Saturday, October 20, 2007

What we actually did in Istanbul + Sinop and the Black Sea

Despite both previous posts alluding to Istanbul and our time there, I didn't actually say anything that we did there. Well briefly (because I do after all have a couple of months to cover after the Istanbul trip), we visited the Aya Sofia (or Hagia Sophia), the beautiful cathedral built by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century. It really was quite phenomenal to see the architecture of the domes considering that a lot of architects and builders couldn't repeat similar designs in much later periods.

As well as that we ate at a riverfront restaurant (it was actually on the lower level of a bridge spanning the Bosporus), where the food and scenery were amazing, but we were completely ripped off! While there we also took a ferry ride on the Bosporus at sunset, and I think that was one of my favourite experiences because it was truly wonderful to sail into port with the skyline of beautiful buildings and famous landmarks that spanned in design and creation from the 6th to the 21st century, to see the Aya Sofia and the 15th century (I think) Sultanahmet 'Blue' Mosque side by side with more modern architecture. Istanbul became, without a doubt, one of my all-time favourite places in the world--it's an amazing city that you must visit if you get a chance!

Since then a lot has happened, much of which has prevented me from blogging (or so I like to tell myself). We met our units, and got to work developing Course Implementation Plans (CIPs) based on the course syllabi--that was in the second week of September. The next week we started teaching, and I have to say that the first two weeks of teaching were easily the most stressful period of my life, and a couple of days before I started, I believe I was the most afraid I've ever been! Since then, things have looked up and it's become a lot easier to plan and teach, although it is certainly still daunting (and depressing) at times...

Just one wise man...
At the Citadel, overlooking Ankara

I've had a bit of an opportunity to see more of the country recently, as a couple of friends (Lindsey and Wendi) and I took advantage of Bayram (the Eid-al-Fitr holiday following the month of Ramadan, or Ramazan as they call it here) to travel to the town of Sinop on the Black Sea coast in the North of Turkey. We caught the overnight bus there to arrive around 7:30 in the morning, and, having found a cafe and secured some Nescafe and Poaca (a Turkish pastry) for our breakfast, we set off to find our Pansiyon (hostel). It was run by a little old man who turned out to be practically deaf, which made for some interesting exchanges during our three days there!

Two of the Speaking Skills Instructors from my Teaching Unit, Alex and Gretchen, were also in Sinop for the break, so we met up with them (turns out they checked into the same hostel), and over the next couple of days explored the town a bit--it has a gorgeous bay, which we enjoyed overlooking from the castle ruins. This included a visit to Sinop's historical, famous prison where (as I've been informed but have yet to confirm) the famous poet Nazim Hikmet was once imprisoned, among other similarly famous characters from Turkey's past.

More than anything though, what I appreciated about the trip was the restfulness of it. I introduced the wonderful game of Tavla (you may know it as Backgammon) to Wendi and Lindsey, having learned it but a few short weeks earlier from another friend here. Thus, for the remainder of our days in Sinop we were frequently to be found playing Backgammon and drinking copious amounts of tea in waterfront cafes. I find myself missing backgammon more and more in the days since, and requiring that fix--so much so that I may have to invest in a set for myself sometime in the near future...

Wendi and me playing Tavla in Ankara's fashionable Bahceli district...
...with a compulsory glass of cay, of course!

Apart from a quick note to say we have finally moved into our new apartments (huzzah), which are quite stunning--pictures to come--that is all from me for now. Iyi geceler (good night)!

P.S. I'll put up pictures for this post when I have the time (and more pictures).

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