The beauty of social media: Prague

On our way to Prague, I checked my Instagram feed (naturally) and noticed that my dear friend from high school, Alicia, was ALSO in Prague. I reached out and on Tuesday Katie and I were able to explore with Alicia and her boyfriend. We had a really lovely day!

  
  Cooking in the hostle!

  We love our selfie stick

  Old town square in Prague!

    A giant beautiful cathedral! 

  We found alicia! ­čĹ»

  Too tall for Prague 

  The group at the famous Prague castle.

  A delicious meal at a pour-your-own beer place. Prague is famous for Pilsner beer!

  At the famous Lennon wall  

  

  A view of Prague from the top of the famous astronomical clock. 

  We ÔŁĄ´ŞĆ audio guides 

  This synagogue has all of the names and approximate dates of death of the Prague Jews who were deported to ghettos and concentration camps during WWII. Rumor has it that Hitler wanted to preserve the Jewish quarter in Prague to memorialize the extinct race. 

 Some say the Holocaust memorial in Berlin is modeled after the cemetery in the Jewish quarter in Prague. 

Prague was amazing- such beautiful architecture and cool people and delicious (non-Turkish!) food. Kate and I just wrapped up a day in Athens, and are heading to the Greek island of Mykinos tomorrow! 
Stay tuned!

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Sam and Katie take Europe: Prague

For those of you who don’t know, my supah fly sister Katie just graduated from University of Delaware (go blue hens!) and as such we decided to celebrate by taking a lil Euro trip! First stop? Prague! Prague has been on my travel wish list for a while now and when we figured out that despite being in the EU, they are not on the Euro, we knew that Prague should be a stop on our tour. Katie rallied like a champ after not having slept in many hours and we made the most of our first afternoon in Prague. We took a free walking tour to get oriented (some of the highlights? The bustling Old Town square, the world famous astronomical clock, the Jewish quarter, opera houses, theaters, etc) and then headed back to the hostel to join a free cooking lesson! Katie has been pretty excited to stay in a hostel and have that fun young community feel and so far our hostel has delivered! About 20 of us gathered in the hostel kitchen and wrote down an ingredient each. Our host went to the market to buy the ingredients and then we started cooking! We quickly began preparing the meal, introducing ourselves and generally enjoying each others company. We made a salad and a potato/chicken soup. I was in charge of chopping the chilies and my hands are still burning. Oops! Katie and I were prepared to lay low for the night as kate still hadn’t slept much, but our new friends convinced us that Monday is THE night in Prague so we HAD to go out. We as a group did a pub crawl and got to see some of the same sights at night. Katie remarked that she can see how/why people are so amazed by NYC’s tall buildings, because they are so unlike the amazingly beautiful, artistic architecture found in European cities like Prague. 

Here are some pictures from our first day! 
  Old town square at night 

  The famous clock and old town square  a close up of the clock we found each other in Istanbul!

Today many of my fellow fulbrighters are heading to Istanbul for their flights home. I am so thankful that I have an extra month here to travel with my sister and soak up every last drop of this experience. So officially I will be coming home on July 14! Mark your calendars, folks! 

Stay tuned…

School’s out for summer!

I am stuck in a little cycle of “oh no I haven’t blogged, I need to blog” –> “ugh it’s too late, better not blog at all” –> “oof yahh I really should blog” Today I realized that I’ve managed to blog at least once each month, and I owe it to myself (and, lets be real, to posterity) to blog a little bit more before I head home.

Astonishingly, my students finished all of their exams and projects two weeks ago!? The last week was extremely bittersweet for me and I felt myself tearing up at the end of each of my last classes (those of you who know me, know that this is normal, expected even). I’ll admit that having the same students, in the same classes, in the same schedule got a liiitle tiring after 9 months. They no longer found me quite as funny/foreign/endearing as they had in the first 6 months. One group of students even made fun of me in their final video project (Think: one student played the teacher who scolded his students to be quiet or put their phones away every 7 seconds). However, as a whole, this year has been one of intense growth- both personally and professionally. It was the most rewarding experience of my life, I had complete autonomous control of 4 different classes, 21 times a week! I’ve learned a lot about my leadership style, my classroom management skills (working on those┬ástill…), and what my goals are professionally. I loved teaching and my experience here at Uludag University. I think I am an engaging teacher and I did my best to adapt lessons to my students’ needs. I did my best to be a cultural ambassador and I am confident that I impacted the way some students think about America/American culture. However, I don’t think that teaching is something I see in my long-term future. Which is why, ultimately I decided to come back to America! I am currently applying for positions more aligned with my studies at Villanova, but I am also looking at think tanks/political groups related to US/Turkish relations. Where will I be next year? Allah bilir- as they say in Turkish (God knows).

In my agenda I have been keeping track of my travels and I realized that I have traveled to twice as many cities (16) in the second half of my time here than I did in the first half! I have written about some of them, but not all. Once I get some pictures onto my computer I will try to post some travel updates. For now, keep an eye out about my week with my parents!

A Visit from America

This story really begins last year, my senior year of college, when “Turkey” was still a fantastical ambition with little to no chance of actually materializing. Caroline, one of my closest friends from college, promised me that, should I actually make it to Turkey, she would visit. One year later, on a rainy evening in Istanbul, it happened. Caroline came to Turkey. I spent the weeks leading up to her visit carefully planning an itinerary, both for Bursa and Istanbul, as well as checking the weather and adapting the plans accordingly.  After months of anticipation, Caroline and I spent a week catching up, adventuring, chatting, laughing, eating (and eating and eating) and generally being thrilled to be reunited. Here are some pictures from our amazing week together.

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Wildcats in the Hagia Sofia

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Giving Caroline a boost so she can better see the Blue Mosque from the Hagia Sofia.

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Artsy

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Taking a break in front of an old ablution fountain- a place where worshipers can clean themselves before prayer

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The old underground Byzantine Cisterns

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Sightseeing in Istanbul

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Blue sky, Blue Mosque, blue trash, Caroline.

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Teaching her the art of covering.

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The Bosphorus river, the Galata Tower, the Turkish Flag

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A picnic dinner in our super lux suite

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Partaking in a classic riverside pastime, balloon shooting.

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exploring the world-famous Lale (tulip) festival.

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don’t let the Dutch fool you – tulips originated in Turkey!

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The Turkish flag in tulips

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We visited on Easter and it felt VERY festive, in spite of the fact that likely no one else in the park even knew it was Easter!

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The final stretch

This is it folks, the last three months of this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I refuse to anticipate the end; I am simply enjoying each day and moment here in Bursa. I find myself smiling to myself still, each day, realizing what a gift I’ve been given to get to live for a year in a city so different from my own.

Okay, anyways, I’ve been doing so many cool things lately and I have not kept up. Here are some pictures and reflections.

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From sea to summit: A grantee from Çanakkale came to stay with us for the weekend and was game to adventure with us. Unfortunately my roommate M went to Antalya for the weekend to run a half marathon along the coast- we missed her but she crushed the race so all is well.

Late on Friday evening, we trekked to our favorite restaurant, Little Korea, only to find it closed for the evening. After wracking our brains for an appropriate restaurant, we remembered this cool fish restaurant street- a pedestrian street lined with fish restaurants with bright lights, live Turkish music, delicious food and just a fun atmosphere. We had an amazing fish dinner and I couldn’t believe we had never eaten there before. On Saturday morning we got up and headed to Uluda─č, the local mountain with a poppin ski resort. Despite never having skied before, our guest, A and my roommate, F both suited up and I gave them both a beginner lesson. It was so beautiful up in the snow and mountains, but the experience was even sweeter since just getting to the mountain, getting clothed and skis felt like a tremendous feat. It was such a sweet weekend where we discovered new parts of Bursa, which is always a treat.

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2 weeks ago, 10 amazing American women (fulbrighters) came to spend the weekend in Bursa. We gathered all of our pillows an blankets, pulled out our couch and prepared for a weekend of chatting, exploring, eating good food and enjoying good company. We did all the typical
Bursa-y things including eating the deliciously amazing Iskender Kabab, visiting the important mosques, the silk market, and a local village for an amazing breakfast. The weekend made me realize how lucky I am to have met such cool and interesting people through this program.

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Finally, last weekend my roommates and I traveled to the beach side town of ├çanakkale. One thing that experience has taught me is that the cities in Turkey are so diverse and different (a truth about many countries) but in a way that your time here is primarily shaped by your random placement. Anyway, ├çanakkale really is a small community, right by the sea, only 35 km from Troy- the city made famous by Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It’s more liberal than Bursa, smaller, and smells of the sea. Another feature of this experience is that, since there are Americans in 35 cities, we have built in places to stay and tour guides in each city. A, who came skiing in Bursa a month ago, graciously hosted us, fed us, and proudly showed us her charming city. I’m hoping to get back again when it’s a little warmer but the weekends are really numbered, folks!

Coming up: my college roommate and best friend is coming next week!! I’ve been looking forward to her visit since she promised she would come when I was awarded the grant last March. Also, more weekend trips and my last few weeks teaching!

Thanks for continuing to follow along on this journey!

Snapshots: snow and reunions

This weekend allll of the Fulbrighters in Turkey met up in the capital, Ankara, for our official mid-year meeting. It was a weekend full of conversation, reflection and catching up. On Friday night all of the grantees were invited to a reception at the Ambassador’s house in Ankara- the conversation and alcohol were free flowing! It was so much fun to get dressed up and swap stories about our experiences.

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F, M and I in our new signature pose at the Ambassador’s house.

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A very snowy day in Bursa!

“No pain, no _______”

Gain!
Right?? It’s involuntary, you know that’s the end of the sentence.

Which is why I was thrilled today when a student used this phrase in order to help his teammate guess the correct vocabulary word- gain. I had no idea that my students knew this random English phrase. I was confident my student would shout out the correct answer any second.

“No pain, no….”
“Painkillers!” He responded.

What a perfectly adequate, and yet somehow still incorrect answer.