Posts Tagged ‘Study Abroad’

I am staying in a hostel in Taksim for my last few days here. I have taken to sitting in my window with my camera and snapping candid snapshots of the people in my new hood. I am so loving this city. Below are some of the images I have shot during my last week. Some are from my window, some are not. All are little tastes of the things I love about this city.

There is an enormous stray cat population in Istanbul. This little guy was sitting in the doorway of the underground mosque in Karaköy.

Shot from the window of my hostel. This woman was basically doing what I was doing – watching the neighborhood go by from her window.

A couple of days ago, I took a boat ride up the Bosphorus. It was the first touristy thing I had done since my first week here. It was nice to be on the water, to see the landscapes and to watch the people relaxing.

This mother was showing her son how to feed pigeons. Feeding flocks of pigeons seems to be something that is common in every city I travel too.

One of the things that I love the most about this city are the community areas. All throughout the city are parks, squares and waterfronts where people gather, sit, drink. eat, and socialize together. Cheap outdoor entertainment that promotes community wellbeing. Love it.

Another shot from my boat ride. I love the reddish brown building.

I see this woman sitting on her balcony and watching the people below almost everyday. Her balcony is just across from my window.

There was something about this grandfather and granddaughter that I loved. I think it was the older generation caring for and guiding the younger one.

Being a predominantly Muslim country, women in head scarves are not an unusual sight. I just finally snapped a picture of one.

I find this city to be so enticing. Not just visually but in every sense. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel… I am deeply, madly in love with Istanbul. I can’t wait to live here.

Peace and Love.


We all know the story… Traveling woman meets local boy and, despite the language barrier, sparks fly. Typical travel romance ensues. I have been debating whether or not to write this entry for the last week or two. I am not one to air my dirty laundry to the entire world. Some things are best kept among those you are closest to. But seeing as I have started writing it now, I may as well finish it and see where it goes.

As much as I like to consider myself to not be the typical traveler, I guess in some ways I am. Abroad romance is not a foreign territory for me. And this trip is, although completely unexpected, no exception. Although I will say that this has not been my typical experience as far as abroad romances go.

It started typically enough. Girl sees boy, eyes meet, smiles are exchanged. Boy cleverly fashions a flower from an unsmoked cigarette and presents it to girl (not so typical I guess), girl thinks boy is adorable. Boy palms girl his number as she is leaving. And the story unfolds from there.

Despite our obvious communication barrier, I speak next to no Turkish and he speaks very little English, we seem to manage to communicate well enough and we definitely enjoy spending time together and have a good time when we do.  But recently I can’t help but wonder about abroad romances in general. Does what happens in Turkey stay in Turkey? And what if you don’t want it to?

Now let’s be realistic here. There are the obvious language and cultural barriers, not to mention half a planet between us. Besides, how well can you really know someone when you can’t really delve below the surface in conversation? Is someone’s behavior and body language enough? I have found myself pondering these questions more and more as I spend more time with my Turkish beau.

If you think about it, abroad romances are kind of silly. Eventually they have to come to an end right? One person in the couple is destined to leave. And what if you manage to find someone you could really see yourself with (not saying that that is the case here) and then you have to leave? Is that it? Or does someone uproot his/her life to be with the the other?

I met a girl here who is also from California, and she has been living here for the past 5 months. For the past month she has had a Turkish boyfriend. And now, as her time in Istanbul is coming to an end, he is trying to figure out how he can move to the states to be with her.   That then leaves me wondering… What happens if it doesn’t work out? or if he hates living in the states? or what if they’re relationship doesn’t fit as well in the states as it does in Turkey? (Can relationships be confined or attached to a geographical location?) Is it really worth it?

I am thinking that I am not going to find the answers to these questions in my own blog post. Perhaps it would make an interesting feature piece to work on when I get home?

In the meantime. I have 8 days left in this city and I plan to enjoy them and to try not to think of the goodbyes that lie in my immediate future. It is going to hurt to say goodbye to this city, the culture, the home I have found here, the people, and the boy. I am not ready to do so, but in 8 days I am going to have to; ready or not.

Peace and Love.

As Shabbat comes to a close, a group of HUC students, have gathered together for food, music and merriment. Much reminicent of my days in summer camp, a guitar comes out and songs are sung, food is eaten and laughter is bountiful.

My best friend moved to Jerusalem 2 months ago to attend his first year of rabbinical school. My being in Istanbul was the perfect opportunity for me to pay my bestie a much needed visit. Needless to say, that summer camp was not on my list of expectations. It wasn’t even on the long list. And yet, here I sit, surrounded by future rabbis and canters of reform Judaism and the only things missing are a camp fire and some smores.

The night before, we had a much more intimate and traditional Shabbat celebration and feast. And sitting here today, among this boisterous group, I find the comparison between the two celebrations to be intriguing to say the least. Our celebration last night was held with reverence as age old traditions were honored and practiced. Prayer, ritual, food, and song were all abundant as was camaraderie. Conversely, today’s celebration felt more like a gathering of classmates (which it was).  There was an abundance of people, food, and wine. Laughter and jocularity were plentiful. Reverence, ritual and tradition had essentially been thrown out the window as this lively group gathered and cast off the bondage of the previous week’s schooling. And then the guitar came out and summer camp began. American pop radio songs were sung in unison with fervor and excitement. It was a new day and a totally different Shabbat.

My bestie and I discussed the comparison later this evening. Both celebrations, we found to be fun and endearing. I verbalized my surprise at the contrast between the two as well as my gratitude for having gotten to witness and participate in both. Chalk it up to another cultural learning experience stoking the fires of my religious (and spiritual) curiosity. This is a beautiful thing.

Peace and Love.

Faith, Tradition, Prayer, Song, Feast, Conversation, Friends, Laughter, Community, Celebration, Love and Light. These are the words that come to mind when I think of my first real Shabbat experience. It is Friday night in Jerusalem and Shabbat is in full swing.

I arrived in Jerusalem yesterday in the very early hours of the morning. My best friend moved here two months ago, and seeing that it was only a three hour journey from Istanbul, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit him in his new world. It has been less that 48 hours since I arrived and I am already overwhelmed by all that I have seen, experienced and felt.

Yesterday was a day of very little sleep, hours upon hours of walking in very intensive heat, and the meeting of distinctly different religions. My best friend, who is a bit of rabbi, history teacher and tour guide all rolled into one, mapped out a long day of many sights. Needless to say, we hit the ground running.

 First on the agaenda was the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the rock is a huge Muslim shrine, with a golden  dome, that is considered to be the most famous Muslim sight in Jerusalem. Built on a sacred stone, which is  believed to be the stone on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, the Dome of the Rock stands  majestically, rising up out of the Jerusalem panoramic gleaming so brightly as to be seen for miles and miles.  Built from 688 – 691AD, the Dome was not originally intended to be a mosque, but instead a shrine for pilgrims.  Today, its beautiful mosaic walls and shining  golden dome stand, as majestically as ever, in the Muslim  Quarter of Jerusalem, interestingly juxtaposed with Western Wall, one of the most sacred spots in Judaism.  While we were there, a Call to Prayer rang out and I  was struck by how different it sounded from the ones I have  become so accustomed to and enamored with in  Istanbul. My adoration was by no means lessened, but instead  grew even deeper as I heard this call that was  seemingly new to me.

The next stop on our list was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was  built in 330AD and commemorates the hill on which Jesus was believed to  be crucified and the tomb in which his body was believed to be buried. This  place was the “mecca” for anyone of the Catholic or Christian faith – chalk  full of artifacts that could be considered some of the holiest of the holy. The supposed site of Jesus’s crucifixion, the stone that his body was washed on after being removed from the cross, and the site where his body was believed to be entombed are all housed in this church. I was struck, as I walked around, by the overt displays of faith from the other visitors. People in prayer, people singing, people kneeling, and some even writhing with I guess was what they felt to be the presence of God. It was both interesting and admirable. At the same time, I was struck by my own detachment from theses same things that had brought others to their knees. Having been raised Catholic, I have been taught the stories and was well aware of the significance of the things that I was seeing, and yet, I felt no affiliation with them whatsoever. What I did feel was the intensity of other people’s faith and that was amazing to see and feel.

 The final place on our agenda yesterday was the Western or “Wailing” Wall. A  site that is considered to be one  of the holiest spots in Judaism. The Western  Wall is a section of the western supporting wall of the Temple  Mount that has  remained in tact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple approximately  2000 years ago.  To an  outsider, the wall is just a wall, but from what I understand, the Western Wall is believed  to be a site where  the  Divine Presence of  God is always present. Among the cracks and crevices of the wall, as high as the average  man  can reach, there are scraps of papers that have been crammed into the wall’s spaces – each bit of paper a prayer or  letter or poem of some kind to God. At any time of the day or night, you can find people there praying  This was  an  interesting thing for me, an outsider who has no knowledge of the jewish  faith or history or  tradition. While I  happened to be there, there was also a large group of young women, that were obviously all in  the same group,  and all were in prayer. Girls were swaying back and forth reciting prayers from  a book. Some of those  girls (the  ones  that could push their way to the wall) had their faces pressed against the  wall as they prayed and  others  had their  faces buried in their prayer books. I asked someone what that was about  and she said that it was  a way  to avoid  being distracted by outside things when praying.

While writing this, again I am struck by how profound I found my experiences at the Dome and the Wall were and  detached I was from any experience at the Church. My exposure to these traditions and faiths has tapped my curiosity and I find myself wanting to learn and understand as much as I can about these things that I know so little about. I find the devotion, the persistence of tradition and the intensity of faith to have tapped my thirst for further knowledge.

Peace and Love.

This is it! I am finally done. My profile is written, my photos are done and, the biggest thing, my multimedia project is done!

This past week has been a whirlwind. Interviews, filming, shooting, more interviews, more filming, more shooting, followed by a lot of crying and multiple moments where I had to fight to not throw my computer against a wall. I was thoroughly convinced as I had to start my piece over for the third time, and find a whole new topic, that there was no way that it would be possible for me to actually produce a finished piece. I am still in disbelief that it is done… and that I am actually really pleased with how it turned out.

Here it is!!!!!!

This past month has been a lot of things: amazing, hectic, spiritual, insane, beautiful, frustrating, fun, intimidating, sleepless, romantic…. the list goes on and on. I can’t even begin to describe how much this experience has meant to me or how much I feel like I have changed because of it. I have learned so much about myself, my trade, my passions, and my beliefs. Honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, this has been a life changing experience. All the stress, the fear, the doubt, the questioning, all of it are by far outweighed by the things that I have gained while being here.

I was talking to someone about this today. I have received so much more from this experience than I ever expected or thought possible. Not only did I learn to improve my writing and photography, not only did I learn to shoot and edit video, and not only did I learn a little Turkish, but I also gained new perspectives, ideas, and beliefs. Previously held conceptions and ideas have been smashed. My eyes and my heart  have been opened  in a way that I never thought possible. I feel happiness, love and contentment in the depths of my soul.

Priceless gifts that have been given to me. Grateful doesn’t even come close to describing the way that I feel.

Peace and Love.

I spent several hours in the computer lab today working on my feature piece and being mocked by Final Cut Express. It was frustrating to say the least. I have 2 more days to put this piece together and, needless to say, I’m getting a little nervous.

Despite the abuse I endured from the menacing software, my day consisted of much loveliness and much sadness at the thought of returning home so soon. Tonight, a friend and I sat on the Bosphorus with the locals. As my feet dangled over the water and the fireworks boomed, our conversation broke into fits of laughter. It was one of my happiest moments since I have been here. It was just so simple.

In Beşiktaş, the Bosphorus is the local hang out spot. All day and all night long, people of all ages sit out on its docks and drink tea and eat sunflower seeds and fish and chat and laugh. It’s one of the things that I love about this city. Despite the crazy traffic and the over zealous taxi drivers, Istanbul feels like it moves slowly, nonchalantly, and peacefully through its days. There is much tea drinking and sitting in waterfront bars for leisurely beers (or in my case, diet cokes). Life seems simpler and more relaxed here.

I am sure that this is probably not how the locals feel, but coming from the city that I come from, I find the life here to be refreshing and endearing. I hope that one day, I will be able to join in the simplicity. I hope that one day everyone may find the contentment that I have found here.

Peace and Love.

The countdown has begun! We officially have 4 days left to finish our projects and hand them in and I am definitely feeling the pressure. I have 4 days to edit, translate, and splice my multimedia feature piece together and I don’t feel like I have made much headway. I am totally intimidated by Final Cut and I feel like I don’t know where to begin. I guess I just have to start somewhere.

Today, I went to see Janset, the pantomime, in order to pick up some music tracks from her for my feature piece. After that I spent several hours watching my computer convert all of my usable video clips into files that Final Cut can read. All in all, a semi-productive day. It’s a start at least. I have made peace with the fact that sleep is not an option (or at least much of it) if I am going to get this piece done by Tuesday.

I have been thinking a lot about my time here and the fact that it is coming to a close. I feel like I have learned so much from this experience. I have faced many fears, experienced a lot of firsts and immersed myself in a culture totally different from my own. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and I am sad to see it coming to an end. Although I miss my son, my family and my friends, I know I will be leaving a piece of my heart here in Istanbul. I hope to one day return, maybe even to live, and I absolutely want my son to experience the magic that is this place.

Until tomorrow…

Peace and Love.