The Bucket List

I only have three weeks left in Istanbul, and in the month since I returned from my epic spring break trip full of Georgian churches and Turkish cheese fondue, I pledged not to let a single moment go by. At the beginning of my trip, I searched the Lonely Planet Istanbul website to note the top sights and activities to see and do while here. Reviewing that list a few weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised to find most of the sights already crossed off. But a few still remained on my makeshift ‘Bucket List.’Thus, I constructed a feasible yet active list of things to do in my remaining weeks abroad. As I now reflect on the past few weeks, I am even more surprised to know how much I have done.Here is a condensed and thematically organized list of my activities since my last blog update.

Festivals:

Attended the Koc University Music Festival, featuring three of Turkey’s biggest musicians: Hande Yener, Kenan Dogolu, and the ever dramatic and widely beloved Sezan Aksu.

Attended Bogazici’s most popular festival of the year, Spors Fest, which brought teams from 20 different countries to compete in a wide range of athletics. In true Bogazici fashion, few students actually attended the games. Rather, we took the opportunity to drunkly eat Doner and Balik Ekmek on the green, play games to win IPads, and watch the European League Championship on a big screen projector while waiting to see the most mediocre Turkish Pop Artist whose name I cannot be bothered to remember. He was so bad, I couldn’t help but laugh the whole time. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic night.

Night Life:

Went to an Ice Bar featuring glasses, walls and chairs made of Swedish ice.

Karaoke with the Freshman Industrial Engineering Department. Enough said.

Partied at my first highbrow club, Sortie, which sits next to the Bosphorous in Ortakoy next to the bridge. I can confidently say it was my favorite partying night in Istanbul. Great music, great scene, great people. What more could you want.

Food:

Cooked Indian food for Turks who have never heard of, let alone tasted, Indian food. And they liked it!

Finally made it down to the posh Bebek restaurant Kirinti with Hande. The week before, when our desires to go were high but energy level low, I suited, warmed up pasta from the night before, drank a bottle of 10 TL “Cumartesi” Wine, and ate Chunky Monkey Ben & Jerry’s. I’m not sure what was better: The Fajitas and connecting with the Turkish-American owner of one of Istanbul’s top restaurants or eating a candlelit dinner in Superdorm Room YK 104/1 where two stacked pieces of white bread were used as candle holders.

Took an impromptu trip to the Ortokoy pier with Hande, Gonca and Buse to eat waffles and kumpir (the MOST amazing baked potatoes, and trust me, anyone who’s anyone that knows me in the US knows that despite my Eastern European roots, I despise baked potatoes. Yet I would kill for a kumpir morning, noon or night here) after deciding not to go out. We then sat in a nargile café for hours playing the popular game ‘OK’ which I cannot even begin to explain, and yet somehow I was weirdly great at it.

Memorable Adventures with the Dolphin:

Visitied the new 1453 Panorama Museum with my boy Yunus (‘dolphin’ in Turkish). We then literally stumbled upon old Byzantine Walls dating back to the famous battle itself, and proceeded to do what any normal college student does, climb up it.

Long story short, Yunus, his friend from home, and I got lost in the most random neighborhood of Istanbul (Gultepe) while caught in a rainstorm. We walked up and down what felt like mountains for an hour and a half looking for a cab. When we did find one, we each simultaneously pulled out a cigarette and questioned, pardon my French, what the @%#! we had got ourselves into.

Museums:

Visited the Istanbul Modern Museum with Hande to see the museums photography exhibit and eat an impromptu lunch on the museums famous balcony across the Golden Horn from Topkapi. Those random indulgences, like paying 20 liras too much for a salad, are always well worth the splurge. The spontaneity is one of my favorite qualities about Hande.

Visited the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Sultanahmet. After a semester of seeing Turkish and Islamic art across Anatolia, the museum was mediocre to say the least. At least it was free : )

Special Activities:

As a ‘true Turkish football fan’, I elatedly celebrated the win of the Galatasaray Football Club’s Liga Shampiyonship in their Taksim fanbase. I saw the protests in Tahrir Square the summer before in Egypt, but the fans climbing the statue in the middle of Taksim and the countless chanting people waving identical flags is the closest I think I will ever get to a massive movement of people under a common cause. Nearly being hit by flares and bricks in a Taxi where I was forced to take off my Galatasaray jersey for my own safety was truly worth it.

Saw Avengers 3D in IMAX, making for an epic alternative to a normal Friday night.

Attended Bogazici’s Choir Festival (comprised of classical, rock (what Americans know as a capella) and ‘jazz’ (what, in reality, was VERY MUCH gospel music. Wade in the Water in all) as well as the Bogazici Dance Show (Turkeys Version of: Dancing with the Turkish Latin Stars. It was all samba all night baby, and nothing could stop the cha cha slide of these Bogazici dancers). It was nothing less than interesting to compare these dances and singing groups with those back at Skidmore. The former was incredibly more professional and the latter is consistently drunk at their performances. Both are good in my book.

Miscellaneous:

Joined an amazing Yoga Studio, and impulsively paid for an unlimited one month pass. While I stopped going after the first two weeks (for a lack of time when in conflict with these other activities and school work), it convinced me that I need to keep up this practice every day while in India and back in the states. It is fantastic exercise, and definitely not only for middle aged stay at home Newton moms.

Finally pulled up my bootstraps, sucked it up, and went to get my residency permit. Two 4 hour trips to Fatih/Emniyet and $150 later, I finally received the document that almost got me kicked out of Turkey upon return from North Cyprus.

Planned a 9 day/8 night trip to France with Hande. For days, I lived on EasyJet, Hostelworld, and Booking.com to find the best hotels and transport for this exciting adventure. In the end, we’ve decided to begin in Lyon near the French Alps, travel across the country to the city of Bordeaux, then to the South to the Cote D’Azur coastal town of Nice, and finish off with a two day birthday celebration in Paris (as our birthdays are the 29 and 30 of June). More on this trip to come!

Finished classes.  I didn’t even realize I was done with school until I had left my last class 20 minutes later, at which point I proceeded to eat Mutfak’s 10 spoon cold dish plate and further delay studying for my final exams and papers.

Overall, while these past few weeks have taught me to take advantage of every moment and not let a single moment pass by, they have also taught me to look at the bigger picture in life. There are so many instances that interject themselves into our lives that can bring us down or ruin a good moment. However, when we step back and look at all the  good things in life that accompany any negative event, we can see that those small events are truly small in the greater scheme and do not need to ruin some of the happiness moments of our lives. After Spring Break, I realized how little time I had left in a country and with people I was quickly connecting with on a whole new level, and I needed to make sure to develop and continue the happiness I had been harnessing the whole semester. When looking at the bigger picture, I have realized that my relationships (most notably with Hande) have increased tremendously, my Turkish language skills (at least listening) have greatly improved, and I am able to find my way around the city (relatively) more efficiently. Most importantly, I am able to say that I will be able to cross everything, and more, off my Bucket List. A true sign of a successful semester.

Until Next Time,

David

PS. If you want to be transported to clubs Sortie, Eski Beyrut, Faces, or YK 304/1, listen to the following playlist for the songs that truly make me think of the city on the Bosphorous:

Istanbul Spring 2012:

  1. Good Feeling- Flo Rida
  2. You Make Me Feel- Cobra Starship
  3. Starships- Nicki Minaj
  4. Pass At Me- Timbaland
  5. Havalaani- Hande Yener
  6. Only Girl (In the World)- Rihanna
  7. Party Rock Anthem- LMFAO
  8. Night Of Your Life- David Guetta
  9. In The Dark- DEV
  10. Little Bad Girl- David Guetta
  11. I Follow Rivers- Lykke Li
  12. Ai Se Eu Te Pego- Michel Telo
  13. Wild Ones- Flo Rida
  14. This Fire- Franz Ferdinand
  15. Titanium- David Guetta
  16. Doktor- Kenan Dogulu
  17. Acimayacak- Tarkan
  18. Cheers (Drink To That)- Rihanna
  19. Tesekkurler- Hande Yener (ft. Sinan Akcil)
  20. Istanbul- Sezen Aksu
  21. Meczup- Can Bonomo
  22. Don’t Stop The Party- Black Eyed Peas
  23. Got 2 Luv U- Sean Paul
  24. Sexy and I Know It- LMFAO
  25. Ne Yapardim- Gokce
  26. Without You- David Guetta
  27. Nah Neh Nah- Vayos Con Dios
  28. Somebody That I Used To Know- Gotye (Original) or Walk Of The Earth (Acoustic Cover)
  29. Feel So Close- Calvin Harris
  30. Glad You Came- The Wanted
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