These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.
Our group's excursion in Turkey is well on its way, and I think everyone can agree that the last few days have felt more like a utopian vacation than a week of college life. After three weeks of concentrated study at the Bogazici University in Istanbul, I for one was certainly ready to get on the road and explore the Asian side of the country (after all it makes up approximately 97% of the nation).
So far, excursion has been a whirlwind of tours, bus rides and hotel buffets. Yet, interspersed along the way are moments that make you pause. Think. Ruminate. Wonder. We go from napping on the bus to stepping out among the ruins of ancient civilizations -- suddenly, we are treading on history (remember that dichotomy I talked about last time? Here it is again!).
Interactions with history have always been difficult for me; how do I appropriately react to finding myself smack dab in the middle of ancient history - Troy for instance? Troy! This site has been glorified in legends, films, epic poems, basically any form of story telling media you can think of.
We had been warned by several guides and fellow travelers that, while Troy is important, there is not much to see there. Maybe they had overemphasized this for when I dismounted off of the 'Sultan Maxi' coach bus, I was surprised by the degree to which the historic city was still intact. I could see the skeletons of walls, floors, pillars, houses, sacrificial grounds, even a theater. The stones I walked upon were worn from the steps of thousands of feet --both citizens of Troy and its many tourists. It's believed that there were 9 different eras to the city. I found it hard to believe that these eras could be identified by the striated layers of rocks shoved deep into the dirt.
As our tour guide began to enumerate the legends of Troy, recounting battles and daily life, I found myself shocked by the fact that these stories, while entertaining, did not cause a feeling of awe to swell up within me as I viewed the ruins. I was simply impressed that experts were even able to differentiate the piles of rubble from one another. I had wanted the visit to Troy to impress upon me some feeling of connection with the past, a sense of reverence for the lives of those who had lived before me. Now, I methodically went through my senses, trying to categorize the essence of Troy in case this was the best way to identify with it.
I took a deep breath through my nose. It kind of just smelled like the country. I scanned the landscape. Impressive, yes, earth shattering, no. I bent down and traced a design in the dust on one of the slabs sitting solidly beneath my feet. No luck, except that my finger was now a little grittier than before. I decided to forego tasting Troy - understandably.
As our group journeys to different ancient cities and sites of civilizations, I realize that it is silly to expect a grand reaction from myself. The places themselves are certainly grand, but it is hard to force a connection with the past. Instead, I have decided to adopt a process of interacting with the present state of the places I visit. So, after a long walk through Troy, I need not apologize for the fact that my favorite part of the experience was looking past the ruins, aged and beautiful, towards the soft farmland nestled just beyond them. As a native Minnesotan, it was nice to see a whisper of my home across the sea, and in the ruins of Troy no less.
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!
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” -E.B. White
"Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere-- on water and land." -Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Welcome week in America is synonymous with getting acquainted to new experiences, places and people. Welcome week in Morocco is generally the same.
“Do something that scares you everyday.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
Even after a drunk crazy man confessing his preferance for George Bush in Frankfurt, an eerie fog greeting us in Casablanca and a hotel mix up in Rabat, honestly I felt most scared waiting for my luggage after the plane ride into Morocco.
I stood there staring at the conveyor belt, my stomach on the verge of an anxiety ulcer. My travel companion, Rose, got her travel backpack pretty quickly, which was worrisome as she had an extra flight before me. Mine, however, was still MIA. I thought back to the Lufthansa agent telling me I had to check my carry-on because it was too heavy. 'If I don't get my luggage for the next three months, I am so blaming her!' I internally seethed.
More bags, more backpacks that were not mine. I cracked my knuckles. Rationalized that there were still people left waiting for their baggage around me. 'We had made it this far,' I thought. 'Please do not tell me that I lose my luggage on my first ever international flight.'
Finally, my former carry on bag emerged. Soon after, the backpack also came through. The relief of knowing I was in the country I needed to be in with everything I need was one of the best feelings I have had in awhile. That terrified feeling actually made me appreciate Africa all the more.
Here are a few other of my scares and appreciations.
|Gardening and landscaping (1)||Alternative (1)|
|Leisure and recreation (1)||Recreation (1)|
|Food and drink (3)||Politics (1)|
|Transportation (1)||Culture (1)|
|Wine country (1)||People (13)|
|Bridges (1)||Locally-produced food (2)|
|Bird travels (1)||Weird (1)|
|Adventure travel (17)||Backpacking (1)|
|Climbing (1)||Environmental travel (1)|
|Europe (6)||Hiking (1)|
|International travel (23)||Regional travel (2)|
|Road trips (1)||Travel deals (1)|
|Bears (2)||Lions (1)|
|Packers (1)||On the road (2)|
|Values and morals (1)||Family Fun (1)|
|Outdoors Women (1)||Under the radar (1)|
|Travel (35)||Workshops and conferences (1)|
|Food, beer, wine events (2)||Wine (1)|
|Parks and recreation (2)||Urban living (1)|