Archive for September, 2006

my last days in Turkey

Friday, September 29th, 2006

I realize that the burning question on everyone’s mind is: what did Michele do during her last two days in Istanbul? At long last, here I am with some answers.
p.s. also, Istanbul pics up on flickr


my bolt in the night

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I’m home! It’s wonderful to be back. Although I’ve spent the morning listening to my new Turkish folk music CD, putting Turkey pictures up on Flickr, and drinking Nescafe, so it’s almost like I never left. Except that I wasn’t awakened at 5:30 by the call to prayer, am not sharing a bathroom with 6 other women, and was not confronted by olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, and other non-breakfast foods at breakfast. It’s good to be home!
Some superstitious feeling kept me from blogging about my journey through the night from Fevzipasha to Istanbul until I was safely in the U.S. again. But now I feel it’s safe to record the events of that night for posterity. Here it is, the story of my bolt in the night:


shimdi ben Istanbul’da

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

After a rather epic journey through the night, we arrived in Istanbul early yesterday morning. We successfully taxied to the American Research Institute in Turkey-Istanbul, where I’m staying, traveling through busy streets, beautiful tree=lined avenues, and along the Bosphorus. ARIT is in an area north of Istanbul proper called Arnavutkoy. It’s a beautiful, historic area right along the Bosphorus, and contains dozens of fresh fish restaurants of which I’ve already sampled a couple. I’ve discovered that I really, really like calamari–I’ve had it a couple of times before and realized that wasn’t really very good at all, but this is.
Upon arrival I promptly went down for a nap, and after waking up my fellow Zincirli excavator and I went to visit the Archaeology Museum, which is conveniently located in the Sultanahmet neighborhood along with most other major tourist locations in Istanbul. The museum had quite a lot of statues and reliefs from Zincirli, and even had the orthostats (flat slabs of stone which were used to line walls, sometimes decorated with reliefs) set up as they would have been in the original south citadel gate, which I’d walked through the remains of only days before. We saw some other Zincirli stuff in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin last year. When the German team excavated Zincirli a hundred years ago, the rules were that half the finds stayed in Turkey and the other half went home with the excavators, so the Zincirli items are well=travelled.
Yesterday, we went on a whirlwind tour of the other major Sultanahmet sights. First we went to the Topkapi Palace Museum. This was the palace of the sultans under the Ottoman Empire. It’s a huge edifice with many of the sultan’s treasures on display and pieces of info on how the sultan’s empire was administrated: young men were taken to the palace and educated there to become the viziers and grand viziers, while in the harem women were also educated and, if they didn’t become a wife or concubine to the sultan himself, were married to the graduates of the “enderun.”
Then we went to Sultan Ahmet’s tomb and to his Blue Mosque. The mosque was beautiful both inside and outside, and as I stood there with my shoes off and with a scarf of dubious cleanliness doled out to me by a mosque employee covering my hair, I pondered the difference in ideas about worship and prayer between this and my church at home.
Then we went to the cistern museum: a huge subterranean Byzantine cistern, held up with 300+ columns. These were lit eerily with red lights, reflected in the shallow water. In one corner two blocks carved with Medusa heads served as column bases, one upside=down and the other on one side. These are believed to be of late Roman date, though noone knows when or why they were used in the cistern or why they aren’t right-side-up.
Next was the Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofia in Turkish. There was a large scaffolding in the center as some resoration work was going on, but it was still very impressive. Some of the original Christian mosaics of Justinian have been uncovered and rub sholders with Muslim floral decoration patterns and Arabic inscriptions–I’m assuming quotations from the Koran. It was first a Byzantine church and then a mosque, and is now, at the order of Ataturk, a museum of Istanbul’s Christian and Muslim heritage.
Finally, I went to the Grand Bazaar. I strolled past lots of jewelry shops, and salesman who wanted me to buy leather jackets and who spoke to me in English. I hadn’t seen a single foreigner other than ourselves for a month while in Fevzipasha, but in Istanbul I’m surrounded by people from all countries speaking all languages. I noticed when I was in England also, after having been surrounded by non=Americans for weeks, the American English accent is particularly jarring. It made me feel like trying to speak exclusively Turkish for a while, but unfortunately my vocabulary of about 8 verbs and 15 nouns probably isn’t sufficient 🙂
Today, I think I’ll revisit the Archaeology Museum. I have a bit more shopping to do which I’d like to do at the Egyptian Spice bazaar, and I’d also like to go for a boat ride. I’ll update the old blog once again once I’m stateside! Until then, gule gule (bye bye)!

in which I deploy my Turkish language skillz

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

I guess my days here at Zincirli have pretty much come to an end, for this year at least. Very, very early tomorrow morning (even by archaeological standards) I’ll be traveling to Istanbul and will spend my final 4 days in Turkey there, visiting various museums and sites of historical interest. Two other women are traveling with me and one of them is also going to be staying in Istanbul, so I won’t be all on my own.
But even if I was, I believe that I proved yesterday that I’d totally be able to get around by myself with my awesome Turkish language skillz. About half the time we go into the nearest large town, Islahiye, for lunch at a lokanta there. There’s lots of shops there filled with wildly varying goods & services for sale. Among other things, I have purchased there a set of plastic drawers in which to keep my belongings, some work gloves, Pepsi and Coke, numerous Magnum (an ice cream brand) bars and other important items of groceries such as Biskrem cookies (cookies with chocolate cream inside). I have seen for sale, but have not purchased, clothing such as the “Weep Jeans” brand, lots of pastries, fruit, pistachios, and other goodies, any plastic item you could possibly want, and lots of other things.
Yesterday I had a few items of business to conduct, and I conducted them entirely in Turkish, as follows:
At lunch, I wanted some “lamajun,” a kind of super-flat bread with peppers and possibly meat smashed onto and adhering to the surface (again, better than at sounds). “Lamajun var mi?” (“Is there lamajun?”) I asked the restaurant guy. He shook his head with a slightly amused smile. I wound up with rice, same as every other day. But at least I tried.
I needed to buy more minutes for my phone, so I burst into the Turkcell office brandishing my phone and stating confidently, “Istiyorim iki yuz elli…” (“I want two hundred and fifty…”). At that point I trailed off. “Kontur?” asked the helpful salespeople. Fortunately, I knew that word because I’d seen it on the receipts I’ve been compiling for the dig accounts (I *am* an archaeologist, really).
“Kontur!” I replied happily. I held out my visa and the lady took it. Seconds later she handed me it back with my receipt. Did I need to do anything with my phone to make the time show up, I wondered? I searched my Turkish vocabulary for helpful words. “Ne yapiyorim?” I hazarded (“What am I doing?”). She seemed confused. “Bilmiyorum…” I continued (“I don’t know…”). Smiling, she took my phone and showed me that the time was already there. “Chok kolay!” (“Very easy!”) I said. “Teshekkur ederim!” (Thank you!). On to the next task–the most important of all.
I raced along the streets, my expert eye scanning the store fronts for that most important item of all, the one I simply could not go home without. Only two minutes left before I had to be back at the van, and all I saw was purses, shoes, pastries, dustbusters, bicycles, and jewelry stores–all useless to me. Finally I spotted two of my fellow Zincirli people, and they pointed me in the right direction.
I steamed into the store at top speed, circling the shelves, but I didn’t see what I needed. Various Turkish males watched me with bemused expressions. Finally one approached me with a helpful smile.
“Magnum bar?” (“Magnum bar?”) I asked, hands folded in appeal. “Dondurma?” (“Ice cream?”). “Magnum!” he replied, nodding. He led me to the freezer, and there it was in all its glory, my very favorite Magnum Beyaz (Magnum White). Two lira lighter and one Magnum bar heavier, I sped back to the van with seconds to spare.
Magnum bars are not like U.S. ice cream bars, with their phony styrofoam ice cream and waxy chocolate-colored coating. The Magnum White consists of vanilla ice cream with little chocolate chips in it, covered with delicious white chocolate with almonds stuck in it. Yum. And now it was mine, all thanks to my fluent Turkish and willingness to
provide amusement to the citizens of Islahiye at my own expense.

the final countdown

Saturday, September 16th, 2006

One week left here. What have I been doing since my last post? What haven’t I been doing? I taught the last of the English classes to the children of Fevzipasha. It turned out to be a hoot. I brought along a Box of Props which helped a lot. I stole a cup, spoon, and fork (no plate, cause they’re breakable), and we talked about different kinds of foods. I also had a ball and we did roll, throw, catch, and kick; and wound up with a rousing game of “sit down, stand up, walk, RUN!” This was all very popular as we had mostly boys who love to play soccer, but the girls seemed into it too.
I’ve been deemed healthy enough to return to the field, and have finally experienced the joys of the Total Station. Carrying the pole brought me into close quarters with some cows who were tethered grazing at the bottom of the tell, and also through what turned out to be some rather deep hay that I waded through. I’ve also taken many points with the mechanism itself, which will hopefully turn out to yield a useful topographic map.
Yesterday we had another giant, epic road trip. We visited the sites of Tilmen Huyuk, where an Italian team is excavating the Middle-Late Bronze city; and to Yesemek, which was a site where basalt stone was quarried and roughed out to create the portal lions, sphinxes, and reliefs for surrounding cities. At Yesemek a bunch of artists were there, there’s an ongoing project where they create sculptures out of local basalt inspired by the ancient art. Pretty cool!
Then we met up with the mayor and his wife and bodyguard there. The bodyguard presented the girls of the group with jewelry made by villagers from modern Yesemek. He gave me a pair of earrings, which means I’ll just have to get my ears pierced, I guess. I don’t even know where one goes to get ones’ ears pierced these days. Anyone have any ideas?
Then we all went to a beach on the Mediterranean, and had a very late lunch of hamburgers and sandwiches with “sujuk”, or garlic sausage (which was the subject of the first dialogue in my “Teach Yourself Turkish” book. It’s better than it sounds). Then I waded along the shore while those with swimsuits frolicked in the water.
Then we went to a fish restaurant and had assorted Turkish appetizers, some extremely delicious calimari and shrimp, and fish. After getting lost in the nearby town of Iskenderun for a bit, we made our way home around midnight. We were very tired but surprisingly didn’t have too much trouble getting up for work today–we’re getting hardened to this, I guess.
It sounds like I might be able to spend some time visiting museums in Istanbul before heading back home–will keep you updated!

In which I make tea for the mayor

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

I don’t have too much more to say about our epic day trip, I guess. We pretty much went home and flopped into bed after the train station. It would be hard to top the train station, only ibises could really do it and we’d already done that.
The next day, in contrast, was very quiet and relaxing. Only my advisor and four women were left here, so it was very peaceful. I slept in (until 7 a.m., but time is kind of meaningless since that’s really midnight my time); then I did my usual routine that I haven’t gotten to do since being here of getting up gradually while reading & drinking lots of coffee.
Once fully awake, those of us left tramped over the hill from where we are staying to check out future dig house sites. It looks like we found a good one. Then we went to the “bakkal,” a tiny, tiny little market stuffed with a selection of food, snack foods, toiletries, toys, and even what looked like a box of those little tea glasses that they drink tea out of here. These hold about four tablespoons of tea and are kind of pear-shaped but with a flared top, and they come on a little saucer with a little spoon and a sugar cube or two. I might have to look into getting some to bring home with me.
On the way back, we ran into the mayor who was driving by (who as I mentioned is a big fan of our archaeological endeavours, and who is always popping up everywhere, no matter where we happen to be). He said he’d provide lunch for us, which is good because all we really had was eggs, stale bread, and assorted vegetables (in spite of having visited the enormous supermarket the day before, I guess thinking ahead isn’t really our thing).
Then we went back home, and I chopped veggies for the ubiquitous cucumber/tomatoe salad while one of the other girls made scrambled eggs with assorted vegetables. It was good. Then I discussed my dissertation with my advisor for a bit. If anyone has any ideas on what software might be useful (and how I might learn to use it) to create multiple 3-D models of various city gates, with decorations etc., please let me know! It seems that’s the way the wind is blowing now, dissertation-wise.
A few hours later, the mayor arrived with some delicious chicken-pepper-vegetable stuff and some Coke (kola) and bread (ekmek). Afterwards, remembering the whole tea ubiquity, I thought I might make some tea for everyone. Nobody knew how to use the double-decker tea thing, so I thought I’d have a go of it.
I mentioned my having purchased a double-decker tea thingy the other day. They seemed extremely cute, until I started trying to use one. I put the water in the bottom part, and the tea in the tea cartridge in more water in the top part, and then we all experimented with trying to get the gas stove to light/turn up high enough to actually heat the water. The thing is, the part on top takes forever to get hot because it’s like a foot away from the flame. Eventually, however, I did manage to produce a brown substance that would probably be identifiable to most people as tealike, and came out with the closest approximation of the usual tea equipment that I could find in our cupboards. Everybody drank the tea without too many signs of pain, so I counted it a success.
Today, I was in the kitchen making coffee for myself, and mentioned to the dig assistant director that I’d made coffee for the mayor the previous day. “Coffee?” he asked. “No, tea. With that thing,” I replied, indicating the tea pot thing. “That’s courage, making tea for a Turk,” he said.
The rest of the day was likewise peaceful, and in the evening we watched several episodes of Arrested Development, always a nice way to spend the day. Today I’m doing administrative work in-house. And, it’s my birthday! Happy birthday, me.

in which I crack up

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

It has been a busy few days. I can’t remember if I already wrote about the barbecue at the home of a friend of the mayor’s, who is a big proponent of us and our excavation (as eventually it will become a tourist draw). It was a lot of fun, but somewhat surreal. I brought my camera, but didn’t take any pictures–somehow, I felt the spirit of the evening would not be capturable on film.
The house was off on its own near the village where we went to the wedding. Somehow, both for the wedding and for this, to get there we had to drive a couple of hours over terrible backroads in our little minivan; in this latter case even through a couple of feet of running water. But we got home much faster and on much reliable roads; does the landscape somehow fundamentally change after dark? Nothing would surprise me.
The barbecue of lamb and chicken on shish kebabs was quite delicious. Rakii was drunk (the Turkish national drink, reportedly licorice like in flavor) as well as Efes, the national beer. There was singing of Turkish folk songs, but when asked to reciprocate with American songs no one could think of anything. Somebody came up with a few seconds of Vanilla Ice, but it didn’t really compare with the Turkish music. There was also Turkish dancing and much hilarity. It was suggested that I could drive us home, since I had not partaken of the rakii, but fortunately our driver was also sober since we would probably be safer with a monkey at the wheel than with me driving a manual minivan over Turkish backroads in the dark.
Due to my sick day the other day, I have somehow gotten the reputation of suffering in silence with some terrible illness, even though I’ve been fit as a fiddle for the last couple of days. So I spent Thursday at home reading about Neo-Hittites and Aramaeans. Thursday evening my turn to teach the Fevzipasha village children English. I don’t think that I would call it an unmitigated success. I had a bunch of little boys who were having a great time but not learning much English, and one 12 year old girl who really wanted to learn English. I did learn how to say “Quiet!” in Turkish (“Susu!”), which had some effect. Better luck next time.
Yesterday was the first day of our two day weekend, and we all took a big sightseeing trip in the van. First we went to Gaziantep to conduct some business. We did some shopping in the Old Market, full of actual blacksmiths making tools, spiked dog collars, and other fearsome looking objects, people making things out of wood, clothes, kitchen stuff, and various plastic trinkets made in China. I bought one of the Turkish double-decker teapots for myself–water boils in the bottom pitcher while the tea brews on top, then you pour tea and water into your glass to achieve the strength of tea that you want.
Tea is drunk everywhere, all the time in Turkey, in little handleless glass cups on saucers with tiny spoons and sugar cubes. The little cups are difficult to pick up without burning yourself, but the tea is very nice.
Then we went to the supermarket, Migros, where I purchased granola bars and soap. Peanut butter is sadly hard to come by here. They do have nutella type stuff, chocolate spread, and hazelnut spread. The latter is incredibly delicious but
Then it was about noon and we went to lunch. I had some things that looked like corn dogs, of which the filling was like Runza filling (for those who know what that is) with some cayenne pepper added (others described it as sloppy-joe like, but w/o the tomato sauce), deep-fried in corndog batter. They were good. Also, I had salad. The amount of tomatoes people eat here must compensate for the ubiquitious smoking, since everybody looks awfully healthy.
Days last a long time when you get up at 5 or 6. After that, we drove to Zeugma, a Roman site which I’ll post more about later. We’d seen the mosaics from there at the museum at Gaziantep already, now we saw some of the areas under excavation. The tell is quite large and tall, and overlooks a large, blue, cool-looking reservoir made by damming the Euphrates. That’s the only cool looking thing about the place, as it’s hot, blazing, and dry, dry, dry. I guess the pistachio trees all over the hills around don’t need much water.
There was some debate about what we were to do next, but what we ended up doing was driving to an ibis farm, then to view the site of Carchemish from a distance, then to look at a train station in the modern village of Carchemish…because it was built by Germans.
It was at the ibises that I finally lost it.
It was very, very hot, our minivan is not air conditioned, and we and our various Gaziantep purchases were packed like sardines. Hot wind came whipping through the window into my face when we were moving; but it was hot and still when we weren’t moving so fast–like, say, when we were driving around some Turkish city looking for an ibis farm; or driving around a small village asking random children and men sitting drinking tea where the German-built train station was.
We found the ibis farm, parked outside, and slithered in through the large metal gate (it was a well-secured ibis farm). Sure enough, there was a large cage built against one of the hills, containing ibises. They flew back and forth a bit, and then I took a picture. Apparently, they are endangered, and they’re breeding them there. Very nice.
Then my advisor said, “This would be a great place for the official group picture!” I looked at the ibises, at him, then at the ibises again. A group picture of what? We’d already taken several official group pictures on several cameras at the barbecue. It was the stones thing all over again: surely I’d just imagined that he’d said that; yet it really seemed to be happening.
So, we all lined up for our group picture–all of the non-avian life forms at any rate. My face was shiny and my hair bedraggled from my attempts to stay cool by positioning my head next to the open window in the van, but oh well. This may well be the only photo of me ever to be published anywhere, and it might as well be accurate to how I really look.
We looked at the ibises for a while longer, then piled back into the van. We drove down the Euphrates to Carchemish, which we could only view from a distance because there’s a Turkish military post on top of it. We did take pictures from a distance–it looks like a big tell (flat topped hill) next to a river. After driving around in the small village of Carchemish for a while, we located the German built train station, which is under renovation. The train station is directly adjacent to the Syrian border, marked by double ribbon-wired fences and armed guards. We could look over into Syria but could not take pictures of it or of the train station.
[at this point Michele was interrupted and had to stop writing–she’ll be back later to continue the tale — Andy]


Thursday, September 7th, 2006

My computer and phone decided to go out on me on the same day, so for a couple of days there the lines of communication were down. The reason the phone went out is because one has to pay a tax on cell phones in Turkey, amounting to approx. $3.50, and which I did not know about. I managed to operate under the radar for a couple of weeks, then the powers that be shut me down. Unfortunately, once you haven’t registered you are out of luck, at least that’s what I gathered from the guy in the Turkcell offices repeatition of the phrase “Turkiye problem” accompanied by a ‘forget it” sort of a hand motion.
I rectified that problem by buying an inexpensive new phone, which I’ll sell once I get home if i can’t use it in the U.S.; but the computer problem is more complicated. The computer wants a hit off of the system disk in order to start up at all, and of course I haven’t one. So my blogging and emailing is slowing down a bit.
Anyhow, we’ve been continuing to clear off the section of city wall, and have started taking points with the Total station. I managed to get sick again and spent the majority of yesterday sleeping. Today I was prohibited from returning to the field, and have spent the day reading an article about Aramaeans in French and Neo-Hittites in English, along with planning for the class I’ll be teaching when I get home (Women in the Ancient World). For the next two days, we have been granted a two-day weekend. Tomorrow I’ll go to Gaziantep and do some touring around there and in the countryside with everyone. After that, some people plan to travel farther afield, but I’m afraid of suddenly getting sick again while on some crazy bus ride, so will probably stick around here.