Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Fishy Day on Sakarya Caddesi

Let's Escape!

I awoke last Saturday and begged Umit to let me escape from the protected enclave of Bilkent University campus and travel to downtown Ankara. "Let's tour the fish stands in Sakarya and have a great lunch," she responded. So...... we took a Bilkent bus (it was free) downtown, then boarded the Metro for a 15 minute ride. We emerged to the bustling neighborhood of Sakarya.

Some of the unhappy fish in Sakarya

This Could Be New York

                                                                                      Simmitz are so good!

Immediately I heard the sound of street vendors and shop owners shouting, trying to attract customers. The fish stands were the flashiest, with a myriad of unhappy fish lined up like little soldiers for the crowds. I  pressed my camera into action, a relatively small Olympus DSLR. Another man handled little pieces of pistrami, heard me speaking English, and yelled "Come taste, come taste." Another was selling simmitz, Turkey's version of sesame covered bagels, which looked delicious. This could easily have been Delancey Street in NYC, complete with the selling of bagels and yelling vendors, except that the "bagels" in Turkey are much better -- sorry New York!

Karanfil Sokak

We also walked around Karanfil Sokak, which is nearby, an area of many book stores and students sitting out in cafes, smoking and drinking coffee, or arguing about politics. Every once in a while a small demonstration would take place, people starting to yell slogans in small groups.  Some looked on, others ignored what was happening. I also could not help noticing a gathering of police dressed in riot gear standing nearby.  (It was at this point that I decided to put my camera away). However, the atmosphere was  relaxed.  Umit pointed out that this area is a favorite for demonstrations.  None of this seemed to stop anyone from shopping, eating and having a good time.

Are You Looking at Me??   Kumsal Restaurant

 Kumsal Restaurant, a second-floor restaurant in Sakarya, is a well-known place.  Inside the atmosphere is fairly simple but the food is spectacular.  In Turkey often the waiter will bring you the fish before it is cooked for your approval, which our waiter did.  Turkey enjoys fresh fish from the Black Sea and Sakarya orders it every afternoon for delivery by truck the next day.  And of course, no Turkish meal would be complete without small dishes (messa) including salad.

Turkish food is so healthy

Stay tuned for our next excursion.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Return of Puffy

Puffy, also known around Ankara cat circles as the "boss of bosses" and "the blob," made her triumphal return to our flat (apartment) at Bilkent University. Gone for two years, thanks to Umit's extended trip to the United States -- Binghamton University, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson Center -- she needed about five minutes to get used to her old place.

Inbetween eating, Puffy spends her time sleeping on various window sills and occasionally, during rare moments when she is awake, checking out the black and white crows that mockingly fly by. Then a little stretch, a yawn, and it's back to sleep. All in a day's hard work!

The students in my Communication's class are brightening my life here. They have all created their own blogs, and are indeed quite "creative." Their blogs are where they post their assignments, for all to see and comment on. I think the best way to learn about new media is to jump in and start, and they all have.

Thanks to the Internet, I don't miss the states at all. I stayed up to 5 a.m. and watched the Super Bowl online on (for a fee) and Skype is letting me call anywhere in the states for practically nothing (.017 euros per minute!). My complaints are minor: no large drug stores (Europe has only tiny pharmacies), commercials in the middle of movies (intermission), and no objective, non-opinionated newspaper (but there are several in English). Apart from those items, it's hard to tell that I am not on a college campus in Akron, Ohio. My students seem just like students everywhere, except perhaps here in Turkey they dress up more.

A bird just flew by my desk window and Puffy almost fell off her perch. Poor thing, she's probably exhausted now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Settled Finally in Turkey

Turkey is an amazingly interesting country located at the crossroads of the Middle East and Europe. After three weeks of living here, the stereotypes us Americans adhere to about other countries fade rapidly. Turkey is decidedly, almost fanatically, modern, as can be seen in its shopping malls and apartment towers, prevalence of stylish Western-dressed population, universities, transportation systems and outlook on the world. It also has its own highly distinct culture of traditions, including hospitality, food and music, a language like no other and a thousand years of history visible especially in Istanbul and the anceint ruins that dot the country.

Thanks to the Internet -- and particularly Skype, Facebook, Blogger, Email,, . etc - I am completely in touch with the states, just 7 to 10 hours ahead. Last night I yelled "Sawyer" while on Skype and saw my daughter's Golden Retriever perk up his ears and turn his head 8000 miles away in California. Skype also has incredibly cheap rates to phones.

The food is wonderfully healthy and delicious. Typical breakfast is olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese. Salads (contents cut into small pieces) are prevalent with every meal. Pastries stuffed with vegetables or cheese, and the best "bagels" in the world, called Simits, add interest and enjoyment. Olives, lemons, burger wheat, kebabs are everywhere. Turks are also highly fond of fish from the Black Sea.

Upon arrival I became ill with severe bronchitis, in spite of which we spent 5 days in Istanbul so I could interview people for the book I am writing. I coughed my way through my birthday, looking out on a snow storm in Taksim Square, and opening one present after another from dear Umit. Arriving back in Ankara on a Sunday I went to a private hospital, where I received fast and thorough treatment: xray, blood test, throat culture and diagnosis in less than a half hour. A follow-up visit was similarly excellent and I am feeling fine now.

Tomorrow I teach my first class and the online systems here for managing your course and handling student records are the same as when I was teaching at St. Joe's University.

In summary, we are well settled in and except for the fact that no one here has heard of the NY Giants, I could be anywhere in the states and feel "at home." Cheers, Rich