So my trip started off with a boatload of bull crap from United Airlines... The woman in St Louis who checked in 4 of the people in my group (including myself, another student, and the two faculty members) refused to give us our boarding passes for our international flight- claiming we would get them in Chicago... Well, United then proceeded to delay the aircraft for 2.5 hours, allowing us 30 minutes to take a train across O'Hare, pick up our boarding passes at Turkish Airlines, get though security and customs, and make our way the the last gate at the end of the terminal... Needless to say, that didn't happen.
What really added insult to injury was that Turkish Airlines screwed us over by giving our seats away right in front of us (screwing over a Kurdish family- for obvious ignorant racial reasons- AND us because we didn't appear to be Turks like the family that got our seats).
Moral of the story: people are assholes, and you should never fly United OR Turkish Airlines.
Not ALL was lost, however, because I did get a killer room at the Intercontinental out of the whole ordeal. Free food, comfy bed, glorious bathroom, massive flat screen... Who could ask for more?
After 50+ hours in transit, we arrived in Istanbul at 6:00pm local time and were checked into our dorm rooms by 8:30... The ride from the airport really painted a brilliant, yet brief, picture of the world's 4th largest city. Huge mosques help you stay oriented throughout the city of red roofs, dizzying hills, beautiful blue bodies of water, ancient stone structures, and intensely colorful buildings. It's fairly cool (and by cool I mean ideal) here because of the recent rainy weather... About 70/75 degrees.
After trekking to campus through the city- strapped to the ears with bulky luggage- we took a break to relax at the cafe with our new Turkish friends just around the corner. I realized, while sucking down glass after glorious glass of tea, that Thursday was gone before Wednesday had even ended in my mind... And I also realized that we were in the same time zone as South Africa, so I wouldn't have to wake up early to catch the world cup games anymore!
Tomorrow: we explore the Bosphorus... hopefully!