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.