Rapid-Fire Update

Hello everyone!

OK, here’s my update on Turkey that I promised so long ago.  Let me explain all that you will see first, though. The first set of photos are from when my friend, Jessica Valsi, and I decided to walk up the hill behind campu where Ataturk’s huge image is portrayed.  On the way there, we first saw a sign warning us against the dogs on campus, which we found funny because these “half-strays” (as we call them, seriously, the security guards take very good care of them) are like every other dog (i.e. unless you’re allergic to their kisses and love, you’re fine).  Then, we came a cross a helipad on the hill, which we jokingly postulated was there for the really rich students to get to campus every day.  After taking some shots of us on the helipad (me taking up the Nixon pose for fun) we continued our trek to Ataturk himself.  Interestingly enough, there was an odd cement thing nearby, which we joked was for the sacrifice to Ataturk.  Needless to say, we decided to photograph this ritual with me as the sacrifice, reincarnated later to show the power of the “Big A.”

The next set of photos are from when the Asst. Secretary of Education and Cultural Affairs came to Istanbul.  We are not sure why she was in Istanbul, but nevertheless, she decided that while she was in the city that she would meet with the Gilman and Fullbright scholars over coffee.  It was nice, but I feel that it was a little superficial. At least I got to meet some more Americans in the city, and a group of us even decided to go out afterward and go up the Galata Tower (I have not only images from the top, but also a video as I pan around.  I’d only just figured out how to use the video function though, and the camera doesn’t save the file under a type that wordpress recognizes, so I can’t upload it here).  Galata Tower is near Taksim Square (on the European side) where the coffee shop was located.

The next group of photos starts with a photo I took of a doodle I drew in my Regional Studies class. I was getting really bored (seriously, there’s only so many ways that you can say that citizenship in the EU is complicated and biased).  I had just been absentmindedly running my pen across the paper in random directions, without even looking.  When I did look, I realized that it looked a lot like an acorn.  After a bit of work to make it look more like an acorn, I decided to draw Scrat from Ice Age to fill up the time.  I was listening the entire time of course, but there was literally nothing new or particularly interesting being said.  Let me give an example; she was talking about Turkish immigrants to Great Britain (her second-favourite example only after Turkish immigrants to Germany) and how gender is affected. Specifically, she talked about how much of the time, family reunification involves the husband and children meeting with the wife.  See? Told ya I’d been paying attention.

The photos after the drawing are all from one Sunday, during which I was hanging out with Saeb, one of the Fullbright students I met at the State Dept meeting at the coffee shop.  The day before, we had gone to an art exhibit at a college museum on the European side (which is usually focused on its factory history, not art) and to Miniaturk, which is an outdoors exhibit that showcases models of famous sites in Turkey (and a few from other areas of the Islamic World).  I didn’t have my camera on me that day, but Saeb did. I’m going to put up those pictures once I have time to download them onto my computer from the internet (At the moment they can only be seen on Facebook).  Anyway, these pictures are from the next day, which interestingly enough is the Turkish Labor Day.  We had decided to meet in Taksim, where there was a huge protest going on.  The Tunel and the metro had even been closed down by the police! (apparently this is common in Turkey, especially on holidays, as a similar thing happened on Children’s Day the week before) Don’t mistake this as a reason to freak out.  It was quite peaceful; the cops just took precautions (I’m guessing largely in part to the protests happening everywhere else, where the protestors are admittedly throwing rocks and doing as much harm as the cops).  It stopped all of a sudden, and then everyone returned to their normal lives. At this point, we decided to wander around Besiktas.  First, we went to a few mosques nearby that Saeb was always walking near, but never went in. They were quite interesting, as was the Imam, who professed to dislike Americans, but was perfectly willing to give us some tea and talk to us about the history of the mosque we were at.  One of the guys tried on my sunglasses, so I decided to photograph him, but the Imam refused, not wanting to be in a photo with Americans.  Next, we tried to see the Deniz Muzesi (Sea Museum) but it was closed at that time (it was like 5 or something like that), so we walked back toward Saeb’s flat.  along the way we spotted a place called “Cafe THE BEST,” a name so funny that I had to take a picture.  Also, I spotted a ladybug rug and thought of Maggie, so I took a picture of it for her.  Saeb also got his haircut, which I photographed, before we came to his place, where I hung out and watched al-Jizeera International before deciding to go home, via a double-decker bus to Bostanci-and from there, a taxi (the ferries to Kadikoy had stopped running by then, which we hadn’t known, as had bus 110, which also goes to Kadikoy, and the double-decker from Taksim straight to campus).  Along the way, I took a couple beautiful shots of the Bosphorus and the Besiktas Bridge, as well as a couple of a guy cutting the handle off of his cane with a hacksaw. Besides Saeb, there is another Fullbright student, named Shane Stratton, who is Istanbul on the scholarship to do research for a sculpture.  He actually had an opening on May 7th of the piece, called “Bosphorus” (a kind of modern interpretation of traditional Islamic and Ottoman art techniques and motifs combined with the flow and, apparently, dolphins of the Bosphorus- I’ve never seen any in there, but he has photographic evidence of them so there you go).  It’s a great piece! He plans on casting it in bronze when he returns to the States (right now it’s only plaster) and then showcasing it in New York City.

Continuing this passage de mon histoire (smirk), there is a photo of the flyer advertising Spring Fest on campus, which went on this past week, and a few shots of what it looked like during the day.  There were DJs and stupid inflatable things to do during the day, as well as overpriced food (indeed, more overpriced than the canteens in the social building, where I decided to eat so as to still enjoy the music-haha).  I never did the inflatable stuff; they didn’t appeal to me.  At night were free concerts, except apparently for the last night, which turned out to be 60 lira.  I went to one on Tuesday, and was not impressed with the singer, so I didn’t go the next couple of days.  The Friday night groups were supposed to be much better, so a friend of mine and I decided to go, though we didn’t know that there was a price involved for us (Erasmus was told that we would get in for free).  We had simply refused to pay, especially since we live on freakin’ campus. In our opinion, after school hours it’s our freakin’ house, so we shouldn’t have to pay to be there.  Therefore, when we went, we had to convince the security guard to let us in for free, which we actually succeeded in doing (See? “Erasmus, erasmus” opens doors. haha)  The acts were much better, except the last one, which I didn’t enjoy.  Also it turns out that the woman who was on before him was a bitch (she kept yelling between acts that the obviously not-Turkish people standing in the middle by the stage should be removed since they obviously don’t speak the language and shouldn’t bother to be here anyway. Yeah, like I said- a bitch.  She had a great show though; her dancers were really cool and her music was actually really enjoyable to listen to (though I admit that she has a point in that I didn’t understand her either).

Backing up a bit, I have a series of photos from Yeditepe’s “International Fest,” of which you only need to see the pictures to know that it was kind of a joke.  For starters, no all of the countries were represented, and of the flags shown, several were for countries whose students didn’t even bother showing up. The idea was nice: everyone makes food from their countries and then shares with everyone.  cost for making the food would be reimbursed by the ESN group. However, in practice, the Lithuanians were probably the most enthusiastic.  They had a whole smorgasbord of options for food, all of it good.  Jessica and I did strawberry shortcake after a painstaking time in Carrefour, trying to figure out what to do for America (let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as “traditional American food” except probably fast food, and we didn’t want to get 200 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s).  Matt had a lot fun, though, as he had brought 1 jar of Vegemite (A friend had visited him and brought soma).  That and some Crax (kinda like pretzels) were all he needed; of the non-Australian international students, only I liked it.  Also, the music they had going was a male doing covers of (female) singers (such as Rihanna) in a really bad falsetto.  In addition, most people got bored and left by 2 (including me, and I was one of the last).  It was OK though, because that day was (apparently) “Europe Day” and to celebrate, the Secretary liaison of EU Affairs for Turkey (or whatever his title is- something along those lines) had invited all the Erasmus students to a free dinner.  I had been accidentally invited, and went along.  There was (funnily enough) free wine, but the food was more like appetizers, so a bunch of us went out after for some food at Burger King before spending the evening out in Taksim.  The main point of this was honestly just to get us in the room with him, so he could hype on how great Turkey is so that all of the students could then go back and through voting pressure the EU to accept Turkey into the Union.  He even ended his speech with the phrase “The EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU,” which summarizes the main attitude of the administration after they were rejected the first time in 2004 and then again in 2005.

Further, we come to my images from when I went with a couple of friends to Topkapi Palace (finally! It’s only been 4 months- haha).  I went with Jessica and Anisa, the latter of whom I actually met outside the dorm while waiting for Jessica to hurry up (by the way, I realize that it sounds like I’ve been out a lot with her, and to the average eye I know it sounds like we’re together- hell, we get asked that a lot- so I’m going to stop and clarify that we are NOT together. No complications,etc. We’re just friends) Anisa is a medical student who is spending a month here on an anesthesia rotation at Yeditepe Hospital, and came along with us as an introduction to Istanbul for her first day.  We also went to the Aya Sophya, but the batteries died on my camera (something that’s been happening with increased frequency lately- I hope that it’s just that these particular batteries suck and not that my camera is already dying) and they went into the Blue Mosque, but I couldn’t- it was prayer-time. They’re Muslim so it was OK for them. It’s OK, though, as I had already seen it. 🙂  That car being held in a hand? That’s on the main street of Bostanci, where we met up with Jessica’s friend for a coffee before he took us back to the university.  Caffe Nero? That’s where we had coffee.  It was amusing to me how 1) I was so pleased to order in something besides Turkish (i.e. Italian) and 2) That there’s a Turkish coffee shop chain named after one of the most insane emperors of Ancient Rome.

I’m getting to the current; I promise that this is the last one. (Haha, actually this is funny because this is the line that one heckler uses to get people into his bar.  It’s on the underside of the bridge between Karakoy and Eminonu with other shops, and so when you’re walking along, everyone heckles you.  I’m guessing that this relief MUST work for someone, but I don’t know how).  Back to my point, the next (and final) group of photos is from when our last Turkish class ended.  As you can see, we are all quite pleased (and FYI: that picture of Jessica pretending to hang themselves in front of the mess that is the whiteboard? Yeah, those were taken when Murmur was out of the room.  There are others of people striking the same pose, just not on my camera).  Lastly, we have some views of the Marmara Sea from Izmit, which is where a bunch of us decided to go yesterday.  What did we do? Why, we went wakeboarding!  OK, so I didn’t really wakeboard so much as elaborately fall into the lake, but I kept trying!  That’s more than I can say for the others; besides Thibaut and Bastian, who both managed to pick up on it really quickly.  The rest of us couldn’t really get the whole standing-up-from-the-starting-point-thing down.  Everyone else gave up around 3-ish, but I kept going until the park turned off the cable at 5:30.  The cable was this thing which went around the lake.  There was a machine which attached and unattached ropes with the handles to special hooks on the cable.  The idea is to sit on the dock with the board set under so that the front foot stuck up and the back foot was down.  As the machine pulled you, you were supposed to stand by pushing the back foot down, while keeping the handle about 6 inches from your body.  Any closer and you flip backwards, any further out and the machine pulls you nosediving.  I never got that “perfect” placement down.  Needless to say, after spending all this time out in the sun (even with a break for lunch and mid-afternoon tea- this is Turkey after all, and sunscreen) I came out of this looking like a tomato wherever the wetsuit did not cover (i.e. face, neck, and ESPECIALLY feet).  I had a lot of fun, though!  I’ve no pictures of myself “wakeboarding” (obviously, since I was IN the water), but my friend Alina had come along which her camera (this great, elaborate, expensive Canon of a thing) to take pictures of all of our failures, so I’ll get those out to you as well, once they appear.

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