Turkey Diaries: Part Deux*

I’ve now spent the first of my three months at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey. I was happy to enjoy the company of my visiting family for ten days but now that they’ve left, all I’ve got to do for the next two months is to focus on my studies here.

This blog post will begin with another photo-bomb campaign showing the touristy stuff I did with my family, but will conclude with some more ‘serious’ academic stuff on the state of my studies and research.

One of the first things me and my family went to see when we met in Istanbul was Hagia Sophia (or, Ayasofya in Turkish). I’m not usually a fan of these ‘must-see’ tourist destinations but this thing was legitimately impressive (all pix either by me or by mrs. extremeresearcher):

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We also visited Topkapi Palace (home of the Ottoman emperors and their harem). Extremeresearcher jr. getting in his daily run in the palace park:

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After Istanbul we headed to my ‘home town’ of Ankara. Ankara isn’t much of a tourist destination but it does have one unique tourist destination, the Anitkabir, a.k.a. Ataturk Mausoleum. This pic is taken from the grave of Ismet Inönu who, after his death, received the honor of being buried together with his mentor Ataturk (i.e. The Father of the Turks):

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This was my first time visiting a mausoleum and this thing definitely set a standard that I would assume is hard to surpass in the future. It’s kind of funny visiting a place like this that is wholly devoted to the worship of a single person but the experience was an altogether positive one. I’ll probably visit this place again on my own to check it out more in-depth. Below is one of the guard soldiers standing in front of an inscription of some of Ataturk’s quotes:

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From Ankara we headed towards Cappadocia, some 300 km South-East of Ankara. On the way we made a random stop when we noticed this salt lake (Tuz Gölu). This was a pretty cool (not literally) spot. Extremeresearcher jr. getting in another run:

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In Cappadocia I participated in a trail/mountain running race called Cappadocia Ultra Trail.  I was originally registered for the 110 km distance but due to having a bad year health-wise I decided to be smart and switched to the 35 km version. It still had about 1000 m of vertical gain on some fairly technical trails so it was plenty challenging for my current fitness level. This is a place I definitely want to come back to, if for no other reason than the scenery alone:

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I’ve been to plenty of races and adventures around the world before but rarely am I confronted with the kind of scenery that makes me want to just take pictures all the time and forget about running.

I have a feeling that as a masculinities scholar these shapely sandstone towers should remind me of something but I can’t quite put my finger on it:

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The brilliantly designed race route also took the runners through some pretty exciting cave systems. Not for those with claustrophobic tendencies:

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Running it in with extremeresearcher jr:

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After my family left I luckily didn’t have time to dwell on missing them since I had to head directly to Hacettepe Uni to participate in my class on Culture and Environment. I did manage to snap one pic on my way to class, though (these stairs look like a miniature imitation of Istanbul’s famous rainbow stairs):

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Luckily, I made it to class on time (being late for these meetings is not a good idea), and even managed to do at least a half-decent job of presenting my thoughts on Patricia Yaeger‘s groundbreaking ecocritical essay “Literature in the ages of wood, tallow, coal, whale oil, gasoline, atomic power, and other energy sources”, which argues that instead of basing literary studies on time-based eras such as ‘literature of the 1900s’, or intellectually-based eras such as Renaissance, Modernism, etc. we might consider dividing literatures based on energy.

Yep, that’s right. The though first seems just plain bizarre, then when you read the essay it starts to sound more and more intriguing, not to mention the views it opens up to teachers of literature. If you’re interested, it’s easy to find the essay by googling it.

We also discussed Yaeger’s essay on rubbish ecology, which was as interesting, if not more so, than her other essay. In it, she questions the old boundaries between nature, trash, and culture, stating that “[t]he binary trash/culture has become more ethically charged and aesthetically interesting than the binary nature/culture. In a world where nature is dominated, polluted, pocketed, ecotouristed, warming,melting, bleaching, dissipating, and fleeing toward the poles—detritus is both its curse and its alternative. Trash is the becoming natural of culture, what culture, eating nature, tries to cast away. In the midst of simulacra, it is also a substance in which we can encounter decay and mortality” (338). Whaddya think?

We also discussed several other essays in class, as we do in our every meeting. The group has  now dwindled down to less than half of the original participants, no doubt due to the amount of work expected from participants and possibly also due to the high level of expectations that the teacher of the class has towards her students. As for me, I don’t mind because I came here to work, and work I shall. After all, it would be rather pointless to travel all the way here and spend all this time away from home if I could learn all this stuff in my own university.

Before wrapping up this already lengthy post I should quickly mention another essay that I found especially interesting, namely Simon C. Estok‘s “Ecocriticism in an Age of Terror“. The essay argues that we humans currently have an ‘ecophobic’ (i.e. fearful and hateful) relation to our environment. Ecopfobia is an important new concept within ecocritical theory and I’m glad that I’m getting exposed to it here.

I’ll write more about the stuff I’m learning in class in future blog posts and also try to keep the blog up to date on how my own research progresses during this exchange period. Now I’ll just leave you with photographic evidence of Turkish Starbucks workers’** sense of humor:

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*Pic credit of the most awesome movie ever: wikipedia.org

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**As you may or may not know, at Starbucks they usually ask you for your name when you place your order so that they may call out to you when your beverage of choice is ready.

Featured image (not visible in mobile theme) credit: runnershighco.com

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