19 September 2010

The school update

I finally started school on Thursday. Finally. After 2 1/2 weeks of orientation hell complete with sprained ankle, cast, no cast, spraining the other ankle, apartment searching circus, moving into dorms, going on fieldtrips, figuring out how internet/buses/life works in this country, never stopping, etc, I have actually begun the school year. It feels like its taken forever and a day just for classes to start. So far this is what my schedule looks like:

Monday: Turkish I, 10:40-12:40; Latin III, 1:40-3:40
Tuesday: Vernacular Architecture, 8:40-10:40; Turkish I, 10:40-12:40; Museum Practices and Theory, 3:40-5:40
Wednesday: Paleolithic Archaeology, 12:40-2:40; Latin III, 3:40-4:40
Thursday: Turkish I, 9:40-10:40; Vernacular Architecture, 10:40-11:40
Friday: Museum Practices and Theory, 1:40-2:40; Paleolithic Archaeology, 4:40-5:40

I say "so far" because in the first week this whole schedule is subject to change hours, especially since the professors are assigned 2 hour blocks from which they decide when to put their classes. However, most of my classes are only 3 hours in total so there's an extra hour when they get to decide whether or not they want to put the class during the first hour or the second hour of that block. It's kind of complicated. My (not) favorite part about this scheduling plan is that there is no consistency to the timing of classes. Note my Museum Practices and Theory class. It is offered Tuesday and Friday (odd), but not at the same time on those two days. I'm so scared that I'm going to forget when my classes are just because they're all over the place. I constantly carry around a schedule with me in the hopes that I won't miss any of my classes. Especially since, if you miss 9 hours of class you fail the course. It's nice that attendance is mandatory since it forces people to go to class, as opposed to those irritating people at Cal who never show up to class and then expect to do well on the exams.

I'm super excited about my department. The Archaeology Department at Bilkent is unbelievably small, with something like 7 professors in it. Of the two department classes that I've taken, the maximum number of people in my class has been 5. The other class only had 3 people in it. Two of my classes have fieldtrips, one to Ankara museums and the other to neighboring villages so that we can survey different styles of architecture. The department itself also organizes fieldtrips for the students, particularly for the Intro to Anatolian Archaeology class that is offered for all first year students, although they let people tag along. There is also a student group led by one of the professors that goes hiking to offroad archaeological sites and camps and all that fun stuff. This is so awesome and so much better than the archaeology programs back in the states, especially since we get to actually visit the places that we learn about as opposed to just looking at pictures of them in our text books.

More exciting news. I met with the professor that I'll be working with while I'm here for the semester. It looks like I'll be doing my usual database management for her since she has a whole bunch of paper catalogues of loom weights that absolutely need to be digitized. Unfortunately, since its an old department with a lot of older people in it they haven't really entered into the computer age for all of their cataloguing. So that's what I get to do, use FileMaker Pro and create computerized databases that are more aesthetically pleasing than Excel spreadsheets. The funny thing is that, during my meeting with Prof. Gates (the woman who I'm working for), she found an edition of Filemaker Pro that she had bought back in 1994 during the original push to digitize (look how long that lasted) so it was on a floppy disk and therefore unusable. She said that she would ask around the university for a more up to date version for me to use. Thank god because Excel is not exactly my favorite.

During this meeting Prof. Gates gave me a brief rundown as to how exactly the university system in this country works, which sort of explains some of the bureaucracy of this place. When students apply for college they have to take a college entrance exam, which sounds something like the SAT. However, this test alone determines not only what university they will be attending but also what department they will be in. Students are not allowed to chose their major, their score chooses it for them. Thus, the people with the highest scores are put into majors like computer science and physics etc, while, unfortunately, those with the lowest scores study things like archaeology and other majors that are deemed less important by the government. My dad explained it to me pretty well, that the government wants the best and brightest to be studying things that are more important for the development of the state. It makes me feel a little bad for the students, especially since I entered into college intending to be a molecular toxicology major and switched midway through. Apparently its very difficult to change majors, so if you get selected for computer science you are staying in computer science whether you like it or not. It makes me really appreciate the American university system so much more.

So I guess I should probably give my usual day by day update, especially since yesterday ended up being an...interesting day.

Thursday and Friday school started, as stated before. For the first time in god knows how long I don't have homework the first week of school. In fact, my Museum Practices class was completely canceled this Friday because the professor had a friend visiting. Classes were good, small, and sound really interesting. We'll see how the semester progresses.

Yesterday was when a whole bunch of stuff started happening. Hilla and I decided that we wanted to go see a movie, so we planned to take the school bus to the Sıhhıye stop in downtown Ankara, hop on the subway which would drop us off in front of AnkaMall, which has a huge movie theater inside. However, we missed the stop and ended up having to walk about 1 1/2 kilometers to the metro station. I did manage to order both subway and movie tickets in Turkish and luckily the guys both a) knew that I spoke English and b) spoke English as well so they responded in English. The subway ticket man seemed to be pretty excited about it and asked what movie we were planning on seeing, etc. So we ended up seeing The American which was not good. The plot is slow, there's not much action, and even though it seemed like it had a lot of potential for something really good it just never got there. Again, there was a 10 minute potty break in the middle of the movie while they switched reels, like in Bursa.

After the movie we decided to go back into downtown Ankara to get dinner and then see a live band play in this underground music hall place. When we were waiting for our train, all of a sudden the train on the other side stopped and no trains came for probably about 5 minutes. Then we were told, I think, that in order to go downtown we would have to take a train in the opposite direction and wait at the stop there for another train to come going towards downtown. This all seemed really strange, and then we found out why once we got to that stop. Someone had committed suicide by jumping in front of the subway train and they had shut down the track going towards downtown. However, they did not shut down the track going the opposite direction, so while we were waiting for the other, rerouted train to come and get us, we sat on the platform and you could see some of what had happened underneath the train across from us. Luckily you couldn't see everything, but there was definitely blood all on the track and you could see the guys legs. It was really gruesome. Why they didn't just shut down the entire station, I don't know. Sometimes this place confuses me.

Once we got to downtown we ate at this really good fish restaurant which, although pricey, still wasn't quite as expensive as we thought it was going to be. We were preparing for a 100TL bill, at the very least, to be split between the two of us. Instead, for a huge salad, calamari, sauteed shrimp, and a swordfish kabob that we split between ourselves it was only 71TL. That's 36TL per person, or about $24 with the exchange rate. And to top it all off it was delicious! I hate shrimp and I liked this shrimp. It might also have to do with the fact that it was basically swimming in butter.

After dinner we went to the live music show which was a steal for 10TL. There was a live band which played some cover songs in English, which was nice to sing along to, and we got a beer with the ticket price. Then, before the show, I befriended the sound engineer who was really excited when he heard that I was American and had to tell me all about how he went to a 5 week intensive recording school in Columbus, OH and insisted on showing Hilla and me the sound equipment that he had. He had this really cool record program where the turntable is connected to the computer, and you put on a record that only has data on it, no music, so you can scratch the record and run an MP3 through it. Thus, you don't damage the record itself, and you don't have to keep on buying new ones. It was pretty awesome. And because I thought it was so awesome he bought Hilla and I beers. And then we got to have a table in the place that previously had a reserved sticker on it. Hopefully my befriending the sound guy doesn't end up like my befriending the student guy. He seemed really nice though, and he didn't come and bother me during the show so I hope that's a good sign. And he doesn't know where I live, which is also good.

So all together, a fun/productive week and a half. Much better than the past 2-3 weeks.

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