Monday, November 22, 2010

My weekend in Istanbul, and back to home sweet home. By blogger of the month Elizabeth Nowak

When I was in high school and blessed with a day off, my friends and I would sometimes weasel our way into acquiring one of our parents’ cars and head north over the border.  I can’t say for sure what the allure of Canada was, given that it was a short 30 minutes away from our Buffalo home.  Sometimes we would try Canadian frosties, and see how they compared to those of our native Wendy’s.  Sometimes we would go out of our way to purchase an exotic Canadian product like milk-in-a-bag.  Whatever the activity, it seemed just a little more thrilling because we were on foreign soil.

So at this point, you’re probably wondering what kind of sorry existence I had in high school.  And that would be a pretty fair question.  I brought this up not to share with you the incredibly boring details of my past, but because my life in Israel has brought with it a whole new set of borders to explore, and (no offense Canada!) but these ones are a markedly more interesting.  As MSIHers, we are in the ideal location to see the world around us, both within Israel and those countries surrounding it.  Last week I was honing my procrastination skills and discovered that I could fly to Istanbul for the same price as a ticket from Buffalo to Newark!  So I decided to take the weekend off and go to Istanbul.   
I had never been to Istanbul before, so I had a lot of catching up to do.  I had to make an appearance at all the standard tourist destinations – the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace.  I have to say it was pretty peaceful to spend a few hours gazing up into exquisitely decorated stone tiled domes of these masterpieces.  I’m a student, and I can’t really afford tours and whatnot, so I’ve grown accustomed to sneaking around famous landmarks and subtly integrating myself into the other English-speaking tour groups that go by.  The nice thing about this method is that you learn a lot of fun facts, and it’s free! 

After my journey through the ancient monuments, I went to a whirling dervish performance (and tried not to feel dizzy), wandered through the Grand Bazaar (the oldest covered market in the world), and tried out a Turkish bath (an interesting experience, and I’ll leave it at that).  I also found my way to the more modern, open-air market, which was more interesting and informative than the Grand Bazaar tourist trap.  I bought a new Gucci wallet, saw some wedding dresses that would probably send a bridegroom running (see attached photo!), and tried very hard not to get robbed or lost (I was successful with the former, but not so much the latter).

When I got tired, I sought refuge in those places I miss the most from home: Starbucks, and Subway of course.  I ended up (much to the chagrin of airport security) bringing a few extra subway subs back to Be’er Sheva with me, just to savor the joy a little longer.

At the end of the weekend, I was incredibly relieved to make it back to Be’er Sheva, a city which (much to my surprise), really has become “home” in my subconscious.  I never thought I would be so happy to see my dusty little street and all the cats that call it home, just like me.  But honestly, Be’er Sheva is both a place of refuge and an excellent jumping off point to see the world, and I’m so thankful to be studying here.  - blogger of the month, Elizabeth Nowak