Tuesday, August 13, 2013

One Year Later: Lessons from the Land of Atatürk

As I'm basking in the glow of college graduation (read: freaking out about the future), it's more clear than ever how transformative my semester in Turkey was for my life and perspective. Although, even a year later, I still don't believe that I've fully processed the experience, there are several lessons that I have taken from my 5 months in the land of Atatürk. I never thought it was possible to learn so much about myself, another country, and life in such a short time, but İstanbul proved me so very, very wrong.

Take everything as an adventure. 
Whether it was running errands or taking a spontaneous weekend trip, I learned to look at everything that I did in Turkey as an adventure, most of which turned out to be a learning experience. Whether it was trying something that I was apprehensive about, or wandering around the city to find a nargile cafe, we all seemed to adopt the mantra, "que será, será" - what will be, will be. The days that we spent going through the bazaars or about town with little or no plan were the most fun and most educational. I've tried to maintain this sense of adventure since leaving Turkey, and it has opened new doors and helped me look forward to new experiences and changes, rather than dread them.

Never, ever, judge a book by its cover.
Sitting in the smoky Meydan Pub on our first evening in Sarıyer with a bunch of old Turkish men is still one of my favorite memories. Although I didn't realize at the time, it was a classic experience - Rakı, laughs, conversations, and awkward language barrier moments. However, to find the pub, we asked a man on the street where we could find Rakı, then followed him through an unmarked door and up some creaky steps. We had strength in numbers, so it wasn't dangerous, but I would never have chosen to go to that pub of my own accord. You never know what gem you can find when you keep an open mind. (I promise - I didn't intend that to rhyme.)

Everyone should be an outsider for a while.
The greatest learning experience I had while in Turkey was that of being an outsider. I've always lived in a predominantly white community, with people who speak my language and know my area and background. You can attempt to understand what it is like to be the "them" in a society, rather than the "us," but until you're the one that doesn't understand the language, doesn't know the streets, and lacks the common knowledge of the locals, you can't understand the disadvantage. As a student, and especially with my background, I still held a place of privilege in the city, but being the outsider taught me a great deal about the importance of humility and treating one another with respect, compassion, and understanding.

The greatest legacy that I think Turkey left to me was the people that I met. I learned so much from the Turks that I lived with and knew, and made life-long friends from my own country and others. I hope to be able to return soon. They say that if you leave İstanbul for more than ten years, you won't recognize it. İnşallah, this won't happen to me. Türkiye, seni seviyorum. Her şey için teşekkürler.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Very TIT Moment...

We're sitting on the bus to town this afternoon, in the middle of an intersection, and all of a sudden the driver opens the door and starts yelling "gel, gel, gel!" (hard g) (essentially, "come on!") Keep in mind, this is not a dolmuş, but a public Istanbul Metrobus. On runs this kid with a giant water jug (one of the 10 gallon ones), full of some milky-colored liquid. He drops it with the driver, bolts back through the traffic. The driver closes the door and drives us on our merry way. Hallie looks at me: "TIT moment."

Whenever something happens that is just very, inexplicably, Turkey, we say "This is Turkey" or "TIT." I've had an unusual amount of TIT moments recently, making me reflect on my time here, which is shortly coming to an end. I am ready for a temporary change of scenery and pace, and so very excited to see family and friends from whom I've been separated for 4 months, but the thought of boarding a plane in 10 days makes me want to chain myself to a lamp pole in Sarıyer. The weathers getting nicer, my Turkish is getting better, and I finally feel a sense of belonging at Koç, in Sarıyer, and in İstanbul. 

To make matters worse, we had our CIEE farewell dinner Saturday night. We all met (probably the first time since the beginning of the semester that we were all in the same room) at a Meyhane in Taksim for a long night of Rakı, mezes, stories, and dancing. It was fabulous, but a terrible reminder that the semester is over, and we have to return soon. Amy took some wonderful photos.

Everyone in the group submitted superlatives, and the lovely Jennifer and Emily compiled them and presented them during dinner. I won "most likely to be bumped into and apologize for it." Amy thinks I am too nice and cooperative, and has been "working on my meanness" all semester. I get mad at her, but it's certainly not the worst superlative to have! This is Terry, and he won "most likely to be doing something American in Turkey." He and Trae were ordering Dominos the first week. :) Some of my other favorites were Hallie's - "most likely to bet you she'll win" - and Amy's - "most likely to win a nobel prize, then lose it in the airport." Hallie is constantly betting on everything, and usually winning (she'll tell you she never loses, but nobody's perfect... We'll get her one day) and Amy is, although crazy intelligent, slightly lacking in organizational skills and actually lost a shoe in the airport. 

This is Me, Hallie, Akshata and Amy, fondly referred to as HAAM. We've traveled this country and others together, and I could not be more thankful that we found each other. I'll miss these girls next semester, but it's alright because we're already planning a fall reunion in D.C. and Amy WILL be coming to Maine this summer. :) 

Goofy photo! The false mustache phenomenon of 2012 started on the group trip to Ankara, when Jennifer and Emily found some false mustaches at a rest-stop somewhere in Nowhereland, Turkey. They wore them almost the whole bus trip, then made an appearance the last night as we disembarked from the airplane... Lots of stares from confused Turks, but we thought it was hilarious. Anyway, someone brought a few to dinner, and they were passed all around the table. 

After dinner we went out dancing for a while, and just enjoyed the city we've come to love. A few tear-enducing speeches were made, and cards were handed to Kathryn, Koray, and Pınar, the wonderful CIEE staff who made our whole semester possible. 

Once I'm done with finals, I'll do some more reflecting on the experience, but for now I can't really bear to think about it! Sydney's coming on Saturday, and I'll effectively be moving off campus to stay with her in Taksim, then we head home together on Thursday, May 31st. Can't wait to show her my city, but I know with her comes the close of an amazing and enlightening semester, and it just doesn't seem possible. I want to go home, I just desperately don't want to leave. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but it's what I'm feeling. For those of you in the States, I can't wait to see you, and for those of you I've met, you've been amazing, and I can't wait to see you again. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ελλάδα (Greece!)

This weekend, I checked off the last item on my international travel bucket list for the semester! I knew it wasn't realistic (time wise or economically) to try and visit everywhere I wanted this semester, so I chose two places that I really wanted to go: Italy and Greece. As you probably know, Hallie and I went to Italy for Spring Break, and then Will, Akshata, Amy and I finally got to Greece last Thursday! It was a short, hot(!), two-day trip, but we packed in a lot. The first day (Friday, as we arrived around 11pm on Thursday) we headed straight to the Acropolis and spent most of the day there. Here it is from the top of the Acropolis Museum.

As you climb up to the top, there are tons of ruins that you walk through. However, they're all dwarfed by the Parthenon and temples found at the summit. Here's the view of Athens from the top.

Here's the classic, touristy Parthenon photo!

These are the goddesses (there's a name for them but I can't quite remember it) that watch over the city. There's another set of them on the other side of the temple.

After you reach the top, you wind your way back down through the Ancient Agora (market), which is now essentially an olive grove with some rocks in it. The olive trees were beautiful, however. Here's one:

Also in the Agora were tons of little creatures. We found a cat and a turtle. Here they are:

Here's the cat with Will, who's trying to coax it over to play. It wouldn't oblige, but was happy to tease him a bit.

There were also thousands of wild Poppies, which always make me think of my grandmother. They were gorgeous and everywhere - I wish there were more like this at home!

After we finished at the Acropolis, we stopped for lunch and then headed to the Acropolis Museum. It is new and absolutely amazing - the best museum I've visited hands-down. It's built on top of uncovered ruins, and has glass floors so that you can see them below the galleries. They've also recreated the relief that ran all the way around the Parthenon from fragments that have been recovered as well as reproductions. It was beautiful! There were no photos allowed, sorry! After, we were off to the remains of the Temple of Zeus. Apparently many of the pillars were overturned during a huge storm many years ago, so this is all that remains.

It was now about 6pm, so we headed back to the hotel to shower, relax for a bit, and figure out the plan for the rest of the day and Saturday. We ended up going to dinner at this cafe called Commerce in the newer part of Athens. It was wonderful, we stayed way too long, but the waiter ended up giving us this whopping piece of cake to split on the house. It was amazingly delicious!

When they starting closing down, we decided it was time to leave, and headed back to the hotel. The next morning was an early one! We caught a 7:30 bus to Delphi for the day, and the bus station was across town. We had a bit of a scare because we rode the metro in, then hopped on a city bus, intending to stop at the bus station stop. However, we missed it, and ended up having to run back from the next station. Luckily we got there just in time, boarded the bus, and quickly fell asleep for the 3 hour ride. We had debated whether or not to make the hike to Delphi, but it was absolutely, unequivocally worth it! Athens is a neat city, but only really for its ruins and history. There isn't much else there, and it isn't a particularly beautiful or clean city. Delphi was the absolute opposite. Everyone we met was nice and willing to help, the area and views were amazing, as evidenced by the photo below:

We spent the day climbing through the temple, gymnasium and city ruins on the cliffside. Here's Amy, Akshata, me and Will:

I can't imagine how difficult it was to originally build these structures. Much like Perugia, you are literally on a mountain side, and these buildings were erected long before the evolution of machinery that could do the work for you.

We arrived back in Athens late that afternoon. Amy and I had to be back to school by Sunday afternoon, so we went online to check in for our flight that was scheduled for early the next morning. However, we logged on to find out that our flight had been cancelled, and we'd been put on a flight Sunday evening. So, we frantically called Turkish Airlines, who easily put us on a flight Saturday night at 9:50... giving us about 4 hours to pack and head to the airport. We arrived with little problem, although we were a little upset that our trip had been cut short. Overall, I would probably not go back to Athens in a hurry, but I'm anxious to go back to Greece and explore the rural areas more! I'd love to make a trip to one of the islands, too - we simply didn't have enough time this trip.

I've loved seeing so many places, but I'm really excited to be on campus for a while. I'm only in Turkey for 24 more days, and I want to enjoy Istanbul and Sarıyer a bit more before I leave!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ankara, Konya and Brunch on the Black Sea

Last weekend, CIEE made a study trip to Ankara and Konya. It was short, 3 days, but jam-packed. We began on Friday at 7:30am and made the 6 hour drive to Ankara, arriving just after 2. We stopped at a restaurant for Mantı (a lamb-stuffed Turkish noodle with yogurt and spices on top - delicious, but filling) and baklava before heading to our first sight, the Ankara archaeology museum. We saw some neat artifacts, but frankly I think that most of us are pretty ruin-ed out at this point in the semester. I never knew it was possible to have so many ruins in one country. After, we took a walking tour of the Ankara citadel - basically the highest point of the city where there's an old fortress. While also ruins, this was cool for a few reasons: The Turks are hilariously irreverent to the Romans who occupied this land before the Ottomans. Here you can see how Roman ruins have been used to aid in the construction of the city walls. There are chunks of temples, columns, reliefs, etc... that are just used as other bricks - often placed sideways.

I think that the Turks understood our Roman ruin overload, and were aiming for comic relief. We climbed to the top of the fortress walls, to see some beautiful views of the city:

One of the things that I did appreciate was the amount of green in the city. Very unlike the Istanbul I've come to know and love. 

Students had the evening free, so a bunch of us found a student cafe to have dinner and relax in. The next day we woke up and headed immediately to Atatürk's Mausoleum. This was an incredibly unique experience. The compound was HUGE, and filled with Turks of all ages - tons of school trips, tourists, and older people. It become quickly clear that this is somewhere that people make a pilgrimage to, and understandably given the high level of nationalism in Turkey (There's a post on this and a few more observations I've made coming down the pike... bear with me!). When you enter, you walk down this huge walkway with high bushes, shielding the mausoleum itself and the courtyard at the end. It all comes upon you at once, and you are greeted with an overbearing Parthenon-looking building. There are approximately 10 people paid to stand there with huge Turkish flags, waving them around (as you can see in the photo below. 

Only a certain number of people are allowed in the chamber at once, so we had to wait in line. One of the kids in our group, Will (below), made some friends with elementary school kids. Will's Turkish is impeccable for the amount of time that he has spent studying it, and the kids were amused by his ability. The rest of us stood around, smiling at the adorable kids and mumbling the occasional ''evet'' (yes) and tamam (okay). 

When we were finally herded into the chamber, we were greeted with Atatürk's large and empty coffin, as he's buried deep below the surface in Islamic tradition. There's a wreath in front (there's someone standing in front of it in the photo below) that is changed about every 10 minutes, swapped with an identical one made of flowers from different areas of the country. While we were there, they laid the wreath from İzmir. 

We barely had time to stuff a refreshing popsicle into our mouths before heading back to the bus and on to Konya. As I think I mentioned in an earlier post, Konya is the home of Mevlana Rumi, the founder of the Mevlani Order of Sufi Islam. This is the sect that practices via whirling dervish ceremonies. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice (as I was before I came to Turkey), the whirling dervishes wear long, white (symbolic) dress robes and caps while spinning in circles in order to make a connection with Allah. They hold one hand palm-up, to symbolize what they are receiving from Allah, and one hand palm-down, to symbolize them passing on their blessings to the people on earth. Atatürk outlawed the Sufi lodges in which these ceremonies are had, through his secularization efforts. The only ceremonies legally allowed now are those put on for tourists in theaters. There are, however, still some hidden lodges that exist. One of the friends of our director had a connection to one of the lodges in Konya, and the leader was willing to host our group during their usual ceremony. Because it's hidden, the bus was not able to bring us up to the building itself. So, we were basically dropped on the side of the road, and hiked through the woods a bit to get there. It was absolutely worth it. When we arrived, we sat down and were given glasses of Turkish tea. The leader then explained the entire ceremony, the symbolism, what it takes to become a dervish, and a bit about Mevlani Sufism, before proceeding with the normal ceremony. We were not allowed to take photos, as this was a religious experience and not a tourist attraction, but here is a youtube video that shows a whirling dervish ceremony. 

What I was unaware of was the fact that this ceremony was an experience both for the dervish and for the onlookers. One woman near where I was sitting was moved to tears by the ceremony. It was really beautiful, and I really appreciated the opportunity to see an authentic Sufi lodge, rather than the ceremonies put on for show in tourist centers. 

The next day we only had one sight on our agenda: Çatalhöyük. It is this large archaeological dig outside of Konya, that has been the origin of some of the most famous cave and wall paintings. Here is a photo of one of the dig sights. I have to be honest, it wasn't the most exciting thing I've ever seen, especially as most of it was covered in sand bags and the interesting parts have been removed. Additionally, the tents that were erected to preserve the sight essentially cut it off from the outside world making it uncomfortable hot and dry inside - I would not be at all surprised if the temperature exceeded 120 degrees Fahrenheit. We had an archaeologist that gave us a tour, however, and he was excited enough for all 23 of us. It's hard not to find it a little interesting when your guide thinks it is the center of the universe. 

After Çatalhöyük, we were headed to the airport. While we were waiting, we played this game called celebrity heads - each person is given a sticky note with a celebrity's name on it, which they stick on their forehead. You are not allowed to look at your own sticky, but everyone can see it, and you try to figure out who you are by asking questions to the other players. It was really fun, and made for great entertainment, I am sure, for the other people at the airport. One of the security guards came over and peeled the sticker off one girls head, looked at it, smirked, stuck it back on, and continued on his way. I'm sure all the little kids were asking their parents, "what are those weird Americans doing?" 

After a short, but bumpy, plane ride, and a longer bus ride, we were finally back at school. It was a great weekend, but I'm glad to be back on campus for a while!


May 1st is International Workers' Day, which is celebrated like Labor Day in the US. We had the day off from classes, so we decided to visit one of the Black Sea beaches a little north of school. So, on Tuesday morning, we went to town, picked up our obligatory brunch items - balkaymak, ekmek, karişik meyve suyu, peynir, olives,  jam, and the freshest strawberries (çilekler) I've ever had - and hopped on a dolmuş to Kilyos. When we arrived, we found a great little town, and a long, long beach. The size of it reminded me of Popham at home. Here's our brunch spread:

Here's a photo looking our to the Black Sea. You may not be able to see them very well, but there are about 30 oil tankers hanging out off shore, waiting for their turn to enter the Bosphorus. 

Here's a photo of the town itself. It's cut from a panoramic photo I took, so please excuse the quality... 

It was a great way to spend our day off, although I should have been doing homework... I hope to get back to Kilyos before I leave - it's just very beautiful, and not crowded, like much of the area. Hope everyone back home also had a great week! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Italia! Perugia - Florence - Venice - Milan

*If you missed my first post about the beginning of our trip (Naples, Vatican City and Rome), and wish to read it, you can do so here.

Both Hallie and I had friends from school studying in Perugia. Hallie's friend Adam had spent the weekend in the South with some friends, so met us at the train station for our ride north. Visiting Perugia was arguably the best decision we made all week. We had debated it, knowing that there wasn't much there in the way of big-ticket sights and tourist attractions, which, ironically, made it as great as it was. When we arrived, we met my friend, Rebecca, and the four of us went on a brief tour of town. Perugia is called the city on a hill, which is very apt. We were very high up, making for great fews and MANY steps. There are even escalators in some parts of the city to make it accessible. It also had a "mini metro" which was a tiny metro car on a small track that went to a few places in the town. Here's a photo I grabbed from google (I was trying my hardest not to look touristy in this town, so no original photos...)

Cute, right? Anyway, one of the first views we saw was this:

The city at the base of the hill in the background is Assisi. By the end of the evening, we were becoming a bit jaded by the expansive, green, fairy tale views. Here is an aqueduct that was converted into a foot path, we used it on our tour.

Here is the other side of Perugia - I believe this is the more residential area.

That evening we (okay, Adam) cooked dinner at Adam's house - homemade pasta from his family, with pancetta and a delicious homemade spicy marinara sauce he made, with salad and bread on the side. Amazing! We were lucky to have some really good home cooked food during our break, we don't make the effort enough in Istanbul...

The next morning Hallie and I woke up and did some exploring while Rebecca and Adam were in class. Here's a photo of some of the stairs in Perugia. I forgot to mention, Adam had to climb something like 250   steps to get to class... A lot of work, but they'll all have amazing legs by the end of the semester!

Adam had told us to find this museum complex on the edge of town. Below is a small church that we found on the way. Rebecca told us that Martin Luther (father of Lutheran Church) preached here once on a journey.

Next to the church, there was a small castle-like building that held a museum of Perugia. The museum was interesting, but the best part was that you could climb to the roof and soak in a view of the entire city. Here are some shots:

That was about all the time we had in Perugia. We grabbed sandwiches and cannolis for the train ride to Florence and headed to the train station... We were on our way again!

We arrived in Florence around 4pm. Our hostel was within walking distance of the train station, and not too far from the major sights, so we dropped our luggage and headed out. Our first stop was Il Duomo - the famous cathedral that steals the skyline of Florence. Here's a photo from the outside:

You climb 463 steps to the cupola for a panoramic view of the city.

We then continued our exploration by crossing the river on the Ponte Vecchio. It's one of four bridges in the world with buildings built across the entire length. Another is in Bursa, Turkey! I believe the other two are both in Sofya, Bulgaria. Anyway, the bridge is filled with gold and silver shops, so we ogled a bit before moving on. After a long day and a long climb at the Duomo, we decided it was time for dinner. We headed back into the center of town and grabbed some pasta (shocker!) at a little bistro. Here's the Ponte Vecchio from the next bridge:

The next morning we woke up and got in line (in the rain...) at the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. The line took about an hour, but we'd made a lot of our goals for Florence the day before, so we didn't mind waiting. It was worth it - everything in the gallery was interesting and worthwhile, but David was truly amazing. The statue was about three times the size I thought it would be, and unbelievably realistic. The hands especially were crazy detailed. Unfortunately, no cameras in the gallery!

That afternoon we shopped our way through Florence, had lunch at the Piazza della'Republica and climbed to Michelangelo's Piazza. The piazza is a public terrace on the edge of the city that most people told us had the best view in Florence. It had rained on and off all day, but mother earth was nice enough to break up the clouds when we reached the top! It was a great way to end our stay in Florence!

We had dinner that evening at a restaurant that Adam had recommended, before grabbing some gelato and heading to bed. The next morning we had breakfast, did some last minute shopping, and headed to the train station - We were off to Venice!

When we arrived at the train station, we needed to take the water bus to our hostel. It was so neat!

When only had about 24 hours in Venice, so we dropped out bags and headed out. We immediately headed to the Grand Canal, finding Piazza San Marco, and the Cathedral of Venice. Here's a view from the Piazza out over the grand canal:

I would guess about half of the streets in Venice are canals, like in the photo below. As a person who loves boats and water, I was in love. I could see how difficult it could be to live there without a boat however, especially as the water bus is 6.50 euros, about 9-10 dollars, per ride. It could get expensive!

Our evening in Venice was a bit of a roller coaster. We found a restaurant on our Lonely Planet Italy App (yes, there's an app for that...) that looked promising on paper. However, when we arrived, we were the only ones in the whole place, and the family who owned it was sitting in the back half of the restaurant, looking as though they were having a family meal. We were told we could choose a table, and this woman in a dirty t-shirt came out and asked us a few questions. "Ravioli o Tagliatelle? Pollo o Carne? Salata? Vino?" We were a little concerned, especially when our wine came and tasted watered down and old, but our fears were allayed when a man came back out with two steaming dishes of delicious and fresh looking pasta. It was amazing - I don't think I've ever had a more fresh marinara sauce. The rest of dinner was not quite as good, the chicken (we both had the pollo) came on a huge plate with just a small piece of unflavored chicken in the middle. The restaurant itself was decorated with (I can't make this up) what looked like happy meal toys, and one corner had a display of cellphones hanging from the ceiling. I wish we had taken a photo, but it was really awkward with the family staring at us in silence throughout the entire meal. We quickly grabbed the check and headed out when we were done. Throughout the whole meal we kept looking at each other trying desperately not to laugh or crack an awkward smile so as not to be disrespectful to the family. The rest of the evening was a great  success - we walked around a bit before grabbing some wine and cannolis to enjoy on one of the gondola docks (don't worry, there's no open bottle policy in Venice - or Italy, I believe...). We just relaxed and admired the city lit up at night.

The next day it was pouring, so when we woke up and checked out of the hostel, we bolted to a cafe and settled there for a bit. When we left, we visited a museum and grabbed some lunch for the train before heading to Santa Lucia Station. I would have loved to have spent more time (in the sun!) in Venice, but I think we did a good job with the time we had! Here I am right before we left, during a break in the rain.

After Venice, we were headed to Milan - our last city. Our train to Milan was the longest, about 3.5 hours, so we didn't arrive until about 7pm. When we arrived we dropped our luggage and headed out in hopes of finding the Cathedral of Milan. After walking a long way in the rain and darkness, we realized that we were heading in the wrong direction... Funny now, but not amusing after a long day (week!) of traveling and rain. It was fine, we just headed back and stopped for dinner. We got back to the hostel around 11 and decided to go to bed.

The next morning we slept in, then headed to a cafe for breakfast. We had, what we'd been having all week, an Italian breakfast - cappuccino and a pastry. For some reason, it was the best breakfast we'd had all week. The cappuccino was amazing, and we both had nutella croissants (yum!). After breakfast, we headed to the Duomo (to which we had excellent directions this time). I didn't take too many photos because it was raining, but this gives you an idea of how ornate the Cathedral is. Beautiful! It was free to go inside, and raining, so we decided to explore. It was gorgeous inside - large stone pillars and dark wood made it very warm and relaxing.

After the Duomo, we headed to a gallery nearby. We were able to see an exhibit of Di Vinci's Atlantic Codex - primarily including his sketches of wings and flying devices. The man really wanted to fly! There was also the famous fruit bowl still life (I don't know the title or the artist... for shame!), and a few other interesting pieces. Hallie and I agreed that, while we enjoyed Italian art, we were done with Madonna and child and awkward renaissance babies by the end of the week...

After the gallery, it had cleared off a bit, so we grabbed some lunch at an outside cafe. We then walked through a large park, arriving at the Arch of Peace, below.

There is a small plaza around the arch (as you can see), and there was a group of people gathering there to have a giant pillow fight. If I remember, the kids in the photo above were heading over with their pillows to join. We would have stayed to watch, but we had to head to our big finale - an AC Milano soccer game! We hopped on the metro, found the stadium, bought our AC Milano scarves, bought our beer with the rest of the Italian men, and picked up our tickets - we were ready to go!

We found our seats, a little early, but we did some people watching.

This was the loud section - we're guessing they're season ticket holders... We were ecstatic - we'd heard stories about how awesome Italian soccer games are, and we couldn't wait to experience it first hand. I think that Italians could give Turks a run for their money in regards to loyalty to and excitement for their soccer teams.

And then... guess what? The match was postponed. Apparently something had happened on another team and the umbrella soccer organization had ordered that all matches be cancelled that weekend. We were bummed. Not only that, but it was raining, and we had to wait outside to see about refunds. After about an hour or so, they handed out slips of paper with a number to call. Right now we're working on proving to them that we were at the game so that we can be refunded... Not a great way to end a fabulous week, but it didn't darken any of the wonderful memories!

We found some dinner quickly that night and headed back to the hostel (after we'd navigated the hoards of people leaving the stadium). The next morning we slept in, had breakfast, then headed to the Airport. Aside from the 2 hour delay, everything else went smoothly. We were in our rooms in Sariyer by midnight.

I honestly think that we couldn't have done it better if we'd tried. It was the first time that Hallie and I both had planned and executed a trip like that by ourselves, and I'm really proud of us! We named our trip "A Taste of Italy" - which is exactly what it was. We didn't want to leave and wanted more time in all of the cities, but we saw so much, and are both dying to go back.

This weekend, CIEE is going to Ankara, Turkey's capital, and then spending a night at a Sufi Lodge in Konya, where the whirling dervishes originated. Wish me luck - I'm almost travelled out!