Note: I wrote this on Sunday, July 5, and I posted this on Sunday, July 12.
It’s Sunday night, and I don’t really feel like writing a blog post right now. But a) nothing would get done if we always waited until we “felt like” doing something, and b) this might be last change to write a post until next weekend because of quizzes this week and a midterm on Friday.
I had a lovely weekend at my uncle Ertuğrul’s apartment in Kadıköy (literally, “judge village”). My dad kindly spent almost an hour on public transportation to get from my uncle’s place on the Asian side of Istanbul to my dorm on the European side, just so I didn’t have to journey to my uncle’s place alone. Once we made the trip back to the Asian side together and got off the bus in Kadıköy, we walked around a bit before going to my uncle’s house. We went to Kadıköy’s crowded, famous shopping district and found a mini-square called Altıyol (6 roads) because, you guessed it, it’s where 6 roads meet. In the square there was a famous bull statue, and my dad took my picture there. (I’m wearing red and blue because it was the Fourth of July! That was the extent of my celebration, haha.) Then we walked down to the shore and found a cute street with a Coldstone Creamery. We didn’t eat there, but I took a picture because my brother used to work at Coldstone. And my dad insisted on taking a picture of me on the street, of course. Then we briefly stopped in a post office so I could mail a letter to Will. It’s been a long time since I’ve sent an actual letter! Once we got closer to the Bosphorus, my dad pointed out an old building that was across the water and had once been a train station – Haydarpaşa Terminal. It was where my dad and his family first set foot in Istanbul so many years ago after leaving their hometown of Kars in Eastern Turkey.
At Ertuğrul Amca’s house, we were greeted by him, my Arzu Hala, and my cousin Elif. We had a delicious home-cooked meal (Ertuğrul, just like Arzu and my dad, is an amazing cook) at 6:30 or 7 (early for Turkey) because Arzu Hala and Elif wanted to leave pretty early so they could get back to their home on the European side before it got too dark. After they left, I saw the most beautiful sunset from my uncle’s apartment window. Then my dad and I went to Bağdat Caddesi (Baghdad Avenue – I don’t know why it’s called that), a street in Kadıköy famous for shopping and eating. We had Turkish coffee, and as we were walking back to the apartment, I saw the cutest goat statue in front of Mado, one of my favorite dessert places ever. We were too full from dinner to have dessert, but it was fun just walking around.
This morning we had a wonderful traditional Turkish breakfast. Like I said in my last post, besides the obvious joy of being around family, the nicest part of visiting relatives is having home-cooked meals. Then after breakfast I just did a bit of homework before my dad and I left to go back to my dorm.
One other thing about my visit – last night, Ertuğrul Amca lectured me on how I should do everything I can to not forget my Turkish when I go back to the States. He said that in his youth he spent a year in France and could speak French pretty well, but now he’s forgotten so much. He asked me what type of novel I like best, and I said realistic and/or historical fiction. He gave me a book from his shelf: Sofia, by Ann Chamberlin. In Turkish, it is called Safiye Sultan, and on the front page, Ertuğrul Amca wrote a touching dedication. He told me that when I’m in Spain in the fall, I should read a bit of the book every night. I know that would be good for me, but, unfortunately, I doubt how realistic it is that I will follow through. First of all, part of me is a touch bitter that he (and some of my other relatives, too) lectured me on how I should work hard to keep up my Turkish. I didn’t HAVE to spend two years at Northwestern learning Turkish and then work so hard to apply to this program and win grants for it. Before I started learning Turkish, my relatives never really pressured me to do so. (In truth, it isn’t very practical for me, though for some reason I am quite driven to do it and am really glad to have devoted so much time to it.) But now that I am learning Turkish, they feel that they must push me to speak it the best I can. I know they just want me to get the most out of this language-learning journey and to not lose what I have worked so hard for, but sometimes it feels like they are suggesting that I owe it to them to spend so much time and energy on Turkish. Like I said, though, I know that isn’t true.
Anyway, Ertuğrul Amca, in his bossy, enthusiastic, well-meaning way, made me read the first paragraph of the novel out loud to him, and then he made me explain it to him in simpler Turkish. He complemented my pronunciation and comprehension, and so it is – now I have ahead of me the task of reading my first novel in Turkish. I hope that writing all this down in my blog will make me more likely to actually read a bit of Turkish each night while in Spain. And speaking of Spain, I brought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Spanish to Turkey, but I’ve barely read a page so far! Yet another task to chip away at, but for the most part I am not bitter. I keep comparing this summer to last summer, when I stayed in Evanston and worked 9-5 (or longer) 5 days a week. I had a wonderful time feeling like a “real” person, hanging out with friends, and exploring Evanston and Chicago, but I feel so lucky that I get to vary my summers and spend this one learning, not working. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course.)