Thursday, March 22, 2012

General Will...

So what if it's a little sappy?

This is how the people can share their voice with their governments. It's movements that will shape the future. Don't believe me? Take a look at how many Congressmen and women are suddenly aware of who Joseph Kony is.

Government's do listen.

The people finally have the tools to make their words echo in the halls of politicians.

And this is just the kind of thing that should be shouted:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life is Good Today (Part 3)...

... And that was just Saturday...

On Sunday we went out to celebrate Jenna Fikes' birthday.

Her and I had both been really excited to try this bar that we had found on
The place is called Karga, and it looked cool.

Little did we know that we had found the best bar in Istanbul.

Of course, the first requirement for a gem is that it is advertised very little. Check. This place doesn't have a sign, an ad, or even writing letting you know you've found it.

Instead, there is simply a little logo above the door:

It opens up into an old, converted four-story bar. At the entrence is a DJ booth lined with CDs from a huge variety of genres (Radiohead was the choice when we were there). Every floor has it's own mini bar, and is pock-marked by random assortments of tables, chairs, artwork, and unique lighting.

It's simply fantastic. It's what every bar should aspire to become.

And they had Guinness on tap. Got my St. Patty's Day in, after all.


Life is Good Today (Part 2)...

...And that was just Friday.

Obviously, after that day/night we all slept in a bit for a later start.  

We got going and again took the long trek from our dorm to Sultanahmet. Today, we were going shopping.

See, normally, I'm not a big shopping guy. But there's this place in Istanbul that makes the act really fun. This place is called the Grand Bazaar.

Credit where it is due:
I mean, when that: 
is one of the over 20 gates to your mall, you're doing something right.

We were smart enough to limit our time in the bazaar to an hour and a half, because if you don't do something like this, then you're lucky to leave that place with anything left in your wallet.

In my three visits to the Kapalı Çarşı this trip I have come away with: gifts for my entire immediate family, a new meerschaum pipe, a  handmade turkish coffee set, a gorgeous framed Iznik tile, all of that ancient money from previous posts, and my show of devotion for one of the Istanbul football clubs.

What a perfect segue way.

We left at a certain time because we didn't want to miss the start of the game.
On Saturday, two of the three soccer teams located in Istanbul played each other.  
 Normally, there are giant crowds of rowdies collected at spots in their neighborhoods. 
Normally, the city slows to a halt in the neighborhood where the game is being played.
Normally, this is a big deal.
But, this was no normal game.
Oh, no. You see, the two teams that were playing are also the number 1 and number 2 teams in the Süper Lig standings.
This was a HUGE deal. 
Which meant that despite starting our search an hour and a half before game time, we couldn't find a single bar on the European side of the city that had seats for all nine people with us. 
We walked around until just before game time.

Then, crunch time came and the four of us who truly wanted to watch the match decided to camp outside one of our favorite spots and watch the game through the windows.

It was awesome. 

We ended up standing on the street cheering with about 30 other diehards from both clubs - going to the corner store for a can of beer, or getting a bag of popcorn from the street vendor who came by with his cart.

I've never had this much fun watching a soccer game. Add to it that the game was spectacular, with three of the prettiest goals I've ever seen, and you've got a perfect night.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Life is Good Today (Pt. 1)...

Sometimes you just have to archive a weekend. Because it's that fantastic.

This is what we call a good old fashioned update.

Friday, March 16 2012

-We finished up our last day of classes and I rejoiced. Lectures done. We made it. 
I've left these days full of classes utterly exhausted. I'm not entirely sure of why.
Perhaps is the length or type of lecture.
More likely it's due to the strange chi that envelopes our dorm building that makes true and actual rest impossible.
Sleep is uncommon enough, but rest? Well that's just out of the question.
So, per usual, I spent the walk back from class debating, do I go into town with some people, or take a nap?
I was so tempted to take a few hours off. 
I am SO glad I didn't.

-Hopped on the bus/ferry into town with Peter, Joe, Keaton, and Sam (boys night out?) just in time to see this:

Ferry with the silhouette of Sultanahmet in the background (Ⓒ Keaton Hudson).
How gorgeous is that view?
I'm already missing this city. And I haven't even left. I wonder what the implications of that are...

-We spent the whole ferry ride tossing bits of bread up in the air and watching the gulls catch them in their mouths. Some things to learn from this:
-Birds would make unbelievable wide-receivers/outfielders.
-We are far too easily amused. And that's just fine with me.

-Immediately we headed to the New Mosque. New... as in finished in 1663. 110 years before America was founded, and they call this place the NEW mosque. It's true what they say, Middle Easterners have long memories.
An excellent Ottoman mosque, the Yeni Camii offers a fantastic break from the supremely touristy Blue Mosque while still showing off Mimar Sinan's incredible style. Observe:

Boy. I wish that Istanbul had some pretty things to see... (Ⓒ Keaton Hudson)
-Then, we raced through the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and up the hill to the Suleymaniye Mosque. You see, we were really worried that we wouldn't make it before the call to prayer went off at sunset and we would be barred from entering.
Well, we made it in time. 
And I didn't catch my breath for an hour.
This is, by far, the most amazing, reverent, wonderful mosque I have ever seen. It's daring in its architecture, and yet surprisingly simple. Maybe that is what made it so spectacular. Here's a "doesn't-do-it-justice"still photo and video clip:
Please forgive the shakey-cam.

Not only did we make it in time, we were allowed to stay for the entire prayer. Talk about an experience. That's something that every person should get a chance to witness. We didn't say a word for a half-hour, and that was absolutely A-OK.

-After the prayer, we walked outside. And it just kept being breath-taking...

Can you ever imagine something like this just becoming "normal"? 'Oh that? That's just my mosque, no big deal.'


 There was also this:

Nothing special, just an extremely vivid shot of Jupiter and Venus highlighting one of the minarets lit-up in dramatic fashion.
-We left the mosque and headed down the hill for a bite to eat and then to a nargile cafe. Oh, but not a typical nargile cafe.

As we walked down a street for the second time, Keaton said 'I know it was on this street!' Just then, one of the restaurant hawkers, whom we had been ignoring brazenly, got even bolder. He approached us trying to get us into his joint. Finally, we asked him if he knew where the "Cistern Bar" was.

'That's my bar!' It's right here! We've done some construction recently...' He exclaims pointing at a newly concreted spot in the wall. Then, he leads us through one of the restaurants windows, because, obviously, the door had been sealed up for no apparent reason.

We hunched through the window and immediately found exactly what we were looking for:

The entire bar is a converted cistern, each room an ancient underground Byzantine water holder.

I don't often use the word 'epic', but, come on, this is epic.
Please note the ideal range of facial expressions.
-We hung around the bar so long that we missed the ferry back to Asia, and none of us cared. Nothing could get us down on this night.

You know, every so often (read: like once every two days) I have a moment that makes me stop and think 'this is my job!' And then I remember how incredibly blessed I am. 

This is our night-capping view. Hello, beautiful.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Road Goes Ever On and On...

So, this is what happens when I get into a little creative frenzy and have a few hours on my hands...
Maps have always been something of a passion of mine, so I've decided to physically map out some of my travels. 

This one is pretty fun.

As I visit a country, I'm filling it in with it's flag.

Makes me feel super thankful for where I've been blessed to go,

and really hungry to keep on walkin'...

Upwards and onwards, I guess,
Please kindly ignore the random line of red in Romania, the phantom Krakow location, and the (I'm really embarrassed about this) misspelled Deutschland...
Next on the list?
⃞          Jordan
⃞            Israel
⃞       Palestine
⃞     Lebanon?
⃞          Egypt?
⃞     Hungary?
⃞     Romania?
⃞     Moldova?
⃞ Transnistria?
⃞       Ukraine?

Checks, please!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ivory Towers...

Yesterday, while heading to the Grand Bazaar, I stumbled upon extreme beauty.

"If anyone has a camera, the light is hitting that mosque perfectly right now" Keaton remarked while the rest of us were too busy looking at our shoes to notice the humongous place of worship straight in front of us.

As I looked up, my breath was actually held. Revealing my inner nerd, I quipped something about the mosque looking like it was straight out of Minas Tirith...

Honestly, though. This view was abnormal. It felt like we had discovered part of a book that had somehow slipping into our reality for just enough time to be photographed and then disappear.

Absolutely my favorite picture from the trip so far. 
No question.

I definitely wanted to share it somehow. So, when I got into a WiFi zone, I did what any good 20-something would do, and put it up on instagram.

I'm not the biggest fan of constant use of sepia, but I have to say. It made this scene look even more breathtaking.

If You Listen...

This was written in my journal 1 month ago. I do not mean for it to represent full truth, or even my opinion on the events in Syria. It was just so incredible for me to be talking to someone about what was going on as we were speaking. You see, Syrians are famous for being tight-lipped about their government and its current affairs. So, take my words not as gospel, simply for what they are. Words of the broken-hearted.

[Note: I have deliberately taken out any personal information about my contact out of respect for him, his safety, and the sensitivity of his words.]

Istanbul   February 4

 He was very nice and hospitable (as always) - and his English is impeccable. 
The most fascinating part was his willingness to discuss the current events of Syria. Once we asked him about it he wouldn't stop talking. There were tears in his eyes as he talked about 6,000 dead -

 "Not just a number. 6,000. That means 6,000 families, brothers, friends"

And his words were marked by the familiar Arabic questioning "for what?"

It was heart-wrenching to not be able to reply with any substance. Through his only-marginally-broken English, he spoke stirring words denouncing killing, demanding freedom, and asking for help. 

"Iran and Russia are friends with Assad. Why? They do not care about the killing. About our people. I don't understand."

What a difficult conversation to leave. I want to ask him so much more about his feelings:

"I know he should be tried - brought to justice - but in my heart I think he deserves the death of Qaddafi."

More about his family:

"Sometimes when I call them on my phone, I can hear guns firing."

And about the future:

"Civil war? Between who? Us Syrians make our country a good place because we look out for each other - not the police, not the government. We love each other."

It is incredible what you can find, if you listen.

Pray for Syria.

Quotable Quotes...

In an effort to relay the content of our classroom experiences here, I have decided to post some of my favorite classroom quotes from the past few weeks.

These are all completely out of context, and as such, even more provocative. Please recognize that they have all been said in measured and academic settings, as such, don't freak out about any of them. Take them for what they are and laugh at a few. Most of the speakers names have not been included, and only are when necessary for contextual purposes.

Regarding Religion
On Islamic Prophets...
"Allah tried Moses, and Aron messed it up. He tried Jesus and Paul messed it up. So this there was to be no human agency. Muhammed was going to get it right." 

On The Bible...
"Many churches/denominations treat the Bible as the Fourth Person of "the Quadrinity". It's a very good Islamic way to be a Christian."

"The idea that the Bible fell down from heaven is Islamic - not Christian."

"The Bible is a divine fusion of spiritual inspiration and human agency."

On the lack of an Armenian speaking congregation...
"It is not very godly to teach the gospel in a language the people don't understand." - Father Zakeus

On the intercession of Saints...
"The Miracle of Mary: When the wine ran out, Mary insisted on Jesus doing something about it. He replied, "it's not my time", but, he turned the water into wine anyway. Why? Because Mary insisted. This illustrates why we pray for the intercession of saints." - Father Zakeus

On Orthodoxy...
"If you want to understand Orthodoxy, come and join the Liturgy - the Eucharist."

On Salvation as a transformational process...
"God became man, so that man can become God."*
 (*Don't take this as a blunt instrument, even though I've presented it as one.)

"The Courtroom Mentality: 'There was a verdict. You are guilty, but you have no money, so Jesus paid your fine.' This does not exist in Orthodoxy."

On Sufism...
"Sufism at the beginning of Islam was a reality without a name and it has become a name without a reality."

Regarding Politics
On Politics...
"Coffeehouses are still the center of politics in Turkey. The unemployed/retired old men get together and gossip - about politics. When we drink coffee, we talk about politics; when we drink Rakı, we talk about politics; when awake, we talk politics; when drunk, we talk politics."

On the Ottoman Empire...
"Under the Ottoman-Constitutional rule (1908-1909), Syrians and Egyptians actually had their first free and fair elections."

"The Balkans were the real heart of the Ottoman Empire. Anatolia is a leg or arm."

On Coups...
"Why have you never had a coup d'etat in America? Because there isn't an American embassy in Washington, D.C."

On Civil-Military relations...
"The State does not exist without a form of military."

On Turkey Joining the EU...
"I'm pro-EU. But I care most about the process, not membership. The idea though, is that we need to become more 'good', but they need to be more 'fair'."

"The EU needs to decide: does it represent the Renaissance (Christian Club) or the Enlightenment (based on universal values).

On Atatürk...
" There is a pathological love affair between the Turks and Atatürk."

Regarding Society
On "Turkishness"...
"As minorities have stressed the diferences in ethnicity, the idea of Turkishness has become increasingly ethic."

"[A Turkish general said during the 1980 coup] They are not 'Kurds'. There people are Mountain Turks. They live in the mountains. And when they walk on the snow, their boots make a sound that sounds like 'kurd, kurd, kurd' and that is where they get this name." Note: highly controversial and widely unaccepted view in the present.

"To be a Turkish citizen is to be a Turk" - Constitution of the Turkish Republic (since altered)

On Shanty-towns...
"If oppression is invisible, it wan be maintained."

On interviewing people in the Gecekondu (shanty-towns)...
"No trust. There was always the police. Undercover police. Plain-clothes police. Or the ghost of the police."

On Youth...
"Every society sinks or swims depending on what it does with its 20 year old men."

Quotes from a guest lecture by Dr. Feroz Ahmad
"[Nasr] was knocked off his perch in 1967 and the Arab world has been in decline [since]." 

"All US wars have been Far Eastern wars."

"The tragedy for Armenians is that they found no supporters for their national movement."