an orphanage and refugee home for former trafficking victims. My heart has been aching to help again ever since my trip to the Dominican Republic last summer, and I’m so excited to have another opportunity to do so.

(There are more amazing, life-changing opportunities coming up in my life that I can’t share yet, but be on the look out!)

This crazy life has me gone more often than I’m home, facing new challenges and circumstances more than having a stable environment, and frequently leaves me unsure of what’s around the corner.

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Adventures in Turkey pt. 9: Reflections on the Longest Flight Back Ever

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Well, I was right about there being tears today.

In addition to being tired and already emotional, we had quite the adventure going through customs this morning…or should I say, TRYING to go through customs this morning.

We entered the airport, ready to go through the usual process of removing our shoes and going through security. I was personally in a “Let’s go,” mode; if I HAD to leave, I wanted to just be back in the States already. We asked for where we were supposed to go, were escorted to our place, and waited patiently in the long line, only to be told when we reached the front of it that not only were we in the wrong line, we were in the wrong part of the airport. We were given directions and trooped over there to wait in yet another long line. We had snaked through half of that line when a worker came over and asked us where we were flying to. “Chicago?” he repeated incredulously. “Why are you here, then?”

“We were told–”

“No, no. You’re not even in the right part of the airport. Follow me.”

Trailing behind him like a pack of lost, sad, American puppies, we joined the end of yet another long line. My patience was thin at this point, and judging by the faces of my silent friends, they were feeling the same. We finally reached the front of that line, where a very disapproving worker informed us that we needed to trek to the other side of the airport.

Reaching that designated area, Dr. B asked a security guard before we even got in line if we were in the right place. He checked our passports and shook his head.

I reached a low point.

“Are you kidding me? Is this for real?” I demanded, turning to Natalie, in line behind me. Her lips had tightened into one thin line and frustrated tears ensued from some. If we had been in the wrong place because of our own ignorance, that would have been one thing, but we had been taken not once, not twice, but three times, to the wrong place.

Finally, we found the correct spot, and worries churned inside me as I looked at the clock while remembering the time we were supposed to fly out. Thankfully, flying out of Turkey was less of a hassle than flying out of America; we breezed through security and customs, waited at our gate for a few moments, and then boarded. Seated by Natalie, I settled into my seat and turned around to peek several rows back at Beth, Dram, and Bayleigh, who all gave me a thumbs up, seemingly just as relieved as I was to finally be on the plane. Allyson and Caleb were seated several rows ahead of us.

Once we were in the air, I was able to lean back in my seat and relax (I’m not afraid to fly anymore, but I still get nervous on take off) but I found myself becoming restless. Since we flew out of Chicago at 10pm to get here, I slept the whole flight; flying back in the middle of the afternoon was a different story. I scrolled through some pictures I had taken, tried to do some homework that’s due tomorrow when I get back, and played peek a boo with the adorable 10 month old in the seat in front of me, but time is crawling by as I sit here writing. It’s surreal to look back on the time I’ve spent here and all of the experiences I’ve been able to have. I admit that I’m still a little on edge (aka crabby) but I am excited to tell all of my stories when I get home.

(Later)

We landed in Chicago at 7pm, disoriented and COLD. (It was nice to escape the Michigan winter for Turkey’s warmer climate.) As the plane taxied onto the runway, Natalie turned wide-eyed to me and said, “Turn your phone on.” I did so, only to receive text multiple text messages saying something along the lines of, “I know you’re not flying Malaysian Airlines, but I’m still nervous…please text me when you’ve landed back in the States.” I turned back to her with eyes just as big and asked, “What happened?”

She shrugged. “My mom said that we don’t even know all of the details yet, but apparently there’s a plane that’s just disappeared. I’m thankful we flew Turkish Airlines and not Malaysia.”

(A note several months later: I still get chills sometimes when I think about what could have happened had it been our plane, or had we been flying to Malaysia.)

Happiness over being home warred with the sadness of being home as I loaded my bags onto the bus and climbed in the seat. We have a loooong drive back to school now.

(Later)

We got back to school around 2am. Mom and Dad picked me up (and went to bed shortly after we returned home) but I’m wide awake, unpacking, doing laundry, and reliving my experiences rereading through this journal. Words are insufficient to express the gratitude I possess over having this opportunity. I’m so blessed.

If you missed previous entries:

Adventures in Turkey pt. 8: Dealing with Prejudices, Mustaches, and Bargaining

Adventures in Turkey pt. 7: Eat, Pray, Love

Adventures in Turkey pt. 6: Exploring More Ancient Cities

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

Adventures in Turkey pt. 8: Dealing with Prejudices, Mustaches, and Bargaining

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We started out the morning at the Journalist and Writers Foundation, and my heart (which dearly loves both of those things) felt as though it would burst. After a tour and a Q and A session during which they served us chai, of course, our host gestured to the books behind him and told us we could pick something out. I picked “Toward a Global Civilization of Love and Tolerance” by Fetullah Gulen himself, and as I flipped through the pages on the bus, I was particularly captured by his statement on 9/11, a mere 24 hours after the attack (that’s before our own President even released his statement, folks):

“I would like to make it very clear that any terrorist activity, no matter by whom it is carried out or for what purpose, is the greatest blow to peace, democracy, and humanity. For this reason, no one—and certainly no Muslim—can approve of any terrorist activity. Terror has no place in a quest to achieve independence or salvation. It takes the lives of innocent people.

Even though at first sight such acts seem to harm the target, all terrorist activities eventually do more harm to the terrorists and their supporters. This latest terrorist activity, which is a most bloody and condemnable one, is far more than an attack on the United States of America—it is an assault against world peace as well as against universal democratic and humanistic values. Those who perpetrated this atrocity can only be considered as being the most brutal people in the world.

Please let me reassure you that Islam does not approve of terrorism in any form. Terrorism cannot be used to achieve any Islamic goal. No terrorist can be a Muslim, and no true Muslim can be a terrorist. Islam demands peace, and the Qur’an demands that every true Muslim be a symbol of peace and work to support the maintenance of basic human rights. If a ship is carrying nine criminals and one innocent person, Islam does not allow for the ship to be sunk in order to punish the nine criminals; doing so would violate the rights of the one innocent person.

Islam respects all individual rights and states clearly that none of these can be violated, even if doing so would be in the interest of the community. The Qur’an declares that one who takes a life unjustly has, in effect, taken all the lives of humanity, and that one who saves a life has, in effect, saved all the lives of humanity. Moreover, Prophet Muhammad stated that a Muslim is a person who does no harm with either the hands or with the tongue.

I strongly condemn this latest terrorist attack on the United States. It only deserves condemnation and contempt, and it must be condemned by every person in the world. I appeal to everyone for calmness and restraint. Before America’s leaders and people respond to this heinous assault out of their justified anger and pain, please let me express that they must understand why such a terrible event occurred and let us look at how similar tragedies can be avoided in the future. They must also be aware of the fact that injuring innocent masses in order to punish a few guilty people is to no one’s benefit; rather such actions will only strengthen the terrorists by feeding any existing resentment and by giving birth to more terrorists and more violence. Please remember that terrorists represent an extremely small minority within any society or religion. Let us try to understand each other better, for only through mutual understanding and respect can such violence be prevented in the future.

I feel the pain of the American people from the bottom of my heart, and I assure them that I pray to God Almighty for the victims and I pray that He give their loved-ones and all other Americans the necessary patience to endure their pain.”

I blinked to clear my vision and thought about all of the prejudices and stereotypes I used to possess as a frightened, angry family member of someone who used to work at the World Trade Center. Although God began changing my heart years before this trip, the realization that I had been so utterly and completely wrong to hold such bitterness toward an entire culture because of the actions of extremists sank in completely. I don’t judge all Christians based on the actions of the Mormon church, which advocates child brides and multiple wives, nor the Catholic church, in which priests have molested young children. Friends of a friend were victims of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem a few years ago at the hands of an Orthodox Jew, but I didn’t write off Judaism after the event. Yes, there have been more events of terror done in the name of Islam than Christianity and Judaism, and I will not even try to defend them; but that means that there just needs to be a line drawn more firmly in the sand, separating the extremist Muslims from the loving, accepting, welcoming ones I have met on this trip. I realized with a start that there have been times in my life where I have been treated with disdain from Jewish friends for my faith in Jesus, or judged as legalistic from Christians who are horrified that I should “place myself back under the law”; I have received none of these attitudes from the people I’ve met here.

As we were preparing to leave, I noticed a Hebrew Bible, Quran, and Christian Bible all open and on display. Noting that the Hebrew Bible was open to the Psalms, I began reading and translating to myself, making a note to remember to tell Dr. Bowman, when our guide suddenly exclaimed, “You can read that?!” Salih piped up, “She knows Turkish, too!” and the guide began speaking rapidly in Turkish to me. Embarrassed and slightly exasperated, I pulled out my notebook and showed them the list of words Allyson and I had learned by either putting two and two together, or by English translations underneath them: a grand total of 55 words. “I am far from fluent,” I said as the guide laughed at the random list: for rent, strawberry, push, and snails.

As we were waiting for the bus, though, I realized that a word on the list did not have a matching English word; I had seen it on a billboard that had captured my attention due to an enormous picture of a man with quite an impressive mustache, but had no other reference for what it could mean. Not wanting to leave this country without my curiosity satisfied, I pointed the word out to Salih and asked, “What does this word mean in English?”

He looked at it and frowned. “Where did you see this word?”

I flushed, thinking of all of the questionable words on billboards in America and realizing that my method of writing down random words I saw on signs was maybe not the best. “On an advertisement in Downtown Istanbul…is it inappropriate–?”

“No, just so random.” He frowned again. “I can’t think of the word in English. What is…you know, the white in your hair–” he wiggled his fingers in his scalp.

“Dandruff?” Caleb offered.

“Dandruff! That’s the word,” he said. He laughed at my obvious relief that it wasn’t anything sketchy as I wrote down the English translation and closed my notebook. “Such a helpful word for you to know if you are going to teach here.”

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Afterwards, we headed to Somanyolu (Milky Way) TV station, where we learned about Turkish television and then got to tour some shows being taped, including Yesil Elma (Green Apple), a very famous cooking show here in Turkey. 1891073_449440291855929_228197443_n

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After Samanyolu, we headed to a beautiful park to enjoy our lunch on the gorgeous day. Still feeling questionable, I split a mini Turkish pizza with Natalie and Beth, and we mostly picked at it and gave bites to the cats roaming around our table.

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As we explored the park after lunch, the call to prayer sounded, and I had to get it on video, though I’ll always remember the sound. There’s something haunting and beautiful about it, almost reminiscent of the Torah being chanted in synagogue.

After lunch, it was finally time: the Grand Bazaar. Dr. B tried to explain bargaining to us, but Bayleigh and I just got more and more anxious the more he told us the do’s and don’ts. “Pick a price and try to have them reach it, but don’t insult them. Remember that everything’s priced up to 75% more than it should be so don’t get ripped off, but remember that they’re trying to support their families. Don’t waffle, but be willing to pay more than you had originally wanted if they won’t budge. Judge what you want before you walk up to the owner; if you linger too long and don’t buy anything, that’s insulting. Oh, and don’t get lost. It’s an enormous place. Remember this gate, because it’s where we’ll meet at the end of the day.”

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I decided right then and there to stick with Allyson, who has bargained everywhere from China to Japan to Turkey, and we trooped off of the bus and into the market. It was overwhelming at first. There are so many people selling everything from two lira trinkets to Turkish rugs worth tens of thousands of dollars. One man kept pestering Caleb to buy a large, elaborate one, but we didn’t think it would quite fit in his carry-on.

I noticed a t-shirt that said “Tin Tin in Istanbul,” and immediately thought of my little brother. As I watched Allyson haggle over a t-shirt for her Dad, I listened to the price of the shirt, how much she was actually willing to pay, and how much she fought for it. Preparing myself for the same experience, I held up the shirt and asked, “How much?”

“Five lira.”

“Oh!” $2.50 for a t-shirt? Allyson’s had been more, but it made sense that a child’s shirt was cheaper. “Okay, great!”

He raised an eyebrow slightly but whisked the shirt away to bag it up before I could change my mind, and it was then that I realized I hadn’t even attempted to bargain the price down. Slightly embarrassed, I accepted the bagged shirt and made a note to do better with my next purchase: a Turkish scarf for myself. I scoped out the place I wanted, where there were a variety of different colors and styles. Narrowing those choices down to three, a purple, red, and blue one, I finally decided to go with the blue one, and turned to the owner. “How much?”

“60 lira.”

I blinked, not expecting it to be that much. Remembering that Dr. B had said things were priced 75% more than they were worth but also remembering not to go so low as to insult him, I went a little higher than 50%. “35 lira?”

He took the scarf from me, folded it up, and placed it back on his pile. “You insult me.”

Things were not going much better than the Tin Tin t-shirt. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” I said sincerely.

“I have family to feed–”

“I’m sorry. I meant no offense.” My heart was pounding and my face was hot, but I was not going to slink away. “I do love the scarf. It’s very beautiful, and I would like to reach a deal with you. Name a fair price?”

He scratched his chin, looking thoughtful. “38 lira.”

Relieved, I accepted, counting out the money and handing it to him, and he relinquished the scarf. It was only as I was walking away that I realized he had only bumped up my “insulting” bid $1.50 more (American). Allyson gently informed me later that he could tell I was new to all of this and wanted to have some fun intimidating me. Well, I don’t care. I have my scarf, and she did admit that 38 lira was a fair price for it.

As we walked on, shopkeepers began asking us where we were from, guessing England and Germany most often, interestingly enough. When we would say America, we would get a wide range of responses from everything to, “Ah! Of course,” to, “Oh! I know Bill Clinton!” to “Ohhhh, Spice Girls, yes?”

I bought presents for everyone back home, saving a beautiful pocket mirror and scarf for myself. As our time began winding down, I had one more person on my list, and noticed a bracelet that would be perfect. “How much?” I asked the owner.

“Normally, 20 lira, but for you, pretty lady….15.”

Knowing that he was only using shameless flattery to get my business, I have to admit that it worked anyway. Still, I shook my head and extended the seven lira I had left in my hand. “I’m sorry. I don’t have enough left. Thank you anyway. It’s very beautiful–”

“I will take seven, then, since you like it so much.”

“But that’s not even close to 20–”

“It is good. I will get to tell my family I gave a good deal to a beautiful American. Take it.” He began wrapping it up before I could protest further.

I handed him the last of my money, thanking him, but as I walked away, he called me back. “You’ve given me too much. This coin is not a lira.”

I resigned myself then to the fact that I would never be a professional–or even remotely successful–bargainer. “Isn’t it…the one worth a half a lira?” I asked, hating myself for forgetting the name and appearing so stupid.

“No, no! It’s worth several lira.”

Nice job, Kate. I shook my head and gave an embarrassed smile. “Well, keep it, anyway, since the bracelet was 20 originally–”

“We agreed seven, and I will only take seven. You can buy something else with this. Enjoy the rest of your time in Istanbul.” He wouldn’t take the coin back.

Reunited as a group once more, we all excitedly began comparing purchases and swapping bargaining stories as we headed back to the restaurant we had eaten on our first night here (which seems like an eternity ago) to meet up with Professor Saeed and his group. I have to admit I was slightly envious of them and the fact that their trip was just beginning and ours was rapidly coming to an end. On the bus, I rearranged my packages, pulling out the necklace I had bought for my sister to admire it once more.

“How did bargaining go for you?” Salih wanted to know.

Proud, I named the original price of the necklace and then the price I had bargained for, a fraction of what the owner had originally asked. I was surprised when Salih raised an eyebrow. “So much?”

I blinked. “I thought it was a good price. 75% off. I didn’t want to insult him–”

“Things are priced about 90% more than they’re worth in the Grand Bazaar. He saw you coming,” he said bluntly.

I wrapped the necklace back up and sighed. At least I can comfort myself with the fact that I love what I got for everyone, and I don’t feel like I paid more than I should have.

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After another amazing dinner (Mercimek Köftesi is my absolute favorite) we prepared to say goodbye. Words were insufficient to thank Salih and express our gratitude. Laughing over our pose with Salih and his broken arm, there was no time for tears (it’s a miracle that I didn’t cry, really) although I suspect there will be some tomorrow. I felt an aching emptiness as I packed up my things in the room that had become my home over the past week and a half. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to leave tomorrow.

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If you missed previous entries:

Adventures in Turkey pt. 7: Eat, Pray, Love

Adventures in Turkey pt. 6: Exploring More Ancient Cities

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

Adventures in Turkey pt. 7: Eat, Pray, Love

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We’re back in Istanbul!

We started off the morning by visiting The Jewish Museum of Turkey. Turkey is the only predominantly Muslim country in the world to have a Jewish museum, so Natalie and I excitedly trooped inside to take everything in. I learned that sultans took in Jews who were fleeing from persecution during the Spanish Inquisition; 95% of the Jewish population here consists of Sephardic Jews. Former President Ataturk (who, admittedly, had his shifty moments) also invited Jewish doctors and scientists to come to Turkey during World War II to seek asylum and continue their education. Pictures weren’t allowed inside (although I took some, anyway) but Natalie and I had to get a picture together outside of the former synagogue turned museum.

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After buying some souvenirs in the gift shop, we gathered in the alley to wait for the others. As we stood there, I suddenly had the feeling that someone was watching me; I whirled around to find a displeased looking German Shepherd hiding in the shadows. As someone who’s not a huge fan of dogs anyway, I looked around cautiously to see what I should do. The owner appeared, smiling and speaking Turkish in a pleasant tone, so both the dog and I relaxed. “Nice? My dog,” he told me, and I nodded, able to agree now that the intimidating animal was wagging his tail at me. He said a Turkish word and pointed to the dog, and, determined to add more Turkish words to my dictionary, I pulled out my journal and wrote down what (I thought) he had said, pleased with myself and my use of Turkish accents and odd g’s that are pronounced as w’s. Looking at my writing, he furrowed his brow and shrugged. “Dog?” I asked, pointing first at the word and then at his dog.

He hid a smile, shook his head, took my pen, and scratched out my word, rewriting a completely different one. I’m not sure that I left a lasting impression about the intelligence of Americans on him, but he was gracious nonetheless.

After the Jewish museum, we went to Taxim Square, the site where all of the protests last year occurred, resulting in tear gas, water cannons, and the famous woman in the red dress photo. The protests started after it was announced by Prime Minister Erdogan that Gezi Park was going to be renovated into a mosque and shopping mall. Although the people’s objections were more about Erdogan wielding his power than conserving the park’s natural landscape, these protests went on for over a month, increasing further with the police brutality. Dr. B told us that the situation was more like the Occupy Wall Street protests here rather than the atrocities going on in Syria, the country right next door, but it was still sobering for me, a sheltered, protected American, as Salih pointed out the many police officers standing by tanks with water cannons. He told us that the park gets closed down on the weekends because people will come protest again when they don’t have work or school.

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After Taxim Square, Salih left us and we headed off to find St. Anthony’s church. Taking in the tall, old buildings and wonderful cobblestone streets (why don’t we have these in America?) I actually wasn’t paying that much attention to how long we had been walking until Dr. B asked, “Doesn’t it feel like we’ve walked more than half a mile?” I paused, considering this, and he stopped and asked a street vendor for directions. “Oh, yes, St. Anthony’s, St. Anthony’s,” he smiled, waving us forward, so we continued on in the warm sunshine. After several blocks downhill, however, Dr. B shook his head and stopped to ask someone again. The first man didn’t speak English, so he called his business partner, who apparently didn’t speak enough English to understand us completely. He went across the street to get his friend, who repeated incredulously, “St. Antoine?!” and then turned around, pointed sadly back up the steep hill we had just descended and said, “So, so far.” We had passed it almost right at the entrance to the city, but the day was so beautiful that none of us minded. And the gorgeous church was well worth the wait.

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When we finally got to the church, Salih said he had been waiting there for quite some time and wanted to know what took us so long. Dr. B sheepishly told him what had happened, which resulted in quite a bit of teasing from our translator about how he couldn’t even leave us alone for one afternoon. He even got the men serving us lunch to join in the laughter. As we were leaving the restaurant, however, he said to me, “Want to know a secret?” Intrigued, I nodded. Salih leaned in and whispered, “I, too, walked much farther past St. Antoine’s church than I was supposed to because I couldn’t find it, either. I hadn’t even been there for five minutes before you all showed up because it took me so long to double back.” As I stared at him in delighted horror, he grinned and said, “Don’t tell John!”

Some of the girls had been complaining of tummy troubles since Ephesus, so I had assumed that maybe it was the chicken or rice that they had had there (since I was fine and I had had lamb and spinach.) After lunch today, though, it hit me, too, and I felt rather green as we walked to the Turkish military museum. Ultimately, since we had only eaten in nice restaurants where food contamination wouldn’t be an issue, we all decided that it wasn’t the quality of the food, but rather the quantity, that we had been consuming, particularly all of the beef, lamb, and chicken served to us at lunch and dinner.

Once we arrived at the museum, we settled in among several elementary schools who were on a field trip to wait for the military orchestra to begin playing, and we again were held in awe as the kids ran around us, shouting, “Hello, goodbye, I love you!” in English. I called, “Merhaba!” back and they stopped, stared at me warily for a moment, and then ran off, shouting, “Hello, goodbye, I love you!” again.

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After the concert, we had some free time, so we headed back to Midtown Istanbul on the Bosphorus. Caleb, Allyson and I walked through the alleys, made friends with some cats, and eventually joined back up with Natalie, Beth, Brynn, and Bayleigh, where we found, much to our delight, that jellyfish had washed up on the cobblestones from the waves crashing against them. We just had to poke their squishy bodies.

jellyfish

We got lost (a habit of the day, it seems) on our way to our host dinner, so it was late and dark by the time we finally arrived, but that didn’t hide the fact that we were pulling up to a mansion on a sprawling estate right on the Bosphorus with an amazing view of Istanbul’s Asian skyline. Our host, a wealthy, single man, was understandably very proud of his house and property and promised to give us a grand tour after dinner.

As we sat down to eat the abundance of delicious looking and smelling food, my stomach still rebelled. Bayleigh nudged me and whispered, “Bread. Water. Maybe some rice. That’s all you and I are eating tonight. Sit next to Dramell and sneak all of the meat you’re served onto his plate; he promised me that he would eat our portions since we’re both so sick and he isn’t.”

As I slid into my chair next to Dramell, I gave him a questioning look, and he responded by stealthily removing the chicken kabob off of my plate and placing it on his own without missing a beat. Relieved, I made it through the dinner eating only a piece of bread and a few bites of rice without notice (I assume, anyway, since no one said anything), although I did drink a glass of a cool, refreshing citrus juice in addition to the water that I sipped. I don’t know how Dramell ate my and Bayleigh’s portions of meat in additions to his own (and then he asked for and received a second helping) but apparently all of the boys have escaped unscathed, since I noticed Beth slip some of her beef onto Marv’s plate, too. Natalie and I have both decided that it will be a long time, if ever, before we eat meat again.

Our host wanted to have us back to eat breakfast with him tomorrow morning, but it’s looking like we have to be at the Journalist and Writers Foundation too early to stop by before. It’s hard to believe tomorrow is our last full day here. I’m not ready to return home.

If you missed previous entries:

Adventures in Turkey pt. 6: Exploring More Ancient Cities

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

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.

Creepy Sarcophagi

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