Saturday, June 30, 2012

WARNING: This is a less a travel blog post, and more of a poorly articulated look into what is currently mulling around my being.

Amman is a city made for sunrise and sunset.

It's a growing, bustling city. Noise is everywhere, and yet, I find it to be a city that demands your silent attention. Amman calls you to inhale and exhale, to honor and practice what you've learned from the world, and to appreciate that you have treasure troves of knowledge left to gain. Maybe it's the history embedded in the dust that cakes the tops of my feet at the end of every day, also found grainy between my curls, and hiding beneath my fingernails. I know that it's dirt, but there is something holy in it. Even washing it away becomes a small, smiling kind of ceremony. Something, however untraceable, of the roots of my heart lies in this place.  Dust to dust, light from light. Dust, the earth, is ancient, and it is what has given us life. It is old and it is new, and therefore so am I, and so is everyone. I feel a calm here that is unprecedented, and it has given way to thoughts I usually shy away from.

I am quiet here, perhaps too quiet. I listen far more often than I speak. This pattern has been developing steadily over the past two years. I trust my ideas less, and I am painfully aware that what I know of the world is limited, that my opinions have been formed rather rashly, and based upon sources that are not necessarily to be trusted. I've expressed this to Jasmine, my flat mate. She is more, though, a kind of soul sister initiating me into what she has learned of the world thus far. She tells me every perspective has value, each place in your life reveals something new. I myself have shared this oft repeated line with friends and  acquaintances in the past, and yet hearing it said to me, it doesn't quite change my striking lack of faith in myself and my ability to think.

Amman is challenging me to grow up. It inspires the kind of self-reflection I have previously feared and avoided, and I fear that my uncertainty is occasionally expressed a little too pointedly to my mother over the phone. As I try to recap my days and explain my internal struggles, I find myself raising my voice and battling on the offensive, suddenly defending ideas that I am only trying to wrap my head around. After traveling through Asia last summer, and the Middle East this summer, it is becoming harder and harder for me to conscientiously pass judgment on anyone. Nothing at all appears black and white. And perhaps some things should, but I'm so deep into this journey of trying to understanding the human heart and the circumstances that shape it, that I can't bring myself to really delineate between right and wrong, true and false, pure and corrupted. Honoring and acknowledging complexity has taken a new role in the way I view the world, sharpened by the fact that I have grown up in an incredibly privileged context. I am from the white American middle class, and have been blessed with married and supportive parents, a good education, a supportive extended family,  and the good fortune to have found part time jobs. How can I know, how I can I bring myself to pass judgment on the actions taken by those who face the challenges of poverty, oppression, corruption, and discrimination?

 I find my heart pushing at the sides of my body the way it did when I was child, desperate to love everyone, and to forget the rest. I haven't felt that kind of compassion for a long, long time. I feel as though I am returning to myself, though this time with challenges I fear my mind will never overcome. I fear becoming "political" on this platform, because as important as politics are (or at least, they seem), the matters of the human heart will always be more my level of understanding. However, one of the issues I have been grappling with is that of Palestine/Israel. From a purely human rights perspective, it's a situation that needs to be remedied immediately. It is unjust and heartbreaking in every way. The things I have learned about the conflict so far in college (since no one bothered to really mention it to me before) make it incredibly difficult for me to sympathize with those involved in the creation of Israel. When I first learned of it, I was shocked by how quickly I could write them off as cruel, and as evil. But of course, nothing is all good, and nothing is all evil, and I quickly distanced myself from that snap judgment. The situation is layered and complex and beyond my grasp. I try to articulate all this to my mother, who retorts with hints of shock and disapproval in her tone, "Well what about the Israelis killed by suicide bombers? What about them?" I have no answer, and immediately regret my decision to share. I regret the venom in my words of response even more.

The issue of suicide bombers and the resulting death is equally heartbreaking, without a doubt. But I can't pretend to know the truth of circumstances that lead people into suicide bombs, just like I can't pretend to know what it's like to feel like a people without a land, and to fight for what you feel you deserve. I can't pretend to know what it's like to have my identity challenged and ignored, to have my house occupied or bulldozed, to be denied access to a good education, to have my life controlled by a military power (supported by the super power of the US) set against my very existence. I can't pretend to know what it's like to have all of this exploding and raging inside of me, leaving me vulnerable and angry and scared, and then to be embraced by extremists who brainwash their young. I can't know, and I won't pretend to. This is not an attempt to defend murderers, it is an attempt to understand the context from which healing and peace must arise. The perpetrators here, in my eyes, are the governments and the things they have done with their militaries. People are pushed to these ends by powers that care nothing for them as individuals, that aim to divide and conquer, that use the livelihoods of innocents as avenues and leverage for the own secret and corrupt games. Israeli citizens are not to blame, and neither are Palestinians. In a perfect world, less people would stand idly by, and more would take a stand. But perhaps I should begin implementing that in my own country before I go prescribing it to an issue beyond my understanding.  

I hesitate to put all of this online, for friends and family, for acquaintances and total strangers. I don't claim to know everything, or to be set in my ways. I only claim to recognize a problem, and to be grappling with it as best I can. If you are incensed by what I've written and want to give me a mouthful, I urge you to do so in a way that fosters understanding, and not anger. I am eager to learn all that I can, but it is hard to listen to arguments meant to defeat, and not to educate. Keep in mind that this post is less of a political statement, and more of an invitation into what my mind and heart are trying to process. My aim is to be honest about my journey to understand, and who knows if I'll ever come to a stopping place. I hope not, I think it's better to let yourself always be flexible and open and curious. Things that stagnate tend to die. No matter what I come to know, it would be foolish to expect that I could singlehandedly solve the conflict. My chief occupations, I hope, will be to actively seek understanding, and to actively demonstrate love.  Be the change, ya dig?

I am trying to pray to Saint Elizabeth of Portugal, who made peace among the murderous  fathers and sons of her own family, who fought over who would control the land of their kingdom. She seems to be an old hand at resolving conflict among those that are, in reality, all one.

So, now that I've gotten all of THAT off my chest and my mind is a little clearer, I can move on to the more light hearted parts of life. The next post will be full of the things I've been doing! I need to go work on Arabic for a while and attend a gallery opening (and set up our new furniture for the terrace!), but I promise the second post will be up before midnight, a definitely happier.

Thanks to anyone who read this rambling, half baked, uncertain expression of a struggle to understand with compassion.

Here's an article by Omid Safi, one of my incredible professors at UNC, and the man who led the educational tour portion of my time in Turkey. He is far more articulate and knowledgeable than I, and manages to express the factual evidence that has fueled my understanding of the conflict.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buses, cafes, and motorcycles

Okay, guys. If you didn't know this already, I'm playing catch up. I spent two wonderful weeks on Omid Safi's Turkey Educational Tour, learning about Sufism and documenting examples of Islamic Art for the Kenan Institute. In a way, this was my first venture into a world where my favorite things combine- art and the Middle East. The ART\Islam project has some very noble and exciting goals, and I feel very lucky to be involved with its conception. I think it has a bright future, and I hope to continue working on it throughout my time at Carolina. Anyways, as I play catch up, life is happening. So I'm going to write for a little while about life right now, and return to story telling soon.

Life in the present moment: sitting in a super trendy, chic café tucked a few streets away from Istiklal. It's way swankier than cafes I usually frequent, but there's nothing wrong  with a change of pace. It's called The House Café, if anyone feels like googling it.

Today, I ventured for the first time onto Istanbul public transportation. I've got to say, for being all alone and not speaking the language, and having a vague idea at best of the city layout, I did a pretty good job. I did have a pretty long and poorly planned walk from the Yenikapi bus station to the Sultan Ahmet area (complete with creepers and the overbearing sun), but it wasn't totally dreadful, and just as panic hit, I magically found myself right in front of the shop where we had had a carpet workshop! The guy I needed to see, Adem (Burhan's brother) was there anyway, so I was able to return his bus card to him. They invited me to join them for watermelon, bread, cheese, and salad, and if you can believe it, I almost refused.

How American of me. I really had no where to be. I had a vague idea of getting myself up to Taksim and exploring a bit, then eventually getting some work done in a café. The first words out of my mouth were, "Oh no, I really should be going."


I have a terrible habit of rushing, and an unnatural fixation on efficiency.

I stopped myself, put my purse down, and retracted my statement.

"Actually, I'll stay."

Mehmet (the man who had shown me how he repairs carpets) was there, carefully rolling up the carpets that lay on the floor from a day of selling to customers. Something about his posture is very poetic. He has careful hands, as I suppose you'd expect, and a slow kind of grace in the way he balances on his toes, squatting to roll carpets and meticulously clean the wooden floor. His presence stays with me, quiet as he is.

I sat with Ebu Bekir, Adem, Mehmet, and Yasar, listening to them tell stories about customers, discuss pricing, and laugh  about things I simply didn't understand. The conversation, as usual, was in Turkish. It felt so good to be there, to have been invited in by near strangers. As time goes on I find that I have little pockets of friendship in this city. What a lovely thing.

And now I'm sitting in this trendy café, on a side street, my newfound confidence in Istanbul public transportation leading me to the sad realization that there is so much of the city that I haven't seen. This place of winding streets and endless hills is particularly adept at shielding its gems. I'd need to spend a lifetime here before I felt like I knew any of its secrets. The idea of spending a semester abroad here is on my mind more and more.

As for yesterday, close friends and family will be surprised to find that I overcame my lifelong fear of motorcycles and spent the whole day riding on the back of Ugur's bike. Ladies and gentlemen, 'twas magnificent. I now believe the best, indeed, the only, way to truly drink in the Bosphorous is to speed down coastal roads on a motorcycle. Sheer glory, and apparently, the best place to come to very large and emotional realizations.

After spending the day between the American embassy and swanky meetings with actors and producers (more on that later), Ugur was taking me to a lakeside café for some chill time. It was dusk, and the sky just above the rim of the earth was bruised purple, and surrounded by a ring of gold. The sky above us was still that light, innocent shade of blue, and its reflection in the water was brighter than its true manifestation. I felt like I was gliding between two magical realms. And somehow, in all of the vast mystery above and below me, I began thinking about the little thing that is my life.

How did I come to be on the back of a motorcycle with one of the most important playwrights in Turkey?

1.       Middle school: I get literally the smallest part in the school play, and fall in love with theatre.
2.       Dad lost job
3.       Moved to Greenville, NC
4.       Met Merle Pereira, who would later introduce me to Emily Ocker, who would be the biggest influence in making my decision to attend UNC much easier and keep me from feeling like a total failure. (Not that UNC is a bad school, I just had a very different idea of where I'd be going).
5.       Attended UNCSA
6.       As fate would have it, Julianne Lawson happened to be visiting her home in Chapel Hill the same weekend my interview for Hampshire College was scheduled. I caught  a ride with her and stayed with my cousins instead of having my parents take me and stay in a hotel. They gave me a tour of the campus, which led me to apply to the school.
7.       Rejected from UNCSA.
8.       Emily Ocker was accepted to UNC.
9.       My family's financial situation leaves me with one choice: UNC.
10.   I decide to go, and the two of us decide to be roommates.
11.   She informs me of SEAS.
12.   I apply, and am accepted. Best summer ever.
13.   The next year, I immediately begin applying for grants to travel abroad again. My acting teacher from UNCSA hooks me up with the ART\Islam project.
14.   I find myself with two grants to study my favorite things in Turkey and Jordan.

I have been worrying so much lately about my future, specifically career path foolishness. But God has led me to beautiful things, and through beautiful struggles, why is it that I don't trust that he will do the same in my future? I started crying (I cry a lot here), and felt shivers go down my spine at the realization of how totally blessed I have been, how blessed I am, and how much potential exists within my future. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


One of my favorite people on this trip has been Roya, Omid's daughter. But I hear "jan" attached the end of their names so often that it has all melded into one word for me. I think of them, now, as Roya-jan, Omid-jan, Nausheen-jan, etc. "Jan" means soul or life force, and is used in a context similar to "dear." So, when addressing someone  you love, you add "jan" to their name. More than once, when I have said Yagmur's name to get her attention, she has responded with "janam?"

This is equivalent to, "My dear?" or, more literally (and beautifully), "My soul?"

I am not from a culture where this term of endearment is the norm, and yet, I feel deeply inclined to use it. So, I've begun to, a bit. At least with Roya, because it flows so well.

Roya is only eleven, but she is, by far, one of the smartest "kids" I've ever met. Calling her a kid feels wrong, somehow. She's more mature than that. Young lady seems more fitting. I have had the honor, on this trip, to be occasionally graced by her precocious company. She absorbs everything we say, everything we see. She often picks up on details of places that my distracted mind passes by. She is incredible in every way, without losing that essential love of life present in every child. She cracks jokes and loves Magnum bars, sings Adele and Lady Gage like she is an award winning recording artist, and lectures often on the dangers of smoking. She is more powerful and beautiful than she knows, and I feel so lucky to have witnessed even two weeks of her growth as a human.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Repairing Carpets, Confidence, and Faith

Following my afternoon of overwrought emotion, my fellow students and I were led by Omid to a carpet shop, owned by Adem and his family. Upon our arrival, we were presented with plates upon plates of fresh cherries, and they were to die for. My mood improved significantly with that alone.

Ebubekir, one of the owners, spoke to us at length about the nuances and subtleties within the world of carpets. As he  moved through the four different types, he and his partners held up example after example, so that by the time he had finished his 20 minute speech, the floor had risen beneath him, carpet upon carpet upon carpet. To be perfectly honest, what I have always known as "Persian carpets" have never held much appeal for me. They feel too grandiose, too laden with history and saturated color. They demand to be kept clean (But it's something people walk on! Does not compute.), to be taken care off, to be shown off with pride. I far prefer used things, perhaps with cleaner lines, simpler patterns, brighter colors, and less expectations of high society behavior.

Somehow, though, in this smallish, wooden room with my friends, all of the carpets around me suddenly held their own charm. Adem spoke to us about the significance of carpets in the lives of people of the region, the meaning of common symbols, and the evolving use of carpets in the modern world. Carpets serve very practical purposes, as do related pieces such as cradles and saddlebacks, which are now cut and turned into carpets as well. But they also mean a great deal to tribes, who all possess their own unique patterns. As women are married outside of the tribe, they meld their design with that of their husbands family, creating a new pattern for that family. Designs can include symbols for many things, commonly relating to fertility, eternity, and luck.  It is, traditionally, a female occupation, to make carpets. Even as they emphasized this, they proudly spoke of their own weaving skills. The bending of gender normative roles only served to please me further.

As I am a broke college student, buying one of their many masterpieces wasn't an option for me, no matter how much their complex patterns were beginning to grow on me. So, I settled instead with asking an obnoxious amount of questions about the process of carpet weaving. Eventually Adem tired of me, and called in his friend and colleague, Mehmet Konukcu, to take care of me.

As he graciously showed me his weaving work on carpets needing repairs, a theme we had been discussing within Islamic art suddenly hit me.

“The jewel is already inside. Get rid of all that is superfluous.”

In Islam, the essential quality of a human being is known as fitra. It is our nature as we were intended to be. Much of what we have come across in speaking with religious leaders, our teachers, and artists, relates back to this. Art, within the context of Islam, focuses on revealing the beauty of God’s creation rather than being something the artist created independent from the divine.

This quality is especially clear within architecture. The glorious and beautiful Sultan Ahmet Mosque was already within the marble, the excess simply had to be carved away to reveal the truth. This is what we need to do to ourselves, to carve away our egos until all that is left is the perfect human being, living as we were intended to.  Balance has also been a prevalent topic of discussion, particularly when discussing the names of God in the Islamic tradition, which usually come in pairs. God restrains and expands, abases and exalts. Artists work every day between the two qualities. Beauty is nothing without the grotesque.

Mehmet took us outside, and showed us his materials. When he is repairing carpets, he unravels the ones that cannot be saved and reuses the wool. He recreates the design that had been there before, but disappeared for a spell. As Adem said, "He breathes life into carpets that have died."

His hand skillfully laced back and forth, tied knots and changed colors. It was like magic, and he did it all effortlessly, even needing to slow himself down so that we were able to tell what it was he was doing. I held my camcorder and tried to not let it distance me from the experience. We simply sat and watched him work in awe, a life's passion manifesting itself before us. Destinies are funny things- I don’t know how much I believe in them, or rather, how much control one has over them. But I do know that when you see someone who is on the right path, it's impossible to look away. They're blazing through their excess, and heading straight to the core of their being, letting it be what the world around them can see. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Loneliness, prayer, and being called an American bitch.

Due to the fact that I had about ten days in Istanbul with the best host family in the world prior to joining Omid's group, I had the good fortune to have already seen most of the optional sites. So whilst my friends were all headed for Topkapi Palace, I decided to visit St. Chora Church.

Another adventure all alone! One day I'll learn how to really share these experiences with another person, but at least for now, I far prefer to go it alone. And I needed the alone time on this day in particular. I had made a total fool of myself the night before trying to communicate with a waiter, didn't feel like I was upholding the expectations of the ART\Islam team, and was feeling generally lonely. I was about fifteen days into my travels, and was finally coming to terms with the fact that it would be a very long time without Ian's insane laughter, without my mother's hugs, without antics in the kitchen with my dad, without Emily's tender and unwavering support, without Merle's expertise, without James' often hilarious commentary and encouragement. It made me very sad. Travelling is my very favorite thing. I like who I am when I'm abroad. But jumping between casts of characters, to have people in your life for just a few days at a time, can be hard. As much of a loner as I am, I really love my friends and family.

So, some alone time to calm myself was much needed. I headed for a cab, requested a ride to Kariye Muzesi, and headed on my way. As we began the drive, I looked at the meter, which was set at 15 TL.

"Are you going to set the meter back?"

My driver dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

"Please set the meter back."

"It's broken. Where you from?"

And we proceeded to have a lovely conversation in English about the charms of Istanbul and my reason for being there. By the time we arrive at the church, the meter is at 25 TL.

"25 lira please."

"No. You didn't set the meter back. Here's ten." Furthermore, I had taken a taxi to Taksim the night before, which is about the same distance if not further, and it was only ten. So I knew I wasn't nuts.

He pushes my hand back and starts rambling loudly and angrily in Turkish.

"You didn't set the meter back! I'm not paying 25 lira!"

This only leads him to raise his voice and gesture angrily. I shove the 10 lira in his hand and begin to get out of the cab.

"American bitch! American bitch! Get out!"

I slam the door and he speeds away. Residents of the street are watching me with a sort of disgusted interest, and I nearly burst into tears on the spot, ready to allow myself to melt into nothingness and flow between cobblestones into the Bosphorous. I walked toward the church, trying really hard to hold my shit together, when tears start rapidly leaking out of my eyes. I sit on a little ledge outside the church and pull it together pretty quickly, before calling my mother (costing me a lot of money and cementing me in her mind as an eight year old), who quickly makes me feel at least a little better.

I pay, and enter the museum/church. They have a lovely grassy area with flowers and benches, and I look forward to hanging out that after going inside. I have the pretty awesome idea to get Mimi (my mother's mother) a rosary while I'm there. I decide that this will be a good trip. Whilst inside, I listen to some Eric Whitacre on my iPod, and survey the frescoes depicting the Virgin Mary's life. Once again, I feel deeply touched and feel another ginormous wave of emotion coming on. Looking at the depictions of the annunciation of her birth to her parents hits me hard for some reason, and I stare at it for a long time. I decide to take some pictures, and before I can even get to the part depicting the life of Mary, my camera dies. In the moment, this is a profound blow to my fragile composure. I move into the gift shop, ready to purchase the rosary for my grandmother and pray it out in the garden.

Not a rosary in sight.

And that's the end of it. My lips start trembling and my temples do that weird tightening thing when you're about to cry. I push my way outside and ungracefully make my way to a bench, where I plop down and sob for about ten minutes. There's an Italian family trying to take pictures a couple of feet away from me, and I feel bad for killing the mood, which only leads me to cry some more.

It was about 4:30, and the museum was closing. I headed for the café across the street, ordered some tea from a clearly concerned waiter, and let the sun dry my face. It was in this moment of post catharsis relaxation that I realized I had a video camera and an iPhone with me, and easily could have taken photos with them. Drat.

Instead of rushing back to the hotel, I sat at the café for about an hour. I wrote, I people watched, and drank as much tea as my little heart desired. I watched the church and tried to imagine it as it would have been a thousand years ago. Contented, and feeling quite a bit calmer, I caught a cab back to the hotel.

God granted me the grace of a kind cab driver. 

Meeting John Travolta, and flirting with a Turk

During our stay in Istanbul, some people from the group and I decided to go for some tea and nargile (known elsewhere as shisha or hookah). Looking forward to a night of relaxation, we stopped by Adem and Burhan's textile shop for some recommendations. Adem and Burhan are brothers, and very good friends of Omid. They held a carpet workshop for us earlier in the week, check that out at the ART\Islam blog. Burhan, in his nifty European scarves and skinny jeans, graciously walked us to a nargile place nearby, explaining that he and Adem had taken Omid there, and that is was his favorite place.

As we walk, he says, "Ever since you come into my shop two nights ago, I've been searching for your face. Come visit after tea?"

Burhan is a genuinely nice guy (pretty handsome, too), but apparently has quite the reputation as a smooth operator. I smile and agree, because I can always use another friend, and he seems, despite the reputation, like a lovely person. After we're seated in the café and he orders Bomba tea (rose, mint, and lemon) for all of us, he and his contagious smile are gone. The evening progresses over flavored smoke and laughter, induced mostly by a ridiculous and highly entertaining TV drama playing on the big screen TV. It's like The Tudors, but for the Ottoman Empire, specifically Emperor Suleyman and his wife (second, to be exact) Roxelana. As well as all of the women in his harem. The costumes were beautiful, the storyline was engaging even with the language barrier, and we had a grand time predicting what would happen next.

(On a slightly (very) nerdy note, watching the show made me a little uncomfortable, because it was as though Turks were Orientalizing themselves. European artists went on a kick a couple hundred years ago in which they depicted "Oriental" scenes, usually involving scantily clad "exotic" women, and very angry, almost animalistic men (Whom the women had to be rescued from. Obviously). Harems were a topic of special interest, as you can imagine, and are basically depicted as places where women would hang around naked, waiting wistfully for their Sultan to stop by and choose them to bed. We know, however, that this was not the case. Harems (though they're by no means my favorite institutions) did a great deal for educating the women who resided in them. Most of the time, they weren't busy in bed, they were reading, learning music, or making art. Furthermore, life "in the Orient" simply didn't just consist of decadence, naked women all in love with the same man, and angry men. The TV show, however, did a pretty good job upholding that image. All the women in the harem fought over the same dude, and the Sultan was depicted as pretty gnarly and generally unapproachable. I guess this formula of silly women and fortress-like men exists in many a historical drama, but something about this felt particularly off. Rant over.)

So, as we're all giggling over the silliness of this show, a man at a nearby table starts telling us who's who and what everyone is doing. Eventually, he introduces himself as John Travolta. He moves his whole, extremely large pipe over to our table and joins in the fun. He's about 50, and certainly looks nothing like John Travolta, so we ask where the name came from.

"When I was about your age, or a little older, I had these great white suits. American tourists would come and see me, especially when  I went dancing, and point and smile and say 'John Travolta!' Eventually, I asked someone what they were talking about, and they told me about his movies and I watched them, and now I love him. Here's a picture."

He proceeded to pull out a picture of him in the 1980s in which he did, in fact, look pretty much like John Travolta. He shared many stories with us, including his smoking escapades with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weiss. He also, upon finding out Lily was from DC, called his American friend who lived in DC, and had Lily talk to her on the phone. Turns out they've got very similar educational backgrounds and interests, so the two of them are meeting for coffee when Lily gets back. Networking is an amazing thing.

Upon his promise to get us into the best and most expensive club in Istanbul for free, we took our leave. He was quite a character. Some of the other girls were a little sketched out, but he was harmless. We headed back to Adem and Burhan's shop, to say good night and thank them for the recommendation. Lily, Jo, and I began looking pretty seriously at their pashminas, and the shopping began. I chose a few to try on, all of which Burhan  insisted on tying for me. Homebro has some skills. He even showed us how to make trendy little vests out of our scarves! It was quite impressive. Eventually we were all alone in a side room, and as he was folding one of the scarves I had decided against, I noticed an eyelash on his cheek.

"Do you wish on eyelashes here?"

"Uhhh, pardon? What?"

"Do you wish on eyelashes? When an eyelash is on your cheek do you ever wish on it?"

Burhan is looking at me like I'm a little crazy.

"No, no. I don't think I've ever heard of that."

"You just put it on your fingertip, and then make a wish and blow it away."

"Okay. Will you get it?"


Upon retrieving the eyelash in question and presenting it to Burhan, he flashed his eyes and smiled mischievously before squinting like a child, making a wish, and blowing it gently off my finger.

"I will not tell you what I wished for," he said, "But I will say that you are in it."

Oh, Burhan. What a line.

He asked if he could see me when I came back to Istanbul, and I said sure. Because you're only in Istanbul once, right?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aya Sofya

Sofya is a word for feminine, divine wisdom. Being within the Aya Sofya, at one time a church, then a mosque, and ultimately (and, in some respects, unfortunately) a museum, has been one of the most empowering experiences of this summer. It is majestic, to say the least. It was as if I had been engulfed in the faith of millions who came before me. The images of the Virgin Mary are striking, and something of the initial wonder and devotion I had for her as a child rose gently to the surface, guiding me once again to the realization of how very small I am, and how lucky I am to have this gift of life. Omid has spoken of a kind of parallel between Christianity and Islam. In Islam, the Qur'an is the word of God, delivered by Muhammad. In Christianity, Jesus is the living word of God, delivered by Mary. As I get older, Mary wields greater and greater influence over me, and I am in wonder at her role in the salvation of humanity.


I have been seriously blessed in the realm of roommates throughout my life. For whatever reason, our relationships never stop at the appropriate boundary of "just someone I live with." It's always a case of fast friends, and I am so grateful (Shout out to Megan Pinto, Ellie Barone, Danielle Blakeman, and Emmie Ocker). Alhamdullilah (Thanks be to God), this time around was no different. Nausheen is straight up the only person on this trip who is as goofy as I am. We have a grand time together, especially in our hotel in Cappadocia, but more about that later. It's basically become a two week sleepover, complete with night time antics, spiritual conversations, and her professional Turkish hijab stylings. See picture below. We share a love of chocolate, poetry, dancing like fools, and good music. I have so much to learn from such an amazing woman! I am so, so glad to have met her.