Sunday, October 18, 2009


Yesterday, two of my girl friends and I (Shauna and Olivia) drove to Baypazari for the day. Baypazari is a town 99 km away that is home to carrots and silver jewelry. I went there last year for the carrot festival, and it was crazy-busy, so it was nice to return for a chill day in this quaint Ottoman town. Much money was spent by all on cool jewelry.


Last week, I accompanied the 11th graders on their classtrip to the World War I memorial site of Gallipoli. It was a 10 hour bus ride each way, with one day spent touring Gallipoli with a professional tourguide and 1 day touring the ruins of the ancient city of Troy. The Gallipoli peninsula is about 60 km long and 4-18 km wide, and despite the carnage it witnessed in 1915, now consists of beautiful green rolling country and thick scrub or pine forest, all overlooking the Dardanelles Strait, the narrow body of water connecting the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara.

This trip was very important to our students as it is the site of a very important defeat of the Allied forces by the Turks. It is also where a then-unknown lieutenant-colonel, Mustafa Kemal, rose to fame, and later became Ataturk, the founder of the presentday Turkish Republic.

Some history: Soon after the start of WWI, Winston Churchill thought the quickest way to emliminate Ottoman Turkey in order to open a Balkan front against the Central Powers, was to force the Dardanelles with a fleet and bombard Istanbul into submission. Churchill wanted to knock Turkey out of the war first in order to weaken Germany, while simultaneously exciting anti-Turkish sentiments in Bulgaria and bringing Bulgaria into the war. A combined Anglo-French armada made several attempts throughout 1914-1915 on the straits, and had to retreat several times. Finally, they regrouped for several months, and in the meantime, the Turks were able to stengthen their defenses and increase their supplies. The Gallipoli Campaign eventualy formulated as a simultaneous Anglo-French landing at several of the bays while the ANZAC (Australia-New Zealand Army Corps) assaulted Kabatepe beach 13 km north of them. The two forces were to then drive towards each other. The ANZAC troops landed first at dawn on April 25, 1915 (now known as ANZAC Day), but the scheme ran into trouble right away. The Anglo-French brigade were held down by Turkish fire for several days and were not able to advance more than 6.5 km inland. The ANZAC troops, due to a drifting signal buoy, landed at the wrong bay, a cramped and Turkish-dominated cove. 2000 ANZAC troops died on the first day alone. They advanced inland in staggered parties. The next day, Ataturk made his famous speech to his troops, "I do not order you to fight. I order you to die," and amazingly it worked; the ANZAC troops were halted. Both sides then settled into long-term trench warfares; sometimes trenches were no more than 12 meters from each other. The soldiers were caught in these trenches throughout the hot humid summer months and into the winter. Finally, on Christmas in 1915, the Allied troops gave up, and Churchill's career temporarilty eclipsed while Ataturk's took off. Allied deaths were around 52,000 (1/2 of the men) while incomplete records estimate the Turkish casualties to be somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000. 10,000 ANZACS were killed in Gallipoli, and a total of 60,000 were killed in the entire war, which is a staggering number considering the small populations of New Zealand and Australia.

The memorial site itself consisted of many cemeteries, some with symbolic graves, a Turkish memorial building, a very small museum consisting of letters, photos, guns, and bones, and a beautiful landscape. The site made tribute to all involved in the battle, especially Turks and ANZACs, and some rather touching plaques commemorated the brotherhood that now exhists between the ANZACs and the Turks.

Our students were deeply moved at certain sites, several of them even crying. It is a very important part of their history, and they were very moved by the fact that almost all of the soldiers buried in the cemeteries were their age when they died.

Since it was a school trip, the Turkish Social Studies teacher, Hakan, and I designed assignments based on Gallipoli. My A1 students (higher level-English) were on a hunt for figurative language and its effects; they also were seeking an experience that related to the quote: "Poetry is that which is lost in translation." My A2 students were on a hunt for one visual object (photo, painting, sculpture), and one text-based object (plaque), to analyze its parts in terms of media literacy and determining whether the media text qualifies as argument, persuasion, or propaganda. I completed each of these assignments with my students, and will include below some of my findings.

Firstly, here are some examples of figurative language:

Secondly, the experience I found that supports the quote, "Poetry is that which is lost in translation," involves the transformation of Gallipoli from grim battlefield of trench disease and carnage to a breathtaking landscape with peaceful, touching commemorative plaques. Humans pay tribute to lives lost in war by translating their massive casualties and bloody battlefields into beautiful, reflective parks: the complete opposite of the original battlefield. That which is lost in such a translation is the "poetry" of war. Because the experience is so hard to translate into words, the resulting understanding is a feeling, a heavy weight in your heart, and it is this pressing feeling that war poets use figurative language to try to portray.

Something you would never see in an American war museum:

The kids:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cultural Quirks

Since it is my second year, and many places I am visiting for the second, third, fourth time, I feel the need to share more of the subtleties of living in a different country. For instance, decor in Turkey is quite different from the U.S. If you go into a furniture store, from an American perspective, everything looks gawdy, flashy, overly ornate, and colors and patterns clash like crazy. At first, I thought the clothing was similarly disturbing. I was so sure during the first week of walking around Ankara that I would never buy one article of clothing here. Now, to warn everyone for my return, I have embraced bright pink shoes that don't match anything I am wearing, and giant colorful belts. I find clothes here fun and full of life and exuberance. The furniture and lamps, however, I'm still not buying. Clothes are a great way to express yourself. However, I don't really want my apartment to express itself to me in a loud, in-your-face-way. I want it to be cozy and warm, and so my apartment has remained a version of my Montana home.

The other night, I came upon another venue of gawdiness which I want to share with you. I went to the store to buy a bouqet of flowers for a Turkish teacher-friend whose brother recently passed away in a car accident. My Turkish is steadily improving, however, I did not know the words for "classy," "tame," and "simple." As a result, my friend, Erin, and I watched as Flower Man Extraordinaire added one fluorescent yellow squiggly stick after another, and just when we thought it couldn't get any uglier, he pulled out the seashells, and then came the pink netting and bows. To finish off, he sprayed the arrangement with "flower smell": what smelled to be a combination of cheap perfume and Windex. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen (and cut flowers are not cheap in Turkey!). I was sure it would probably depress Kivanc rather than cheer her up so as soon as I got home, I removed all the gawdiness. I have included the before and after pictures, though I really feel like you needed to have experienced the arrangement live in all its glory.

Camping at Karakaya

I love Fall.