Friday, July 25, 2014

30 ways you know you're an exchange student (more specifically, a NSLI-Yer) in Turkey

Hey guys!
So this post, as you can see, is pretty self-explanatory. Today is our official one-month mark. And what a month it's been, one of the craziest, most amazing, and most incredible in my life so far for sure. I'm working on some other posts, one of other things we've done in the third and fourth weeks, and another of general reflections and observations I want to share with you guys. For now, enjoy (my version of) the 30 ways - one for each day of the month we've been here so far - that you know you're a NSLI-Yer in Turkey! Enjoy. :) 

  1. When going for more than a day or two without eating iskander or doner kebap becomes a stretch. 
  2. When you accidentally mix the other language(s) you know or study into your Turkish, and so too do all your fellow NSLI-Yers. 
  3. When there's no such thing as too much dondurma (Turkish ice cream). 
  4. When you're more excited to hear the ezan (call to prayer) than most of the Turks you know.
  5. When you're constantly fangirling just walking around because there's so much incredible history everywhere. 
  6. When you've taken to calling everyone amca, teyze, abla, or ağabey (respectful terms of endearment meaning "uncle," "aunt," "big sister," and "big brother," used when speaking to strangers older than yourself). 
  7. When you've become unfazed by the idea of slathering all your food with cold yogurt at mealtimes. 
  8. When you like ayran (a refreshing, salty yogurt drink). 
  9. When, if you stay up too late, you're kept up even later by the drummers that wake people up for sahur (the morning meal which people who fast during Ramadan eat before the sun rises to tie them over until they break their fast and eat iftar at sunset). 
  10. When, no matter how much you adore Turkish food, you find yourself constantly craving your favorite food, both typical and foreign cuisines, from back home (I'm seriously missing my mom's cooking, and my favorite Indian and Korean restaurants).
  11. When, on the other hand, you love your host mother's dolma (peppers or tomatoes stuffed with seasoned rice and ground meat, served with yogurt) so much that you've got half a mind to start worshiping it (like seriously - my host mother's dolma is a godsend). 
  12. When seeing a whirling dervish performance is one of the highlights of your entire experience. 
  13. When drinking tea six or seven times a day has become normal.
  14. When the phrase "ben yorgunum" is by far the one you most frequently use (it means "I'm tired).
  15. When you're immensely proud of yourself for being able to communicate anything to anyone in Turkish, no matter how broken it may be. 
  16. When you read the Turkish subtitles to an English movie or TV show super attentively in the hopes of recognizing words.
  17. When you and your fellow NSLI-Yers find yourselves more than occasionally fangirling about Tim Doner.
  18. When the awesome conversations you have with your amazing fellow NSLI-Yers range from the intricacies of Samoan politics to the detailed reasons for which we want to learn all the languages we're interested in (and believe me, there are many).
  19. When you've spent so much time and had so much fun with said fellow NSLI-Yers that there are virtually no boundaries left between you anymore, and you've made friendships you know will last a lifetime. 
  20. When, as a result of #19, you've automatically got 14 places to stay, wherever in the world those people may happen to live. 
  21. When you're already seriously contemplating both the next time you go abroad and ways to return to Turkey in the future. 
  22. When you would give just about anything to see the Hagia Sophia from the inside. 
  23. When you feel like you're in on a number of secrets due to the amount of beautiful, secluded, adorable little mountain villages you've visited.
  24. When you taste fresh, locally grown fruit purchased from benevolent little grandmas in said villages that make you want to drop everything and build temples for the aforementioned fruit. 
  25. When you're looking just as forward to Bayram (the feast at the end of Ramadan; in Egypt and other Arabic speaking countries it's called Eid) as your host family. 
  26. When you'd much rather visit some ancient ruins or a mosque than spend time in a huge mall.
  27. When you've begun to incorporate little Turkish phrases into your everyday vocabulary, even when speaking English (i.e. afiyet olsun = bon appetit, kendine iyi bak = take care, ben de = me too, görüşürüz = see you later, etc.).
  28. When you know, seeing the way the sunrise hits the mountains in the distance from the metro every morning, that you were meant to come here for a reason.
  29. When, in spite of whatever difficulties there are (and they do exist), you've fallen madly in love with this country, and know you will come back.
  30. When you thank the government, the US State Department, American taxpayers, and your higher power every day that you have been awarded the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn such a difficult, beautiful, and fascinating language in the amazing and crazy country where it's spoken, and know that you will cherish the good, the bad, and the everything-in-between of this experience for the rest of your life. 
Thanks for reading, everyone.
Mutlu bayramlar (Happy Bayram)!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

İkinci hafta - the second week

Herkese merhaba! :)
So today I'm just going to write about everything (and there's a lot) that went down in the second week, to get you all up to speed, and at the same time I'm working on other posts which I'm hoping to finish up soon as well. This post is going to be a long one complete with lots of pictures, so bare with me here.

Here goes nothing!
So on the 2nd, we headed to the Bursa Zoo after our language classes to do some volunteering. We started by helping to prepare some food for the animals just before their scheduled feeding times. Options included slicing up fish for the pelicans, chopping fruit for monkeys, and carving a pumpkin to put in the meerkat enclosure. After feeding the pelicans and meerkats, we got to get an up-close look at the zoo's giraffes (our friend Sophia even got to feed them herself!). There was also an opportunity to place giant hunks of meet in various places in the lion enclosure (while they were in a different one, of course) and then watch them hunt the meat down once they were let inside (Fun fact - "Aslan" = lion. #whaddupnarniarefrence).
Overall, the zoo was not exactly as grand as some of those people in our group are familiar with back in the States (then again, our friend Andrea is from San Diego, so maybe we are operating with a bit of bias...) But it was pretty cool overall, and the enclosures are all provided with more than adequate space and care, so what's not to like?

Meerkats!! :D They're some of my favorite animals. 



On the 4th, aside from missing the fireworks back home, I went to Korupark, a large mall here in Bursa, to watch The Fault in Our Stars (complete with Turkish subtitles!) with Salma, Gianna, Ruth, and their host sisters. I had already seen it back in the States on opening night (June 6) with one of my best friends, Donny, but I was more than happy to see it again (with Turkish subtitles to boot!), as it is now one of my favorites. It's a beautiful movie (and book, for that matter), but it's an undeniable tearjerker, and the others appeared to agree with me - many tears were shed in that theater. xD Afterwards, perhaps due to the emotional roller coaster ride which was The Fault in Our Stars, Salma made my day, as well as everyone else's, by spontaneously blurting out "I LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH!", which was met by amused but adamant approval by everyone else present. It's a thought which I think had been in our minds for quite some time, but which we had yet to explicitly articulate. We as a group have spent so much time together and become so close, especially at this point, and it was nice to attest to that a little bit by having the thought that had been at the front of our minds for quite a while expressed out loud. :) All in all, an awesome day.

On the 5th, we had a lovely little group retreat of sorts to a nearby village called Iznik, which is located on a lake of the same name and is particularly well known for its pottery. After spending a 1.5-2 hour bus ride having some pretty awesome conversations with fellow NSLI-Yers and associated host siblings, we first stopped at a little pottery studio called Tuna Seramik, where we were given a brief rundown on the history of Iznik pottery and the techniques used to make it, after which we were given the fantastic opportunity to (with a bit of help from the professionals) make our own pottery creations. I made a tile with a large Turkish flag and a great proverb meaning "one language is never enough," which I thought was both very true and very meaningful to this experience in particular <picture soon to come>. It was pretty amazing to create my own original little work of art using techniques which have remained unchanged for millennia, I must say. After that, we headed off to Iznik's Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), which, although it can't hold a candle to the one in Istanbul as far as I'm concerned, was still a fascinating place. It had a very similar history to Istanbul's Hagia Sophia (likely the reason that they have the same name), having first been a Byzantine church, then a mosque, and now a museum, albeit with a small section still reserved for worship. After exploring it for a little while, we headed on to an incredible set of ancient Greek ruins which I believe were part of the ancient city of Nicaea, an ancient Greek city which thousands of years ago stood where Iznik now does. It too was a fascinating place, a tangible testament to the Greek civilization that lived here long ago, history which we could quite literally touch. It was truly amazing. Following that, we stopped at Iznik's beautiful Green Mosque, named for the lovely green tires which grace its interior. It too was lovely, with the same spiritual grandeur as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, although somewhat differently, it had a very calm atmosphere; being inside it, you can't help but feel peaceful, whereas the Blue Mosque is very grand and awe-inspiring. Anyway, following the Green Mosque, we made our last stop of the day, at a pebbly beach on Iznik Lake. Bodies of water make me very happy, and as it was the first one of any size which we'd seen since reaching Bursa, it was a very welcome sight. We took lots of pictures, chatted, and walked around, admiring the views of the cobalt lake with mountains rising in the distance. The Iznik trip was incredible, by far one of the highlights of the trip so far.

My incomplete creation. 

Left to right: Me, Gianna, Salma, and Seyma, Salma's host sister. 

Inside the Ayasofya.

Arabic calligraphy. 

From the outside. 

Ancient Greek ruins. 


Me and Maddy. :) 

Me and my friend Rose from New York. :) 

The Green Mosque.

The doorway. 

Iznik Lake. 

An adorable puppy Maddy and I found while walking around. :D 

A crazy selfie I took with Gianna, Ruth, and Salma (from left to right). 

On the 7th, having rested up the day before after our trip, we attended the opening night of the Karagöz International Folk Dance Competition. This was a competition which united folk dancing groups from Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Panama, Chile, China, Hungary, Macedonia, and Northern Cyprus, and we got to see some pretty great traditional folk dances, see some pretty amazing traditional costumes, and hear typical traditional music from all of those countries. I personally was partial to the Chinese performance, though I agreed with the majority of those present that the Azerbaijani team took the cheesecake. All in all, it was a great event and a fun night.
A Turkish team opening with an Ottoman dance associated with Bursa.

All the teams gathered for the opening ceremony. 

The Chinese team. 

I believe this was on the 8th, though at this point I can't say for sure. But my friend Maddy and I went wandering together after class! We both had been wanting to simply wander around and explore, with no agenda or plans, for a while, and so we decided to do so together. We simply picked a direction and started walking, and ended up at the Silk Bazaar, where we wandered around and checked out the wonderful little shops, making mental notes of where to come back to, and talking endlessly all the while, mainly about our lives and exchanges. It was a great afternoon in great company, not much else to it. :)

On the 9th, immediately after class, we embarked on a much-anticipated city tour of Bursa, and some how managed to pull of the impossible, visiting most of the major monuments in that one tour. First, we headed to the Yeşil Türbe, or Green Tomb, which is a mausoleum built in 1421 that houses the tomb of the fifth Ottoman sultan Mehmed I, and contains many lovely green and turquoise çini (Iznik tiles) inside. We also got the chance to quickly stop at the Yeşil Cami, or Green Mosque, across the street, which was also incredibly beautiful and serene. Following a brief stop at the Bursa City Museum, which offered some informative perspective on Bursa's fascinating 7000 year history (as well as associated information on its ethnography, trade, economy, etc.), we headed on to what was for me the highlight of the day: the Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque). We had a bit of a crunch on time, as we arrived right before the afternoon prayer time, but we managed to get a good look. The design was different from other mosques we'd seen - less colorful, with more white hues and Arabic calligraphy instead of radiant blue and green çini. But something about it stood out to me. There was a beautiful fountain right in its center, and it managed to strike a balance between the grandeur of the Blue Mosque and the peaceful spiritual feel of (Bursa's) Green Mosque, with its own unique twist added as well. I felt very at ease there, and as we heard the ezan (call to prayer) while we prepared to leave, suffice it to say I got crazy goosebumps. Following that, we continued on with a stop at the tombs of Osman Gazi, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and his son Orhan Gazi, who conquered Bursa, in a place called Tophane Park, which has some pretty wicked views of the city, being perched on a tall hill. From there, we made a brief stop at the Karagöz Museum, which was dedicated to the traditional shadow puppet shows starring Karagöz and Hacivat, who according to legend were two construction workers in the area during the Ottoman era. Finally, we wrapped up our monumental tour of the city with a stop at the 600 year old Inkaya Sycamore Tree, famous for being the place where Osman Gazi allegedly had a dream which caused him to create the Ottoman Empire. A crazy day with lots of stops no doubt. But we powered through it, and it was truly a fantastic day in which I managed to see incredible things, and which I will never forget.

Inside the Green Tomb. 

Outside the Green Mosque. 


From the City Museum. 

An old fashioned-Turkish living room. 

An old fashioned classroom, with Ottoman Turkish in Arabic letters on the left of the blackboard, and its modern equivalent in Latin script on the right. 

Ulu Cami. 

Isn't it amazing!? 

Finally, on the 11th, we had a tour of three different museums: the Textile Museum, which was built in a former factory, the Energy Museum, and the new Science and Technology Museum. The first two offered some fairly interesting information on Bursa's notably extensive history as an industrial center, and then the Science and Technology Museum offered some pretty fun hands-on exhibits which we made ample use of - it was honestly a lot of fun! And a great segue into a weekend of ample relaxation...
From the Energy Museum, if I'm correct.

From the Science and Technology Museum. 

So that was the second week in a nutshell! Sorry this is so late. I will be back soon enough with another about this past week (the third), and hopefully I'll manage to finish up a post of general reflections and observations I've been wanting to share.


P.S.: I've temporarily changed the name of this blog from "Nico and the world" to "Good Dil," which is a play on the phrase "good deal," which I say a fair amount, with the word "dil" (pronounced identically to the English word "deal") meaning "language" in Turkish. It was a nice little pun I thought of the other day, and plan on keeping it for the rest of the program. Hope you all like it! ^_^

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ben buradayım!/I am here!

Sorry it's taken me this long to write about this, but I'm on Turkish time. :P Here it goes!

So I left home bright and early on the morning of June 22nd, numb with excitement and anticipation, and headed off to the airport with my parents. After saying goodbye to my mom, my dad, who was also traveling that day for business, came in with me, and graciously came all the way to my gate to say goodbye. After a perfectly uneventful flight to DC, almost the entirety of which I spent journaling, I got off the plane and, after a bit of trouble finding the train to the baggage claim, was greeted by one of the program directors from ACES, our "implementing organization," plus two other Turkey-bound NSLI-Yers named Madeleine and Sophia. After two more named Patrick and Rachel showed up, who were headed to China instead, we got in the shuttle to head over to the hotel, excitedly chatting all the while about our upcoming adventures and all the (many) related hopes and fears.
After arriving at the hotel, we grabbed some lunch, and over the course of that day, leading up to the actual start of the orientation at five. The first part of the orientation was fairly standard. There were two groups of us NSLI-Yers; the 14 of us headed to Turkey, and another 25 heading to Jiaxing, China, which is just outside of Shanghai. The first night of the orientation covered mostly standard protocol of the program (most of it was common sense anyway) - as my now good friend Maddy from Portland, Oregon, said: "Shockingly, running around Bursa at 2 AM drunk and wearing nothing but an American flag isn't a good idea, and it's against program rules to elope, convert religions, or renounce our American citizenship. Bummer, my plans for this trip just went down like a turkey trying to fly." As you can see, she's quite the character (hehehe love you, Maddy ^_^).
The next day included a great deal more of country-specific briefing for both the Turkey and China groups. We were aided in this mainly by Catherine, our resident director, who is American but has lived in Turkey for several years and speaks Turkish fluently, as well as Safa, a representative from ISE World, our "overseas partner organization." We learned a great deal about Turkey as a country, got a half-hour crash course in its language, in which we managed to count to 100 as a group, and even saw a video about Bursa and got super excited to be there. :) And I managed to have a record-breaking conversation of sorts with my amazing new friends Gianna from San Francisco, and Salma from Virginia. We talked a lot at dinner, and then spent much of the rest of the evening chatting in the lobby, talking about our excitement for our experiences, our lives, our hopes, our interests, and much more. We were joined intermittently by my roommate Brendan and our friend Sam from Colorado, and by midnight, we calculated that we had spent a little under seven hours talking together. :) It's nice to find people that can make seven hours just vanish in the blink of an eye, in my opinion.
The next day was the day. A few of my fellow Turkey-bound NSLI-Yers stayed up to see off the China kids at their atrociously early 3:30 AM departure for the airport, but I was not one of them. :P We were (thankfully!) able to ease into our day much more gently; Brendan and I mosied on down to breakfast around 10 or so, and we ate with the others from our group. We were the first down aside from Gianna and Salma, and as the others in our group gradually trickled downstairs from their rooms, carrying their bags, we ate in jittery and ecstatic anticipation, too excited about finally being on our way to taste our food.

At midday, we left for the airport to catch our 4:15 flight to Paris from Dulles Airport. No delays or problems of any kind, fortunately. We reached our gate with an hour and a half to spare until boarding, and after spending most of that time meandering around the airport with Maddy and Safa, I bought myself a vanilla bean frappucino at Starbucks to leave the country with a little slice of Americana, and we then boarded our giant Paris-bound plane (it was a double-decker!) to finally start our grand adventure. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure it was the biggest commercial airliner in the world. No big deal.
I was seated on the top level of the plane with Gianna, Salma, and Madeleine, as well as Cat. Almost immediately after take-off, the four of us watched Frozen together, since both Gianna and Madeleine hadn't yet seen it, which was a pretty fun little activity to start off our long trip. :)
We also had a cool conversation with a member of a band called "Barefoot Movement;" they were on their way to play at a concert in the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso. After that, I spent a while trying to get a little sleep while listening to music, which didn't really work out well, but some shut-eye is better than no sleep at all, I suppose. After "waking up" from my "nap," I watched the movie Remains of the Day, which was adapted from a book I read in my English class last year, and by the time I was done watching, breakfast was served and we had less than an hour left til landing. Eventually, we gently coasted down through the rosy Parisian sunrise and touched down on French soil.

I'd never been in the Charles de Gaulle Airport before, so it was neat we got to connect there. We were there so early for our 10 AM flight to Istanbul that there was a flight to Tunis at our departing gate that hadn't even left yet! We dumped our stuff there, and wandered around for a few hours, buying ourselves some obligatory airport croissants for breakfast, and then Salma, Gianna, and I wandered down all the way to the end of the terminal and just sat there for almost an hour, talking and watching planes take off. We eventually headed back to the gate, and I spent most of the time left until boarding talking to Maddy about our exchange experiences (she was in Spain for a year!). Once we finally got on the plane, I fell asleep pretty soon after takeoff, as I remember, and in spite of how uncomfortable it was, being a plane, I slept most of that flight away. After waking up just in time for a breathtaking descent over the Bosphorus, we touched down to officially begin our Turkish adventure.
After getting over the initial shock and awe of "HOLY CRAP I'M IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY," I fell asleep once again in the shuttle en route to the hotel (in spite of my head constantly banging against the window throughout the ride). When we finally arrived, we did our best to eat the pizza that they served to us, and most of us headed right back up to our rooms to CRASH.

The next day, we got up feeling rested and somewhat less jet-lagged, ready for our Istanbul city tour! We first headed over to Gülhane Park, which is a park known for being only accessible to sultans back in the Ottoman days, where we stopped in an elegant little restaurant for our first taste of Turkish tea and coffee. Afterwards, we continued on to Sultanahmet, the part of the city where most of the well-known monuments like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are located. We unfortunately "didn't have time" to go into the Hagia Sophia, which I was pretty sad (and, to put it colloquially, am still super salty) about, but at least we got to go inside the Blue Mosque - it was absolutely gorgeous both inside and out, with a soothing combination of subtle bluish hues and an elegant air of spiritual grandeur that brought me back to the feelings I experienced visiting the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, in spite of the fact that, as my amusingly sassy new friend Andrea from California put it, "it smelled like barefoot tourist feet." Following that, we breezed quickly through the Spice Bazaar, which apparently is equal to the more hyped Grand Bazaar in all except size, and after that we headed to a lovely neighborhood a little ways away called Ortaköy, where we ate kumpir (baked potato stuffed with various fillings) for dinner, and got a little free time to meet three girls who Safa teaches that are spending the next school year as exchange students in North America, and explore the neighborhood together, getting a chance to have a peak at its small but gorgeous mosque, friendly inhabitants and stray animals, and get an up-close look at both a movie that was being filmed in the vicinity, and a nearby bridge which connects Asia and Europe.

The next day, we woke up early for some more orientation-ing at the hands of a friendly and funny diplomat from the American Consulate in Istanbul, who gave us some great advice and stories about Turkey as well as other countries he had worked in, which was great fun, and then we headed over to the American Consulate itself for an in-person security briefing (we got a good look at the awesome view to be had in the Consulate - it's up on a hill). Afterwards, we headed to a large shopping mall, where we ate lunch and then had some free time, which I spent meandering around the mall with Salma, Gianna, and our friend Ruth from Utah, spending most of it in a bookstore, where I bought a copy of The Fault in Our Stars in Turkish, a CD, and a mini-dictionary. After a few hours, we headed down to the port area to catch our ferry to Bursa; I spent the hour or so we waited to get on the ferry sitting and talking to Maddy on a bench overlooking the sea. Once on the ferry, we spent most of it sleeping, and practicing our Turkish together. Once we got to Bursa, a bus came to get us at the port, and brought us a little ways inland to the Kültürpark, a park located around a small (probably man-made) lake in a lovely natural setting, where we were introduced to our host families at a banquet attended by none other than the mayor of the city!
Meeting my host family was a little awkward at first - knowing as little Turkish as I did on that first night, I was really unable to say much of anything without my host brother Erinç translating for me, but after the minimal yet heartwarming interactions that I was able to have with them, and then seeing how they smiled when I gave them their gifts after we got home, I was able to relax at least some of my worries for a while.
We then got the weekend to spend at home with our families, which was a fun time, to say the least. Erinç has taken me under his wing in all possible ways, and introduced me to a number of his close friends, who have all been extremely sweet and friendly, ask lots of impressively informed questions about the US, and are extremely enthusiastic both to practice their English with me, and to teach me Turkish. That's all there is to say about the weekend, really. It was a super fun time - crazy, fun, and amazing in pretty much all ways possible. :)
Then Pazartesi (Monday) rolled around, and we started our language classes at the TÖMER Center (TÖMER is a cultural organization created by the University of Ankara to promote the teaching of Turkish language and culture to foreigners, as well as the teaching of foreign languages to Turks - it's where all NSLI-Y programs take their language courses in Turkey). We're split into two different classes; I'm with Gianna, Salma, Ruth, our friends Rose from New York and Emily from DC, and Brendan. Our teacher is a very friendly and smart young woman named Yeliz (which has to be one of the most beautiful names I've ever heard before). We've done two days of classes at this point, and we've thankfully started off slow, learning some necessary simplistic, core vocabulary before we dive headfirst into the intricacies of grammar and conjugation. We have classes from 9 am until 1 pm, with a ten-minute break every hour in which we're welcome to go and buy junk food from the canteen downstairs, and then we eat lunch every day in a lokanta (restaurant) just across the street.
Classes have been going pretty well - they're are well paced so far, we're all learning a lot, and it's nice to be able to spend time with the other NSLI-Yers, which is always fun. :) And this morning, I took the metro by myself to the Center for the first time!! :) It's pretty simple - my host family's apartment block is a five-or-so-minute walk from a metro stop, where I take the metro to the center of town and just walk straight (like literally straight) to the TÖMER Center. Today we also went back to Kültürpark after classes, to take part in our "Peer Language Partners" activity, in which all us NSLI-Yers took turns practicing Turkish with each other's host siblings.

Overall, things have been going fantastically so far. Now that I have you guys up to speed as to where I am and what I've been doing, I'll come back to blog about some more general observations and thoughts I'd like to share later this week. For now, I should upload the giant load of pictures to go along with this big long post, do tonight's ödev (homework), and get ready for tomorrow.

(By the way, please excuse the astronomical amount of pictures, but even this hardly does Istanbul any justice.)


Pre-takeoff picture, courtesy of Cat. From right to left: Me, Gianna, Madeleine, and Salma.

The Paris Airport, looking pretty good with the sun rising.

From the descent into Istanbul.

The view from my hotel room. 

Our whole group. Standing, from left to right: Safa, Nate, Gianna, Madeleine, Sophia, Rose, Salma, Sam, Cat, and Kat. Sitting, from left to right: Ruth, Andrea, Brendan, me, Maddy, Miles, and Emily. 

The little place where we had our coffee/tea in Gülhane.

More Gülhane.

The Hagia Sophia. 

The Blue Mosque. 

Inside the Blue Mosque. 

Inside the Ortaköy Mosque. 

From the outside.

A friendly stray kedi (cat) that we befriended, chilling out in our shadows. 

Glad I got this one. ^_^