Happy 4th of July from Baku!

Happy 4th of July!  Wish I could be there to celebrate!!  =)

Last weekend, Istanbul was amazing!  It is such a beautiful, enormous, international city!  Erica, Abby and I had a wonderful time.  We met late at night at the airport, and spent our nights in a hostel—where we met several other Americans in their travels.  In the city, we visited the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, and the Topkapi Palace.  The three of us took a photo with the Blue Mosque in the background:

Blue Mosque

There were several neat mosaics on the walls of Hagia Sophia, as you can see in the photo.  The other photo, with me and the fountain, has Hagia Sophia in the background.

Hagia Sophia Mosaic

Hagia Sophia Fountain

The views of the water from the Topkapi Palace were also fantastic.  Saturday, I also had the best waffle/fresh fruit/ice cream dish of my life!  On Sunday, we toured the Archaeological Museum, which had so many ancient oriental and Egyptian artifacts—including mummies and sarcophagi! 


Note to anyone who travels to Istanbul: the Grand Bazaar is not open on Sundays (or maybe just this particular weekend)!  Because the Grand Bazaar was closed, we bought our souvenirs at the Spice Bazaar instead—a smaller, but equally unique and busy market!  We took a ferry ride to the Asian side of Istanbul (there are 2 sides because Istanbul is split between Europe and Asia), and walked around a bit there.  There are little corn stands everywhere in Istanbul, where they sell boiled corn and charcoal-grilled corn—and pour a lot of salt on top of each.  We tried some of the grilled corn, but it wasn’t my favorite—it was a little dry and chewy!

 At work, I’ve been reading and editing a booklet of success stories—I believe SEDA will publish and/or distribute it eventually.  The stories are so touching; it is a wonderful feeling to know how many people are benefiting from this organization, and how thankful and excited the villagers are to cut the ribbon on their new school, road, or wedding tent.  It really is wonderful work that we are doing here.

Ramadan has started!  Some of my coworkers are fasting because of it, and I was asked not to eat at my desk anymore (so as not to eat in front of them).  I’ve also seen some new foods in the grocery store, which I was told are brought in specifically for this holiday.  Other than that, I haven’t noticed too many changes in Baku.  The holiday will last almost the whole month (I think maybe until after I leave Azerbaijan).  I’m not entirely sure, because the dates of Ramadan change every year—the Islamic calendar is different from ours, and it is based off of that calendar.