Marx My Words...

View of the Bosphorus from BU South Campus
     The view from my school can totally beat up the view from your school! I am loving my classes here at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi! The walk to class can be great, and how not with campus views like these? The downfall of this daily trek is realized though when it is time to return from my classes and head back to the SuperDorms. The hike is brutal and uphill the whole way; and while there isn't any driving snow, its still exhausting. This extensive cardio routine is necessary though for me to attend my wonderful classes. I am fascinated with the subjects and am extremely content with the courses I selected. There is no doubt that I will be taking full advantage of Intro to World Philosophy [PHIL 101] & The Comparative Sociology of Religions[SOC 377].  
   
     So far I have learned about Karl Marx in my sociology class and am fascinated with the ideas and rationales he used to create his belief structure. The philosophy class is fun as well, but the Christian/Texan bias of the instructor is clearly evident throughout his class lectures. It is hilarious as well as liberating when the instructor or I will make references to Christianity or southern U.S. religious culture in general and the Turkish Muslim students just look on in a state of confusion that was reminiscent of the faces of my fellow OU students when they themselves were first hearing about alternative religions. I have also had a similar experience in my sociology class when the teacher referenced the to the bible, but prefaced it with "I'm not sure where in the bible it says this but it says, the meek will inherit the earth." without hesitation I said, "The book of Psalms." It was an almost instantaneous reaction that I didn't even fully process, it was just a simple and quick response. He then thanked me and in the comment alluded to me being a Christian. I responded by saying, "I'm not a Christian, I was just raised in Oklahoma." This earned a laugh from the teacher who then explained to the class that Oklahoma was known for being very conservative and Christian. I felt really smart, I had named the correct book without hesitation and seemed to appear as some sort of 'Biblical genius' to the class. But then I thought, Wow they have zero concept of the book, and probably don't know that much more about the contents of the Bible. I knew people like this existed in the world, but I had never had such an immersive experience into that mindset as I did in those few minutes after. So all of the painful years growing up around Christian-indoctrination-central, Oklahoma seemed to have paid off with this basic knowledge that I had just used in class. But then I reflected on it. Wow, something that is extremely central to every facet of life in Oklahoma was barely recognized by the students here in Istanbul. It is amazing that the mindset I am so used to dealing with doesn't even partially exist here. It is refreshing and reassuring to be able to experience normal daily life in terms of the country I was visiting. That's when it truly sunk in, I am experiencing another culture, another mindset, another worldview...
  
     As you may have noticed there was a bit of a delay between my last post and this one you are reading now. Now that classes have started for the summer I will be switching from tourist mode to student mode. The posts will now be more academia oriented, but will still feature tales from the day and pictures from my adventures.

The Asian Sun's Final Moments

a Nightscape of Downtown Istanbul
     Living in Europe is one of the most relaxing experiences to try in one's life. The beautiful majesty of Istanbul hits a high note in the days' final moments. Istanbul is where the sun has chosen to last appear on the Asian continent on its journey in to a half-day slumber that we call night. Granted a good sunset is a visual pleasure no matter where one witnesses it. In the case of an Istanbulite sunset, it is the culture of Turkey that complements the stunning visual show with the lyrical poetry that is the Islamic call to prayer. So it becomes not only a beautiful sight, but an auditory experience as well. The goosebumps that I felt only further reiterated and confirmed the epicness that my visual and audio senses were interpreting. 
   
     Thanks to the awesome features of Skype, I was able to have a video chat with my parents and my Granny from Canada. I told them about what I did last night, as well as told them about the big news of the PKK march/demonstration that happened in Taksim square today. Although I personally was not there a few of my new friends had been in the area and were witness to different aspects of the escalating tensions. Luckily no one I knew was injured, but the riot police did use full riot gear and tear gas to prevent the activists from actually reaching Taksim square and creating more of a widespread disturbance. After telling them about the excitement for the day, I took my laptop, and as much as the land cord would allow for, pulled it towards my window so I could show my family the sights I get to see from my dorm room on a daily basis. Immediately they recognized the the beauty of the sight they were observing instantly on Skype, but were geographically half of a world away [nearly 8,500km or 5,300miles]. Overall I chatted with them for about 30 minutes before venturing out to get groceries in the local villa.
the View on the way to the Grocery Store
   
     I officially went grocery shopping today for the first time of my visit. I walked the 2km from the SuperDorms up to the small little village by the south Bogazici campus. I stocked up on food for breakfast as well as getting more of my new favorite drink, Schweppes brand mandarin soda. I also got some of the classic European croissants and some Kiri cream cheese, but the biggest score was the discovery that my all-time favorite brand of margarine, Becel, was also available for purchase. I bought some milk and cereal also for my pre-first day of school breakfast. I paid for my groceries and then loaded up my backpack and headed back to my dorm. After I finish with this update I will be setting up my necessary supplies I need for tomorrows first day of classes. I have my 'Comparative Sociology of Religions' class from 9am to 11am and my 'Intro to Philosophy' class from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. It will definitely be an interesting and exciting summer school session, because after all, I am in freaking Istanbul!

Late Night Hookah Bars and Taksi Cars

Location: Waterloo, ON Taksim Cd, 61030 Trabzon/Trabzon Province, Turkey
     Today we decided to go visit the famed 'Taksim Square.' Our plans were to eat a traditional Turkish dinner, pre-game at a bar, and then head to the popular club 11-11 followed by wandering the city for a hookah bar afterwards. This would be my first trip to Taksim Square but other students had been there previously and had met up with a with a local half-German half-Turkish girl named Yasemin. She had offered to show us around Taksim Square; and followed through by taking us to the restaurant, the bar, and Club 11-11. Eventually it was by our own perseverance and exploration that we would find the only hookah bar open at 2:30am...
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Turkish Tea
     
     The restaurant we chose was a tiny three story Turkish cuisine restaurant that was very moderately priced. The quality of the food was the best I have yet to have had while in Istanbul and the portions were very generous as well. Being tired of a chicken overload, I decided tonight to go with the Lamb Shish Kabab meal with a cold meat & rice stuffed bell pepper that had been dusted in cinnamon. I had the classic choice of an Efes Pilsen with the meal and had the traditional Turkish tea to go with the appetizer. The meal was spectacular and the conversation with friends was just as fulfilling. 
Lamb Shish Kabob
Waiting for our Meals to Arrive
     
     The dinner went off without a hitch, except for the low-tech bathrooms and the confusion of paying the bill. As I remember from traveling western Europe last summer, the quality of the bathrooms in small restaurant are the only ones that are seemingly more hazardous and decrepit than the ones I had experienced in San Fransisco's China Town nearly a decade ago. The low-techness of their facilities would rival an Amish out house; they were a ceramic hole in the ground, with a pitcher of water in the corner to rinse one's deposit down the drain. As aberrant as this was it would not be the most annoying part of our dining experience. The most aggravating part would come when we asked for our bill; it took nearly an hour for them to get their ducks in a row, and when it did come time to pay the employees informed us that they did not provide change. We were in complete dismay for this lack of common sense that the establishment was displaying. How exactly would 11 people, ordering different menu items, be able to come up with exact change? This would lead to another kerfuffle. After another half hour of wasting time, but successfully calculating and paying our bill, we were off to pre-game at a 'secret' bar that Yasmine knew of that would be able to seat our entire group and not be overly crowded.
Finishing 2.5L of Efes Pilsen

      The next place we went into was a great selection from our de facto tour guide. We got a nice little private enclave to ourselves still in range of the musician playing live Turkish bar music. We started off our night of intentional intoxication with a round of tequila and then proceeded to order our drinks. Myself and another guy from the group ordered a 2.5L beer tower of Efes Pilsen. He and I were able to finish it in the hour and a half we had before we were to depart for the 11-11 dance club. But yet again our experience at the bar would again, for the second time that night, end on a sour note. Everybody had accounted for the money we spent, but yet we were 20TL short of the bill's total. After my quick recalculation of our individual purchases, it became apparent that we were erroneously charged the extra amount. We called over the bartender, explained our case, and as a result had our bill corrected. After that stressful buzz kill we proceeded to our final destination for the night, Club 11-11.
at Club 11-11 with Friends
     
     After walking through the rare occurrence of Istanbulite rain, we arrived at Club 11-11. Apparently due to the volume of our group, we were not charged the usual 10-20TL cover charge. We proceeded to dance and drink the night away. Well, by dancing I mean fist pumping, and by drinking the night away I mean 2-3 drinks as they were about 15-25TL each. The prices may have been steep, but the experiences were priceless. We listened to the cliche Euro-trash music and popped our collars. We stayed for quite a few good club tracks, but as a result of the poor weather, the club wasn't as lively as we had hoped, so we proceeded to find a taksi back to the SuperDorms. Between the time of trying to find a taksi and finding a place for late night food, we reached a consensus that we were down for a 3:00am hookah session. The only problem was that nearly everything was closed and our search would prove to be difficult, but ultimately rewarding. With a stroke of pure luck, the last place we went to was just closing as we walked up. But the owner let us in and escorted us down the the private basement, were it was furnished by tables and comfy pillows. Our group ordered two hookahs, apple and mint, and we talked about our collective experiences in Istanbul so far, as well as got to know each other better. we stayed at the hookah bar for another hour before we grabbed food and took a taksi back to the dorms. The takeaway from the night was: even though we had a few unpleasant moments in our pursuit of dinner and drinks, the amazing luck of catching the hookah bar at the precise moment made this night easily one of the best yet!
3am Hookah Session after the Club

'Evim Şirin Evim' for the Next Two Months...

Location: Waterloo, ON Bü Superdorm, Etiler Mh., 34337 Istanbul, Turkey
My 7'x 10' Dorm Room
     I am finally moved into my SuperDorms apartment! My friend Ozgur picked me up from my hotel yesterday and again escorted me to my destination via Istanbul public transport. I turned out to be a smart choice; because with the money I saved not having to get a 'Taksi' I was able to go on a walk with some fellow classmates into town to purchase bedding [sheets & pillows]. I knew prior to arriving that we would have to have something for the beds, so I had swiped the blanket and the small pillow from my Turkish Airlines flight a few days prior. This would have been a great plan, had I not forgotten the pillow in the hotel.

Arkema Shopping Mall
     So far my experience with the new district of 'Etiler' has been great. We have scouted the nearby village for nutritional sustenance and groceries as well as scoured the Besiktas district for Migros-Turk. During this period of first reconnaissance we discovered a 'Western-World' gem amongst the treasure trove Eurasian culture. This was our initial stop for bedding, but you had to drop about 100TL for decent bed linens and although they would be comfy, they were only needed for 2 months. So our next destination was Migros-Turk. The group I was with asked me what Migros was. I replied by saying 'Migros is the closest thing to a Walmart you are going to see while in Europe.' It translated between cultures beautifully and much to my relief they had well priced bed linens, allowing me to keep my mantra of 'The World Traveler.' I did however make a mistake by wearing my slip-on non tied Vans into town, so now my feet are sore and blistered.

The Mixed-Grill Dinner
     Once the journey to bed-linen land was complete, our initial group met up with some more 'SuperDormer-ers' and we departed for dinner. We walked back into town where we had previously been earlier in the day and scoured the restaurants for a favourable combination of price and cuisine, and a place that could sit all 16 of us together. We found a great Turkish restaurant that met all of our demands. After sitting down, we played the 'name game' and everyone proceeded to say their name, major, what school they hailed from, and interesting facts of their choice. The dinner soon arrived annd we all began to marvel at the cuisine that was now being front of our starving eyes. While nothing quite beats the 3TL street wraps of chicken and beef, this has been the BEST Turkish meal yet. Once we all began to devour our delicacies, we continued on with our conversations. The biggest plurality of students are from California, with pepperings of different nationalities: Turkish, American, Palestinian, Indian, and Lebanese. The majority of students are like me, pursuing an Arts & Sciences degree with focus on politics, religion, and/or history. This is definitely a great group of kids to be stuck with halfway across the world...    

The Futbol Stadium Next to the SuperDorms

Sultanahmet Square & The Human Lens of Subjectivity

Location: Waterloo, ON Sultanahmet Cd, 60400 Zile/Tokat Province, Turkey
The Blue Mosque
    Before I delve off into the contemplations of my idea of 'Philosophical Lenses,' I am going to describe the most awe inspiring experience since I was at Stonehenge around the same time last year. Today I visited some of the greatest historical, architectural, and culture sites the world has to offer. I left my hotel at around 1:30pm and asked the Maitre D for public transportation directions to get to my most anticipated tourist destinations: The Blue Mosque and The Hagia Sophia. He told me to save my money and gave me directions for a 15 minute walk that would take me to the front door of the great nucleus of ancient Christian/Western - Islamic/Eastern world relations and interactions, Sultanahmet Square.
     
Street Cats - 'Istanbulite Squirrels'
I was immediately taken back to the mindset of last summer, excited and observant, eager but reserved, I had to focus on the safety of me and my wallet, while not being distracted by the food vendors and my growing appetite. It was about a 2km hike up steep, narrow, and curvy uphill cobble stone roads, probably still reminiscent of an older Turkey; walking on history. A thing that is easily and quite quickly noticed in Istanbul is the abundance of cats. In my travels the local everyday animals have been lizards in Arizona, Birds in Western Europe, and Now Cats in the Near Middle East. Seeing these kittens reminded me of my cat back in Tulsa, and even though I won't be looking forward to leaving Istanbul in 2 months, my cat will make the return that more sweeter and a little bit less bitter.

 
The Hagia Sophia
     I wanted to go inside the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, but I did not meet the dress requirements and I am on a limited budget and do not yet know if I can swing paid museums in my budget... But there was still plenty to do, take pictures of, and look at during my outing. No matter where it seems I have been in Europe the prevalence of a poverty class is quite publicly visible and that facilitates the 'informal economy,' while not exactly a cliche Black Market Arms Bazaar, kids with water and ice, men with simple carts selling corn, and endless supplies of knock-off designer accessories. While the majority of these items are in plain sight, it is the peddlers that try to grab your attention that can sometimes be the most amusing part. "Hey Buddy! Where you from?" was constantly hurled at me throughout the day, shouts of "Good, Very Nice," "Best Price, Cheap Cheap," and random inaudible prices in Turkish Lira were just as often of visitors into my ear canal.
    
Bob Marley & Hookahs
     After I got my sight seeing and pictures taken care of, I decided to investigate the vast assortment of nick-nacks and souvenirs the cramped and musky aroma-ed shops had to offer. The highlight of my day was when I was walking back to the hotel and I stopped in at the street shops on the way back. The shop keepers would ask me where I was from, and when I replied Oklahoma, they would excitedly say combinations of "Ah Oklahoma, NBA, Thunder, Kevin Durant." I thought it was simply a fluke the first time I heard it and then over the next 10 shops I would get the basketball reference as a response three more times.

a Collage of Hotel Agan & Salute Pub
      Two other times they said "Ah, Sooners!" I tried to explain to the shop owners as best I could that I was a foreign student and that I would be studying at the American University here for 2 months. I am concluding my stay at the Amazing Hotel Agan with a Hookah Session [Apple] and a Litre and a Half of Efen Pilsen... The Hotel & Pub Staff were Amazing; and Dad you know how to pick a Hell of a Hotel, Thanks! Tomorrow I check out at Noon [12:00] and I'm headed off to the Bogazici SuperDorms !!!

(a Philosophical Work in Progress)

     I have a theory on people 'witnessing' their faith in action. I mulled over this idea while touring Sultanahmet [Old City], Istanbul today. Life is about how we view the world, Since we are Humans and cannot be Purely Objective, we Must select a lens of subjectivity to apply to our lives; People saying they can see their faith is only said because they pick and choose stimuli and how they stack up with their beliefs...

     Consider: The World is Blue, the Lens of Christianity is Yellow, and the Lens of Islam is Red. Muslims say 'Everything I see is Purple, So the Koran is God's Truth' while Christians say 'Everything I see is Green, So the Bible is God's Truth.' A Christian will never be able to witness a 'Purple' event due to their selected lens and also Muslims will never be able to see a 'Green' event. Without your applied presupposition of your philosophy/religion in the form of a colored lens, you would not see the truth you now believe. Herein lies the problem, Truth needs to be a Cosmic Reproducibility, i.e. Blue being pure cosmic truth when viewed objectively. But as long as a lens is adhered to, you are doomed to witness only that which builds your belief. The ability to adhere to a Subjective belief is inherent human nature, because 70% of the time if you would have been raised Muslim in Saudi Arabia, you would now be posting statuses about the Koran, Mohamed, and Allah...

No Bull, I love ISTANBUL!!!

Location: Waterloo, ON Istanbul, Turkey
Checking in at Chicago ORD
     After my 22hr journey from Tulsa to Istanbul via Chicago, I was finally checked into my Hotel! but the journey from Ataturk Airport to the Hotel would prove to be the most worry some of my trip. Upon deplaning from my Turkish Airlines flight, we were directly on the tarmac and were told to go to the shuttles that would take us to the airport... with the buses being about 100ft away, I decided that utilizing my carry-on would greatly benefit me here. So I was first able to use my customized skateboard-longboard literally within the first minute of being in Turkey!! This made all of the passengers smile and was a great way to stretch my legs. It would take roughly an hour to get my single piece of checked bags. After I had reclaimed everything that I brought, it was off to find my friend Özgür Tüfekçi, who said he would be able to guide me through Istanbul's public transit system.

Waiting for an Hour at Ataturk Airport
     I waited outside of the Airport, where I was expecting to find him, for about an hour. I realized that he had probably been waiting inside for me and I simply missed him. So I rechecked through security and proceeded to re-look for my friend, again. I did one more lap up and down the international arrival entrance... and it was only as I headed back to the exit, after waiting an hour and a half, to grab a taxi that I saw a bright red OU-'13 hat! I had finally found my Turkish Friend, except that he had gotten a haircut since the last time I saw him, so when I was looking for a full head of long dark curly hair it was the OU hat I should have looked for instead. Özgür then escorted me all of the way to my hotel via Metro, Street Car, and Bus and Even helped translate when it came time to check into my Hotel.

Efes Pilsen (Turkish Pilsner)
    The assistance of Özgür was just a continuation of cool people that I met during my trip; from TUL (Tulsa) to ORD (Chicago) I sat next to an Employee from the TSA, and we discussed religion and politics on our trip, and although our views differed we had a civil and polite conversation. Once in Chicago I met a group of Teachers that were going to Turkey as a group to volunteer. I basically gave them the 'Life Story of Nolan Kraszkiewicz' which left them amazed at what a 20 year-old had already experienced  with his World Travels. I regaled them with tails of my studies, trips to Europe and Canada, and showed them my collection of breath taking photos. On the Turkish Airlines flight I sat next to a graduate student from the University of Iowa who was headed to Turkey to work on his Doctoral dissertation about the history of Turkish Migration. He gave me invaluable information about Turkish beer, gave me relevant information concerning my upcoming studies and planned sight seeing, and put up with me asking questions over the 11hr flight. I finally got great people to talk to on my flights, which I was rarely able to experience in the past. It was a good thing I had 1,000 business cards, as everyone took great interest in me and was curious about this website. 

Upon Arrival at the Agan Hotel...

Hookah and Chicken Kebab for Dinner
     My first night in Istanbul was pure Amazing-ness-ticosity! I enjoyed a litre of Efes Beer and hours of Hookah, listening to traditional Turkish music and watching the Bustling streets until 2am. I headed off to bed and didn't wake up until earlier today at 6:30pm! I really didn't realize I was that exhausted, adrenaline is pretty powerful that way. Tomorrow I plan to tour the Old Sultanahmet District and will hopefully take hundreds of breathtaking photos and have thousands of new experiences! Until then, Hoşça Kal!


The View from My Hotel
     P.S. I would like to Thank My Parents and the OU Study Abroad Faculty, without your help this would still be just a dream! Also, I would like to thank the people I met during my flight. You guys provided great and informative conversations during the layovers and the flights. Thanks to all for making this trip that more amazing!



My First Picture of Istanbul while Arriving at Ataturk Airport + GIMP



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