When I was younger, I had a case of insatiable wanderlust. Luckily, I was able to venture to a handful of great places around the world when I was in high school and college. I don’t think a love of travel ever leaves a traveler’s system, but for me, I have been able to keep the wanderlust at bay for a few years while I trudge through graduate school. When I chose to stay in Nevada for my Master’s (and most likely Doctorate) degree, I made it a point to explore my city more, and to appreciate all it has to offer–which is easy, because Northern Nevada is a wondrous playground with beautiful sites and a ton of activities happening year round. I love living here, and it’s been nice to slow down and enjoy it, especially since I dove straight into grad school after completing my Bachelor’s and relaxing is reallyyy important to keep me sane…
Plus, my boyfriend Andrew and I have made it a goal to do different kinds of traveling, including attending some cool festivals and conventions that we’ve been meaning to go to for a while. This year, we’re going to Maker Faire in May and the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) later this year. We’re also going to Washington D.C. with my mom and my brother in June, which is a bucket list item of mine (mostly because I can’t wait to see the Library of Congress!).
But I’ve been watching a lot of Top Gear (UK, the best version… not to sound like a total hipster) and I’m so enthralled by their travel episodes, and it hit me the other day that I really want to go somewhere again. Andrew and I are discussing the possibility of going to China, and I’d also really like to go to Norway. I’m hoping we’ll be able to go somewhere next year!
Anyway, I was browsing through photos from my past travels, and I thought I’d share them. This first set is from Istanbul, Turkey, when I visited in 2009. I did a trip through my university and studied Turkish politics and Islam and gender dynamics while I was there. It was an incredible, memorable experience.
So without further ado, here is my travel journal and photos from my trip to Turkey a few years back.
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I am sitting in the San Francisco airport trying to reapply my smudged eye makeup because I have been crying. I have been here for a total of 30 minutes and the excitement is starting to finally sink in. Mixed with this excitement is immense sadness at the fact that Andrew is somewhere between Vallejo and Reno and nowhere close to me. Part of me is relieved that we finally got the leaving bit over with but part of me wants to run out of the airport and onto the freeway and convince him to come with me.
I’m okay now. And so totally STOKED that soon I will be in Istanbul, Turkey!
I am tired and happy that I am tired because it means that I can sleep on the airplane. Normally I can never sleep on flights because I am so jittery and excited but right now I could really use a nap. That doesn’t mean I am any less jittery and excited as I usually am but it’s nice to finally be getting used to international travel.
Airports make me feel lots of different things. Flying to Turkey alone is exhilarating, fun, scary and lonely all at once. I am grateful to have this opportunity to travel alone for once because I know it is something I need to do for myself. But… I still miss Andrew and can’t wait to see him in Paris.
I am listening to the new album by Meg & Dia called “Here, Here and Here.” I’ve already decided that it is going to be my soundtrack for the trip because it is such a fantastic, inspiring album and I think the title is eerily coincidental considering I am going to three new countries on this trip. Also, the lyrics just fit and the music just hits me in all the right spots.
“Here, here and here
He pointed to his heart and mind and ears”
Quick note: I have decided to write a travel poetry anthology while I am traveling so I will be posting poems as I write them. Just FYI.
I need to do some reading so I will write more later. The next time I write I will probably be in New York. Yay!
Lesson of the day: Don’t fall in love with someone right before you leave for an international trip… unless they are going with you! Le sigh.
I arrived in New York City about an hour ago. The flight was okay. I slept a bit but there was a scary amount of turbulence so every time I would start to nod off the plane would start shaking and my heart would drop into my stomach. Also, sleeping sitting up sucks. But I managed to get a couple hours, which is a start, at least.
Called Andrew. It’s 4:45 a.m.-ish in Nevada. He answered in his sexy sleepy voice, the one that makes my heart melt into a little puddle. I don’t think he was coherent for most of the conversation but it’s nice to hear a familiar voice and it’s still too early to call my parents. I’m still feeling a bit sad but mostly I’m feeling sleepy and really really really (did I say really?) excited to be in Turkey soon!
JFK airport is huuuge. I got off at Terminal 7 by British Airways or something and I needed to be at Terminal 1 for Turkish Airlines so I had to get on this little tram that goes around the whole airport. All of the major international airlines are here. It’s really quite exhilarating. The last time I was here was in 2005 when I was flying home from Athens, Greece.
For my class, I have to do two presentations on some chapters from a book called Istanbul by Caglar Keyder. The chapters I am studying have to do with the struggles of secular and Islamic Turkish women and the Turkish identity. It’s definitely the kind of topic I’m into studying – gender roles in Islamic countries. I have to do a Powerpoint and I feel a bit bad for being a slacker and waiting til the day before the trip to work on my presentation but at least it gives me something to do while I wait until 4:30 p.m. The exciting part is that we get to meet the author of the book during our trip! He is giving us one of the lectures we will be attending at one of Istanbul’s universities. We will be going to several universities in Istanbul and I can’t wait to see the different campuses. If I like Istanbul (and I am sure I am going to fall in love) I might consider applying there for grad school.
There are so many opportunities available in life. I don’t know how people aren’t going crazy all the time with all of the choices we have available to us! It’s really exciting. Traveling always opens my eyes to all of the things I could do with my life. Essentially, I want to travel, write, teach and be surrounded by books and the people I love. And bake cupcakes.
Still listening to Meg & Dia. Andrew gave me an old mp3 player so I didn’t have to lug a bunch of CDs with me on the plane like I usually do. Here is my list of music artists:
Blue Oyster Cult
Death Cab for Cutie
M2M (oh hush)
Meg & Dia
I wish I would have put Jack’s Mannequin and Peter Gabriel on before I left but at least it forces me to branch out a bit by listening to other albums. Although this M&D album might be on repeat for the next month…
“I’m a ship like you
One sail, one sea
You and me
And I left my soul next to the shore
One sail, one sea”
So, when I was packing my carry-on, I had a really hard time choosing which books to pack. My book obsession is getting ridiculous.
I packed my Istanbul book for school (and it’s actually a good read). I also packed The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Last summer I read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is a memoir about her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and other strict Muslim countries, and her struggles with Islam and the culture surrounding it. It is an astonishing and fantastic and thought-provoking read and ever since then I’ve tried to read everything I can by her. The Caged Virgin is a collection of essays challenging Islam and trying to shine light on Middle Eastern culture so that the Western world can better understand that part of the world. Ali is a really powerful writer and despite the essay form it really reads more like poetry.
I also brought my copy of Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye. Habibi is my favorite book of all time. I have had my copy since I was nine and it is completely worn and tattered and there are thirty pages missing in the middle.
This book changed my life in many different ways. The story is about a young girl named Liyana who moves from the US to Jerusalem with her younger brother, father and mother. The character of Liyana is one of the first literary characters I ever truly identified with and the book fueled my passion for writing (the character is an avid writer and reader), as well as my interest and desire to learn and travel to the Middle East. I thought it was an appropriate book to bring with me. I started rereading it on the plane. I’m sure I’ve read it 1000 times (not kidding). I’m over half-way finished with it. There are a few passages that really stood out to me. I’ve been marking them along the way so expect lots of quotes throughout my journal. This one in particular fits right now:
“Poppy would pass through the house lifting his nose to the air, saying, ‘There it is, there’s my country.’
Well, where was hers? Was she on the verge of finding out? Sometimes Liyana felt she had passed her own country already and it was an age, not a place.
She wrote it down in her notebook.
An age, not a place.
What did it mean, exactly?”
In my big luggage I packed my copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I read The Alchemist a couple of years ago and it is one of the best books I have ever read. It is all about finding one’s Personal Legend, or purpose, in life. I make it a point to bring it with me to all of the places I travel to and so far it has only been to Salt Lake City, Utah and London, England.
I took a nap on a bench and I feel a little bit more rested but not a whole lot. My feet are cold and I should have worn socks but it is so much easier wearing slip-on shoes at the airport since they make you take off your shoes through security. I am getting the pre-international-flight jitters that are making it hard to eat anything or sit still for too long. In about five minutes I am going to go get in line to get my boarding pass and go through security… always fun. I don’t know when I will be able to get online but it will probably be sometime tomorrow since I need to get on a taxi ASAP from the airport to get to our hotel. I will be writing a lot on the flight over (all 11 hours… eek) so I’m sure I will have a lot of updates when I am back on the interwebs.
Okay I lied. I was planning on doing my homework while waiting to board but instead I got sucked in to browsing the web and I’m in a writing mood so I figured I might as well blog more. Plus I have an 11 hour flight to do homework… plenty of time to read four chapters and write outlines.
I’m soooo excited! Everything still feels so surreal. It’s a weird feeling when something that you have been planning for so long actually happens. All day I’ve been pinching myself.
Every time I get a boarding pass I want to quote The Fifth Element. “Leeloo Dallas multi-pass?”
I am really excited because I am assigned a window seat! There are pros and cons to window seats; pros are that the view rocks and it’s really nice having something to lean against while sleeping. Cons are that I have to pee like every 30 minutes which means I have to squish and sit on like five people on my way to the aisle. But I think having a window seat on international flights is totally the way to go.
I am sitting by my gate and I board in about an hour and a half. I am in the international terminal where the flights designated for the Middle East and Asia take off. Right now I am watching the gigantic Air China plane pull up to the gate right outside my window. It’s huge! I would like to go to China. My grandmother and great-grandmother have been to China and it looks like a really interesting country to visit.
I just talked to Andrew over Skype and it was nice to hear his voice and I miss him but I’m really looking forward to Paris. It will be an interesting experience traveling to two very different countries. I hope my French is good enough but I guess we shall see.
Anyway, I’m going to wrap this up now for real this time. Next time I blog it will be from Istanbul.
I am in Turkey!!! Here is a list of things from the plane ride until now… I will do a more full description (with pictures) later:
1) Long flight… but Turkish Airlines has awesome food!
2) I watched “Anastasia” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic” on the flight… haha.
3) I met a grad student from Columbia U named Nur who is awesome.
4) The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was the scariest experience of my life… no joke.
5) Our group is awesome!
6) Jetlag kicked my ass yesterday but I am feeling better after a long night’s sleep.
7) I am desperately missing my parents and Andrew but other than that I am okay.
8 ) Went to a mosque for the first time… had to cover my hair and shoulders and arms. We heard a man singing during the service and it was an incredible experience.
9) We ate a fantastic dinner on this terrace overlooking the water and the mosque last night… it was absolutely beautiful and I have cool pictures to show later.
10) We found a nightclub on top of a building and our awesome old Turkish-Armenian professor danced with us… it was awesome.
11) Have a bit of a headache because of the heat (it’s sooooooooooooooo hot) but otherwise feel great!
12) Turkish electro-pop music rocks.
13) Turkish men are extremely forward about checking out American girls. We get stared at EVERYWHERE we go!
14) Turkish women are gorgeous. I’m envious!
That is all I have time for, for now. I promise a more thorough description of everything. I am so overwhelmed and excited to be here and there is so much to see and do that I am just trying to keep up!
A recap, a few days later
So much to write about! I am going to try to recap the events of the last few days using pictures and the list of things I wrote the other day. I will start with the flight.
The flight took off right on time. I am pretty sure I was one of three non-Turkish people on the flight, which surprised me. The flight attendants all spoke Turkish and their English wasn’t always very good. I sat next to a woman named Nur, who is a graduate student at Columbia University. She spoke English and we talked through much of the flight. Overall, the flight was good, long and uneventful. The food was really good.
When we were pulling in to the airport, I glanced out my window at the city as we were driving by and the first thing I noticed was all of the mosques. Their pointed pilars are very visible from the sky. There are a ton of them scattered throughout the city.
On the airplane, Nur taught me how to say basic things in Turkish and she said I had good pronunciation. However, Turkish is a really hard language for me to understand and remember. I am trying to keep track of the names of everything but for some reason it is difficult.
Getting through the airport was easy enough. Nur helped me get a taxi, which was good because it is hard to get past the language barrier here, much harder than I excpected.
The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was one of the scariest experiences of my life. Not only are there a million cars everywhere, but the taxi drivers (and bus drivers, I later found) drive about a centimeter away from everything in sight.
I arrived at the hotel safe and sound, but I ended up paying the taxi driver more than necessary because I only had American money. To be honest, I would have paid him $100 just to get me back safe and sound.
Once I met up with the group, we took a walk around the neighborhood. Our hotel is nice by Turkish standards but it isn’t anything spectacular.
(Stay tuned for Part 2 of my adventures in Turkey coming soon!)