A few weeks ago, when I had resigned myself to celebrating alone, in a random conversation one of my students told me that he was flying to Ankara to be with his family for Christmas. I began to prod, very carefully, asking why he celebrated Christmas, how often he did it and did anyone else know? Later I found out that all of Turkey celebrates Christmas, but they do it on New Year’s Day, and apparently Santa Claus is from Eastern Anatolia.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey (the book at least – I fell asleep when I watched the movie in my Exploration of Space colloquium), astronaut Dave arrives at this alien purgatory area where he awaits his final transformation into a floating space baby (I read the book – I didn’t understand it). There he finds a room where everything seems like it would be on Earth, but slightly blurred, like someone took a picture of the Earth items and tried to remake the item from the photograph. That’s basically what Christmas is over here. Someone saw Elf and tried to decorate Van like the movie would have been if the budget was ten lira.
Regardless, my girlfriend Holly came over to celebrate with me. Because of a series of very bad things that happened at once, she ended up arriving the day after Christmas, but, like I said, no one here knows when to actually celebrate. We opened presents on the 27th. While she’s been here, we’ve watched season three of
Grey’s Anatomy a compelling medical drama and visited several of my Turkish friends, who all end up giving Holly something from their home. Towels, cookie tins, even a luffa. I got nothing. Thanks a lot, guys. I will NOT be giving you the small jars of American peanut butter I had parceled out for your presents.
From Van, Holly and I are going to hop through Europe, staying with friends and acquaintances of acquaintances, so the posts might be sporadic from Tron McKnight. But I’ll leave you with this. The end of the calendar year marks the mid-point of my grant period. Okay, not really – not mathematically at all, actually – but symbolically. Anyway, one of the other ETA’s here in Turkey prepared a survey for the other fifty, to gauge our various conditions (some people are not having nearly as much fun as I am). The survey asked questions about housing, teaching, social lives, and community outreach (my answer to that open response: “old men I don’t know challenge me to backgammon at my tea house. I always win”). The survey is much needed, because some grantees are having a tough go, and their situations need to be known. It does a great job of that. To give you an idea of what we have to deal with, the problems micro as opposed to macro, out of the hundred or so questions four were about wild dogs with rabies, three were about where to find good beer, and one was about ghosts. It’s not all egg nog and mistle toe here. Don’t forget it.