Can you read this passage?:
Of course you can’t.
And that’s what this website about the difficulty of having dyslexia is trying to demonstrate.
Upwards of 7% of the population has dyslexia, making it one of the most common learning disabilities in the world and yet many people don’t really understand it.
While this site may be a bit of an exaggeration, it also does a good job of driving the point home.
Let us know in the comments below if the site is a good representation of your experience with dyslexia.
Cover Photo Credit: Eye to Eye National/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)
What Do You Think?
You Might also like
The Anniston Star, one of Alabama’s largest newspapers has called for President Obama to free former Gov. Don Siegelman from federal prison.
Siegelman is currently serving a 78 month prison sentence for bribery, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice charges stemming from a controversial arrangement made during his term as governor in the early part of the century.
His case is a complicated one to be sure.
But for the sake of a summation, AL.com does a pretty good job:
Siegelman was convicted by a federal court in 2006, “after being accused of appointing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a health planning board in return for a $500,000 donation to the governor’s campaign for a statewide lottery.”
Was it corruption or just politics?
Depending on which side of the political aisle you sat at the time would determine how you felt.
But with the Supreme Court overturning the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in a somewhat similar case as Siegelman, some believe that Obama should take action for the sake of justice.
The Anniston Star is leading the charge.
In an editorial, the paper cited the oft whispered idea that Siegelman’s conviction was a politically driven witch hunt.
“There’s no undoing the years of legal harassment waged against Don Siegelman,” The Anniston Star wrote in their editorial last week. “This court ruling and its narrowed definition of public corruption are an opportunity for President Barack Obama to use his presidential powers to make the former Alabama governor a free man.”
A few years back, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Siegelman’s son Joe.
At the time, Joe Siegelman was a student at the University of Alabama School of Law and was all a father could ask for in a son.
He was steadfast in his father’s defense, taking little time to sip his Starbucks coffee as that would have taken away from his time to convince me.
Indeed, many in his family were willing to try to convince anyone, anywhere of their father’s innocence.
Imagine what that must be like.
Your family used to be on top of the state with nothing but promise ahead.
Then a combination of bad decisions, confusion and a broken justice system breaks your family apart, soiling your name.
We’ll probably never know if Don Siegelman is totally innocent of the crimes he has been convicted of.
But a few things are certain.
One is that the US Supreme Court doesn’t feel like those crimes are that important anymore. Just politics as usual they say.
And two, is that Don Siegelman has certainly lost enough of his life already.
He is currently in solitary confinement in a Louisiana prison with another two and a half years to serve on his sentence.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: Mike D/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)Post Views: 420
What Do You Think?
By Mark Kaire
The I-95 Express lanes are literally deadly. Ineffective “delineators” — those flimsy orange plastic poles you see falling down like so many pins on a bowling lane — invite collision and abuse. They are obstructive more than instructive, and they do little to divide high-speed traffic from cars driving at more normal speeds.
As a result, Miami now faces a new phenomenon known as lane diving, in which drivers weave between express lanes and regular lanes as though there isn’t any difference in them at all.
It’s a dangerous habit, but one that has become commonplace — all on Miami leaders’ watch. Real people are suffering real injuries. I’ve seen it first-hand. My firm has represented some of these people. These are your neighbors. They could be your family members. They could be you. And all because Miami-Dade County rushed into an Interstate “improvement” project it wasn’t ready for.
The intentions were undoubtedly noble. The state needs revenue. Drivers want to get where they’re going quickly. One might reasonably argue that the fast traffic ought to be divided from the slow and assessed a fee for the privilege of efficiency. But when priorities are ranked, money and speed should never surpass safety. And moreover, if the goal is to divide traffic, division ought to be a keyword.
The I-95 Express lanes in Miami do not provide adequate division, nor have they advanced safety. On the contrary, they’ve introduced a new danger in our community, and our commuters’ lives are at stake.
It’s time to admit that, however, worthwhile the original aspirations might have been, the project hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to fix it.
It’s time for Miami and the State of Florida to own up to its error. It’s time to admit that, however, worthwhile the original aspirations might have been, the project hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to fix it.
I’d like to demonstrate just how dangerous the problem has become by looking at actual numbers. Consider the following, keeping in mind that these all pertain to just a short stretch of road right here in Miami (about 13 miles):
- In 2014 alone, state troopers made more than 150 arrests for lane diving. That is an especially compelling number when you consider that, by their own admission, officers are increasingly reluctant to enforce the laws on I-95 because the traffic conditions are so dangerous there. They fear for their own lives. It is likely, then, that these 150 arrests represent only a very small portion of the amount of lane diving that actually occurs.
- There have been more than 17,500 crashes on this specific stretch of I-95 between 2005 and 2014. That is an astounding total. No 13 miles of asphalt should be that dangerous.
- The total number of crashes that have occurred on this section of I-95 has increased over 50% in the past eight years.
- At least four people have died as a result of lane diving in Miami during just the last few years. Even more have been injured.
- Crashes are most likely to occur during peak traffic periods (i.e. southbound in the morning rush hours and northbound in the evening rush hours).
- Fatal crashes are most likely to occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and are more common when traveling southbound.
- Serious injuries happen at all times of the day, with incapacitating injuries evenly distributed across the 24-hour driving period.
- Road crews replace 11% to 15% of the plastic delineators on I-95 every single week. That’s how often cars hit them.
- Each delineator is replaced between 6 and 8 times per year, on average.
- When the Express lanes were installed, the average shoulder width shrank by 40%. As WLRN reports, the shoulder along I-95 in Miami is now 7 feet, 11 inches on average (about the size of a single parking space).
Why the I-95 Express Lanes Are Dangerous
Before going further, it’s important to understand exactly why these lanes are dangerous. It isn’t just that they’re fast. Speed is indeed dangerous, but it isn’t the sole source of the problem.
The Express Lane situation is more complicated than that. A number of factors converge to create the danger here, and we can begin with the delineators themselves.
Lightweight as they are, the delineators still stand as obstructions to traffic. Every time a car hits one of these in-the-way wobblers, there is an increased likelihood that the driver will be distracted by the collision and/or lose control of his or her car, thus raising the risk for subsequent or multi-vehicle collision.
The simple fact is that the delineators make it more difficult to drive down I-95. Difficult driving isn’t anyone’s objective, so why did we pursue it?
Drivers have historically shown little patience for obstacles, and many simply ignore them. Figuring that they can easily zip between the delineators with little risk of real damage to their own vehicles, many of Miami’s drivers — already known for an occasional proclivity toward recklessness — now pick the lane that suits their interests best in the moment.
“If I see a line at a grocery station that’s faster than the one I’m in, I’m liable to jump over there,” expert traffic analyst Scott Cooner recently told Miami’s WLRN. That same instinct kicks in on I-95.
To be clear: the standard and Express lanes are not intended to be interchangeable. Drivers aren’t supposed to hop between them. But with very little to prevent them from doing so, drivers do it anyway.
The problem with such “lane diving” is that higher-speed traffic is suddenly entering into slower-speed traffic without warning, and vice-versa. Different speeds don’t mix well, and sudden changes in acceleration often lead to unexpected impacts.
Without a Shoulder, Drivers Can’t Shrug Off Their Mistakes
Adding insult to injury (or, as the case may well be here, adding injury to injury), the diminished shoulder width on the Express Lanes leaves little room for error. So not only is driver error more likely on these roads but there is also a small margin for correcting those errors before they cause a crash.
The shoulder size poses other dangers too. Police officers say the small shoulder is the biggest reason they avoid enforcing the laws on I-95. They simply don’t have a safe space for pulling people over anymore.
Pedestrians are vulnerable too.
On March 5, 2011, five people were killed on the shoulder of an I-95 Express lane. They were standing on the side of the road after a series of accidents had forced them out of their cars. Then another vehicle — this one with a drunk driver behind the wheel — entered the Express lane and veered off course, killing all five. It was Miami-Dade County’s deadliest I-95 accident in a decade. And while the drunk driver is to blame, those bystanders might not have been in such peril had the Interstate not been so poorly redesigned.
The Proof Is in the Price Tag
The delineators aren’t just dangerous. They’re expensive too. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spends more than $1 million on replacing delineators that have been damaged or destroyed by vehicle impact every year.
If you need a sign that something isn’t working, a million-dollar annual repair budget is it. And again, we’re talking about a cumulative total of 13 miles here. That comes to about $77,000 in annual delineator repair-and-replace costs for every mile.
It’s Time for Change
It is not permissible for our leaders to recognize a dangerous condition and then simply do nothing about it.
We here at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC hold irresponsible parties to a basic duty of care every single day — hospitals, storeowners, insurance companies, vehicle and drug manufacturers, and more. We expect the same kind of care from the people who have a responsibility to keep our roads safe.
Our firm has called on county and state leaders to take immediate action to rectify the dangerous situation on Miami’s I-95 Express Lanes. We only hope that more people won’t have to lose their lives before we see real change.
Take a minute to sign our petition for Florida representatives to step up and fix the failed, deadly, and costly I-95 Express Lane.
Mark Kaire is a personal injury lawyer in Miami and a cofounder of Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.
Cover Photo Credit: Gaspar Torres/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)Post Views: 1,117
What Do You Think?
When you spend time in a place with a culture wholly different from yours, it tends to stick in your mind, either with a positive or negative connotation.
The food, the people, the experience as whole all leave a mark in your mind.
My trip to Turkey, specifically the city of Istanbul and the region of Cappadocia left me with mixed views on the nation.
My personal experience was nothing but positive.
However, overlooking the injustice of a government that is trampling on free speech, concentrating autocratic power in an ever shifting executive and perpetrating a brutal war on the Kurds is impossible.
In any event, we in the West have to better understand what Turkey is and where it is going.
Turkey is by no means an average American’s tourist destination, as it is still ostracized as part of the oft-maligned “Muslim world.”
Unlike the oft-problematic Iran or a friendly Israel, Turkey, on paper at a least, is a secular nation.
Despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent Islamization, the nation does still retain a secular vibe to it.
Sharia law is, to the dismay of American über conservatives and anti-Islam activists, not implemented, although the population is 98% Muslim.
The overwhelming number of women do not wear headscarves. A small number of women, often concentrated in more conservative neighborhoods, wear burqas.
Business is booming, in Beyoğlu, the party district complete with free-flowing alcohol, an unusual quality for a nation with such a high concentration of Muslims.
Despite Turkey’s largely secular nature, it retains unmistakably Muslim qualities, which have become amplified under Erdogan. If you expect to go to Turkey and feel as if you are in a European city such as Paris or Prague, you will be in for a surprise.
In Istanbul, the call to prayer rings loud and clear five times a day, although the overwhelming majority of Istanbulites are not rushing off the street to get into a Mosque to pray.
Istanbul is a Muslim city in the same way that Paris is Christian city-largely by cultural hegemony, although in Christianity, the visual cues are far more subtle. Well, for an American, at least.
The clearest way to describe Istanbul is a city encapsulated by its nearly seamless mixing of the ancient and the modern.
The Grand Bazaar, an ancient space for local merchants, is now flooded with locals peddling knockoff soccer jerseys, sneakers, handbags — most of western, Milanese and Parisian origin.
A modern, European tram flows throughout the city, stopping less than five minutes from the ancient sites of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
This integration of old and new is demonstrated in the generational differences of many families. It is extremely common to see a hijab-clad mother or grandmother walking with a free-haired daughter or grandchild, despite being of the age when a hijab is required.
This phenomena goes against irrational U.S. conceptualization of Islam as oppressive or stifling towards women.
In Turkey, well, in Istanbul at least, it appears, generally, to truly be the woman’s choice how she expresses her relationship to Islam.
Outside of Istanbul, these qualities tend to be less common, as the culture retains more conservative, old fashion qualities.
In our first day in Istanbul, we embarked on a “Culinary Walking Tour” led by a middle-aged woman of German birth and Turkish heritage.
While the food was truly incredible, it was her social commentary which carved out space in my mind.
When we first met her on the shores of Beşiktaş, she asked where we were from. She responded in an unexpected way to our admission of our Americanness.
“Oh, you’re American? I haven’t met many of you recently, you’re all so scared of us. Why?”
Leading us through a neighborhood in Beşiktaş dedicated to the sale of industrial prod- ucts, we stopped in a back-alley courtyard, which she declared was our first stop of the day.
Before sitting down, we passed a multitude of seemingly-stray dogs. She explained that the city of Istanbul picks up the dogs in order tag, vaccinate, and neuter them.
The dogs are then released back into the city, and are usually fed and cared for by the people in the neighborhood they occupy.
As a result, she explained, “they’re very friendly.”
She also explained that the city didn’t extend the same services to the multitude of stray cats dotting the landscape.
As we sat down, she explained the concept of a “tea guy.”
There is, in most every neighborhood, a man who’s sole profession is to deliver tea to the shop owners.
“Money never exchanges hands when I get my tea,” she said, while rifling through a pile of multicolor plastic tokens smaller than a dime. “I buy 200 of these a month, and every time I finish a cup of tea, I leave one in the dish.”
Almost immediately after she finishes her tea, her “tea guy” comes and takes the glass, with the token in it.
Despite its modernity, Istanbul retains a personal quality which seemed almost inconceivable when compared to the general impersonality of New York City.
Getting up to proceed to our next stop, she explains, “His tea is the best. It’s clear and not bitter. The tea at the next place isn’t nearly as good.”
Later in the day, after a multitude of stops and a 25-minute boat ride, we sat down for af- ternoon coffee in Karakoy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the city.
Our guide explained that after living in Brooklyn for some time, she was dissatisfied with taste of our American “filter coffee,” as well as its surrounding culture. Turkish coffee and its attached culture, she argues, is inherently better, as long as you know how to partake in it.
“Sip it slowly, starting with the foam. If there’s no foam, its not a good Turkish coffee,” she said.
The grounds of a Turkish coffee concentrate at the bottom of the shot-glass-sized mug.
“We never drink the mud [grounds].”
Only after the Turkish waiter, clearly an acquaintance of hers, had left, did she lean in and whisper, “Sometimes, I like to drink the mud.”
Not only due to Turks decry the taste of American coffee, some detest the culture which surrounds it.
She explained that in Turkish culture, coffee is to be consumed in a calm state — not as a wake-up remedy.
“We don’t use it to wake up. For us, it’s the opposite,” she explained. Pointing to a older couple in the corner, she explained, “I’m sure they’ve been here for hours. Sometimes, I come here and sit for 2-3 hours.”
Thus is the oasis of calm in the chaos of the 14 million person city.
Turkey, despite its position as a world power, lags behind Europe and the U.S. in its acceptance of LGBTQ rights.
Unlike many other countries with similarly large Muslim populations, homosexuality is not a prosecutable offense.
Although not technically illegal, LGBTQ peoples are not privy to special protections under law.
Thinking about it, I probably shouldn’t say Turkey lags behind the U.S. — considering LGBTQ peoples don’t have these same protections in many of our states.
Our tour leader explained that, “in Turkey, men kiss men and women kiss women (as a form of greeting.”
Lowering her voice, with no malice or judgement, she nearly whispered, “those from the other shore, would never show it in public.”
Based on the context of the of the conservation it was clear “from the other shore” was referring to those with same-sex attraction.
Despite its claims of secularity, Turkey is still a country with a 98% percent Muslim popu- lation.
Other religions exist and are free to practice, although certainly as a minority status. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, the number of Jews in the country has drastically declined.
The Jews left in Turkey live almost exclusively in Istanbul, and largely in a specific neighborhood.
Growing up as a reform Jew in New York City, I’ve never really experienced the isolation this community must feel. In an attempt to connect with and understand this community, we embarked on a “Jewish Heritage Tour.”
Climbing up the hilled cobble streets of the Galata Quarter, we made our first stop at the Ashkenazi synagogue.
The street view is truly a thing to be seen. The synagogue, the site of multiple terrorist attacks, is protected with massive, daunting blast-proof doors. Walking inside, we were invited to join in the final moments of the morning prayer service.
The synagogue itself is quaint. The women of the congregation are dressed conservatively in a way highly reminiscent of a Muslim hijab.
“All of the synagogues in Turkey are orthodox,” our tour guide explains. As a result, the service is segregated — women upstairs, men downstairs.
Despite the differences, there was truly something so incredibly comforting about muttering the mourner’s kaddish with the older, non-english speaking members of the congregation.
On the way to our next stop, we passed another synagogue, which looks more like a prison than a place of worship. It’s black metal doors were adorned with relatively small Jewish stars.
In front of these doors, instead of parking spaces, were 7-8 metal poles, apparently to pre- vent car bombs. Our tour guide explains, “There were two attacks here. There was a shooting which killed about 20 people. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for that. The other one killed some people with a car bomb. Nobody claimed responsibility, but it’s assumed to have been the Palestinians.”
Next on the tour, we were taken to the Ahrida Synagogue.
This congregation is bewildering in a few ways.
It was founded by Jews who came from what is now-Macedonia, and the spoken language was Ladino, a combination of Hebrew and Spanish. The street view, while not as daunting as the previous synagogue, is similarly protective.
Three would-be parking spaces are blocked by metal rails. Once inside the gates, the experience gets more surreal.
The bimah (the space form which the Rabbi leads the service) is centered in the middle of the building, and the seats face it in a Rose Bowl-like manner. Along with its odd positioning, the bimah is a replication of Noah’s Ark.
When leading the service, the Rabbi climbs the ark, preaching from its highest most point. A truly baffling imagery for our westernized version of Judaism, isn’t it?
Another unique feature of the synagogue is its dual domes, which are only visible from the interior.
“The Ottomans didn’t persecute the Jews, but they made a law that Muslims were the only group who could have exterior mosques,” our guide explained. “But, this congregation wanted a dome, so they built it under a flat roof.”
As we left the synagogue, I noticed that the older Jewish man who had let us in had stopped to have a conversation with a younger woman in a hijab. They spoke for a minute or two, hugged, and went on their way.
Finally, we stopped at the Zulfaris Synagogue, which has been converted to a museum.
Like the Ashkenazi synagogue, this museum is equipped with massive blast proof doors. Imme- diately, we were greeted by a white-haired man offering our group little chocolates.
Despite speaking no English, he excitedly showed us around the small former-synagogue, pointing out his favorite art pieces. On our way out, he handed up numerous papers and pamphlets, smiling cheek to cheek.
The next day, Christmas Day, included a trip to Topkapi palace, a marvelous relic of the Ottoman Empire.
Despite being Friday, the Muslim day of worship, the place was teeming with school groups and families.
Further juxtaposing the old with the new, we continued our day with lunch at a straight-out-of Soho looking French brasserie as well as a trip to the Istanbul Modern.
Like the MoMa, the Istanbul Modern was full of well dressed college-age people as well as groups of grades schoolers. There were very view things about this museum which felt Muslim or Turkish.
The lone exception was a video that featured a woman unwrapping hijab after hijab off of her head. The model’s eyes were covered throughout the video, as she was seemingly un- able to remove the multitude of headscarves.
In the evening, we walked around Istikal street, a modern shopping area near the infa- mous, often protest-filled Taksim Square.
Oddly enough, the shopping street is swaddled with a few European consulates, as well as the Church of St. Anthony of Padua.
Despite being Christmas Day, we entered the courtyard of the truly magnificent church.
As we walked in, we noticed that there was something odd about the nativity scene. Among Jesus and Mary laid tarnished life vests and children’s clothing — specifically a tiny pink Barbie t-shirt.
Below the scene a yellow, laminated piece of paper was posted, reading, “Yeni yurtlara ula(s)ma umuduyla sularimizda bo(g)ulan si(g)inmacilarin aziz ansina.”
Below that, in English, it read, “In loving memory of the refugees who died in our seas while trying to reach new homes.”
The next day included touring the Suleymaniye mosque as well as the Chora Church. Both are equally gorgeous, as relics of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, respectively. The tour concluded by driving up to a view point from which an arial view of the city is accessible.
Driving through Eyüp, our tour guide explained that, “this is one of the most conservative neighborhoods of Istanbul.”
Almost every woman was in a hijab, and many were in burqas. Unsurprisingly, we passed a massive, 3-story hanging flag featuring socially conservative President Erdogan, along with the Turkish flag.
The Turkish people are fiercely nationalistic. We forget, Turkey is a relatively new nation, and they truly do have a lot to be proud of. Nearly every apartment building has Turkish flags of all sizes hanging out of personal windows. Big shopping streets are adorned with vertical, massive, nearly street-sweeping flags.
Later in the day, we ventured to the Grand Bazaar, where I was sure to purchase two soccer jerseys, costing 10 liras (about $3 dollars) each. A friend of mine who spent the term studying abroad in London convinced me that I needed to find the roof of the Grand Bazaar.
After a few minutes googling and rifling through travel books, we were able to find an odd, not-so-safe stairway up to the roof which TripAdvisor declares “unsafe and structurally unstable.”
Standing on top of the Bazaar is truly magical. You look to your left, and see the sunset-soaked silhouettes of local boys playing on the roof.
You look straight and you see a view of Istanbul which reaches all the way to the water. And to your right, you see a huge Turkish flag.The next morning, we woke up early, hustling to the Hagia Sophia, at Sultanahmet. Only two tram stops from our hotel, we were there for its 9 AM opening time. Spending about an hour, I marveled at the former Church/Mosque so often discussed in my 7th grade social studies class.Simply put, the Hagia Sophia is an extremely odd place of worship. When you look up, you see two large circular Arabic inscriptions, reading “Allah” and “Muhammad,” respectively. In between the two, on the roof, is a Vatican-style painting of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus.
Later in the day, we embarked on the second leg of our trip — Cappadocia. A 1-hour flight from Istanbul, Cappadocia does not exhibit the same integration of modern and ancient as Istanbul.
The small towns in this region are older, quieter, poorer, and generally less modern. Living in homes typically crafted from ancient stone, the residents of this region tend to work in farming, tourism, or the service industry, which is largely based on tourism.
People flock to Istanbul for the city life, while visitors storm Cappadocia for its natural exploits.
Cappadocia is a region known for its geology, hot air ballon rides, and archeology. The flight to Cappadocia is about an hour from Istanbul. However, flying domestically in Turkey is drastically different from flying domestically in the U.S., or flying between European Union countries.
When you arrive at the airport, you are met with security at the entrance. All of your luggage, checked and carry-on, goes through an X-ray machine, while you walk through a metal detector. It is only after that security checkpoint that you check in for your flight.
After the check-in, you go through yet another level of security, this time a little more intense, as shoes come off and laptops come out of the bag. At the discretion of the TSA-equivalent agent, certain people, often military-aged men, are instructed to produce and turn on their computers.
Once on the plane, it’s nearly identical to an American flight. However, during takeoff and touchdown, cell phones, even on airplane mode, are strictly prohibited. All of these security measures, unsurprisingly, are due to the threat of radical Islamist terrorism — a threat, which for Turks, is always present. It is this threat which is the largest deterrent for European and American tourists.
Landing in Cappadocia went without a hitch.
The region, as a whole, was a solid 20 degrees colder. The region is also comprised of spread out, basic towns. Going from Istanbul to Cappadocia is like going from New York City to Alaska.
When driving through Cappadocia, everything looks grey. Due to corruption issues and a lack of economic development, there are a multitude of half-built, abandoned buildings. Other buildings are falling part but still occupied. Most still have Turkish flags hanging proudly.The next morning, we were able to tour the region and its geological and archeological features.Marked by cone-shaped rock formations, the region is mystifying. Everywhere you look, there are “cave homes” built in the side of mountains. These homes bellowed to the Chris- tians during their times of persecution.Along with these homes, are hidden Churches, complete with remarkably preserved paintings of Jesus, the virgin Mary, and other scenes from scripture.At some Churches, those found by the Muslim Ottomans, the faces of these figures are slashed through and no longer recognizable. The rest of their bodies, however, remains intact. The views in the region are incredible, and like nothing else on Earth.Testifying to its other- worldly quality is the fact that George Lucas originally intended to shoot utilize Cappadocia as a location for Star Wars (he ended up shooting it in Tunisia).
We were awoken at 5:00 AM the next morning. We huddled into a van, and drove about 20 minutes. Getting out of the van, we were offered snacks and coffee, all the while nervously checking the weather conditions of the region.
After about 45 minutes, we were quickly ushered back into the van, and driven to a field about 25 minutes away. We waited, as we watched the sunrise-swept sky fill with a horde of misshapen silhouettes.
After 10 minutes, we were in the air, in a hot air balloon, looking down on Cappadocia. Never in my life, have I ever experienced anything so terrifying and breathtaking.
I’m a tall guy, so the railing of the balloon went only about halfway up my chest. Ignoring the freezing cold temperatures and my seemingly repressed fear of heights, I gawked at the changing views.
I saw a balloon silhouette-marked sun- rise. I looked down on the ancient towns of Cappadocia. I gazed upon the contemporary towns of the region. Our balloon pilot took us down into a valley, only to bring us back up for the stunning views. After the 45 minute flight, we rushed back to our hotel in order to make our flight back to Istanbul.
Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable weather of Cappadocia, we were delayed at an amenity-free airport for about 7 hours.
Eventually, our flight got us to Istanbul, despite the windy and rainy conditions. We spent the next day, our last day, back in Kadakoy, the shopping area on the Asia side.
After a few hours purchasing food products and trinkets, we passed back to our hotel. Heading back to our hotel for the final time, we traveled past a police station.
As we walked by 3-4 riot vehicles pulled out of the driveway. These menacing vehicles were equipped with a large battering ram looking instrument and some type of gun (either water, gas, or bullet-based) on the roof. Despite Turkey’s democratic state, these vehicles were a reminder of the threats Turkey faces, as well as the somewhat repressive nature of the government.
During our 10-day trip to Turkey, I believe there were two or three bombings in Istanbul. The Freedom Falcons of Kurdistan (TAK) set off a bomb at Sabiha Gokcen airport, killing one. Despite this bombing and those like it, the city does not shut down, as business continues as usual.
Truly, I’m not sure Istanbul, a city of nearly 20 million people could shut down.
In mid-January, about two weeks after I returned to the US, I was appalled and shocked to read of the deadly bombing at Sultanahmet which killed 10 people.
For those who are unaware, Sultanahmet is the neighborhood which both the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia call home. Despite being a tourist neighborhood, it is also the heart of Istanbul’s old city. This was a district which we frequented often throughout our trip. This was a district we frequented four times through this trip, and one where I felt incredibly safe.
As a Jew, I have no spiritual connection to the Muslim faith. Some would argue I should have an antagonistic relationship with the religion.
However, there was something truly magical and bewildering about the hearing the call to prayer at Sultanahmet. It was our first day, and I was jet-lagged beyond belief. When we stopped at Sultanahmet right at sundown, we looked behind us and saw the Hagia Sophia.
We looked forward and saw the Blue Mosque. The call to prayer played from both locations, almost in a dueling nature. They were not in sync, but rather one echoed the other. This moment was one of a serenity. This neighborhood was somewhat of a home base on this trip, and a place where we could feel safe and grounded.
The citizens of Istanbul, specifically of this neighborhood, had unfairly been robbed of their sense of serenity and peace.
And so was I.
All photos taken by Charles Dunst/ RISE NEWS.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place.Post Views: 498
What Do You Think?