We actually have a forest on campus (here, in Ankara!), something I've been taking advantage of lately.
A few really busy weeks, nice weather, and a headful of thoughts too personal to blog about are collectively responsible for postponing this entry. Life is full of all types of surprises.
Three weekends ago, Bahar Şenlikleri, Hacettepe Üniversitesi's annual Spring Festival, took place. It was also my first visit to our large, handsome stone amphitheater - probably the nicest thing ever built on this campus. It seems to be halfway between a modern amphitheater and some of the ancient ones that are on many tourist itineraries in this country. There are even two rows of columns lining the road on the walk in, as if they supported an imposing structure during ancient times... but they didn't.
It was a weekend of live music, festival food and other festivities.
The türkü (one type of traditional Turkish music) bands on Friday night ended up being my favorite of the weekend, though mediocre performances at the mixing board made for rather lousy sound and I left early. Saturday night we rocked out to the sound of Seksen Dört ("Eighty-four"), a group whose members either all graduated from Hacettepe, or from Bilkent Üniversitesi, or the lead singer's girlfriend went to Hacettepe -
Emrah and Ola
Pre-gaming for a concert in the afternoon sun. Notice the ugly residence hall in the background (hard to miss, right?). I can't imagine why they thought campus needed a massive Pepto Bismo-colored building - and the yellow window frames?!?! Amazing...
not really sure, everyone had a different version of the story. Anyway, their rockin' sound was a bit dated for my ears, and I left early.
Demet Akılan drew a tremendous crowd on Sunday, which grew a bit unruly during her thorough sound check, after the daredevil motorcycle show ended, that is. A lot goes into making a big-time pop concert look and sound like it does, people. Her big "her şey çok güzel gidiyordu..." hit song was second and everybody went wild. I quickly had my fill and wanted to leave early. Out of beer, and not wanting to spend the rest of the night trying to leave the overly-crammed amphitheater, I tried to escape after about the 4th song or so. After about four more songs I actually reached the exit, having crossed a distance of 50m or so. Way too crowded for my tastes. The weather was not outstanding either - it had been grey and chilly for the preceding month or more, unfortunately.
***a post-script on Demet Akılan: She last week publicly insulted the people of Diyarbakır (Kurdistan's most important city, apart perhaps from İstanbul), calling them "morons" and inspiring quite a reaction. She
süt - "milk"
mısır - "corn" (it also means "Egypt")
I didn't inquire as to weather or not these were sold separately or in some combination, but it didn't seem very appealing for some reason. I guess there are less-healthy things to eat at a concert...
has since publicly apologized and offered to donate money to Diyarbakır's school system. The Diyarbakır government has accepted neither her apology nor her financial offer. Classy pop star...
The next Monday I participated in a Turkish speaking competition for foreigners. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I think there's a good chance I came in dead last. However, all the participants were given an 8-volume set of glossy, full-color Turkish language learning books (almost $200 worth!). Plus, it was fun and many of my Turkish friends were thoroughly entertained.
At some later point during the week, I was in a play, portraying George W. Bush. That was also fun.
The Bahar Şenlikleri was followed the next Friday (the last day of classes) by an even larger concert on campus: Hayko Cepkin and Şebnem Ferah. It was too large, in fact, for the amphitheatre, so they set up a stage in front of it instead. Hayko was, to my ears, a terribly boring combination of scream metal and angsty heavy industrial rock - something I might have found to be really entertaining fifteen years ago. Many audience members mistakenly used the thumb-index-pinkie sign for "I love you"
rather than the Beavis and Butthead-perfected index-pinkie rock salute that they presumably were attempting. Either that or they were sincerely expressing their love for the silly rockstar with the circus haircut. Either case is funny to me, as is the fact that "Hayko" sounds like "haiku." I was filled with comtempt and left early. A few of my friends, who were also either yawning or rolling their eyes, joined me.
We bought a few cans of beer from a man who was hiding in a dark area, in the bushes, near the tennis courts (no doubt making a killing - figuratively, that is) and walked to the empty stadium. We sat at the top of the bleachers, talked, and listened to the roar that continued at the bottom of the hill. After a while, the much-anticipated Şebnem Ferah took the stage. Four years earlier a friend took me to see her in concert in İstanbul, on campus at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi. She was - and still is - a powerful rock performer. Her sound is a bit tired, in my opinion, though obviously very soulful and I'm told that her lyrics are strong and meaningful. Eventually we made our way
back down the hill to catch a few songs, but there is only so much rock that I need these days and before too long I left.
The next night I had a wild night out in Ankara with a bunch of European exchange students. The rest of the weekend was spent finishing up a paper and preparing for finals.
Monday was a day off for Gençlik Bayramı (Youth Fesival). It was a nice follow-up to the day off we had last month for Çocuklar Bayramı (Children's Festival). Exams started Tuesday and I had three of them by Friday. All of them were very difficult and will weigh heavily into my final grades (40-50%!). Being emotionally preoccupied last week did not make the exams any easier, but, again, that is how life goes at times. That's enough about exams and stuff - not the most exciting topic for a travel blog.
Mid-week Sercan fell out of the sky and paid a surprise visit to Ankara. He noted that the Beytepe campus is quite ugly. It is.
Friday night turned out to be fantastic after a rough week. I met up with some wonderful Iranian friends for
There were some yummy choices of festival food at the Bahar Şenlikleri. I hit up this gözleme stand several times.
a birthday celebration. The evening started with an excellent cappuccino and discussions about college life, Iran, and Haleh's (the birthday girl's) desire for a night full of dancing to terrible pop music (her words). We hit a few places before landing at a club called "Overall" sometime after midnight. The tightest, most-impressive band that I've seen all year played two long sets of Turkish and (mostly) Western cover songs. They pulled off a crisply-executed version of "Billie Jean" and later on did justice to James Brown, Justine Timberlake, and several decades' worth of other artists. I was getting down to songs I don't even like - that's how sick this band was. Haleh's dancing wishes were certainly fulfilled.
After hours and hours of sweaty fun we left for an all-night soup restaurant. I politely skipped the tripe once again. It may be an acquired taste, but it's one that I feel I just don't need to acquire. (And the same goes for brains, liver, and rakı).
We got home long after dawn had arrived, weary but somehow refreshed. I'm realizing that although I'll never love Ankara, it's getting harder and harder not to admit at times that I
Sercan made a surprise appearance on Beytepe campus.
do like it. That said, I am still looking forward to returning to İstanbul. Summer vacation has officially started and my immediate plans remain excitingly tentative. One thing is for sure though:
I'm thrilled to be in Turkey!
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