Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bilkent Senfoni Orkestrası

So this evening, I managed to indulge in one of my non-history related interests:  classical music!  I went to the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra performance of Schoenberg's Op. 36 (I'd give you the title, but I can't actually read the program, much to my chagrin) and Schumann's Symphony no. 3.  For the cost of 8TL with my student discount (about $5.50 USD and CAD), it was an excellent evening.  The first piece I'd never heard before, and once I got over the intentional dissonance, it was actually pretty enjoyable.  The soloist (Ilya Gringolts, definitely not Turkish) was AMAZING!  For an encore, he pulled out Corelli's Adagio from Concerto Grosso (yeah, I had to look it up, I'm not that good) which was just incredible.  The girls sitting behind me kept saying how beautiful it was (çok güzel!)  Baroque music has always been my favourite, and Corelli is no exception.  For the second half, pretty standard and very well executed, and by the end, the conductor's hair was flying all over and bouncing!  I love it when the conductor is so into it, so enjoying the concert himself, that he just totally lets go and goes crazy on the podium.  Another good tuba teacher was on stage for the first half (sorry, no tuba parts in Schumann)!  Overall, an excellent evening!
PS, I ended up going alone, which is great, cause then no one I know will laugh at me when I start nodding to the music ;)  If any of you have read Patrick O'Brien's "Master and Commander", think how Jack and Stephen meet at the beginning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall in Ankara starts exactly on Oct. 1st.

As the title implies, fall has started. The weather turned chilly almost instantly on October 1st, from hot summer to cold fall. It's actually pretty cold, like jacket and scarf cold.....instantly. It dropped about 18 degrees Celsius in the space of a week (that's roughly from the high 80's to the mid 60's Fahrenheit, for all you Americans). Unfortunately, all of the trees around campus are evergreens, so no leaves are changing. There's no pumpkins, no cider, no fall spices, no Halloween, none of the usual fall stuff, which makes me just a little homesick. However, there is excessive football, which is kind of AWESOME!!!! ANKARAGÜCÜ!!!! For those of you who don't know, Ankaragücü (pronounced Ankara-guju, all one word) is the local underdog football team, with the most insane fans ever! It's just as much fun watching the fans as it is watching the match. The fans, however, have a tendency to riot after losing important matches. The fans have an entire repertoire of cheers, with accompanying rude hand gestures. They're so crazy, you can't bring water bottles or loose change into the stadium, you get patted down by police twice on the way in, and there's riot squad in full force. Here's some of the crazy stadium antics of the fans (note the police officer in the foreground, orange vest, actually IN the aisle, to prevent "issues").
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Football is definitely serious business here in Turkey, as my students have taught me.  Most of them are fans of one of the Istanbul teams, and advise me not to go to Ankaragücü games, but I'm a sucker for the underdog ;)
On another note, somewhat related note (since beer and sports go together wherever you are) the local beer in Turkey is AWFUL!!!  I'll be SO glad when I can get Newcastle again, instead of having to drink Efes all the time.  Imagine being in a world where the only beer available was Busch, it was served everywhere, in big glasses, and everyone around you told you it was the best beer in the world......yeah.  I'll be glad to go on vacation in November, just for a change of beer.  Oh, and I'm trying to plan my trip, Munich, Vienna, or Edinburgh?  Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Living and working......the first month

Well, I've officially lived here a month, as of yesterday! Unfortunately, just in time for this anniversary, I came down with a nasty, cruddy cold, and had to miss two days of teaching. I figured it would come sooner or later, judging by past experiences, I just figured it wouldn't come until it was colder. So here I am, sick, with beautiful sunny skies, and 80F/26C weather. Anyways, my first week of teaching went well, though I did have a few difficult students. One student in my first class was laughing so hard he was crying, and when I asked him what was so funny, he just laughed harder. I'm pretty certain he was laughing at me, but I have no idea what for. Most of my students are great, friendly, speak pretty good English, and understand what I'm saying most of the time. I've also realized that lessons need to be in the form of competitive games, because the students are more motivated to actually participate if there's a tangible objective.
Aside from teaching, life is pretty good so far, although the weather is too hot for my tastes. Hopefully that will change soon. Here in Ankara, I keep seeing things that are completely bizarre and crazy! A few weeks ago, while I was waiting for the bus, the bus pulled up, the driver got off carrying a computer tower, he pulled an air hose out and started blasting the crap out of the inside of the tower. A huge cloud of dust came out, and it took him about 15 minutes until he was satisfied. The ironic part.....he was smoking while doing all this, and dropping ash back into the tower. Everyone here seems to smoke all the time: cab drivers while they have a customer, bus drivers while driving, students at every break in huge groups, EVERYONE! Another crazy thing: yesterday, I saw an armed guard coming to put money in the ATM in a building on campus, and he was carrying a machine gun.....yep, no pistol/side arm thing, a machine gun. A few other things I've noticed: orange juice tastes more like an actual orange, the 6TL wine is better than the 12TL wine, old men stare at foreigners, Burger King tastes pretty much the same and they deliver, everyone asks you if you like Turkey and what food you've tried, most people in Ankara cheer for Istanbul football teams, and chicken schnitzel tastes nothing like my mom's ;)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never trust a dolmus......

I know I haven't posted in a while, but I've been really busy with work and figuring out my life here. Anyways, today I took a shopping trip to one of the many malls in Ankara, thinking it would be a nice afternoon. Well, to get home from the mall, I had to take a dolmus (for those of you who don't know, they're little bus/van things that cost almost nothing and stop at various points throughout the city, those points being listed on the outside of the dolmus). So a dolmus pulls up to the curb, and I see it says Bilkent on the side, so silly me thinks I can take it home. A few miles down the road, I realize that this dolmus is going a different way than all the other one's I've taken since being here. The thing ends up driving way west of where I live, and is driving around these nice residential neighbourhoods for a while. Eventually, the dolmus pulls up to a parking lot full of buses, and the guy turns around and asks me something in Turkish, which I don't understand (BTW, that part of living here is getting really frustrating), so I tell him I speak English. I think he then asks me where I'm going, so I tell him Bilkent, to which he says what is quite possibly the only word of English he knows...."no". He gestures for me to follow him, and for me to stand in front of another dolmus. He comes back a few minutes later with another driver and explains to me that he's driving to Bilkent. I thank him profusely (in what little Turkish I know) and hop on. After about 15 minutes of driving around, he tells me "Bilkent [something I couldn't understand}" and tells some other guy getting off to help me out. This other guy, thankfully, is a student who speaks a little English, and tells me the best way to get back from here is to take a cab, then asks me where I'm from (the ubiquitous question to all foreigners in Turkey). All in all, I got home safely, none of my eggs were broken, and I found a new pair of black pants that fit AMAZINGLY!!! So the moral of my tale is....if you're foreign and you get lost, smile and tell them you don't speak the language, and Turks are ridiculously nice!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Safranbolu and Amasra

Sorry it's been a week since my last post, but I've been really busy at work.  On Friday afternoon we all left for a weekend away in the town of Safranbolu.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of it's 17th century architecture and unchanged feel.  The town is beautiful, with winding cobble stone street and lots of open air stalls selling everything from cheap tacky tourist crap to beautiful antique clothing (I almost bought an antique coat....but alas, I couldn't justify spending the money). 

On Saturday morning I had my first adventure to a hamam (aka, Turkish bath, basically sit in a hot marble room for a while, then get scrubbed down and washed by an old Turkish woman).  IT WAS AMAZING!  I spent the rest of the day walking around town and shopping.  In the afternoon, we drove to Amasra, a small city on the Black Sea, and went to the beach.  Imagine any European beach, and that describes it!  It was nice to have a swim, though.  Later that evening, we had dinner at a fabulous fish restaurant, where I had mackerel....
Sunday we had a few more hours to walk around, and I tried mantı for the first time.  And before you ask, yes, the letter "I" isn't supposed to be dotted there.  It's noodles filled with minced meat, with yogurt and some sort of sauce poured over the top....absolutely delicious!  Sunday afternoon we drove back here to Ankara, and it's been hotter than all get out ever since.  It was 42 degrees in Safranbolu Sunday, and about 39 today.  Anyways, I'll keep you all posted!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Some food adventures

So, of course, since I've been here a few days, I've gotten a chance to try some food.  Since I'm trying to take it easy for the first week or two, I've tried to keep it pretty familiar.  For instance, last night we all went to the faculty bar for dinner, and I had fish and chips (however, the fish tasted like FISH!  Unlike most places in the US, it actually tasted like it should, not bland white fish).  I also had buffalo chicken strips for lunch today (however, the "buffalo" is curry based, not hot sauce based).  All the familiar stuff aside, I did get a chance to try some real Turkish food.......For lunch on Sunday, I had spicy meatballs (which will be familiar to anyone who eats Lebanese/Middle Eastern food, beef or lamb seasoned with hot chili and pressed into patties before cooking, in this case over a fire.  Yes, I know, they're called meat"balls" but they're patty shaped...don't ask me!)  When we all went to the grocery store yesterday, I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of not being able to read the label of anything, so when our guide pointed out the soups, I headed there, since generally soup is pretty tasty.  I got a couple different types of soup to try, figuring that it would be something easy to make and standard to eat.  I tried my first one today, it was labeled "Anali Kizli" which I suppose means "tomato broth with fennel seasoning, with chick peas, bulgar and meatballs" aka, super tasty!

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yes, there are pine trees in Turkey

OK, so I got here last night, at about 10pm here time, after traveling for about 28 hours (including a 13 hour layover at O'Hare.....most boring airport I've been in on this trip).  Anyways, the flight overseas was pretty long, and the food was mediocre (as expected.  Hey, you don't get fois gras out of a microwave).  Well, when I arrived and got my keys, I found my apartment, which is at the end of a quiet hall, so I have this nice little corner to myself.  The apartment itself looks like something out of an Ikea catalog, which is fabulous!  It's very modern minimalist, with leather and dark wood and steel.  The cupboards were full of dishes and pans, and the fridge had cheese and bread, water, milk and juice for us, and there was a little plate of coffee and tea on the counter.  And the best part is, in the foyer there's a new, well tuned piano!!!  Today, we met with our supervisor, who took us to breakfast at Starbucks (which was fun, since it was familiar, with a language twist.)  We then went shopping for cell phones and supplies.  I got a hot pink Nokia slider (old school, no keyboard, cause I didn't want to spend a fortune, cell phones are expensive here, but minutes are super cheap.)  The supermarket is really just that, kind of like Meijer or Walmart, where you can get appliances, clothes, office supplies, electronics, etc all in the same place.  I'm finding, however, that the language barrier is getting really frustrating, and I hope our Turkish language classes start soon.  My friend and I missed our bus stop because we don't speak the language and we don't really know where we're going yet.  Tonight there's a dinner at 6pm, so I hope we can figure out how to get where we need to go.  More stuff later!