Friday, October 30, 2009

Travel Component Part 1 - Istanbul

After a really long week of writing papers and getting very little sleep we’re now in Turkey! We flew in Wednesday morning and it was RAINING! It was really exciting. We took a boat tour on the Bosporus that afternoon, which made me want to move to Istanbul. Maybe I should stop trying to learn Arabic, and get to work on Turkish. We keep accidentally using Arabic here, which is really funny. The shopkeepers look at us like we're insane when we say "shokran"'s so terrible, and really funny at the same time. We also keep trying to cross streets Cairo-style. I hope none of us wind up getting ourselves killed because of it - too bad Turks don't understand the "wait" sign. Yesterday we met with a Turkish journalist in the morning and then went to the Ottoman palace. We had the afternoon free to wander around and look at cheesy tourist stuff. We were going to go the Grand Bazaar, but it was closed because yesterday happened to be Turkey’s independence day. I wound up walking back to our hotel with three other MESPers and we got a little lost. What was supposed to be an hour walk wound up taking us about two hours. It was fantastic!! We got to see a lot of the city. J The fireworks last night were ridiculously impressive – I had a great view from my hotel room. The Turks definitely have a lot of national pride. Seriously every building had at least one flag up yesterday, and most had many flags along with a few pictures of Ataturk for good measure.

Today we met with a representative from the AK Party (it stands for Justice and Development in Turkish – not Alaska, I promise!), which is the current ruling power in Turkey. They fed us tea and cookies. He was a really great speaker and if we were Turkish, they might have instantly wound up with 30 new members. Afterwards we went to the US Consulate which was awesome as well. The security there was crazy though! I was surprised we were able to get our Canadians (the intern Dena and one student), and the Brit (Dr. Heather’s husband is traveling w/ us until Israel) through. The whole complex was very impressive – we kind of took over a whole hill. Also, it’s in Asia! It’s crazy how Istanbul spans two continents!

I'm really not sure what internet access is going to look like the rest of the time we're on the road, and I know they're keeping us really busy, but I'll do my best to keep you updated. We're in Istanbul for a few more days and then headed to Ankara on Tuesday. On Thursday night we're crossing into Syria, and then the next Monday (Nov 9) we'll go to Jordan. The following Wednesday we're going to Israel, where life will get really busy! And then back to Cairo on Nov 25. I'm so excited!

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