Oh Turkey. You strange, wonderful and occasionally infuriating country. Last week I let off after my first class failed to materialize. I magically found a syllabus online, which hadn’t been there before and I proceeded to try and find the readings. They weren’t available online so I emailed the professor and she was super nice about the whole thing. So while things aren’t necessarily reliable everyone is exceptionally kind and will bend over backwards to help you. Which makes you wonder why it is that nothing works. Sometimes such questions are best not to ask. I sometimes find Turkey more frustrating than Azerbaijan. It goes something like this. Turkey is more developed than Azerbaijan and also considerably less corrupt. These are good things. I like national infrastructure and not being afraid of the cops. However, Turkey also hasn’t joined the West fully either. It does not move with the precision of say, the Germans, who believe that if a train is 3 minutes late civilization is coming to an end. The end product is that you have a country where the bureaucracy is complex, unwieldy and occasionally flawed, such as the entire residency permit process. This is the same as in Azerbaijan but in Azerbaijan you just pay various people and things go faster. In Turkey you cannot buy service like this because it isn’t allowed anymore. So you just have to deal with the whole makes-you-want-to-pull-your-hair-out-by-the-roots process. But it does make the whole thing quite an adventure. My mantra from last summer is coming back to life. For those of you who are approximately my age you will remember the TV show “Whose line is it anyway”. I stole my mantra from them: everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. I am fairly certain this is how life works here. I do award myself points. Successful Turkish language interactions score high. Bought bus tickets without a mishap? 5 points. Didn’t understand the waiter? -1 point. But they don’t actually mean anything. But I still do it. It’s just the rest of reality is made up too so sometimes life can be a little confusing.
On Tuesday I went to my Turkish for foreigners class and realized that it had been mislabeled. It should be called “Turkish for foreigners who are actually native speakers of Turkish”. I was in just a little over my head. The Professor spoke only in Turkish for the entire class, but I followed along, so that felt good. She said that perhaps some people should be in other Turkish classes. This was a problem. I now saw the class as a personal challenge. I like to take on challenges. Heck, I started learning Turkish in the first place, I obviously can’t be dissuaded easily from a goal once I’ve started. So I tried to buy the textbook for the class the next day so I could come out of the gate strong. This being Turkey the text book was only made available a half hour before class began the next morning so instead I sat through about 2 hours of the teacher speed reading and then speed lecturing about the reading and not saying a single word. In a moment of fear about my own abilities I attended the Turkish for Foreigners low intermediate class that afternoon. I wanted to fly under the radar and was of course, spotted within 5 seconds by the teacher. The class was 2 hours long and I figured out pretty quickly that it would be too easy for me. Some of the students seemed pretty good but I like a challenge and that class wasn’t it. I did meet a girl who had done CLS Bursa though so it was fun to recount the strange adventures that are CLS institutes over a cup of chay.
I spent these evenings pretty quietly, at home watching a movie or chatting with roommates and the like. Wednesday night I tried out the dining hall here on campus and I have to say, for 1.5 TL (83 cents or so) the food was pretty darn good. I finished up my Sherlock Holmes story in Turkish which I started on Monday night on South campus, sitting on a bench while the sun went down and slowly being surrounded until I had a herd of cats that numbered about 15 and decided that I never actually wanted to be that crazy cat lady and so moved.
The week had been pretty frustrating up to this point because all I really wanted was something to do, classes to go to, homework to read or write, something anything to fill my time. And I couldn’t find anything. Wednesday the pace picked up and I was able to spend a good chunk of time doing the reading for my Turkish class. On Wednesday I also decided with my friend Sarah that it was time to get out of Istanbul and start to see the country. Specifically, we would go to Edirne, since I really wanted to go and could arrange a hotel, bus tickets etc for the weekend. Having made this decision, I was able to happily spend several hours online looking at how we were arrive there, how best to time our arrival and departure and looking for a reasonably priced hotel near the center of town. I also spent some time looking at what all was in Edirne and compiling a list of my must-dos while there. I really always should be given something to do.
Thursday I slept though high intermediate Turkish, which I had considered checking out but it conflicts with my chem course, which I do actually have to take so I decided it was for the best anyway. Instead I bought the course pack for the class and will work on it on my own. I know most of the grammar concepts being taught in the course already anyway, but a little practice never hurts. Then in the afternoon I went to my other anthropology course, which ended up being pop culture in the Middle East, and I am super excited about it. The professor was a little surprised at how many were in the class and the fact that none of us had been able to access to the syllabus but she took it in her stride and chatted with us for a while before letting us out. I went with Sarah and bought bus tickets without any mishap (5 points) and we booked out hotel, which is actually an apartment, but whatever. I had dinner in the cafeteria and then I met up with my Turkish roommate Ayşe for tea and cake. We went into a little café and ordered. We ended up having a really wonderful conversion and probably talked for 2 or 3 hours. She wanted to practice her English and I always need to practice my Turkish so that was how we did it. She spoke English and I spoke Turkish and we understood each other quite well. It was rather wonderful because if I ever didn’t know the Turkish word, I just inserted the English one and she did the opposite. The week ended far better than it began and I was grateful for the resolution. My classes seem to be great, I’ve met some amazing people and I have made progress in my spoken competency already in my 3 weeks here. I cannot wait to see what happens after 3 months.