Saturday, June 28, 2008

Week One

My apologies for not updating the blog since the weekend. It´s been incredibly busy here and most days I´ve been too exhausted to post. I think from here out I´ll have about two posts a week and just have a more digestive approach to everything.

The lessons have been going well, they definitely live up to the term 'intensive'. Not to give the impression they are overbearing, we may have 6 hours of class, but there is a ten minute çay break every hour and an hour and a half lunch break. Simply spending most of my day in the Turkish language, however, is tiring. Eventually I will get used to it, but it is a constant excercize for my brain.

Class aside it has been a very eventful week. We met with consular officials for a briefing at the US Embassy here and got to discuss the political situation as well as other peculiarities of Turkish society. Generally the people there seem to have a warm political opinion of the country in that they are more approving and less suspicious of the ruling AK Party than you might imagine and they also certainly approve of the way we have co-operated with the Turks regarding the PKK. They also, somewhat predictably, side with Turkey (and consequently the Republican Party) on the Armenian Genocide issue in that they believe it is something to be settled by historians, not politicians. Another odd observation for all of you who might think that maybe President Bush is not the real 'decided' in DC, upon entering the embassy there is a wall with the photographs of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Only Cheney´s picture, not Bush´s is at the center of this trifecta! If it were Ms. Rice I might understand, being her branch and all, but Cheney? Why?

Wednesday was an exciting day in Turkey. As I mentioned in the previous post, Turkey reached its first ever semi-final in the Euro Cup football tournament. After thrilling upsets of the Czechs and heavily favored Croatia, a Turkish team weakend heavily by injury and suspensions went up against a stout German team. Surprisingly, Turkey came out strong, taking an early 1-0 lead and peppering the opposing goal incessantly. Even going into the half 1-1 things were looking great. Germany came back stronger in the second half taking a 2-1 lead about two-thirds of the way through. Then, as he has several times already this tournament, Semih Şenturk slipped one carefully into the net to tie it up with less than 5 minutes to play. Sadly a gaffe on the part of near-elderly Turkish back up goalie Ruştu led to a 3-2 defeat with less than two minutes left. The Turks had nothing left. Truly sad, as everyone here was excited to spend tomorrow night in the street to see the final.

Also there was the second part of the three part process that is the Turkish engagement. At first meeting the families met each other for the first time and permission to marry was asked on behalf of the son. At this meeting, a few more family members came and the offer was accepted and rings were exchanged. Typically in more religious families an imam is present here and oversees the proceedings, much the way a priest would insist on meeting the couple prior to a wedding ceremony. However, this family and the bride to be in particular, decided against having the imam come and in his stead the groom to be brought what must have been the oldest living member of his family. This woman, who I would put at no less than 85 years old, was surprisingly lively and gracefully imparted the blessing of the family on the couple while they donned rings that were tied together with ribbon. Truly an interesting process all of this, and I feel honored that I get to witness it. Things now quiet down a bit, the big party, or nişan, will be held in early August.

Tomorrow we are going on a trekking tour about the springs and Roman baths that are outside of the city a ways. On Wednesday we leave for our Black Sea adventure to Trabzon, Rize and Artvin. I´m very excited for this trip, because it is a truly different area of the country, much more diverse demographically as well as being rich in Ottoman and Greek history. On top of all that is looks stunningly beautiful.

That is all for now. Feel free to comment or send a suggestion if there is something you would like me to explain.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Türkiye kazandı!

Wow, it has been a busy weekend indeed. I spent my first night in Ankara willing myself to stay awake to see Turkey beat Croatia in the Euro Cup quarterfinals. Truly an amazing match, a 0-0 tie until the 119th minute when Croatia scored, only to be followed by a goal from Simih two minutes later. This is the first time Turkey has reached the semifinal in Euro Cup. The semi against Germany will be Thursday, I encourage you all to watch it, if you are in the states it will be on ESPN sometime in the late afternoon.

Aside from that my host family and I are getting along swimmingly. It is a single parent household in Çankaya, which is close to downtown. The mother´s name is Firgen Ereş and she has a son, Kansu who is a 22 year old law student who is doing an internship at a nearby practice. Also, Firgen has her brother and his family, wife and 3 year old son, in town from Antalya for the weekend. Last nıght we all had dinner at Firgens Aunts restaurant with two of her cousins, one of whom is about to be engaged. The Turkish engagement is a two part process. Onoe small get together where the father of the husband-to-be asks permission on behalf of his son to marry. This will happen this evening. A month or so from now, there will be a proper engagement party, called nişan, with many more people. While I will be going to tonights festivities, Im afraid I will be on a trip to İstanbul for the nişan.

Class starts tomorrow, so I may not post again until midweek, probably after the match Thursday.