Saturday, September 19, 2015

Settling In

September 13-18th, 2015

Merhaba from Antalya!

Today marks the one-week anniversary of being in Antalya! In celebration, this post summarizes this past week that Alex and I have spent settling into what will soon feel like home, inshallah.

Alex and I spent our first two nights at the Social Facilities Hotel, which is located on the Akdeniz University campus. The hotel looks pretty from the outside with its luring pool and grand lobby, but by no means was it a luxury resort. The room accommodations were basic but survivable. It is fair to say that the Niza Park Otel’s pampering had spoiled us. When we checked out of the Social Facilities Hotel on Monday afternoon, the clerk charged us for three nights (even though we spent two nights) at the rate of 110TL/night (even though we anticipated 80TL/night). Despite our room not being cleaned for the two days we spent there, Alex and I decided not to fight this battle.

View of Med. Sea from our apt.
Apartment
The first thing on our to-do list was find housing. We spent all day Sunday looking at apartments in the districts close to the university. Our wonderful university rep, Meltem Hanim, drove and accompanied us to four different flat options, which we had looked up from a popular rental site (similar to Craigslist in the USA). A young man named Samet Bey showed us the first apartment, which was by far the best option: it was located in the Meltem district (yes that's the name of our uni rep and the name of a safe residential district closest our university); came fully furnished, a 3+1 (which means 3 bedrooms, plus 1 living room) and 2 bathrooms; was on the 10th floor of a 15-floor building; had a beautiful view of the Toros Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea; included elevator service; had lots of sunlight and breeze throughout the apartment; and the rent was reasonable (1,250 TL/month). It also included a dishwasher, clothes washer, AC unit in the living room, as well as pots and silverware in the kitchen. The furniture was kind of old, but we don't mind that. The commute to university is 20 minutes by walking, which was an important factor to Alex and me. This was definitely our first choice, but we did look at other apartments to make an informed decision. The other three apartments, while spacious and also fully furnished, were located in a run-down district and appeared to be very far from the university. This made our decision very easy: we called Samet Bey that afternoon and told him we wanted to sigh the lease.

And sign the lease we did. Little did we know that the process would leave us penniless—figuratively and literally. The very next day, on Monday, Alex and I signed two original copies of our rental contract for 9 months. We paid in cash the first month’s rent (1,250TL), a security deposit of equal amount (1,250TL), and a “service fee” which we were not aware of. Samet Bey, who had originally told us that he was showing the house on behalf of his friend, was actually working for a rental company and demanded a commission of equal amount. The sad reality was that that neither Alex nor I had that much money in our wallets. With Meltem as our translator, we negotiated the commission to 1,000TL instead of 1,250TL. Needless to say, we were liquidated of our monetary assets that day.

Meeting Meltem's family at her mom's dinner invitation.
Dinner at Meltem’s Mom’s house
On our second day in Antalya, Sunday evening, our uni rep Meltem invited us to a dinner hosted by her mother. Before going to Meltem’s Mom’s house, we went to Meltem’s house where we met her husband and two lovely boys, Aktur and Dirmir. Meltem served us a pita-like homemade bread and cake with tea. We watched a TV show where girls were judged for their fashion selections for the theme of “retro”. It was a reality TV show, similar to America’s Next Top Model in America.

At about 7p, we drove to Meltem’s Mom’s house. Alex and I brought baklava because we did not want to go empty-handed. We met Meltem’s mother and father as well as her brother and sister-in-law. The family was very kind and generous. The Mom had cooked a feast for us—there was so much food that after trying a little bit of everything upon insistence, Alex and I were full. My favorite dish was curried okra because okra is my favorite vegetable and I love the okra dish in Pakistani cuisine. Although our bellies had given us a final warning, we had to make room for dessert (coconut -dough and baklava), cay, and watermelon that followed the meal. We all sat in the living room and conversed about politics, history, and current events. Hasan (the brother) is passionate about history and I enjoyed hearing a fresh perspective on topics such as American foreign policy and fall of the Ottoman Empire. For example, I was enlightened to learn that nationalism was dogma of World War I, and because the diverse Ottoman Empire lacked a nationalistic identity, it crumbled to pieces. Conversation shifted to places to visit in Turkey, and before we knew it, it was already 10pm. We bid farewell to our generous hosts and promised to invite them to dinner.

Old school phones--at least they work.
Mobile Phones
Alex and I also now have functioning Turkish phone numbers! We had to purchase outdated phones (Hiking brand) and a Turkish SIM card through Avea phone service. People at the phone store were hasty, and I feared they would mix up my phone number with Alex’s or vice versa. The clerks made photocopies of our passports in no particular order, which made me very nervous. I’m a stickler when it comes to these things. And of course, my worst fear came true: in my SIM card, I got a promo SMS with Alex’s name on it, and Alex got a similar SMS with her name on it. So I’m assuming both phones are registered to her? Did the clerk forget to put my name in the system? Ughh, these things bother me so much. *breathe in, breathe out* I decided to drop this battle.

We don’t use our phones much except to communicate with Meltem and the landlord. We don’t have any Turkish friends yet, haha. Our battery is still half full, and it’s been a week already. Texting on these phones is very difficult; we have come a long way with smart phones. Alas, these phones may not be fancy, but they get the job done.

Bank Account
We have opened bank accounts with TEB Bank, which is conveniently located on the university campus. Even though there is no money in the accounts, it’s still a victory to say that the accounts are up and running. Alex and I are counting down to October 15th because that is when we receive our first salaried payment from the university. Woohoo! Maybe we won’t be penniless after all…thank you, Allah!

Groceries
For groceries, there is a small market located under our apartment building, which is very, very convenient. We buy fresh bread and vegetables from there daily. We’ve also done some grocery shopping at the Migros Mall (yes, it’s kind of odd that there is a grocery store inside a big shopping mall). We typically eat lunch out at various university restaurants and grub spots, which means breakfast and dinner are made at home. We are continuously discovering delicious little nooks of food spots around our neighborhood. Perhaps in the future I’ll post a restaurant review for one of my blog posts. Stay tuned if you’re a foodie! 

Walking around on Akdeniz University.
School Registration
Registration at the school took forever. We went to school every day to fill out paperwork, talk to the right people in the hierarchy, and follow the rules of the bureaucracy. Things move very slowly here, and we are seeing it in practice. Although this is little frustrating at times, it is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just different than what we are used to in America. After much walking in the hot weather, numerous consultations with the “right” people, and 100 signatures on various forms, we finally received our university cards on Friday the 18th. Even then, there was a small blooper. They misspelled Alex’s last name as “Pasavalone” instead of “Pasqualone”. Turkish alphabet does not have the letter “Q” but the keyboard does…so we are not quite sure what went wrong. One speculation is that the person producing the card must have misread lower case “q” for an “a” and the “u” for a “v”. In either case, Alex has to wait another two weeks to receive a new card.

Meeting Our Students
During the course of filling out paperwork and walking around the Akdeniz University campus, Alex and I got to interact with some students and conduct a mock “speaking club.” So instead of teaching classes, we learned that our responsibility at Akdeniz University will be to conduct speaking clubs during which we speak English with our students to help them develop confidence in their speaking ability. This is great news because it means less pressure to prepare for a graded class. Our students are university kids who are studying to take entrance exams for master’s programs abroad (which require English) or preparing for a good job. It was so much fun learning about our students—they are a mischievous bunch. 

We spend a lot of time with Asli (L) and Meltem (R).
Kurban Bayram
Good thing we are off all of next week for Kurban Bayram, which is more commonly known as Eid-al-Adha (side note: Eid after Ramadan is called Eid-al-Fitr). Eid-al-Adha holiday commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as an act of submission to God’s command. It is very important to Muslims around the world because it teaches us about the importance of sacrifice for the greater good. On Eid-al-Adha, families typically sacrifice a goat or a cow and divide the meat into three parts; they keep one third for themselves, give one-third to friends and neighbors, and distribute the remaining third to the poor and needy. I’m excited to celebrate “Big Eid” (as children often call it because of the more grand festivities) in a Muslim country with a unique culture.
 
Nightly scene at Konak Kafe.

Konak Kafe
Konak Kafe has become our late-night hang out spot. It’s a neat little café located only two minutes from our apartment building. Alex and I go there every evening to sip on cay and use the free wifi. The café is typically attended by men who smoke hookah and watch football while munching on pub food like grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries, although we have seen university students playing board games and cards as well. Until we learn to play backgammon, Alex and I have been challenging each other at chess—the winner is yours truly.


Miscellaneous
On a not-so-high note, I encountered my first medical emergency in Turkey. I contracted a skin infection on my right thigh. I visited the hospital and got proper treatment, and I am doing much better now. The pain is gone and the wound is healing. My biggest fear of living abroad is getting a disease that would cripple me from fulfilling my responsibilities and goals. I must be careful! I also got a cold this past week, probably from the change in weather, and Alex offered me allergy relief medicine. As partners in crime, we must take care of each other.

Note to Readers
Teşekkür ederim for your loyalty in reading and following my blog. Going forward, my posts will be short, irregular, and sporadic. I will post whenever time, wifi, and energy allows. Güle Güle!
Palm trees everywhere!

1 comment:

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