Prof. Medina tells us to close our eyes and take a second to step into the Hippodrome, as though we were sitting in the crowd watching the race. It sounds silly but I do it anyway.

“Can you hear the crowd cheering? “ he says.

I studied Latin in high school so classical history has always had a special place in my heart. I’ve always wanted to visit these historic places and I can’t believe I’m here.

My trip back in time is cut short when Jon points out how much bird crap has accumulated on the top of the obelisk.

Prof. Medina, who is a cultural historian, usually teaches in Madrid will be the responsible for facilitating our understanding of several centuries of Byzantine and Ottoman history. I’m thankful for the privilege of having a cultural historian by my side as I explore this space with such a extensively nuanced history. World history has been always been of my favorite subjects but I haven’t had the time to take many courses while at SU.

Knowing the history of Istanbul and the land that it surrounds helps put things into context. It’s possible to understand the current state of Middle Eastern politics without at least some understanding of the Ottoman Empire.

Istanbul is known as the crossroad of the East and West, which has played a significant role in my perception of the city and country. It is considered a part of the Middle East yet it is also a part of Europe. I am curious to see how this blend of cultures influences mannerisms and customs throughout the country. How will they vary from Istanbul?

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Camels are not indigenous to Turkey. Yet here they were in the parking lot of the Goreme open air museum. I am guilty of riding these camels for the purpose of a Snapchat video to send to a friend, fulfilling his orientalist perceptions of Turkey. I thought I knew better but I seem to be mistake.

My guilt about playing role in providing a market for the cruel and misleading camel industry led to further investigate how camels found their way to Cappadocia, which does not have the ideal climate camels thrive in.

“Camels were first brought to Turkey during the Ottoman times and used as draft animals. According to my local source the camel population in Turkey was 25,000 in 1952. But with tractors and other farm technology the need for camels lessened so that today only about 2000 camels call Turkey home.” 

This incident reminded me of this article Erika assigned for us to read about how certain histories are constructed for the purpose of tourism. I’ve thought about that article a lot as reflected on my role in reinforcing Orientalist stereotypes of the ‘the Other.’ It also got me thinking about my role as a tourist and preserving the authenticity of the spaces I enter.

It’s strange how this minor incident with some camels in a parking a lot have caused me to deeply consider the type of traveling I wanted to be. For starters, I want to be maker a deeper effort into understand a space and some of its history before I enter it. Second, I don’t want do things just to cross them off a list which is how this whole camel thing started.

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Joe described being in Cappadocia as a lot like being on the moon, a description I would say is pretty accurate. We arrived to Cappadocia yesterday and it is like no where I have every been to and it feels like what the Grand Canyon might be like.

I’ve lived in big cities all my life and Cappaodica is the closest I’ve ever been to in living nature. Whenever I asked my parents to take me camping as a kid my dad would answer, “We didn’t leave Bangladesh just so you can live in the forest!”

As I grew older my interest in nature waned and I never really cared for being a part of it. Doing things like hiking and swimming never interested me because I was always too paranoid about falling to my death or drowning.

However I promised myself that when I came to Turkey I would make a deep effort to do the things out of my comfort zone, liking hiking up a mountain in the early hours of the morning.

Although I faced I several obstacles in hiking up this mountain, such as almost drowning twice, I did it. I may have been covered in blood, sweat, and tears at the end of it but my soaking wet sneakers and me pulled through.

I don’t what else Turkey has in store for me but after that mountain I am ready for whatever this country wants to throw my way.

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Whoever said that it’s easier for everyone who speaks more than one language to learn a new language is a liar.

My fourth survival Turkish class was this morning and my brain is starting to reach capacity for languages. Turkish will be the fourth modern language I have studied.  Aside from English I can speak Bengali fluently, I can understand Hindi/Urdu but not really speak it, and I’m working on my Arabic. Since all of these languages have huge Muslim populations they use many of the same words. Sometimes in class when Nuray asks me a question in Turkish my brain gets confused and I’m not sure which language to answer in.

During our briefing Erika asked us if any of us spoke Turkish. No one raised they hands (Turkish 101 was not offered last Fall at SU).

This lack of fluency in Turkish has caused me to heavily rely on my perceptual acuity. I’ve noticed that I have become more attentive to body language and facial expressions to understand what’s happening around me.

One of my favorite past times is people watching. In the U.S. when there’s nothing to do my friends and I enjoy stationing ourselves at a coffee shop and discretely coming up with stories for the people passing by. I don’t have anyone in Istanbul to do this with, mostly because this is a sort of unsettling activity to bring up to people.

I tried people watching in Kadikoy today and it was challenging. Whenever a group of people are near me and laughing I always assume they’re laughing at me because I don’t understand what they’re saying.

What’s comforting to me is that millions of people all over do this and my own parents have even done this before. The more I think about this the more I realize that living in a new country where I don’t know the language doesn’t feel as daunting anymore.

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“You can’t understand this city if you can’t understand the Bosporus.” Erika says as we commence our tour. It’s freezing today and and the rain feels sharp as it hits my face but we’re not letting that stop us from going on our boat tour of Istanbul via the Bosporus strait, which empties into the Black Sea and the Aegean.

One of the first things I noticed when during our drive to Kadiköy from the airport was the Bosphorus. As we crossed the bridge I was amazed by how bustling it was with all its ferries, boats, fishermen. It’s a deep kind of blue that is thankfully nothing like the Hudson River or the East River. The thought of dipping my feet in the Hudson river makes me cringe.

As we continued our boat tour Burak pointed out important landmarks and places we will be visiting soon. We were supposed to be paying attention to what Burak is saying and marking it down on our maps but my paper blew away into the Bosporus. I’m a little glad I did because after the paper blew away I was able to focus on the things Burak was point out.

Amidst the fog and icy rain I notice the site of minarets dotting the skyline. I smile because it finally hits me that this is going to be my home for the next couple of months.

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