Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Combobulated Schedule

Week of October 4-11, 2015

This week felt like someone had slowed the time. It was painfully long. Because we still do not have our formal teaching schedules (we are promised we will have them on Monday the 12th), everything felt like a mumble jumble this week.

On Monday, we arrived to school at our usual 10am start time, were told that there is nothing for us to teach that morning, and that we should check back in at 1:30p. The administrator had forgotten he scheduled a meeting with us, so when he arrived at 1:45p, he apologized and told us we were free for the rest of the day. We were disappointed and decided to make good use of our time anyway; we held a speaking club with our graduate students while drinking cay.

On Tuesday, we proctored a two-hour English placement exam and watched university students nervously bubble in answers on a scantron sheet. This experience reminded me of the time I took the SAT college entrance exam—if I must be honest, it is much better to be on the other side of the table.

On Wednesday, Alex and I co-taught level 1 English students for three consecutive hours. We taught them prepositions; allowed them to practice speaking English (“My favorite subject is ____ because____”); and played the adjective-name game while standing in a circle (marvelous Mariya, amazing Alex, hardworking Hamza, awesome Ayesha). We checked in with the administration that afternoon to ask if they had another task for us, and what we should expect for Thursday. “Also, do you know when we can start our Turkish lessons,” I asked. The assistant director made a phone call, and then turned to us and said: “Tomorrow, 8:30am. For five hours.” Ask and you shall receive!

Turkish 'alfabe' has 29 letters.
As such, on Thursday and Friday, we had Turkish lessons from 8:30am to 1:30pm, with 10-minute breaks every 50 minutes. We learned the alfabe and sayılar (numbers). There are 29 letters in the Turkish alphabet—instead of “Q,” “W,” or “X,” it has “Ç” (ch), Ğ (silent g, elongates the vowel preceding it), I (without the dot), Ö, Ş (sh), an Ü. We also learned how to introduce ourselves and how to turn singular nouns into plural tense.

One of the things that make Turkish a beautiful language is vowel harmony, the concept that front vowels (a, ı, o, u) and back vowels (e, i, ö, ü) must go with certain sounds, which in turn dictates spelling. What’s more, Turkish truly is a blend of many cultures—it has loanwords from French, English, Farsi, Arabic, and more. My ears perk up every time I hear a word that is the same in Urdu, such as ayna (mirror), kismat (fate), and nokta (dot, period). My list of “Turkish Words Same in Urdu” has already grown to 20.

One of the most important skills I am practicing here in Turkey is patience. I am trying to ask the school administration to end my Fulbright contract two weeks earlier than the slated date (June 15th) so that I can come back to the States in time to start my internship with the U.S. State Department. While I have received verbal permission, I am still waiting for a written confirmation. It has been three weeks, and still no sight of the document I need. I am getting a bit anxious but like I said, I am staying patient.

Last but not least, on Friday, there were two bombings in Ankara at a Kurdish peace rally that killed nearly 100 people. I was overwhelmed by the text messages, Facebook messages, and emails I received from family and friends asking about my safety. Alhamdulillah Alex and I are safe, and so are our peers who are placed in Ankara. This incident was an important reminder that dangerous things can happen anywhere, and the advice from our State Department officials at Orientation rang true: avoid all public demonstrations and rallies. Personally, the incident gave me renewed perspective. In Boston, I used to read about these world events every morning on my 40-minute commute to work every morning. The headlines about bombings and people dying appeared to be “far away” and “over there in the Middle East.” Now that I am on the other side of the world, these events feel closer to me. And that is a scary thought. 

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