Posted by: Andy | April 13, 2011

Food File: Unripe Almonds (Çağla)

As Spring rolls around, one of Turks favorite snacks comes into season…or rather pre-season.  Almonds are rather easy to find in Ankara year round and they’re always pretty solid.  But unripe almonds (in Turkish Çağla) well, they’re only here for the Spring and they disappear, and when I say, unripe almonds, I certainly do mean it. 

However, Turks don’t eat the unripe almond alone, no, no, no, they eat the casing that goes around the almond as well, a fuzzy green shell that reminds me of a bean pod.

Street sellers forego their winter staple of chestnuts literally roasting on an open fire for these. 

The taste is rather difficult to pinpoint.  They taste nothing like a ripe almond or any nut for that matter.  They kind of have a vegetable taste, like a bean pod, yet it has some juice to it, as though it were a fruit.  The taste kind of reminds me of raw rhubarb (which Turks have never heard of), though not as sour.  These are a bit sour, yet there is no overly strong flavor.  It’s a texture snack with a fuzzy skin, crunchy outside and juicy core.  One of my students recommends them with salt, which does enhance the flavor a bit.

I like them, but eating more than ten in one sitting would give me a stomach ache.

Posted by: Andy | April 8, 2011

How to Teach: Intermediate 2

And we’ve finally reached the final installment of the series.  Upon completing Intermediate 2 (I2), students are given a certificate, that can help them in certain sectors to get jobs, promotions or raises, so for many students, this is the goal level.  A student who completes this level should have very little trouble communicating in English and if they were to move to a country where English is the dominate language, they could likely become fluent in after a year or two immersed in the culture.

Week 1

After the typical formalities of getting to know the class and testing each of their skills, I dive into a review of present perfect simple and present perfect continuous.  Since students have likely seen this before it goes quickly, and I tend to do a lot of speaking practice in the first week, making sure students aren’t just good on paper, but can actually use the language.

Week 2

Here we dive into verb patterns, when we use verbs like want, it is followed by an infinitive (to v1 for Turkish learners).  Verbs such as finish are followed by a gerund (verb-ing).  Many verbs can use both patterns with a similar meaning.  “I like swimming”; is hardly different from, “I like to swim”.  But sometimes the meaning changes, either dramatically or subtly.  For example.  There is a difference between “I stopped smoking” and “I stopped to smoke”.  The first speaks of quitting something, while the second states the purpose of stopping. 
We also get into other patterns that are not so common, for example, let, make and help not using to, but using the infinitive.  “She made me stay.”  As opposed to force and allow.  “She forced me to stay.”  Small changes, subtle differences.  That’s what makes I2 such a good course and such a difficult one. 

Week 3

Here we cover some rather important topics, past criticism and speculation along with the third conditional (unreal past).  This involves a lot of “He should/shouldn’t have …”  As well as, “If he hadn’t done this, this wouldn’t have happened.”  The materials we use actually have some hilarious stories about criminals who do stupid things and get caught.  Students then have to make up sentences using one of the previously mentioned grammar structures.  They tend to get a kick out of such things.

Week 4

Here’s a mixture of the dull, yet necessary: articles.  Most students have no problem distinguishing between when to use a/an or the.  The problem is when do we use the and when do we use no article.  This is difficult simply because there are no real rules, only patterns.  For example, we use the when referring to a newspaper: the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Paynesville Press.  We use no article when referring to a magazine: Vogue, Time, Think Geek.   Why?  You tell me.  We also use the when referring to a sea, but not to a lake: “The Black Sea” but “Lake Superior”.  But perhaps worst of all is that we say: the University of North Carolina, but we say: Duke University.  Rather silly, don’t you think?

Week 5

Next comes present speculation.  “He might be at home.”  Or “You must be joking.”  One of the teachers at our school has a game for this called “Where’s Robin?” in which the class is given a plethora of clues as to where Robin is not and they have to figure out where he is.  Good stuff. 

Week 6

At the end of the fifth week and beginning of the sixth, we teach reported speech, a topic that so many students have learned wrongly in schools.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “He said me…”  So yeah, reported speech is essentially the gossip tense of English.  A previous conversation in which a person says, “I’m thinking of buying a car.”  is reported to another person as: “He told me that he was thinking of buying a car.”  We change the tense and use phrases like “He said…”  “He told me…” etc.  It’s one of those topics that most students will know the grammar for, but they cannot put it into practice. 
After that, review and exam.  I’m currently teaching two of these courses and have actually only taught it once before.  My highest exam score was a  91, by a girl who was born in Oklahoma and lived there until early childhood before her family returned to Turkey.   

Our school also offers four higher course levels, (Upper-Intermediate 1 +2, Advanced 1 + 2).  We’ve never been asked to teach these courses, which is absolutely fine with me.  They end up covering topics that I would not know how to explain to a native speaker, much less a student, such as clefting, defined vs. non-defined relative clauses, future perfect continuous and many others I’m not even aware of.

For more information on other classes, check out Beginner, Elementary 1, Elementary 2Pre-Intermediate 1, Pre-Intermediate 2, Intermediate 1.

Posted by: Andy | April 1, 2011

Sporcle!

So one of the favorite pastimes for the Jones household is attempting to answer questions on the popular quiz website Sporcle

In it, there are thousands of quizzes related to every category you could think of.  We tend to focus on music, literature, theatre (where I make Stephanie answer all the questions and sports (where Stephanie makes me answer all the questions).

I’ve recently taken to making a few of my own quizzes, just for fun. 

Here’s one quiz that I created, that you may enjoy.  It involves Bible characters as if they were able to tweet some of their most interesting experiences. 

Let me know what you think.


Posted by: Andy | March 31, 2011

Zombie Dog

Last Sunday after we taught our morning classes and had some lunch, Stephanie and I were sitting in our normal spots in the teachers’ lounge, planning and just waiting for class to start.  Our typical spots are right next to the window and we both tend to stare down from our third floor (fourth floor by American measurements) vantage point and people watch.

Our vantage point of Kizilay (picture the Zombie Dog in front of the white canopy)

On Sunday however, the people watching was far more entertaining than usual.  In the intersection of two busy walkways, a dog was lying there, not moving.  I watched people walk by for at least 15 minutes and the dog did not move.  I was three floors up and at least fifty meters away, so it was rather difficult to tell if the dog’s chest was taking in air or not.  I believed this dog to be dead.

At first, as people walked by, many didn’t take notice.  They just walked around the dog without giving it a first -much less a second- glance. But after a few minutes people started noticing.  They stopped and looked at the dog.  They undoubtedly wondered the same thing I was wondering, “Is this dog dead or just sleeping?”

It’s not uncommon for untamed dogs to be in the streets.  It’s not unheard of for them to fall asleep in the streets either.  But for a dog to not move for so long was a bit unusual.  Many people after looking for a few seconds kept moving, glancing back at the dog to see if it would move or not.  This led me to believe this dog certainly had died.

We pointed this out to the other teachers.  One said that he had seen the dog earlier in the day walking around.  Another said he had seen it lying in a different place not far from where it had now come to rest, but we all watched at the window and the dog did not move.

After a while, one passerby prodded the dog’s paw with his own foot.  The dog still did not stir.  This action told me, the dog was indeed dead.

Eventually the other teachers went back to their planning as did I and I glanced occasionally to make sure the dog was still there.

Then, out of nowhere, the dog twitched its back legs.  I was surprised, but I’ve seen these involuntary spasms in other dead animals. Then, it put its head into the air and looked around.  Then put its head right back down again.  That couldn’t have been a spasm.

Not a Zombie Dog

Not a Zombie Dog

I told the other teachers the dog was alive and they crowded back around the window watching intently as an animal control truck pulled up.  They prodded the dog awake and it did indeed stand up and walk half-heartedly into their truck (with some assistance).  It was certainly an old dog, a mangy dog in poor health.  I’ve heard that Turkish animal control never puts animals down, but I have never heard if that is definitively true or not.

What struck me about this scene with the dog and the people walking by was that it reminded me so much of the good Samaritan story Jesus tells, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.  (Here’s the Turkish version, start reading at verse 25, finish at 37.)

In that story, a man gets beaten up walking from Jerusalem to Jericho.  From cultural context, most scholars believe this man is very likely this man was a Jewish person.  Three people meet this man after he gets beaten up.  The first is a priest and he walks right on by.  The second is a Levite who also passes by on the other side.

The third is a Samaritan.  Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along in the first century AD at all.  They were sworn enemies.  Jews in Jesus’ day would travel hundreds of miles out of their way just to avoid passing through Samaritan areas.

The Samaritan not only stops to help them man, but bandages up his wounds, takes him to a hotel, pays for his stay and asks the hotel’s manager to help the guy out as he recovers and promises to pay him back whatever he spends.

The zombie dog, as I call him, reminds me of the guy who got beat up.  People walking by on their phones and not even noticing the dog remind me of the priest.  The story doesn’t really make any distinction between the priest and the Levite, but I wonder if one barely noticed and the other actually stopped and stared for a while-checking to see if the man was dead or not, but eventually electing to continue on their way and not offer any help.

I don’t know who called animal control, but somebody must have.  Perhaps a nearby shop owner noticed the dog and asked for its removal.  Sadly in the Zombie dog’s life, there really wasn’t a good Samaritan, there was no person showing this dog mercy as the good Samaritan showed the man who got beat up.  Animal control was just doing their job, certainly helping, but not really showing mercy.  Who knows where they took this dog?

Of course, Jesus version of the story is much better than mine.  If I could make the story ideal, I would have had a child perhaps stop and put a leash on the Zombie dog and walk it home and feed it and take care of it, but alas, I wasn’t creating the story, just telling you what I observed: a zombie dog with no good Samaritan to help him.

Posted by: Andy | March 29, 2011

How to teach: Intermediate 1

Of all of the courses at our school, Intermediate 1 (I1) is the most unique.  There is, quite literally, one piece of new grammar and it is a piece that they all already know anyway, past perfect.  It is a course of complete grammar review so the exercises in the book reviewing grammar are very easy, but the vocabulary jump from our Pre-Intermediate 2 (P2) materials to I1 materials is vast.  So while students are bored by the grammar, they’re intimidated and frustrated by the vocabulary. 

I’m not going to break this course down for you week by week because all it would say is review present tenses, review past tenses, review future tenses.

In the hands of the wrong teacher, this can be the absolute worst class ever.  It is a complete repeat of Pre-Intermediate 1 and P2 jammed into half the time with vocabulary such as: porter, his royal highness, lavish, self-mutilation, revulsion, revenge, avenge, municipal, aromatic, open-plan and petite. 

I generally teach this class with the following format: basic review of the grammar topic, an exercise or two to make sure they get it, a reading that uses the grammar point and introduces 50 new words, and speaking prompts, encouraging speaking skills, but more importantly thinking in English.

As students reach this level, they know all of the grammar they need to have conversations.  They need to speak.  They need to hear their own voices and be corrected on repetitive mistakes.  From P2 to I1 is where students either get stuck in their speaking or progress into language learners that have confidence. 

For the right student, I1 is the absolute best course offered; for others, the absolute worst.   The last I1 class I taught was a class of five regular attendees.  Three of them had impeccable grammar, self-correcting and seldom getting any questions wrong.  Two of them had good grammar, but they still made common mistakes.  One of the impeccable grammar students wanted more grammar and no speaking.  She didn’t do well in my class.  She was continually frustrated by the difficult vocabulary and bored by the easy grammar.  The other two with impeccable grammar loved the course.  They talked non-stop for six weeks and from the time they walked into my door to the time they walked out six weeks later, they’re speaking had jumped from an I1 level to an advanced level.  They embraced the speaking prompts and the new vocabulary, using it as frequently as they could in conversations.

The two who were a little less good were not shy about speaking and let their voices be heard and while their speaking didn’t catch up to the others, their grammar nearly did. 

As a native speaker, the way we can tell if grammar is correct is by using our ears.  If it sounds right, it is probably right.  If it sounds wrong, it is probably wrong.  When you don’t speak, you can’t use your ear to correct your own grammar.  As these two kept speaking, they began to use their ears more in grammar exercises.  They’d say sentences out loud and be able to say, “That sounds wrong.”  Then fix their mistakes. 

With a good group of students, willing to speak and accept the vocabulary challenge, I1 is a great course.  With a group of students who are focused on grammar, it is the worst course at our school.  I’ve only taught this course three times and was blessed with enough students who were interested in speaking to make each class interesting. 

Sadly, the exam is really difficult.  Despite the fact that there is no new grammar, the exam is simply so comprehensive that students have to recall everything they’ve ever learned in this exam.  Typical scores are in the 70s.  My favorite student of all-time got an 89.  She’s only 15 and has a lot of potential.

For more information on other classes, check out Beginner, Elementary 1, Elementary 2Pre-Intermediate 1, Pre-Intermediate 2, Intermediate 2.

Posted by: Andy | March 28, 2011

Exam Culture

[update on April 4: A Turkish newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News and Economics, reported on a scandal involving the exam I talk about below. Read here]

When I woke up yesterday morning, my iPod and computer had automatically “sprung ahead” as the saying goes.  If you’re in the US, you’re probably thinking, “why was it two weeks late?”  If you’re in Europe, you’re probably thinking, “yeah, so did mine, no worries.”  If you’re in Turkey, you’re probably thinking, “yeah, so did mine, I had to double-check again and again to make sure I had the right time.”

So what happened here?  Europe now switches to Daylight’s Saving Time two weeks after the United States (though, apparently, the Brits call it a switch to “British SummerTime” or BST).  Turkey falls in line with Europe and does this on Saturday night/Sunday morning.  This year however it was postponed by a day.  Why?  Because 1.5 million students took their university entrance exams yesterday morning and the powers that be didn’t want to have late students, any confusion about when the exam was or less sleep for the students.

I thought this was a bit ridiculous.  As one of my friends said, “Yeah come on people it’s the ‘University Entrance Exam’ . . . .you can’t possibly expect them to also tell time.”

True, but we’re talking about high school students here.  They’re not setting their own alarms.  They’re relying on their mothers to wake them up.  At least that’s what I did.  I also relied on my mother to remind me to change my clocks when time changes came.  I wrote about it here almost a year and a half ago.

It should also be noted that Turkey isn’t the only country that adjusts the semi-annual one hour shifts.  Chile delayed their switch by three weeks this year.  Fiji advanced the switch three weeks.  Russia and Belarus are planning on never switching back to standard time (or winter time).  They’re going to stay on daylight time (or summer time) permanently.  Now that is a good idea.

I wish there were some statistics available on percentages of people who are late because of the time shift.  I wonder which country would be the worst at remembering.

One must also understand (as I know my friend does) that this university entrance exam might be the most important event in a Turkish person’s first 20 years of life.

Day 23 - Exam hall (photo by Jack Hynes)

Day 23 - Exam hall (photo by Jack Hynes) http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackhynes/366958167/

The education system here does not allow for the freedom of choice that the American system does.  I told my students yesterday that most American college students change their major (department, for those Turks who are reading) more than once.  I have read statistics saying the average student changes majors seven times, three times, nine times.  I’m not sure what the most recent research has found, but either way, changing departments even three times is unthinkable here.

If my students have explained the system correctly, what happens is as follows.  Students fill out paper work, saying which areas they’d like to study.  If their exam scores are high enough, they can study their first choice.  Often this is medicine, law or engineering (of some sort).  If it isn’t high enough, they’re resigned to study other topics such as finance, economics, pharmacy or teaching.  And if they have a poor score, they’re asked to study things like Hittite history.  No joke, I once met a student who wanted to be a journalist, but her scores weren’t high enough on this university entrance exam so she chose Hittite history.  Now nothing against journalists, I think it is a fine profession and one I would personally enjoy, but I don’t think one needs a higher score on a standardized test to study journalism than Hittite history.

Similar to the US, your score also determines which universities you can attend.  I probably couldn’t have attended Stanford or Princeton with my ACT score.  Likewise, a high score gets students into the premier schools here.

The difference is with my ACT score, I could have studied law or medicine or anything I wanted to at hundreds of schools.  Here, choices are much more limited and much more controlled.  Only a certain number of people can study medicine, law or journalism in a given year.

As you can imagine, this puts an amount of pressure on students, age 17 or 18 that is heavier than 17 or 18 year olds should be expected to handle.  The course of life is largely set for individuals in this exam.  A good score can mean a good future, or at least a future one thinks they’d prefer as a teenager.  A poor score can mean a poor future, or at least one with little room for change.

It’s interesting to me that in a culture where people grow up a bit slower than in the states this much pressure is put upon teenagers.  In the states, adulthood seems to start by at least 22 if not earlier.  Here, it may be delayed until the late 20s, possibly even early 30s.  If a student graduates from college at 22 and can’t find a job.  They live with their parents and well, don’t grow up.  It’s simply part of the culture to live with one’s parents until marriage and marriage (in the cities) doesn’t usually occur until ages 27 to 35.

In the end, the emphasis upon this exam produces a trickle down effect into the very fabric of society.  There are more dershanes (special schools) than I can count in Ankara.  A student’s life exists every single day of the week, waking up, going to school, going to a different school, going home, doing homework, chatting on Facebook and going to sleep.  Stephanie and I once saw a t-shirt at the mall that said “Bermuda triangle” and it listed three places: home, school, dershane.

The majority of students here go to school seven days a week.  Monday through Friday in normal school, sometimes going to a dershane in the late afternoons or evenings.  On weekends, most students have an English course and another dershane course, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, often making for seven or eight hours of school…on a weekend!  I can’t even imagine how much money the average high schooler’s parents spend on education.  A month of English lessons often costs 200-300 TL ($150-200).  I have no idea what a dershane for math or science might cost, but I’d assume a similar price.  And students are in these courses 9-10 months a year for at least four years.

I don’t know a single Turkish person who hasn’t told me “The education system here is broken.”

I never took an ACT prep course.  I maybe should have.  My little sister did and it was set up by her public high school, taught by a volunteer teacher and cost no money.  Also, I think she only had about 30 hours of lessons.

Does all this time in a classroom help?  Does it even produce results?  What are Turkish students learning in their normal school settings that they need to spend countless hours outside their normal classroom in another classroom?

The Ministry of Education in Turkey is noticing that there are some problems.  Stephanie shared this article with me last night.  It announces plans to bring 40,000 foreign teachers to Turkey.  A lot of people are not happy with this announcement, with cause considering there are approximately 400,000 teachers in Turkey looking for work.

It seems to me, the Ministry of Education is looking to improve normal schools so that these dershanes are not necessities for every single student in the country.  I think that is a fair assessment.  The sad thing is, dershanes employ a considerable amount of people and if people stop going to them, that number of 400,000 teachers looking for work will only go up.

Will parents stop sending their children to these special schools?  I don’t think so.  Until the system changes enough that this university entrance exam is less important for deciding a student’s future, parents will continue to search for a competitive edge for their children.

The exam is too important.  Seriously, a country of nearly 80 million people delayed daylight savings time just to accommodate those taking this exam.

Posted by: Andy | March 23, 2011

How to teach Pre-Intermediate 2

We’ve finally reached it, Pre-intermediate 2, my favorite course without a doubt.  This course covers a lot, so why don’t we jump right in.

Week 1

In the first week I do a review of present perfect simple, expanding it a bit and using it more in questions and in speaking.  A lot of “Have you ever…”  There is also a bit on writing a biography which can be interesting.  They need a lot of help with transitions and time clauses for writing.  Simple things like: then, after that, after (verb-ing), soon, etc. can work wonders in making a student sound a bit more fluent.  I am in the constant business of encouraging students to be creative, but it is no small task. 

Week 2

Toward the end of week one and beginning of week two, we enter the territory of obligation verbs, mainly focusing on have to, must, should and their negatives.  This always brings up interesting conversations about where I should travel, what people have to do vs. what they should do, especially as it relates to their faith life.  For whatever reason, students often have trouble with “don’t have to…”  And one of the most applicable examples for them (at least in Turkey) is “Women don’t have to wear head scarves.”  If they do, it isn’t a problem.  If they don’t, it isn’t a problem. 
Toward the end of week two, we talk about future topics, mainly focusing on time clauses such as: before, after, when, while, until, as soon as and conditional clauses such as: if and unless.  May and might also come up for future probability.  We then expand upon the zero conditional (When/If + present , present) and the first conditional (If (etc.)+ present ,  future).

Week 3

Now we get into a whole new brand of thinking, the passive voice.  Up until this point, everything students have done has been in the active voice.  Before coming to Turkey, all I knew about the passive voice was that Microsoft Word didn’t like it when I used it.  It measured my passive sentences and a lower number seemed to be better.  Essentially, all the passive voice does is switch which comes first the subject or the object.  Active example: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.  Passive example: The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell.  Same meaning, whichever one is more important goes to the front.  We tend to use the passive voice when the subject (or agent) isn’t important, isn’t known or is obvious.  We also use it in headlines for newspapers in a reduced form.  “A boy was found alive by rescue workers…” becomes “Boy Found Alive” in a much bigger font size.

Week 4

We now move on to one of the unreal conditionals, the second conditional (If + past simple , would/could v1).  This is a great grammar topic for speaking practice.  It is used for unreal situations, unlikely situations, dreams/wishes and advice.  We spend a lot of time practicing the unreal.  For example: “If you were on a desert island, what 3 films would you bring?”  Or “If you had a million Turkish Lira, what would you buy?”  Then we also get into advice.  “If I were you, I’d …”  So long as the class is willing to be a bit creative, this can go on for hours. 
Then phrasal verbs, the bane of nearly every student.  A phrasal verbs is a two or three word verb phrase using a normal verb paired with a preposition or adverb.  For example: pick up, try on, put away, go out, take off etc.  The problem with phrasal verbs is their ambiguity.  Nearly every phrasal verbs has more than one meaning and oftentimes that meaning is idiomatic.  So students have to treat them like completely new vocabulary, which is difficult because there are so many of them.  Occasionally students will ask me for a list of phrasal verbs and I tell them there are thousands, buy a phrasal verb dictionary (which do actually exist). 

Week 5

Here we revisit present perfect again and compare the difference between the simple form and the continuous form.  The basic difference is that present perfect simple is finished action in unfinished time, uses numbers, asks “how many”, focuses on result, can use state verbs, can use the passive and needs an object.  In contrast, present perfect continuous is unfinished action in unfinished time, uses duration, asks “how long”, focuses on action, can’t use state verbs, can’t use the passive and doesn’t need an object.  Most of the time, both simple and continuous are possible: “I have lived in Ankara for two years.” Or “I have been living in Ankara for two years.”  The second would be preferable, but the first isn’t wrong. 
There can be some funny examples with this grammar point.  One example in the book asks the students to choose which is correct: “I’ve cut my finger.” Or “I’ve been cutting my finger.”  Showing them the difference always produces a laugh. 

Week 6

Again, we finish up with review and the exam.  One thing I tend to review is relative clauses.  Even though they’re taught in the previous course, they show up on this exam.  The highest score I’ve seen is 92, but most students hover around 75-80 points.

For more information on other classes, check out Beginner, Elementary 1, Elementary 2Pre-Intermediate 1, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2.

Posted by: Andy | March 19, 2011

Cultural Differences: Voting

As an American citizen, there are systems in place that allow me to vote in American elections, no matter where I live in the world.  That’s awesome.  Lots of Americans live abroad either temporarily or permanently and their ability to continue to vote in the country where they have citizenship is an excellent thing in my opinion.

Creative Commons Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/btobin/

Turks living abroad do not have such a privilege.  As I was visiting Germany this past weekend, somebody commented on the number of Turks living in Germany and said, “Berlin is the second biggest Turkish city.”  Well that isn’t true.  Even if every person living in Berlin were Turkish, it still would only be third.  There are 3.5 million people of Turkish ancestry living in Germany.  About half of those retain Turkish citizenship and about half have German citizenship.

As of now, Turkish citizens living abroad are unable to vote in Turkish elections from abroad.  They would need to return to Turkey to cast their vote.  There are no absentee ballots.  In the last election (in 2007) there were boxes set up at the borders for people to vote, but 60% of Turkish citizens living abroad live in Germany, which shares no border with Turkey.

The Turkish president and prime minister are working hard to remedy this situation, meeting with German officials and trying to work out systems where Turkish citizens living in Germany could vote at embassies or consulates.  With the general election coming very quickly (June 12), it seems time is running out for voters to be able to cast their vote.

I guess expats like myself shouldn’t take for granted the fact that we can vote from the comfort of our living rooms on our computers.  Hopefully, Turks in Germany will have this same privilege in the near future.

Posted by: Stephanie | March 18, 2011

Food File: Making Mantı

Mantı is one of my favorite Turkish dishes. (fyi -others have written better recipes, so I’m not writing one, just about the experience) In Ankara, I’ve found where the best mantı places are, and usually, they involve being in someone’s house. As far as restaurants go, there’s a quaint shop just down the

Rolling Manti Dough

street from our apartment. It features plenty of homemade food, so if you can’t get into a house, I highly recommend Sedir in Çankaya.

As I said, the best mantı is homemade, and I got an opportunity last week (while Andy was gallivanting in Germany) to make some with my Turkish friends. Not only mantı, but we also had kısır (another of my favorites), sarma, börek and homemade tiramisu. What a delicious day.

I’ve heard before that making mantı is a time-consuming process. It involves making the dough, rolling it out into large, thin circles, cutting small squares, placing a meat mixture onto the squares and pinching them up. If you’re alone, I can see how this can be time-consuming. For Turkish housewives, everything is communal, so with 4 of us, we made enough easily within an hour.

After you’ve made the ravioli part, you cook the pasta. Once that’s finished, dish the mantı into bowls. Pour garlic yogurt over the top (add garlic into plain yogurt), and add red sauce. The red sauce is made with a tomato sauce, butter and chili flakes heated together. On top of that, you can add nane (mint flakes) and sumac. I always add a bit more chili flakes because I like spice!

I had a lovely day with those women. We ate up all our hard work, drank Turkish çay, drank Turkish coffee and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon!

The Spread: front - sarma; the middle - kısır; the back - almost finished mantı

My tip, I wouldn’t try to get mantı in some of the more touristy places. We tried it at a place in Ölü Deniz and it wasn’t so good.

Posted by: Andy | March 16, 2011

Cultural Differences: Giving Blood

As I was teaching tonight, I saw one of my students got a text message that he looked at and got fidgety.  We only had a few minutes until tea break, so I just broke early.  He promptly told me that he had to go give blood for a friend.  I told him of course to go, no problem at all.

It made me realize that I haven’t informed you all of the system here for such things, so I should probably do that.

In Turkey, blood banks are actual banks.  You make deposits and you can only take what you’ve deposited.  So if you haven’t deposited blood, your friends and family of the same blood type have to show up and give blood on the spot to help you out.

I explained the system that exists in the USA and the students couldn’t believe it.  Volunteers give blood.  Blood is available when you need it.

What’s interesting is that so few people in the USA actually know what their blood type is, whereas in Turkey, it’s on your ID card.  Your blood type is just as much a part of you as your name and Turks actually know it.  It’s there for all to see, just like one’s name.

This means if people are a rare blood type, they seek out others who are the same blood type and are available to them upon need. 

If only the two systems could combine, where everybody knows their blood type, and many people give voluntarily so that blood can be available to everybody anytime. 

It’s just another example of how life is so vastly different in the two cultures we’ve grown to know, but the people inside of them simply accept the way things are.

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