Continent-hopping and other daily activities.
Even though the program has officially ended and I’ve left Jordan- depending on who you talk to, I’m still in the Middle East since I’ve country-hopped to Turkey! I’m staying with a friend of mine from Tufts and seeing the sights in Istanbul before finally setting of for home. I find Turkey to be really fascinating because while included in Wikipedia’s “Traditional definition of the Middle East”, the country, and literally this city, bridges Europe and Asia. Suitably then, it is also included in Wiki’s list of recognized European states. If we want to be technical (which we do), I continent hop every day when I cross the Bosphorus, simply going from one part of the city to the other.
From what I’ve seen though, the Asian (read- majority) part of Turkey isn’t acknowledged so much/at all. I flew in on a 2 hour flight on Turkish Air in which I was served a hot breakfast- I can see why they won the Best Airline in Europe award for 2011. Seriously, it’s rare to even get good drink service on a two hour flight, let alone a full meal. Driving around the city, I see signs telling me that Istanbul is the 2012 European Capital of Sport. Today, I saw the heaviest chandelier “in all of Europe”.
I never learned that Turkey was European in any of my classes, ever. So trying not to offend anyone, I’ve been catching myself a lot from saying something like, “Turkey and the rest of the Middle East.” That’s funny too though, since I never really considered it a part fo the Middle East, just like Morocco isn’t really the Middle East. Both are included on Middle East map quizzes, but then again those also include Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc… which is going much farther out of the Middle East than I generally define it. So it all depends on whose definition you use. Apparently, I’m in Europe. Who’da thunk it.
It’s very different for sure from the Europe I know. Western Europe is kind of my jam and I’ve totally been getting into the Eastern Europe groove recently. And after being in Jordan for four months, I’m just starting to get the hang of the Middle East tune. That being said, Turkey is so far, none of the above. Not to take this music analogy too far, but it’s amazing to see the blend here. Historical/religious sites like all of Europe, beautiful like Italy and, dare I say it, Greece, a thriving, modern downtown. But the massive domes that color the skyline belong to out of this world mosques, not cathedrals, and I can still hear the call to prayer as I’m bopping around being a blatant tourist.
Sometimes, I almost understand Turkish too! Wait, that’s a lie. Sometimes, I understand a word or two in a 20 minute conversation. Per usual, I ended up picking up more from movie subtitles (The Avengers finally!) than from actual day to day interactions. Visiting Turkey more than being in Jordan for 4 months brought home to me how much Arabic I actually DO know. Turkish shares enough words with Arabic that I could have the following conversation:
“Soldier idea life simple ok!”
I’m a sparkling conversationalist, don’t you agree? It’s very humbling to be completely helpless and not understand a thing being said or even how to pronounce words. It’s not even like in Arabic where I can try to sound out words I don’t know. From what I’ve gathered, some letters have the same pronunciations- but then there are little squiggles and umlauts that do crazy things to how you’re supposed to say something. What I end up doing is gazing around in wonder at everything, fascinated by what’s out the taxi windows.
And I can because Turkey is so FREAKING beautiful. I’m in awe of everything. Literally, everything. I can’t shut up about the blue of the sky, the green of the trees, flowers in color, the other blue of the Bosphorus- my friend must think I’m on drugs. Not that I’d know, but sometimes I’d imagine drugs might feel like this. It’s crazyawesomeinsanemindblowing ALL THE TIME.
And then there’s the food! Oh the food… This was lunch. It’s called kumpir. It may be the oddest thing I’ve ever eaten but WOW. Who knew that a baked potato stuffed with American salad, Italian salad, couscous, hot dog, cheese, black olive, green olives, hot sauce, yogurt sauce, oil, corn, peas, and even more would be so good?! This is why we travel- to eat whatever we want and only care about it later!