Thursday, September 3, 2015

Orientation Day 4: Atatürk Mausoleum & More Turkish

Thursday, September 3, 2015

With Alex in front of the mausoleum.

Today's agenda began with a trip to the Mausoleumof Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the highly revered founder of Turkey. The word "Atatürk literally means the "father of Turks" and no one in the country can ever posses that surname; not even his sister was allowed to take it on. Like most founders of countries, prior to becoming a highly esteemed leader of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Pasha was an army general and war hero. The mausoleum/museum covers 700 square meters which includes a Peace Park. It was really amazing to see how much Turks honor this great man, who was also a well-known international figure. I have read about Atatürk the Great only in history books, but experiencing the mausoleum was surreal and enriching. 
In front of one of the many portraits of Atatürk.
After seeing the mausoleum where Atatürk's tomb is buried and guarded by two soldiers who are required to stand still for 4 hours at a time (they can die, but if they move, there are huge ramifications), we proceeded to the underground museum. I am a history buff and I loved all the historical facts that the tour guide was sharing with us. For the first section of the museum, cameras and videos were forbidden. In this special hallway,  portraits of Atatürk from his presidency lined on the right hand side while personal belongings and special gifts from foreign leaders were displayed on the left. A personal belonging that I found particularly interesting was a side-by-side comparison of Atatürk's old passport in Arabic (from the Ottoman Empire) and a new passport in Turkish (derived from the Latin alphabet). Gifts such as swords, pens, cigar boxes, and smoking pipes decorated in jewels and gold were an awe-inspiring sight.

Atatürk introduced Latin alphabet for modern Turkish.
The second section of the museum was filled with 3-D panoramas of famous battles, portraits of all the past leaders of Turkey, sculptures, a library, and numerous exhibits describing Turkish history and Atatürk's reforms of modernization. I didn't have enough time to read through all the captivating artifacts and historical documents, but I was and still am the most fascinated by how Atatürk was able to, overnight, change the language of a nation that was used to a particular way of speaking, writing, and communicating for centuries. "Overnight" is an exaggeration of course, but the new Latin alphabet, introduced in 1928 thereby abolishing the Arabic script, was implemented in a matter of only 2-5 years. Two to five years. That's unbelievable, and my mind my blown just thinking about that fact alone. The tour guide said that this reform helped resolve the literacy problem in Turkey; literacy rate jumped from 10% to 70% and the adaption of the new alphabet was very quick. Still, can you imagine if President Obama tried to solve the American "literary problem" by adopting a new alphabet (that he handpicks) and imposes it on the entire nation? It's mind blowing.

Role of women during the war for freedom.
There were many beautiful paintings decorated throughout the museum. The one showcasing the role of women during war and battles was one of my favorite ones because it brought attention to the important role that women play during wartime, which is often neglected and unrecognized (universally true). In this painting, you can see the colorful clothing that women are wearing (very similar to Pakistani salwar kameez) and a day at the local shop.

After a lunch break, we had a session on the responsibilities of an ETA and how to make English teaching fun in the classroom. Then we plunged into three hours of Turkish lessons. Today I learned numbers, singular/plural tenses of nouns, and practiced more basic dialogues such as "Hi my name is Mariya, what's yours? How are you? How old are you? Where are you from?" I made the class giggle when I accidentally responded with a "si" (Spanish word for yes) to the teacher's question. I did this again later in the classroom when I was struggling to come up with a phrase and I turned to my teacher and said "Como se dice?" ("How do you say ____" in Spanish). My brain is trying to make sense the linguistic interaction between Urdu, Spanish, English, and Arabic. This means I'll either learn Turkish really fast or I will fail at it because there's too much mumble jumble in my head. Only one way to find out: HOMEWORK! Off I go.

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