Tyler visits Parliament

Today is our fifth day in Ankara and what a packed few days it has been. My general reflections and perceptions are as follows:
-The Turkish people are extremely hospitable and friendly. We have been struggling through meals with a language barrier, but everyone has been so helpful and even apologetic to us for not being able to understand English. They have also brought us tea and coffee to our classes. In fancy tea cups. Served to us at our desks. It was incredible. And just a normal part of their lives to give as much food and drink to their guests as they can.
-As far as the language barrier, I find it difficult and unfortunate that we cannot communicate better. It makes me feel ignorant that I can’t communicate especially when the Turkish start apologizing to us, when it should clearly be the other way. It is also very hard to feel absorbed in the culture and like I am learning as much as I can when I can’t fully integrate myself.

We visited the Hacettepe University the second day and heard a lecture on the current political climate of Turkey. Politics in Turkey are anything but simple- and although this is the third time I have heard some of this information, it is still pretty convoluted. However, they served us tea and coffee in our class, which was quite a treat. The most simple way I can try to explain Turkish politics is that there is conflict between the “secular” military and the “secular” government that is currently led by the Islamist AKP party. Quotations are used because while the constitution established after a military coup in 1980 established the Republic of Turkey as secular state, it is currently controlled by an Islamic party. Quotes are also used for the military because increasingly the military is using Islam as a call to serve in the military. The military is particularly unique in Turkey because there have been numerous coups over the years whenever the military felt that the government was gaining too much power or acting contrary to the people’s wishes. What is ironic is that the military views itself as above the people, and thus cannot really know what the people want.

We visited Ataturk’s memorial and tomb. Ataturk is literally “father of the Turks” and started the Republic of Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire following WWI. He instituted a number of westernizing changes including instituting the use of the Latin alphabet instead of the Arabic alphabet, a secular state, and encouraging Turkish people to adopt more western dress and other practices. Ataturk is perhaps the most revered figure in the history of Turkey, statues of him are all over the city glorifying him for what he did for the country.

We also visited the biggest mosque in Ankara. Built between 1967 and 1987 but modeled after the older mosques, it was absolutely beautiful. I didn’t know this, but the style of mosque that most people are familiar with is actually modeled after old christian basilicas- the dome structure was taken from basilicas and the towers, called minarets, were added to call followers to prayer.
Yesterday we also had the chance to visit another association- this time it was a women’s group that works to educate both men and women about the true meanings of the Quaran, mainly about equality between men and women. Often times the perceptions of Islam regarding the relations between men and women stem from cultural and societal norms and not in fact what the Quaran instructs people to do. It was very interesting hearing these women, all of whom wear a head covering, talking about how they are able to get the leaders of their mosques to agree to reeducate men about the true meanings of the Quaran. The women also pointed out how people take different interpretations to use in their arguments for diminishing the roles of women in society. The best quote from these women came at the end when one of them said, “God is the biggest feminist.”
In the afternoon we also took a tour of parliament, which was also pretty interesting to hear about the different political parties and some history of the Republic.

Today was an experience in and of itself, so that will have to wait for another post, but in summary, Ankara has been interesting and good, we head to Istanbul tomorrow.
Photos: inside and outside of the mosque, panoramic view of the Ataturk Memorial, my first Turkish coffee (super strong, but overall pretty good), Tyler visiting Parliament (notice orange seats, who knows why they’re orange)

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Day 1: Jet Lag

So today has been our first full day in Ankara, and it has been busy! We landed in Ankara a little before midnight, remarkably without any significant delays and all of our luggage. We headed more or less straight to bed and got up for our first Turkish breakfast (coco puffs and coffee as usual, Turkish cheese and pastries as something different) and a lecture presentation at a national civil association. The presentation was a good overview of the various topics that occupy Turkish political discussions such as child rights, the environment, rights of women and the disabled, and LGBT. I found it particularly interesting that the majority of the funding of this group (that funds other smaller and more specific organizations) comes from the European Union, of which Turkey is not yet a member. Evidently, the EU is investing in Turkey in an effort to mold the opinions and perceptions to fit more with the EU’s standards with the idea that Turkey will one day join the EU after all.
After our discussions we walked to lunch and back to our hotel for a little break before embarking on a short tour of part of the city, and a visit to the History Museum of Ankara Civilizations. I will only say that Turkish history has been shaped by the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Seluçuks, and Ottomans, before the republic of Turkey was founded less than a century ago. Therefore, the history of the country is beautiful and elaborate and much too complicated to discuss now. One interesting tidbit is the origin of the name “Ankara”- originally the ancient Gaelic’s made the site where Ankara is now its’ capital using the gaelic word “Ancaire” meaning “anchor” and would bring anchors from conquered ships as a demonstration of their power. The name evolved as the city was conquered by other powers, however, it retained the same root coming from “anchor” to what is called today Ankara.
It is currently 5:45pm, and I am pretty exhausted but am waiting until after dinner to go to sleep so I can adjust to the time zone.
A few minor details that have happened so far and should be noted:
-Lufthansa gave us mustache-shaped pretzels on our flight to Munich
-I discovered itty bitty Nutella jars in the Munich airport
-There are so many cats in Turkey. I was going to try to take a photo of every single one (in case people didn’t already know I was obsessed…) but after I saw three in two-second time period, that became unreasonable

Photo #1 A cute cat at the citadel in the older part of Ankara
Photo #2 Proof I’m here- standing on one part of the citadel with another part of the fort behind me

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Tyler the turkey goes to Turkey

Long story short I’m studying abroad again! This time to the nation of Turkey for a short month’s studying with a group of other students from my school.

In honor of the occasion, and due to much confusion and jokes every time “turkey” is mentioned, I am bringing a Beanie Baby (remember those from the ’90s?!) turkey with me to take photos with all over Turkey.

This trip will be much different than my three months in France because I will be with other students from my school, with our professor most of the time, and with guides and tours. Our class will focus on the political atmosphere in Turkey and how religion and feminism are playing increasingly important roles in the function of government.

I also will not have a computer with me, so blog posts may be sporadic and short, but hopefully entertaining! And when I get back to the US I will fill in any blanks.
Next stop, Ankara!!
Photo: Tyler and the luggage ready to go

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Still here….

but only for 9 more days!!

I know my mother cannot wait to have me back in the nest, and I can’t either, but I am also going to miss France and this incredible semester I’ve had.

I’ve been all but drowning in work the past few weeks- term papers, presentations, finals preparation, and of course normal homework that our professors still want to give us…

Today was the last day of class, and although some of my classes ended earlier this week, this morning marked the end of my class with my favorite professor on the face of the planet, Nitin.

This photo was taken the last day of our midterms, Nitin surprised us by making hot cocoa, only the first of several times during the semester

This photo was taken the last day of our midterms, Nitin surprised us by making hot cocoa, only the first of several times during the semester

Nitin is my professor for my polysci course on the European Union, a course I didn’t even want to take. But all because of him it was my hardest, and favorite class. We had a chapter quiz every week to which he brought cookies for moral support. And he made us hot chocolate even though he couldn’t have any because he can drink milk. And then he took on the role of grammar tutor for several of us struggling in our grammar class after the mid-term. And he’s an American! He went to Colorado College, but after spending a semester at the AUCP he decided to stay for the year and then got his masters in France and has stayed ever since. So as a way to say thank you, our small class of 5 decided to surprise Nitin this morning with some hot cocoa made with almond milk that he could drink, and various other milk-free sweets (I’ve never seen someone with such a large sweet tooth). We also took a class photo and made it into a card which we all signed expressing our appreciation (and love) for all that he did and helped us with this semester. He was touched, but then he surprised us by getting us each a bar of chocolate from Puyicard, the nicest chocolatier in Aix. How many professors do you know who get their students gifts?! Seriously above and beyond. I’ll end my tribute there.

In other news, I took a break from studying last night to attend a wine tasting lead by a Duke. That was pretty cool. Too expensive for me to buy the wines, but if I marry the Duke I would be a duchess and live in a pretty chateau in wine country….not too shabby

With my time winding down in France I have started thinking about my life in America. I have started making a list of things I will and won’t miss about France.

Things I won’t miss:

  • Dog poop on the sidewalks. Everywhere. So gross.
  • Everyone is more or less the same. The french value equality to the extent that it’s frowned upon to be radically different
  • Showers. First, the stereotype of the french not showering is pretty true. Short showers (like 2 minutes), every few days. And they are super small, every time I hit my elbow…and knock things over….(oh wait that happens in my big shower at home too…)
  • How expensive (most) everything is. Where’s Target when you need one? Other than the french essentials like bread and coffee, Europe is expensive!

Things I will miss:

  • Espresso. So good. So cheap. Drinking large, flavored Starbucks will be completely foreign. Little, strong espresso’s are just so good.
  • chocolat éclaires. and café éclaires.
  • pain au chocolat
  • inexpensive baguettes (90 cents each will not exist in American super markets)
  • The weather. Its super cold right now, like really really cold, but I didn’t realize how much I didn’t miss the rain until I looked at the forecast in Seattle.
Boy does that look fun...

Boy does that look fun…

  • Speaking french with all of my new wonderful friends and host mom

Anyways, I am going to go hope it starts snowing here to make studying for finals a little more tolerable. In the meantime, here are some lovely photos of Christmas in Aix.

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Anticonstituonnellemment

The longest word in the French language. Learned that today at my community service. Its an adverb for something that is unconstitutional. But I don’t think that such a word exsists in English…

More importantly, I went to Paris this past weekend.

I was supposed to meet up with one of my roommates from last year who is studying in Nottingham, but she got food poisoning and couldn’t make it. But I hung out with two of her friends whom I also kind of know from Linfield and acted as an interpreter, so it turned out just fine.

Saturday we left our hostel at about 9:30am, and returned at about 12:30am Sunday morning… it was a long day of mostly walking, but we saw a lot!

  1. Eiffel Tower: she was a little shy, so we decided to postpone going up until later in the day if it was nicer.

hiding in the fog…

2. Arc de Triumph: two groups of people decided to stop traffic so they could run across the round about. Stupid. Americans. Otherwise, always a lovely experience. One day I need I will pay to go on top and enjoy the view.

3. Champs D’Elysées. Full of people, expensive shops, and Christmas decorations.

Apparently ever city feels the need to have one of these now….

4. La Bastille. A special monument for July 14th, my sisters birthday, I mean, French Independence day…

5. L’Opera. I had never even heard of this/ thought of going but I am so glad we did. It was absolutely stunning. Pictures cannot even start to do it justice. I was amazed by the detail and absolute magnificence of the building. I don’t like opera that much, but I think I would pay to go see an opera there.

The music starts where the power of words stops. (it sounds better in french).

6. Notre Dame.

7. Bridge of Love Locks. Not sure what it’s called, or if this is the official one, but apparently you’re supposed to come here with your “love”, write your name on a lock and lock it on the bridge. One might also exist in Venice, fact not confirmed, but will have to return here one day with my love and put a lock on the bridge.

8. Garden of Luxembourg. We got there 10 minutes before closing so we couldn’t spend as much time there as we would have liked because it’s a huge and beautiful garden.

9. Seine boat tour. 1 hour on the Seine at night to look at 22 of the 38 (?) bridges in Paris and numerous famous sites. Gorgeous. Cold. But gorgeous. Maybe an activity better suited for the summer months…

Notre Dame

10. Dinner. Ate some lovely traditional French pasta…and spoke with the waiter who was impressed (only a little) that I could (pretend) to speak French, and he told me that it was important that I drink more wine than water because water makes you weak but wine makes you strong…oh the French, I told him he was joking and he just walked away.

My dessert: Café Gourmand= an espresso with a variety of little desserts (different at each restaurant) this one consisted of carmel creme, some fruit, and chocolate mousse

11. Eiffel Tower. Accompanied by some “champagne”. I was there for my 21st birthday after all. So obviously we bought some fake champagne to drink beneath the radiant Eiffel Tower. Then we finally got to go up and look at the gorgeous views of the city by night. I think Paris is prettier by night, if that is even possible.

View of the Seine and the Military Museum from the Eiffel Tower

12. Sleep

13. Montmontre and the Basilique Sacre Coeur. Probably one of my favorite parts of Paris, but it was raining and I only had a few hours left in Paris so I did not spend as much time exploring as I would have liked. But I did manage to buy a l’eau de toilette at Fragonard (thanks Sissy) that I have been looking for my past few months in France.

Basilique Sacre Coeur. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed of the inside, but it might be one of the most beautiful things in the world, much prettier than Notre Dame in my opinion.

Montmontre and view of Paris

A little cloudy, but it’s Paris

14. Musée de l’orangerie. I remembered this as one of my favorite museums from my last trip to Paris because of its panoramic impressionist paintings of lily pads.  They also have several other exhibits of impressionist art, which is I think my favorite style. After taking an art history class at Linfield last year I enjoyed being able to look at the paintings and compare techniques of different artists and try to determine some of the deeper significance of the paintings instead of just speeding by each one (my previous way of going through museums).

15. Train back to Aix. I tried to go to the Musée D’Orsay because I have still never been, but the line was like 200 people long, and I only had an hour before I had to catch my train, so I decided my time was better spent elsewhere.

Overall Paris was wonderful. A weekend is definitely not enough time to be there- you really need like a week so you don’t feel a chicken running around with your head cut off. There is so much to see and do that you have to take your time in order to appreciate all of the richness and history of the city.

Dusk in Paris

I am now back in Aix for the last few weeks of my life in France. Lots of homework and studying and papers to write (dissertation on a comparison between the French and American education systems anyone, in French??), but first there’s a Thanksgiving feast to be had with all of the teachers and host families Friday night, and a big ball at one of the French universities Saturday night. After that hopefully I will find some time to study. But then again all the Christmas festivities will be starting…

Anyways, I’m going to go read about the construction of the European Union. I hope you have a very happy thanksgiving tomorrow!!

Nice!!

Today is my last day being 20. Tomorrow I will be 21. It’s so weird!! And doesn’t feel as real being in France, but I’m having fun so that’s all that matters.

Today I had my community service, and it’s with one of my good friends host mom, and she knew it was my birthday so she brought a chocolate cake and a little cookbook for me for a present! It was super sweet and all the little old ladies sang happy birthday to me and referred to me as “the little American”.

This past weekend I went to Nice with five other girls from my program.  Although it rained all day Saturday, I had so much fun. Nice is gorgeous and it’s always fun to explore a new city. We started off the day by going to the flower market, which is the biggest in all of France. The flowers were gorgeous and I wanted to buy some but they would be hard enough to transport on the train let alone mail back to the US…. We then went to look at the sea through the mist and climbed up to a waterfall and cold city ruins that have beautiful views of the city and the sea. When I was in Nice five years ago we found a playground amongst the ruins and also a tree that I had tried to climb but really just struggled on, so I made it my goal to find the same branch. And finally, I was successful.

5 years later…not much has changed

After getting sufficiently soaked by the rain we found some lunch in a little café, and went back to our hostel for dry socks, stopping at little shops and exploring the old city along the way. For most of the afternoon we wandered around, stopped at a café, found a bakery that I had remembered from the last time I was there. And then, we walked into Le Negresco. Five start hotel on the French Riviera. The last time I was here my high school French teacher showed us the outside, but told us it was way to nice for us to go into. Se we tried. And succeeded. It’s basically a museum. Gorgeous. As part of my birthday celebrations I had thought that it would be fun to try to have a drink at the bar Saturday night, despite the price, so I went with one of my friends and sat in this super nice bar with live jazz piano and singing, and a big fat orange cat. Words cannot describe, I was so content to be there and absorb the elegance and people watch.

Nice center

Candy at the market

note: its a cat umbrella

Port of Nice

inside Le Negresco

Nice by night

Le Negresco by night

Sunday it was actually sunny for a little bit so after breakfast and stopping by the flower market to buy some presents, we went and sat by the water to wait for the other half of our group. It was stunning. As always. Apparently I might be a little too obsessed with the ocean because one of my friends said, “you really need to live by the ocean, huh?” Mais, pourquoi pas? I even touched the water. Which was challenging because the waves were really big and had made something like a rock cliff and was challenging to navigate, but I made it and the water felt great. Like always the time came to leave, and we grabbed some lunch, some postcards, and a chocolate crepe on the way to the train station. And back to Aix we went…

la mer est belle toujours

Armistice Day parade

 

Jeg teler ikke dansk

I don’t speak danish.

Except for « jeg tak » and « hyggeligt ».

That means, ”yes thanks” and a feeling that I more or less could define as warm and cozy. If you picture sitting by a fire with some hot cocoa, a cat, and maybe some snow falling, that basically embodies the sentiment of hyggeligt.

Copenhagen started great because my best friend from high school met me at the airport instead of me having to take the train and find her. I was so excited to see her I almost wanted to cry for no particular reason other than it had been forever since I’d seen her. And its good that she was there because she told me how to get to the train, but then we got lost anyways…but no worries, we made it into downtown Copenhagen and stopped for a coffee (because I had been up since 4:30 or something and now it was 5pm…) and then walked around the city a little bit before taking a bus back to her apartment to make some dinner.

Wednesday night was Halloween, and at first we were just going to go to a small party and not dress up, but I’m not even sure how it happen but we just said, okay we can dress up and go to a bigger party. I had clothes that were all black, and she had clothes that were all white, so I cut out an “S” and “P” from one of my midterms study guides (don’t need that no more!) and we went out as salt and pepper. It was easy, it was fun, everyone thought we were adorable.

Copenhagen is now on my list of one of my favorite cities. Other than the bitter cold, it is gorgeous! There are so many different types of architecture and different things to look at, it was amazing. I was pretty much on my own Thursday because my friend had class, but I walked all through the city and then met up with her during lunch and breaks (and to take a break from the cold).

Some things about Copenhagen and Denmark in general:

  • Bicycles win. There are bicycles everywhere, everyone has one and they have priority on the road. There are bike lanes between the road and the sidewalk and you will get run over if you walk in them. It’s cool how they ride bicycles everywhere because it’s so energy efficient, but I don’t understand how they can do it when it’s so bitter cold there practically all the time…
  • Salted licorice. My friend made me try it. I hate licorice anyways. It was gross. I don’t understand why it exists.
  • Legos are Danish.
  • There’s at least 5 H&M’s just in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a big city, but not that big. And they’re big H&M’s. I got lost in one of them. And there’s separate stores for kids and men also.
  • The Little Mermaid (the statue not the movie), is actually pretty small. But in a very pretty area of town.
  • J-Day. We didn’t know about this until just before, but November 3 is basically a national holiday for the release of the Christmas beer. Most of the pubs empty their taps and then at 8:59pm or something trucks drive into the street and start handing out free beer. It’s a little bit of a joke because they say that the formula changes every year but no one knows because no one can remember what it tastes like…to me it tasted like dark beer, which I don’t really like, but I got a cool Christmas/ J-Day hat, so after that I didn’t care about beer
  • Denmark is even more collectivist than France. They pay at least 50% in taxes, and don’t care as long as everyone is equal, and by equal they mean more or less the same.
  • There are some schools than don’t have homework. Or tests. Not so much for university but there are high schools that people can live at and they just sit in classes apparently but don’t ever need to study.
  • Copenhagen is expensive. And the conversion is something like 6 Kronar (Denmark currency) per dollar, so the whole time I had no idea how much money I was spending
  • Everyone speaks english (probably better than me) but I still hated not being able to communicate in the language of the country. I started looking forward to being back in France where I can more or less understand the signs and communicate in the language.

To get back to France I had a 26 hour train trip, complete with a ferry ride and a 4 hour stop in the Hamburg train station (where there was absolutely no where to sit other than a cold stairwell). The train literally got on the ferry and the ferry took us across the water to Germany- I didn’t know such a think existed!

All in all I loved Copenhagen and didn’t want to leave, and I had a great week off traveling around Europe- and I didn’t lose anything! Yes I had to purchase a few extra tickets…but I made it back in one piece with all my belongings and then some, and experienced some cultures other than the French, so I would say it was a successful vacation.

Photo documentation:

The Little Mermaid!

Nicest neighborhood in Copenhagen- where all the representatives in Parliament live

View of Copenhagen from the top of a church- I chose the worst time of the day to go up there- it started to rain/sleet…

City Center

Christmas beer! Not for drinking, but the bottle was pretty