Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Grand Bazaar

Good evening to our fine students,

Okay, we said we were going to the Bazaar and not buying anything! HA! We couldn't resist. The scarves, the gold, the silver, the T-shirts, the Sultan's signature? Yes...no kidding!

The Grand Bazaar, which is 700 years old, was one of the places the salt traders from North Africa came through to acquire items not found in Africa. These days there are many more products for sale but it this is where major trade began between Asia, Africa and Europe.

One of Pat's favorite moments in the Grand Bazaar was when we were asked if we'd like to go down yet another narrow alley to view the goods. We were invited by a trio of young men who were seated at the beginning of an alley that was at a 90 degrees angle to the alley where we were walking. "Would you like to come in here? We will help you!" I asked Marian if she'd like to go to the right and noted to her that there was a 8" step to navigate. "No problem, lady. We will help you!" In the next moment, the three of them stepped to her wheelchair, one on each side and the third in back. They lifted her, chair and all, up the step. Marian raised her fist in air and shouted, "Woohoo!" We all laughed and shook hands. We only wished we had been able to take a picture!

One of Marian's favorite experiences of the day was going into a scarf vendor's shop. The proprietor was very welcoming and showed us many, many scarves and offered us Turkish or apple tea, as is the custom here. Marian drank apple tea. Pat drank Turkish tea. Both were delicious! He showed us pictures of the woman who makes some of his scarves. We only wish we could have met her in person. He, like many other vendors, was very helpful, kind and engaging. Marian was able to bargain successfully below his asking price. In doing so, he looked at Pat, smiled and said, "She's a tough lady!"

It was a great day and as our day is winding down, your day is just beginning. Listen to your teachers, work hard! We are looking forward to seeing your presentations.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We're here!

Istanbul is a city of 8 million and it feels like it. It's sunny and 70, with a strong breeze coming off the Sea of Mamara. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

It took us about 15 hours to get here. Nine from Seattle to Amsterdam, two hours there, then three more hours from Amsterdam to Istanbul. We spent about an hour in the airport here getting through customs, buying the visas and hiring a taxi. It probably would have taken much longer if we'd not had the help of Firet, an employee of the KLM airlines who took us under his wing.

We can see many ships: oil tankers, cruise ships and the occasional yacht from the hotel windows. They are making their way east to the Black Sea. It is fascinating to think that there is so much international trade that goes through these waters. Of course, we knew that, but seeing it really makes an impact. The ships have been stacking up all afternoon waiting their turn to go through the Bosphorus Strait. That is the channel of water that separates the continents of Asia and Europe and connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Mamara.

Tomorrow, that is Tuesday here, we are going shopping! Marian needs a hairbrush and Pat needs a haircut. We need a SIM card for Marian's phone and a disposable phone for Pat. We also want to scope out the Grand Bazaar. No purchases, just take a look around and get a feel for this 700 year old "mall."

We'll check in with you tomorrow!