Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Day in the Life - Part 1 - Getting to School

What is a typical day like?

A typical day begins with my alarm going off at 6:45 in the morning. The alarm has a standard sound--dee dee dee dee *rest* dee dee dee dee. Even though it is cheap, the alarm provides a wealth of information. It says the time (which I have set to military time, so I don't accidentally mis-set the alarm by forgetting to choose a.m. rather than p.m.). It says the day. It says the phase of the moon (maybe this feature makes the alarm popular in Turkey since Qur'anic holidays are set to a lunar calendar). It says the temperature in Celsius (although I can change it to Fahrenheit if I want to). And it says the humidity percentage. But at 6:45 in the morning, I am prone to ignore all of this information because my mind is preoccupied with a sense of indignation that my beauty sleep has been interrupted and now I must do something.

So then I walk across the living room, and there is Jena, sitting at the table. She is listening to NPR from her ipad, and she is applying makeup. She typically rises at least a half hour before me to do Pilates and to shower.

On some days I shower. On others I don't because I've showered the night before. I just douse my head with the handheld shower nozzle which helps to calm down some of my over-excited hairs that are standing on end after a night's sleep.

I eat a breakfast of yogurt and granola that I have made myself. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. One--I really like granola, especially my granola which I've made from honey, peanut butter, and cashews. And two, as I eat, I do some reading. At the moment, I'm slowly making my way through Moby Dick for a second time, although I'm thinking of changing books soon. While I love the book, it is a bit laborious during some sections. What I get out of it these days is mainly the similarities I see between Ahab and my office supervisor at work. After breakfast, I clothe myself, brush my teeth, pick up my bag, and head out the door.

Jena and I walk together to work on most days. We take the elevator down from our crows nest on the eleventh floor. We say, "Günaydın" to the security man. Usually it's the big guy who knows a little English. Sometimes Jena is turned off by his state of perpetual grumpiness, but it doesn't bother me. He seems bored with his job, and he seems like he's been cursed--due to his English--with dealing with all the "yabancılar" (foreigners) day in and day out.

The weather is getting cooler now, but some days are temperate. This was the case this week. The sky is sometimes grey with clouds, but they are often high clouds that don't give you that claustrophobic feeling the way rain clouds do.

We walk through this maze of square fouteen-story apartment buildings. I would compare it to the setting of the film The Maze Runner, but generally the atmosphere is a bit less gloomy than that. As we walk, Jena often wants to talk about our upcoming day at work and the logistics of winter vacation plans--both of which are extremely stress-laden topics for me. At this time of the morning, I prefer silence or music or the news so that I can disconnect from the realities of my somewhat unstimulating daily existence. I often daydream about what life would be like on a whaling ship. Or I yearn for the ability to travel back in time to the middle ages. (I have accidentally become engrossed in Game of Thrones, and normally I would chastise myself for having such a dependance on a television show. These days, though, I give myself a break and view it as a coping mechanism as I go through the requisite phase of adjustment that accompanies moving to another country and beginning a full-time job.)

We pass by a Turkish elementary school each morning, and in the play-yard kids are often running around. Some kids walk to school alone. Others walk with a parent. It's not uncommon to see a father carrying one of those micro-sized backpacks while his child, all bundled up, follows behind. Oddly enough, Jena and I walk by this school at almost the exact same time every morning. Yet, on some days the yard is mostly vacant. On other days the yard is mostly full. Just this past Friday, their bell--which sounds a lot like the Tetris theme song--sounded as we walked by, and all the children went running to the doors with so much enthusiasm that it made me jealous.

When Jena and I get to the top of this little hill, we cross the busy street to the main entrance of our university. I can't think of a better place for a crosswalk or at least a change in speed limit. Since neither are present, we look both ways with an extreme sense of precaution. I should note, too, that this is a divided road, the kind with a grassy median. Looking both ways sounds silly, right? While crossing to the median, you should only need to pay attention to traffic going one direction, right? Not in Turkey. I have been blindsided more than once by a horn from a car going the wrong way.

After this daily little panic attack of getting across the road alive, we walk through the main entrance of the university where things are a bit more mellow. We pass the security checkpoint for cars, and then we get to these gates--I'm not sure what to call them; they're the metal bars that are waist-high that you use in subway stations that revolve after you put your ticket them and push on them. So we get to these things, and on days when my brain has fully shedded the aegis of sleep, everything goes fine. On days when I can't get the damn things to work, and when my Turkish fails me when the security guy comes to help, I begin my days with a heavy sense of frustration and inadequacy. There's slight consolation in the fact that you have to put your ID against the sensor on your left side while you push through the bars on the right side. So counter-intuitive. So Turkey.

The final leg of the walk is pleasant. There are relatively few cars on the street that heads past the auditorium, past the library, and up into the main part of the university. Usually the bread guy drives by. He's one of the bakers who works for the bakery in the bottom floor of the apartment building next to ours. He's pretty patient when I practice my Turkish with him. There's another guy who rides by each day on a bike. I don't know what his job is, but you can tell he's got his ducks in a row. His bike is old, the kind that has a basket in front and those handle bars that bend back toward the rider. He has this piece of plastic, cut from a water bottle and attached to his mudguard. Clearly, he knows from experience that the mudguard, as originally manufactured, isn't working as well as it should. And when he rides up to the university, he does this little move to get around these speed bumps set in place for the cars. The speed bumps are made from these three or four-inch pieces of hard yellow plastic that are attached to the asphalt in two staggered rows. When the bicyclist gets to them, he maneuvers his bike just so between them and doesn't get jostled at all.

To our right on the sidewalk is a small park area. There's a green area that has flowers of various colors along its boarders. There are a few benches under free-standing arches. The scene is symmetrical: a path on the right and one on the left head to two staircases that circle up behind a wall at the far side of the park. Two small waterfalls splash down rocks on either side of the green area. On warm days students hang out here. In the beginning of the school year, there were concerts here as well.

Between the auditorium and the library, you can catch glimpses of the open area down the hill that belongs to the large state-funded university nearby. The university is growing, constantly erecting new buildings; yet, for the time being, there is a magnificent open area that is free from development. It provides a counter-point to the monstrous apartment buildings surrounding its borders.

Our building, the "hazırlık," is the first building on the left, after the main road curves up a steeper hill. Jena and I walk down the sidewalk to the front doors. Sometimes I keep an eye out for stray puppies because coworkers have found them here before. The front doors of our building are sliding glass doors, like those you'd find in a grocery store, but ours are bigger and free from advertisements. They don't have the most sensitive sensors, so sometimes you have to watch your walking pace so that you don't end up running your face into the glass. When the doors don't open, you take a step back and wave your hand up at the black ball at the top. It's not a huge deal, but the action makes me feel like a helpless idiot, nonetheless.

Once inside, we head up some stairs that are beside this strange amphitheater area that is never used for anything official and that faces a wall. The wall crowds in a little too closely on the stage area, and the wall is covered with wallpaper that makes it look like the wall is made from stone. But it's not. I've checked.

Our shared offices are on the top floor of the building, and when we get there, Jena always turns to me and says, "Have a good day." It's very sweet of her. My "You, too." sounds lackluster in comparison. But it's hard to get a longer phrase in because she is quick to disappear into her office, which right at the top of the stairs. I wander down the hall--to my left are more offices and a couple computer labs, to my right is a handrail because the hallway is actually a balcony that looks over the foyer and the amphitheater. When I get to the door at the end, I head in and begin my work day.


  1. Can't wait for the next installment about your classes!

  2. Very visual - enjoyed it. I laughed about Jena's brain on practical to-do things in the morning: that's Ken and me. I know because there's this tiny flash of resignation across his eyes and I realize his brain's definitely not on my wavelength. :o)

  3. Blogger didn't notify me about these comments. Thanks for reading!