Welp, I survived my first week in Istanbul. Maybe “survived” is too weak of a word — I “CONQUERED” my first week in Istanbul.
Let’s rewind to one week ago when I was boarding a plane in Orange County. Heart racing and tears rising, I said farewell to my mother and younger sister and set off on a new adventure full of mystery. How will this experience change me? Who will become a part of my life over the next year? In what ways can I abandon my American mindset and open myself to a new ways of thinking about the world? These types of questions clouded my thoughts as I drifted to sleep aboard a plane full of people who were either returning to Istanbul or visiting Turkey for the first time — just like me.
After nearly 15 hours of uncomfortable sleep and interrupted dreams, I peered out the window of our plane to see deep red roofs atop white walls as far as I could see. Moments later I landed at Ataturk International Airport outside of Istanbul, Turkey. My body didn’t know if it wanted to be awake or asleep because the local time was 10:05 a.m., which is 12:05 a.m. on the West Coast. With one large suitcase and one backpack to my name, I stepped outside of the airport to find my dear friend Ashton waiting with open arms.
Ashton recently finished her final semester of college at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi, a prestigious English university. She was a large motivating factor in my choosing Istanbul as my new destination because she fell in love with the culture of Istanbul within a few days of moving here last August.
After screaming like little girls at the sight of each other, we boarded a bus and headed toward our temporary home near her university. I stared out the window absorbing
the new scenery passing by: short buildings, tall buildings, beautiful skyscrapers, dilapidated skyscrapers, beautiful parks, not-so-beautiful parks. Truly a mix of everything passed through the frame of the window. It was obvious this third world country is becoming more developed, but its history of poverty is still visible — albeit beautiful.
Over the next few days, Ashton acted as my tour guide/mother showing me around the city and helping me get acclimated to the new environment. Our first big adventure was over the Golden Horn to the Spice Bazaar. Small shops lined the narrow walkway where shop owners on both sides shouted pickup lines as we passed by: “Hello, Spice Girls!” “Victoria Secret Angels, come to my shop!” “Where are you ladies from? Heaven? Yes, I think so!”
(The other half of this post was accidentally deleted and I can’t remember what was here! So sad!)
I know there was something about the crowded streets of Taksim, my daily commute from Europe to Asia and all the people I’ve met from around the world. I guess that part of my trip will forever be lost in the recesses of my memory.
The bridge lights up different colors at night!