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.