This week marked my third week to teach professors at Yuzuncu Yil University, but it was also my first week to teach the medical faculty. I now have two separate classes on two separate campuses – the regular professors (education, theology, veterinarians) and the doctors.
The doctors are much cooler.
Campus is about 20 minutes outside of the city of Van; the medical faculty is located in the heart of the city. Everyday after lunch, the medical faculty sends a car to pick me up and bring me to the city. Everyday the car is driven by the same Turk, Niza Matin.
Niza is probably sixty, and looks like all other sixty year old Turkish men: a little pudgy, five year old mustache, wears a suit everyday. Each time I get in the car, Niza is sweating. Like beads, running down the side of his face.
He also speaks no English, but he talks the entire ride. I try to look at him while he talks, and nod, saying, “Tamam” during the pauses (basically, “Okay”). I have to listen hard for the change in pitch, if he’s asking a question – when he asks a question, he usually looks at me. I used to say, “I don’t understand,” but that never stopped him, so I don’t anymore. Now I say things like, “You know, Tom Cruise said the exact same thing to me yesterday at the club.” Then Niza will say, “Tamam.”
The difference between the medical faculty and my regular students, besides the doctors being a little bit more advanced, is imagination. They talk all the time, and they just run with questions that I ask them. For instance, when I ask my regular class to pretend that they are meeting one another for the first time, they ask me to restate the question a few times, then say “Hello,” to one another. In Turkish.
I gave this task to the doctors. The first pair, a surly old man named Bulent and the only woman, Sahran, began innocently enough until Bulent asked Sahran how her operation went. She got confused, and Bulent clarified. “I heard they took out your kidney.” Sahran turned to me and said this wasn’t true, but Bulent interrupted. “I am pretending.”
The absolute scariest part of my day is when Niza drives me home. My first day, the outbound traffic, towards the university, was clogged. We were stuck. Niza muttered a few Turkish curses then jumped the median between our lane and incoming traffic. Then we drove for three minutes in the incoming traffic lane. And it was just as full as our lane.
As I got out of the car later and tried to hide the pee stains on my pants, I was shutting the door, with my hand in the small crack between the frame and the window (I rolled it down to throw up in fear), Niza rolled the window up on my fingers, trapping them. Then he pulled out of the parking lot. I ripped my fingers out of the door and waved limply. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”