Before I begin my first entry of the summer, I must mention how Monsoon Diaries’ has an unexplainable inclination for serendipity, and this time, excruciating near-misses: The MOMENT I stepped off my one-way flight from NYC to Istanbul, a friend of mine was getting on her one-way flight from Istanbul to NYC: Laura Ly, Columbia ’12 student and a board member of an organization I used to be president of back in college. After disembarking, I gave her a Skype call on the airport public wifi to see where she was, and suffice to say, she was only a few hundred feet away, just past security. We just missed each other!
She’s been studying abroad in Turkey for about a year now, and it just so happens her LAST day in Turkey is also my FIRST day. What’s even more interesting is that last time we met was running into each other at a Metro-North train stop from Connecticut to NYC (ok, this international run-in would definitely have been a level up).
Too bad she left today. It would be nice to have hung out with her more.
UPDATE: Of course another near-miss “serendipity” — Annah Nelson-Feeney Kim: my travel partner and my co-writer on The Monsoon Diaries last summer (her bio in our About section). I just missed her by a day; tomorrow Annah will be on the same flight as I was just on (from NYC to Istanbul) as a connecting flight to another country. This is unfortunate; Annah and I could’ve ran into each other on the same flight, I would’ve then ran into Laura, and then the whole world would have imploded.
Enough lamentation: Hello, Istanbul.
Istanbul: Crossroads of the Western and Islamic worlds, a city formerly known as Byzantium and then Constantinople; it was the capital of both the Eastern Roman empire and the Byzantium empire for over 1,000 years. This is the kind of stuff you learned back in freshman year of high school, but never really gave it much thought until you started reading Loney Planet’s lo-fat background primer. I couldn’t help but “relish” all the memories of last minute history projects and semester reports on the Roman and Byzantium empires, and never giving the details any current-world context until today. And here I am, reliving my 9th grade in the flesh 11 years later.
“Holy crap, I’m really here!”
Turkey has been described as the union of European modernity and Middle Eastern tradition. Although the idea of secularism/ecclesiastical harmony seems a little too good to be true (and it still is), Turkey sits at the forefront of trying to give the cohesion a shot. And supposedly you’ll see that nowhere better than Istanbul.
So the plan for today is to acclimate to the idea I’m finally on vacation again. I need to pick up my overnight bus tickets to Cappadocia tonight, make sure my travel partner (and also this summer’s co-blogger for The Monsoon Diaries) Stephanie Quan gets here safe, and attend a BBQ with my college friend Melis, who’s an Istanbul native as well. Thanks to Melis, we have a free place to stay, which we’re very very grateful for (it’s really nice!).
Anyways, Middle East, here we come!
– At time of posting in Istanbul, it was 73.4 °F – Humidity: 65% | Wind Speed: 19km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy