Moving to Turkey has been a yin and yang experience. On one hand, I’m constantly excited. Turkish food and culture isn’t like anything I’ve experienced. I like the idea that there’s so much for me to explore and learn. On the other hand, I’m exhausted. Moving to a new country is expensive and stressful. This is magnified when you don’t know the language. In France, I was able to get around with my intermediate speaking level and be okay. Here, I basically feel as if I’ve been thrown into a pool of cold water.
One of my first impressions is that things take time in Turkey. My roommates and I have been struggling with everything administrative — getting wifi in our apartment, setting up our bank accounts, getting a cell phone plan, etc. I’m working on staying patient and keeping my expectations low. That seems to be what Turks do, and it works out for them.
So the struggle is definitely real, but this post has to end on a good note, so let me share all the cool things that I had a chance to do.
- My birthday! I turned 23 on Monday, and what a nice birthday it was. One of my roommates and I went to a hammam (a Turkish bathhouse), where we were scrubbed with coffee by old ladies. Something to keep in mind if you ever want to visit a hammam: people only wear underwear. So that means no bras. Being topless felt extremely weird at first, but then I just ran with it, which I’m sure will symbolize my time here in Turkey. Hammams are gender-specific, so you don’t have to worry about being seen by the opposite sex. Trust me: coming out feeling like a new person makes the awkwardness worth it.
On the last day of orientation, four other Fulbrighters and I were surprised with a birthday cake from the commission. Everyone sang for us, and we got to cut the cake with what looked like a samurai sword.
- Also on the last day of orientation, I visited Kocatepe Camii (or Kocatepe Mosque), the largest mosque in Ankara. It looks absolutely breathtaking at night, and we listened to a call to prayer. In Islam, Muslims are called to pray five times a day. The call is projected over speakers and can be heard from virtually anywhere.
- I moved into my apartment on Monday. After a week of searching while balancing a jam-packed orientation schedule, I finally found a place. But doesn’t this balcony view make the stress worth it?
- On Wednesday, I had orientation at my university, along with 7 other Fulbrighters. We are responsible for teaching in the Hazerlik program – a year-long English preparatory course that Turkish college students are required to take. I’m sure we will have our work cut out for us.
Next week is Bayram (or Eid al-Adha in Arabic), a major Muslim holiday, and the university will be closed. You know what that means… Traveling! I’ll be going to Izmir, on the coast of Turkey, and then Greece. Stay tuned to see how my trip goes!