Although I have been dispicably inadequate in my blog posting, I thought I ought to take a moment to let you know how life across the ocean is going. The semester at AUC had its final classes last Thursday, and on Sunday, I left Cairo for Istanbul, where I met my friend Meegan (from Bryn Mawr). We had been planning this adventure (or variations on the itenerary) since last spring, so I'm very impressed that the whole two days we have experienced thus far have worked out so well. We'll be here for the next week, playing our touring by ear, before we head to Jordan after Christmas.
Briefly, the end of my time in Cairo was busy, filled with finished classes up, visiting the bazaar to get some shopping done, and saying goodbye to the people I felt I had met just a few weeks before. One of the great things about the hostel where we're staying in Istanbul is that there's very good wi-fi, and people have a tendency to hang out in the common room on the computer, which means that you can expect some actual updates for a while - maybe I'll even get through some of the backlogged stories I have to share with you about the past two months.
As for Istanbul, I arrived in the afternoon, and took a bus to Taksim Square, where I wandered about in the rain for a little while, before dropping off my bag at the hostel where we had decided to stay. Thanks to Facebook's NewsFeed feature, I happened to run across a high school friend's blog sometime in November, and leanred that she was studying in Istanbul (see link here for some great observations about life in Istanbul), and it worked out that we were able to meet up for dinner. She took me to a great local place where I had lentil soup and lamb. By the time I got back to the hostel, Meegan had arrived, and we were able to do a little planning for the beginning of our time here, and then got to sleep for a very decent length of time.
Today (Monday) we went to Topakı Palace, which was built and improved by various sultans over the course of about five hundred years (yes, you're getting the very condensed explaination), and which currently houses several different exhibits (the highlights of which include Moses' Rod, the Prophet's Beard, Abraham's Saucepan, and John the Baptist's Arm and Skull) in various parts of the palace. The architecture, internal decorations, and grounds are all fantastic in and of themselves, though I was struck at the difference between this and the temples and other places of opulence I have visited in Egypt. There is no way that anything so ornate would have survived so long in Cairo. We also saw the underground Cistern, built by Justinian (well, by order of Justinian) in 532, and repaired and opened to the public in 1987. It is a beautifully lit underground cavern, with all sorts of columns, which I enjoyed trying to identify as Ionic, Doric or Corinthian. Fun fact: there are actually all three styles represented. I have no idea why this is. Bonus points to anyone who finds out. We'll continue the tourist adventures tomorrow - I'll try to keep you updated on what we get to see, and where we're going when.
**brief awkward sappy note, which you should feel free to skip**
Just a note, in light of recent events in Colorado Springs, and the various anniversaries which have passed or are fast approaching. I am working hard to not be fatalistic, or too glib about these deaths. I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I'm greatful that I am able to visit all of these exciting places, spend time with people who are important to me, and see so many different cultures. I feel a little bit uncomfortable posting this paragraph, but I feel as though I need to say something. So in memory of those we've lost (a list growing far too quickly for my junior year of college) I'm here to live. I still don't regret choosing to spend Christmas away from my family, but I do look forward to seeing them again in January. Please, find someone important to you and hold them close for a moment during the next couple of weeks, when family and friends are particularly in our thoughts.