Monday, August 15, 2011

Turkish Delights, Israeli Reflections

Note: I will post Turkey pictures as soon as possible!

Day-to-Day: 4-15 August 2011


It’s a weird feeling, always feeling caught up in past, present and future things. I’m going home in about a month, so I’m searching online for tickets (where I’ve found, to my surprise and delight, that round-trip tickets are cheaper than one-ways); I’ve left Israel after three months, so that my impressions and my Hebrew are fresh in my mind when I wake up or try to speak to the locals; and I’m in Turkey, taking it all in!

In terms of Israel, I left on a very good note: having visited my three primary hosts in the country to say thank you and good-bye, it felt like I’d both been there forever and been IMG_7047there not nearly enough time. The things I would do if I went back: snorkel or scuba in the Red Sea, via Eilat and Egypt; spend way more time in the desert; visit many more parts of the Galilee; and try to learn more about, and perhaps visit, the settlements and restricted areas like Gaza. The things I’m holding on to, having just left: saying “excuse me” and “thank you” in Hebrew; looking wistfully for pita bread and hummus, tomatoes and cucumbers, at every meal; eating a hearty lunch and a small dinner; and missing the somewhat homogenous look of the locals. It was such a pleasure to meet and get to know my mom’s friends Deborah and Paula, and to find some new friends of my own. I’m very interested in returning to Israel and perhaps some of it’s neighbors, particularly Jordan and Egypt.

Turkey has struck me as both fantastic and not nearly as foreign-feeling as I expected. Of course, I’ve really only explored the European side. My couchsurfing hostess, Serap, has been friendly and welcoming, and while she isn’t able to spend time exploring with me, she’s been extremely helpful. It has struck me once again how fantastic it is to stay with a IMG_7134local, too, each time I wind my way downhill into her neighborhood – a ten minute walk from the nearest Metro. Thus far, “thank you” is the only Turkish I’ve picked up. The mosques are the most fascinating for me: the Blue Mosque is my favorite, although Aya Sofia was magnificent as well. The pure age of things around here is incredible! The Hippodrome and various landmarks, the bridges and towers and palaces and hamams that date back hundreds, if not thousands, of years, all combine to make me sigh in wonder sometimes. And yet, it’s all surrounded and steeped in European culture and infrastructure and feel! The population is not at all homogenous, is, in fact, so varied that I couldn’t tell you what a Turk “looks” like. I can tell you that the Turkish people are friendly and kind, the shopkeepers inviting but not push. It would be hard to get lost here, since everyone seems willing to help out a lost-looking tourist! The things I won’t get to on this first jaunt to Turkey that I hope to do on my return: a Bosphorous boat trip; Topkapi Palace; and a hope over to the Asian side to check things out. Otherwise, I have to decide on what to do with my eight full days when I return from Nepal. Right now, I’m leaning towards Troy and Epheseus and a day hiking part of the Lycian way; Cappadocia is also high on the list, but further away.

And thoughts of going home, as I search frantically for a decently priced ticket, are resolving themselves into a medley of emotions: not panic, as there was at first, but anticipation, excitement, a bit of apprehension, relief. I still can’t believe that a round trip ticket from Turky to Raleigh and back is cheaper than a one way ($950 vs $1100), but it continues to be true. I have a hundred ideas of what to do when I get home, besides the obvious three: celebrate my brother’s recent marriage, relax, and visit with the family.

Past, present, future, they’re all melting into one for me lately, and yet is it’s own sweet subject of thought, deliberation and wonder. Every day and every moment I keep thinking, “What next?”



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