Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Time for July..and vacations

Wow, the last day of June. Time has flown by! Nothing like celebrating the great adventures had and the ones to come like a vacation. This weekend I am going to Cappadocia with some of the other University of Michigan students interning in Istanbul - they don't stay at the same place or work at the same places that I do. We are meeting tomorrow night after work and taking a night bus to Nevşehir. We will arrive Friday morning, tour the area Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then return on a night bus again Sunday night. I will be back in Istanbul for sure Monday. I am not sure how internet connections are going to work, or if I will have any :S. I will do my best to keep updated on posting every day!

If you don't know anything about Cappadocia, even if you do maybe it's minimal information, here's what I've collected about the area thus far:

- Cappadocia is an area of natural rock formations
- It's Turkey's most visual area. The landscapes are gorgeous, and there isn't another place like it
- Ancient peoples carved out the insides of the rock formations to create houses
- There are caves, underground cities, as well as hot-air balloon tours (some of which are EXPENSIVE!! but possibly totally worth it..)
- Because of the great hiding places, it plays in important part of history

Basically, it's an amazing place! I'm so excited to go. It's my first big trip out of Istanbul, but I am confident that all will go well.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life is highway, I want to ride it all night long!

I've had some inquisitions about the cars and traffic here. I must admit, I am obsessed with the cars here as well. There's just so many! And so different too. The streets signs are also different (duh..). I have posted a few pictures prior to this post about traffic/cars. I now have more pictures to explain the public transportation more clearly. There are several types of buses: regular buses, minibuses, metrobuses, service buses, and dolmuş. There is also the metro, as well as taxis and the ferry. Each one costs a different price, but will get you to your destination if given enough time and you know which ones you need! Luckily my friends here are great, and they helped me figure it out!

The regular buses are easy to get on and off. They always say where they go, so if you can read then you're all set! 
Regular bus

Taxis are the same. They're nothing special, and they're expensive.

Minibuses are where the fun is. This is my second favorite mode of transportation (the ferry of course is the first). When you get on, you tell the driver where you want to go, and he tells you how much it will be. The vans can fit at least 20 people at any one time, but the drivers never forget a stop. They are also crazy (swerving in and out of lanes while driving fast - typical Istanbul), and they love honking their horns to get people on-board. It's always an adventure riding in one!
Dolmuş-es are the same as minibuses except that they only take the number of people that can sit down. People can stand in minibuses, but they have to be able to sit in a dolmuş. Because they are more comfortable, they are more expensive. I have yet to ride in one.


Bus stop sign
The metro is probably the least used method of transportation. It is fairly new, and they are actually still adding on. Older maps don't even include my stop.

Metro Station - this was taken at 5:30!

Monday, June 28, 2010

No way Jose!

Monday, Monday. What can I say about Monday? Work was the norms: drink tea, chat with co-workers, look-up things to do in Turkey, and maybe do some work. It was a pretty blah day.

Next I am going to address the common issue of homesickness. One of the most popular questions I'm asked is are you homesick? The answer is yes, of course I am. I have the greatest family and friends back home. But if all we do is mope around crying and whining about it, my so-far-fabulous trip will soon turn into an all-I-want-to-do-is-go-home trip. I have been doing well with my homesickness though. Every time I feel homesick I go to Starbucks. No way am I going to be homesick enough for McDonalds or PopeYes! The point of this paragraph is to just let everyone know I am missing you, I just can't think about being sad because then this blog would be depressing. I'm not going to let that happen!

This is the bus stop in the morning

The street sign on the corner of our bus stop

Stop sign

A lot of the buildings have tile designs on them. This is a building form my street

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Recovery on this one!

At the end of every (good) sports practice there is a cool down, a recovery. Sunday has easily become my recovery day. Thus I spent the day lazing around the dorm, catching up on all the sleep I missed earlier in the week. Sometimes it's better to rest up so you can hit the ground running next week.

This is a view of the street my dorm is on. It's ahead on the right (you can't see it in this picture)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine

Hooray for Saturdays! Finally, I got to sleep-in. Most weeknights I stay up late because I think to myself I don't have to do anything stressful or demanding tomorrow. I did have plans today; I made sure they were at a decent time though.

Joy and I ventured to the Prince's Islands. We caught a bus to Kadikoy, where we caught the ferry to the islands. There are 4 main islands: Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada, and Buyukada. We only walked around Buyukada - we heard it was the best one. There wasn't much to do there except eat, walk, and enjoy the beautiful buildings. It was a very touristy area, but enjoyable all the same!
Boats (and hoes?)

Beach at Kinaliada

Fruits and veggies at the market

Veggies at the market

AHH! Nightmares of carpet salesmen came back when I saw this place!


 No cars! *Except for police officers

I think this one was a hostel

Gorgeous buildings!
It's common to see translations misspelled on menus. TOO funny

We decided that it was time to head back, and the plan was to go shopping in Kadikoy before we got on the bus back home. Well, that would've happened had we not both fallen asleep only to wake up when we were pulling away from the dock we were supposed to get off of. The ferry to the islands starts at Kabatas, goes across to the Asian side, stops at Kadikoy, and then stops at all of the islands. Overall it takes a little over an hour (or so) to make the trip. We ended up in Kabatas dazed and confused as to what we were going to do. Joy asked a random guy for help, who pointed us in the direction of another docking station. We caught a mini-bus from Uskudar to our dorm without shopping. Bummer.

Besides the crappy re-route home, I'd say it was a pretty good day. Especially because when we were stopped at one of the ports I looked down into the water and saw...JELLYFISH! They were so cool!!!! I felt like I was in Finding Nemo or something. I've never seen them in the wild before that I can recall. Definitely the highlight of my day.
Can you spot the jellyfish?

One of my friends mentioned that I had a blog about my time in Turkey, but there was no Turkish flag anywhere on this site. It's time to fix this. 

 This one's for you :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Veggies and Faces

Ok enough with the poetic stuff.

Today was as uneventful as the rest of the work week. The only difference is today it was like the whole company was doing nothing in anticipation of the weekend. Thus we took a looonnnggg lunch break to the northern neighborhood of Istanbul called Sariyer. We had traditional Turkish homemade food. The things I had tried prior to lunch were the more modern, adapted foods. Lunch was the healthy, Mediterranean cooking Turkey is known for. That's exactly what it was, Mediterranean. Most of the dishes were vegetables, maybe with meat mixed in. For most of the veggie dishes, the textures were overwhelming and the spices were intense. I ate about half of what everyone else did because it was so hard to get used to. And there was sooo much food; the waiter just kept bringing more. I am proud to report that I tried EVERYTHING. Even if I only took 1 bite, I did it! My co-workers watched my face to see if I liked the foods or not. Apparently they found it entertaining to watch my face pinch. Hmph. It was just so different from American food, I don't even know how to explain it any other way.

 My chicken dish at the restaurant. It was one of the things I could handle

After lunch, I went back to work. I didn't do very much work, but I did a lot of socializing with my co-workers. One of my bosses loves to chat with me in Turkish, but he's very hard to understand sometimes. He has the most hilarious chuckle I've ever heard. Because of it I try 2304872308 times harder to talk to him. And he looks like an older version of Vince Vaughn. I'm also learning idioms from one of the ladies. She's also really hard to understand most of the time, but my listening is improving.

Tomorrow Joy and I are planning on doing some sightseeing around Istanbul. Hopefully some good pictures come out of it!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Being Free

Nothing says summer like listening to country music with the windows down while wearing your fav swimsuit driving down the country roads with your best friends. Those are the days that we never forget, and the ones we crave to taste again. At the beginning of the summer, I got a sample of what all of my friends and family will be doing for the rest of the summer: going on as if nothing had changed, working those underpaid summer jobs but living life and enjoying the summer freedom.

I've given up the normal college summer routine for this internship. It's still mind boggling to me; I can't believe I have been living in Turkey for 3 weeks now. Crazy. I still have 8 more weeks to go! I'm so excited for all of the traveling left, all of the people to meet, and all of the adventures yet to be had.

This year is different for me. It's different for my family. As close as I am to water I'm not any closer to a decent beach than my hometown in Michigan, nor is my job here any more interesting. It's still summer. But where's that country twang? that freedom feeling you get from the wind between your fingers? I'll tell you where it is: it's on the walk to work when men stare at my roommate and I (boys will be boys *sigh). It's those excursions at night to the park around the corner, being goofy and laughing with your friends. It's on the internet when you talk with anyone you consider to be family on skype. It's on the upper deck of the ferry between Asia and Europe where the wind whips your hair around your face and cools your cheeks against the hot summer sun.

Summer is finally here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday - Happy Hump Day!

First things first, I forgot to tell you about the pictures! I am sorry for the delayed report. The dark cloud of boringness engulfed my life. Thus I forgot. The people at work adored them. They were very excited to see the things and places in the States. Haha it was an afternoon well spent.  I am very appreciative to all of those who sent them (and everyone who mentioned something about it :)). THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! The ladies I work with were also very appreciative. They enjoy learning about the U.S. They like hearing about the States and getting to know me. Also, because there are so few people in the company I'm getting to know them, well most of them, fairly well. One of the ladies even made me a loaf of bread. It's DELICIOUS.

There was a humungo storm earlier today. At first there was just rain, then HAIL (!), which ended in some flooding - Istanbul is built on big hills so there's a lot of water run-off. One of the accountants said he hadn't seen hail in years. Maybe I heard wrong, but that's a crazy long time not to see hail. The storm was so bad that the general manager let people leave early. I didn't leave too early because I had to wait for the service bus regardless. Besides, I wanted to watch as much of the USA-Algeria game as possible. I didn't see much, only the first half an hour or so. That means I didn't get to see the "super-sweet" goal, nor can I find it since youtube is blocked here. Bummer.

I did, however, leave work early enough to stop at the mall for a bit. While I was shopping, it hit me how I miss hanging out with my family and friends. Don't get me wrong, I love it here and I'm having a fabulous time. I just wish it were cheaper to come here so everyone could come visit. I stopped at the pay phone at the mall and took a few minutes to call home. It was good to use a real phone to talk to my family and not just skype. Unfortunately it was only for 2 minutes because that's how much credit I had left. It was definitely worth every second. I love you guys <3.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yep, another dull post...sorry folks!

At first I wasn't too sure about life at Ozyegin University. There weren't any people around, and the rules seemed kind of strict. I'm glad to say that I feel like I'm at college again and not a real, functioning adult. It's definitely a relief to come back from work and see people my age. Not only that, but we speak enough of both languages to communicate. The rules encourage people to get out of the dorms. It's good to just sit outside in the fresh air and talk. It's a relaxing way to end a day.

Today was boring otherwise. Work sucked. I look forward to 5 o'clock because then soccer is on. I've got the office hooked :). When I'm not doing anything at work, I read the news. It's been enlightening to have time to see what's going on in the world. It sounds bad, but I definitely didn't have time to tie my shoes let alone read the news this past spring. I have also realized how much I HATE solitaire. When you lose, you feel frustrated. When you win, you feel like you just wasted that 5 minutes of your life - unsatisfactory from all points.

My water consumption is becoming a more healthy and stable amount. I've given up always using the small bottles. I carry my 1.5L bottle around with me and fill it up. I also drink more water and less tea at work. I'm feeling more lively.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Slow day :(

Today was boring. I didn't do much at work. I had a rough day getting back into the Turkish work world. The weekends can be hard because I don't speak much Turkish with my roommate, who doesn't speak any Turkish! This morning was wasted by trying to translate things that should have taken 5 min. Instead it took 1 hr. Not only that, it still doesn't make sense to me.

I am meeting a lot of the Turkish students here. Most of the school directors think it's good for them to practice English with me, but I need them to practice my Turkish!

Street in Istanbul

 Continuing with the water theme! This is probably the weirdest container I've seen


Beautiful building - I think it's the 4 Seasons Hotel

Haha Posing outside of the Archaeology Museum

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Water, water everywhere

17 days into my adventure. I've adjusted fairly well, I think. Except for the water. 
For a city surrounded by water, it's hard to come by. I don't mean it's scarce, or that you can't buy it. I'm talking about the fact that you have to buy it. Since he tap water is dirty you have to buy the water purified.
 Dirty tap water
When I first realized that I had to buy my water, I flipped. As an American, it would be expensive to always buy bottled water. Luckily here it's cheap. Yesterday I bought a (couple of) 1.5L bottle of water. It cost me 40 kuruş - that's .4 TL (our equivalent to cents). In USD that's .25.  So it's not too bad. The price also goes down when you buy more water. 
I've stopped buying the small ones! The bigger the better

In the States, I drink at least 5L of water a day. I normally carry a water bottle around with me and just refill it as needed. There are places to refill water bottles, but it's different. There aren't drinking fountains. The places to refill water are what we consider to be "Culligan water".
 The "Culligan water" thing at the dorm

There's several of these in my office building, and there's one in the office of my dorm. I've contemplated whether or not to ask the dorm directors if they could put one of those in my room. I'm guessing they wouldn't know how to respond to such a request. When I say that I drink a lot water, people look at me funny and ask why. Sure I drink tea, coffee, orange juice, LEMONADE!, etc. I just like my water. It fixes everything.  It comforts you when you're sad (you need to replenish the water that you cried out), it's a non-alcoholic celebratory drink (nothing like an ice cold glass of water to keep your body numb of happiness), it cures illnesses, AND you can swim in it! I suppose you can swim in a pool of coffee, but who would want to?

Not only do you have to buy water, but you have to plan on how you're going to use it. One of the internship coordinators, Hande, explained to me that she orders a certain amount of water for 1 week and uses it for everything - cooking, washing, cleaning, etc I only want to drink it. Sometimes I feel like I have to ration my water because otherwise I will run out and have to refill late at night or be without. The worst is waking up realizing I've forgotten to refill the night before!

It was a rainy day in Istanbul today. Thus I spent my day inside staring at the water falling from the sky, wishing i could set out my water bottles for them to fill up. Then I took a nap, and I awoke to empty water containers.
ARRRRGGGG!!!! Angry storm clouds!!!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

So many sites, so little time!

SIGHTSEEING!!!! I took the bus this morning to Kadiköy, where I met my friend, Gur, and his mom, Tolunay. We then took the ferry to Karakoy.
The ferry between continents

Tolunay had a meeting/conference thing to attend so we departed ways when we got off the tram. Gur and I started our day at the obelisks that remain from the Hippodrome.
The Obelisk was a gift from the Egyptians

Serpent Column

Turning point for the chariot races at the Hippodrome

Then we walked around some of the backstreets.

Our next stop was the Great Palace Mosaic Museum.



After, we went to Topkapı Palace. It was amazing. I've never seen so many rubies or emeralds! All of them so magnificent. Besides Sultan's belongings, there are religious things on display at the Palace. For example, I saw Moses' stick (supposedly), Muhammad's footprint, Muhammad's beard, Muhammad's sword, the assistant to an assistant of Muhammad's sword, etc. It was very cool.

We toured around the palace more, and then we went to the Archaeology Museum. FLIPPIN SWEET. Another amazing experience. Those sculptures, gravestones, pots, and sarcophagi were so OLD. Ancient. Archaic.
Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great

Unfortunately, we didn't get through a lot of the museum because we were exhausted. We met up with Tolunay and did some shopping. Then we ate dinner. I ate the most intriguing thing. Intestines. It wasn't bad. It tasted kind of weird, but it was edible. Yes, I ate the whole sandwich. After our intestines were full of intestines (hahaha had to say it), we strolled through the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. Whoa. The aromas were intense. I'm not sure if they were good or bad; everything combined was overwhelming.

We then made our way back home. It was definitely more eventful than yesterday! I wish I could add more normal comments underneath pics right now, but I'm really tired. Look for edits soon! I also have more pictures that I will post soon too.