Saturday, December 13, 2008

hi all,
Iyi bayramlar! Happy holidays. The whole of Turkey (or at least the ones that are not self-employed) has had the last week off of work. For me it was extra happy, because Phil came to visit me again.
This time we did less sight seeing, and more relaxing. And (important!): sinterklaas had found a way to drop of his gifts even in the heart of Istanbul. With two other Dutch girls (from Utrecht even) we had a nice diner at the terrace, a sinterklaas-first for me.
But, all good things come to an end and so I have eaten my last pepernoot already and Phil is back home. But I realised that, eventhough I am missing you all a lot, I am happy that I am not going home myself yet.
So, with Phil gone, and most of the exchangestudents out of the country for dazling bayram-trips (Syria, Kuweit, Black-sea, Cracow) I decided that I too was entitled to an adventure and what would be more fitting when your house has no heating or hot water: I went to the local Hamam (see picture). It was a tiny place, with one room for undressing, which also housed the registar and had the two hamam-ladies having breakfast in it. I decided to not go completely naked, which I later, when other girls started entering, found out to be a perfect guess. I washed myself for a while, with nice hot water from a bucket, while sitting on a big hot stone in the middle of the small hamam. Then the friendly, big and (almost) naked lady came back in and ordered my friendly to go lie down on the hot stone. She completely scrubbed and washed me and I got an amazing oil-massage. All without a word of English, but she was nice and I decided to just surrender. It was an amazing experience, and it has both a modern and an ancient feel to it, because it is such an old and elaborate ritual, while at the same time it also resembles a modern spa. After one and a half hour I was outside again, reborn!
With this being my warm-adventure, let me tell you about my icy-cold adventure: a day in Ankara. Every Turk I know adviced me against it, but I wanted to see the capital. I decided one day would be enough and bought a night-train ticket there, to buy another one for the night of the morning I arrived. Ankara was less boring and depressing than everyone had told me, but it was so much colder than I expected! Dian, I forgot your head, so I immediatly had to buy a new one, not nearly as nice as yours, but otherwise I would have lost my ears (and mind) I think.
Well, thanks to my ever-loyal Lonely Planet, I managed to see 2 interesting museums, the biggest mosque in the country and Ataturks mausoleum. The mosque was facinating, cause it was huge and busy (a 3-double funeral and friday-afternoon prayer) and very new. I never saw a mosque with its own parking-garage underneath.
Ataturks mausoleum was also impressive. On top of a huge hill it is surrounded by all sorts of memorial buildings and a huge underground museum about the War of Independence. Considering all the poo-haa that he is usually surrounded with, his actual tomb was beautifully simple in a big empty hall.
Then I figured I had seen enough, had walked enough and was cold enough, so I got my self a big cup of hot chocolate and read my book on the history of Turkish nationalism in the starbucks.
Now I am all ready and rested for my last 3 weeks of school. 3 weeks! My parents are coming for Christmas and Sara is coming for New Years. I am very excited for all of this and hope they will fall in love with Istanbul as well.
Then, the 24th I will already be heading home again. I know I will be ready then, but for now I want to try and really make the most of these last weeks.
I wish you all an amazing Christmas and New Years where ever you are going to be,
bayram-greetings from here,
xx sacha

Monday, November 17, 2008

Re-doing my tourist visa

This morning I returned from my little weekend trip to Yunanistan (Greece). I left friday evening, after my sociology mid-term test (only one question: 'was Durkheim a male chauvinist pig?', unbelievable!). I was not too enthusiastic at first because I was going all by myself, so I brought some books, but I immediately met a nice girl who was also going to Thessaloniki, to re-do her visa. The bus dropped us of early in the morning, luckily not too far from the city centre. Linn, the girl I met, had the address of a guy that lived in town and we ended up couch-surfing that evening at his place (see picture). He was very nice and took us around town the first day. It was nice to walk next to the sea. We saw the big statue of Alexander the Great and many, many Orthodox Churches, in which people were very actively praying and kissing the icons. Also in neighborhoods were you in the Netherlands would see a mosque (more newly build houses) or completely no religious buildings, there were now newly erected churches (see picture). But there were also very old churches, old city walls and towers and a very nice ethnological museum that we visited the next day. Sunday evening we left in the sleepers-train, which was very comfortable. At 3 o'clock we had to get out and show are passport and buy the visa we had undertaken all of this for. This morning I arrived in the middle of Istanbul with the train, it was very interesting to see the city just all of a sudden begin in the middle of grasslands and than slowly evolve into this massive colossal metropolis at the end of the train-line.
Well, that was my little visa-adventure. Not too much of an adventure, but I liked it. 
The winter has really started here, or at least, it is very gray, but still not cold. Hope you are hanging in there at home. Enjoy Sinterklaas's company!
xxx sacha 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes they did!

hi all,

just a few pictures from the Democrats Abroad event I went to with some US-exchange students here. It was a lot of fun, very interesting to have CNN on. I didn't get home before 5 and completely overslept for my classes today, but it was well worth seeing this historical day. I can recommend all the clip of Obama's victory-speech: beautiful! I really really hope he can deliver. For me it is not even so much what he literally promises as for policy-points, but more the fact that so many Americans were willing to vote for someone with his message. It is amazing to see the hope of all these people. That they are choosing for a positive and open view to the world, for a fundamental change, and of course, for an African American president. I can almost not even imagine his face as the face of the US. But it is now! Some commentators said that this is the best thing to happen for their international image, after the winning of WW II. 
Well, anyway, just to show how it was to follow it here. I hope you enjoyed it too. 
x sacha

Monday, November 3, 2008

Having visitors in Istanbul

sorry for neglecting my posts, but  here is a new one:

so much has happened! Of course the visit of Phil and Arie and Anneloes was the highlight of the past month. It was really nice to hang out together and we saw a lot of the must-sees of this beautiful city.  Traffic was horrible the day they arrived, so I was way to late to pick them up from the airport, but we found each other and even were on time for the Jazz concert that I had tickets for for that evening. It was really gezellig, and it was a good way for me to realize how special this city really is and how much I had already seen of it and how much there still was to see. It was a nice homely and familiar bubble to be floathing around in for 10 days.  And I could even treat my guests to a powercut and a cockroach, so they now know all the daily details of my stay here. 
When Arie and Anneloes left Phil and me left for the Kapadocia region. Beautiful! Since the 4th century Christian communities have lived there (in the centre of Anatolia) and carved their houses and churches etc out of huge rockformations. (see pictures). It was really cold there though, and I was happy that Phil had brought my wintercoat. We had a nice hostel and met some funny people. The region was beautiful to just hike through, as we did in the afternoons. And there were some spectacular caves that were turned into museums that showed the real cave-dwellings and even an entire underground city. They think the city went about 28 floors deep, but we could only go down to the 6th since it was otherwise too dangerous. We even went on a tour (hilarious, never felt like such a tourist), but it was absolutely worth it because we got to see lots of things that we would otherwise not have seen. The food was really nice, much cheaper than in Istanbul, but not any bars or anything like that. 
Then we left for Konya, the most religious city in the country, about the size of Utrecht. It had a nice relaxed atmosphere, and we found a decent hotel. The city doesn't get many tourist, but it does receive many many pelgrims, since it is the Mevlana capital of the world. Mevlana are the whriling derwishes, the mystic movement of Islam. That it was more concervative we noticed imediatly when having lunch. We went into a little soup/doner-place and I noticed people kept staring at me. At first I thought it was because they are not so used to western tourist, but then I noticed I was the only girl in the whole place. The staff of the tiny restaurant was very normal to us, but all the other people kept staring. When two girls entered I was relieved, until I saw them enter a basement-room that had a sign 'aile-oda'. I knew 'oda' means 'room', and the dictionary told me that 'aile' means 'family'. Then I remembered that, in places where they have such a room, women are expected to take place there. Oops! We based ourselves on the reaction of the people working at the restaurant and not on that of the guests, so we stayed where we were, cause otherwise we had to move all our plates etc. But it made it clear that we had to be a little more careful with where to sit next time. 
That evening we went to a cultural centre where the Derwish gave a performance/service/training-session. In a huge indoor-dome, filled with locals and pilgrims and a few western tourists, we could watch them. There were a few Derwish that were obviously very important and they led the ceremony. There was music and a men singing in Arabic. Honestly, I think that language is designed more for being written than for singing, or at least it sounded very difficult to do. But it did bring the dancers in trance and us too a bit. The dancing was magical. The men dancing were a group who were in training, I think. It was impressive how smooth everything went and how concentrated they were. Even the youngest ones, about 10 years old, were focussed, and even the oldest ones, about 60, were gracious. 
Back in Istanbul Phil and I took it really easy. Seeing an amazing exhibit on Dali, studying a bit and just enjoying each others company. 
Now Phil went home and for me my student life has really began, since up to now it was just one prolonged holiday. Midterms are coming up and essay deadlines are approaching. But I guess it is good, since I need to stay in some what of a shape for UC next semester. 
One of the things I did recently that I really liked was writing an article for the UC-newspaper, the Boomerang. It will be out in not too long, so if you want mail me or phil and I am sure one of us can arrange you a copy. 
Well, that is about it. Oh, and of course Turkey celebrated its 85 years of existence. The best fireworks I have ever seen! So impressive, first a huge light-show over the whole Bosphorus, which made it look like they hung a huge softly glowing spiderweb over the city. Then it changed into greenish stroboscope lights flashing franticly over the skyline. And than: the fireworks! Like the 5th of May in NL, or the 4th of July in US, but then from 9 different places along the river! Very very impressive. I got stuck in traffic, of course. This was the evening after I dropped Phil of at the airport. But it turned out alright cause at the moment I had enough of the bus that didn't move, and got out to walk the rest home, I found myself at the best spot to watch the show. 
I am halfway through my stay here now, and I still feel very very lucky to be here. Because even though we did not have electricity the last three days (no warm water, internet, light or fridge!), and even though it is sometimes exhausting that all of the social things at the uni are in turkish, and even though I would love to have a normal beschuitje kaas or a pepernoot, and even though I miss you all a lot... it is still the most vibrant and gorgeous city I have ever been in and I am still enjoying it every day, finding out new things to see, eat and do. 
I hope you are all happy where you are,

xxx sacha

Sunday, October 5, 2008

ps: the last two pictures are from a small adventure I had today on the 2nd and 3rd 'Prince Islands'. It was super nice to be out of the city and into a fresh and green surrounding. It was super windy, but it was extremely refreshing and exactly what I needed before school starts again tomorrow.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hi everyone,
Finally some more pictures and a little story. University has started, and I am enjoying my first week of holiday already this week! This is because the Ramadan has ended. What an experience. Certainly the last three days, when Mia and I joined the majority of people here and also fasted. So, up at a little for 5 and eating as much as we could before it was 5.25. That was when we heard the first call to prayer and went back to bed. Until 7 in the evening, no eating, drinking, sex or smoking and even after the fast was broken with an iftar meal, no alcohol. Since we had no class or major activities it was not as hard as it must have been this month for the other people fasting, but it was still difficult enough, but more during the day then at the end of it. 
But now all is over, and it is Fitr Bayrami (sugar festival) and everyone is either out of town visiting family or with family out in the streets. So, even though many people left it is still very busy at the public places. It is nice to see so many families, much more children and women then normally. People here are so friendly and attentive with children. Most of the students went traveling, but I stayed in town, partly cause I had stuff to do, partly to save money for when Phil, Arie and Anneloes will be here in 2 weeks. I've seen some museums (see pictures), made use of the almost empty roads when running and read some interesting things for school.  It has been very relaxed and quiet. It is far more of a normal life then being a tourist that needs to sqeeze the most out of every minute. But yesterday I went out dancing and we ended up in a club on a open terrace on the 7th floor. The music was of course bad again, but with the lights of 'Istanbul by night' at my feet and a sky full of stars over my head, I could not help but feel so extremely lucky to be here. 
The weather has shaped up again to, it is back to the 'normal' 25 degrees, so that is good, cause Mia and I were a bit intimidated since we did not bring that many cold-weather-cloths.
Anyway, next week the university starts again. I have 7 courses, of which 2 are in drawing and yoga, so these won't be too much work. The teachers are generally very nice and more lively and humorous then what I am used to in the Netherlands, so that is nice. My drawing teacher does not really speak english so that is good to practice my tiny bit of Turkish. Just like today at the hairdresser, who also did not speak a word of english, and if you look at the picture you can judge for yourself if this language barrier lead to something good or bad. 
All the best from this beautiful city,

Sunday, September 7, 2008

hi everyone,

a few pictures again. I am very happy with the park I have just a few streets away. It is such a nice place to sit and study some verbs and vocabulary. This weekend was not too adventures. Went to a party friday, with a bunch of Erasmus students, which was nice. Today I went out to discover another neighborhood on the Asian side of town, since I am hardly ever in that part. It was pretty nice, many small shops and restaurants. I also bumped into this fellow on the right, a genuine Amsterdammertje! The way back was the best though, since the sun had set and the big mosques were lit up, creating a very very beautiful skyline. 
They are still working in my street, building a house from scratch and also putting in new pavement on the street. So it is super dusty and noisy everywhere. I feel sorry for the guys who are building the house, since they live in a little hut on the buildingspot itself. I figured they are maybe from the countryside, or something. They work 7 days a week, start around 8 in the morning and often go on till 11 at night!
Tomorrow all hell is supposed to break lose traffic-wise. Because then, millions of students are starting school and university again. In one of the articles I posted a link of, it explains that the municipalities will offer free public transport for the first 3 days of the week, in order to lift a bit of the busyness.... We will see...
So, that is all really. Iyi gunler! (Enjoy your day)