We had a fascinating session this afternoon offered by a Political Science professor from Bilikent University in Ankara. He explained key events in the past 100 years of Turkish history and outlined the current political geography. He was thorough, respectful, humble, witty… all the great things you want in a teacher.

Anyway, at one point he told us “Maybe this is just one of those aphorisms you see on facebook, but I’ve heard that the Chinese, when they want to curse each other, say ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Well, you’ve come to Turkey at an extremely interesting time.”

He is right. Turkey is full of questions about the current political structure, the rapid consolidation of political power in the hands of a few, the media’s ability to report freely, the influx of Syrian refugees, the Kurdish opening, and so much more. He told us that he reads 12 newspapers a day in order to try to get even a surface level understanding of what is happening on a daily basis. Its complicated!

What isn’t complicated… cake! And sabers. We had both last night at a “Turkish Festival” they threw for us at the hotel where orientation is being conducted.

Also, I’m terrible at taking pictures. Terrible at both the act of taking a picture and the ability to remember to take pictures of things. So deal with it. I’ll try harder… maybe.

Back to last night: as we drank wine and ate from the huge variety of meze (small plates), a traditional Turkish dance troupe put on a show featuring, among others, a “gypsy dance” and “fish monger” dances. You could almost hear all the anthropology majors in the room considering how to respond to these titles. Then the dancers handed out wrap skits and tamborines and pulled us all up on stage to dance with them. We held on to each others pinkies and spun around in circles till the music’s frenetic pace left us all behind. That is when the brought out the cake and handed three people a saber to cut it with it. Oh and then, a mass of confetti from the sky. Yep, this is not Arkansas.

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Also, I mapped my brain during a boring seminar:

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