15 December 2010

Villages, Homework, and more Mudbrick Adventures

Wow, it's been a long time since I've updated this thing. I'm going to blame it on stress and homework, although that might be a little bit of a lie. More like laziness.

So in the past three weeks much has happened. I've gone on two mudbrick adventure fieldtrips with two of my classes, I've had to do a number of PowerPoint presentations, one of which I finished today, I've stressed out a lot and then decided to procrastinate horribly with Facebook and South Park, and more importantly, there has been SNOW! Yay snow!

Yep, that's me, tromping through the snow. It must have snowed at least 6 inches upon return from last week's fieldtrip. I don't think I've ever seen so much snow in a single place. On the overnight bus ride back from the fieldtrip there was so much snow, that at one point the bus had to go at a snail's pace on the freeway to keep from flipping over on the ice. It was a little scary. I wore my seatbelt. I'm glad I was sedated with sleeping meds. Anyways, back to the snow, for some reason I'm always surprised by how cold it is when I touch it. I mean, I know that snow is cold, as it's frozen rain, but I never knew it was that cold. I also get constantly distracted by it. Like I forget that it's there when I'm inside, and then I either look out the window or leave a building and am surprised/excited that its there. Hilla said that it's like walking with a 5 year old because I'll be walking and talking with her, and then I'll get distracted by a particularly pristine looking bit and have to stomp through it and make Godzilla noises. It's starting to melt though :( so now it's all soggy and brown looking. It'll probably be gone by tomorrow, or Friday, especially since it's supposed to rain soon. Poop.

But now mudbrick! I've gone on two mudbrick adventures since the last post. The first one, 2 weeks ago, was to Nallihan, Hasanlar, and other assorted villages around the southern part of the Bolu province (Northern Turkey) where we walked around and stared at cute little mudbrick timber frame houses, and climbed all over people's grain storage units for my Vernacular Architecture class. It was quite entertaining, and it was actually really interesting going into these really small villages, especially since they are SO different from Ankara (Oh Ankara, filled with malls and rich people!). And the people were always so nice too. We would be wandering through their front and back yards, getting all in their property, checking out their front doors and ovens and grain storage units, and they would just walk out and yell "Welcome!" and try to offer us tea. At one point we were poking around this abandoned house, and these ladies next door were watching us and then offered to open the house so that we could look inside, which we did. I turned to Katie (the other American girl in my class) while we were walking through someone's front yard and I told her that I kept on expecting someone to come out of their house with a rifle pointed at us yelling to get off their lawn. But no, everyone was very nice. One lady even let us pet her donkey.

That's a falling apart mudbrick house. So cool!

Katie, appreciating mudbrick and timber framing.

The other cool thing about the fieldtrip, about which I'm a little bit sad that it didn't happen earlier, is that I actually got to hang out with my classmates and my professor and I realized that I really like them once I don't have to deal with them in a limited classroom setting. One of the nights we all crammed into our professor's room, which had a little living room area, and drank beer and listened to music with him. And then the other night we all hung out in this meeting room in the hotel and drank more beer with the professor. One kid actually got really really drunk from drinking 4 small bottles of raki and drunkenly attempted to bribe the professor, and then sat angrily complaining about how he didn't have any ice. He also ate about 4 kilos (that's almost 9 lbs) of a 6 kilo melon that tasted like nothing. It was really funny laughing at him the next morning. And amazingly, I actually gained a lot more respect for my professor, especially since he has to deal with so many apathetic kids in his class. He told us that one of the kids in our class has been at Bilkent since 2003, is still an undergrad, keeps on failing his courses, and has a history of cheating. I just can't believe that these kids are even allowed to stay at the university. It's probably because they keep on paying tuition since all of the apathetic kids are the really rich ones. I think that it's because they know that they're going to have money and a job when they graduate but all they have to do is graduate with a gentleman's C to show that they've gone through Turkey's top university and then they're set. It's all very frustrating, especially for me, and I have to imagine especially for the students.

This past weekend I went to Urfa (Şanlıurfa) in Southern Turkey with my Museum Studies class, and we walked all around the city staring at old Armenian houses, going into renovated mosques, seeing the mudbrick beehive houses at Harran, eating a lot of food, going through their giant bazaar, and visiting the Urfa Museum. I even got to go to Göbekli Tepe which is the oldest known religious structure in the world (9,000BCE!) and has all of these circular structures with t-shaped stones that have animals carved on the sides.

Beehive house at Harran.

Me being very cold at Göbekli Tepe.

Again, it was exceedingly fun, well, except for the 12 hour overnight bus ride back and forth, although I just drugged myself with Unisom so that I could sleep. It was cold pretty much the whole entire time, even though we were right next to the Syrian border. It also rained on Saturday, and since the city was getting dust and wind from the Syrian desert it actually rained mud at one point. The sky also had a weird orange color because of all of the dirt. But even then we still saw some pretty cool things, like Göbekli Tepe and the Harran Houses, and I even bought a 5 ft. handmade rug for 80TL ($60). I definitely ate a whole lot of food, including this one breakfast item that was pure cream that was the consistency of cold butter that had honey poured on top of it and was sprinkled with pistachio bits. I also tried cow's liver for the first time in the form of a kebab (not like on a stick kebab, it was all chopped up). When we were in Harran wandering around the beehive houses we peeked into a family's outdoor oven room where two ladies were making lavash bread (like a flour tortilla only huge), and they got really excited and kept on giving us free bread that had just come out of the oven. It's amazing how tasty hot flour, water, and salt can be. Our tour guide while we were there was this really awesome guy, who's name I don't know, who was a friend of our professor and who lived with his family in the German dig house in the middle of Urfa. On our last night, after getting drenched by a wall of freezing rain at Göbekli Tepe and before getting on our 12 hour bus ride back home he brought us to his house where we got to watch TV in his heated living room covered with rugs and his wife gave us tea and fruit. I was also able to dry my pants with the space heater (with the pants still on me of course). While in Urfa I somehow acquired the name of Michael among my classmates, and I also fell down the stairs at an old Armenian house inhabited by Kurds. Oh yeah! And I also got to feed the holy fish of Abraham! Apparently there's a curse on them so that if you eat one you die.

Feeding da fish.

In the time since the last post Valentina and I managed to find a fake Christmas tree and have decorated it and put it on top of our refridgerator in our room. It was all very exciting. I was convinced that the holiday season was going to suck because, since this is a Muslim country, they wouldn't have any Christmas decorations or anything. But lo and behold they do! However, it's under the guise of "New Years Decorations" but all the big shopping malls have trees and lights and ornaments and all that good stuff. They were even selling little Santas at the grocery store Wallmart-esque thing that I go to to buy food. It's funny how commercial Christmas has become that even non-Christian countries are practically celebrating it. Well, the pagan part that is. But who cares? It makes my Christmas that much better, even though I'm going to be studying for finals and working on two presentations on Christmas. Blegh.

I'm going to have to say this now because it completely boggles my mind. I'm coming home in 3 weeks. It's crazy. It's like this entire 6 months has both flown by and drug on all at the same time. I can't believe that a month from now I'm going to be home. But first I have to get through 2 huge presentations, 1 Turkish performace, 4 finals, 3 fieldtrip write-ups, and some packing. We'll see how that goes.

Happy Holidays from Sarah, Kardy, and Valentina in Yurt 76 Odalar 308 and 307.

24 November 2010


Sorry that it took this long for me to post about Egypt. This week/the coming weeks are going to be hell on wheels, and Tuesday was my panic day. Enough with the excuses. Egypt!

Egypt was probably one of the coolest places that I've ever been. Ever. It's just a shame that we couldn't have stayed longer than the 6 days that we were there, although I talked to Hilla about it, and I don't think it would have been quite as fun had we stayed any longer. This was primarily because are hosts were the coolest people ever, and since it was a holiday, neither of them had work or school so they were able to spend the entire time with us driving us around and taking us to do cool things. Had we stayed for any longer, they would've had to go back to their normal lives and we would've been left to fend for ourselves while they were gone. Moral of the story: we stayed the perfect amount of time.

So our hosts: We stayed with two guys named Mark and Eddie who are both friends of one of my friends, Kate, who had studied abroad through EAP at the American University in Cairo a couple of years ago. After buying our plane tickets I had contacted her asking if she knew of anyone who could show us around, and she put me in contact with these two guys. Best...idea...ever. They were both incredibly awesome and spent the entire week showing us around Cairo, and some other parts of Egypt (as will be detailed later) and planning what kind of foods we were going to eat while we were there. It was also great because Eddie was Egyptian, so he not only spoke the language and would get us out of getting scammed and ripped off, but he also drove like an Egyptian, knew all of the places to go, and how to get, there, and we also go to stay at his parent's house in Giza. Mark, was American but had come back to AUC after studying abroad there to get his masters in journalism. Both of them were really cool.

As previously mentioned, we ended up staying at Eddie's parents' house in Giza, which was right outside of the Pyramids. Apparently you used to be able to see the Pyramids from the roof of the house, but a couple of months ago someone had started building an apartment building right in front of the view, so you couldn't see them anymore, but it didn't matter because we would drive down the street and be able to see them again. Anyways, the house was awesome, as it was part of an apartment complex sort of thing that his grandparents had built that had 3 floors occupied by family members and a bottom floor that housed their four golden retrievers. We got an entire wing of the apartment to ourselves, which consisted of a huge living room with TV, office, bedroom, kitchen, and two bathrooms, all hidden behind this crazy secret bookcase door so that you couldn't see that part of the house upon entering the apartment. It was nice because it meant that we could pretty much be as loud as we wanted and it didn't really matter that much, so we'd stay up until 2am and listen to music, drink wine, and watch movies.

Upon our arrival into Cairo, which was bizarre in and of itself because its completely surrounded by sand which looks really bizarre when flying over it, we were met outside of baggage by Eddie and Mark holding signs that said "We are Mark and Eddie!" and "You are Sarah Giffin and company!" We were then immediately taken into Cairo to go drink beer on a faluca that we rented for an hour. It was pretty much a long looking sailboat that the driver/steerer guy would sail back and forth across the Nile while we just sat there on little couch/benches and drink beer.

That, is a faluca (felluca?). Awesome? Indeed.

So the awesomeness of the faluca only started out what awesomeness was to come, which I will number below, and then go into more detail for the really important things. Anyways, here are the super cool things that we did:

1) Road on a faluca.
2) Ate a traditional Egyptian breakfast of foul (pronounced fool) at a restaurant so close to the pyramids that we were across the street from them and could see them as we ate.
3) Went to the Pyramids in Giza. Oh...my...god...
4) Went to the national archaeology museum which was so full of stuff that an entire floor was dedicated to sarcophagi and the stelai on the bottom floor were basically hiding behind support pillars.
5) Went to a bar frequented by the American ex-pat community where I experienced my first pull-tab soda can. I screamed when I opened it because it took me by surprise.
6) Ate koshary, a dish of tiny macaroni noodles, lentils, fried onions, tomato sauce, garbonzo beans, and a super spicy chili sauce. Cilantro might have also been involved.
7) Slept on the beach at the Red Sea. Also swam in the Red Sea. Also got eaten alive by sand fleas.
8) Ate at a legit American diner in Maadi called Lucilles that was voted by Time Magazine as having the best hamburger in the world. I got a bbq bacon burger. The bbq sauce was homemade and the bacon was beef bacon, which was an acceptable substitute. They also made pancakes with maple syrup *gasp*, chicken fried steak, Waffle-House style waffles, and raspberry iced-tea. There were also free refills.
9) Ate at a fancy Egyptian restaurant where I was stuffed full of things like rabbit, hummus, chicken, foul, and where i also ate an entire pigeon stuffed with rice.
10) Went to the Coptic quarter of Cairo and saw the Coptic Church of Saint George.
11) Went to the Nileometer which used to measure the height of the water on the Nile. I then sat and stared at the Nile in amazement for a long while.
12) Walked on a bridge built by Eiffel and was then followed around by a bunch of small children saying "WELCOME TO CAIRO"
13) Went to Cairo's version of the Grand Bazaar and drank tea at a coffee shop that hadn't closed for the night in over 200 years.
14) Went to Alexandria for a day and got to sea the ocean...and a fort!
15) Ate at a restaurant called "This is Sheren, the Fish Restaurant That Everyone's Been Talking About" in Alexandria. At least, I think it was called Sheren, I don't really remember. Anyways, we ate a 1/2 kilo of shrimp, 1/4 kilo of calamari, 4 fried fish, 2 large grilled fish, a salad, 3 orders of tahini sauce, bread, and 3 Cokes and payed about $5 each.
16) Drank what could only be described as mooshed up mango in a cup, and downed a big ol' glass of sugar cane juice.
17) Ate donuts for the first time in months from a place called House of Donuts which was associated with the American Embassy in Cairo. Apparently the Americans really needed their donuts.
18) Ate at an awesome pizza joint where we had Mexican pizza, pizza with salmon on it, and lemon meringue pie and cherry cheesecake. We called it better than sex cake.
19) Got to see large groups of lambies bunched in the side of, and in the middle of the main roads, waiting to be bought to be sacrificed/slaughtered for the holiday. We then had the joy of driving down the street with a whole lot of blood in it. Also weird: cars with bloody handprints all over them. Eddie said that they act as blessings. I thought it was a little weird/morbid.
20) Ate at an awesome Thai restaurant that was in conjunction with the Thai embassy and which imported all of its stuff from Bangkok.

I just realized that most of my trip involved me eating things.

I don't know if I can really describe in detail everything that happened on this trip. I think that I would need an entire novel to write it all down. Luckily I figured out how to directly link my photo albums to my blog, so they can be looked at easily. Hurrah!

I think that's all that can really be said about Egypt. I can't really put a lot of it into words. The trip was amazing. We did a lot of stuff that we couldn't otherwise have done without our awesome tour guides. I need to find a way to get back.

08 November 2010

Food Adventure of the Week: Kokoreç


So that is kokoreç (Co-Co-Rech). "What is kokoreç?" you may be asking yourself, and how does this count as a food adventure since it looks pretty normal and a little bit like ground and grilled chicken? That's because it's not chicken, its lamb or goat. Oh yeah, and it's also the small intestine of said animal, wrapped around a spit and then roasted over some source of heat.

Yum, doesn't that look delightful? Wikipedia says that it usually wrapped around some other organ meat like kidneys, lungs, sweetbreads (that's gland for anyone who doesn't know), or heart, but I don't think that mine had any of that stuff in it. I don't know, it might've, I'm not really sure since I couldn't exactly see what was wrapped inside of the kokoreç, nor do I think that I really want to know what was wrapped inside. Anyways, back to the intestines, they're seasoned, spit roasted, and then cut off, chopped up, and in the case of where I was, served in a lovely roll of french bread like a sandwich. You can also eat it served on a plate, or wrapped in a dürüm wrap (basically a flour tortilla).

So what was the verdict? It was super tasty! They seasoned it really really well, and it wasn't even remotely chewy, which is what I would expect from intestine. There weren't any of the gross little hairy things that you usually get with tripe, and it was so chopped up that you couldn't even tell what the hell it was. My friend Sarah said it best, that the consistency was a lot like fatty beef, soft and a little bit meaty. I feel like Andrew Zimmern would be proud of my eating weird things, and Anthony Bourdain would be proud of my eating innards.

So this all came about because Kardi, my dorm neighbor friend who took us to that place to get Maraş dondurma (icecream), likes going on food adventures and wanted to take me out to get kokoreç because I was intrigued by it. Mainly I was interested because half of the people that I talked to about it said that they loved it and then the other half just made a gross face and said that they thought it was a disgusting concept. Kardi said that most of the people who said that they hated it had actually never even tried it because they were scared/lame. I also wanted to try it because apparently it is very traditional Ottoman food, so of course I couldn't leave Turkey without eating it. So Kardi took Hilla, Sarah, and me to a kokoreç restaurant in downtown Ankara that was the recommendation of her roommate who's from Ankara and who loves kokoreç. It ended up being this bar that had the rotating intestine spits in the entryway, so you could see them making it. Because it was being served in a bar I just figured that it would be excellent bar food so I ordered a beer, some fries, and onion rings to go with my kokoreç. Kardi later told me that this is a really weird thing to do since it actually isn't considered "bar food", since it's Ottoman, and the Ottomans probably didn't drink beer with it (actually they probably didn't drink beer at all, being Muslim and all). But it did end up being good bar food in the way that someone might consider a Philly cheesesteak to be good bar food; greasy and goes great with fries and a beer. I also managed to drink good Efes for once, since their usual Pilsner tastes like Bud (gross), but their "dark" beer actually tastes a little bit like beer. So our dinner ended up being this bizarre hodgepodge of kokoreç, french fries, onion rings, stuffed muscles, calamari, beer, and then Kardi got this disgusting fermented carrot drink that tasted like drinking spicy pickle juice. She likes it though, although Sarah, Hilla, and I all made gross faces after trying it. And afterwards we finished off the night by going to Mado and buying a whole bunch of Maraş dondurma: goats milk, chocolate, and pistachio flavors, and we still had to cut them with a knife.

In a complete change of subject, this Friday I'm going to Istanbul with Hilla and Sarah to stay with Kardi and her father for a couple of days before the Korban Bayram holiday. Then Monday we're leaving for Egypt for a week to spend the holiday there. Many exciting pictures should be up in my next post after I come back from the holiday on the 21st.

Also in other news, I have less than 8 weeks until I come home. Holy crap.

02 November 2010

Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis...OH MY!

This past weekend was a 4 day holiday in observance of Republic Day on October 29th. As a result, I took it upon myself to use this time to go do some archaeology-ing! Yes, that's right, I just made up that word. As the sites around Izmir required the largest amount of time for me to visit them, due primarily to the sheer number of sites located in that area of the west coast, I decided that Izmir would be the optimal place to go to during this holiday. So as usual, I drug along Hilla and Sarah so that I wouldn't be by myself. The adventure also started out with a Pole added onto our group, and midway through a German.

The adventure begins...ON A TRAIN! Yes, a train! One of the few times that I've been on a train since I don't exactly ride trains in the US because Amtrak sucks. So Hilla, the Pole (Szymon), and I left on Wednesday evening to take an express train to Izmir so that we would arrive on Thursday morning. Since I'm in Turkey, when they say "Express Train" they actually mean "Slowest Train Possible Making Frequent Stops" so in the end the express train took about 16 hours to get to Izmir. But that's ok because we had our own couchette compartment with pull down bunkbeds and...dun dun duh...a dining car! So exciting! And not even a crappy dining car like the Amtrak trains, but a car with tables and flowers serving kebaps at way too high prices! It was all very exciting, and considerably more comfortable than a bus although it did take twice as long to get there. But at least I got to sleep lying down. The OTC sleeping pills that I took also helped.

Upon our arrival into Izmir we were greeted with this:

That's right. That is a street completely underwater. It had been raining almost continuously in Izmir for about 4 days and the streets in the low areas were so heavily inundated with water that the drains couldn't handle it so there was flash flooding. When we were walking to our hotel we had to do some creative street crossing complete with fording of road rivers, oxen dying and losing a fiddle and some sacks of flour. Sometimes we would pass stores where the store owners were having to scoop the water out of the store because the entrance was below street level. It was all very exciting. Except when my shoes soaked through. Then I was cold with wet feet. Luckily it stopped raining once we arrived, so after about an hour the water had gone down and the streets were once again passable.

The rest of the first day was lovely, wandering around Izmir, going to the archaeology and ethnography museums, getting lost on a weird street that sold mannequin parts while searching for the ancient Smyrna agora (which we never found), getting accosted by a strange man who wanted us to go into his shop, and staring at the kind of bizarre looking clock tower by the ocean. That was, until 4:00 happened, and a HUGE thunder storm rolled in. As it was warm when we left our hostel to go exploring, I was completely unprepared for rain, wearing only a scarf and sweatshirt as my warm clothing and not having an umbrella. Szymon didn't even have a jacket, but he said that he was fine because he's Polish. Hilla was the only one well prepared with both umbrella AND jacket. It didn't really matter though because once the rain started coming down we were basically soaked and had to seek refuge in the subway until it stopped raining long enough to walk under the umbrella and not get wet. After we decided that it was not quite the torrential downpour that it was at the beginning, we walked a few blocks only to find that one of the intersections that we had to cross was a raging river of water that was completely overflowing onto the sidewalk. So we took refuge again, this time inside of a candy store. I think the woman at the counter felt a little sorry for us because, after Hilla bought some Turkish delights she gave us coupons for free Turkish coffee from a little corner booth in the store. After waiting it out a little bit longer we were finally able to cross the street and make it back to our hotel. I was so excited to get changed into something dry, until I discovered that because I had left my window open before we left (it was warm and sunny then), the rain had come through the window, completely soaking my bed and my two jackets that I had left on top of my bed. I then had to go downstairs, and embarrassedly tell the desk man in very limited Turkish that my yatak (bed) was ıslak (wet) and waited for him to begrudgingly walk upstairs, flip my mattress, and get his wife to change my sheets, which she proceeded in doing while sounding like she was saying some strong words to me. It was all very embarrassing/traumatizing.

Of course the night could not have been complete without a very strange trip to a bar, which we determined was most likely a brothel partially disguised as a bar. We probably should've been suspicious at the get go since the establishment was called "Leydi Bar", but Szymon and I really wanted a beer. Upon entry, we found ourselves to be the only people in the place, although I can't imagine why as it was creepily lit only by red lamps and black lighting with a DJ doing his thing all by himself on one side of the room blasting irritating, loud, and bad Turkish pop music. And the waiters were almost overly friendly, wanting to find out where we were from, what kind of music we wanted to listen to, etc. Walking back from the bathroom I noticed that all of the tables in the middle of the room all had their chairs facing the exact same direction, towards a line of booths on one wall, which I thought was bizarre. And then the first girl walked in from the back room, wearing a gold tight dress thing with her ass barely covered by the shirt, in the highest heels that I've ever seen, and with the fakest, blondest, worst hair extensions ever. She obviously knew the guys who worked there, as she came from a back room and chatted it up with all of them. And then she just sort of sat down at one of the awkward center chairs facing away from us and began looking bored. She was then joined by another girl from the back, wearing a black corset and black shorts with her ass hanging out, who sat at another table, also looking bored. Then two older men walked into the bar, not together, and sat at different booths on the wall facing the awkward chairs and just sort of quietly sat there staring at the women. It was then that Hilla and I were convinced that we were actually in a brothel and that it was getting really awkward. The "bar" then decided to charge us out the wazoo for our beers (10TL) and for a veggie plate that we never ordered but that they set down at our table and prompted us to eat (also 10TL).

The next days were significantly less weird and a lot more awesome. On Friday Szymon, Hilla, Sarah (who joined us that morning since she had class on Thursday), and I all went to Ephesus for the day. Because it had rained so much, it was beautiful outside with all of the green, and it was relatively clear and cool, and all together much more pleasant than Thursday. The site was spectacular with a beautiful library with a two story facade, a theater with pretty good acoustics (not as good as Epidauros), and lots of antiquity...EVERYWHERE! All very exciting for me.

Us in front of the Library at Ephesus.

So beautiful and green, and with an artistically placed arch! I know. I should be a photographer when I grow up.

After hanging around Ephesus, and Szymon finding out that he had lost his wallet and calling the bus company, the police station, and anyone else who might know where his wallet was, we decided just to hang around Selçuk for a couple of hours until we could catch a train (I know! Another one!) back to Izmir. All in all it was whole-y uneventful, with the exception of Szymon finding out that his wallet was on the bus that we'd taken to Ephesus. The 3 km walk into town was quite beautiful, though, with a nice tree lined street.

For me, Saturday was the most exciting day of them all because I got to go to Pergamum, which I have been wanting to go to for about 3 years now, ever since I first saw pictures of the theater in my Classics 17A class with Crawford H. Greenewalt Jr., bad-ass extraordinaire. And oh how spectacular it was! Again, it was super green and beautifully clear, but it was also almost completely empty with the exception of a tour bus full of Germans and ourselves. This time, Sarah, Hilla, and I were joined by Florian (German) because Szymon had to go home to do a take home midterm. The site was unbelievable with the most amazing view of the plains below, and so quiet because there was hardly anybody there. And I got to sit for a long time in the theater and enjoy every single minute of it.

Oh my god that theater is so awesome! Because of the shape of the hill, instead of building the theater around, like most Greek theaters are build, they made up for it by building up so as to still fit a lot of people into it. It has kind of iffy acoustics, but the steepness of it all is quite dizzying.

What it looks like sitting midway down the theater. So steep and death defying! At the end of the stage area (skene) there's a cliff. Awesome? I think yes.

The theater looking up from the stage area. I'm still totally obsessing about this place.

A kind of crappy picture of me because of where the sun is, but you can see how awesome the view was from on top of the acropolis.

After walking all around the acropolis, we went down to the Aesclipion, which is where there was an ancient hospital and medical school. The funny thing is that, in ancient times, you couldn't go into the Aesclipion if you were dying or pregnant because it was also a temple. But those are the times when you most need to go to the hospital. Anyways, there were all of these underground areas where people used to sleep and hope that the cure for their ailment would come to them in a dream. The sleeping chamber was this really cool, multi-lobed underground building with vaulted ceiling that was caving in, allowing the sun to shine into it.

After that we went to the Red Basilica, which was not to particularly exciting, other than that it had big red brick walls that were all crumbly. For the day we managed to rent a taxi to take us around to the different areas, since they were all over different parts of the city, which ended up not being that bad, as it cost us 60TL for about 3 hours of renting.

Sunday Hilla and I decided to go to Sardis since I figured that CHG Jr., bad-ass extraordinaire would be sad if I didn't go and visit the site that he's been running for the past 30 years. It ended up being quite the adventure, getting dropped off on the side of the road with our bags, walking the 1.5km to the site through town, and then getting to the Temple of Artemis site and having it almost all to ourselves with the exception of a bus of Swedish highschoolers and a bus of Koreans. The temple itself was pretty awesome, as its a monumental sized temple (bigger than your average Greek temple) in a lovely location, and with Lydian tumuli (for tumuli, see Gordion entry) around the area.

For size reference, I caught a picture of Hilla standing next to one of the elevated columns. And these aren't even half their actual height. They're HUGE! And the design work on the column bases is so intricate and beautiful, I don't even know how someone was able to do it without messing up.

I really like this picture of me, also because I'm hanging out with an IONIC CAPITAL! So exciting!

Food adventure for the weekend: FISH ON FIRE OH MY GOD!

So I read in my Lonely Planet travel guide that there's a fish restaurant in Izmir called Deniz Restaurant that serves this crazy fish where its served in a salt block and then "broken dramatically at your table". After coming back from Pergamum Florian, Hilla, Sarah, and I decided that it would be a good idea to find out what exactly this "broken dramatically at your table" entailed. We got to the restaurant, and after standing awkwardly at the front of the restaurant, waiting to be noticed, a waiter finally came up to us and we asked if they still served this salt block fish on their menu. He said of course, and we went into the restaurant to pick our fish that we were going to split between us. We chose sea bass at his recommendation. I have a feeling that he knew that we were only there for the fish because when we sat down he said "So do you guys want to order any sides at all, or do you just want to wait for the fish? I suggest sides since it will take about half an hour to cook". Not wanting to look like complete barbarians in a fancy fish restaurant, especially since we were all wearing rain jackets and polar fleeces while everyone else was wearing blazers and such, we agreed to order a salad and a yogurt dipping sauce to eat while waiting for the fish. Waiting for the fish was a little miserable as we were sitting outside and it was really, really, REALLY cold, and we were too scared to ask for blankets, which they were periodically giving to patrons. But oh, when the fish came, how dramatic it was! First of all, it was completely covered in a thick packing of salt which had hardened into a crust on the outside of the fish. And then they lit that salt crust ON FIRE and brought it out to our table ON FIRE in front of everyone. I'm pretty sure that everyone else was jealous that they hadn't thought to even ask about this on fire fish since it wasn't listed on the menu. Or we were just those assholes who were disturbing everyone else's peaceful dinner by ordering an on fire fish. You know, like those people who order baked Alaska who everyone sort of hates because they've disrupted the peace by ordering something that is on fire, but then everyone is jealous of because they never thought to order baked Alaska. Yeah, kinda like that. Anyways, after the fire had died down, the waiter had to come out and crack open the salt crust with A KNIFE AND HAMMER. We all just sort of stared open mouthed at him while he hacked away at the salt crust and took apart our fish for us. And oh, it was so delicious! The salt had kept it nice and moist, and it was tasty and not fishy at all. It was also served with a yummy lemony sauce. And in the end the meal cost each of us about 39TL each (about $30 in America speak), which I don't think is all that expensive. Plus the entertainment of it all was well worth it.

25 October 2010

A relatively non-eventful weekend

So in news completely unrelated to Turkey but referenced in a previous post, my honors thesis was selected to be published in the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal. Congratulations, the weeks of finger crossing worked. Now my paper will be one of probably 5 papers that will be published in the semesterly publication of the BUJ, and will also be able to be found on Google Scholar after it is put online. This means two things:

1) When you Google stalk me and search my name, something other than my Facebook and horseshow placings will show up.
2) I am now citeable. Yipee!

Sure, it was selected by students and not professors, but who cares? It's a peer review, and they're my peers, and they have deemed me awesome enough to be printed on (most likely) glossy-ish paper, in the annals for ALL ETERNITY.

So this weekend was spent re-formatting my paper into its final PDF format, including how to get pictures to show up on my Mac Word document ALL BY MYSELF, and going on a celebratory movie outing with Hilla. We went and saw the Facebook movie (I think it's called The Social Network), which was super good and I would definitely pay 13TL to see it again. I also want to see it again because I had to pee, count it, 4 TIMES during the movie, all because I drank a bottle of Coke before the movie to get rid of my developing migraine. After the movie I then proceeded in purchasing 4 huge pomegranates at 1.39TL a kilo (that's about $0.50 a pound in America-speak). As bitter as I am about bacon costing $58 in this country, I've got to admit that $0.50 a pound for pomegranates is a steal.

For all those reading who are disappointed that I have had no traveling pictures for the past 2 weeks, never fear! I'm leaving for a 4 day trip to Izmir on Wednesday night, so next week I will be able to grace everyone living vicariously through my study abroad trip with photos of ARCHAEOLOGY! WOO!

19 October 2010


Today I sat on a grassy hill drinking a Coke out of a glass bottle, watching a Frenchman juggle and staring out at the view of Ankara, which was completely clear because the rain had washed away all the smog. Above were huge storm clouds and the sun was starting to go down so the world looked like cobalt.

Sometimes I get homesick, and then I look at my pictures and I remember why I'm here.

16 October 2010

Icecream that you can cut with a knife?

I've decided to take a break from my homework today to bless everyone with another update. I know. I'm so benevolent.

This weekend consisted of trying to get over probably the worst case of the flu that I've had in more than 5 years. I was hoping that getting a flu shot in the states would have prevented me from getting too sick whilst abroad, but seeing as how I have the immune system of John Travolta in Boy in the Plastic Bubble I'm not too surprised that I ended up getting sick anyways. This time though, I couldn't get out of bed for two days, and still couldn't really eat solid food without getting nauseous until yesterday. However, now all I really have left is my original gross smokers cough and some fatigue and that's pretty much it. I did, however, almost pass out while waiting in line to make photocopies on Thursday.

Since this weekend is "Sarah Giffin saving money" weekend, my adventures have not been, and will not be quite as exciting as the last few weekends, mainly because I'm staying at home. I am still having food adventures, which is the most important thing anyways, so I will not disappoint in that regard.

So food adventure for this week: Icecream that must be cut with a knife.

In Turkey there's two different types of icecream. There's normal, Dryers-esque type icecream that's all creamy and tasty flavored and you put it on a cone in a ball (or if you're at Thrifty's in a cylinder) and then lick it off. Then there's this weirdo type of icecream that's chewy, where guys stand on the side of the street wearing vests and fezes so that they look like the monkeys that play the tamborine, and they stab at this icecream in metal pale looking things that are recessed into refridgerated boxes and then serve it to you in what looks like slices and its so thick and dense that they can flip the icecream upside down and it doesn't fall out of the cone. This weirdo icecream is also chewy. It's actually really quite bizarre. I've tried it a couple of times, and while I like it because its so strange, sometimes the flavors are a bit off, especially the banana (ew).

A couple of weeks ago my dorm neighbor friend came up to me and told me that her dad had taken her to a restaurant that served this weirdo type of icecream, only its so thick that you have to cut it with a knife. I told her that she had to take me, so yesterday was our icecream date, with Hilla coming along with us because she was intrigued. So she took us to this kebap restaurant in downtown Ankara which specializes in foods from Maraş, because here in Turkey, each city has its own culinary specialties which all somehow form variations on the beloved Adana kebap, but sometimes have some really bizarre foods that they're known for (Americans have it, too, but we're divided into culinary regions, not so much cities). Anyways, so this place specialized in food from Maraş, and one of the things that Maraş specializes in is this crazy icecream that is so thick you have to cut it with a knife. Here's what it looks like when it's served (ours didn't have pistachio bits on it):

Sometimes this is also how they serve it:

In case you don't know what's happening here, that man is cutting the giant slab of icecream that's, oh yeah, hanging by a meat hook WITH A CHAINSAW.

Anyways, we went to this kebap place specifically so that we could experience this super duper dense icecream. We ended up getting a huge amount of food: 2 salads, one that was a bunch of plates of shredded carrots, pickled cabbage, lettuce, pickled peppers like jalapenos, mint leaves, lemons, onions, etc., and another that was cucumbers and tomatoes, a plate of bread that looked like monster pita that had been injected with air to make a pillow (think HUGE chapati), a cheese and mushroom pide for Hilla, an eggplant kebap for me, and an adana kebap for Kardi (my Turkish friend), then 3 servings of the crazy icecream, and finishing it off with 3 teas, all for 49TL. It also helped that we had a Turkish person with us because then the restaurant wouldn't be able to pull the "we're going to way over charge the foreigners because they have no clue what the hell is going on" trick.

So the icecream, it was good/strange. When we ordered it, we had to wait for a while to get it because since it is so thick they have to let it sit out for a bit before they serve it to you or else it will be too dense to cut. They serve it with a fork and knife, because you need them. It was made out of full fat goat's milk, and the flavor of the icecream was full fat goat's milk flavor. It was super creamy, not as strangely chewy as the kinda gross street variety, but rather really dense, and it never melted. I mean, it melted a teeny tiny bit which made it slide around the plate a little, but there was never a puddle of icecream from not eating it fast enough. It always just stayed the same amount. And it tasted excellent, especially since it was chock full of milk fat. It also had that slightly bizarre taste that goat's milk has, you know, the taste where you know that it definitely came from a goat. So overall, really good. It's a shame that I can't bring it home with me, and I can't recreate this icecream because I'm still not exactly sure how it's made. Kardi explained that it has some sort of orchid powder that's in it that gives it some of it's density, but other than that, its a mystery.

Tomorrow culinary adventures continue with my going to the only Chinese food joint in town because I've been craving Chinese food like a mad pregnant woman. We'll see how that goes.

11 October 2010

Istanbul not Constantinople...Part II

We (and by we I mean Hilla, Sarah, and I) decided to go to Istanbul. Ok, let me rephrase that. Sarah had to go to Istanbul and Hilla and I decided to sort of tag along in Istanbul but in reality just go off by ourselves while she had to look at Islamic and Byzantine architecture. I insisted that Hilla and I go anytime but in September and August because I didn't want to go back any closer to August in case that it would be like the last time: so hot the sweat drips down my legs. And it wasn't! In fact, it was the exact opposite. It was freezing cold, and for a while I was seriously worried that we were going to spend our entire trip soaking wet. To give you an idea of just how different the temperatures were, let us do a photographic comparison.

I know it's two different locations but we're primarily using this as a comparison of sky/Sarah Giffin clothing choices. Notice the first picture. A beautiful, cloudless blue sky and me wearing what is probably a sweat-soaked T-shirt and skirt. Now let's look at the second picture. No blue sky, instead it is gray, and I'm wearing a polar fleece jacket, a shell with furry stuff lining it, a scarf, pants, and my completely ridiculous fur lined, knit aviator's hat. And I'm pretty sure that I was still cold. However, I think that being all bundled up and still a little bit cold is much better than looking and feeling all day like you just got out of a shower. So in the end, much more enjoyable, especially since I thought that the cold weather gave the city a much more European feel. Don't ask me where that logic came from.

So I guess I should start from the very beginning of the trip. Hilla and I decided to take an evening bus the 6 hour drive up to Istanbul. However, my intense fear of rain happened as I was watching someone's seat-back television reflection in the mirror of how Istanbul was completely flooded. There were even shots of people using buckets to empty out rooms in their houses. I mean, it was already pretty rainy and cold back in Ankara, and I heard that it was supposed to rain in Istanbul, but I didn't know it was going to rain that much. And then the deluge happened. We were driving, and then all of a sudden the bus was being pounded with rain. And it continued getting pounded all the way into Istanbul. At one point we made a stop to drop some people off and the parking lot was so flooded that you couldn't see the asphalt, it was just completely underwater. So we ended up getting into the main bus station in Istanbul at about 12:30am and had to wait outside in the cold, but luckily covered, for the bus service that would take us to a stop downtown where we could pick up a significantly cheaper taxi to take us to our hotel. We ended up getting into our hotel at almost 2am, completely soaked, very cold, and very tired.

And then, low and behold, it didn't rain for the rest of the weekend! It was actually quite pleasant outside, despite the fact that it was overcast and cold most of the time. Much more enjoyable when I was sweating through my clothes back in August. And I went to pretty much all the same places that I went to back in August: the standard Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar. I even ate at some of the same restaurants, like this really tasty and legit Indian place near Sultanahmet where the Indian food is really spicy and they have LAMB. I love lamb.

So random/bizarre travel experience that I had. Hilla and I had gotten a little bit lost trying to find this kofte place to eat at. We ended up turning around down a side street in an attempt to backtrack and find a place where we knew where we were. While turning around we happened upon this store front that had a bunch of really cool oil paintings of whirling dervishes and then I noticed that there was a sign over the door that said "Art Gallery: Free Entry". So we wandered down the stairs into the coolest basement art gallery ever. I it was divided into 2 main rooms, all plastered and white washed with vaulted looking ceilings and these wide arched doorways dividing the different rooms. The first room that we found ourselves in was full of paintings and sculptures with a sign that said "Everything is for sale" and in the second room was what appeared to be a workshop full of half finished sculptures and with 3 people inside working on some sketches. After looking around the for sale items, and finding and buying a couple of water colors that we liked, the people in the workshop invited us over to partake in some tea with them in the workshop. Luckily, a woman who was there spoke some English, and she informed Hilla and me that the two younger people were students of the older man who was training them for their fine arts entrance exam for an Istanbul University. Then they had to go back to practicing their artwork, but they told us that we could stick around and have more tea if we wanted. So Hilla and I stayed and watched for another 15 or so minutes, just sitting in this workshop and listening to classical opera music. All in all the whole experience was very bizarre. And then we went and got strange street candy that was like this:
I love Hilla's face in this picture.

So in other news, I got a full blown case of the flu right after getting back from Istanbul, complete with fever, major body pain, smokers cough, etc. I went to the doctors and they put me on mandatory bed rest, and even made me take a slip of paper saying that I couldn't come to class for 2 days to the department secretary to inform my professors why I wouldn't be in class. I actually really like this system since it forces me to stay home, which I normally don't do. Good thing I decided that this week I wasn't going to go travelling anywhere.

07 October 2010

Soggy mudbrick adventure #2

Today was yet another rainy mudbrick expedition. Again, Benni Claasz-Coockson decided to take us on a fieldtrip to find a mudbrick village, only this time it was even wetter than the last. Especially since this time it actually rained non-stop. It was actually a lot of fun, despite ending up soaking wet and with very muddy shoes.

The hike up, as led by Professor Coockson.

Muddy shoes.

What the surrounding area looked like. Actually quite scenic, never mind that this was right behind Middle Eastern Technological University (METU)


All in all I think the hike might've been about 3 kilometers round trip, although it was slow going on the way there since mud ended up weighing our shoes down. At one point I had to run into the woods to pee and I saw THE BIGGEST RABBIT EVER with big fluffy feet hopping away from me. It rained almost the entire time, and midway through the walk up I had to dorkily roll my pants up because I kept on kicking mud into the folded up hems. By the end of the two hour excursion, which was actually 3 hours because our professor got into a minor fender bender upon entering the METU campus, We were drenched, muddy, and definitely ready to go home. However, upon my arrival home I found that my dorm still had no hot water since this morning (the second time this week), and the electricity was out so I couldn't microwave my lunch. Lame.

Here is my strange pondering rant for the day: Sometimes I don't understand Turkish college students, especially in the Archaeology Department, and most especially the boys. Coockson had sent out an email on Wednesday saying "Be ready for a short walk and the weather type of the day" meaning "wear crappy shoes and get ready for a bit of a schlep". Of course this meant that, once again, one girl was wearing sandals and one boy was wearing WHITE nice leather shoes. This was despite the fact that last week we went on a field trip where the professor specifically said wear old shoes and they still wore unfit footwear. So of course, the girl with the sandals looked miserable because her feet were wet the entire time, and the boy was super slow because he was trying not to get his white shoes muddy, which was impossible. In the end, Katie (the other American girl in my class) and I were really the only ones able to properly keep up with the professor, although the girl in the sandals did manage to hold her own up with us despite being improperly shod. I mean, seriously, these people are studying archaeology. They must have at least one pair of crappy shoes and they can't be afraid of getting muddy because THAT'S THEIR JOB. It is very frustrating sometimes.

Also what I would like to point out is the behavior of the boys on this trip. They were the slowest members of the party and also the ones most concerned with the upkeep of their appearance. I feel like, in the States, boys would be embarrassed to not only be slower than the rest of the girls but also cleaner than the girls as well. We actually had to wait for them at the end to finally make it down the hill after the professor and all 5 of us girls had already made it down to the cars. I called them indoor boys, since they're like indoor cats who never actually go outside. It was actually quite pathetic, and the exact opposite of what I was expecting boys to be like around here. However, they are still horribly aggressive drivers which makes for some terrifying driving experiences.

05 October 2010

Mudbrick, Safranbolu, and The Sickness

I have been negligent in my blogging. Sorry. I blame it on my being sick, although that's a bit of a lame excuse because it's just a cold and it's not like its keeping me from doing much. That, and today is the worst day, and here I am, blogging.

I love Sudafed. I think it's one of the best things that I've brought with me on this trip. Thank god I remembered to bring it, since I'm not really sure if they have Sudafed here, and even if they did I would probably have to be prescribed it since you have to have cough drops prescribed to you by a doctor. Lame. And the doctor would probably want to load me up with antibiotics. Also lame. So for the past couple of days I've been surviving off of Sudafed and my miracle sickness juice which consists of hot water, one lemon, and a couple spoonfuls of honey. No jokes, my miracle sickness juice heals, and it's super tasty.

So update from the past week and a little bit. On Wednesday we went on a mudbrick fieldtrip, the first of many fieldtrips for my vernacular architecture class. We went to this little town called Beyetepe Köy which is a tiny village that's right behind the university. It had a whole bunch of dilapidated mudbrick houses that were just falling apart on the side of the road, having been abandoned probably about 20 or so years ago. Apparently one section was a part of an old Armenian village 60 or 70 years ago. It was beautiful outside, having just recently rained, so all of the houses were kind of damp looking and there was that lovely just rained smell and the light was that perfect amount where it makes colors appear really vibrant. Here's an example of one such mudbrick moment:

Look at that beautiful mudbrick! It looks like it's just melting in the rain because, well, it is. Not only do you get a good idea of just how decrepit these houses were (this being one of the more complete ones of the group) but you can also see the mud plaster facing on one side (the front) and then the exposed mudbrick on the side. Look, you can even see the wood beams on the side of the house were they support the window and door frames! Isn't mudbrick exciting! People actually lived here! I am a huge nerd!

Towards the end of the fieldtrip we found an old man to explain to us about the mudbrick village, although his explanation was entirely in Turkish so I really have no clue what the hell he said except for what little translation was provided to me. Midway through his conversation he just busted out some apples and pears that he'd been keeping in his coat and gave them to us as snacks. Then, when we were walking away he came up to me and started jabbering on to me in Turkish, after which I responded with "Uh, çok biraz Türkçe biliyorum" which means "I know very little Turkish" to which he replied with more Turkish punctuated by poking me in the shoulder. I was later told that he was telling me that I needed to learn more Turkish. Thank you old mudbrick man for telling me something that I already know!

Over the weekend I did some more travelling with the usual travelling group, minus Valentina. We decided to go north and spend some time in Safranbolu, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Amasra which is on the Black Sea coast. Little did we know that not only was it going to be freezing cold while we were there, but it was also going to POUR on Sunday. No problem though, because we still had a good time.

So the down-low on Safranbolu. It's an almost perfectly preserved Ottoman village, well, the old part of the city is, which is slightly down a hill from the new city of Safranbolu. The city specializes in things with saffron in it (hence Safranbolu) including saffron tea, saffron turkish delights, weirdo saffron rice jello stuff (gross), and art with saffron flowers in it. The city itself was stunning, with winding streets with the most treacherous cobble stones that I have ever seen, beautiful houses, a Saturday street market, and a helpful policeman who spoke English. Our hostel was spectacular, and only 20TL a night ($15) for a dorm room, which was a dorm room in so much that it was 6 beds crammed into one room, but none of them were bunks, they were super comfy, and we had antique Ottoman rugs and wall hangings and our own bathroom inside the room. Outside, a traditional Turkish soup that is sold as a grainy powder was drying on benches in the hallway

That's the soup, and Sarah's face with the soup. We even had to take our shoes off before we went upstairs to our rooms to keep us from destroying the carpets. And breakfast was free! And the hostel lady was really nice, and when we expressed interest in her homemade soup stuff she had to take us outside to show us the soup making process and tell us about how she uses homemade yogurt and homegrown veggies and the like.

The market place and houses.

Me! And more houses from above!

Inside a bazaar marketplace in town.

We wandered around town for a while, found a really tasty restaurant where I ate Turkish raviolis with a tomato/pepper sauce and yogurt, and then decided to go to a hamam since we were a little bored and were really cold. It ended up being not only cheaper but also better than the one that I went to in Bursa. For 30TL we got a massage, the weirdo scrub thing where they scrape off like 3 layers of skin, AND they shampooed our hair and it was much longer than the one that I got in Bursa. It was one of those super ultra bonding moments since it was like "oh yes, here is the inside of the hamam. Now get naked!"

The next day we went to Amasra on the Black Sea. I didn't realize how long it was going to take to get there until we were on a bus for 2.5 hours. It was, however, one of the most beautiful drives that I've ever taken as we went through pine and deciduous forests along mountains and sort of in the rain. Sometimes there were those really cool looking low-hanging clouds that made it look all mysterious. The one bad part was that I had to pee really bad towards the end, so once we got to a transfer point I ran across the street and had to ask an old man where a bathroom was. He then proceeded in leading me into a man cave cafe so that I could use the hole in the floor toilet in the back. It was a little bit awkward.

Amasra was beautiful but rainy and we were only able to spend about 3.5 hours there before we had to take the 6 hour drive home. Upon getting off the bus we got poured on, and had to take refuge in a fish restaurant who had seriously limited their menu after the tourist season so we could only get chicken, salad, and calamari. The food was really good though in addition to being cheap (if you can't tell, I love cheap things). Afterwards we just sorta wandered around town, taking pictures and attempting to stay dry.

Me and the Black Sea are buds.

Walking through a colorful little bazaar of fruits and pickled things.

28 September 2010

This weekend, and the effects of boredom.

This weekend consisted of 3 exciting things that happened.
1. I was shown around Ankara a bit by an actual Turkish person.
2. I wandered around the old part of Ankara and bought my first souvenir (oh my god!)
3. I finally left this area and went to Gordion.

On Friday a girl from my hall took Valentina, Hilla and myself to Ankara to show us where to get cheap, good Turkish food. Surprisingly, it was a chain restaurant, but a really good one, and I got to try lahmacun for the first time. It's basically like a burrito, so I must love it, since I love burritos. It was a large piece of pita-esque bread, topped with lots of minced meat, and then I was given a little plate with cilantro (which I usually hate), tomatoes, and lemon. Put all that on top of the bread with meat, roll it up into a burrito looking roll, and voila, lahmacun. I am now an addict. It might be because its the closest thing to burritos that I can get around here. Especially since I'm still pretty sure that the closest Taco Bell is in Spain. Anyways, I got a lahmacun meal, which consisted of 2 lahmacun (about 9 inches across each) a soda and a bowl of super chocolate-y pudding for...wait for it...8TL. Converted that's probably about 6$. Not bad. And it was legit tasty. I will go back. The bad thing was that it gave me weird dreams that night, which I can't even remember at the moment.

Following the lahmacun adventure we were then escorted to Kocatepe Camii (camii means mosque in Turkish), of which there is a picture of here
According to Sheyma (our Turkish friend/tour guide), it was built in the 1930s in the more modern style after the foundation of the republic. Anyways, it was gorgeous on the inside. And the best part was that, before we went into the mosque, and because Valentina (who is Muslim) and Sheyma could go in to pray, they showed Hilla and I how to do the proper cleansing ritual before you pray, which consists of a lot of washing of hands, blowing of noses, washing of feet, and for me that means WATER EVERYWHERE. After washing, with my pants half wet, they put our scarves on for us (since Hilla and I are incompetent at dressing ourselves) and in the end I looked like this
Look at how stylishly conservative I look in my fancy Gap scarf. Then Hilla and I amused ourselves by wandering around the mosque trying to be unobtrusive while some people inside did their evening prayers. I looked a little weird wandering around with my backpack on since I had come from class.

Saturday was spent wandering around the area of Ulus in Ankara. It's the older, and seedier portion of the city, but has a lot of cool things in it, as long as you go to see them when it's still light outside. I don't remember if I wrote about this in one of my earlier posts, but I actually stayed in a hotel in Ulus the night before I started orientation. I was not informed that it was a dangerous part of town until, when I asked the concierge where someplace good to eat was, he said "oh, this is a dangerous street". I then had to be escorted to and from the restaurant 30 feet away because there were sketchy people just hanging around. Anyways, I actually got to see Ulus when it was nice, so we went to the fortress, got some durum (more burrito like foods), wandered around the bazaar where I bought a hand towel for the gym and stared at these bizarre bedspreads that apparently everybody buys even though they're atrocious.
It looks like it belongs in a porno. And it's not just for wedding nights, its for all nights. Some even had little fake roses all over them like a garden. I don't know how people would be able to sleep on them. Do you think that husbands want to vomit every time they walk into their bedroom? Hell, I want to vomit just looking at it. Valentina says that Turks are obsessed with this kind of kitschy stuff. There is no excuse. That is awful.

Sunday Valentina, Sarah (other Sarah, I'm not referring to myself in the 3rd person), Hilla and I went to Gordion to go check out the tumuli and the citadel. We ended up renting a cab for the entire day since the local bus would drop you off about 1.5 kilometers from the citadel, and the cab waited for us at each location and then took us home. All in all the cab cost us about 100TL, so 25TL a pop, which ended up not being so bad. The Gordion museum ended up being really cute and surrounded by a "demonstration garden" which, in the springtime, has native flowers that grow around the area. The Midas Tumulus was cool, although not quite as spectacular as the Treasury of Atreus, although what it did have in the middle was a log cabin (no Abe Lincoln was not buried in Turkey, as much as that may surprise you), where they entombed the body, and then over which they dumbed a whole bunch of dirt to make the giant mound that we see today. And here it is!
Don't we just love that I can upload pictures now! So yes, it's basically just a giant hill with a log cabin inside. But even cooler is that the 3000 year old logs are STILL PRESERVED OH MY GOD. Even cooler than that, much like Stonehenge, the area around the citadel is COVERED in burial mounds. I don't think that I have a very good picture to show just how covered it was, but there are little hills all over the place. The museum said that there are approximately 88 tumuli in total, but only 35 have been excavated. That means that there are still probably 45 of them with bodies and stuff (maybe more log cabins?) still inside. It's the coolest thing ever.

In other news, I find that I'm very bored in the evenings during the weekday. My professors haven't exactly figured out that they can give us homework yet, so I end up with the afternoons and evenings free to do, well, not very much. As much as I prefer living on campus to living in the middle of the city (safety, convenience, Turkish people living next to me) I find that, because I'm on campus, that I have next to nothing to do once I get out of class. I'm still kind of waiting for my homework to start happening, although since it's already the 3rd week I'm not expecting it anytime soon. I guess its just weird since I'm so spoiled living in Berkeley and having everything going on, even when I was living in the dorms, that, when I have nothing to do here I just don't know what to do with myself. I find that I Facebook stalk a lot, and watch a lot of Mad Men. I also think that's why my blog entries have been so detailed now, because I have nothing better to do than to update. Not like its a bad thing. It keeps everyone informed.

23 September 2010

A brief photo tour of life at Bilkent so far

As promised in my last post, now that my camera works and I can upload photos onto my computer I will provide you all with a brief photo tour of life here. By "life" I mean dorm pictures, janky toilet pictures, roommate pictures, etc. I am especially excited about the picture of my room. Why? Because it is so small.

Here we go.
This is the H Building. It is where I have every single one of my classes. I believe it is one of the biggest buildings on campus and houses a large number of Humanities departments, including the Archaeology department (1st floor). It's kind of a boring building, but that's ok. I have come to accept the modern style. Or at least, more modern than Berkeley buildings.

This is my walk back from the H building to my dorm, which sometimes I make multiple times a day. Look at how green it is! I'm almost sad that it won't be as green as soon as summer is over, even though it's hot as all hell here and it's almost October. Most of the time there are people sitting on the little patches of grass on either side of the walk. It's also very full of stairs. I think when this picture was taken I had already walked up 2 other stair segments.

This is my dorm. Wait, I just realized that there are 3 dormitories in this picture. Mine is the one on the far left, sorta behind the trees. It's in a prime location because it's right behind the grassy knoll where people sit and hang out after class. What you really can't see in this picture is the French kid who constantly juggles. Constantly.

This is the super ghetto kitchen that I make all my food in. Notice the lack of oven. Also notice the fact that I will be COOKING OFF OF HOTPLATES FOR THE NEXT 4 MONTHS. Never again will I complain about the Hoyt kitchen. This by far takes the cake as most communist era kitchen. What you can't see in the picture is the microwave (which didn't work this afternoon), large refrigerator, and toaster thing that looks like a George Foreman grill. I am tempted to cook hamburgers on it.

Whoa, what the hell is this? More importantly, what the hell is this doing in my dorm? There are two of them in the bathroom across the hall from my room, which comprises half the stalls in that bathroom. And it's a girls bathroom. There aren't even boys allowed inside my dormitory building. And it's not like it's a hold over from some period when only boys were allowed at this school. This dorm was renovated this summer. All the facilities are basically new. So this was put in my bathroom because people actually use it. In fact, these strange hole in the floor toilets are all over campus. I had to pee in one this afternoon in the H building because the normal toilet was being used. Why do they even keep these things around? They smell funny. I guess they bring a whole new meaning to "squating" and "standing" stalls. Also note the decided lack of toilet paper because they don't give us any.

Holy crap its the official first picture of my room, complete with roommate! I told Valentina to look excited to be in our room, so she of course wanted to ensure that everyone knew that this room is a war free zone. I sleep on the top bunk with the treacherous and completely vertical ladder that I must scale at least twice a day, sometimes more, fearing for my life every time. My desk is the one that's the closest to the window. I'm actually standing slightly outside of the doorway if that gives you any idea as to how small this room is. What you can't see in the picture is our tiny wardrobe on the left and our mini fridge that is also on the left. I like the room so far. We'll see how much I like it by January.

So there it is. A small tour of my day to day life at Bilkent. More to come later.