Of Turkish tea – and t-tests

It’s been a grading bonanza this weekend and on into this week.  As I turn the pages, make my comments, labor over assigning grades (I hate them) and figure out how to turn my responses into a meaningful learning moment for some of my struggling students (blow to my ego), I am constantly up and down, refilling my Turkish tea glass  with the strong dark brew hewn of Assam and Rize tea leaves.

I learned this mixture from watching M.’s Teyze (maternal aunt) mix proportions of Rize tea (from the Black sea region) with Assam tea (from, presumably, India).  She swears by the mix, as does M.  Once, I tried to supplement rose-petal infused Assam for just plain old Assam, to no good result and the protests of the aging matriarch who was visiting at the time.  “It tastes like soap,” she was reported to say.  Oh well, so much for creativity.

In any case, this weekend, I am getting the tea myself, instead of relying on the little chorus of dancing ladies, who are usually lovely about delivery, as I have exhausted them – “m’lady,” one of them said the other day, “you are drinking SO much tea, is it healthy?” I finally told them how much I appreciated their efforts, but that I could make tea for myself. After much consternation and debate, the little lady puppets decided to let this be as my skills, they tell me, have improved significantly.  Quipping to them with the best of my statistical humor, I asked them if it was statistically significant.  They drew blank looks.  I reminded them that I am grading exams about “independent samples t-tests” and “paired samples t-tests.”  They again drew blank looks and I let the topic drop, but not before Hacivad Bey asked me if I was referring to the Istatistik-i Umumi Idaresi – the Ottoman Empire-era statistics agency who conducted the census between 1891 and 1914.  I just said – “yes, something like that.”  I teach enough statistics in my university, I’d like to give it a break at home, not going to be teaching these puppets statistics anytime soon unless I get another breath of workaholism.  While my tea consumption during this grading phase might be an indicator of workaholism, I would like to think of it more as an endurance-oriented coping mechanism.


A Turkish double tea pot (Photo credit: lorises)

But in any case, back to tea.  Gone are the days when I struggled to execute the perfect brewing of Turkish tea (you can read about one such hilarious learning moment here, where I was caught unawares by an early visitor whilst still in my nightgown, and ended up using once-boiled tea only (Horrors! The yabancı gelin (foreign bride) couldn’t make properly brewed tea).  All I have to say is, for someone like me who hates grading as much as I do, the ability to just run down the stairs to refill my glass is a wonderful option to keep me going.

Any guesses about how many tea glasses worth of tea had to be drunk to get through this stack of tests?

Thirty-two.  More than two per test for this class so far, inşallah it will end soon!

Çay emergency: The puppets riot, the car dies

çay yok

When I realized we were out of tea (çay), I should have known it was a harbinger of things to come that day...

When I last left you, I was musing on the White Ribbon Campaign which addresses violence against women – and was quite happy to see the dialogue that ensued (thank you, my e-friends).  Our campaign was a success and the puppets’ artfully-crafted ribbons were a big hit with my students.

After a long, 12-hour teaching day last Thursday, full of White Ribbon Campaign events, I wearily made myself a cup of çay in my office with my new hot pot to perk myself up for the long commute home.  After slumping into the seat of my car, puppets splayed everywhere around me with a lot of snoring, I heard it,  the unmistakeable sounds of a car problem.

After calling M., I decided to try to get home, and made it.  We resolved to check it out that weekend unless something more emergent happened.  I got home with a funny engine sound, but no incident. On Friday, we consulted with the resident parental car expert, and decided something or other was loose…and kept on driving the great green lady who has served me so well for the past 12 years.

Saturday morning I awoke early to a great cacophony emanating from the kitchen.  I should have known it was the harbinger of challenges to come that day, but at that moment, I had forgotten all about the green car and all of her odd sounds.  Instead, I was focused on great squeals of horror and cabinet doors slamming and drawers bashing in and out of their spaces, and it left me confused. What in the heck are those puppets up to now?

Still asleep, as of course he can’t hear the puppets and their goings on, M. was sleeping heavily, his face mashed into the pillow in a manner sure to leave creases that might rectify themselves in a hot shower followed by a brisk frigid walk to work.  Sneaking out of bed so as not to disturb M., I tip-toed into the kitchen to see what was what. My dog’s radar ears followed me before he deigned to leave the warmth of his spot at the foot of the bed in favor of loyalty.

I walked in to shattered glass glitter all over the floor – and a çay tabağı (tea saucer) cracked in half. It was then that I noticed that the Write-a-matrix was back (you can read about her here, but to make a long story short, she is the academic writing whip-cracker in my mind). And there she was, in my kitchen, cracking the whip.  “I thought you would never get up, you slovenly, slothful professor wannabee!” she said in the deepest, most disappointed tone ever.  “Liz, you really are a loser.  You have at least 3 manuscripts you are totally ignoring – and 2 “revise and re-submits” that are languishing, untouched, get your sh@@ together!”  She was on one side of the room and Haciyatmaz was on the other side of the room, rocking on as he always does.  As you may recall, he is the guardian of my work-life balance efforts on the writing front, a big fan of me keeping this blog.  Clearly, their battle was being played out in the early morning kitchen (it was only 4:45 a.m.) and the çay tabağı were the casualties thus far…

After cleaning up the mess, I set to brewing tea for the morning – hoping to achieve the just-right “rabbit’s blood” consistency that M. likes so.  You may recall the post on moving from vegetarianism to rabbit’s blood tea, if not, click here.  Of course, as soon as I opened the tea tin, all I was met with were a few strands of forlorn Assam and a few tiny nuggets of Rize çayi.  No dice, no other loose tea in the house.  I settled for a peppermint teabag instead.  While we made it through the morning without caffeine, it wasn’t until mid-morning, when M. took the car to go to his art studio, that I realized we had a much bigger problem on our hands.

As I picked up the phone to speak with M., all I heard was “it’s going to be $923.00.”  To make a long story short, it’s time for a new car.  Hanging up the phone, I decided I needed caffeine desperately, and walked down to the local, expensive market to get my fix – much to the chagrin of BOTH the Write-a-matrix and Haciyatmaz, who have been YELLING IN MY EAR for days now to get writing on something or the other.  Many glasses of çay and car discussions later, we’ve settled on a plan to purchase a new car. We have done the preliminary negotiation – with M. breaking out the major Turkish hard-as-nails negotiation and intimidation tactics, much to the chagrin of a salesperson who finally yelled “uncle,” saying “I’d never play poker with you!” and “my boss will call me a yellow-bellied flatfish and a 220 pound weakling” (whatever that means).

Now that we are back in business on the transportation front, it’s time to brew some çay and get back to writing.