Monday, July 27, 2009

Sinfully Delicious: A word on Food and Drink

Well, I know I talked about food once before, but now comes the really good stuff. Desserts.

The sweets here are SO amazing... I have seen enough baklava to make my head spin, and the ice cream... oh, the ice cream. Really good and cheap, and it's everywhere. It's called dondurma, and it's a delicious cross between gelatto and custardy ice cream. And there are things like Turkish tiramisu and Turkish flan and gorgeous fruit tarts and waffles loaded down with chocolate and fruit and oh-my-waistline-can't-take-all-of-the-cute-places-that just-serve
-coffee-and-desserts... But you have an excuse when you travel, right?
We've had that and more. The table in the photo is covered in traditional Turkish foods, and at that point the entrees had been whisked away in favor of desserts. There were several kinds of dried fruits and nuts, and a custardy thing that reminds me a little bit of pumpkin pie filling with the texture, but tastes like caramelly heaven.
It was also really amazing, but I can't remember the name of it. We had really gracious hosts sharing al of this delicious food with us, and in the name of paying it forward!
I only hope to have the oppurtunity to do that for someone else one day, because it was exactly what many of us needed. There's something that
crosses over all
borders, politically and culturally speaking, about a home. Dorm rooms, resteraunts, and hotels just don't have that feeling that a family lives there and is ready to welcome you with open arms. Just the very essence of hospitality and relaxation you can find nowhere else are really spectacular, and you never know how much you miss it until you've been without it for a while.

The drinks are pretty amazing too. I think I talked about how Coke is made with real sugar, and that make it SO good!
There are tons of flavored mineral waters too, and I've even seen some juiceboxes.

In exploring and being a part of the nightlife here, we have experienced everything from neat hole-in-the-wall, non-touristy places where the alcohol* is really delicious and really cheap to traditional taverns to high-class places where you can feel the music. A traditional liquor we see everywhere here is Raki, and it's pretty nifty. I have only had it twice, but I like it a lot.
It tastes like black liqorice, and goes down very smooth. I had it the way Turkish people do, with melon and appetizers. It's got about the same proof as vodka but is much more delicious. Whiskey is pretty uncommon, but gin and vodka are readily available, and there are many DELICIOUS flavors of vodka... hazlenut and watermelon tie for favorite at the moment.
The beer everyone seems to love is called Efes, and it's comparable in flavor to a light beer, and in alcohol content to some heavier beers. As I am not a beer drinker, I havn't tried it, but I do have a baby mug our guide gave me as a souvenier!

We have one more week before we all head for different places, and 2 more weeks and I will be home. Tomorrow we leave for Cappadocia and our long excursion. I am beginning to see that one of the American professors here wasn't joking when he said Istanbul is a city that grabs hold of your heart and doesn't let go. I'm already thinking of when I could possibly come back!

*On the issue of alcohol:
I do my best not to make a secret of the fact that I drink. I am of legal age, and learned from long before I turned of age to treat alcohol responsibly. I am sorry if talking about alcohol offends the sensibilities of any of you, my darling readers, but I won't hide the fact that I drink every once in a while or appologize for it. When I do, it's socially and with people I know and trust. It's not responsible to do otherwise or get carried away. Moderation is my policy!

Saturday, July 25, 2009


This is our last full week in Turkey, and we've been going-going-going... We have a future event planner working with our group to take us awesome places and has it ever been an adventure! It's also meant I have been dead tired upon walking in my door every night, and havn't really looked at my computer.

But I promised you some fashion. And some shopping. Wardrobe Refashioners will want to look away now because I went to...gasp...Old Navy before I left and...gasp... a mall last week.
Old Navy wasn't too remarkable, I got some awesome tops and a sweet spring-and-fall weight trench that saved me while travelling and didn't pay full price for anything.

Shopping here was an experience. I was looking for some things to wear out to nightclubs and
was surprised at how...trendy everything is. The stores take trends we find in the states, put them a size smaller, and throw them out there. It could be because I am in a big city, but I also saw lots of American stores like the Gap and Bananna Republic and Guess and most of the big designer names. We steered clear of these, and I now have a pretty cute outfit I wore out last weekend that has things in it I know I will definately wear again. I can speak for the girls in the photo for sure and say we are all wearing Turkish clothes. The black dress is pretty cute, and you can't see the strapless, distorted paisley dress my other friend is wearing but it speaks to the trends here. I got the vest and top at the mall, and the skirt at a store I would compare to Target. There are lots more dresses and the level of formality is a little higher, and I'd honestly say people just dress better than those my age in the states for some things, but better may not be the right word. But more later. I have to get my face from out in front of this computer and enjoy the few days we have left here!
I am sure I will have another post or 2 here and a week or 3 of catch-up/nostalgic posts upon returning home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Midterms in foreign countries still mean procrastination

It's reassuring that some things really never change. Really, procrastination came across the Atlantic with me... Can't beat that.
But I have to if I want to go to a Turkish movie theatre tonight.

I just wanted to do a quick post to tell you what's coming up... I will get to some shopping questions and reply to some things, and Wednesday there will be a guest blogger hanging out in the land of anachronisms. I am participating in a blog swap through 20-something bloggers, so it'll be a little different. A is pretty nifty though. She is a Canadian student, and I'm excited to write on her blog over here.

So shopping, fashion, and a guest. Hope you're ready for it!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food, food glorious food...

The food really is pretty amazing/wonderful. And a dear friend of mine asked me about it on Facebook, so here we go.
We eat lots of startes, and clockwise from top left is a yougurt/garlic thing, eg
gplant puree, a coastal veggie. a traditional salad, stuffed peppers, and
traditional cheese. This was our first sit-down meal here, and it was the day we wen
t to the beach. I made the discovery that I am not overly fond of yogurt in that use or cheese. And that Turkish people put pickled cabbage in EVERY salad in the country. And that stuffed peppers might just be as good as stuffed grape leaves. mmmmm... the grape leaves don't have a picture, but are really good.
Much of Istanbul is also on the coast, so we get lots and lots of fish. And I don't make a secret
of the fact that I am not the biggest fan of fish...

But my friend Igor certainly is. He likes to try new things, and this mackeral was new to hi
m and he tried it. And played with it. The boy fish met the girl fish. They were having a conversation.
An awesome traditional dish I did get to try- although it was at a resteraunt- ia a pasta-type dish called manti. It is a bit like ravioli with a different shape and a yogurt (They use it a lot in this cuisine, it's pretty good and definately interesting) sauce. A Turkish friend of one of the professors invited us over for a traditional meal and served the homemade casserole-style version and it was pretty awesome too.
The street food, doner, is pretty awesome.
I don't have pictures of it, but it's like a giant spit that turns and makes wonderful wonderful roasted meat... It's pretty lean meat when all is said and done. And the produce prices don't have a comparison factor, they are so cheap. I am thinking about doing a post on shopping... Yes? No? What do you think?

And the drinks are good too! Soda is made with real sugar, and it's
And it comes in smaller cans... 330mL, which is about 10 ounces or so by my guess. I like Coke. And Fanta. And Diet Coke is Coke Light.
Which made me giggle.
And you can't hold that against me because I was jetlagged just then. We'd only been in Istanbul for about 3 hours outside of the airport.
And the lemonadey wonderfulness in the bottle over there with the snack mix? Delightful. Truly great. The snack mix is just okay.

And I'm not going to go too far into guilty pleasures here, but the sweets are pretty awesome. There's some home cooking that might need to have some praise too, but later. If you wish. Let me know. But I have a midterm to work on now.

On that note, I have done my best to make the comments section accessible, and especially when away, I LOVE hearing from y'all. So do me a favor and try to leave a comment, no matter who you are. If there's not a box to write in, you should be able to click on the word 'comments'. I want to see how accessible it is. And hear from you. Here's 3 questions.
  • Can you name the musical assocoated with the title of this post?
  • What are YOU up to this summer?
  • What do you want to know about what I'm up to?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


With a birthday weekend and impending midterms, I have fallen behind. But I am okay with that. One of my professors at Transy never worries when she doesn't hear from her students after they've been abroad for a few weeks- She says they're too busy having experiences to tell her about them.
And I love telling you guys about everything. I've hit a lot of the broad strokes and touristy

things and academic things without telling you about life here. You know, the ins-and-outs. Like the weather. Or the food. Or how we have had a stomach bug going around(Another reason I havn't posted... Sunday night to Monday afternoon it got to me. Don't worry Mom, I am fine and completely re-hydrated and almost caught up on school stuff...)
Or about the giant hills covering our campus. Or our dorm rooms.
So today, a post in bullets. About life.
  • The weather would make any of you East of the Missisippi jealous and some of you West of it jealous, because the humidity is next to nothing. I mean it. We have been here for 2 weeks now and it has only rained once. And there hasn't been a day over 90 degrees, and I have lived rather comfortably without AC. Most of the time.
  • Which would naturally bring me to our dorms... The beds are typical dorm beds, only they flip up and have storage. Cool huh? And we have one of the dorms that has good airflow, which makes our lack of AC more bearable than in other rooms. Our shelves and desks are great, I have rather adequate closet space, and the bathroom is ours and ours alone. And the girl I am sharing a room with is a friend from Transy. Peggy's pretty awesome. And in that picture on the coastline on your Left.
  • The hills... deserve pictures. I don't knowthe math but I can tell you they are STEEP. And I will have legs of steel for walking up them. All the time. I walk up this hill to get from my dorm to the rest of campus, and up an even bigger hill to get to the outside world. It's kinda crazy but I don't think I mind too terribly much due to the legs of steel factor. And the fact that there's occasionally a campus shuttle running that takes us up the hills.
  • The greenery... I am living in a climate for foliage. I don't know that I have ever seen so many roses in my life. They are everywhere... As are other of my favorites... Like Hydrangeas in every color under the sun, and we have pine trees and marigolds and hollyhocks taller than I am and lots of other stuff I see at home. But really, the roses make my heart happy. And if I saw honeysuckle I would think I really were in Paradise.
  • Food... Oh I have reading to do for class. Guess you'll just have to wait and see, she said with a sly grin.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

2 giant sites, one long day...

It's been a long and crazy and wonderful week. I had a quiz Thursday and yesterday was an excursion day. Once a week the program director takes us all to the European side and we see sites of historical importance and cultural wonders... We do the things tourists do too.
We saw Hagia Sofia (some of us, me included, for the second time, and 2 or 3 for the 3rd!) and the Blue Mosque in one somewhat long day yesterday... It was crowded at both places and totally worth it at both places.
But my, is it ever beautiful.... Hagia Sofia is under restoration and renovation right now, so there is scaffolding up all over the place, but it's still breathtakingly beautiful. The sheer size and scale of the place.... WOW.
And I LOVED hearing out professor tell us what speculation says it would have been like in its original splendor. Getting to see these awesome and ancient places is...amazing.
It's also an interesting experience to see the way some of the elements of the architecture work together... Mary as Mother of God is depicted and on either side of her are roundels with Muslim names- I think the name of God and Muhammad.
I'd show you pictures but Blogger doesn't want for me to.
Kay. Enough for now. After celebrating a bit too hard for my birthday last night, I need a nap.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paradise has homework.

This place is awesome, but the STUDY part of Study Abroad is definately coming to the front of the room... I have tons of reading to do... But tons of pictures to share too. So, as I write this, I am reading 20 pages/writing a paragraph/reading 20 more pages...
Where was I? Oh yeah. Pictures.
Today's site? The Basilica Cistern. Well, it was actually Monday's, but the reading's getting intense. It was built with the same kind of plan some early churches used, so we visited it with my Christian Art and Architecture class. It's another one of those places you really have to see because pictures have no way of capturing the atmospere of a place- time really stands still there.
The idea of a nation being awesome enough to gather the columns for the place- stealing them from all kinds of places- is so neat... And the concept of a place having been expanded and improved upon is pretty awesome too. More than one group of people took pride in this place and kept it alive. This desire to leave a mark has always existed, but has been exemplified there in some way, shape or form for

There's no parallel for that in my narrow, Vanilla picture of life. No place where I can experience the inspiring power of innovators of centuries past. I see what they mean when they say travel changes your outlook on life. The awe of generations is contagious.

What the distance and the environment can offer makes things so clear in some circumstances- I can't wait to be able to get home and continue some of the conversations I started before I left. It puts me in a great place to reflect while I'm here, and I will be much healthier and more sure of myself for the experience.

And none of that would happen without the foundation I have- the innate lessons to keep my eyes open to God in every corner- the push of Divine inspiration I have been taught to see- and the desire to do my best to see and serve and show God in every way I can has made me a sponge in all of this. It's amazing, and I know this wouldn't be nearly as awesome of a journey without the family- genetic, church, and otherwise- that brought me to where I am.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Aonther beautiful site.

... Is the church-turned-mosque-turned museum, the Kariye Camii, one of the most well-preserved works of mosaic and fresco from the 13th/14th century. When they turned it into a mosque, they plastered over the mosaics everywhere except for in the sanctuary, where they tore everything out. So we have ot imagine the ornate sanctuary, but it's pretty incredible to see what IS there and know it's been there before Columbus was a twinkle in his mother's eye, much less out making discoveries.
As a museum they charged us an entrance fee, but it was SO worth it. I am gonna let the pictures do most of the talking. This is the last of the real sites we saw Saturday, and I saw 3 today! It's awesome to have class on-site.
This first batch is frescoes- amazing and vibrant colors.
There others are the mosaics. Words cannot describe and pictures simply don't do justice to the complexity and beauty.

Oh, and Lory asked me about the weather!
There is next to no humidity with highs between 80 and 90 during the day and nice breezes, and nights are a balmy 70something. There's not really AC, but the breeze with wide-open windows and an open door is plenty of cross-ventilation, and really without the mugginess I don't miss it. I know. Weird right?

What else do y'all want to know? I want to end each post with a question, and I know comments are having a hard time for some, so for those of you who are facebook friends, you can send them there. Another good place is

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A walk on the European side

Yesterday we visited our first batch of sites.
We went to the Eyup Mosque and saw the tomb of one of the Prophet Muhammad's right-hand men who died in the fall of Constantinople in 670. It's a whole complex of buildings and a very important Muslim pilgrimage site. It's gorgeous... We saw the inside of the mosque too, and because we were in places of prayer and worship, had our first experience with the head coverings. We looked much more like Hollywood's old movie stars than devout Muslims visiting a pilgrimage site, but we all wore the head covering as a matter of respect for the people who WERE pilgrims.
And my pants loosely based on a McCalls pattern I couldn't find on their website made their debut experience.
I had full intentions of making them myself, but after re-drafting the legs and going to Camp, my Nana ended up doing all of the stitching for me after I drafted, cut, and pressed.
One thing about these pictures though... They never seem to do the sites they depict much justice. Without seeing the whole picture, feeling the stillness and the age in everything we are blessed to see.
After seeing this astounding mosque, we went to a hilltop cafe. It had traditional Turkish tea and graves lined the hillside on the way up. They weren't grass-covered though, they were like flower gardens.It was a heck of a hike, but the view was totally worth it.
As in, I took this sitting at our table and wow.
These are the pictures God gives us. This is the reason I feel like this trip is going to redefine my perspective on life.
But I feel like a me-monster. What do YOU want to know about?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oh my gosh has it really only been 3 days?


So much fun stuff... I mean, we took the ferry from Asia to Europe. And I had tea under a bridge last night.
And the view from the bridge? Amazing. And went to one of the Princess Islands today!
We walked along the shore before we took a ferry. This is the ferry station.
Then we bargained for bikes to ride to the beach, and it was really hilly...
Which meant we had an appetite when we got back to the other shore for dinner at this beautiful resteraunt.

I know it sounds like we're doing an awful lot, but really, the pace of life here is SO leisurely. It puts some of the girls, myslef included, in mind of Charleston or Savannah. I love it. It's not as fast-paced and cut-throat as life could be in the New York of Turkey... We're nowhere near any type of downtown, and I love that... And I love having moments where I realize this is the trip of a lifetime and a gift, truly truly a gift.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I'm home...ish...

Which means I got to Turkey safely. Mom dropped me off and I didn't remember we were matching until I opened this picture... I was shocked when Blogger popped up in Turkish and I don't know if the formatting will be quite the same, but life's good anyway.
It's really an amazing place. On the ride to the university we saw a ton of local architecture and the way old and new are juxtaposed is quite... well, I am not used to seeing it. And the buildings are closer to a rainbow than anyhthing- my dorm is built of green bricks.
Last night our professor was a tour guide of sorts and took us down to the Bosphorus, which is the channel of sorts that runs between Europe and Asia. We stayed on the Asian side, and watched the sun set on the way out there-it was AMAZING. We went to a pub of sorts and tried some of the local food and most people had local beer(I hate beer so I drank water) but it was a great experience. It meant we learned about the bus system and the ferry system, bith of which it appears we'll be using frequently.

The people here are really nice- 5 Turkish students led us around campus and to a local pub-type setup and to their version of a superstore- Carrefour. They were really really nice about the whole thing- and I think the men seem to be more chivalrous in some ways than in the States. They took things and weighed them at the store and carried things for us and were just really polite about all of it.
This is most of the people in our program and all of our Turkish guides. We had a reception for all the study abroad students so it was pretty cool to meet other Americans and some Europeans as well. We were served AMAZING cake that tasted like tiramisu and had fruit and chocolate between the layers. Light and summery, but delicious. Trust me.

It was awesome to do so much so soon, but really, I am jetlagged a bit so I think I need a nap. And I might be meeting people for dinner- I have no memories for this thing. Which will get better as I get used to not having a cell phone all the time at my disposal.

More pictures soon!