Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Malatya Day 2

I decided to stick with everyone the first day, so we all got up early to catch the free bus that the Inonu University had sent to pick up conference members not staying on campus. We first stopped by the guesthouses restaurant to eat breakfast, which was the typical Turksih fare: bread, cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, and cay. We took a taxi to the bus stop. Not knowing what the bus was supposed to look to look like, the rest of the group recognized that a few professors from our department were sitting on the front patio of the hotel that was directly behind us. They were taking the bus too, so we just followed them when they boarded a ordinary looking bus that didn't have any markings on it. Thankfully, it got us to the convention center, or the Kũltũr ve Kongre Merkezi.

İnönü University is named after Turkey's second president who was originally from Malatya. As the current president is also from Malatya, a lot of money has been put into the campus. This improvement money went towards a new state of the art hospital and conference center. The campus itself is very large, in fact it might rival the size of UC Davis even including our farm land. While everyone checked in, I scouted out the place. The ground floor (the zeroth floor in Turkey) contained 3 small small conference room and the lower entrance to the main conference hall. The conference started with an opening session where a tribute was made of a prominent chemical engineer that had died that year, the Turkish national anthem, and a Mozart performance by one of Inonu's students. I don't remember if I commented on the Turkish national anthem before in my post about METU's graduation but, I find it really interesting. When it is played, everyone is expected to sing. I think that they should made a custom in the United States. I have never been one for making senseless rules, but I think customs of this sort are always nice. I guess it also helps that I like to sing.

After the first session, I just hung out in the reception area on the second floor. Unlike a lot of American conference, coffee, tea, and snacks were offered throughout the day. I found out that wifi was available throughout the conference center, so I planned on bringing my laptop the next day. While I was sitting there, Damla rushed up to me and told me that the talk going on at the moment was in English, so I decided to check it out. It turns out that the presenter was a Turkish native that attended MIT. Apparently very arrogant, he presented in English even though the conference was officially in Turkish. With Global Warming as his topic, he was deginitely looking to push some buttons. I felt that his talk was a little lacking on exact details and more propaganda, but it was interesting to see what he had to say. Several times throughout the talk, he said that the main problem with curbing global warming emmision was that the United States had not yet signed the Kyoto Protocol. At the end, he mentioned fuel cell technology as being part of the solution. As this was his research area, I felt that it was a conflict of interest to only mention this possible solition and not other such as solar, tidal, ethanol/methol, and nuclear energy solutions. What I was waiting for was the Q&A period. As I guessed someone immediately asked in English if he wanted questions in Turkish and English. When the speaker said it didn't matter, the man asking the question said he would ask his question in Turkish so more than a few people in the audience could understand. Afterward, another man raised his hand to supposedly ask a question. He ended up going on a rant for 5 minutes. I asked Damla afterward what it was all about. She said his rant was based on that increased CO2 levels was great for plant life, hence global warming was a great thing that should not be worried about. I found this rather amusing as one of the causes of this increase in CO2 levels is the reduced number of plants to convert it back into oxygen.

Afterwards, there was another talk on Nuclear power, but since it was in Turkish, I decided to go back to the reception area. I hung out until lunch was served. Because Mert had the extra tickets, I tagged along mostly to see if it was something I could eat. Predictably it wasn't, but I was able to give my food to everyone else. This actually happened at every lunch for the rest of the week. Lunch was lamb that was roasted in a bag along with rice. I tasted a sliver of it, and it was quite good. After lunch, I ended up passing out on a couch for about an hour. At that point, I went to watch Damla's talk on synthesizing polymethylsilane for use as a flame retardent in polypropylene. Her talk went really well, and she only got one question. Afterwards, I went back to napping until about 6. Because there was a cocktail party at 8pm, we decided to go get dinner. Once again, I ordered Tuvuk Sis hoping that I could get plain chicken. Unfortunately, this is when the server told us that all restaurants around here marinade their chicken in oil and chilies to preserve it throughout the day. More unfortunately, this was after I had taken a few bites that I thought were chili free. Well, even thought my stomach hurt for about 24 hours, everything turned out fine, and I learned about how they prepare chicken in Malatya.

At 8pm, we loaded onto buses for the short trip to the University's pool. Large tables has been setup in the grass area around their relatively new, olympic sized pool. Each table has several bottles of water, coke, and other sodas on it. There was a glass with sticks of carrot and cucumber in lime juice. There was a buffet table that had cheeses, sausages, veggies, yogurt dips, and bread. After finding out that there was a large amount of bread in a bin, I made a bee-line for it and stocked up for the night. I figured I might has well get my free ticket's worth of bread considering I couldn't drink any of the wine. Although, I think everyone drank enough wine to make up for the fact I wasn't drinking. Everyone has a great time. There was a 5 piece band that played more traditional sounding Turkish music. The bands members were from the University's music department. The vocalist also played the Ney. Apparently this is one of the hardest instruments to learn, necessitating around 10 years to become a competent player. It sounded like a very airy flute. We all ended up dancing to the music and having a blast. Damla got quite drunk which only made her want me to dane even more. We eventually loaded up into the buses and were driven back to the dorms. At that point, we asked the driver if he could take us back to our guesthouse, and he agreed. We arrived back at the guesthouse exhausted but happy. We ended up going for a walk to get me bread for the next day, as well as water for everyone. I ended up just collapsing on my bed and passing out. It was a long but fun day.

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