Saturday, September 1, 2012

Olives and cheese

On Friday, three buses full of teachers (about 120 of us) took a field trip to Ayvalik, a village on the Aegean Sea about 2 1/2 hours north of Izmir. I enjoyed talking non-stop to my high school English teacher colleagues so the drive passed quickly. In typical Turkish tour fashion, we stopped for a tea break both going and coming (I think it gives time to smoke as well..) and we arrived in Ayvalik at about noon.

I was anxious to explore the village known for it olives and olive oil. Turkey has lots of good olive oil, but the north Aegean is the best, according to my colleagues, and Ayvalik is the place to pay tourist prices for a good bottle. But my eagerness to put a dent in my first paycheck would have to wait. The first thing we did was find a place for tea and a smoke. That took 45 minutes so we had the last 15 minutes to shop. Shopping involved running in the opposite direction from the bus and locating THE shop that one teacher knew from a previous trip. About 10 minutes later, we stormed the store. I bought a liter of olive oil, a pint (or whatever measurement jars come in...probably more likely a 1/2 kilo) of olives and a tube of olive oil lotion. According to my Turkish friends, we paid "tourist prices" but I got all of the above for 35 tl or about $18 I didn't feel ripped off at all.

We raced back to the bus and climbed on just as he was closing the door. Our next stop was the island of Canda (pronounced Janda), an old Greek Island that is connected to Ayvalik by the first Turkish bridge across the Aegean. My Turkish isn't good enough to tell you when the bridge was built but it was a very short, flat bridge, so I'm thinking it was built a long time ago..

On Canda we ate a delicious fish lunch complete with a wide assortment of mezza plates (appetizers both hot and cold), salad, hamzi fish (they look like little fried sardines) beer, raki (Turkish liquor) and a dessert of a very soft cheese with cherry jam and nuts on top. I'm still trying to wrap my finger around the differences between last year and this, but this meal is kind of symbolic of the differences. Last year for example, it was difficult to even buy beer at the store. This year, we were drinking on a teachers' in-service day.

After lunch we were free to walk around the town. There were many old Greek houses, an old church that is being restored, and some beautiful old windmills at the top of the hill. I was introduced to some really good cheese at a peynir store and cookies made with mastik (not my favorite).

All in all, the teacher field trip idea beats most in-service meetings I've ever attended. I could really enjoy a monthly excursion to help us be "lifelong learners".

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