There has been no lack of surprises so far on this trip. I signed up for the class thinking I was going to Rwanda. I left the airport in Des Moines thinking my final destination was Rwanda with a connecting flight in Brussels. Now I’m in Istanbul, Turkey. How did I end up here? A series of unfortunate events, to put it briefly. However, here the eight of us are. Many of us have only slept 3 to 5 hours in the past 2 or 3 days. Luckily, we all signed up for a trip to Rwanda and we knew we would be stepping outside of our comfort zones. The only way to get through this sanely is with a positive outlook and a go with the flow attitude. We made the most of being stranded in Turkey. We ended putting off sleeping for some time in the future in order to explore old Istanbul.
We started off with a bus drive past the current sprawling city of Istanbul. We had the opportunity to see Asia! That was exciting. Then we continued our journey to visit the Hagia Sofia. We learned that this is actually the 3rd one that has been built. The architecture of this building is amazing. Especially when you consider that it only took five years to build 1500 years ago.
We then walked across the street to visit the Blue Mosque. This is still a working mosque so in order to enter we had to take off our shoes, make sure our legs were covered, and wear head coverings.
Another surprise to be found here were all of the homeless dogs. However, instead of these dogs being rabid and hungry, they are actually taken care of as more of a community effort. Instead of being ownerless dogs, they get to be shared by the entire community. They are actually well-fed and even vaccinated.
One last surprise for the day was to experience the driving here. There is a clear contrast between Iowa driving and Istanbul driving. I think even people from Chicago would meet their match here. There is all sorts of angry honking, the cars drive just inches from the car in front of them, they don’t pay attention to the lanes (at one point in time we had four lanes of cars in an area that was only supposed to be two lanes), and there are many people in the middle of these packed highways that I guess are trying to sell their goods. I think they are just asking to be killed. I don’t know how they don’t get hit. I can think of safer and more appropriate places to try and sell roses.
Supposedly we are heading to Kenya tonight. Another location none of us ever dreamed we would be going to on this trip. However, we have learned in the past couple of days to plan ahead for not actually getting a plane ticket even though it has been reserved, to be ready to sit for hours on end not knowing where you will be heading next or when you will get to leave, and to keep an open mind so to not ruin your entire trip.