This past weekend was the mid-year meeting for all Fulbright ETA’s in Turkey. The Fulbright Commission paid for the Ankara Hilton this time – BOO YEAH. They had a pillow menu. The hot tub wasn’t that hot, but I was definitely there for a long time because where else am I going to find a hot tub in Turkey? In comparison, the last meeting we had in Ankara was in an orgetmenevi, or teacher’s house. Three plus out of the fifty Fulbrighters got food poisoning, and the railing on my balcony was broken. I could’ve died.
On Friday, we went up one by one to a stand and microphone and gave a summary of our individual situations. By the second presentation, I realized I am ridiculously lucky to be in Van. Most everyone had some outrageous complaint: my boss doesn’t talk to me, my peers think I’m not a real teacher, I’m not getting paid, Cass stares at me when he thinks I’m not looking (I overheard the last one at breakfast). Almost every single girl, even the ones who stated that they loved their situation, said men think they are prostitutes, and will on occasion shout that out in the street.
I get paid regularly. I love my department head and my peers. I have yet to be called a gigolo. Plus, no one else lives in a city with its own animal. Van cat outside my window – high five! Or run away because of my sudden movement.
It’s obvious that Fulbright regrets these difficulties – I mean, they gave us each 300 lira in incidentals (of which I spent 50…on keychains). It remains to be seen how well the problems will be fixed by the time we leave.
However, Saturday was a free day and I’ll just come out and say it – the best day I’ve had in Turkey, hands down. After switching hotels (no one could afford the Hilton if the government wasn’t paying for it), a few friends and I played Dungeons and Dragons for seven hours. I can’t say much now, because it deserves its own post, but it is definitely the greatest thing I’ve ever done, right behind regularly serving the homeless at the soup kitchen where I made BANK. Per hour of work, I don’t think I’ve ever made more.
Saturday night, everyone wanted to go out. In our respective villages, no one drinks much because of the stigma, so when Fulbrighters get together, people drink a lot (not me, Mom). On Friday, at the pinnacle of drinking time, I had a guy offer me a job in the fall at a camp in California; at breakfast on Saturday he not only couldn’t remember it, but admitted that he had no authority to hire anyone. Anyway, on Saturday, I did not want to go out, but I am a follower so there was really no choice. As it turned out, the bar we went to had a dance floor. CHA-CHING.
I realized after a few hours of dancing that people in Fulbright don’t really know the actual versions of each other. Though no one tries to hide themselves, inevitably what we get is the Turkish version of each other. No one knew I liked to dance.
I’ve often dreamed about being able to play the piano well but never doing so. That way, after weeks or months of knowing someone, I could sit down at a piano and make people cry. Then all the girls would be like, “Cass, I totally see you for the stud muffin you are, underneath your big eyebrows.” However, when I started dancing, all the girls would say is, “You’re crazy,” or “Your shirt is on inside out.”
|We named the award after him…sort of.|
Or how my voice cracked while dancing in front of an audience of thousands of my peers. Listen how they laugh at 7:54. However, they seem impressed with my high kicks around the 3:15 mark.
Regardless, I got to relive my glory days and I only hit one Turk it the head with an elbow. Or he’s the only one who complained. All in all, great weekend.