One of the special components of the McGhee program is the opportunity to participate in different options for Community-Based Learning (CBL) while you’re abroad. It’s an integral part of the experience because it allows you to get involved with the community and interact with the beautiful city and people of Alanya—whether it’s helping to plant a flowerbed at the waterfront or assisting special needs adults with a crafts workshop.
This semester, I signed up to help teach English at a local middle school in Alanya for my CBL. On Friday morning, we got a ride over to the school in the morning, where we met up with Mehmet Bey, who teaches us Turkish twice a week but also is a regular English teacher at the middle school. When we arrived, he gave us the basic run-down of the plan as we sipped cups of çay—first we’d help out with the seventh graders, then we’d go help out with the eighth graders.
We soon made our way up to the seventh grade classroom, being mobbed by students along the way who kept wanting to show off their English to us—“Hello! How are you! What’s your name!”
We introduced ourselves to the class, and then sat down with a group of students to help them go through the lesson. After so many years of language classes, I’ve always wondered how strange our conversations and readings must sound to native speakers. And so, it was a lot of fun to re-enact a dialogue with Amanda on the topic for the day as Sam and Pam. It went somewhere along the lines of this:
Sam: Hello, Pam! Let me see your palm.
Pam: Why do you want to see my palm?
Sam: I am studying palmistry. Palmistry can tell you about your personality and traits by reading the lines on your palm.
Pam: How does it work?
Sam: For example, you have strong lines on your palm, which means you must be optimistic.
Pam: I don’t believe it, but I need to go to the cinema at 4 o’clock.
Sam: Okay. Good bye!
I have no idea why Unit 1 of their textbooks includes a lesson on palmistry of all things—and I’m not quite sure any of the students understood what was going on—but it made for a very entertaining lesson.
After our lesson with the seventh graders, there was time for recess, so we went outside to join the rest of the kids. It was almost like we were celebrities—everywhere we went the kids would point at us, and then mob us with questions about what our names were and where we were from.
We then went to the eighth grade lesson, where Mehmet Bey handed us the textbook and told us what pages he wanted to go over today. And so, I somehow ended up leading the class through an impromptu lesson on the vocabulary for character traits.
This time, the passage was an email from a girl to her friend back home about her new friends in London—“Let me tell you about Elaine. She is very rude and inconsiderate. I wish I had a true friend like you.” After reading it several times and going over the assigned questions, we worked on the pronunciation of some particularly difficult words: honest, punctual, ambitious, generous, etc. (Turkish is written phonetically, with 29 letters and 29 sounds—unfortunately, English isn’t quite as straightforward.)
We had some time to read for class before getting ready for our reception that night. Every year, the McGhee Center hosts a huge reception for members of the Alanya community—host families, the mayor, and even the governor! It was hosted on this outdoor lawn, right next to Cleopatra Beach, with a huge buffet laid out for all of the guests. My host family came, so I was able to hang out with my host sister Müge and her friend Dilara, who is Mara’s host sister.
Afterwards, Müge and Dilara wanted to take us out to some places in Alanya. So, after the reception, we walked down to the waterfront near the Red Tower to listen to the free jazz festival that’s going on this weekend.
After watching the concert for a bit, we then played UNO for an hour or so at this café nearby, which has a huge collection of board games and cards that you can choose from.
By midnight, we finally headed over to Harry’s, a bar on the main strip that plays live music on the nights. We had a wonderful time listening to the band, who played all kinds of American rock and had an absolutely gifted lead singer.
I can’t name a better way to top off a Friday night than jumping onto the dance floor with Mara singing every word to “I Will Survive.”
On another note, I’ve updated Georgetown’s OIP blog with a summary of my time in Turkey so far:
The dance group took us backstage, and dressed us in elaborate costumes that represented traditional garb from various regions in Turkey. Our instructions? “Just follow what we do.”
And so, the nine of us took the stage along with our professional friends, clumsily walking and clapping with the beat as we acted out a traditional wedding ceremony. I’m pretty sure our Turkish audience was quite bewildered why a group of clumsy Americans were also included in the show that night. (We were too.)