Sunday, May 13, 2012

Up all night, Lebanon, jamming, boza... and many more adventures

Hello all!

Gosh, it has been a while. I've done a lot of exciting things in the past few weeks (and plenty of boring things too, don't worry).

Where to start? Exciting things I have done:

My roommates and I went into the old part of the city to see the whirling dervishes. It was a very touristic show, but still very interesting. The dervishes are a religious order that have had some tough times in Turkey (i.e. being outlawed). It is a sort of "dance" to traditional music, which involves a lot of whirling, and more whirling. Three or four rounds of whirling was enough for me, I think. 

On Saturday and Sunday, my roommates and I decided to go out all night. Because we're in Istanbul, and why not? We started out at Istanbul 360, a very expensive club with pretty terrible drinks, but a nice view over the city. We then moved on to another bar, with better drinks and no view, and then a club where we danced until around 4 AM. When we left the club, we had a few hours to kill before things started opening up again, so we wandered around Istiklal Caddesi (where there were still people, even at that time), and then walked down to our school in Beşiktaş. Our university is open 24 hours, so we wandered in around 6 AM to use the bathroom, making the security guards somewhat confused. We sat by the Bosphorus and tried to watch the sunrise (couldn't quite find the sun, though we watched the sky getting lighter), and then boarded a ferry at 6:30 to the Asian side. We had reservations at a breakfast restaurant that a friend had recommended, and in our sleep-deprived states, we somehow managed to make it there (along the Bosphorus, up through a park, etc…). The buffet-style Turkish breakfast was excellent, and we ate in a haze. Then it was back down the hill, onto the ferry (with many people who looked much more awake then us), onto a bus, and back home for a day of sleeping. 

The next very exciting thing was a trip to Lebanon! Two of my roommates and I flew to Beirut from Saturday until Tuesday, and had a great time. Beirut is much smaller than Istanbul, which was a nice break. We took a very informative (3.5 hour) walking tour of the city, which taught us about Lebanon's mixed Lebanese-Ottoman-French history and its civil war. Also, did you know that there are 10 million Lebanese in Brazil? (There are only 4 million in Lebanon). We took some wonderful walks along the seaside, visited the center of town with its cute shops and French-style buildings, and visited Pigeon Rock--a beautiful geological formation in the sea next to the coast. We also got to see the rocks and a few of the caves nearby from a little rickety motorboat.
In addition, we visited the beautiful American University of Beirut and I went shopping for the first time since I've been across the ocean, I believe (crazy!). We also ate a lot of wonderful Lebanese food--lots of hummus, of course. It was a great break from life in Istanbul, but it was also good to get home and catch up on things. I had three interviews for my research project in one day last week! 

On Friday I had another adventure--a friend and I went to a jam session hosted by her friend in a studio in istanbul. There were two guitarists, a keyboard player, and a singer, and I brought my ukulele. They put up a mic for my ukulele and I jammed along, but you couldn't hear me over the electric guitars. Still, it was a lot of fun, and just a great experience all around. Also, apparently the group using the studio before us included Turkey's Eurovision 2012 contestant! Cool!
Afterwards we hung out for a while in a park with a nice view over Istanbul, and I played a little bit more ukulele. 

Yesterday my group took a walking tour of Istanbul based on the work of architect Sinan--a very famous Turkish architect from the 1500s. We saw some beautiful mosques, ate grilled fish sandwiches by the Bosphorus, and at the end tried boza, a delicious fermented grain drink. Today we continued some of our culinary exploration at a street food festival in a park near our dorm.

This week I'll (hopefully!) be working on some more stuff for school, since the semester is winding down. I only have a month left here! I'll certainly miss Istanbul when it comes time for me to say "hoşça kalın" (goodbye).