It’s been a week since I returned from my latest adventure and what a week it has been! I spent January 3 – 16 taking a graduate class in Turkey. The class was Intercultural Communication and the cohort included both low-residency students and on campus students alike. It was an interesting group to say the least and many times I felt a little outnumbered by the presence of the on campus people. They were the bigger portion of our cohort and they all knew each other already. There was not a lot of time to get to know them in the way that the low-ressies were able to get to know each other, so for the most part each group remained distinct and stuck to themselves. I got to know a couple of the on campus students pretty well, but really, the two groups self segregated quite a bit.
The course seemed to operate on the premise that it wouldn’t matter much what we did as long as we were in a setting in which we would have to communicate with people from a different culture. This meant that there seemed to be very little correlation between the academic activities that were on our agenda and the actual theme of our course. We were scheduled for a lot of activities that focused on feminism and politics in Turkey, which was interesting, but seemed a little off-topic. Right now I am writing this blog entry instead of finishing my reflection paper and researching for my final paper. Another wise decision for my exhausted conscience to battle.
By far the best and most worthwhile part of the whole experience was staying with my host families. In Istanbul I stayed with a wonderful family on the Asian side…which means I took a lot of ferries and sea buses. I love this mode of transportation. It reminded me of living in Brisbane, which is fitting because as I was enjoying my boat travels, Brisbane began fighting the worst flooding that the city has experienced in decades. I wrote my friends and family there to make sure everyone is alright. Most people live on high ground, so they’re relatively safe from the flooding. This is one major difference that I found in Turkey–everyone reads and watched the news. TV seems to be really important in Turkish culture. In our orientation we were told that it is expected that all family members devote at least 45 minutes to watching TV after dinner with the family. Consequently, I have never felt more informed about World News than I did while I was in Turkey. I was following the Brisbane floods and the shooting in Arizona.
My host family in Istanbul comprised a mom who teaches English at a private school, a dad who is the head of IT for Exxon-Mobil and a 12.5 year-old girl who is one of the smartest and most wonderful girls I have ever met. The all speak perfect English, so I really lucked out for the first part of my stay. The only part that was a little scary was their wildly overprotective German Shepherd, Bond…but as long as I stayed with other family members, he was okay.
The time in Istanbul really flew by and I ended up getting a pretty good feel for the city and how to get around. It only took getting lost a couple of times. Hah. Pretty soon we were all on a bus heading for the country and a village called Gündüzlü. It’s a tiny, little place near the town of Inegöl, which is famous for köfte (as in kofte kebabs) which are really delicious meatballs that, in Turkey, are generally served with fries and yogurt. YUM. My family were dairy farmers and they have six cows–four grown and four babies. We had fresh cheese and yogurt. I drew the line at fresh milk, but Ryan, my roommate, said it was delicious. I had never overcome a language barrier this large before. My Turkish was and still is limited, so there was a lot of pantomiming to get meaning across on both sides. Still, we all found that we were equal to the challenge. Family in the country including a mom, a grandma, a dad, a 23 year old brother, a 17 year old sister and a grandson/nephew who came to stay while his mom was at work. All were super nice, caring and completely determined to fatten me up. The food was incredible. At one point, Ahmet, the dad, showed Ryan and me the bread oven which was outdoors and ceramic and produced the best country sourdough bread EVER. It was amazing!
My sister worked at the textile factory in Inegöl and she gave me all sorts of handmade things, the coolest of which was a pair of pants that the women wear that, for a lack of better comparison, are just like Aladdin pants, but prettier. I have to wash them, but I don’t have Woolite yet.
I’ll hopefully be posting pictures soon, but for now I have to go and finish my work so I can start my day…at 2:00pm.