Noah in Turkey: A Month In The Life

Izmir, Turkey

I am writing a couple sentences every day as we move into only speaking Turkish. The adventures of every month have been sometimes busy and exciting, and sometimes equally sparse. This is a sort of ultra realistic blogging approach. not really digestible. Yet not writing it down has left a lot of it to the imagination for you; so here in long form is Ocak 2015:

New Years! January 1, 2015: After a long night with CKAL friends (I’d dined with them at the school dinner of a boat on Dec. 30) that included a mass of cake-pops, rescuing Harry, Mert, four pieces of Baklava, and losing my coat we returned home and slept until 5pm. Followed by a watch of the Interview (an act of political protest) and an analysis of it’s analogous Lord of the Rings subplot we Skyped with my friend at home while eating mail order pizza and home-fries.

Jan 2: Harry stayed over but left early allowing the first family breakfast of the New Year and an incredibly low key day where I watched Interstellar, Skyped a bit, and enjoyed the last of my unlimited computer access. I plan to limit myself to 2 hours a day, including weekends, or Turkish content only starting Jan 5. Last week and until Jan 1 we had no internet at all for a week, so playing catch up was vital before the pledge comes into effect.

Jan 3: Slept until noon, enjoying the New Years Holiday from language and school classes. In the evening my host uncle, or dayI’s birthday was celebrated at a restaurant with the family. He loves space, and having just watched Interstellar I was steeped in Turkish and theoretical physics. AKA down to converse. Later in the evening a host cousin stayed over and we played GTAV.

Jan 4: Writing something everyday will generate a lot of content it looks like. Tomorrow the pledge goes into force. It include the rule I can’t say a single word of English unless the person I am speaking to cannot understand Turkish. This is self imposed with the help of the group, who have mostly joined in. Today we had a late breakfast and went to Urla, toward the edge of Izmir, to visit Elcin’s friends new Patisserie, there we had delicious croissants, biscotti, and Chai. The atmosphere was amazingly French and relaxed as friends and family came by, we discussed attitudes on Turks abroad as well as politics and Ahmet Davutoglu’s personal song had just come out. We bought a lot of tatlIler and at Bratwurst at home.

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Jan 5: A return to routine. Up in the morning and school from 8:30 to 2:45 followed by Tomer from 4 to 6. School is dominated by talk of New Years adventures. No one is talking about the HDP Kurdish party’s decision to run as a party not independents in the election sometime before June. If they don’t get  10% they’re seats go to the AK Party. Risky move. (link) Today is the first day I haven’t spoken a single English word (I defined some vocabulary technically). It’s 11pm now so I think I made it.

Jan 6: Snow came to Izmir today! A dusting of snow came down through the day and on the hills it stuck. Another day of school and I was already exhausted. The days are long and speaking only in Turkish makes it hard to fall asleep for some reason? A female suicide bomber attacked Istanbul in one of the first bombs there in years. No organization has as of yet claimed responsibility but a nearing victory of YPG forces in Kobani could be related. Earlier in the year the protests stemming from Kobani were visible for about three weeks here.

Jan 7: The cold is here to stay and it was negative 5 celsius this evening. Host mom made apple pie and we worked online on several upcoming press events for NSLI-Y. Today was the attack in France, and Turkish people are extra hopeful to express how peaceful Islam is. These people are right, Islam doesn’t create a lot of violence here, politics does.

Jan 8: A late starting day as there was a Religion test and I got a workout in. Went and got a haircut with the host dad and ate some delicious Iskender before a night alone that ended in a food coma.

Jan 9: Walked the dogs this morning and got really tired. The power went out at Tomer after dark but class got out early and we got Tavuk Durum wraps. The attacks today ended in two hostage situations in France as the outpouring for freedom of speech rightly continues i have to make a point: The media here has made a point of not covering the Muslim nature of the attacks. The initial videos of the killers executing a police man were played for hours but were cut from the air as soon as the connections to Yemen and a French terror cell were established. This has elements of press control and censorship that would not be accepted in the U.S.A. It is worrying to say the least the level of control the media has on what people know, even with the internet. The initiative to not only go look at news from other countries not designed for your cultural sensitivities, likely in another language is unappealing. Imagine watching dead U.S. soldiers in the streets but having no coverage of dead Muslims for example (U.S. television does the opposite of this). Much like watching Al-Jazeera or Russia Today in the U.S. the way the opinions confront you, but in amongst the usual cable ambiguities there is valuable analysis on the United States and the world.

Jan 10: Fitness day after family kahvalti I ran an hour and rowed for 30 minutes, followed by lifting. Ata had a soccer game, we are planning to watch Russell Crowe’s new film Son Umut tommorrow. Harry and Brenna came over and we shared stories and talked with Ata in Turkish before working on some concepts for our press work this month. We got some pide and I walked them back to the Izban. I plan to have a midnight bowl of cereal tonight but aspirations end there.

Jan 11: We went for kahvalti with Murat and his friend and had a long political discussion with Ata that spanned the whole day. Ata and I saw the Water Diviner and it was a solid three star film with really amazing cinematography. The editing was done by Turks with emphasis on turkish, so the American version will be different but also worth watching, there’s depth to it.  Still think halftime in movie theatres is good. Ata and I continued the political discussion on the unneccesariness of Imperialism. Then we went to Murat’s grandparents home for dinner and had amazing soup and dolma (from dolmak – to wrap). We stayed a while and had Turksih Ice cream. [Imagine the Acme Ice Co. in Bellingham kinda.]

Jan 12: Absolutely exhausting monday led me to cave and read some magazines in English on my iPod, our Tomer teacher was sick, it rained all day, and I forgot a raincoat. Moral is low but Host mom is on her fourth night duty in a row so I can hardly complain. EuroNews stopped by working on their NSLI-Y feature with Regan who we chose to represent the program for us. I’ll post it here as im in the background some.

Jan 13: Went for an exhilarating morning run, this place is pretty and I hadn’t seen that hour before here. Got Gevrek and breakfast and had a conversation with the street seller. Arriving at school we started watching American History X???? but quickly abandoned that for obvious reasons. Tests are over at school and teachers don’t show up at all.

Jan 14: Another school meal, this time with Chi Kofte’s in three cesitleri ve Erkim’in “mole Cake” with banana layering a banana frosting with chocolate coating. Can’t really explain it in words but this cake was the days highlight along with watching Gattaca and Orphan dubbed in Turkish. They got extremely emotional during Orphan and screaming about what characters should do went to an unprecidentedly high level. I’ll fondly remember the movie though now.

Jan 15: Six people came to school today. Played some basketball. Rumors of new social media blocks grew today following the Jan. 2nd stopping of Turkish (Intelligence Agency [MIT]) trucks carrying weapons on the Syrian border. The courts and media were issued a gag order on Jan 14th after the related court documents leaked from the prosecutors office. The arms were stopped at a checkpoint leading to ISIL territory.

Jan 16: Tomer had a Konusma Exam to check our progress today, so I’m writing after that. Toward the end of the month we will be doing Q&A and presentations on the experience for promotion of studying abroad. Working on editing video and slides now.

Jan 17: Lazy day with an hour run and the viewing of two Nolan Batman films with Turkce Doblaj. Also went to Erkim’s birthday and had a chocolate waffle. Got into some good conversations in Turkish met a bunch of knew people too.

Jan 18: Got up at 12 as it is a day of rest. Also a day of Seahawks playing, at what i think will be 10:30 tonight. I’ll find the result in the morning. We went out to Yakakoy and had a long breakfast with the family from 1 to 4 and the proceeded to ice skate, lord knows I wasn’t prepared but it came back after a while. Watched the Seahawks game and fell asleep in the third quarter in depression before the miraculous turn around. Damn.

Jan 19: Meetings today on the presentations we have to give before the practice livestream tomorrow. Went to the gym and set a new personal sauna record at 17 minutes. I don’t really want to beat that though. I’ve been rowing a lot actually.  Took a long breakfast today and we learned a lot in class -arak, -mayyip here we come.

Jan 20: Headed to school and no one was there so I had a lazy day and watched Cem Yilmaz films like G.O.R.A and A.R.O.G. with Ata. We went to Subway too for the first time in a year or more. Stayed up until 4am to watch the state of the union.

Jan 21: I really don’t understand why anyone would read this far but it’s officially the start of the last two years of Obama’s term today. No one at school again, but an extra learning turkish through drama experience is happening at Tomer before class. 5 1/2 hours there today counts as a tough school day for me.

Jan 22: Lazy day with Ata and friend Boran who came over and DJ’d. Went on a massive 4 hour fitness binge and we are preparing for both our NSLI-Y presentation and the B1 test next Tuesday. All work and no play makes Noah a dull boy.

Jan 23: Still not sure why anyone would read this far. Looking back on the experience as we prepare to present ‘A Day In the Life in Turkey’ (link) writing this ‘Month in the Life’ demonstrates it is really just life. New King of Saudi Arabia today, Salmam is probably going to be about as good as his father, though new Crown Prince, when he ascends the throne may actually have different views.  Today was a half day at school and the last before the 2 week school break! Went bowling with class this morning. Also, Elsa from YES, our sister program, made an awesome video, see if you can spot me:

Jan 24: The first day of break! We have 5 hours of Tomer Mondays and Tuesdays (Pazartesi ve Sali) but are otherwise as free as we are going to get! We had the NSLI-Y online presentation on Turkey today and over 53 computers with who knows how many people tuned in. For more on that: http://nsliy-interactive.org/category/turkish/ Today we had breakfast with the extended family and i unveiled me Turksih as some did not know I’d learned this much. Then did some car shopping with the family and Ata left to Switzerland to go skiing. NSLI-Y forbid me going with him to visit the Turkish family I have there. Here’s the video I made for that: 

WATCH THE WHOLE THING HERE: http://nsliy-interactive.org/2015/01/29/exploring-turkey-as-a-nsli-y-student/

Jan 25: Went to the gym early then we went to the ancient Agora. A site in Izmir which I had somehow not been to yet? We took a detour by KemrAlti and the Bazaar which led to a meal and Turk Kahvesi. After that we headed to the Konak Pier for an excellent…Waffle. With creme, chocolate, caramel, ice cream, kiwi, strawberry, banana, three types of nuts, and more it was real solid. Lots of studying for my exam on the 27th in the evening as well as dinner guests in the newly quiet home. We ate fish cooked in our built in grill, Murat came over and we rounded the evening out with exceeding food, and we ate bal kabagi tatlilar (pumpkin)

Jan 26: First of the break Tomer days. Slept in after a long night. The 5 hours of Tomer means leaving at 12:30 and getting home around 7:45. Say all you want about a ‘free gap year’ but we are grinding. Work is getting done. This evening I’m home alone with the dogs this evening studying and preparing some Norwegian Rice Milk cornflakes.

Jan 27: The test happened and I brought a cake, we ate it. Harry and I stopped and got some durum and i went to bed early. This is brutally honest here.

Jan 28: A beautiful day allowed us to get up late and have a wonderful breakfast. Menemen eggs: like something out of Homeskillet, tomatoes and lightely scrambled eggs. It’s good. We moved to the coast and walked through the Beautiful Bostanli Pazar that happens every Wednesday. There’s alot of photo and video that was taken keep eyes out, I forgot my camera. Buying some dried figs and walnuts, we went to the theater. The film we saw might not show up in the U.S. it was Mucize (miracle) and followed a disabled man find opportunity as a school was built and a village was educated. 9/10. Tavsiye ederim. Then Harry and Brenna came over and we made Turk Kahvesi, at Ice Cream, and talked for some time.

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Jan 29: Watching ‘Birdman’ with the Turkish Doblaj for the first hours of the morning. Woke up at 11 and made myself turk kahvesi followed by an intense squat and push up routine and two hours of Turkish news. Dinner with host mom and a midnight walk with the dogs. sadece dinlendim. I also put my feature on NSLI-Y Interactive: http://nsliy-interactive.org/2015/01/29/exploring-turkey-as-a-nsli-y-student/

Jan 30: After the passing of my host mom Elcin’s kuzeni we went and fetched the elders of the family in our car and went the mosque. Thirty years ago women couldn’t participate in Islamic funerals, but now, in Turkish Islam at least, they can. They stand outside the mosque and don’t participate but say prayers also. The traditions are centered around an altar with the coffin and lines of prayer rugs. Roughly and hour speech in Turkish and half an hour of the Arabic prayers, followed by the allahu akbhar’s even the most ignorant person in the west knows as the conlcution of prayer. I was glad I went and had the experience, to family ‘Başina Sağol olsun’ or ‘Allah rahmet eylesin’ diyebilirsin. Today we sold the Ford and are getting the new Audi soon. We washed the dogs and the Murat and I went to 01 Adana for some individually wrapped Adana Kofte.

Jan 31: Slow day working towards nothing really harry and Brenna came over after i ran and did 300 squats for no real reason. We made amazing grilled chicken wraps and drank chai. I walked the dogs for half an hour at 1am with no leash. It was therapeutic.

Feb 1: The superbowl is happening at 1:30am tonight. I plan have some Turkish friends over and share the magic of nachos. No one can stay that late as busses don’t run, ancak, Fox SPORTS 2 Turkiye broadcasts the game. Çok mutlu ve heyecanlıyım.

Note: The last day of whatever this thing is I’ve created. Maybe I’ll try a weekly version next month, as this is too much. “Never tell me I didn’t blog enough.”

Addendum 12/3: I’m going to go ahead and walk back that promise, I have two big videos on the way and both will be posted the week of March 16 with accompanying text.

– Noah