When I think of all the places in the world I have wanted to travel to, Turkey was never on my list. Call me crazy, but I thought of the places everyone goes to: Rome, Paris, or even Dublin. But that’s not where I was heading. I was on a plane to Istanbul. A place I had always thought of as the desert, a place where people ride camels and have giant turbans on their heads. A terrible stereotype that I’m sure many young people have in the US. I knew I was going to have fun with my classmates. I was going to make this trip as much fun as I possibly could. I mean, what could be waiting for me when I touched ground that was actually that exciting?

 

Speechless. That’s what I was. My roommate and I stared fixated tout our hotel window, in absolute awe of our view. Istanbul at night is beautiful. There was life and vitality pumping throughout the streets and the idea that 16 million people lived in this city was amazing. We could see a mosque in every direction we looked, hear car horns blasting from the street six stories below us. Lights were shining, golden, creating a halo-like effect on the horizon line. I had never seen anything as lovely as my view from the Grand Halic Hotel.

 

It was 6:00 in the morning. I woke up to the most interesting sounds. A man singing right outside my window. It was way to early in the morning for this kind of nonsense. Who in the world thinks it’s a good idea to blast their voice to the world? At 6:00. In. The. Morning. Doesn’t this man know that I didn’t get to bed until about one? Doesn’t he know that I have trouble sleeping the first night at any new place? The quiet is vital to make sure my brain is not a ball of mush when I try to function today. 

Then it dawned on me. The call to prayer. Five times a day the call to prayer was supposed to go off all over Istanbul. But couldn’t they make an exception? I thought to myself with a groan as I pulled the plush white covers over my head.

 

After a long day of visiting schools on the Asia side of Istanbul, we decided that we wanted to go to the Turkish bath. It was explained to us by our guide, Koray, that the baths are great. We could choose what kind of service we got, and it was a supposed to be a time where we relaxed. A time when we let go of our stresses and simply drifted away for a while. We were told about the “Turkish mamma’s” who would take good care of us while we were at the baths.

“There will be a slab that you lay on,” Koray said. “It will feel good on the skin and you will simply let the mamma scrub and massage you.” 

I was ready. This was going to be an adventure. It was going to be me, a Turkish mamma, a hot stone to lay on, and a drifting sensation. But that wasn’t was I got, exactly. There were about 25 or 30 of us that decided we wanted to go to the baths. I was in the last group that paid. For the full service, thank you very much. If I was doing this, I was going all out. No halfsies on this one. There were six of us in the last group. A man took us out of the building we were in and brought us around the corner to the woman’s part of the bath. We walked up some mosaic tiled stairs and came to a room that had a desk and little compartment rooms lining the back wall. One of the Turkish mamma’s aggressively guided myself and two other girls into one of the little cubby rooms…where you are supposed to get naked. She gave us wraps and left us to it.

the two girls I was with were great, laughing and making jokes to brush away fsp me of the awkward of the situation. For example, one of the girls, Haley Mae, noticed my bird tattoo on my right shoulder blade and said, “Hey! I have a bird tattoo, too! But if I tried to show it to you right now you would get a load of a whole bunch of lady parts.” Needless to say these girls were pretty awesome considering our first real social interaction involved us stripping down to our birthday suits. 

When we walked out of our little cubby room the mamma pushed the six of us through a door that went into a bathroom area with toilets and sinks running the length of either side of the room. We were then pushed through another door and I immediately gripped my wrap a little tighter to my body. All I saw was a sea of my bare naked classmates. All of them. Stripped naked sitting all around the room facing toward the middle where the hot slaps was located. My first thought was, absolutely not. This was not Happening. Koray did not say we were all going to be in the same huge room together, where four people were being served at the same time! This was where my thoughts were as I walked over to a free spot around the room, when suddenly my wrap was taken away from me! The Turkish mamma took away my wrap without giving me any chance to tell her no way Jose.

There is not a single DIS long study tour that got as close as mine did in Istanbul, Turkey. 

 

Being in an old building is like being in a part of something really special. There is so much history in old buildings such as the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. There is a feeling that washes over you  you think about how many people before you were walking in the same spot you were, seeing what you were seeing. I thought about that when Koray said that the Hagia Sophia was built 50 generations ago. What a way to put the building in prospective. It is breathtaking, really. 

 

I have been in towers before and the Galata Tower didn’t seems like anything that impressive in comparison to what I had already seen in Istanbul. It was around sunset, the time recommended to us to go up into the tower. We bought our tickets, 13 Lyra each, and then we went up. At the top, we gazed upon the whole of Istanbul. It was gorgeous, watching the sun set over this incredible city. You could see the city pulse with life and you could feel the glowing aura around the city. It was in possible not to sigh at such a gorgeous sight. I thought we had hit the jackpot when my friend suggested we stay up in the tower long enough to hear the call to prayer go off. Brilliant idea! So we waited, and I personally grew impatient as the sun continued to set with no prayer. But then…the call to prayer started at one mosque, reaching high into the brisk night air. I smiled, loving the sound of the man singing the prayer, when another mosque joined in, adding a sort of echo effect. Soon another mosque went off, and another. There was a chorus of voices sing the call to prayer, mixing and melting together.it was captivating, like seeing the world for the first time after not being able to see for 20 years. It was like a magic spell, reaching its hands out toward me and gripping my attention  entirely. Never before had I been able to witness something so extraordinary. And I don’t think I will ever again.