By Carmen Chen MURP ’16
As my time in Istanbul has come to an end, I am struggling with how to end my blog. After several rewrites, I have concluded that it is impossible to fully summarize my experience I’ve had here. Therefore, I conclude my time in Istanbul with a post of random thoughts/reflections of my time here:
It’s not as conservative as everyone says
Before arriving in Istanbul, I was warned by friends, family members, and online forums about how conservative Istanbul is. I was told to cover myself and only wear long pants and skirts. While it is a Muslim country, and it is conservative in many ways, in terms of dress, I felt comfortable wearing what I wear back in California in most parts of Istanbul.
Just build it
Many buildings and public areas in Istanbul are undergoing construction, but often done so haphazardly and/or with little regard to the people who are affected by it. I went home one day to see that half of the outdoor staircase I used to access my apartment was demolished. Two days later, I woke up to the sound of construction, and discovered that the staircase was completely gone. In its place was a dirt path with construction rubble. The reconstruction would take two months and no alternative path was provided. I told my coworkers, and they responded, “It’s Turkey!”
Bread, bread, and more bread
Ekmek, or bread, is served with every meal. Breakfast is literally bread and different kinds of spread. Speaking of which, so is yogurt. You can find yogurt in almost all forms of food. You can eat it on it’s own, as a spread, as a drink, in soups, on ravioli…you get the point.
Tea and coffee means you’re in
Turks love their tea and coffee, and often offer them as an invitation for conversation. I’ve walked into shops and ended up staying over an hour speaking with shopowners over a cup of tea. If you find yourself in Turkey, don’t refuse a cup of tea or coffee, it’s considered rude, and you may miss your chance to make a new friend.
Americans love dogs, Turks love cats
Cats are everywhere and sometimes it’s difficult to tell if they are strays or pets, because they are treated so well. People will leave out piles of cat food and makeshift bowls of water for them. I’m sure this will make some of the cat lovers in the program very happy.
I have since affectionately adopted this phrase to refer to all things Turkey. It’s a crazy, random place full of history, colorful people, amazing food, and beautiful landscapes. Although this post or anything I write cannot begin to express the amazing time I’ve had, I am extremely grateful to Luskin for this opportunity.