July 31, 2013

First night in Istanbul

The world is a small place. Before even leaving Perth, I ran into a friend at the Dome in the Perth Terminal and then once I was on the Quatar Air flight to Doha, I found myself sitting right next to a friend from high school. We caught up over take off and caught up on a whole bunch of fun movies that we agreed had just slipped passed us during the turbulence of the uni term. We split in Doha and I hopped on my second scarcely populated flight to Istanbul.

Having talked to a couple of people at the hostel I now know I was not alone in the struggle to avoid a single taxi fare into the city from the airport. Despite making a prior reservation (without payment at least) with 'Istanbul airport shuttle', their bus stand was nowhere to be found. After some garbled attempts at speaking non-English with some of the other bus drivers and wanting to stay above ground, I found a Havitas bus which got me two thirds of the way. It seemed most were going to Takasim square, turning North before reaching Sultanahmet. Anyway, it was great to walk the 30 minute road to the hostel, mack bang in the middle of the old town. Cheers Hostel is a lovely, typically narrow three-storey plus roof terrace place down a cobbled lane off one of the main roads. The first people I met in the lobby were naturally from Perth. Small world again. After settling in and recovering a bit from the steaming walk with my pack in Perth winter clothes, I went for a little roam. Istanbul is just so full of beautiful, nicely-run-down charm. The locals are happy help you out if they're not bent on selling you something and even if they are trying to sell you stuff, the gifts and trinkets in Istanbul are actually really nice.

I went up towards the Sofia mosque which is closed on Mondays then after admiring some shop front window carpet weavers and having a chat with this lovely old painted porcelain salesman, I went on up to Tokapi Palace. The massive walls and lavish gateways channel you into one huge courtyard before entering the palace actual. There are armed guards and without reading up on it too much, I would tell that it was a real historical mark of the Ottoman empire. I only got there with two hours till closing which ended up as a pretty perfect time to check it out. Like no European masterplan palace, this came up in the 13 or 14th century, was low lying (one storey all around really) and sprawled out after accumulated additions. It housed all of the treasures of the past sultans of the Ottoman Empire and simply put, it was extraordinary. I saw all of the jewels, gifts from other states, weapons, clothes and holy Islamic relics. The artistry was just hard to behold in the tiny details and also in the shear size of some of the pieces including thrones and beds. 

Back to the hostel and I ran into a mottled bunch of Americans, Canadians and Kiwis to go out to dinner with. They'd booked a table for a Dervish dance dinner and they said I should come on with them. It was on a roof top with a beautifully framed view of the Sofia Mosque that we sat and made our Shish orders before the dancing started. A little trio of instrumentalists took their place and after a slow procession, 4 dancers took the stage then glacially built into the traditional spin that makes up the Dervish dance. It was pretty hypnotic and the whole sight and sound was pretty awesome for the first 5 minutes. What we didn't know is that the exactly same dance started and stopped another four times with slightly different music so it did get a bit old. We were all pretty chuffed with the meal but realized that we probably got a little suckered for what we paid for. All in all, we went on to find a beautiful Turkish delight and baklava shop and relished the flavours.

A drink on the roof top bar back at the hostel tied off a pretty great day. Ready to relive the jetlag red-eye before the first full day in what is already showing itself to be a pretty awesome place!



July 29, 2013

A turning point

It's only at this point, when I'm on a flight to Istanbul, somewhere over West Turkey, about to begin my 3 month overseas break that I find myself without any means of internet communication, without anything that can take my attention away from what I've accomplished up to now, the oasis between significant journeys. I finally have the break I've strived for for so long and can sit back and let it take place without need for thought on university, music, work, projects or people, at least for a while.

It's been a long five and a half years study to finish the engineering and physics degrees and I am certainly pleased to have it behind me. That being said, it seems relatively anticlimactic, a relief more than cause for celebration. I am now ready to start life in the real world past the educational institutes that have punctuated all of the life of a young man of 22. While these three months may be a brilliant period of freedom and relief from commitment, it now does seem well deserved. Without having taken a gap year, I would really say I've been going flat out since year nine at secondary school to total a good eight or nine years of pretty packed time. It does take it out of you to keep on full throttle so much of that time which has made that final stride so exhausting. I'll say it: The last year and a half years at uni were certainly a struggle, a chore rather than a pleasure and a result of gradual burn-out. Something about going on exchange made coming back to UWA rather un-inspiring. I've learned a lot about self-motivation in that time and while it was effective in terms of high grades and continuous average raising, it was not nearly as effective as it could have been. The seeming need to jump through the hoops while already feeling ready to affect change in the society and perform effective work in a corporate context certainly made it harder.

I think it has to do with this apparent personal need to always be doing something. I think my mind is a pretty restless entity and to have a set of unit outcomes defined by the university that are so unambitious and closed to extension and reward that I've certainly distracted myself with things that fill the gap. Music and sports have always been thoroughly enjoying ways to fill that time and to broaden knowledge in a pursuit of more wisdom than a tertiary education would ever provide.

This conclusion of studies is a fantastic opportunity to look in retrospect at how I've worked well in the past and is a good point to re-structure the future and my working life to get the best out of both work and play. My choices thus far have made me very happy and with any luck I can continue to get that mix right. There are just a couple of things that I think need to change which I want to record here. Maybe one day I'll read this again and think I got it completely wrong but it'll be helpful either way.

What has been the point of all this study anyway? I think it's been a tool. Over the course of my degrees, I think I understand this question much better than what I did when I chose to go to university. I now know that I'm not interested in physics research, the goal of my first course choice of Advanced Science. I now know that I love the discipline of engineering and appreciate what the education allows me to do. Mechanical engineering an physics is the best combination of degrees if you want to know how the built and natural universe all works. From geology to building bridges and electronics, the knowledge allows you to deconstruct the most complicated phenomena and objects into base elements and then come to grips of how everything works. That pursuit intrigues me: 'How stuff works' with the corollary being 'how do I make broken stuff work'. The latter seems to drive motivation and is why I can see myself being very happy in a corporate engineering workplace. Higher education means that you become more qualified for more and more jobs. If you make the right degree choice and you can figure out what makes you happy, you might be suitably qualified for a job you really enjoy working in. I believe I am now qualified enough to get a job that I really enjoy. As it stands, it's just a matter of getting the right offer. Maybe I can make a better comment on the result of that in 6 months time.

So once you're working, what about the rest of that time you're not in the office or on site? I think this is where I'm blessed with a number of choices. Maybe too many sometimes. Since finding the need to fill time around uni and becoming obsessed with many of the ideas put forward by speakers on TED.com, I've wanted to do something more with activism. People who find pleasure in finding a problem, a challenge on the planet then doing something to make it less of a problem.

Anyway, without wanting to ramble too much, the plane is about to touch down and while I mightn't have written all I intended, it's time to explore Istanbul! Perhaps this will be continued further down the track. I guess the point is that this trip is going to be about what I find to be the best way to travel or maybe the best way to relax and whether this is the best way to recover from the past and be ready for the future.