Favorite Turkish Things! And Becoming Lottie Lee

–originally posted on Charlotte’s personal blog 26 Oct 2013

We have officially been taking classes for about a month. With one week off for bayram (Muslim holiday break), this next Monday and Tuesday off for Republic Day (Turkish Independence day), and every Friday off of classes, I haven’t felt quite like I am fully in school. That’s not to say that the academics aren’t serious, because they are. Bogazici Universitesi is known as one of the most competitive and prestigious public schools in Turkey. Classes are intense, but not in the same way as Duke. While back at Duke I always feel like I have about five hundred things due in the next four days and struggle to prioritize, spending lots of late nights in Perkins and finishing readings in between classes, at Bogazici most of my classes only have a midterm, a final, and one paper. The scary thing is that means I don’t think I currently have a single grade except for some Turkish vocabulary quizzes. So when test season rolls around, I will really be putting my nose to the grindstone, because each test is pretty make or break it.

As for my specific classes, one of my best friends from Duke described it accurately. Here’s Ryan’s version of my courses: Really Old Turkey, Sorta Old Turkey, Religion in Turkey, and How to Talk in Turkey. That actually translates to Byzantine Art & Architecture, History of the Ottoman Empire, Politics and Religion in Three Modern Muslim Empires, and Elementary Turkish for Foreigners. It is more Turkish history immersion than I ever really imagined I would experience, and it’s wonderful! I mean there is nothing like learning about an important castle that was involved in a great siege, and realizing that your neighborhood is named after it and that the castle is a ten minute walk from your dorm. Or putting together the fact that the metro stop Osmanbey is named for the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Or reading about Byzantine basilicas and icons and Christian history and then going to see amphitheaters where Paul preached and the ruins of St. John’s Basilica where John is actually buried. It’s kind of cliché but it’s also true—school is so much cooler when the classroom comes to life.

Enough about classes, because I’m a giant nerd and could go on about it for far too long. Turkish life in general is turning out to really agree with me. Here are a few of my favorite Turkish things!

  1. Türk kahvesi—Turkish coffee, oh how I love thee. For people who have never had it before, Turkish coffee is frankly pretty strange, bitter and thick with the grounds still in the drink. I DO NOT recommend trying to drink/eat the grounds. You will be left with the most bizarre coffee tasting cottonmouth-inducing dirt-textured mixture in your mouth for a long, nasty time. I DO recommend drinking your Türk kahvesi somewhere outdoors, preferably with a view, and taking lots of little sips. That sucker goes down quickly and it’s never enough. Properly served Turkish coffee comes with a small glass of water and some kind of Turkish delight. Properly consumed Turkish coffee is sipped with good conversation and a good bit of laughter.
  2. The çay life and tavla—Turkish tea and backgammon, the heart of social interactions in Turkey. You know you’re in Istanbul when you see large groups of men drinking tea, smoking shisha (hookah), and rolling dice. Whether you decide to play backgammon or not, you will have tea like five times a day. At the end of meals to settle your stomach, in the middle of the day to get your pep back, before bed to calm your nerves. Basically anytime/all the time is çay time. Still, the best çay is çay with a side of tavla. I recently re-learned how to play backgammon and it is just way too much fun. I’m awful at this point, but I plan to slowly build my skills and giggle through games while everyone’s still thinking we’re all just playing friendly, and then I’ll pounce. And maybe start a small gambling ring. We shall see.
  3. Baklava—honestly, if my relationship with baklava is also the greatest love affair of my life, I won’t be that disappointed. We’re talking honey, nuts, flaky pastry, in this heavenly combination of absolute bliss. I prefer walnut to pistachio, but the real jackpot is when you find the almond strain. It ought to be a controlled substance, because when I say I have an addiction, it’s not a joke, not even a little bit.  I recently found out that baklava literally means “diamond” in Turkish. Given that my sorority symbol is a diamond, I can’t even tell you how many T-shirt ideas popped up in my mind. “Baklava means diamond in Turkish, so join ADPi.” Okay maybe not that many ideas actually. But it was exciting nonetheless.

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On top of discovering aspects Turkish culture I love, I’ve also been finding interesting new sides of myself. It’s kind of hilarious really that I’ve taken the role of route finder throughout my time in Europe. I am arguably the worst driver and definitively the worst with directions when driving. I think it must be something about walking and seeing landmarks up close and internalizing them more than I do when driving. Or maybe it’s that I should wear my glasses more when I drive and that’s why I can’t really get the street names down. Or most likely, it has nothing to do with actual skill but the fact that my iPhone has this weird ability to show my location on GoogleMaps without wifi…whatever. The point is I’ve been doing a lot of navigating, and it feels pretty good. I’ve also somehow found myself as an “artsy” member of our group. With my excessive photo-taking and my new painting class and role as birthday gift designer (I made a pretty sweet bday t-shirt with sharpies yo), I have finally become at least marginally artsy. The last intriguing new Charlotte facet is finding myself with Asian friends learning new Mandarin phrases every few days. Somehow, I never really had many close Asian friends throughout my childhood, and while that’s changed a bit in college, my new Chinese friends, whom I ironically met in Istanbul, are a whole new level of Asian awesomeness. Tai bang le! (It’s very good!) Plus “Chinese” in Turkish is “çinli” pronounced chin-lee, and that’s just super fun to say. So yeah, sending love from Lottie Lee, the new Turkish culture appreciating, more directionally competent, artsier, slightly more culturally Asian me! Xx

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Side note and disclaimer: the Lottie Lee thing is a joke. Don’t say Lottie out loud. That is all.

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