As a classic introvert, I headed into this Middle East adventure with some hesitation. Was I really up for spending four months of class time, close quarters and long bus rides with the same 15 people? I deeply value time by myself. Whether reading, napping or staring of into space and pondering our recent lectures on the political economy of the Middle East, I enjoy solitude. I knew that although Term in the Middle East would provide a learning community and support network throughout our journey, the group aspect would also present its own challenges. Our first few days in Istanbul were full from morning to night with group touring, group eating, group class time, group walking down narrow streets and group swimming in the Black Sea.
I think our day yesterday at the Black Sea coast in Şile was meant to be a day of relaxation, and it was fun, but I found myself even more exhausted after a day in the sun and salty surf. Today, after class and Lunch with Mark&Meredith®, I found some of the quiet time I had missed this last week. I refused to feel guilty for staying in my room instead of exploring the city and enjoyed my afternoon of reading, Facebooking and watching silly YouTube videos Matt and Amy showed me, just like I used to do back on the Hill.
Istanbul is definitely an exciting city, and I could easily spend every waking moment exploring its secrets. But downtime is important, and TIME is more of a marathon than a sprint. Tomorrow I will go to Taksim Square with the group and practice my scant Turkish with strangers on the street. Today, I will be content with two good meals, a quiet afternoon and a chance to Skype with my friend Wendy who just moved back to St. Olaf. And while I may not have as much quiet time in this city of 13 million people as I would have in contented Northfield, I do have a greater appreciation for the fact that perhaps American expectations about personal space and quiet time are luxuries in some parts of the world.