Bayram Holiday in Fethiye, Turkey

Fall break came earlier for me than it usually does. Back stateside I have fall break during the week of Thanksgiving, but here in Turkey it lined up with Kurban Bayram. A friend and I took a leap of faith … Continue reading

Bucket List: Paragliding in Turkey

During my Kurban Bayram Holiday there was one thing that I wanted to do –> Go to Fethiye and Paraglide. Not only was I set on this my travel buddy Emily (Gonz) had her heart set on it too. We … Continue reading

A Wednesday in Turkey

Merhaba (hello) all

Somewhat of a more typical day – could have probably experienced the same in another city, on the other side of the globe where an event with dinosaurs was taking place…continue on.

Instead of taking the metro this morning I decided to walk. It is about a 35 min walk at a good tempo – don’t want to be sweating first thing in the morning. It gave me a chance to see Ankara waking up. Stuff is open by 8/8:30 but lots of shops were finishing up setting up by washing the floors and putting fruit out. Things of this nature. One thing I do love about this city is that the stores put the fruit out on the street as a way to entice you to come in. People taste test the fruit too – completely acceptable (:

After 4 hours of Turkish language I went for a 2 hour stroll – weaving up and down streets, however the most fascinating site still remains to be the dinosaur statues that are being set up in Kizilay Merkezi which is one of the big squares in Ankara. I mean a good dozen of dinosaur statues at least – I am very intrigued to see the final set up. Dino love anyone??

T-rex front and center

Some where blending in with the park already (:

After that I went home to grab some food, but more importantly my computer. Azusa told me that Starbucks has free internet so I thought that I would do some thesis research out and about instead of in my room. Well tis true that Starbucks has free internet, however for the login you need a code which they SMS to you but only to Turkish phone numbers…something I still have to set up. So no internet, but I had a long article saved on my desktop so read that and studied a bit of Turkish. I always feel at home in a coffee shop so if anything the stopover in Starbuck’s was good for my soul

Noticeable differences/similarities between Starbuck’s in Turkey and in America

The bathroom required an entry code that could be found on the sales receipt – that’s one way to enforce a paying customers only rule

There were three floors (typical of Turkish stores/restaurants to build up so that more have street level access) – super popular in Istanbul where space is limited. I first was on the below street level and realized it is the youngster hang out spot. The street level was mostly quick stop throughs and the upstairs seemed to have people having more philosophical conversations – where I will go in the future.

The Frappuccino Ad is all the rage here too – should have taken a picture

The desserts well naturally they are more Turkish influenced than American – nothing wrong with that the Turks know how to make a good dessert – and I’m not just referencing baklava, helva and Turkish delight.

People come around and clean up after you – while this is true in the US also, it is more customary for us to throw our garbage out.

More differences/similarities to come in future posts

My view from my spot on the upstairs level – tons of people continuously passing by

Finally headed home around 7:30 because I figured dinner would be soon if not already happening. When I got home everyone was in the kitchen (host mom, host daughter and Az

usa) so I joined them. Most interesting thing learned tonight was while we were eating cherries for dessert. Our host mom wanted us to save the cherry stems because she boils them with water and then drinks it as a way to rid the body of toxins – mind you this was all learned through Turkish and hand motions since the mother speaks no English – if someone were looking at us through the window they would have been very intrigued by the body language to say the least (; Not sure I will ever be able to look at cherries without chuckling

in remembrance of this.

Hope everyone had a delightful Çarşamba (Wednesday)

Cheers

n

Ankara Sights: Anıtkabir

Today I decided on taking a little personal adventure. I had been Azusa’s sidekick long enough – I needed to break free and prove that I can walk the streets of Ankara alone. After 4 hours of Turkish language I walked the half hour or so back to my homestay. Along the way I was approached about a survey but waved them off – however it did make me feel good that I was blending into the crowds – that or I just looked like an easy target….. After I had lunch – dolmas and an apple I grabbed my Lonely Planet Turkey book and decided that I might as well honor good ole Atatürk today. Anıtkabir (Memorial Tomb) is the monumental mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk translates into “Father of the Turks” since he was the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey and was the man behind many of the country’s reforms from social, to women’s rights to the  requirement of a surname and the alphabet changing from arabic to roman – at that is only the beginning of what he represents in the eyes of his people. Not shockingly – Anıtkabir is stunning. I definitely enjoyed my time up on Rasattepe (observation hill) providing me with picturesque views of Ankara.

To get to Anıtkabir I had to take the metro to a stop I hadn’t been to before but I figured that if my destination is big and sits on a hill when I come out of the metro I will probably be able to figure out my way. I assumed correct. I took the leisurely stroll up the hill. The landscaping was surreal – everything was trimmed and placed just right.

When I got to the top of the hill I saw a sign for audio guides so thought hey if it’s cheap enough why not – all I had to go off of was a little paragraph in my guide book so thought more information would probably make me appreciate this place even more. My English audio guide was only 5 TL – thats less than $3 – cheapest audio guide that I have ever come across – definitely aided in making my day great!

So there I was looking like a serious tourist – big clunky head phones on, dslr slung over my shoulder, but hey I didn’t care I was ready to pay my respect to Atatürk. Not to mention I was pretty much immediately asked to take someone’s picture – definitely the first give away to being in a tourist spot – but there were tons of Turks there too – actually more Turks than any other nationality – tourist in your own country is totally acceptable too.

My favorite part of the day was walking “The Lion Road” – it is the walkway that Atatürk was carried down. It is lined with 24 lion statues – 12 representing the people of Turkey and 12 representing the soldiers who carried him. In addition they are carved in a Hittite style and simultaneously represent power and peace. What I immediately noticed is that if you are not careful walking along the road you can easily twist an ankle between the pave stones which had significant gaps between them. Naturally there is a reason for this – to make sure people take their time and observe all that is around them – pretty neat.

After wondering the grounds and checking out the extensive museum of Atatürk and the War of Independence I thought it was time to get some city shots and call it a day. While in the museum though I was asked a question by a Turk but with my headset going I wasn’t sure what she said so just replied that I knew little Turkish and she was surprised – apparently I was chameleon like today (: In addition, Ankara is crowded but it wasn’t until I was at the museum and surrounded by a whole bunch of knee biters on school tours that I really felt claustrophobic.

When heading out I spotted an American guy (well I’m assuming all this but he was wearing colored shirts, a polo shirt and Sperry’s with a Turkey Lonely Planet book – in English – I thought it was a fair guess – kinda screams frat boy if you ask me. Looking back I regret not saying something to him, because maybe he too is a random American in the city of Ankara for the summer. Oh well – next time.

But before I leave you with some photos – yes finally as I’ve been promising you since the first Ankara post – I want to rehash a few more things noted in the city that has become my new home.

Current Observations

1. Ambulances may have their sirens blaring but that doesn’t do anything – they are still stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. I guess the pull over rule has yet to come about over here.

2. The cheap prices I am really loving – that may be the best thing about not being in a tourist city. Hot spots don’t allow you to buy fresh squeezed orange juice for less than a dollar – unreal!

3. Who needs a stair master when you have the Ankara metro – the stairs are ridiculous – its like walking ten flights it sometimes feels like. I gotta count the stairs next time. They have escalators available, but I gotta work off all that bread….

4. These people love their bread – bread carts can be found 10 feet from each other – more frequent than the egg shops. Not to mention you can get anywhere from 3-5 bread items for 1 TL – that’s 33 cents – more of the cheap prices.

5. My neighborhood must have the most pharmacies in the world – there can be as many as three in a row next to each other then a kebap stall and then 2 or 3 more pharmacies. I guess if I get sick I don’t have to go to far.

6. It is hot – and some people are still dressed with both long sleeves and pants. Holy moly – maybe I should go visit the barber whose shop is below the home stay and have him chop all my hair off – geeze even a light stroll  done not under the shade cover will have you breaking a sweat.

7. Frogger tip – if there is not a light signal then wait patiently with locals and when they go you go. Think of it as piggy backing because you don’t want to be the only one to get hit – then you would just be the stupid foreigner who caused a game over …tss tss.

And now for some photos!!!!

Views of Ankara

The clouds were perfect for photos

The landscaping is in the shape of Turkey (:

Beautiful Landscaping all over the grounds

Women’s Statue – across from the Men’s Statue to show equal representation and footing in Turkish Society

The Men’s Statue

Road of Lions – my favorite part

The Roses alternated white and red for the colors of Turkey – çok güzel (beautiful)

Relief

The 40-ton Symbolic Sarcophagus in the Hall of Honor

The carriage that carried Atatürk to his final burial spot

I wonder if graduates in the DC area storm the Washington Monument for graduation pictures??

Road of Lions – Leaving

So colorful

Cars park in whatever direction they please – doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it all – have noticed it all over the city but had my camera on me this time (:

Cheers for another day in my new home

n

First Day of Turkish Class

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:

Positives:

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

Negatives:

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 (:

Cheers

n