Note: I wrote this post Monday, but I’m posting it on Wednesday. Adding pictures takes a surprisingly long time, and I ran out of time to add pictures on Monday. I’ll write another (more up-to-date) post soonish maybe! But it might not have pictures, haha.
Since today (Monday) marks the first day of the first full week of classes, and I will have more homework than I had anticipated based on Friday’s classes, in this post I will only talk about my favorite parts of each of the past few days. As promised, I will talk about what I’ve been learning and the beauty all around me that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy. I’ll start with this past Saturday.
Saturday morning, a couple friends and I walked from our dorm to a famous brunch place near Rümeli Kale (Castle), aka Rümeli Hisarı (Fortress), a fortress built by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II between 1451 and 1452 that helped him conquer Constantinople in 1453. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for the knowledge, and thank you, this blog, for motivating me to look up the histories of places I visit.) George tried to take a selfie with the castle, but he’s not very good at it yet. 🙂 The brunch place had an amazing view of the Bosphorus, and even more importantly, it had amazing food. Turkish breakfasts normally consist of lots of bread with various things you can put on top, including different cheeses and jams; a plate of cucumbers and tomatoes in olive oil and salt; if you want to be fancy, egg dishes such as socuklu yumurta (eggs with special Turkish sausage) and menemen (soft scrambled eggs with lots of tomatoes, spices, and some other vegetables); and, of course, Turkish tea! After breakfast, we walked along the Bosphorus from Rümeli Hisarı back to Bebek and took a ton of pictures. It was a beautiful day – sunny and warm after a cool and rainy week, and thankfully not too hot. The Bosphorus sparkled in the sun, gorgeous yachts and sailboats were docked at shore, and quaint cafes and impressive houses lined both sides of the water.
My second favorite part of Saturday was walking from Bebek to Ortaköy (still along the Bosphorus, but in the opposite direction of Rümeli Hisarı) in the evening for dinner. I mentioned this trip in my previous post, but only in the context of feeling unsafe as a young woman in a small group of young women walking around Istanbul at night. But besides from feeling slightly unsafe at times, it was a wonderful evening. The Bosphorus was just as beautiful as it had been earlier that day, but in a different way – mini cruise boats with sparkling lights dotted the length of the canal, and beautifully-lit buildings sprinkled the dark hills on either side of the water. It was invigorating, albeit tiring, to walk the three miles from Bebek to Ortaköy, and we were rewarded at the end with a dinner of kumpir, the Turkish version of a baked potato. We ate and sat right next to Ortaköy’s famous mosque, and then we headed back to our respective neighborhoods.
On Sunday I spent most of the day alone, practicing flute, doing homework, and relaxing. My favorite part of the day was when I got back from shopping, sat on my balcony, and ate chocolate ice cream while reading a book for fun. Because it was a more solitary and laid-back day, I had time to reflect on all the socializing with new people I’ve been doing. Although I’m 21 and have been in a fairly large number of situations where I’ve had to build an entirely new group of friends, it still surprises me to notice patterns in the types of people I most gravitate towards. In other words, no matter how old I get (though I know I’m still pretty young), I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning things and being reminded of things about myself. I’ve ended up spending most of my time with very nice people. They are many things other than nice – including smart, funny, weird, cynical, optimistic, extraverted, introverted, etc. – but the characteristic that they all most obviously share is their kindness, or specifically, the fact that they immediately appear warm to others. (Many people who are more reserved than warm upon first encounters are quite kind, but they are not the people with whom I spend most of my time.) This shouldn’t surprise me, because when I think about my best friends in other walks of life (high school, college, etc.) they are also all very kind people. However, I am still a bit startled by this trend I notice in myself, and perhaps a bit unsettled. I think the unsettled feeling comes from a stereotype that very nice people are either not too smart or not too interesting. And I think this feeling is exacerbated by my own insecurities regarding how smart, interesting, etc. I appear to other people, since in my experience the first thing people comment on in regards to my personality is my kindness. Furthermore, I am insecure about the fact that I get along best with initially-warm people. Does this mean I have too thin a skin and am not strong enough to handle people with slightly colder exteriors? Does this mean I am weak and limited in my interactions with others? But of course then I remember that most people do have a “type,” and the ones who feel extremely comfortable with most types of people are few and far between. Furthermore, I do not wish to indulge my insecurities, and in fact I do get along well with most of the people I’m meeting, even if I don’t feel super comfortable around all of them. Finally, despite some of the less-than-positive thoughts that this new experience is inspiring, I am still glad for the opportunity to reflect and learn about myself.
Last thing for today: My favorite part of Monday was the Tanışma Kokteyli, aka a Getting-to-know-people Cocktail Hour (rough translation). The TLCP hosted it on the university’s South Campus at Kennedy Lodge, an absolutely beautiful building with even-more-breathtaking views of the Bosphorus (from a hill, not from water-level like the views in Bebek, Ortaköy, Rümeli Hisarı, etc.). The program paid for an open bar (the drinking age in Turkey is 18, no surprise there) and very delicious hors d’oeuvres. It was lovely getting to talk to many people in the program, not just those limited to my class of 11 (11, not 9, for those keeping track, now that two people joined us who weren’t in class Friday). One of my friends got rather drunk, but he was the kindest, most good-natured, and most entertainingly-philosophical drunk I’ve ever known. (He is a very kind and good-natured person, so it makes sense.) The most interesting thing he said was that although he doesn’t agree with Turkish President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s politics (conservative and non-secularist, in case anyone is wondering), he admires them in some way for their intelligence, hard work, and devotion of their lives to their country and to a cause greater than themselves. (He was especially talking about Davutoğlu, who graduated from Boğaziçi Üniversitesi, one of the best universities in Turkey, and is very smart and accomplished.) I don’t know if I agree with him – if I had thought of this argument at the time and not 30 minutes later, I might’ve pointed out that although they may partly aim to serve a cause greater than themselves, they also probably works toward self-serving goals like greater personal success and power. After all, as we all know, power corrupts. However, I mention this issue here because it is an interesting thought that I think too many of us forget in today’s ever-more partisan world of politics: people are more than their party, and they are not black and white. Most of us have done things that deserve both respect and admonition, although of course this is no excuse for political beliefs that impinge on basic human rights such as freedom of religion.
This cat’s just chilling outside the Kennedy Lodge: