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! ^_^

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