Thursday, September 20, 2007

virtual overview of my first day of teaching.


waking up & getting "professional" at 7am with my roommate laura. . .

and leaving the beautifully-painted dorm i'm temporarily living in:

for the bus to my east-campus BUSEL teaching-unit-room (note my desk in the lower right-hand corner! looks like. . .a desk.)

and then my classroom!!! - just before it was filled with my first ever pre-college "intermediate" BUSEL students. . .

and finally. . .afterwards. . .seeking refuge in my beloved main-campus library to hole up and read about new media theory and the history of digital technology.

I started taking two graduate classes this week: "Theory and Method in Media, Visual and Cultural Studies" and "Body, Movement and Vision in Immersive and Interactive Media 1." They both seem as potentially wonderful/chaotically interdisciplinary/borderline -unorganized as they sound; so far the readings are great. i'm gonna write a paper with hypertext and i'm kicking myself for not learning (at least) HTML (yet?), but TURKISH classes start next week and i've only got time for one language (if that!)

also, my official work address:

N Building
BUSEL School of English Language
Bilkent Üniversite
Bilkent, Ankara 06800

my first day of teaching was a bit frazzled around the edges but - still encouraging. tomorrow i'm teaching 7 straight hours so another report will soon follow - - - !

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Why be seduced by something as small as a front door in another country? Why fall in love with a place because it has trams and its people seldom have curtains in their homes? However absurd the intense reactions provoked by such a small (and mute) foreign element may seem, the pattern is at least familiar from personal life. There too we may find ourself anchoring emotions of love to the way a person butters bread or turning against them because of their taste in shoes. To condemn ourselves for these minute concerns is to ignore how rich in meaning details may be. . .

In the more fugitive, trivial association of the word exotic, the charm of a foreign place arises from the simple idea of novelty and change: from finding camels where at home there had been horses; from finding unadorned apartment buildings where at home they had been pillars. But there may be a more profound pleasure: we may value foreign elements not only because they are new, but because they seem to accord more faithfully with our identity and commitments than anything our homeland could provide. . .

What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home."

- Alain de Botton writing of Amsterdam and Egypt in "On the Exotic" from The Art of Travel, which I highly recommend.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

i'm into this video. ("Reverse Graffiti : Graffiti ao contrário" - nothing to do with turkey.)

a few new things i'm experiencing for the first time in my life:

- growing out/dealing with longer hair (this is a bigger deal than one might think)

- exercising with a rowing machine

- actually, really attempting to exercise/jog regularly

- really feeling the significance/difference of my (culturally american?) individualistic mindset, particularly in regards to gender performance and specifically amongst my mostly female co-workers

- TEXT MESSAGING allthetime

- feeling uncomfortable/embarrassed of my body/lack of "turkish" style, especially while wandering around the super-cool kızılay area of ankara (i don't even wanna think about istanbul)

- grocery shopping as a weekly highlight. . .

- . . .and developing a soda-water-habit (which i just recently "got" after being puzzled my whole life over the whole carbonated water thing) - - - especially cherry-flavored. and also getting good at opening bottles without bottle openers.

classes start tomorrow. . .and teaching officially begins thursday!

Monday, September 10, 2007

pomegranates grow on trees (!?)

merhaba from (the wireless zone along the sidewalk of) my new location on bilkent university's campus: a slight downgrade to a tiny dorm room shared with fellow-fulbrighter-laura and surrounded by international undergrads. the dorm i had been living in was needed for students but the apartment building i'm supposed to move into isn't built yet; from the looks of it, i doubt it will be ready for at least a month (or few.) most BUSEL interns got put in fancy faculty apartments, , ,but a few of us are mysteriously out here with a communal pots-and-pans-less kitchen. . .no internet. . .or english-speakers. . .or elevators to move our stuff to the third floor! the good side to all this is that we'll have ample opportunities to practice our turkish and hopefully make some friends (i got offered hazelnuts in the laundry room today) AND: i have the top half of a bunk bed, which i love. i just hope none of my soon-to-be-students see me struggling with the endless embarrassingly difficult domestic tasks i face daily: can i borrow your pot? how do i get the stove to turn on? why isn't the water boiling? wait, how do i cook brussels sprouts anyway??? (why did i buy them in the first place?!)

just before the move i had a 6-day vacation for which i pretty much cashed out the majority of my salary so far and took a sleeper train south to izmir. the ride was an adventure in itself since i cluelessly booked myself into an all-male, painfully-slow, smoking 6-bed (but super cheap!) car and spent the entire 17-hour ride trying to appropriately respond to phone number requests/doting comments/beer invitations from the middle-aged passengers around me (who all, consequently, smelled fowl, snored loudly, kept the windows closed, and walked around in their underwear all night!) despite being terrified from the start of the CAR he rented for the trip - turkey has a high motor vehicle accident rate - i was extremely happy to meet up with my childhood-friend bryan at the train station and begin our trip around western anatolia/mediterranean.

after a quick meal in izmir we were off for ephesus to look at the ruins of an ancient ionian greek city (not to mention the ever-entertaining crowds of tourists and cats slinking around.)

lots of huge, well-preserved structures like this famous roman celsus library. things were especially beautiful in the orange afternoon-sunlight. afterwards we settled into a little backpacker-heaven called atilla's getaway with a nice pool, garden, and hammocks. . .had some much-needed beer and ice cream before trying to sleep alongside the all-night party going on with the backpacker clan outside our door, amazingly too tired to join in.

afrodisias was our first stop the next day - more ruins but spread out across a larger space and far fewer tourists. there was also a museum with great sculptures.

and POMEGRANATES on trees!!!! pomegranates hold a special place in my heart (a totem fruit, perhaps?) so this was actually quite exciting. sheesh.

we then took the longer-drive-than-expected to pamukkale (literally "cotton castle"), a semi-insane geological curiosity aptly described by wikipedia as "thick white layers of limestone and travertine cascading down the mountain slope resembling a frozen waterfall" with ruins at the top. we were greeted by an eager hostel owner who literally escorted us to his cozy house via moterbike, checked in, and drove up the mountain to wander around as the sun set.

low-quality semi-panorama of the upper pamukkale pools:

although the pools are now dirty and filled with bacteria as a result of mismanaged tourism, the whole ordeal was still amazingly beautiful. the pristine sunset played off the white mountainside as the reflections in the pools went from blue to orange to red to purple with the sky; as night fell we watched a meteor shower above.

you can find lots of pictures of pamukkale online - and endless caravans of tour buses headed there throughout turkey. having a car was a definite advantage here - we were able to
stay well after dark and pretty much had the place to ourselves.

the next morning we were off on the day-long drive to adrasan, a more remote, sandy beach just over a mountain from the insanely crowded backpacker-haven of olimpos - again, accessibly only by car. we spent a night on the beach watching more shooting stars, followed by a relaxing day swimming in the warm, salty, turquoise-blue mediterranean sea.

in the afternoon we drove over to olimpos to wander around the jungle-like ruins, hang around the beach, and climb a fort to enjoy the gorgeous view.

the ruins were tangled up in trees reminded me a little of angkor wat, although much less spectacular. still, there were secrets to be found: stone path-ways, ancient churches, castles, mosaics, and rivers with clear, beautiful water. afterwards we trudged back to the littered, well-worn path to the "tree house" backpacking village of olimpos (not-so-eerily reminiscent of thai backpacking culture) where round-the-world backpackers come to drop out for a few weeks in a summer camp-like setting. after some debate we decided to stay the night and ended up in the same tree house camp as several others from the BUSEL intern program (AHHH!!!) and one of them finally taught me how to play backgammon.

that night bryan and i hopped in a crowded van for quick drive and a dark 20-minute hike to see chimaera, an amazing centralia-esque mountain burning with a dozen or so eternal flames as a mysterious result of natural gas reacting to oxygen, providing the reason for nearby greeks fire-god-worship. the flames were just seeping out of holes in rocks; if snuffed out, they'd just start up again. the stars were very bright at the top of the mountain as well. the stuff of legends (literally.)

the night ended back in olimpos at the ubiquitous ORANGE CLUB disco for a few hours of dancing to terrible music late into the night with some of the BUSEL interns. always fun. :)

the next morning bryan and i drove off to antalya where our planned excursion to a hamam was foiled after getting hopelessly lost. after a valiant effort, bryan finally dropped me off in the afternoon so he could drive back to the west coast to catch his flight to new york. i had the rest of the day before my midnight bus ride back to ankara, so i went to the antalya museum and was surprised to find one of the best museums i have EVER been to, featuring lots of beautifully-lit sculptures. . .

. . .many passive-aggressive jabs at the international antiquity market such as this display lamenting the US's refusal to return the upper-half of this poor guy's body. . .

and the relics (i.e. JAWBONE) of st. nicholas (i.e. SANTA CLAUS!!!) who was totally from turkey. and real.

i spent the rest of the evening enjoying the beautiful mountains, wandering through the old city among re-constructed traditional ottoman homes, sitting by the marina, and daydreaming about what i imagine san francisco must be like. eventually i took a public bus to the bus station, a fancy overnight bus to ankara, and a dolmuş (literally "stuffed" and a lot of fun to ride!) back to bilkent. where i was exausted & still had to pack + carry all my stuff to the new dorm. and here i am!

today i joined my "teaching unit," got a desk, and started preparing for actual-teaching. although i'm constantly lamenting my college-esque experience out here with dozens of americans, tonight i met another fulbright ETA at a different turkish university (METU, the university i requested actually) who was distraught - she was a lone foreigner, had no one helping her with finding an apartment, was staying in the living room of a random american she met and claims to be resented/ignored by her teaching department. so maybe i'm lucky to be on this end of the extreme.

i also attended a meeting with the rector of the university who said he started the whole BUSEL intern program because his son applied to teach english in China via the Princeton in Asia program (after graduating from Princeton) and was so amazed his son was willing to go teaching in the middle of nowhere for very little money that, hey - turkey can beat that - and throw in some extra perks (grad classes, a major city, and, theoretically at least, nice apts) to boot! he's right, since i came very close to doing the exact same program (in taiwan) until i heard about the fulbright offer. despite my frustrations, this is an excellent program. the rector says they hope to majorly expand their recruitment next year, so if anyone's interested in applying let me know.

if you're interested in more photos, visit my flickr page - you can either view then all "as a slideshow" (upper-right hand corner) or click on the "Western Anatolia / Mediterranean Trip" collection (just below the slideshow option) to see them (hastily) labeled and organized by location.

you can also check out the new york time's recent take on cappadocia - they've got much better pictures but terrible hotel advice!