Hasat Saat (Harvest Time)

Saturday August 1st,

The rest of the week consisted of a lot of the same work. We would leave for the field around 9 (giving some time for the humidity to dissipate from the wheat spikes) and get back around 7. Some nights I slept well and others not so much.

Today we worked from 8 am to 8 pm, making significant progress. A group of workers joined us. One of them was tagging along with her mom and is actually my age and going into senior year of high school. It was great talking with them. As for the work, one group worked the machine and harvested seeds, one group pealed wheat stems, and one group aided Gul Abla as she quantified the severity of crown rot in each plot. I got work all three part through the course of the day.

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All the seed bags are collected in a warehouse
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Reppin Kennedy in the fields
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The workers taking a tea break

By the end we were all exhausted. The weather has significantly cooled over the course of the week but that doesn’t take away from the physical labor. Gul Abla decided we all needed a break so we don’t have work tomorrow!

I got a few loads of laundry done and then made a beans and rice dish. Soon after dinner with Kubra, I went to bed.

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No it is not burned

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Cooking and Field Work

Wednesday July 29th

Yesterday was filled with more of the same work. Joe’s work now requires using lab equipment that is constantly used during the day so he is shifting to being nocturnal. Since both of us needed groceries, we went into town during our lunch break. We went to a new café, not the burger place, and I got pancakes. They were mini pancakes served with sides of Nutella, fig jam, strawberry jam, cheese, olives, and tomatoes. I haven’t had the combination before but it was great to have pancakes never-the-less.

When we got back, Dr. Amer had just arrived from Ankara. Many of our conversations have jokingly discussed me cooking an Indian meal for him and Gul. Though he was never serious, I decided to surprise him and Gul Abla the next day by making egg biriyani. Much of the afternoon consisted of me cutting onions and all the other vegetables needed for the base paste of the biriyani.

This morning when I saw Gul Abla I mentioned making lunch for her and Dr. Amer. She mentioned that they had planned on eating lunch with the director of the institute and soon decided that they would all eat the food I made. I think it goes without saying that I was nervous out of my mind that I would be making food for the director of the institute (I hadn’t even met the man before today).

An hour later the food was ready and we dined in the main cafeteria. The food was a bit too spicy for Gul Abla but I think they enjoyed it overall. Many of the workers in the cafeteria also tried the biriyani and came back for second helpings. Dr. Amer then informed me that because I had made them eat spicy food I have to drink a cup of Turkish coffee (he knows I am not the biggest fan).

The director of the institute was kind and was convinced I should go into research on chickpeas like him. Back at his office he showed me an entire table with different spices and lentils.  As he went through the names of each one, he discussed various scientists around the world and their specialty.

Once food and coffee were done, it was time to begin harvesting in the field. Sevil Hanim, Ekrem Abhi, Umit Bay, and I would work together for the next five hours in 95 degree weather. We took a pickup out to the field and for the first time I got to ride in the back. I have to say that made me very happy since I have always wanted to sit on the edge of a pickup with the wind in my face and the sun beating down on me.

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Living on the edge?
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Getting ready for field work with the crew

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For the field work, we wear full sleeve shirts, long pants, a scarf around our necks, and a cap. Though it did get a bit warm wearing all of this, I was glad the thresh wasn’t covering me head to toe (though it had an uncanny ability to get everywhere). We had a good time for the most part, sharing laughs and lots of water.

Unfortunately the heat got the better of Sevil Hanim and she fainted. It was exactly like the movies where her eyes rolled back and she collapsed to the ground. We quickly sprinkled water on her face and fanned her with a cap to wake her up. We also forced her to take a break and sit in the shade of the pickup.

At 7 pm we called it a day and went to our respective houses. I made pasta for dinner before collapsing for a restless sleep, interrupted by mosquitoes and the heat.

An Introduction to Classic Movies

Monday July 27th

Now that the initial cutting and grinding is done for Joe’s project, he spent the morning sorting and organizing the thousands of tubes he is dealing with while I began labelling envelopes. Harvest season will start in the next few days and the seeds for each plot are collected in labelled bags for future reference. That meant that I had to label hundreds and hundreds of envelopes rather quickly.

Since this is a fairly monotonous task, I was able to listen to music and watch movies. I was tempted to hit up my comfort movies like Harry Potter and Bollywood but decided it is finally time for me to get caught up on America classics. So of course, I turned to Joe who gave me a list of movies I should have seen years ago but never have. Fight Club, Shawshank Redemption, and Dodgeball were three I saw and I have to say that Shawshank Redemption beats Forest Gump in my books.

I would say today was quite productive!

A Wonderful Week

The rest of the week consisted of many of the same tasks. I rotated between weighing samples, labeling tubes, and placing shot gun pellets in the tubes. Joe and I had several interesting conversations ranging from family to racism and tensions with police in America. He introduced me to several famous comedians and bands he likes.

My happiness from Tuesday also carried into the rest of the week. Many interns introduced themselves to me. On Friday, a group of interns asked me to join them for lunch. Their moms make wonderful food that they share around a wood bench right outside of lab daily. The food was absolutely amazing. One dish was a sort of lentil paste eaten with lettuce and another item was a homemade bread filled with cheese. They tested my Turkish and took videos of me learning new phrases.

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Both Joe and I worked most of the weekend. This week brought me even closer to my lab members and reminds me of how difficult it will be to say good bye.

I Think I Have Discovered Cloud 10

Tuesday July 21

Have you ever had a day when you just can’t stop smiling? Well that was me today.

I can’t say the morning started off that way. I kept making simple mistakes that left me quite frustrated with myself, but fortunately Joe was very patient with me. Joe and I listened to random podcasts as we worked, laughing our way through the morning.

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Weighing samples

Buşra Abla and I went to the cafeteria where I had a wonderful soup and spiced rice for lunch. When the food is vegetarian, I have realized I absolutely love Turkish food. The highlight of each meal is the bread. They don’t serve the processed junk we call sliced bread, but rater home-made wonders. Hasan, a man from another lab, came up during lunch and gave me a brochure about Istanbul. I saw him after lunch yesterday and he knows a bit of English and he was telling me that I have to visit the city before I leave.

While it sounds like a fairly decent day so far, you are probably wondering why I was so exceptionally happy. Around 1:30 I got an email from my brother, Sanjay. He is currently doing an 11 week internship at Glaxosmithkline’s (GSK) headquarters in London. His manager recently asked him to apply for the GSK Future Leaders program. This is a 3 year program after undergrad where individuals work with vice-presidents of different GSK branches around America getting managerial experience to develop their careers. After an intense 14 hour interview spanning two days, late last week, Sanjay informed us he would hear back on Tuesday. At 1:30 today I got an email from Sanjay with the subject ‘Good News’. HE GOT THE JOB!!! When I talked to my dad about this, I realized how wonderful it is for my brother to be walking into senior year of college with a guaranteed job offer. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got.

Our 3 o’clock tea break was also perfect. We got a chance to take a break from some of the repetitive work that needs to be done for Joe’s research and talk to the members of lab. Sevil Hanim was scratching her arm. When I asked her what happened she said she had developed an allergy to being away from me since I had been working with Joe more often. It was honestly the sweetest thing she could have said.

Joe and I left work right at 4:50 to catch a minibus into town and get some groceries. Though Joe had warned me, I didn’t realize how truly packed that minibus would be; but since I love being around people, I loved it. Some of the interns called me over and we had a broken conversation in English and Turkish. Hasan was also on the bus and helped us converse. One intern politely gave up his seat for me and the ride just made me even happier.

In the city Joe and I started a bit of a game. According to Joe people stare at both of us because we look foreign but look at me longer. He started tallying the number of stares we both got. I guess I have been oblivious to this until today but I finally noticed people staring today. At the end of the night I won 🙂 I also realized that if you stare right back at the person, they become uncomfortable and shift their gaze.

I was feeling spontaneous so we started exploring different parts of the city and discovered a new mall with a whole floor dedicated to bowling and arcade games. The top floor had a movie theater and a really cool slanted library.

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For dinner Joe requested we go back to that burger joint. This time I got a sandwich with tomato, egg, and cheese. While I can’t claim it was extremely healthy, it was definitely more nutritious than my last meal at the place.

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Joe definitely loves his burgers 🙂

We ended our night getting groceries and we even made the last bus back to the institute. While getting groceries at Migros, I didn’t consider how heavy the rice, oil, fruits, and vegetables would be. I have to admit it was quite the struggle carrying them for the 15 minute walk to the bus. Joe offered to help me carry them multiple times but I was dead determined to be independent. I may have gotten a blister and sore arms but I did it.

When we got back to the guest house, I was tired but still on my euphoric high. Apparently the world decided I needed to be brought back to earth. A few hours later I heard a noise in the hallway and though Ümit Bay had come home from taking care of all the logistics with his new house in the city center. When I peeked into the hall, however, it was the man who runs the guest house and he was more than a little surprised to see me in the room across from where I am supposed to be. I guess Gul Abla never informed them that I had gotten the keys to the other room because of my faulty toilet. He politely told me I need to pick one room and would be expected to finish the move the next day.

In lieu of everything that happened today this still didn’t bring my spirits down much and I am really happy I got both rooms for as long as I did. I guess I am just too curious for my own good sometimes.

A Wonderful Start to the Week

Yesterday I did bake the chocolate crinkle cookies and much to my surprise they turned out well! Several new interns also moved into the guest house. Most of them are juniors in college studying agricultural engineering and we got to know one another over cookies and google translate.

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This week Gul Abla is taking a much needed vacation. Because she is gone, I am assisting Joe with his research for the week. Just about everything possible went wrong for Joe, from rain delaying his harvests to customs holding the reagents required for the DNA extraction. Being a few weeks behind schedule, having a helping hand is quite necessary. I spent the morning putting shotgun pellets into 2mL tubes with cut up wheat stems. The shot gun pellets help crush the samples into a fine powder in the grinding machine. For the afternoon, I went into my lab where I used a weighing scale to record the dry weight of the stems that haven’t been cut and ground yet.

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With Ramadan over, the entire mood at lab has changed. When I walked in this morning I was offered chocolate and everyone seemed even more exuberant than they usually are. They all loved the cookies; each person helped themselves to at least 3. Having the cafeteria open again was also wonderful. The food was amazing and I got to see members from other labs I haven’t got to interact with for a while.

There is a new intern, Velihan, in our lab who was quite entertaining. He started out our conversation discussing Bollywood films. Apparently everyone here knows the famous Indian actor Aamir Khan and have seen all of his films. He moved on to rap songs by Snoop Dogg and popular American TV shows like How I Met Your Mother. My taste in pop culture is a little different, so while I wasn’t able to relate to the specifics, I was fascinated by how much he knew.

Velihan proceeded to offer me a cigarette, at least the 5th time that has happened here. While I love Turkish people and pretty much everything else about Turkey, the one thing I can’t stand is all the smoking. In the past few weeks I have made progress on this issue; I made Ümit Bay promise that he would stop smoking once his new baby is born. In case it isn’t clear, I replied to Velihan with a firm no.

After many laughs and a productive day at work, I returned to the guest house and cooked a dinner I shared with Joe. Today was pretty great!

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Just after writing this post I heard about the bombing in southern Turkey today. For all wondering, I am fine, as are Ümit Bay’s family, Gul Abla and her husband, and Dr. Amer and his family (all of them are in southern Turkey right now but far away from the bombing). My thoughts are with all the families devastated by this.

Eid Mubarak

Friday July 17th,

Senior year is coming up much faster than I expected, forcing me to begin college applications. I spent some time on college essays this morning and researched the different options I have. It is honestly so overwhelming. Every time I get onto a college website to get one piece of information I end up spending at lease half-an-hour looking through all the options that I never knew existed.

I watched a movie in the middle of the day to get a break from all of it. Around 4, I decided I wanted a proper dinner. I have been expetionally lazy recently and have been eating random bits of food for meals. Looking at the ingredients I have, I decided to make egg biriyani (a type of Indian fried rice). I forgot how painful it is to cut onions until I found myself in tears just pealing the extra skin off of the first onion. A call from a friend during the cooking process made it a lot more fun.

As I mentioned in my last post, I think Joe and I are the only two at the guest house right now and Joe has been working long hours in the lab the past few days to get caught up with his work. Since I was the only one in the guest house while cooking, I blasted Pandora and sang my heart out. The cutting and cooking to far too long and I messed up in just about every possible way, but dinner was finally ready at 8.

The spices made it smell great, but I had no idea how it would taste.  I invited Joe for dinner, who was still working in the lab! Surprisingly the biriyani turned out very well and we both helped ourselves to multiple servings before finally calling it quits. I definitely have to thank my dad for being on the phone with me and guiding me through the cooking process! Though Joe and I weren’t able to celebrate Bayram with the locals, we are making the most of it in our own way.

(Sorry I didn’t get a good picture of the biriyani)