Monday, July 15, 2013

Istanbul, not Constantinople!

This past weekend, I went to Istanbul on a whim.  My friend Evan is there for 2 weeks on a language program before heading back to Petersburg, and I've wanted to go to Turkey for a while, so at the last minute I decided to go for it.  It also helped that I didn't work after Wednesday and that tickets were super cheap.  On Tuesday I sent out a few urgent couch surfing requests, on Wednesday I found out where I was staying and bought a ticket, and on Thursday I was in Turkey.

My first impressions of the city were "Wow, this is beautiful," followed by "So it turns out I don't understand Turkish at all.  Like...I can't read any of these signs. This should be interesting." This was the first time in my life I've been to a country where I don't speak the language, which was really strange for me.  In the US and Canada I can use English, in Puerto Rico I used Spanish, and in Russia...well, you get the idea.  Very few people speak English in Istanbul, to the point where even asking for directions was difficult. Luckily, the Turks are incredibly warm and friendly people, so more than once when I pointed to a name on the list of things to do my host gave me, someone walked me directly to my destination.  There was also a lot of gesturing to communicate, which most people take for granted in these situations. By the second day I could read the alphabet and started to notice some similarities with Russian, though that helped very little. I felt so much more comfortable when I got on that Aeroflot plane and could understand everyone, and completely at home in Sheremetevo where I could ask for help.

The city was absolutely gorgeous, the food was amazing, and my host was really nice, though really busy.  I saw most of the major attractions (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilicas Cistern, Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi palace just to name a few), ate a lot of new things (like a pudding that's actually made out of chicken breast.  It was delicious.  Evan only told me what I ate after the fact, which was perhaps wise).  It was refreshing to be somewhere by the sea that was also warm and beautiful with friendly people.  I took a ferry to and from my host's apartment each day.  I apparently look Turkish, which I never knew before.  Istanbul is really cheap when compared to Moscow prices...why do I live here again? I may need to move to Turkey someday.  I got back to Moscow at 6am Sunday morning after sleeping through the entire flight, and was greeted by thunderstorms.  In another 1.5 weeks I'll be landing in JFK.  So it goes.  To summarize: go to Istanbul!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I've begun celebrating by lazing around the house and eating.  Like a true American.  Well, and meeting a courier to sign some paperwork, because I'm important ;) While I am bummed to be missing fireworks and jello molds, I take joy in the fact that my friends and family will eat double for me.

And I leave you, dutifully, with this:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summah Summah time

I started my day by petting and shaking hands with a monkey outside of my metro, where I met Steve to go to GUM because they were handing out free ice cream to celebrate their 120th anniversary.  There were also a lot of cool photo displays on the first floor, so we walked around looking at them and getting seconds on ice cream.  I also bought something for one of you, but I won't say who.  I like to keep you in suspense.

After we were done with GUM and Steve had to go to work (I didn't.  I win.), I had my own mini adventure wandering the streets of Moscow.  First I stopped in the Alexandrovskii Sad and laid on the grass reading some of my book (On the Road, if you must know) before heading off in no particular direction.  I passed by the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Pushkin Museum before landing on a bus stop for a little while - I figure if I'm paying all this extra money for an all-forms-of-transport metro card (not by choice), I might as well get some tram action.  And it was nice out.  So a tram FINALLY comes, takes me down to Oktyabrskaya near Gorky Park, and I get off not wanting to go any further south.  Then I get on another tram going in the opposite direction, taking me exactly where I had come from.  Almost.  It stopped while saying "This is the end of the line," but as I got off I heard it announce the next stop as other passengers boarded.  I don't know.  I walked and walked in some weird artsyish hipstery place by the Bolotnaya Embankment and enjoyed the view before once again passing the Cathedral, buying a cream soda, sitting by lion statues, and looking at the entrance to an exhibition of sand sculptures depicting ancient Russia before deciding to head home.  So that was my day.

The summer has been sort of a blur since it's going by so quickly.  I finished working at Mayakovskaya on June 1st and switched to Marino June 3rd (which equals 3 day weekends, yesssss).  I had some friends here for about a week, then I took off to Petersburg again (White Nights + Jackie was heading back to the US soon), then I had a friend visiting for a few days, and now I'm toying with a trip to Turkey next weekend.  Almost forgot to mention, it's been sweltering here.  We're talking +30C/86F and humid pretty consistently.  The kinds of days where you're glad to work from 1230-1010 because at least it's air conditioned there.  Oh also, random aside, the airport where Snowden is currently hiding out is the one nearest my apartment.  We're talking like 30 mins away at most.  I'll send him your best.

Stateside in less than a month! Now that is crazy.