Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Back to reality and routine.  I am taking a religion class, focusing on the relationship between Islam and the West, and another class on the history of Istanbul.  We first had the religion class yesterday, and I definitely feel comfortable with the class, despite my lack of knowledge in the religion.  The professor is Turkish, but his teaching style resembles that of a typical professor at my university: theoretical and intellectual.  He lectured on the sociology of religion and digressed to poli sci topics, all of which I found highly interesting.  Christoff's history class, however, I am quite worried about.  The amount of reading materials borders impractical and impossible, especially for students studying abroad for the summer!  Whenever someone, most likely a religion/history major or one of the graduate students, volunteers to answer with quite impressive figures and facts, he shuts them down with a curt "No."  He says he does not expect much from us, but his "low expectation" obviously constitutes much more than what we know or want to know.  We also took a survival Turkish class.  Most people thought it was useless, but I actually practiced some phrases on the street (at night, when I went out).  Question words like "what?" "where?" "how much?" are the most useful, as are daily interaction phrases and numbers. 

This is such a change in momentum from backpacking in Egypt.  I absolutely loved waking up each morning and starting a new adventure.  Every single day.  Egypt was just so thrilling and challenging.  Istanbul, of course, has so much to explore too, but I move with a big group of students who have different ideas of exploring.  People have been rather immobile due to the hot weather and stomach problems.  The language is kind of an issue too.  Not many Turkish people I have interacted with speak English, or speak well.  I have been eating mostly to sustain myself rather than for an episcurean cause.  I am sure it will only get better.

Craving something more than grilled chicken and bread, a couple of us went out to a restaurant on the bridge.  We got delicious fish, and the restaurant staff tried to rip us off as usual.  The sad thing is that they forgot to add a dish to the bill, so we actually got a huge discount.  On the way back, we stopped by our favorite baklava place to get the 1.5YTL cone of ice cream.  I asked the guy to pack it, to which he definitely complied, because the cone got shattered by the overload.  While we were munching on the ice cream and baklava and whatever else, an old, fragile guy crept up to us- without a word- and placed a  bundle of ancient document and a pen on our table.  Before we could look up to ask about the document, he slipped away.  I at first thought he wanted an autograph, but the document was filled with very neat cursive handwriting and flow diagrams.  What could this mean?  The pages were not numbered consecutively.  We spoke of a possible appearance on the Antique Roadshow and possible conspiracy involving this very important document.  Our favorite waiter, Byram, from next door came over and deciphered the document for us.  It described the map of Istanbul... and was apparently left by one of the customers.  The baklava waiter then took it away.  So much for mystery and conspiracy.
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