Before I went to Urfa, I imagined the city – the center of religious pilgrimage in Turkey – to have a very quiet and conservative nightlife. Indeed, a good amount of the population is conservative, I’m sure. Except for the three or four women I saw in full black chadors, though, I saw no outwards sign of religion. Well, except for all the mosques. This didn’t put a damper of the city’s nightlife in the least bit, however.
After a long day seeing sights Friday, I went to a guest house – Türkü Konağı – for an early dinner; I was lured in by their sign claiming to have live music every night. I must have arrived way earlier than any expected customers, though, as all the workers of the hotel were sitting together about to have their own dinner. When I ordered food, they brought me a luke-warm chicken kebab wrap. Not wanting to raise a fuss, but also not wanting to risk eating this – I was warned about food-poisoning in Urfa – I made up an excuse to the waiter and was heading towards to the door when one of the eating workers gestured to an open seat next to me and told me to sit.
Besides seeing the sights of Urfa, I spent a surprising amount of my time in the city also conversing with the locals. Usually, it was just polite pleasantries, although I did have three long drawn out conversations with locals who I believe – for the most part – meant well deep down.
My first such encounter was during lunch on Friday. I was having a small lunch in a cafe at the Balıklıgöl complex when a man came over and sat at my table. At first we were just making chit-chat about what I thought of Urfa and what I was doing in Turkey. Then, very quickly, the man steered the conversation towards how he would love to take me around the province in his car and show me the sights.
It was all okay, he reassured me. He had done the same thing with a couple from the Netherlands that morning, and they loved it! When he still sensed I was hesitant, he pointed towards two men sitting down in the distance. “They’re police officers,” he said. “They’re my friends and we will ask them what they think of me. They will say I’m trustworthy, I know it.”
After we finished lunch and walked over to the men sitting down, they did indeed seem to be off-duty police officers and they did vouch for Yilmaz’s supposed trustworthy credentials. So, I followed Yilmaz to the El-Ruha hotel which was directly outside of the complex; he wanted to show me the hotel since it was built on some ancient caverns that the hotel had turned into dining rooms – it was really cool, and surprisingly swanky.
Never has a city evoked so many varied emotions from me within such an exceptionally small space of time as Şanlıurfa – Glorious Urfa – managed to do this past weekend. The three days I spent there were actually so amazingly eventful, and unexpected in the most peculiar ways, that I will be splitting my experience into three posts. This one will focus on the city of Urfa itself, in all its glory.
I left Malatya for Urfa at 5:30 AM, and I was lucky enough to arrive on a quick intercity bus – made by Mercedes Benz with personal TVs, which I did not take advantage of as I promptly fell back asleep – by around 10:30 in the morning.
Friday Refrain is coming a little late this week. I just got home from my weekend trip to Şanlıurfa, and boy do I have some stories to tell! So, prepare yourself for super entertaining posts for the next week, before it all goes back downhill.
After class on Thursday, one of my students showed me this song and I thought it was amazing – not only do I love trip-hop style music, but it also perfectly captures how exhausted I am after the long road to Urfa and back.
I suppose making mistakes anytime you start doing something new is natural. So, these teaching missteps aren’t so much horror stories – something that’ll make me terrified to ever go in front of a class again – but instead are semi-comic stories I can look back on and hopefully learn from… Or, even more hopefully, continue to laugh about as I have so far.
During my first week of teaching, I quickly realized I did not have enough content and my class was ending way earlier than acceptable – which is saying something, since teachers generally let their students leave an hour early; every class is four hours long. In a desperate bid to try to fill the time, I decided that some competitive rounds of hangman would be best – it would help the students get to know each other, review vocabulary we were working on, and also flesh out the class. After my first class assured me that hangman is also a game in Turkey, I announced to my second class that day that we’d be playing hangman.
With my hopes of going to Antep and Urfa for this weekend crushed, I instead prepared myself for a relaxing solo-weekend around Malatya. I had grand plans of going to the hamam (a Turkish bath), hanging out at Nostalji – a renovated wooden Ottoman house that’s now a cafe – and meeting up with Mehmet for narghile. Unfortunately for Danielle, she also ended up catching a stomach bug so she and Fabio were happy to join in on my plans for a recuperative Saturday in Malatya.
I’ve been spending a lot of time recently – especially this weekend, as I’ve been recovering from food poisoning or stomach flu or something – trying to improve my Turkish. Along the way, I’ve noticed a few really cool things socio-linguistically that I’d like to share.
Turkey was created as a staunchly secular country, although slowly religion has been finding its way into the open more and more – either a good thing, or something terrible, depending on who you ask. This extreme separation of religion and society though has lead to a division in language, enabling someone to “speak like a Muslim.” Continue reading Musings On Turkish→
This weekend I was supposed to go down to Gaziantep, and Urfa, for the weekend. Unfortunately between the exchange of Syrian and Turkish shelling over the past two days and a terrible, sudden, stomach upset I’m instead spending the weekend relaxing in Malatya.
In spirit, though, I’m further down south in Brave Antep and Glorious Urfa.
[quote style=”1″]I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read…
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
-Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
Here are just some quick reflections on the first week teaching, or, as I would call it, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Being Adored.”
At the start of each of my four classes, I told my students “You can address me as Jeremy, Jeremy Bey, or Jeremy Hoca.” This drew lots of laughter from all my students, since a Hoca is supposed to be an older learned scholar… something my students pointed out I wasn’t.
A little bit of Turkish goes a long way in class. Students may complain about how difficult English is, but throwing in just the smallest amount of Turkish – to show that you commiserate in the difficulties of learning another language, as well as showing language learning is possible – convinces them to work a lot harder… Especially when you pretend to not understand anything else they say, so they have to speak in English.
Being a teacher leads to the good life – I’ve never felt so respected and appreciated before. I’ve had students offering me snacks during break time, insisting I walk out a door first, offering to buy me lunch, or pleading to run out to the supermarket to buy me some water during class… Although, for that last one, they may have just wanted an excuse to get away.
Despite State Department officials constantly throwing around the fact that America has something like a 13% approval rating during Turkey, Turks love American things. Playing a free association word game with the prompt, “When I think of America, I think…” you get a lot of fun words I would have never thought Turks would say, such as: Miami Beach, Las Vegas, LA Laker’s, poker, and Michael Jackson are amongst my favorites.
I think that’s all I have time to share for now, but the first week is pretty sweet. Now, I’m off to host fellow Fulbrighters and hike Mount Nemrut tomorrow.
Earlier this week Danielle, Fabio and myself set out on what we assumed would be a short excursion to Sultansuyu Harası on our university rep’s suggestion. What seemed like it would start off as a few hours outside the university quickly spiraled into a long, drawn out day of confusion, and eventually picture taking and fish.
The first sign that things could get tricky was our reps insistence on giving us scavenger hunt directions: i.e. go to Malatya Park Mall, and then call me and receive further instructions. From the mall, we were told to catch a mini-bus to Akçadağ, a good 20 kilometers outside of the city proper – no problem. Getting off the bus is always the hardest part, and we were told to get off the bus once we started seeing horses close to Harra… or something. After that we would be met by his sister-in-law. It’s around here that things get a little hazy.
Gorged from the unexpectedly massive lunch of Turkish kebaps, we made our ways towards the bus stop to catch a minibus towards Battalgazı – the site of Old Malatya, which still contains old Roman walls and other historic artifacts. Our end goal was to see an old Ottoman caravansary as well as an even older Seljuk mosque, Ulu Camii, from the turn of the 13th century. It was on this minibus that we met Mehmet, who was collecting money from passengers to help out his uncle, the driver.