We have now been in Alanya for ten days and have experienced most of the rhythm of life here, so I thought I would summarize.
The program this year consists of fifteen students–eleven girls and four guys. We live in a lojman (apartment) located about fifteen minutes walk above from the sehrin is merkezi (town center) and fifteen minutes below the McGhee Center villa where we attend classes four days a week (more anon). The lojman is also about a ten minutes walk from the closest part of the castle. All in all it’s a rather ideal location. Of course, actually getting anywhere is an adventure, as the streets are narrow, steep, sidewalk-less, and dominated by huge trundling tour buses and crazy little motorbikes.
Anyway, having lived in dormitories for the past several years, it’s a bit unusual and quite refreshing to live in a flat, sharing a living room, bathroom, and kitchen, with three roommates. I am very satisfied with the set-up, not only because, as it turned out, I have the luxury of a room with balcony all to myself, but also because I am fond of my dear roommates.
To get to the villa in the morning, and back in the evening, we take a shortcut through a lightly wooded area. Having a daily mini-hike along a path carpeted with pine-needles and shrouded by tree-shadows is (as you can guess by now) an absolute delight for me. As if that were not sublime enough, I look to the east and my entire purview is instantaneously dyed turquoise by the sea. The loveliness of it is nearly overwhelming.
Our formal campus consists of a nineteenth century Ottoman villa that is dripping with character and history. The wooden structure literally sags under the weight of time and the humid Mediterranean air. Much could be said about its ornately carved doors, well-stocked library, divan rooms, vertically sprawling garden, multifarious lounge/study nooks, fabulous view of the bay, and, of course, the kitchen–the source of Hussein Bey’s wonderful cooking and of the cookies we indulge in between classes.
Ever since attending a school designed in the Prairie Style, I have felt strongly about the need for educational institutions to be artfully designed. An aesthetically appealing learning environment sends a message to students that their education has value. I recall Plato saying something in the Republic about how we should surround the youth and citizens by beauty, because then, eventually, they will learn to become beautiful themselves..
My point is, the villa is lovely. It is neat to sit in the divan classroom and be surrounded by a panorama of the bay and so peaceful to choose one of the many niches and to sit and read. When I get fatigued of the lecture or the reading material, I can gaze out a window at the marvelous bay and toss my daydreams into the sea or hang my hopes on the mountains.
An obvious shared pastime is swimming and beach-bumming. Alanya’s main (but not sole) tourist attraction is its beaches, the best of which is called Damlataş. Somehow, this beach manages to avoid the pitfalls of others I have visited. It is neither littered with garbage nor infested with jellyfish. The sand is soft, the waves are temperate, and water is clear and warm. (A.G., even you would have to like this beach! It’s so much more pleasant than la playa de Tela, although sadly lacks Caribbean women selling fresh pineapple bread.)
The best part, for me, is this fantastic rock shelf attached to the peninsula which from a distance appears harsh and uninviting. In fact, swimming over and hoisting myself up onto it I discovered that the rock is entirely coated by soft but hardy sea vegetation that cushions one’s feet against the sharp rocks. I love walking around on this natural Persian rug while the tide washes over my toes, the local people go fishing, the sun sets behind the distant mountains (see above photo), and I feel at peace.
Of course, not everything is perfect. Sometimes it is too damn hot, the road back to the lojman is too steep, the turizimcis are annoying, Turkish is frustrating, falan filan… but it’s impossible to stay negative for too long in this lovely place.
P.S. I have so many ideas for blog posts to write as well as some cool photos to share, but it’s çok zor (difficult!) because the Internet connection here is a bit unreliable (although I appreciate all your efforts to get it up to speed K. Hocam!) and, now that classes have started, we have a crapload of reading and homework. But I will get all of my ideas out eventually.
P.P.S. Thanks again to my friends and family who leave comments here. I am telepathically sending you a million zillion bajillion hugs.