Laying in bed last night I knew today was gonna be a long day, but little did I know how long of a day it would turn into. Biggest things fist – I started classes. Super important because this is where I will be 4 hours a day, 5 days a week for the next three months – 240 hours of classroom time will be spent here – not including any additional time I chose to stay there. The language institute is Tömer and it is run through Ankara University. There are two branches in Ankara – Kizilay and Tunalı. I was originally placed at Tunalı, but it is farther from my homestay than Kizilay so my host family thought it would be best if I moved. In addition, the other two students at the homestay go to Kizilay so that way we could commute in the mornings together. However, in order to switch I would still have to first show up at my original placement and then hope that I could go to Kizilay. Azusa and I hit the road at 8 this morning and after jumping on the metor, the bus and walking about 10 min we got to Tunalı where after talking to the lady for one minute she said ok – go to Kizilay. We then ran out and caught a taxi.
Yes – first taxi ride in Ankara, not a bad overall experience – but being in one of the cars that dont care about pedestrians was a tad worrisome – our driver held his own though and had us to Kizilay in no time. Now there was barely anyone at Tunalı, but it was another story at Kizilay. Super crowded – the office has you take a number to keep everyone organized. After waiting in line a good 10 minutes (surrounded by people speaking every language imaginable) and being completely overwhelmed by how fast the receptionist spoke I finally figured out that I would first have to take an entrance exam since I had taken Turkish already.
The guy in the “language library” who was conducting the placement exams handed me a book of a test – huge and an answer sheet – somehow I grasped that I am only to write on the answer sheet. Also in the library was a Russian girl, Chinese guy (who got placed in my class) and another guy (not real sure where he was from). The expression of “I felt like I was taking a test in another language” to explain how hard a test is – well I guess that applies here except that I knew it would be in another language but that I was shocked by how much I did know but also how hard overall it was. Afterwards I handed it to the guy and he graded it right then and there only to hand it to me and say take this to “so and so” and I am thinking “who???” but he told me 2 floors or second floor – who knows and off I went.
I felt like I was looking for the wizard in the Wizard of Oz but without the aid of a yellow brick road. How I wished I at least had a fellow character like the Lion to help me through all this. Finally I found the person I needed – chit chatted with him and he did some weird scribbles on my exam, handed it back and rattled something off – must of seen my eyes pop out of my head so just pointed down – thus I figured back to the receptionist. Correct guess but I had to wait through a line that had grown 10X longer – an hour or so later and my number was finally called. After getting me fully registered, paid up for classes and books and giving me my student card I was sent off to find my classroom. Mind you it is now 10:30 and class started at 9:00am – new student and super late new student – wonderful.
Finally got to class and I actually knew what was being taught so thankfully had emerged from my world of half or less comprehension. The teacher seems great and teaches using the board . Score for me because I am a visual learner. My class has 16 students and they are from all over the world. Needless to say the course is conducted in Turkish, but sitting between some guys that spoke Arabic I heard quite a bit of that with them trying to explain concepts to each other and there is a click of Russian girls. Pick a nationality and its probably represented at Tömer. It is quite impressive. My ears were ringing quite a bit by the end of it all.
After class I met one of Azusa’s friends – Haruka – also Japanese. She knows a fair amount of Turkish but her pronunciation is a little hard to grasp. Nonetheless I went to lunch with them and we were able to converse enough to have a good time. I ordered Arnavut Ciğeri. Now before I tell you what it was I had been reading about Turkish cuisine and I vaguely could remember that Turkey has some of the best and that it is really popular. So I thought I better take advantage of not remembering exactly what it is so that I at least try it – turns out it was super good. What is it – lamb’s liver – haha and I am usually not big on eating liver but hey it was good and I am glad I didn’t let myself be turned off from it. Will I eat it again – well it was good so perhaps after I try other things and find that it ranks as a first still.
When in Turkey do as the Turks do.
After lunch Azusa, Haruka and I went on a little adventure to the post office to retrive Azusa’s package. I’ve dealt with international post before – in fact had a nightmare of an experience in Italy, but this comes quite close. After asking numerous police where to go we finally got into the metro and while Haruka was trying to talk to the police they weren’t getting very far. Now at this point I was standing off, but when he said “English” I jumped right up and said yes – yes I can help with that – first time all day that English was offered as the language of choice. We figured out where we were going and kept checking ourselves after taking the metro to end up with a personal escort – Turks are super nice in Ankara. However, he then saw a post office worker and passed us on to him. Eventually we ended up at the post office (mind you this took over an hour of metro riding and walking to get to). At the post office we were shuttled around a bit until they retrieved her package but some things on the package description were questionable so they had Azusa open her package and explain all the items – in the end they didn’t let her take everything – ridiculous. At least in Italy they didn’t dispose of some of my items.
Lesson learned – I am not requesting a package be sent – learned my lesson in Italy with international post but today just reconfirmed that.
Finally we were homebound and it felt great to get home. My mind is fatigued – quite the day and that is a minimal summary at best.
To finish out a few positives and negatives noted about Ankara thus far:
Taxis are cheaper than in the US
They form lines for the bus – first come first serve – instead of a big mob rushing to the bus
Most menus include pictures – helps with ordering
Turks don’t have a concept of walking on the right…or the left…they just walk
Some parts of the city just smell bad – I guess this is true for most big cities but man – gag me
Ankara is like a big game of Frogger, except you only have one life here and they jump you right to the advanced level – more on that tomorrow (: