Merhaba! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amy Lohmann and I’m a junior at St. Olaf College, which is located in the quaint Southeastern Minnesota town of Northfield. For the next few months I will be traveling as a part of the St. Olaf College program “Term in the Middle East,” where 16 of us will journey to Turkey, Morocco, Egypt and Israel.
Now, if this was a regular semester, I’m sure that at this moment I would be writing from the reference room of the Rolvaag library, clutching a gargantuan caffeinated beverage. As it so happens, I’m lounging in a Café on the streets of Istanbul (where I’ve been staying for the past three weeks), nibbling on chocolate and sipping a tiny Turkish coffee (or Turk Kahvesi). While certain elements of this scene are commonplace, the presence of caffeine for instance, the overall scene makes it clear that this is no ordinary school day.
This dichotomy of the familiar tangling with the new seems like an apt metaphor for an American visiting Istanbul. At almost every turn you can see where the recognizable life of the West melds with the East, or where the traditional meets the modern. My memory floods with examples of these two worlds intermingling.
Some examples are humorous; finding a Starbucks on every corner was a funny surprise, especially when the Seattle born brand is located next to historic mosques and other auspicious sites. Others seem more symbolic. Two women arm in arm on the beach of the Black Sea, one sporting a skimpy bikini, the other shrouded from headscarf to toe. A man clearing the dust from the entrance of a cell phone emporium with a broom made out of twigs.
While I could write about a multitude of topics in an attempt to introduce Istanbul – among them the crazy transportation, the droves of stray cats and dogs, and the delicious çay
served practically everywhere – this meeting of the old and the new, the familiar and the strange, has been impressed upon me with every passing day.
Soon it will be out of the city and into the unknown as our group heads out on an excursion to explore cities and sites deep within Turkey. Look forward to pictures of Troy and a group yacht trip!