No first day of school story would be complete without an embarrassing moment… or three. If you are reading this blog then you should know me pretty well and if you don’t well I’m just going to come right out and say it- I AM CLUMSY and fall a lot. It happens and then I pick myself up and keep going. So when it happened the first time on my first day of school- on the front lawn right next to the student fair- I picked myself up and kept walking hoping no one saw. When it happened the second time on my way to get lunch with one of my friends (who kept walking didn’t even see it happen) I just thought, “Well dang this is just not my day.” BUT, the third time was the deal breaker (not to mention the worst- cuts, scraps, and clothing was ripped) and I was ready to give up. Amazingly though I kept going and ended up making a really good friend, spending the rest of the day with her, and ending the day on a real high. The second, third, and fourth (no fifth because I don’t have Friday classes YAY) went much smoother.
This week was the first time that I felt like I was really living in Istanbul. While I have been here for almost a month now, we have been doing so much traveling around Turkey that we haven’t really been living in reality. So while the title of this weeks post is mainly about me tumbling all over campus, it also reflects my sudden jolt back to reality. To be honest this was a welcomed jolt for while I enjoy the traveling I am really excited to get to know more students and learn about the culture of Turkey from interacting with them and my professors. Plus I am a nerd (I am who I am), I love to learn and well there is nothing that makes this girl happier than new books, pens, pencils, and folders. Getting back into the classroom, taking notes, and listening was a great feeling.
Thus far I am super pleased with my courses and am really excited to be taking Media and Globalization, Diplomatic History, History of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkish. But I am even more pleased with the atmosphere of my classes. Growing up in small town South Carolina I had not been exposed to many different types of people (if I was I had to go in search of them) so when I went to Duke I was super pumped to meet people from not only all over the country but people from all around the world. Well… Duke has nothing on Bogazici when it comes to the span of International students on campus. I had a moment in one of my classes where this all really hit me. We were discussing globalization and with each comment the teacher asked for we got a different perspective of what globalization meant. There was a girl from the Netherlands, a boy from Turkey, an American, and the list goes on. And already I have made friends from Iran, Pakistan, Germany, other parts of America, Canada, France, and Spain. So not only do I get this amazing feeling inside the classroom but outside of it too when we are just talking about life. It has made me realize how very little I really know about other cultures and it really makes me want to travel and see the world but not just through tour groups- I want to really stay in the culture and get to understand the people. Who knows maybe I will live abroad some more in my life, but only time will tell.
With a successful first week under our belts, our program headed off to Edirne (the second major Ottoman capitol). This time, we stayed in Europe and traveled right up to the Bulgarian and Greek border. Once we got there we started our touring immediately first with an old railroad station as Edirne was an important stop for traders as they traveled on to Europe. But the true jewels of this trip were the Mosques. While I had liked the ones we had been in before, the Mosques found in Edirne were much more colorful and well we all know I am not one to shy away from color. Seriously though the colors and paintings on the walls were just so much more ornate and they seemed to be brighter and have more windows. My favorite of the three we visited was the last one we saw Selimiye Mosques it was built to impress and well I was definitely impressed. But it isn’t just the Mosque that impressed me, it was the entire complex- the gardens, the market, the courtyards, etc. The coolest thing about Mosques I think is that they are built as complexes with multiple parts. When I think about the many Cathedrals, Churches, and Chapels I have seen they seem to be built into a city. They blend in and become just another building on the street. With Mosques they are built to stand out and be seen, they are the focus and no other building around them shadows it.
In America, we take great pride in our freedoms and rights but the more time I am spending in Turkey I have started to wonder are we really that free when it comes to religion (especially for Muslims). I was talking to one of my new friends here who is an American Muslim. She said the most fascinating thing to me- This will be the first time that I will get to celebrate my holidays and not be in school for my Muslim holiday. With that statement the reality that not all Americans feel they are fully free to practice their religion.
At Christmas, everybody makes a big deal about being politically correct I mean people don’t even feel comfortable saying Merry Christmas preferring instead to be inclusive and say Happy Holidays instead. But Muslims don’t have a Christmas or any sort of holiday during the Holiday Season but when they do have a holiday it isn’t even recognized. Turkey is a really fascinating country to study in terms of religious freedom because while the Ottoman’s are recognized as being a Muslim Empire they were tolerant of all religions and to this day Turkey has no single national religion. As I have stated in a previous post I think America could learn a lot from Turkey in this respect.
It is funny to me how much time I have spent recently thinking and contemplating religion- my own and the concept in general. If someone were to ask me if I was a religious person I would say no I am a spiritual person. There is no doubt in my mind that religion and religious structures are powerful but it is that power that makes me say I am a spiritual person. I think that religion is what you make it, God is whoever you want God to be, and at the end of the day no matter if you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim we all believe that there is one God. And for me that’s all that matters- faith and hope that there is something out there larger than ourselves, looking over us, protecting us from each other and ourselves, and guiding us through this process we call life. For, “when you come to the end of everything you know And are faced with the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen. Either there will be something solid for you to stand on, Or you will be taught how to fly.”- Barbara J. Winter.
In many ways this Semester abroad was a leap into the darkness of the unknown and through it all I have had Faith that everything would work out and so far that has been true. Falling is just part of that process.