Antalya and Olympos: Ruins and Flowers

Last Thursday night, in a stunning turn of events I found myself at ASTI for weekend 3 of 4 in a row of traveling. Unlike my previous few trips, I had company on the journey. Jessica, who is placed in Zonguldak, arrived in Ankara at 9pm. We grabbed a late dinner from a restaurant in the bus station. One of the workers remembered me from when Karlene and I had sat up there before catching our bus to Maras a month before. Stomachs full, Jessica and I boarded our bus to Antalya at 11pm.


A miracle occurred the next morning and our bus got in 25 minutes earlier than the online projection. We took the shuttle to Akdeniz University, where Mariya and Alex work, and then we followed Mariya’s directions the short walk to their apartment. Mariya let us in and gave us water and a snack. Alex was still sleeping, as was Konya Fulbrighter Ben and his friend John. Once we rehydrated, Jessica and I took a nap. When we woke a few hours later, the others were starting to put together kahvalti. We ate on one of their balconies, which has a view of the Mediterranean (hooray for seeing all the Turkish seas!)

With the various dishes and utensils in the dishwasher, everyone got dressed and we headed first into the city center and then into an area called Kaleci (The Castle). We passed the clock tower and a famous minaret, and then began winding downhill through the twisting streets of the bazar.

“Put your hands in the air,” said the waiter-turned-photographer

The shops opened up on the marina. On a whim, we decided to take a boat tour for only 10 tl each. We sat up top and only waited about 15 minutes before the boat was full enough to head out. The boat drove up close to one of the cliffs so we could see a small waterfall up close. From there,  we zipped through the harbour, going around a bend or two before heading back in.

There was a boat photographer, Provincetown Ferry Style, and halfway through the ride he came back around and distributed group shots in frames and individual pictures on ceramic squares. I didn’t need a plate with my face on it, but I did buy the group picture, partially because I like those kinds of things, partially because the frame itself included the name of a city we were not in and the image of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Back on land, we went in search of lunch and found sandwiches on a side street, falafel for me, fish for everyone else. After walking through a garden with an aerial view of the sea and perusing a few more shops, we headed back to the apartment.

A few hours later, the six of us were on a shuttle to Olympos, another ‘city’ in the Antalya province. The first ride was a little over an hour, and then there was a second, smaller service that was about 20 minutes. We arrived at Bayram’s Treehouse Bungalows just after 10, and the owner showed us to the kitchen so we could get dinner. Ben had been to Olympos and Bayram’s before, so he was our sort of guide for the experience.

We went for a walk along a dried river bed, the path bordered by Roman ruins we would get  a better view of the next day. Our way was lit by a nearly-if-not-all-the-way full moon, the white rocks reflecting back to show a safe place to put our feet. The pathway opened up on the beach, where a few groups were already scattered, some around small bonfires. A mountain curved around on our right, keeping us sheltered from the breeze and giving the sea something to crash against. We could see the stars, something Ankara’s light pollution makes impossible. The whole thing felt like a living poem. We sat for a while, drinking in the moment. When our bottle of wine was gone, we retraced the rocky path and headed for bed.


Breakfast was a pretty decent kahvalti spread at the hostel. We went back to the national park, this time through the main entrance, getting in free with our museum cards. We explored the ruins along the main path, which included some pretty cool arches. Ben had said there were a ton more besides what was along the river, but there were no clear paths to them and the other girls wanted to get to the beach, so we didn’t linger in the history too long.


Down on the beach, which was just as pretty in the daylight, there were only a few groups of people spread out along the shore. Before settling in, we climbed along the cliffside and sat in a sort of cove for a few minutes, watching the beach from the other side. I had brought a pair of Old Navy flip flops so I had the easiest time getting to the cove and back to the beach. Our towels were down and sunscreen was reapplied by 12:30.

After a couple hours, a few flips, and very entertaining show of Jessica trying to get Mariya to float in the water, I got up to stretch my legs and walk down the other side of the beach. I found the boys pretty quickly, who had been unable to spot us when they found their way out of the ruins. They went to join Mariya, Alex, and Jessica while I continued my walk.

Eventually we got hungry, so we packed up and exited the park, scoping out restaurants on the way out. We picked a gozleme place. I had mine filled with potatoes, and the portion sizes were pretty impressive. When the bill was paid, we returned to Bayram’s collected our bags, and waited for the shuttle to the shuttle.

Back in Antalya, we knocked off a few showers, and then we bussed back into the city center for dinner. Mariya and I got lentil soup and everyone else got sheep face meat soup. We also got a couple plates of piaz, a bean dish local to Antalya. We got on a bus 20 minutes before transit shut down and then got to bed.


We all aimed to get up at 7 Sunday morning, but only Ben, Jessica, and I were successful in doing so. A little after 8, we went to a cafe down the street to get simit and hot drinks–filter coffee for Ben, çay for Jessica, sahlep for me. I had to ask for my sahlep twice and have Jessica say it once before the man working understood what I was saying. It’s pronounced exactly the way you think it is, but there are plenty of people whose brains shut down when a foreigner starts speaking because there’s just no way a (half) blond person could possibly be saying Turkish words.

When the group was reunited, we started the trip to Expo 2016, the inheritor of the old World’s Fairs. This year’s theme was Children and Flowers, and the gates had just opened the day before. (They’ll close on my birthday). Mariya had read on the Expo blog that this year was the first time everything was finished ahead of schedule, but the cranes and scaffolding found upon concluding the hour long ride quickly put that idea to rest.

The website listed a regular day pass as 30 lira (which I could not purchase online because Turkish sites don’t take my US cards, my Turkish debit card cannot be used online, and my computer I have access to once a week never got hooked up to the computer) but the site did not indicate that a ticket purchased in person would actually set you back 60 lira. Parts were clearly unfinished, and some parts that were took the theme of children a little too far, making displays and workshops strictly for children only instead of about them. There were plenty of flowers, but I was expecting more.

In general the experience was underwhelming, but it wasn’t wholly negative. There was a biodiversity museum that was sort of like an interactive light show that we all thought was really cool. Overall, I had the feeling that this was the sort of thing I would have liked a lot more if I could come on my own and walk around at my own pace. We weren’t expecting the bus to be so long, so our time was a bit limited, making it harder to get the full experience in that regard too.

After getting Subway for lunch (the most economical option), we started the trip back to the apartment. Ben and John took a 6:00 bus and Jessica’s was at 6:30. After we dropped them off at the shuttle pickup spot, Mariya, Alex and I made a veggie packed dinner and ended up napping for a bit. I got the shuttle at 9, got a late night tour of the city, and my bus pulled out of the Antalya otogar at 10.


The weekend felt a lot longer than three days, and we did quite a lot. I had to trim many of the experiences to keep this post from getting stupid long. I was so tired that I actually slept pretty well on my bus back. One of my students asked me this afternoon how I have the energy to travel so often. I told him that I wasn’t doing so well in the energy department today, but I’ve designated the first weekend in May as Ankara Only time so that has a light at the end of the tunnel aspect to it. More importantly, time is running out, and March and April have acted like catch up months for September-February. In the 50 days remaining, I’d be fine if I didn’t get to anywhere else, but I wouldn’t be opposed to getting to use one or two more of the fancy pins I ordered off Amazon either.


Nice Day in Nigde

Three Turks, two Americans, a Bangladeshi and a Slovak are gathered around a makeshift dining table in a first-floor apartment’s living room. It’s Saturday night in Nigde (knee-day) and Nusrat (the Bangladeshi) is hosting a dinner party.

I had arrived in the city the night before to visit my friend Nicole. I earned the distinction of being the first Fulbrighter to visit Nigde, a small city where everything you need is set up off the same long road. Nicole and I spent the day shopping. (Nicole’s sitemate Claire was home Friday night but left to go camping Saturday morning.) She was looking for summery work clothes but didn’t find anything, and since I wasn’t looking anything, I of course found a new outfit, a red tee and swingy printed skirt for just under 30 tl. I finally had my first cup of corn too.

We got to Nusrat’s apartment at 6. Nusrat is one of the grad students for Nicole and Claire’s university rep. Other guest trickled in over the next hour. First came a Turkish woman who is also one of the rep’s grad students. Later, two of the Turkish teachers arrived, one of whom brought her Slovakian friend Barbara who is teaching English at an elementary school in Ankara.

Nusrat made a mix of Turkish and Bangladeshi food, the latter of which she noted is typically far spicier than the dishes she set before us that night. Her time in Turkey must have started rubbing off on her, because even though we all filled our plates twice over, she insisted we weren’t eating. Dessert was a milky rice pudding and Turkish coffee that for once lacked any bitterness.

Once the dishes were cleared, the foldaway tables put in the hall, and the sofas back in their proper places against the walls, it had just passed nine. We were about to make the move to head out, but then Nusrat (who recently kicked her husband out because she found out he had received a second scholarship and was sending that money to his family instead of helping with their joint expenses) started a conversation about whether or not it’s possible to adapt to living with another person after you’ve established your own life.

Friday night had held a gathering as well, though the tone never got so somber as it did for Saturday’s closing conversation. When I arrived at Nicole and Claire’s apartment, they had three guests over. One was Claire’s Turkish friend and the other two were brothers from Oregon. Ian is in his last year at university in Germany, and Elliot came to visit him and travel. Their parents went to grad school in Wisconsin with Nicole and Claire’s university rep. Elliot also studied agriculture, but Ian is studying mechanical engineering, so he’s the black sheep of the family.

Claire had made cinnamon rolls and tacos (buns and seasoning were sent from the US), as well as soup and fruit salad. My bus had left at 5pm, so I was glad to get in a late dinner. The Turkish man left maybe an hour or so after I arrived, but the boys stayed until just after three in the morning. I had been having a hard time staying awake on the bus after nine, but the food helped pick my energy up and the conversation flowed easily. The boys are going to Antalya next weekend and I am too, so I might run in to them there (They’re very tall and have long blond hair; they’d be easy to pick out).

On Sunday morning Nicole slept in while I colored. We had a brunch of green tea, leftover soup, and fruit. In the city center, we had Nigde Gasoz, a specialty soda that tastes like bubblegum, and then I caught the shuttle to the bus station. The only delay on the way home was a 10 minute ID check outside the city, but otherwise we were on time. I was back in my apartment at 7:15.

Seein the Aegean: Mariya, Mustafa, and Me

The man in the row in front of me handed me an apple as I put down my bags. Apparently the way I said ‘tessekurler’ was enough to out me as yabanci, because he immediately returned with ‘Where are you from?’ Otherwise, my 11 and a half hour bus ride to Bodrum was generally without note. I had my most successful overnight sleep yet, and I was awake in time to see the Aegean come into view.

Mariya, my roommate at Niza Park during Orientation and Midyear, would be arriving in the evening, A few nights before, she and I looked into some options of where to stay–a few hostels, a couple Air BnBs. I did not know that Air BnB owners could act like hosts, Couch Surfing style (except for the part where they get paid), but we read some excellent reviews for Mustafa, who everyone said was very welcoming and knowledgable. Mariya and I decided it would be nice to have someone who lived in the area be able to show us around or best figure out our options, so we requested to book.

Mustafa texted me a bit before my bus got in, saying he was at the otogar and ready to pick me up. I could see him as the bus pulled into its spot. He was wearing an oversized purple t-shirt and green cargo pants and was holding a Starbucks cup. He had a halfhearted beard and his hair was pulled back into a low ponytail.
I was still dressed in my bus/sleeping clothes, but we stopped so I could get something to eat on the walk back to Mustafa’s apartment. I ordered a spinach and cheese pide. The price was listed as 12 lira, kind of hefty for pide, but I figured we were in a resort town adn that was to be expected. However, when the plate arrived, it had two full portions, one of which I saved for my bus home Sunday.
After eating we popped into the apartment so I could get changed and check in with my messages. A little after noon, we set out for a tour of the city. It was very windy on Friday, a weather pattern Mustafa says happens once a month or so. Still, the temperature was high enough that even with the ‘breeze’ it never felt cold. Mustafa and I walked along the marina, down through the stretch of tourist shops, Oak Bluffs style, then down past the beaches as far as the path went. I had read that Bodrum is famous for its handmade sandals that last forever, so as we backtracked through the shops I did some price comparisons. I bought a pair of dark brown gladiators with nazar beads across one of the straps for about $30. It’s not quite the season for Bodrum travel so there was plenty of space walking around and throughout the weekend Mariya and I would go on to get some good deals at the shops.
Mustafa and I started back through the marina and stopped at one of Bodrum’s two Starbucks. This one was a stand alone white building in the Greek style with Bodrum’s signature blue shutters and trim. I ordered a caramel cream blend and we sat on the patio looking out at the marina, resting our legs and enjoying our drinks. We stayed there for a while before continuing our walk, this time heading to a mall a couple miles behind the main drag. There wasn’t anything there I can’t find in Ankara, but we needed to fill time and I didn’t mind the walk. After circling the shops we got soft serve from Burger King and headed back, taking a different route so I could see more of the city.
It was about 4 by this time and Maryia was not due in until six, so we went to an open air cafe sat up right on the shore of the Aegean. It was set in the center of a sort of cove, with the resorts and beachers curving into view on our left and the castle on the right. We had some cay, and then made our way back to the otogar a little early.
Bodrum’s bus station is outdoors with individual offices strung together. You can go upstairs, and on the roof of one of the buildings there is a pazar on Fridays. This was the largest pazar I had seen since Cappadocia, with rows and rows of fresh fruits of vegetables. On the  perimeter of the marketspace, there is a a gift shop and a Migros grocery store. We popped into Migros to get a snack, and then went to the Kamil Koc office to wait for Mariya.
To make a long story short, when Mariya bought her ticket she asked how long the bus would be and was told six hours. Apparently when he said 6, he meant 8. Mustafa and I waited at the office becuase we were not sure when Mariya would arrive. We talked here and there but mostly we just sat watching people arrive and depart out the window.
Over the course of the day, this is what I learned about Mustafa: His mother is Turkish but his father is Bulgarian. They lived in Bulgaria until Mustafa was 5, when his parents divorced. He had no contact with his father for many years, and when Mustafa reached out a few years ago, his father said he didn’t want a relationship because Mustafa’s brother wasn’t also interested. He grew up in a town near Istanbul, went to university in Izmir, and worked in Istanbul as a textile engineer for five years after completing his military serivce. He was getting tired of working in the big city, so he followed his brotehr down to Bodrum to start over. He has been in Bodrum for two years. Sometimes he works with his brother when there’s an extra load, doing paperwork and data entry for a law ofice that sues Vodafone customers who can’t pay their bills. Otherwise, he fills his time hosting travelers during the season, serving as a translator at the international church, or hanging with friends.
When Mariya arrived, we complained to the man working the Kamil Koc office just to feel like we said our piece, and then we went off in search of dinner. We went to a place called PizzaPizza and ordered kumpir, a mix of a baked and mashed potato with toppings (or filling if its fancy). Mariya and I had somehow never had kumpir. This place was 1 lira per topping, and we each chose corn, cabbage, and what was basically hot dogs. I wasn’t expecting the cabbage to be sour, but I still enjoyed eating it. Once we were finished, we went to the apartment, hopped on the internet for a while, and went to bed.
The three of us left the apartment just after 10 the next morning and headed for the same open air cafe where Mustafa and I had tea the day before. There were a few people there but there was enough room for us to get a table right up against the sea. The wind had stopped, and the temperature was comfortably in the upper sixties. We ordered individual Turkish breakfasts, which aren’t as fun to eat as the ‘cover the table with dishes’ group breakfasts, but it did help with portion control.
When we were full, we walked down the street to the castle. Mariya and I got in for free with our museum cards, but by the end I decided it definitely would have been worth the 30 lira admission price. Mustafa went to get coffee, giving us some time to ourselves to explore. The Bodrum castle is my favorite I have seen so far. It is quite large, and has many distinct areas–courtayds, towers, gardens, walkways. There are rooms of the castle that also act as a museum, mainly showing items collected from shipwreck sites.
The castle as seen from where we ate breakfast
We took our time going through the castle and stopped at the gift shop on the way out. Mariya saw they had a booth to dress up in old Ottoman clothes and have your picture taken. It was only 10 lira for a picture, so we decided to go for it.
(Click on each circle to see the full images)
Pictures in hand (the picture I took of Mariya’s picture is above), we exited the museum and called Mustafa, He was at the other Starbucks, the one situated in with the tourist shops. From there we went back to the apartment to change and pack a bag, and then we retraced our steps and headed for the beach, stopping for icecream on the way (I got one scoop of pistachio and one scoop of caramel). We spread out towels on the gravelly shore, and Mariya borrowed my coloring book while I wrote in my journal. Some clouds rolled in soon after we arrived, but it never got cold. The clouds left around six when the sun slowly started setting and we got a few minutes of sunshine back. We left the beach just before seven.
For dinner, we went up a side street to a small place that only serves manti, my favorite Turkish dish. It wasn’t the best manti I’ve ever had, but it was still perfectly good. It was dark by the time we finished eating and chatting. We went back out for frozen yogurt a little later in the evening, but otherwise we spent the night looking through the pictures from earlier in the day.
The next morning, Mustafa went to church. Mariya and I left just after he did, and we found somewhere for brunch. We chose a place on the marina. There was only one other table occupied. We each tried ordering something but the waiter said they didn’t have either becuase we were looking at the ‘summer menu.’ First, you can’t tell me you only have vegetables in the summer time. Maybe they aren’t the freshest, but I have seen zuchini and green beans in the store year round. Second, perhaps they should invest in a ‘spring menu’ so this doesn’t happen. I had sigara borek and Mariya had tost (aka grilled cheese). We had a couple glasses of cay, enjoying the time just sitting and talking by ourselves.
We did our tourist shopping in the late morning and early afternoon, popping in and out of shops and buying some gifts for ourselves and some for friends and family. My favorite purchase was a denim baseball hat that says ‘take’ in giant red bedazzled letters. Mariya and I went to the Starbucks we met Mustafa at the day before, but this time we got drinks and sat out front up against the sea,
At a little before three. we called Mustafa and walked back to his apartment. I rearranged my bags as ergonomically as possible, and then we headed for the otogar. My bus ride home was a little longer and a lot less successful in the sleep department than on the way there, but there weren’t any major problems.
Overall,the weekend felt a lot more like vacation than any other trip I’ve taken so far.Maybe that was because it was already a resort town or because we didn’t stay with other Fulbrighters, but whatever it was it was nice. I liked being able to hang out with Mariya, and even though the weekend was very busy it felt like it lasted a long time. After a few busy weeks of teaching, it was nice to get a change of scenery.

Fortunate Future

There is a tradition in Turkey of telling one’s fortunes based on coffee grounds. After finishing your Türk kahvesi, place your saucer on top of your cup and flip it upside down towards you. Let the cup cool. If you want a lot of money place a coin on top of the cup, or if you want to get married use a ring instead.

One of my intermediate students, Yigit, (the g is silent) bought everyone a Turkish coffee towards the end of the fourth hour. At break time, Ercan asked if I knew about coffee fortune telling, and I told him I knew about it, but that no one had ever read mine before (to be fair, I think today might have been my fourth ever turkish coffee). This was unacceptable to those listening, and they insisted on reading it in the next hour.

I drained the rest of my coffee as  they came back to class and flipped my cup while repeating back the requisite Turkish phrase. I placed my fake engagement ring from Istanbul on top of the cup, and continued with the lesson. With ten minutes left, Oguzhan (another silent g) declared that the cup had cooled, and Ercan started the show.

There are two parts to a Turkish coffee reading. The first focuses on just the person whose fortune is being told and comes from the patterns the grounds make on the sides of the cup. Here is what Ercan said my personal future holds:

-Many of the grounds did not move, meaning I have something weighing heavy on my heart. Additionally, my mind is confused about something.

-Avoid a man whose first or last name begins with Y. He is bad news.

-There is something for which I have three options available, but one of them is a bad choice.

-Fish mean good luck or a good chance of something, and Ercan saw three.

-I will receive a good message from far away


The second part of the reading comes from the saucer. These signs point to the future of the subject’s family and outside life. The reader pours the excess back into the cup while the read-ee closes their eyes and makes a wish.

-I was told my wish would come true, but it would take time.

-There were more fish, pointing to more luck. Ercan says you should play the lottery.

-Someone will win something because there was a trophy.

-I will be married in a unit of time starting with 3

-A fat person will earn money for our family



Southeastern Easter Weekend

This post is dedicated to the memory of my Teen Spirit travel deodorant, which I left in the Maras Otogar.


After another successful week of teaching, Karlene and I made our way to ASTI last Thursday evening for an over night bus to Kahramanmaras. The bus pulled out a few minutes after 11:30, and this bus had everything–a child old enough to understand ‘be quiet’ but who still made plenty of noise, a cougher, and a guy diagonal from me who watched movies until way too late, the brightness of which blinded me every time I woke up. When I woke up at 5:20 the sun was up so I knew that spelled death to further sleep attempts, so I did a little neck yoga and then watched the scenery. The bus raced against mountains on one side of the road while the other displayed field after field of muted green that all promised to shed their winter blankets and reveal their more vibrant selves in the weeks to come.

We arrived at the otogar at 7:45. I put a face on and braved the bathroom to change out of my jim jams and into people clothes. Our friend Chris came to pick us up shortly after that. We took a city bus up to his apartment, getting a mini tour in the process. Chris made us a veggie-packed scramble for breakfast as we settled in, and then we went back out to paint the town.

Our first stop in the city center was a stroll through what over the past 6-7 years has become the Syrian neighborhood, where Syrian-owned businesses are entirely patronized by Syrian customers because local Turks think they are dirty. Just outside the city there is a refugee camp for those not as fortunate. You can see the tents from Chris’ apartment during the day, the lights at night.


Kahramanmaras is famous for 3, but really 2, things. The first deals with its name. The city was previously just called Maras–Kahraman is a title of honor. During World War 1, the French occupied Maras. One night, a Turkish soldier confronted and shot a French soldier. A group of Turkish soldiers then rallied and ran up the hill to the castle and killed every French person inside, thus freeing the city. There are two statues commemorating these events in the city center, one that Chris noticed for the first time depicting the French soldier falling backward to the ground, either having just been shot or about to be. The second, more prominent one shows the group of Turkish soldiers raising the Turkish flag after recapturing the castle.

Maras’ second claim to fame is their ice-cream. Dondurma is made with goat’s milk, is stickier than regular ice-cream and is melt-resistant. We all got a 2 lira cone on our way for a coffee/tea break, the original flavor dipped in crushed pistachios and melted chocolate that acted like Magic Shell. After Karlene had her flat white and I had my green tea we went to the pazar. We sampled food on our way through and made our way to one of Chris’ favorite souvenir spots. The third, lesser-know reason Maras is famous is because their knack for leather working landed them with the job of making all the hobbit shoes for the Lord of the Rings movies. I got small replica pair, complete with evil eye beads, for 15 tl.

After the pazar, we walked up to the castle. There was a platform that looked out over much of the city and a small museum with hundreds and hundreds of figurines depicting the scenes in the story of how Maras got its Kahraman. A museum worker asked us if we spoke Turkish, and we answered ‘a little’, to which he responded by going full speed into the explanation of each scene. We let him walk us around the museum, laughing when the corners of his mouth went up and doing a whole lot of nodding.


Lunch took place in two phases. Chris took us to a place with good pide served with soup and onions soaked in pomegranate sauce for me, but they were out of the soup and onions, so I just had some perfectly good pide and the traditional turkish salad of lettuce and tomatoes. When I was done, we walked back across town and Chris and Karlene got sos doner. Our last stop of the day was to a sweet shop. I bought some of the colorful chocolate covered almonds Chris brought to midyear for my students.

We were all exhausted by the time we got back to Chris’ apartment (I know we did a good deal of walking because when I got out of bed the next morning my calves were hella tight) so we rested for a while and took turns choosing songs to listen to. Later in the evening, Karlene ordered an eggplant kebab meal Chris gets every week or so (the delivery boy was very surprised when a woman answered the door and there was another sitting on the couch) and he made us spaghetti with homemade sauce and leftover veggies from breakfast. We watched a couple short documentaries as we ate and turned in around ten. Because there were three beds in the same room, a bit of a slumber party vibe took over and we all talked in the dark for a while before falling asleep.



We left Chris’ apartment a little before nine Saturday morning and went to the Saturday pazar, a farmer’s market with fresh, colorful vegetables. After trying to determine when the season for basil is, we walked a few streets down and caught the shuttle bus to Gaziantep. Gazi is also a title of honor given to the city of Antep for its valor in WWI. The ride took about an hour, and when we saw a taxi stand as we approached the otogar, we asked to be let off.

Our first stop was to the mosaic museum just outside the city proper. Here is a link to a very short wikipedia article explaining the museum:

Most of the mosaics were very well preserved. Some had missing parts that had been lost to time or that had been stolen during the recovery and moving process. The most famous piece of the museum is the eyes of the Gypsy Girl (pictured in the wikipedia description). Nothing else of her image was recovered except for her expressive eyes, and something about that has stuck with Turkey. To see her, you walk through a dark hallway into a dark room, with only her eyes lit. A guard follows you into and out of the room.

Lunch, once again, was a two-parter. First up, Karlene and Chris ate a place that everyone says to go to that served meat on meat on meat. One cool thing about Turkey is that if someone isn’t eating the main meal, they can still eat the extras and not be charged for it, so I was given a spiced up salad and ate some of the bread for freesies. Next, we went to a restaurant inside the actual city and I had dolma. Once everyone was fed, we worked our way into the city, popping into shops to sample baclava and pistachios. Gaziantep is the home of pistachios, something the city is so proud of they even have a statue of two hands raising a giant pistachio into the air in the downtown.


We went to Papirus Cafe, located in what used to be an old Armenian mansion before the Turks very nicely asked them all to leave. Since the weather was nice, the main cafe was set up in the courtyard. We walked up a set of stairs that led into some of the old living quarters, which were empty save for a few objects in each room and had largely been left to fall into disarray. Back down in the cafe we got Turkish coffee and menengiç, which is made the same way as turkish coffee but with pistachios instead of coffee beans.

From the cafe, we moved in the direction of the pazar but made one more stop, this time at a katmer shop. Katmer is a dessert made with filo dough, cheese, butter, and, of course, pistachios. The man who runs the shop we went to is the only person in Turkey who makes it the old fashioned way. He travels to Turkish cultural events in the US and always sells out, and he’s had news articles written about him in both countries. We split one katmer between the three of us, since no one had much room in their stomachs.

In the pazar, there was some fare that I’ve seen throughout the country, but Antep specializes in metal work, including copper-plated trays, cups, pitchers and so on with intricately etched designs.  We stopped into a few shops and then went to see the guy Chris usually buys from.

When we were all shopped out, we went into another baclava shop and actually bought some this time, each getting a mixed plate of four pieces for 10 lira. We took our time eating and sat talking for a while after we finished, killing time and willing our stomachs to settle. After I did some rearranging of bags, we walked back through the city and waited for Morgan at the Starbucks.


Morgan arrived a bit later after a full day of teaching NGOs and refugees. After catching up, the transfer of custody occurred and Chris headed back to Maras. Morgan took Karlene and I to her apartment to drop off our bags and then we went to her favorite Syrian place for dinner. The restaurant was out of basically everything, so we got hummus and couple other dips with thin pita bread and then went to a different place. Morgan and I split some fries, and then Morgan got lahmacun and Karlene had a falafel sandwich. There was an icecream place right next door, so we each got a small cone of pistachio that we ate on the walk home. After changing, investigating the internet, and having a cup of tea, we went to bed.

We slept in on Sunday morning and just had time to stop at a spice store, a Syrian coffee shop, and get some baclava to go before Karlene and I went to where the airport shuttle would leave from. Our 2:05 flight left and landed on time, and I was back in my apartment at 5:10.

I preferred Maras to Antep. Antep was too large to have the charm and sense of wholeness like a Maras or Bolu or Sinop and too small to feel bustling. I liked being able to put some pins in a new region of Turkey’s map. My city count is up to 11. There are 11 more weekends  left, and I’d like to get to Nigde and Elazig to see friends, Antalya to see friends and the Mediterranean, and Izmir to see friends and the Aegean.  Inshallah I’ll get to them all.

On (Finally) Teaching

Today is the start of week two of teaching at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and week one was most definitely a success. My responsibilities are broken into three groups–I have 6 hours with an A1 beginner class, 6 hours with a B1 pre-intermediate class, and 6 hours of tutoring.

I see my B1 class 1:30-3:20 Monday-Wednesday. Classes are set up to be fifty minutes long with a ten minute break before starting the next session. My B1 students, of which there are nine, are very high level and it’s easy to talk with them. They are very eager to learn and ask really good questions. On Wednesday, the course book included an activity that asked students to describe their dream job, and I told them they did not need to be practical in their selections. 5 of them chose their actual jobs, district governors (I’ll explain the position below). One student spoke for a long time about how the job did not pay very well but it was high-status, and none of them were in it for the money anyways. They wanted to meet lots of people and solve their problems. I was impressed at how committed to and passionate about their jobs they all were.

I see my A1 class 9:30-12:20 Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I have 12 students in that class, including the one woman in the entire English program (there’s one other woman overall but she’s in Spanish). That woman, Nursel, is the strongest in the class and she acts as a translator when I can’t quite get something to click. It is a very different experience teaching A1 compared with B1–I speak even slower, pause to ask questions like ‘What is a noun?’, etc–but it is as not as difficult to communicate with them as I was led to believe. There are two or three students who as of yet just don’t speak unless I have them do partner work, but they are always writing down notes, so I know they are paying attention. Turkish people become very embarrassed if they make a mistake in front of their friends, so they tend to avoid mistakes by not putting themselves in a position to in the first place. It’s only been one week of classes so far. The course actually runs into July, so there is plenty of time for them to grow.

On Tuesday-Thursday I have tutoring hours 3:30-5:30. Every day there are 2 speaking tutors and two reading/writing tutors. There are signup sheets for students to claim a 20 minute time slot for who they want to meet with. They can also indicate if there is a specific topic they want to discuss. So far, some of my sessions have had a specific theme, but mostly the students either want to ask me questions or they want me to ask them questions. Multiple students can come to each time slot, so I have only had a couple one on one sessions.

Musa, my low-key favorite student from B1, came to tutoring last week. He first practiced introducing himself, and then he explained what the district governor position and this program were all about. A district governor is like a mayor, but rather than being elected, they are appointed by the government. All of our students are assistant district governors in training. Once in the program, they all spend a year living in four or five different parts of the country, becoming familiar with different regions and starting to learn how things operate. After that they shadow a current district governor for two months to learn more about the actual goings on of the job. From there, they are sent somewhere else for 2 months and take on a project themselves.

After the shadowing phase, the candidates come back to the ministry to take their language course, which is where we come in. There are 45 English students and about 5 each for Spanish, French, and Arabic. Musa said in the past there have been Russian and German groups as well, but no one is being sent to Russia right now, and I can’t remember why they German group isn’t running. Over the next few months, each group will get through two course book levels in preparation for the students to take their IELTS exam, an English proficiency test. Students who score above a 5.5 (on a scale of 1-9) will go to England to study in a masters program. Students below a 5.5 will still get to go to England, but they will participate in a language program there.

When  I first heard all our students would be men 25-35, my first reaction was ‘oh boy, here we go.’ When the instructors came to do our introductory presentations that last Thursday and students were arriving late and having side conversations, I didn’t feel much better. But so far the students have been coming back from breaks on time and have been very respectful. From talk in our teachers’ room, it seems that if the students have complaints, they save them for their Turkish teachers. It was pretty easy to nail down the transportation systems between the MIA and home and ASBU. Lesson planning happens pretty last minute when there are three or four teachers for each class and you can’t know what to cover until you know what the person before you got through, but we are required to go by the book and pre-approved extra materials, so that hasn’t been as stressful as I imagined it would be. Overall, this has so far proven to be a good deal, and I’m excited to head in to work later to keep at it.

Birthdays and Baths in Bolu

The Final Week of Nothing

Last Wednesday, after work, Karlene and I walked to the city center and stopped into one of the malls I have not been to before. We tried sitting at a cafe but it was too smoky so we left the mall and went down across the street to a rooftop cafe Karlene had been to before. We could see Atakule and the Sheraton, and even Kocatepe poking above the buildings, which I did not know was that close by. After drinking our milkshakes (pistachio for me and something erry for Karlene), we hopped on the metro and headed to Dikimevi to meet up with Mustafa (Bianca’s friend who brought us to 50 Year Park the Sunday after Midyear). He walked us to his friends’ apartment where one of the roommates was going to make us çig kofte.

The friend who was actually making the food, however, was an hour and a half late, so food was not even started until 7:25. Çig kofte is now made with barley, onions, tomatoes, and spices, but it used to be made with all that and raw meat. Much of our original plans for the evening had been changed (another friend was going to come, we were going to go to a restaurant to eat, etc) but one of the main points was that çig kofte is now almost always a vegetarian dish. The chef insisted the only way to make it was with raw meat, and that it would be so mixed in you wouldn’t be able to taste it (not how vegetarianism works) and that the spices would cook it (not how cooking works). We didn’t eat until 9, and though the food was good, by the time we were finished and cleaned up, it was past 10. We convinced Mustafa that we needed to skip çay, and he drove us home.

On Thursday morning, I went into the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where I will be teaching 18 hours a week for the remainder of the grant. Some of the instructors gave presentations introducing their languages (a select number of students will be learning Arabic, French, or Spanish rather than English) to all the students. My presentation was on a very brief history of English in England. I thought that once the presentations were over, we would be going back to ASBU for the afternoon, but it turned out that we had a full day of meetings. After lunch, the English instructors met to go over the syllabi for our courses, which consisted of a list of units and materials we had to cover for the week. Every course has two or three teachers, so it would have been much easier to make a day by day pacing guide, but this is Turkey so instead we have to constantly scramble to tell each other what we covered/planned to cover. After that meeting, everyone met with the MIA president and some other officials. The president spoke for about 20 minutes in Turkish, and then the day was finally done.


Andrea, Sara, Keanna, Alexis, and Jessie

On Friday morning I made a trip into ASBU to pick up our course books (Karlene had already left for Kayseri the night before)–because it’s totally normal and not at all last minute to give out course books one business day before classes start. Once I had everything I needed, the books, my stuff, and I went to ASTI to meet up with Alexis, Keanna, and Jessie. We bought bus tickets, boarded our bus, and were on our way to Bolu. The trip was only 2 hours and fifteen minutes, my shortest bus trip yet. Besides us, there were maybe four or five other people on the bus, so we sat together and talked during the ride.

When we arrived in Bolu, we took a shuttle to Andrea and Camille’s neighborhood and met up with them in front of a cafe on the corner. After dropping off our things, we walked to the city center for lupper. The restaurant not only gave us pre-meal bread but provided dips and spreads for it as well. I ordered manti, and it did not disappoint as usual. We had çay when we finished, and the Sara arrived so she met us at the restaurant and ate as well.On the way back to the apartment, we stopped at a cafe that was very questionably decorated with a Native American theme. My pomegranate tea was delicious though, so at least there was that.

Later that night, after Hogai arrived as well, some of Andrea and Camille’s friends came over because it was Andrea’s birthday. There were lots of snacks, including two amazing cheesy dips that Camille made, and we all agreed the cake was the best one we’ve tasted in Turkey so far.

Saturday morning was a late start, as is inclined to happen when there are 8 people involved. We talked with Andrea about what nature would be best to go to, and we decided on Abant Lake, an hour’s bus ride away from the city center. Once 6 of us finally got out of the house (Camille and Hogai stayed back and went on their own adventure later) and Andrea’s bus card was filled, we stopped for lunch. Our food was taking an unusually long time to appear, so we asked to get our food in to go boxes so we would not miss our bus.

We had about 20 minutes before our bus left once we were at the depot. We told the driver of our intent to take the bus, just in case, and started walking past the fire station to a park next door. We noticed a big giant picnic table in front of the fire station, and asked if we could sit there. We talked with a couple of fire fighters who were already standing out there (more would emerge when word of the 6 American girls out front got around) and they even brought us tea. One of them said that it was good we were all Americans and were working in different parts of Turkey. It was really nice talking with them (and getting to eat) but we had to hurry off to our bus. It was such a Fulbright moment.

The bus made many stops along country roads as we made our way to the lake, so we were very happy that we were able to get seats at the first stop. Jessie and I occasionally had to pretend to be sleeping to avoid the glares from teyzes, but we were not about to stand for an hour long trip.

When we arrived at Abant, we saw a few sets of horse drawn carriages decorated with flowers making their ways along the path. In the end, we walked about a mile along the lake, stopping once to sit down by the water’s edge, once to explore a woodland path opposite the water and then have a photo op on a fallen log, and a final time in a marshy meadow. Ankara has a lot of parks and I live in the ‘suburbs’ so it’s not like I’ve forgotten what trees look like, but it was refreshing to be around so much green and an actual lake. Many Turks say that the problem with Ankara is that it does not have any water, and I have to agree that a natural lake or two would go a long way.

We weren’t so lucky getting seats on the bus ride back into the city, but most of us managed to snag a place to sit in the last third of our journey. After resting and getting on the internet at the apartment for a bit, Camille took us back into the city center to eat gözleme for a late dinner. It took a bit for the tiny restaurant to get a table for 7 together (Andrea stayed home because she wasn’t feeling well) but when we did get seated we were right next to the women making the food. One woman would roll out the dough, the next would add the fillings, and the third would put them on the stove and flip them when necessary. A different worker would then cut the finished gözleme into pieces. I ordered the ‘mini’ version with cheese and potato, but it was still plenty of food, and it was only 4.5 lira. The full size was 7, so the prices were great overall.

After dinner we popped into a cafe to meet with some of Camille’s Turkish friends for a few. I ordered what was the best mug of sahlep I have had so far. On the way home, we stopped at a bakery and I bought some mini eclairs.

On Sunday morning, we went to the hamam, the Turkish bath. Everyone else had been to one at one place or another before, but this was my first trip. After we established what services we wanted and paid at the counter, we were brought into changing rooms and wrapped ourselves in towels identical to the ones Auntie Lori gave Mom and I in the summer. Most of the girls went into the sauna but Alexis and I skipped that step and went into the main bath room. It was all marble with benches and sinks built into the wall, drains in the floor, and a large marble table in the center. We were given bowls to pour hot water over ourselves to soften up our skin.

When the other girls joined us, we pressed a button on the wall and two of the workers came in. You put your towel down on the table, they pour more water over you, and then they start scrubbing with a corse mitt, and I mean scrubbing. Once all the dead skin has been lifted, they rinse you off and use a super sudsy olive oil soap to wash and soothe your skin. After rinsing again, we were given little hair towels and super comfy robes. We went back out into one of the main rooms and got clay face masks.

Everyone washed their faces and got dressed, and we were given glasses of spiced prune juice on the way out. Feeling refreshed in every sense, we made out way to kahvalti. The restaurant gave us tons of spreads and extras but there was not nearly enough bread. Combining that with the fact that we were on a bit of a time crunch,  we unfortunately had to leave more food on the table than we would have wanted. After eating, people started splitting off to head home. My group went back to the gözleme restaurant so Keanna and Alexis could get some to go, and then we taxied to the bus station. Our ride was a little shorter than the way there, and even with stopping at the ATM and grocery store I was home before 7:30 and had plenty of time to make my lunch for the week and get ready for the morning.