Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shenanigan-ing the Fifth: Shelter from the Storm

We'd been playing pussyfoot with the rain since our second day in Istanbul.  People kept apologizing for the weather, explaining that it was usually warmer this time of year.  Little did they realize that we hailed from Mongolia - their idea of "cold" is a warm spring day to us.  Also, it was nice to not have to fight our kids over wearing the hoodies on account of it being too hot.  That said, I have to tell you that when the weather really did catch up to us, we felt it.  The fifth day of the trip we were scheduled to visit Topkapi Palace, and while the weather held long enough for me to go ahead of everyone and buy tickets...

...just FYI, apparently those 85 lira 3-day museum passes can sell out.  As in, like, everywhere.  And that sucks...

...but by the time we'd entered the second court and started to look around rain was coming down.  This was such a bummer I hardly had words for it, because the last time I visited Topkapi Palace, it was a gorgeous autumn day, and the lovely grounds really deserve to be strolled through at a leisurely pace, rather than quickly as you shiver from building to building.  Still, a palace is a palace, and I think everyone enjoyed seeing the fantastic architecture...just not as much as they would have on a sunny day.
While Time Lady stayed back with the majority of our students who were getting their fill of shopping at their second gift shop of the day, I went ahead to buy tickets for the Istanbul Archaeology Museum (since we now needed tickets for every attraction we went to) with one of my tenth grade boys (who brought a ukulele on the trip and thus earned the moniker "Ukulele Man") who had a great sense of direction and liked to be ahead of everyone else.  The main group spent so long shopping that we bought the tickets and were half the way back to the gate before they caught up to us.  Since we were all cold from the rain we decided to go to lunch down the hill from the museum first, and we all ended up eating at The Han, where most of the kids got to enjoy another meal seated on cushions (not to mention some good food).  Afterwards we went to the museum where we were THRILLED to be able to skip the ticket line and go straight in.

Now, this is where I kinda lost it a little.  We'd already "lost" kids a couple of times - once because they forgot to check in before wandering off, once because "Can I goof around?" means something different to me than it does to one of my students.  And I had not yelled at anyone, even though at one point I promised to murder one of them, because we were on vacation and I didn't want anyone - myself included - to have a shitty time.  As we were getting ready to leave the first building of the museum, a few of the girls were straggling, and when they and Time Lady caught up to the main body of the group, we came up one girl short.  And I cracked.  It's a big enough museum that you aren't going to be able to find someone just by looking, so I waited out in the cold rain while Time Lady went on in with the rest, and I started feeling sorry for myself and got pissed off for a couple of reasons, so that 10 minutes later, when I made a lucky guess and went in looking for our girl, I couldn't actually talk to her, and had to go off by myself for a few minutes once she was with the rest to cry a little.  It didn't ruin the rest of the trip for me, but it made me ready to go home, and even though when we did get home it was disappointing to be back and I was all about planning a trip for next year, I also needed to be left the hell alone for a while.
It helped to lift my spirits that after a short walk up the hill we were visiting one of my all-time favorite places, the Basilica Cistern.  You walk down steps into a cavern of water held up by columns, lit from below by a soft golden glow.  Every time I'm there it feels like magic, like a different time or even a different world.  It's my kinda place.
We went from there back to the hotel for about an hour, where people put on dry clothes and I let myself nap for about a half hour, before we headed out to our belly dance workshop.  This was another of my ideas for something we could do in the evenings, and on I found Hale Sultan, a fantastic Turkish dancer who agreed to do a workshop for us for a great price, and was super flexible with our schedule and the weather.  We ended up going to her studio in Taksim, and I had to listen to both grumbles and giggles along the way, because a lot of my students didn't exactly know what to make of the fact that they were going to learn belly dance.  Once we got started, though, almost everyone enjoyed themselves.  In our two hours Hale talked about some of the history and culture of belly dance as well as teaching us most of the basic isolations.  She was a great teacher - she kept it fun and fast paced, and at least a couple of the girls told me they'd like to learn more. Afterwards we went out to Istiklal Caddesi (known as "the street" by all my students, most of whom were keen to go back) to grab a bite to eat before heading to Sultanahmet. 

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