One thing that was on my “definitely do” list for Istanbul was wake up to watch the sunrise over the Bosphorus. The icky weather was a bit of an obstacle to that goal, but luckily, the weather got better and better during the week. If I was going to wake up early to see the sunrise, it was going to be on a clear morning.

Well, time was running out. With only two more mornings, I checked the weather, and it looked good for the morning of Easter Sunday. I thought that given the day, it was an extra fitting start… watching the sun rise on the day when the Son rose. (That gave me a good giggle for at least half the day.) I was, of course, running kind of late, which meant that I was literally running to get to the water before the I missed the whole thing. I forgot about the fact that the published “sunrise time” is when the sun breaks the horizon, and that’s the worst time to watch because it’s when you start going a bit blind. Oh well. I ran and made it there with plenty of time to watch pre-blinding.

Honestly, I had some high hopes, and it was pretty magical. There wasn’t another person in sight, the world was quiet, and the orange sky was reflecting off of the water. It was a good time for some reflection (pun absolutely intended) and prayer. Sometimes it’s nice to just press pause on the chaos of life.

Sunrise series!

Nothing like a good panorama…

That was the last pause of the day because after that, I had my aggressive sightseeing plan for the day. I was going to church at 11, but before then, I worked out, ate breakfast, and had a few mosques that I wanted to cross off my list on the way there. My mosque sightseeing plan was basically this: visit any that someone specifically recommended and then visit any others that I found on google maps or happened to walk by. Very specific, I know.

Hagia Sophia on my walk back to the hostel after the sunrise – a tourist-free shot!
Here are some random pictures from the park where I worked out sometimes. The landscaping is unreal!
This thing spits out water droplets in different patterns. Sometimes, they even spell out words!

My first stop was Yeralti Camii, an underground mosque that wasn’t terribly interesting except for the fact that it was underground. It was good though because I was still getting used to visiting mosques, and since it was quiet, I didn’t feel like I was in anyone’s way.

I happened to walk by another mosque, Kilic Ali Pasa Camii (camii means mosque, in case you haven’t guessed that yet), so I popped in there because why not. This one was more typical than the underground mosque and equally empty which meant I could take my time figuring out the layout and get a system down for taking off my shoes and covering my head. After that, I felt pretty comfortable and confident that I could manage more mosque visits without doing anything disrespectful, and that’s good because I had a mosque-filled day ahead!

Underground Mosque
Inside Kilic Ali Pasa with bonus vacuuming man
The ceiling

I wanted to squeeze in one more mosque before I headed to church, but it looked like it was locked. As I walked by, the groundskeeper called me over and started speaking to me in Turkish. One negative about looking like you fit in is that people don’t automatically assume that you can’t speak the language. Well, he figured it out pretty quickly anyway from looking at my wide eyes and bewildered face. The facts that I couldn’t speak Turkish and he couldn’t speak English were apparently not a deterrent to him, though, because he persisted in inviting me into his groundskeeper hut thing for tea. I refused, he took that as a yes, and that’s how I found myself sipping tea (horrible, horrible chai which I attempted to improve by saturating it with sugar… didn’t work) with a random Turkish man.

I’m certain that he knew I couldn’t speak Turkish, but that didn’t keep him from trying. What I gathered from our conversation is this (I’m giving a 5% guarantee of accuracy): He asked if I was married. I said no (I wasn’t wearing my fake engagement ring, unfortunately). He proposed that I could marry him. He said that he already had three wives. These are all things that I’m making up now because I have no clue what he said, but if I had to guess from the hand motions and the few words I knew in Turkish by that point, that’s about what I would guess.

When I finished my cup of tea, I pointed to my watch, signed that I had to go (because I really was going to be late to church if I waited much longer), and said goodbye. I think that he told me to come back at 4, and I said no. He told me to take a picture of him. He asked for my phone number, and I told him I didn’t have one (I am getting a little better at the whole “no” thing).

The tea stop eliminated all of my “leisurely walk to church” time, so I had to hustle up a ridiculously steep hill and showed up at the church sweaty and out of breath. I attempted to make myself look presentable and like I wasn’t about to pass out, went through security, and entered into the tiniest church on the planet. That’s an exaggeration of course, but it’s VERY small and has more pews crammed in than I ever would have imagined possible. I found a seat somehow, and my pew was so close to the one in front that I couldn’t even straighten my legs to stand up properly.

Easter Sunday at church

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, I’m so glad that I went. They played all of my favorite songs, and you should be able to sing your heart out on Easter! And I did! And the sermon was good, and it was nice to be surrounded with Christian community. I love going to churches internationally because it’s a little taste of what heaven will be like, with people from all the nations gathered together and worshipping the Lord.

To keep this from being an endless post, I’m going to cut it off here and leave it to be continued tomorrow!

Happy Easter!! How cool is it that people all over the world are celebrating Christ’s resurrection today? It’s fun to know that even though I’m halfway around the world, I’m doing essentially the same thing I would be doing if I was at home… just 9.5 hours earlier.

Tuk tuk ride to the rally! Our tuk tuk ride BACK from the rally included 8 people, so I was a little too squished to take a picture (though the India capacity of a tuk tuk is probably considered to be like 45 people).

The day started off nice and early with an Easter rally through the city. Basically, all of the churches in the city get together and walk the streets, singing songs and holding signs and handing out tracts (those little papers that tell people the basics of Christianity) to the crowds that came to gape at us. The rally started at 6AM.

Last night, they told me to be ready to leave at 5:45AM, and like a good US-ian, I was ready at 5:40. I walked downstairs… and all of the lights to the family’s floor were off, and the door was locked. Cue panic! I was sure that they left without me because they didn’t think that I would be able to wake up in time. I ran all over trying to find someone left on the property who could tell me where I needed to go to find the rally start point. Finally, through some broken English and hand motions, I found out that everyone was still at home. Of course.

Pastor Daniel always jokes about Indian Standard Time (IST), and while that’s actually what the time zone is called, that’s not what he’s talking about. The real IST is official IST+1 hour. When they told me 5:45, I should have immediately converted that to 6:45. Beginner mistake. I obviously know that Indian time is a little slow, but it’s confusing because when Pastor Daniel and Ruth say a time, things actually happen at that time. Like church “starts” at 10AM, and it really does start at 10 (probably more on time than church at home, honestly). School “starts” at 8AM, and it really does start at 8. I figured that if they were telling me 5:45, they actually meant 5:45. Today, 5:45 meant 5:45 IST. If I had known that, I could have eaten more than just a butter muffin for breakfast! (In case you were wondering, yes, they are delicious. Though “vanilla cupcake” would probably be a more accurate and less confusing name.)

Easter Rally!

I’m sure this is shocking, but none of my siblings woke up in time, even with the delayed 6:45 departure. Pastor Daniel, Ruth, and I hopped in a tuk tuk and made our way to the rally. It had already started by the time we got there, but only barely. We found our church and hopped into the line, and as usual, I didn’t understand anything that was happening. They gave me a sign to hold so I could feel like I was contributing something, and they even found one in English for me!

The gathering at the end of the rally where people said more things that I didn’t understand, and we melted in the sun.

After the rally, we headed back to get ready for church. The service was mostly the same… I don’t know what happened or what anyone said, but they had some extra music added in because it’s Easter. It was nice! And then during post-church tea, I talked to someone new! What a successful day!

We went out for lunch, and the lighting designer in me got really excited about this wall at the restaurant. Ignore all of the extra reflections and glare. Pastor Daniel was laughing at me, but look how cool!

Tomorrow, Ruth, Myra, and I are going for an early morning walk. Commence getting back into shape! We also talked about the bike again at dinner tonight, and it’s happening Tuesday. I’m so happy! They want me to try to teach Myra, and they’ll get one for her too if she can learn. I have no idea how to teach someone to ride a bike, but that’s what the internet is for. In exchange, I’m going to make her teach me some Hindi! Pastor Daniel has a whole list of things for her to do to occupy her time at home. He told her that she’s had two days to rest, and now her vacation is over hahaha. That sounds like the same thing my parents used to try with me over holiday breaks. Why don’t parents understand that that’s not the way this works?