A Wealth of Words

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So every once in a while I hit a low in class (head in hands, followed by hands thrown in the hair, followed by: “you know what? class is over. yes, over. no, go now. just go.” or something to that effect). Then, I mull over my failures, both real and imagined, and come back from the brink with a vengeance. I have hit my most recent wall and I am planning a whopping comeback. Tonight, as I walked home from dinner with my co-brights, I thought of how I could reach out to my students and somehow shock or cajole them into caring about English. I looked for inspiration in the only real place possible: Middle Earth. I had a fleeting image of myself, standing at the front of the class, delivering a speech reminiscent of Aragorn’s speech at the gates of Mordor (3rd film). The lines go something like this:

“A day may come when the courage of Men fails [when you will not use your english], when we forsake our friends [past participles] and break all bonds of fellowship [or knowledge of punctuation], but it is not this day [fist shake for emphasis]. An hour of wolves [and broken computer speakers] and shattered shields [and unreliable internet connections] when the Age of Men comes crashing down [and board markers cease to work], but it is not this day [Louder: IT IS NOT THIS DAY!]! This day we fight [LEARN]! By all that you hold dear on this good earth [and more importantly, this TURKISH NATION], I bid you stand, Men of the West! [AMASYA FEN EDEBIYAT HAZIRLIK STUDENTS]”

Needless to say, this can never be–but I enjoyed the dream, all the same.

In other news, a new computer charger has been purchased and is on its way to me, or at least will be very soon. Until then, my computer charging hours are limited, and thus precious.

Honestly, too much weird stuff happened today to even begin to break it all down. We showed a movie, the showing of which was delayed because two people in the tech room began an argument right before the movie was supposed to start, and then tried to cover it up by playing rando elevator music from youtube. And then only two people came to my speaking class in the evening, which was good, but only two people came and that’s always kind of disheartening. Afterwards I went out to dinner and had breakfast for dinner, which I’ve never done in Turkey and probably won’t ever do again (although breakfast for breakfast is absolutely great). Now my roommate is listening to a weird Luther Vandross song on the couch, and I just don’t know what to make of it all. Blarg.

On the upside, I did two loads of laundry today. Wooh!


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Problems

Last night the unthinkable happened: my computer charger STOPPED working. I know–it was a shock to me, too. One minute there was a cheerful, orange light and the next…darkness. 

Though there are many things I like about my Mac, there are some problems, like the fact that Turkey has about 1 Apple store (if even that!). Where am I supposed to go to replace something like a charger? I called the Apple store and tried to convey to them how isolated I am from Mac products (talked to 5 people, none very helpful) and they were like, “yeah, just mail us your old charger, and we’ll mail you a new one.” Great! Thanks, Mac people. That’s great, except I’ve already told you how unreliable mail delivery is here. Hahaha. Yay! They were totally resistant to listening to my actual situation, or trying to work with me in any practical way. For all the talk about Apple customer service, I’m starting to doubt…

In other news, my students have some serious Spring Fever. Though not terrible motivated at the best of times, this week they have just sat and stared at me from their seats, a mass of disaffected youths. I can sympathize (with the spring fever, not the disaffected youth bit). I love spring. I want to be outside. I’m game. Let’s go outside, I suggest every class. “No, teacher, it’s cold.” “No, teacher, we don’t want to move.” You know what I want to say? “SUCK IT UP!” I can’t handle the whining so well any more. Also, I have taken to complete sarcasm in the classroom. Today a student walked into class 10 minutes late, went to my computer and unplugged his cellphone, which had been charging there. He then tried to just waltz out of class. As he was making his way to the door I turned from the board and said: “STUDENT’S NAME, is this a joke? Is there a camera here somewhere? Haha, Teacher, kidding. I am not coming in to charge my phone, ruin class and leave. I am staying.” At which point he mumbled something, found a seat, and sat himself down. It sounds harsh–it was a little harsh ( I happen to have a pretty good relationship with this student), but sometimes they drive me to the brink of all reasonable responses, and I fall into an abyss of causticity (shut up! causticity is a real word? Why, yes, it is…). 

And the last item of downer news is…nope, that’s all I’ve got! On the upside, I went to a play tonight and understood a good amount, considering my level of Turkish. It was an adaptation of Dinner for Schmucks. It was nice. The place was PACKED. Amasya apparently loves theatre. 

 


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Though people supposedly pack on the pounds in the winter months (hibernation and what not), I think that this spring is going to be dangerous for waistlines (and more importantly cholesterol levels) around here. I have been cooking up a storm and couldn’t be happier about it!

This year I have quite a few cooking goals. Some of these goals have been met: cheesecake, mercimek köftesi (shown below), Spanish tortilla (still needs some work, so not shown bellow), and drop scones (shown below)ImageImage.

In our apartment we cook/bake, and we eat. Here is Matt staring lovingly (concernedly?) at two experimental dishes–mercimek köftesi and potato cakes.  I think that they both turned out not bad, but next time they will be better. I really love mercimek köftesi. It’s made out of bulgur and lentils and just tastes really fresh. I’ve become something of a connoisseur.

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So life is full of food, as it should be. Still on my list of things to learn: lahana sarma (like what we think of as dolmas, but with green cabbage leaves instead of grape leaves), toyga çorbası (yogurt soup with chickpeas), sütlaç (baked rice pudding), and many many other things. Hopefully I can get these recipes under my belt before I leave.

Yesterday, for the first time, I saw water melons at the market. The strawberries are still looking a bit sickly, but soon I’ll be buying some of those. I’ve got to hand it to Amasya, even in the coldest months, the fresh produce stayed pretty nice. Now that spring is here, I can only imagine how nice it will be!

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I’ll leave you with a fuzzy picture of yours truly. I’m bossing the photographer (Matt), as is my wont, but at least the flowers and food look pleasant…Image


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Bahar Geldi! (Spring came!)

Spring has come to Amasya and all I can think is: THANK GOODNESS! I didn’t realize how hard winter would be, but not that Spring is here I’m just not going to think about it any more. It’s amazing how much the weather has improved my mood, not just sometimes but all the time. I have been cooking more, spring cleaning (more on that later), going outside into the sun. It’s glorious. The weather has brought some allergens with it, but I don’t mind a sniffle here and there!

Though spring has ushered in a new era in my Amasya life–one filled only with joy and tea and brightly colored clothes (more on that later, as well)…wait, this sentence is getting complicated–let me start over. Though spring has ushered in a new era in my Amasya life, not EVERYTHING has been perfect per se. You see, last Monday I’m sitting in my office, giving one-on-one speaking exams, and I notice a new text message from Matt. Strange. I open the message, which reads something like: “Leak in the living room. It’s BAD.” I returned home to find that the ceiling was leaking from no less than 5 spots and onto no less than 4 different pieces of living room furniture. Great! Fabulous! Happy Monday!

I can’t explain the immense feelings of grief this latest episode inspired in me. If the bathroom doesn’t smell like sewage, or my portable wardrobe hasn’t collapsed, or the hot water heater hasn’t run out of gas, then life is too good and something is about to fall apart.

This latest, unexpected hiccough was too much.

Instead of making strident efforts to sort out the living room situation, we just closed the door, told our landlord, and started to get used to life in a smaller (but not small) new living situation. Then we decided that we needed to use one of our (3!) empty rooms as a living room. The first problem with this plan is the ideal room for a living room is 1) upstairs and 2) the door frame is too narrow to fit any of our furniture through (which we discovered after lugging a big chair up there. So the natural remedy (in my probably mold-poisoned brain) was to move out of my bedroom so that we could use it as a living room (it’s pretty big and has a balcony).

I spent the entire week clearing out and finally yesterday had everything out and everything else ready to move in, and we went into the living room and discovered that the leak had stopped, the floor had dried, and we would have to take apart most of our furniture to get it out of the room by ourselves (with no guarantee that we would ever get it into another room). Thus, after a sweep, a mop, and some airing, we are exactly where we were 8 days ago, pre-deluge.

I woke up this morning to find that my portable wardrobe collapsed again. At least life’s consistent.


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Now let’s talk about food!

A 45 minute drive from Amasya (city) is Merzifon, the second largest city in Amasya (Province). Merzifon dudn’t have much…about 50,000 people, to be sure. An airport with 1 flight in and out each day. Some really good kebap places. Yup, that’s about it, except for this one really incredibly good restaurant called…nope, can’t remember the name.

Anyway, it’s nice. It has ambience. It has good service. It’s got meat on a mace (yeah, like a mace for war), and it has cloth napkins (I know, SHUT UP! Cloth napkins?). 6 months in and this particular restaurant is the only one I’ve been to with cloth napkins. It was like a little piece of home: ImageDon’t judge. We all find joy in different places.

Anyway, the main pull for restaurant-goers is topuz kebap, the meat mace…ImageLook at how happy those faces are! Anyway, I obviously couldn’t partake because of the whole vegetarian thing (earlier blog confessions ignored), but the others loved it! And it is pretty cool to have a bunch of meat and vegetables speared on hot metal and just brought right over to your table! I ate felafel–I’m pretty sure this is the only restaurant in Amasya (province) that has felafel. It was good, though not the most incredible felafel ever. But definitely good. The cloth napkins were the real takeaway for me.


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Sometimes it’s Exhausting

Today I woke up with a sore throat, a head ache, and maybe a fever–don’t know because I don’t have a thermometer. After going in to teach for 2 hours (maybe a mistake, considering that I almost kicked 3 students out of class in frustration), I came home and have been wallowing ever since…listening to christina perri songs (apparently this blog is also about true confessions…my name is marianne and I listen to christina perri when I’m sad. whew. that was hard); blowing my nose a lot; and online shopping for craft products (it’s okay–I haven’t pulled the trigger and bought anything yet, but I’m close, I’m SO close). So my mental disposition is a little frayed. 

You see, I’ve been in Turkey for over 6 months now (as I may have mentioned before). This morning after getting out of the shower I reached for a clean towel and sniffed it to make sure that it, unlike everything else in my room, didn’t smell like stale coal fumes (it’s not that bad once you get used to it). Anyway, I smelled the towel, which was clean, and realized that something was off. This doesn’t really make sense, but my first thought was that it didn’t smell like real life. It didn’t smell like whatever detergent I use in America. It didn’t smell like hot sidewalk (which I’m betting Austin smells like right now). It didn’t smell like fresh cut grass (not coming from my yard, which never gets mowed, but from the yard next door). And for a moment, it was almost too depressing for words. 

I live in Amasya. I do all of these things in Amasya. I have a full life here. But, I realized, I don’t really feel like it’s my life. I feel like I’m getting ready to return to my real life, which could be a complete joke because I may go back to America and realize that I’ve been waiting for something that doesn’t exist anymore. Who knows? I certainly don’t. When I graduated college I never went through that awful adjustment period of: what do I do now? I didn’t make any real decisions about what my post-university life was going to be like because I got the Fulbright and that was that. What do you do? Go to Turkey on a Fulbright, of course. Where do you live? In one of the only available apartments to live in, of course! Where do you work? Oh, wait, that’s covered by this whole Fulbright thing, too.  Not to say that I haven’t made choices and been able to experience life as an independent adult in the last months–I think I have, and with a vengeance! But, it’s easy when things go wrong here to shake them off and say: “it’s ok, this isn’t my real life.” But what if real life isn’t that different? I mean, sure, real life probably won’t have as much coal, but…

I guess it’s always easy to look at other people’s lives and think: well that was a really good decision. And then you look at what your doing and think: what was I drinking that day? 

And now I’m just a whiny person writing a blog, like a bunch of other whiny people writing blogs. Oh dear. 


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Beware the ideas of March…otherwise known as the day I have to pay rent.

I often find that I have little literary fragments that get stuck in my head, like songs often do. This week the theme has been the ides of March. I’ve never actually read Julius Caesar in its entirety, but I’ve recalled that damn quote “beware the ides of March” repeatedly in the last few days. So I finally remembered (blatant lie, which translates as: finally Wikipedia searched) the ides of March and realized that’s the day I pay rent! It’s also the day that I willy pay about $100 bucks extra for coal (in addition to the arm and leg I paid at the beginning of the winter) because my apartment building had to purchase more coal to meet the needs of this colder-than-normal winter. Great. Abso-freakin-lutely great. Oh well. 

Coal has become a big problem in my life. Coal is used quite commonly for heating in Amasya, and some days the air quality is just SO BAD. Today was one of those days. In my 5 minute walk from home to work I developed asthma-like shortness of breath. This is disconcerting in so many ways. First, it’s really a treat to be able to breath normally, so when it doesn’t happen, it’s a bummer. Second, the air actually smells worse. Gross. In addition, everything looks yucky and smoggy (NO fun). Anyway, I’m hoping that soon people will stop burning so much coal and the air will clear a bit. Frankly, if it meant that I didn’t have to pay an extra $100, I’d be fine with turning the heating off right now. Unfortunately, I live in a building where we don’t do much together, but we sure as hell pay for heating together. So there. 

Otherwise, life is good. Today I received an e-mail asking when I wanted to book my return ticket home. It’s strange that it’s already time for that. I guess it makes sense–time has hardly flown by, but it does not feel like I’ve been in Turkey for over 6 months now. 

Just to interrupt: the Ides of March also turns out to be payday, so I don’t know what the big deal is. I’m crazy. I guess the Ides of March is only supposed to suck for Caesar, so I’m good! Wooh payday! 

ImageSpring is working its way to Amasya. Though the days are still cold, they are definitely not as cold. We’ve had some really beautiful days recently, such as this one where I got kind of a nice late afternoon shot of the castle.

 You can see that there is still a little bit of snow up there (as is true for the other mountains around Amasya), but I think pretty soon there won’t be any traces at all. I enjoyed experiencing real winter (snow, ice, extended cold, etc) but I’m glad that it’s over now (or at least I hope it is). Turkey has definitely taught me to appreciate seasons like Spring and Summer a lot more than I ever did before. 

Not that much is going on this week, so I don’t have too much to say. Classes are going well, but I had a moment today where I realized just how useless some of my teaching is. I was trying to teach prepositions of time and place (in, on, at, to). The students–all 25 or so–just sat and stared at me. They didn’t take notes. They didn’t really engage in any way, except when I forced them to (and even then it was like pulling teeth). I realized that not one of them really seems to give a flip about learning prepositions of time and place because WHEN WILL THEY EVER USE IT? Not in their courses after this year. Maybe a precious few will go to live abroad or attend a masters program where they take some courses in English, but I would be surprised. They are learning English for no particular reason and they know it. As a result, they don’t try at all. If you don’t try, you don’t make progress. There are still some students, for example, who say things like: Teacher, I am bag take now, tamam mı? (I can take my bag now, that’s OK?).  GRRRRRRRR. They are delightful, and it’s not their fault that they have no impetus to learn English. It’s the system’s fault, and today more than most days I felt really irritated by the system. 

Oh well, tomorrow is another day. I’ll let you know if it goes any better…