Tuesday, March 10, 2009


One rental car, 5 women, and a weekend. We decided to check out a charming town called Amasya about 4 hours east of Ankara. Amasya is known for its Pontic king tombs, Ottoman architecture, birthplace of the first geographer, Strabo, home of the first insane asylum that practiced music therapy (the Mongols), and a narrow river valley.
Pontus was a kingdom located in a fertile valley between two rivers. It was established by a refugee-adventurer from a Greek city-state , Mithridates. He established Amasya as the capital of Pontus around 300 BC, and as a result many of the Pontic kings are buried there in tombs carved into the cliffs above the town.
Many people have since occupied the town. Our hotel was stuffed with Ottoman artifacts:

The Ottoman houses along the river, Yesilirmak:

The girls:

The town:

The Pontic King tombs:

The first signs of spring!

Hattuşa: The Ancient Hittite Capital

On our drive home to Ankara, we stopped at Hattuşa, a settlement occupied by the Hittites around 2500 BC. This was their capital city, and consisted of an artificial bank with tunnel entrances, a castle perched upon a hill, and all other buildings encloses within the city walls. The settlement was mixed amongst rocky outcrops in rolling hills; it must have been camouflaged in its day. You can imagine that at 4000 years old, there wasn't MUCH of the building structures left to see. Only the foundations, which created eerie patterns in the earth. An eerie day in general: about to storm, and I was foggy-headed from a weekend of driving. I would like to return to Hattuşa in the summer when I have more time to hike around the ruins and soak in the vibes. In the meantime, we toured the place in a 1/2 hour, jumping in and out of the car, running around trying to read the signs and see everything. (We had to have the rental car back by 5:30pm).

Some cool facts about Hittites:
1. They set up city-states (a term I still remember for 6th grade Social Studies).
2. They wrote on cuneiform tablets (also learned in 6th grade S.S.).
3. The arrival of the Sea Peoples resulted in the destruction of Hattuşa around 1200 BC (same time as the Fall of Troy). (My traveling companions and I loved the name, "Sea Peoples." All the other inhabitants of Anatolia had cool names like Hittites and Ottomans. But this particular group were just "the Sea Peoples." Like Ursula from the Little Mermaid.)
4. Hittite culture that survived and became known as the Neo-Hittites were a group of people who were mentioned in the Bible, in conjunction with Abraham and David.
5.They had a highly advanced and complex social system. Kings were absolute rulers, but then there was an assembly that had a lot of influence. There was a major division in society between the free and the slaves. Their legal code involved 200 laws. The best: rape and bestiality were punished by death. The worst: murder was only punished by a fine if the victim was a slave.
6. The two most important gods in their religion were the sun goddess Hebut and the weather god Teshuba.

Teshuba was definitely present during our visit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Androcles and the Lion

The school play is going up this weekend! Last night, we all stayed until 9pm doing a tech rehearsal. I was busily sewing sword loops and capes onto soldier costumes, and repairing ripping costumes with my student assistant, the amazing Melis. Stacy is stage managing, Wes is in charge of lighting, and our dear friend, Duffy, the director, is trying to stay sane whilst managing 40 highschoolers in pulling together this production of Androcles and the Lion by George Bernard Shaw. Here are some pictures of that process.

A Day at School

A regular scene in room FZ22 with my 11th graders, studying Tennessee Williams' A Glass Menagerie. You can tell from the pictures that the students are just hanging off my every word; they've never felt so inspired by an English teacher in their entire lives. Well, maybe not, but at least they're smiling.

It was Twin Day for Spirit Week. Miss Chestnut (Stacy), Zeynep, and I were triplets. Zeynep has chosen me as her extended essay supervisor, and she is going to write about how Barack Obama is using the theme of hope and dreams from his African American predecessors in order to affect change in the U.S.. A girl after my own heart.

Notice the progression of emotions in these pictures as Naz realizes she has read the wrong 300-page book on which to write her extended essay.