Salem (Hi) from Ankara. I arrived yesterday morning and now that I finally have things to talk about I can actually write a blog post.
I had to wait at the airport to be picked up by Bilkent for just under 8 hours. I personally was fine with it; I found a wifi spot and caught up on a bit of sleep. Unfortunately I attracted the attention of the security guards after about 5 hours and it really freaked me out knowing they were talking about me and profiling me but us not speaking a common language so they couldn’t ask me basic questions about my intentions. Assessing the situation later with a Turkish friend in Britain, apparently everyone is really on edge after the latest violence, so they would be even more suspicious than usual.
When we arrived we were issued with our ID cards, so my photo looks a mess after having not slept for 36 hours and been travelling for almost 24! The four of us that were on the shuttle from the airport (2 Czech, 1 Korean) then went to the shopping mall on the edge of campus for food and basic grocery shopping.
Getting to the mall was long! Bilkent is a small university for British standards in terms of student numbers, but it covers an area of 20km^2. That would be like if Aberystwyth campus went from Old College to Bow Street. I didn’t leave campus and I walked for 35 minutes. It was mad.
I had a realisation in the shops at just what I had let myself in for. I’m a massive fan of cooking, so at home (Aberystwyth) I keep a multitude of different kitchen supplies, from a well-stocked spice cupboard to a dedicated steamer. But I’m only here for 5 months! I can’t build up lots of kitchen stuff. I have to go back to basics again. That’s sad. L I did have fun in the shops, but I need to go back later to buy more, as I could only get so much. It’s so cheap here! I was buying crockery, a wok, food, toiletries etc… and I still only spent about £30.
I’ve been going to various fast food outlets for food since I arrived. (Which in my defence in only 2 meals) I am ashamed to admit I went to KFC last night. But today I went to a kebap shop, but it’s not the ridiculous thing that passes for a kebab in Britain! It was a mound of rice topped with grilled chicken and served with salad. Much better in my opinion.
One thing I noticed fairly quickly was the call to prayer. It’s quite quiet over by my block, but I’m not close to a mosque so it must be really loud over there. Also, the greeting Salem is pronounced the same as Salaam, which means peace in Arabic. I’m really looking forward to noticing the other little Islamic influences on Turkish society – it’s so fascinating. I don’t tend realise the impact of religion of culture when it is Christian influences because I’m desensitised, being around it all the time in Britain.
Today and yesterday reinforced the importance of learning Turkish. Despite being an English speaking campus, other than the students, lecturers and admin staff no-one speaks English. Trying to work out how to find the wifi password when you don’t speak Turkish to ask is fun. I was planning on learning it anyway, but at least this way I will have the chance to practice on a daily basis.
Everything is going fine, but we’ll see how I feel after a week of induction. The days are 9-5.30 with 3.5 hours of Turkish lessons each day. I’m an Interpol student – it’s unlucky for me to have more than two contact hours a day! (If I did I would have had more contact hours this past semester)
So, Hoşçaklin (goodbye) until next week.