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Reflections from Turkey


Points of view – Ewa Protasiuk

By Dena Bodian on March 11, 2013

Let me begin on the behalf of the group by expressing our deep sorrow at the news of the tragic death of fellow Colgate student Luke Stalker ’14. We are keeping him and his loved ones in our prayers and thoughts, especially throughout our current time of reflection and exploration of faith.

And in the vein of exploration, today was another whirlwind day…but, of course, in the best way possible! Included among our adventures today were a cruise on the Bosphorus (the straits that wind through Istanbul), setting foot on the Asian side of the city (my first time even touching the continent, as it was for many of us!), and lunch along the waterside, as well as visiting the Rumeli Fortress (built by Sultan Mehmed II, conqueror of the city in 1453), the Neve Shalom Synagogue, and Galata Tower, from which we saw quite the panoramic views…particularly cool to see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia and the places that we have visited thus far from up high, amidst the fantastic backdrop of the seemingly endless sprawl of this city of 13 million.


Observing the city from such interesting points of view–from the fortress, from our boat, from the tower, and finally through clambering through the city streets via the long way on the way back from dinner–necessarily made me realize just how unique the geography of the city is…and how utterly important it must have been in the growth of the city! The position of the water, the hills–I think Istanbul would be a very different city without these features.

Without the hills, certainly…and we thought we would miss the hills of Central New York!


I wonder how the landscape has influenced the way that the city has become what it is today?

But really, such beautiful views! At times, one can hardly breathe, they are so breathtaking.



The idea of perspective is particularly interesting in light of the very nature if our stay in Turkey. As an interfaith group, we ourselves provide a platform for the mutual sharing of different perspectives–and hope to be enriched by them. We also utilize many perspectives in our daily imbibing of the city–as religious tourists, as students, as people of particular genders, ethnic backgrounds, and faith traditions. How awesome it is that no two people in our group see anything that we encounter as a group in exactly the same way–or one pair of eyes, the same thing the same way twice.

Perhaps the challenge exists in recognizing from which perspective, from which lens, ones understanding of a particular experience stems. Personally, being in an unfamiliar cultural context challenges me to do so, to recognize how some lens of my own may be distorted, and correct it as I can…but also to recognize that the uniqueness of this lens is something important, useful, and potentially pretty neat. Coming from a Catholic background, a Polish family, and an American cultural context, much of what I have seen and experienced over the past few days–like visiting mosques, hearing the call to prayer, and attempting to get into the rhythm of Istanbul’s streets (of the particular parts we have seen, at least)–has been very new to me. But a thrilling and a continual source of thought and reflection, both internally and with others–was this surprising? Why did I feel unsettled? How are experiences of my own similar, and different? What about those similarities and differences is significant?

Speaking of different viewpoints…here are some of my fellow travelers gazing down from the second level of the synagogue museum.


Also: cats, cats everywhere. And so many wonderful desserts…don’t worry, Mom, halva in mass quantities is on the way!

Best, best wishes from Istanbul! Here are at least a few of our smiling faces.


Photo credits: Nile Williams, Gloria Keibirungi, and Ewa Protasiuk.

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