Yesterday I got stuck in an elevator for 30 minutes.

OH. MY. LANTA.

This has been such a whirlwind two weeks, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been on the run almost everyday, and it feels like I’ve been here for months! 

I think I’ll be very unhistorian-like and start with the elevator story, and proceed in no order whatsoever. 

So Aaron and I (another foreigner that got here about a week before me. He is probably going to be my BFF while I’m here. Also, he’s from the same teeny town my mom is from–Paducah, KY. He doesn’t like musicals though… they could be a problem) had just gotten back to my apartment from signing our “contracts” at our university. We were mentally and physically exhausted from the day, and just wanted to go to my corner cafe and eat and check our bookfaces. But I wanted to go down to the creepy basement first, to reload my water machine (I’ll explain later, just go with it). After that ridiculousness, Aaron decided we were done walking for the day and we were taking the elevator (a whole two floors). A foot from the ground level, the elevator shut off. Completely shut off. Lights out, no sounds… the “emergency” button didn’t even work! We kinda paused… then Aaron started laughing hysterically at our luck and I began to tear up (this is a teeny elevator!! I wasn’t ready to die!!) So we did what anyone else would do, and banged on the walls and doors like crazies, yelling, “MERHABA! YARDIM ETMEK! IMDAT!! OH MY GOODNESS I’M GOING TO KILL SOMEONE!” (hello, help, really help, ok for real I’m losing it). Finally, a lady came to the door, and began talking in Turkish. We repeated, “English” until she said “Tamam, Tamam!” (okay, okay) and then she left. 30 minutes later it started working, and Raspy Ramsey (my apt caretaker) opened the door. And was laughing. LAUGHING IN OUR FACES. Definitely not a laughing moment, mister! 

There was nothing left to do at that point but go to my corner cafe. Later, I watched “New Girl” and ate about three pounds of chocolate. I got some very judgmental looks at the store for cleaning out a whole row of chocolate, but I did not care. 

I really love my neighborhood, and my apartment. I think I lucked out. The only teeny problem is that I have to be out by July 24th (the owners are in the Netherlands, and will be back then), but my teaching contract goes until September 2nd. So, for about 6 weeks I’ll be homeless. Just kidding, I have new friends that I can stay with. They don’t know yet, but it’ll happen. 

My apartment is right off a main road, which is filled with cafes, shops, a gym, and pretty much everything I need. It’s also right on the university shuttle route, so I have about a five min. walk in the mornings. Oh, and there is a bakery right below my apartment. So my living room smells like bread in the morning. And my heating bill will be low in the winter because of it. My apartment is furnished, very nicely, with two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and two different types of toilets (…I’ll leave that to your imagination).  It came with a stove (but instead of on top of an oven, it sits on top of my washing machine. Because why not?), fridge, and two types of kettles (electric and a typical Turkish one for making Turkish tea!). So all I’ve really had to buy for my apartment is towels, bedsheets, and a toaster oven. Oh and some panda hooks. Because panda. Also, there is a Mosque (or, Camii) right outside my bedroom balcony. Who needs an alarm when you have the call to prayer at 5am? All the other times of the day it’s very relaxing and I don’t mind it, but this 5am guy needs to be on a later shift. His voice is not pleasant. 

My rent will be wired electronically to my owner’s bank account, my electric bill will be delivered and I will take it to a bank to pay, and my water and gas utilities are paid using these refillable cards (they look like credit cards with a chip in them). There are two boxes; my gas-box right outside my front door, and my water-box down in the creepy basement. Each has a number on it, and when the number gets low (I don’t know the units or whatever… I just know not to let them get too low!), you take the cards to Kizilay (huge city area where you can get a bus to anywhere, as well as the metro center, and tons of shops), then load some money on the cards, and then stick the cards into the boxes and bam, you have water and gas. It’s like magic to me, so please don’t ask for any other details. I don’t know. This sounds very convenient, except it’s a pain to get to Kizilay from my apartment, and apparently this is the only place in all of Ankara where you can fill up these dang cards. Not everyone’s utilities are like this, however; many just take their bills to the bank and pay them that way. When I moved in, there was about a month left on my gas box, and a week left on my water. I didn’t want to let them run out, so I decided to go and put a large(ish) chunk of money on each, and that way I wouldn’t have to worry about them for a few months. When I went to Kizilay, I found where you fill up cards, waited two hours, and was only able to fill up my gas because the water system was down. I don’t know any more than that. I tried different counters, and they all said, “Yok su, yok su” (no water, no water). So I have no idea why. And no one knew when the system would be running again. Since I needed water more than gas, I spend the next few days conserving water and showered every other day (gross, I know… it’s hot here and I sweat a lot). I went back in yesterday, and thank goodness, the water system worked. And now I have water! 

After getting my water card filled up (Aaron was with me as well), we were just going to mosey around, maybe get a Turkish Kahve at Starbucks, when I got a phone call from the university saying we had to go in RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT and sign our contracts. We begin work on Monday, but we don’t actually begin teaching until September 16th. The problem is that the university is quite a ways away, we don’t know the bus system, and we don’t have cars. The only way is by taxi, which is 40 Lira ($25) if the driver DOESN’T get lost. The first time I went to the university, I spent 80 Lira because the driver didn’t know the area. It’s a new university also, so that doesn’t help. It doesn’t seem too bad, and food and utilities are inexpensive compared to America, but Aaron and I had already spent money on plane tickets, hotel rooms, first month’s rent, deposits, our residence permit applications, taxis, dolmus’ (a Turkey-specific shared taxi / bus), and various other unexpected expenses (that the university didn’t tell us about beforehand). And, since we only get paid once a month, the first of the month, we are short on cash until Oct. first. But we “had” to come. 

So we went. Our driver got lost, even though he was talking on the phone to one of the Turkish instructors, just so he wouldn’t get lost. Then we waited around for an hour because it was lunch time. Then we signed our contracts, only to be told that there is a list of items that need to be completed in order to get our first paycheck. Which means we have until the end of September to complete the list. Which would be fine, but the first thing is to get a residence permit, and this can take a month. Once you get a residence permit, you have to get a foreigner’s number (like a social security number in the US), which can take between a week and a month. They don’t know. And then you have to get a police check done, a health check, a bank account set up, and your diploma translated and notarized. But you can’t do any of this until you get your residence permit and your foreigner’s number. So if everything goes smoothly, it takes over a month. (They didn’t tell us any of this before we arrived… this would have been really nice to know. According to this timeline, we should have arrived by August 1st at least, in order to get paid by Oct. 1st. They told both Aaron and I to “arrive before the semester starts.” What if we didn’t arrive until this week?? We wouldn’t get paid until NOVEMBER). OH. And our job offers state a “round-trip ticket” as part of the benefits, but we were told by other instructors that we will have to “fight” for that.

We are supposed to begin teaching September 16, and our contract starts Sept. 2. So you think we’d be back-paid starting Sept. 2 once all of our stuff is completed, right? Wrong. Last year, some teachers worked a few weeks at the beginning of the semester and were not back-paid. Aside from getting my water card filled, yesterday was basically just a bunch of shitty news, waste of money, and a fun elevator ride. 

Monday will be a lot of fun. Aaron and I are not happy campers with the administration right now. And we were told by other instructors “not to start off on the wrong foot with them.” WHAT. THEY ARE STARTING OFF ON THE WRONG FOOT WITH US! We’ve got rent and bills to pay, and food to buy… how are they going to even suggest we may not get paid on time or back-paid??

I do need to take a time out though, and say that all the instructors (not HR or admin.) have been really super helpful. And one foreigner started last year, and renewed her contract for another year. So that is a glimmer of hope. If teachers like the teaching part of this job, especially enough to re-sign, then maybe once all the paperwork gets out of the way (and we start getting paychecks) everything will be great.  Right now Aaron and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Hah. There are other new teachers, but so far they are all ones who have taught in other cities throughout Turkey. So, they already have residency permits and everything. I’m just glad I’m not in this alone, and it wasn’t poor communication on my end. 

I also need to say that Turkey is awesome. I’m loving the food, and the people are really helpful and nice (even if they don’t speak a bit of English, they go out of their way to help).

Aaron lives sorta near me which is nice! It’s only about a 45 min walk, but he lives on the highest peak in Ankara. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But some of his hills are at a 70 degree incline. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But it’s hot and not pleasant to walk up! I think I’ll just taxi it to his place in the future. My area has hills as well. Not as bad as his, but enough to make winter fun. I can’t wait.

Back to Aaron’s place, his came unfurnished, but he plans to be here at least two years so it wasn’t a big deal for him to buy furniture. He furnished his whole house (minus a fridge and washing machine) for less than $1000. All new stuff; a bed, mattress, wardrobe, futon, cat-bed / thrown thing (he’s getting a cat named Godfrey… we haven’t found him yet), a coffee table, and a rug. (So again, things are not expensive here when you think in dollars, but it’s starting to add up!)

We spend about three days last week visiting furniture stores and getting items delivered. That was an adventure in itself! At one store, we ordered a bed and mattress for him, using a combination of Turkish, English, French, and Japanese. I spoke French to the warehouse guy, who translated to Turkish to the store worker, who then spoke back in Turkish, and then back to French, and then I told Aaron in English. WHEW. That was a mentally exhausting day for sure. Aaron has taught in Korea and Japan, and he kept throwing Japanese words in the conversation by mistake. But in the end it all worked out, and his apt. is nearly complete.

I think I’ve exhausted this post. This should keep you guys busy for a few days, eh? I haven’t taken any pictures of my apartment yet, because I kinda threw my stuff all over the place, but I do have some pictures from the past two weeks! My next post will probably be next week, filling you guys in about whatever happens Monday. Unless something similar to getting stuck in an elevator occurs. 

Ataturk’s Mausoleum 
Watch out for the snowflakes!
Aaron and I
No tooting your own horn!
First Turkish Kahve!
Pistachio Trail Mix Bars!! SO GOOD.
The Mosque right outside my balcony.
These guys were “off-roading” and got stuck.
It served as good entertainment for 30 min.
“My” larger Mosque, on the other side of my
apartment.
I will never stop taking pictures of
all the good food! 
Free desserts we received at “my” cafe!
Two different bakalavas, some pistachio
roll thing, and ice-cream!
I really am going to get fat. MILKA OREO BAR. 





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