I like to get up early enough to sit in our living room and appreciate how the light streams through the cloud cover in the mornings, spotlighting different parts of the city from up above. I usually take some time to scan the headlines, check my email, and catch up with my family back home.
After a shower, I head downstairs to the common area, where a delightful woman named Urman always puts out a spread of different kinds of Turkish breads, pastries, fruit, honey, chocolate hazelnut spread, and peanut butter for us to choose from. She’s also shown me how to microwave my simit to eat it warm, and she usually hands me another kind of pastry or bread so I don’t miss what’s fresh for that day. I then pour myself a cup of kahve (coffee) or çay (tea, pronounced like “chai”) and head back upstairs with my plate and mug.
This morning, I sip on my kahve as I mindlessly browse Facebook, then turn back to browsing the New York Times. It’s raining this Thursday morning, which might otherwise be gloomy if I was a tourist here on vacation, but otherwise makes it incredibly pleasant to stay inside all day for classes.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a class in the morning period, from 9 to 12 noon. Today, it was the first meeting of my economics class on the Political Economy of the Turkish Republic, where Steve gave us an introductory overview of 19th century Ottoman history to set the stage for the rest of the semester. For most of the class, we’ll be discussing the effects of political events in the 20th century on the Turkish economy. In general, my classes are small. There is a total of nine Georgetown students on the trip, and we’re each required to take four out of the six classes offered in addition to Turkish. My class this morning was one of the largest: seven students.
The little classroom set up in the bottom floor of the lojman. (The McGhee Villa needs restoration work, so we’re unable to take our classes there this semester. Although, this way we get the benefit of waking up 5 minutes before class and still making it in time.)
We got out slightly early, so I had some time to work on reading before lunch at 12. For lunch, it’s a short walk to a tiny restaurant down the road. The McGhee staff have worked with the woman who cooks there to plan out a variety of different dishes for lunch each day. On the first day, we got to sample a lavish spread for breakfast of all different types of jams; today, it was a kind of lentil soup, rice, salad, and köfte (meatballs).
After lunch, I usually have a small break before my afternoon class begins at 1:30. My afternoon classes meet twice a week for 90 minutes––today, we talked about the history of veiling in my theology class on “The State and the Veil,” which will compare veiling practices in various countries around the world.
Then, every day, we all have our Beginning Turkish class from 4 to 6 p.m., where we’re currently learning how to say basic phrases (how to say hello, good bye, thank you, sorry) as well as form basic sentences. (Ben Amerikaliyim!)
So far, we’ve been trying different restaurants each day for dinner, so we can then choose what we want our schedule and rotation of restaurants to be for the following months. This first week, we ate a wonderful buffet of all types of salads at a hotel down the hill, sliced open fresh fish from the restaurant down the road, and took our pick from a traditional Turkish kitchen. Today, we ate at a special restaurant called “Old House,” where the cook, “Uncle Charlie” as he told us to call him, puts together a new fixed menu each day based on what he finds at the market.
After dinner, we usually hang out in one of the living rooms of the apartments or work on reading. Our days are busy, but honestly, it’s nice to finally be able to settle into a routine.