Monday, September 27, 2010


I've been back in the states for some time now, and I thought it would be nice to reflect on my experience as a whole (now that I'm not overly jetlagged or sick or consumed with family and school).

As I was riding on one of the buses from one part of campus to another, it reminded me of the crazed mini-bus drivers in Üsküdar. Of course my bus driver the other night came to a full stop before opening the doors and waited until the coast was clear to shut them and move to the next stop, but that's besides the point. I noticed that I wasn't offered a seat because I was a woman or that people didn't shuffle around so others could fit more easily. BUT the most satisfying difference of my bus ride here was that I couldn't smell the person next to me. Traffic is another difference because we follow laws here. I've found myself many a time looking both ways about 6 times each before actually setting foot on the pavement to cross the street. Food of course is another thing to note. The produce here just isn't fresh. When I eat an apple, I don't want to eat wax.

When I first got home, I couldn't wait to get my blackberry back or drive a car. I never drove in Turkey mostly because I can't drive a stickshift nor was I willing to try in the 5th largest city in the world. Being able to use my hair dryer again was also a big plus - the converter didn't work in Turkey. Life has been made so simple for us, and it's made me more conscious about how I spend my time and money.

It seems that it was just yesterday that I arrived in Istanbul. Looking back, I was so out of it I don't even know how I functioned. Although the days of data entries seemed like they would never end, I've erased the majority of the miserable parts of work. Now it just seems that I went to work, learned Turkish, traveled, and went home at night to the dorms only to get in trouble with the dorm director.

In a nutshell, this experience changed my life.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Coming back

Sorry for the delay in posting. My family has been keeping me busy and trying to get me on U.S. time!

After the flights, I breezed through customs. I basically ran past all of the Italians and their children so I wouldn't be stuck behind anything crazy. My suitcase came up rather quickly, and off through the final customs gate I went! Then I was officially back in the U.S.A. I went through the doors where the pick-up is. My 2 sisters, my mom, and one of my cousins were waiting for me (my dad was in the car). There were lots of hugs and tears; everyone missed me, and I had missed them.

We packed up the car, and we headed to my aunt's house which is probably a half an hour from the airport. There we had a "Welcome Home Emily!" party. It was great that I could see my family again and enjoy some classic American foods.

It had been a long day, so after eating we hit the road again. From my aunt's to my house is about 1.5 hrs. It wasn't that long of a car ride compared to traveling in Istanbul! And I blabbed away about my Turkish adventures.

Finally, we arrived in my hometown, pulled up the drive-way, and unloaded the car. I was home. It was weird coming back to my small town after being away for almost 3 months. Everything seemed the same; it takes awhile for things to change here.

I unloaded my souvenirs for my family. They loved them! I brought back all sorts of treasures: scraves, earrings, rocks (sshhh!), and foods. The best gift to them was having me back safely.

Ever since I have been home I have noticed a few things. First my mind is still half-working in Turkish. This is pretty cool for me because it's amazing how much and how quickly I was able to learn the language. Second the climate is COMPLETELY different. I got used to the Istanbul humidity. It's humid here but not nearly as much. As a result, my nose keeps bleeding. I've had maybe 5 bloody noses since I've been home. My mom has threatened to take me to the doctor to get it cauterized, so I'm praying that it stops on it's own!

It's been good to be back home. Seeing some of my friends has been fun, but I'm starting to miss my Turkish friends. It's weird now not seeing those people.

Other than that, I'd say I'm adjusting fairly well. I've been going to sleep at normal times and waking up at normal times. I've been sleeping pretty solidly at night. It hasn't been too bad coming back.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Well, the traveling is over; I made it back home. It was an eventful day for good and bad reasons. The day started with my hired car (from the university) being about an hour late. The car was supposed to be at the dorms at 3:30, and at 4:15 the security guard called the company asking inquiring about the car. They sent a car, and about 20 min later I was on my way to Ataturk Airport.

When I got to the airport, I had a little over an hour to check my bags and go through security. Normally the time you should allow for these sorts of things is 2 hours I think. I tried to find the shortest/fastest lines to go through. All was going well until I encountered the baggage check-in. Once again my bag was overweight. I didn't add very many things to my suitcase, and I took out and threw away a LOT. Apparently it wasn't enough. I was forced to pay the fee (yikes!). In order to pay the fee, though, I had to go to another counter and then bring back the receipt to the baggage check-in. At this point I was in tears; all I wanted to do was come home. The baggage check-in got sorted out, so it was off to Passport Control for me! This was one of the longest waits. Some people have visa troubles so it can take a long time. Choosing a short line doesn't make a difference because there could be someone with passport troubles in front of you, taking twice the amount of time as it should. After that I dashed through the airport to my gate, making it there to catch the end of the boarding passenger line. I boarded, and shortly after we took off. I slept the entire flight.

Rome was a sour experience for me. We arrived on time to Rome Fiumicino Airport. After exiting the plane I went through a security screening. They had to pull my bags aside because my alarm clock had a peculiar picture on the screen. Then I went to my gate. Only after I sit down do I hear my name being called on the loudpeaker. I needed to go through yet another security check.

The security check went well. I was able to sit and people watch afterwords. People do the strangest things in public. I saw a man using is arm as a golf club to practice his form.

After all of that, I boarded my second and final plane. I fell asleep while I was waiting for take-off. I woke up to find that the plane was running behind schedule and that we were just then going to take-off. The ride went well, and I occupied my time by sleeping and watching movies.

I am very tired as I'm writing this. I have to go to sleep..but I will be sure to finish tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last day in Istanbul

Pictures from the Eyup trip:

The Furnicular, the tram going from Kabataş to Taksim and back

Flower Passage in Taksim

Burak spotted this in one of the murals in the subway. It's our office building, Park Plaza!

Loving the colors!

Ruins of old Istanbul

The rails of the old Galata Bridge. This bridge is no longer used for cars, only walking. There is a new one, but it is in a different location.

Pictures from my personal day:

Sirkeci Station - Istanbul's European train station

The new Galata Bridge


Nifty sign

Today was my last day in Turkey. I got out of bed, took a shower, and headed to Europe. It doesn't matter what time of day you go anywhere, there's always bad traffic. That's one thing I'm not going to miss! I said my good-byes to all of my co-workers and caught the Metrobus back to Asia. The stop I was at was very crowded. I had no idea what bus to take, but when I found it I got on in the wrong direction. I got off and back on going in the right direction. Upon my return to Asia, I went to the highest point in Istanbul, Çamlıca Hill. It was the end of a beautiful sunset when I got there - a perfect end to my stay.

 My company!

Me, Nilay, Songül, Vedat, and Hasan (a group of my coworkers)

Same group, except Hasan is now taking the picture and Erdem is in Hasan's old place

Erdem and I 

Taken from my Metrobus ride

View from the hill

Time has flown by. It's been an amazing experience. I have learned so much about the Turkish culture, life, and most importantly myself. Turkey has been great to me and for me, but it's time to see my family again. Boy, have I missed them!

Things I will miss:
-friends I have made
-the sea
-riding the boats on the sea
-fresh and homegrown foods with minimal additives - there's no wax on the apples!
-cheap stores

Things I won't mind living without:
-bad traffic
-working every day
-large crowds of sweating smelly people

Monday, August 16, 2010

Personal Day

Do you ever feel the need to go out by yourself and self-reflect? Those days where you don't want to deal with anyone or go to work. My mom always calls those kinds of days "personal days". Today was my personal day. I took the day to go shopping, something I haven't done in awhile.

First, I went to the Grand Bazaar. I picked up a few things for my family after out-charming the salesmen. Hooray! I can bargain now! Well, at least better than before. Then I went to Kadikoy and did some personal shopping. I found a very cute, inexpensive dress as well as some books. I bought Ye, Dua Et, Sev (Eat, Pray, Love) by Elizabeth Gilbert and Harry Potter ve Felsefe Taşı (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) by J.K. Rowling. I am hoping to improve my Turkish further by reading.

Tomorrow I am heading back to the office to say my good-byes. It will be very sad, and I anticipate crying. A lot. I am hoping to return - inşallah. This is a common phrase meaning "God-willing" (or"we can only pray/hope so"). I simply cannot believe that it is over; I am going back home to the real world.

My suitcase is just about packed, but there are a few straggling items. There are a few more souvenirs to buy and a few things to find. I am on the hunt for these items: a necklace, my sunglasses, and a sock. I'm fairly certain that all are lost for good, which really sucks. Hopefully they will show up in the next 24 hrs!

My computer is still not registering the new pictures I have uploaded. THIS IS MAKING ME EXTREMELY ANGRY.


Yesterday the new intern at G.F., Burak, and I went exploring around İstanbul. First we took a walk down İstiklal Street in Taksim, and from there we went to Eyüp.

Eyüp is on the Golden Horn. It is one of the older districts of İstanbul; it still withholds traditional values. It is a very religious area, and there were almost no women without headscarves.

We walked around the district. It was a very charismatic community; the buildings were colorful and had interesting architecture. We waited for İftar - Burak is observing the fast - and then we had dinner at one of the restaurants there. The restaurant put food on the table 5 min before the iftar began because as soon as the evening prayers start people engorge themselves. I know that fasting must be hard. It is HOT here, and going all day without water would kill me. There was a couple at a table near us that were taking pictures holding a water bottle making sad faces.

I have learned a lot about the Islamic faith and community from my stay in Turkey:

1. It is like Christianity in the sense that there are religious crazies, there are people that occasionally practice, and there are people that could care less. From my experience, there isn't an abundance of any of the categories. For example, in my office there are only 4 people fasting (that's out of 25). There are at least 5 other people that don't even practice the faith. The rest I either don't know, or they sometimes practice.

2. Just because you are a Muslim doesn't mean you wear a headscarf. It is a choice. One of my American friends also explained to me that the way the scarf is tied has political significance. I'm not exactly about the truth of this, but it is possible.

3. Praying 5 times a day is a lot for most people. This is no different for Turks. People stronger with their faith might take a moment to be silent and pray during the prayers, but most don't go to Mosque at that time. Nor does life "stop"; people who aren't praying go on with what they're doing.

4. Ramadan (this has it's own subcategories!):
a). This is the time that Muslims reflect on how poor people live. Poor people cannot afford the luxuries of eating all of the time, drinking, smoking, chewing gum, etc. Thus, Muslims also give up these things between sunrise and sunset.
b). It lasts about 30 days (this year is 29).
c). This is the last month of the Islamic calendar, and there is a big festival at the end that lasts 3 days (?) to signify the new year.
d). Every year Ramadan shifts 10 days closer to January. Next year Ramadan will start in July.
e). The fasting period is the hardest in the summer because the days are longer. This year the days are about 16 hrs.
f). The nights are the best part! There are fairs/festivals every night of Ramadan. There's food, live music, and other sorts of entertainment.
g). The morning meal before the fast is sahur. The evening meal after the fast is iftar.
i). Just because you are a Muslim doesn't mean you fast. It is, of course, a choice, but it is strongly encouraged.
k). Pregnant women don't fast. There are pregnant women in my office that would normally fast, but it is not healthy (but back in the day it didn't matter). Young children don't fast either. Girls start when they are 12ish, boys when they are 14ish

*This is information given to me from people around my office. This could very well be different for other Muslims. I am not saying that all of this is true for EVERY Muslim. It is simply what I have gathered!

I have pictures but my blog isn't registering that there are pictures. ARRGGG!!!! I will try to post them later.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Girls Night Out

Last night Joy and I went out with her coworker Asli. After spending all day in an air conditioned room, it was good to go out when the temperatures had somewhat subsided.

We ventured first to Atasehir to meet with Asli. Joy and I were early, so we entertained ourselves at Migros, a supermarket chain. This just happened to be the biggest one we've ever seen. SCORE!

Dried fruits!

Space Jam reunion?

Cooling off

From there to Bagdat Street. It is one of the busy, hip places on the Asain side. There are a lot of restaurants and shops there. We walked up and down the street gazing in the shops and chatting.

 The World Championships for Basketball are coming to Istanbul in September. Of course we had to pose by the giant basketball!

Finally we settled at a restaurant called Num Num.

The food was good. The drinks were great. The company was amazing.

Joy and Asli

Asli and I

Their logo is an adorable bird

My strawberry shortcake (strawberries, amaretto, ice cream), Joy's Long Island Iced Tea, and Asli's Frozen Strawberry Margarita