We went out to dinner with a few students the other night. They took us to a part of Ankara we’d never been to known as 7th Street. It’s near universities and seems to be the hang out place for college students and young adults in general, filled with bars, restaurants, cafes and trending stores.
After eating and some dessert, one of my students challenged me to a game of backgammon, tavla in Turkish.
I realized, we haven’t probably explained to many of you how popular backgammon is here. You can’t walk down a street without seeing a cafe filled with men smoking, drinking tea and playing backgammon.
Another illustration of how popular the game is comes from our friends’ furniture. They live in an apartment that came furnished. On their couch, or rather, in their couch there is a backgammon set. Imagine the back (or front) seat of a car, how the middle seat can fold down and reveal cup holders or something of the sort. Their couch does this and reveals a backgammon set.
Not only that, the top of their coffee table can be flipped over, revealing a backgammon set and there was a mobile backgammon set in one of the compartments of the coffee table. Within five feet, three sets.
I like backgammon, I play on my iPod quite regularly, but I never have really been challenged here to play, so it was fun to play against a real human being with a real set.
I lost the first game and learned a few Turkish phrases along the way. When you take the other player’s piece or kill them, it is called ‘kırmak’ (the verb-to break) or ‘kırık’ (the adjective-broken). After getting killed, when you can’t play and are stuck, it is called ‘gele’.
I won the second game, and nearly skunked my opponent which earns me two points instead of one, which is called ‘mars’.
So, with the match tied, we had to play another game, which I won by only a few pips.
After I had won, my student told me that the winner always has to fold the set up and hand it to the loser under their arm so they can take it away and learn how to play better before they return for another match. I obliged and we’ll see when he returns to challenge me again.