Tonight we went to Sariyer, the district of Istanbul in which my university is located. All I can say at this point is that my first impressions of the Turkish people is that they are extremely welcoming and friendly. I have already had several in-depth conversations with my Turkish friends, and it has been wonderful. To get from the university to the district of Sariyer, we had to take a dolmuş (minibus). The dolmuş is extremely crowded (and fast!) but very friendly and cheap. The culture here seems very trust-based; when riding the dolmuş, one gets inside, finds his or her place, and then pays the driver by passing his or her money to the other riders, who pass it up to the driver. The driver then collects the fee and makes your change, passing it back through the other riders who get it back to you. The driver does all of this while driving! It is very fast-paced, inviting, warm, diverse, and exciting here. Sorry for the randomness of these observations, but I am just writing what is coming into my head. After getting our cellphones at TurkCell in Sariyer, we went to dinner, and then to a pub. At the pub, I met more Turkish people, all of them very nice. Actually, most of them have been to the U.S. before, so there is in fact quite a lot of cultural overlap. I also met an Indian-French person, and we had some good discussion about literature (in French and English). With my new Turkish friends Işil and Tugçe, I discussed Obama, Bush, the Armenian Issue, and college life. Here are some pictures:
I have not yet even been to the heart of Istanbul (Taksim and Sultanahmet), but already I am thrilled and fascinated with Turkish culture, and I am already speaking the language a little bit (“thank you,” I learned today, is teşekkürler). It is very rewarding to engage in this sort of exchange. More tomorrow!