On our bus trip back to Istanbul we were lucky to meet a young Turkish man named Ali. Ali wanted to make sure we experienced Turkish hospitality, buying tasty pancakes and tea for us before our bus trip started. Ali's English was great as he'd been a TA at the University of Maryland while working for NASA in Greenbelt. We had lots to talk about. He talked to us about how great the Ottoman Empire was and political reform taking place in Turkey today. A referendum was voted on and passed in early Sept. to reduce the influence of the Turkish military in politics. Interesting stuff.
We spent 2 days in Istanbul to finish our vacation. I explored the Ayasofya, originally built in 360 AD as a Byzantine church until it was transformed in to a Mosque with changing empires in 1453 AD. It was the largest building in the world for nearly 1000 years. Currently it is a museum (secularized in the 1930s by Ataturk) that reflects the traditions of almost 2000 years of Istanbul/ Constantinople religious heritage.
While I was exploring this architectural masterpiece, Mikey explored a local neighborhood and got a straight razor shave. Highlights of his shave were having his ear hair fuzz burned off with a lighter, as well as his nose hairs trimmed by Yusef the barber. Yusef didn't tell Mikey what he was doing with the lighter until he'd already started the process of burning his ear hair. Mikey's account of his reaction is pretty funny.
Our final morning was spent having tea at the Pera Palace, a hotel where T.E. Lawrence, Agatha Christie, and Earnest Hemingway stayed on their visits to Istanbul. It was very fancy and wonderful!
Today we arrived in Dushanbe. We were very fortunate to be met at the airport at 4:45am by friends of a Church family Rotary acquaintance. Veronica and Shocrat ushered us and our big luggage (bikes and backpacks) to an apartment where we will stay for a few days while we apartment hunt. The generosity we have been recipients of is heart warming! We are currently at the US embassy getting organized before we adventure out to start our lives here.
Let the adventure begin...I'll keep you posted on our progress :)