Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Orientation Day 8: Museum of Anatolian Civilizations & Ankara Castle

Monday, September 7, 2015

First things first, happy Labor Day to those back home in America! Hope you are enjoying the long weekend.

On this side of the world, week 2 of Orientation starts today. After a well-rested free day, I woke up refreshed and ready to start. I ate a healthy breakfast  two boiled eggs, watermelon, wheat bread and butter, simit and Nutella, and orange juice with mint and  my Turkish homework was completed. I was very awake and made the most of the 3 hours of Turkish lessons this morning. Today, we learned to conjugate verbs and answer questions in proper sentence form. I feel as though I have already mastered half the Turkish vocabulary because Turkish is an agglutinating language, which means letters are added onto root words to form meanings. The books we are using are very comprehensive and do a good job of teaching grammar through lots of visuals and colors. I must say, I am thoroughly impressed by the top-notch materials that the Turkish Fulbright Commission has provided us all, including books, CD's, and a dictionary. I am excited to continue learning Turkish when I get to my host university next week. I hear from former Fulbrighters that Akdeniz University in Antalya provides intensive and comprehensive Turkish lessons that Alex and I can take advantage of.

Baklava, famous Turkish delight.
We went out to lunch this afternoon which was a nice change from the hotel food. Not to sound ungrateful, but I'm getting a bit sick of the hotel selections. We ate inside a museum with food catered from Divan restaurant. I feel like we are being treated like foreign dignitaries with fancy tables and fancy food. The four-course meal; creamy tomato soup with croutons and cheese, spring-roll like delights stuffed with vegetables and pastrami meat, grilled chicken and fried potatoes for the main course, and the famous Turkish sweet, baklava, for dessert. I was stuffed!

We then walked over to the "Museum of Anatolian Civilizations," where I got a deeper understanding of the historical peoples that have preceded the present-day Turks. The museum is built on the historical market where tradesmen and their animals would rest before continuing on their journeys. The Ottoman Empire covered the costs of lodging and food for up to three days, and Angora (former name of Ankara) was a major stop on the trade route from east to west and north to south.

Vase depicting ancient wedding festivities.
Anatolia is a land rich with historical settlements and is therefore a popular archaeological site. The tour guide quickly walked us through the history of different civilizations in 20 minutes using an interactive map on a touch-screen. The geographic maps changed as she clicked on these eras: Paleolithic, Neo-Paleolithic, Chalcolithic (copper age), Hittite Empire (unknown where they came from), Phrygians, Assyrians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and of course, Turks. We walked around and marveled at the stone tools and animal paintings made by hunters and gatherers; pottery and statues by sedentary peoples; gold jewelry and coins by civilized communities. Archaeologists and museums around the world envy the vase shown on the left because it pictorially depicts the wedding ceremonies of the ancient peoples.

It was interesting to learn how the ancient people's belief system changed over time. For example, hunters and gatherers worshiped animals because animals were different and stronger than humans. In all the cave paintings that have been discovered, archaeologists found animals to be drawn much, much larger than humans, symbolizing animal superiority. The belief system changed when nomadic tribes began to settle down. The sedentary people idolized plump women statues because they symbolized fertility and prosperity, which was important for the survival of a settled community. This symbol evolved once again, when developed communities worshiped skinny women, and the idea of beauty changed. I find it interesting that women, not men, were worshiped. In today’s patriarchal religions, God, gods, and other idols are often men. I am not sure when that switch happened, but I am curious.

Alex, Amer, and I in front of a souvenir shop.
After a group photo outside the museum, we were given two options; to board the bus and head back to the hotel or tour the citadel (Ankara Castle) and find our own transportation back to the hotel. I’m an adventurous person and I like to seize the moment, so I decided to stay behind with the crowd that wanted to climb to the castle. The path to the Ankara Castle was steep and hilly, but so very beautiful. Along the way, there were houses and souvenir shops, children running up and down the alleys, and astray cats meow-ing at the tourists.

When I finally got to the top of the Castle, I was blown away. It was so breathtaking! I don’t know how to describe in words the feeling I had when I saw the entire city of Ankara below me. I was hundreds of feet above ground. I felt like I was on top of the world. And I felt so liberated, free, and happy. In the United States and Guatemala, I have been to really high places, such as monuments and structures that give a fantastic city view, but all of those structures have some sort of protection, either metal bars or glass windows. But on this castle, there was nothing guarding me from the edge. I could take the leap and fall, if I wanted. I could just sit and stare at the red roofs below me. I could stand and stare at the depths of the landscape in front of me. I could do anything a free spirit desired. There was a beautiful breeze that not only weaved through my hair, but also filled my soul like air filling a balloon. I felt at ease.

Here is a short video and some photos I took so you can vicariously experience what I saw on top of the Ankara Castle.

Fulbrighters sitting and enjoying the beautiful city view of Ankara.
With Michael and Alex on top of the Castle with city view in the back.

I was brave enough to sit on the edge of the Castle for this picture.
I felt like I was on top of the world.

Turkish hospitality: çai with two random Turkish ladies.
We then ran into two lovely ladies, with whom we experienced our first Turkish hospitality. They invited us to çai and we practiced our what little Turkish we had learned from our lessons. Despite not being able to understand every Turkish word they were saying, we could understand what they were trying to convey through their body language and facial expressions. The language of humanity is so beautiful—who needs words when you can survive on sounds and gestures? I learned that one lady was from Germany visiting her Turkish friend in Ankara. They showed us photos of their family on their phones, and asked about each of us—where we came from, how old we were, what we were doing in Turkey, how we liked Turkey, etc. As the sun began to set, we attempted once again to walk down the alleyway toward the taxis.

Four girls and I shared a taxi back to the hotel, which means Alex was sitting on the lap of one of the girls sitting in the back. I called the front seat first so I had the pleasure of buckling up my seat belt. Regardless of the seating arrangement, however, all of us engaged with the taxi driver and we experienced our second hospitality of the day. The man was probably in his late 30s or early 40s, very warm, and made all of us laugh. We used the same phrases we had used earlier. When he asked where we needed to go, Alex blurted out “Gule Gule Park” and the man broke out into laughter because “Güle Güle” in Turkish means ‘Goodbye’ and the park near our hotel is actually called Kuğulu Park. Before reaching the hotel, the man placed his right hand over his heart and said in Turkish which I believe was something to this extent of: “No matter where you are from, what is in the heart matters the most.”

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