15.2.10 - 15.2.10 10 °C
Upon sitting down in my first class in Istanbul I was overcome with a strong desire to shout obscenities at my professor. Of course I would never do such a thing, but the thought was extremely satisfying. How odd; I am not at all an aggressive person. Nevertheless there I was laughing on the inside as I pictured myself pushing her off her chair and throwing her pencil across the room. You are probably wondering what on earth brought a classy and sophisticated person like myself to the verge of humiliating immaturity. The reasons for my mental temper-tantrum are threefold:
First, it was my birthday, and it sucked. I woke up to a noticeable absence of celebration of any sort. Then the Turkish lesson was hard (it made me feel like I was back in my first days of NPSIA confidently preparing to debate my soon-to-be dear friend Paul who is a freaking genius and made me look like the Sarah Palin of politics). The birthday blues were fast descending and it was not even noon so I decided to take off my Princess Pants and forget that it was my special day. Clearly Turkey had missed the memo and I would not be receiving the royal treatment this year. (On the bright side, if you subscribe to the idea that you are only as old as you feel then I am still at the ripe old age of 4!)
Also, after having spent a blissful 3 weeks in the honeymoon phase with Istanbul I was moving into the second stage of culture shock: the rejection phase. Travel and Health websites warn that the newcomer may begin to feel aggressive and start to complain about the host culture/country. . . . It is important to recognize that these feelings are real and can become serious. This phase is a kind of crisis in the 'disease' of culture shock. It is called the "rejection" phase because it is at this point that the newcomer starts to reject the host country, complaining about and noticing only the bad things that bother them. At this stage the newcomer may either move on to the third stage, seek comfort with a colony of countrymen “Colony Syndrome” or simply go home. I had recently noticed myself more than a little irked by gender differences and crowding in Istanbul. Good thing the Olympics are on in my hometown, otherwise known as The Best Place on Earth. As if I need any more enticement.
Lastly, my sudden urge to bully may also be explained by a frustration-induced delirium. Emilie and I had spent about 4 hours on buses trying to get our student bus pass, but the office was not making the 2010 passes until the following week and had closed 30 minutes prior to our arrival. Perfect. Glad we came. We spent another hour looking for a bus back to campus, wandering along the highway like lost, blond sheep (read lots of honking and slow, gawking drive-by's). When loud trucks rumbled past we would take the opportunity to get our frustration out and yell as loud as we could into the roar of the engine. That game lifted our spirits until I got an email from a school administrator that our evening class was an hour earlier than we had thought. We skipped dinner to make it on time. (Yeah, I missed a meal for school. That is love.) Finally we got to the professor's office and were greeted by the typical Turkish response to someone in a hurry: Where are you from? As if I have time for this right now! It is time to learn! Well no, it was not. No one else had shown up early so we had to wait until more students arrived.
We were tired, hungry, soiled by exhaust and public transit, suffering from cultural fatigue, and extremely frustrated with constant misinformation. With perma-scowls we stormed the cafeteria in a silent fury. The big basket of free bread that normally causes us to break out into song was violently pillaged and thrown aside. Not even our favorite treat, sutlaç (rice pudding) could cheer us up. The little dark rainclouds over our heads were not going anywhere.
As we dragged our broken spirits back to class we tried to make sense of our day. It was not so much a conversation as the two of us spitting out bitter comments about our hardships and praising Canada's beautifully organized society (if I had a penny). We were absolute epitomes of the rejection phase. Still reeling from the dreadful saga of the laptop (http://leillac.travellerspoint.com/1/), I started to generalize about Turkish bureaucracy with a comment about how it is like a wild goose chase where you never actually catch the goose, but Em finished my thought perfectly: Turkey is a wild goose chase where the goose is actually a duck.
Finally the spell was broken and we laughed for the first time in hours. All the silliness that had been building up with no release came tumbling out in a jubilant waterfall of immaturity. We were literally drunk with laughter so that now I cannot remember the strange things we found funny. Suffice to say that is the state of mind I was in as I sat down in my first ever graduate class in Turkey and felt delighted at the thought of dumping my entire water bottle on my professor's head. It was a good birthday after all.