Disappointing schedules, new views

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The view from my new balcony. I love the light in this larger room. The balcony is a great place to dry clothes (no dryers in Turkey). In the morning, I have my coffee here and check the weather. The road below is the E5, once the Silk Road. If you could see clearly past those apartment buildings, you could see ships and sailboats on the Marmara. I've never lived close to the sea before!
The view from my new balcony. I love the light in this larger room. The balcony is a great place to dry clothes (no dryers in Turkey). In the morning, I have my coffee here and check the weather. The road below is the E5, once the Silk Road. If you could see clearly past those apartment buildings, you could see ships and sailboats on the Marmara. I’ve never lived close to the sea before!

5/2/2015
One of the things I’m learning about other cultures is to expect poor communications, last minute cancellations and precarious work schedules. I don’t like it. I’m dealing with it, but I don’t think I will ever get comfortable with the uncertainty.

I agreed two weeks ago to take a Level 3 class that started today (Saturday). It was from 3p to 7pm Saturdays and Sundays. Yesterday I checked AGAIN to make sure that the class was still on. When I got an affirmative answer, I made lesson plans for each day. Shortly before noon today, the class was canceled. No reason given. No information as to whether it is actually postponed or flat out canceled. This will cut into my hours for the month.

I can recognize many of the spring flowers!
I can recognize many of the spring flowers!

I’m pretty flexible with my hours. I don’t care what days I teach. I’m willing to work 6 days a week. I will work 7 days a week for a couple weeks straight, but find I start getting very tired and making mistakes by the third week of working every day. Four weeks straight and I get sick—I don’t sleep well and I catch a virus. One of the things I liked about English Time was that they strive for a 5 day work week for teachers. But, it doesn’t work in practice. It’s feast or famine with schools. Work is simply not steady. I went three and a half weeks working every day (though not necessarily many hours every day) and couldn’t get a day off. Now I have three days in a row. And, because of the split shifts, it doesn’t look to me that you can get enough hours if you insist on 5 days a week. This is only my second school/country, but I’m seeing a pattern and I’m never going to like this part. Yes, it usually works out and Yes, I have money to fall back on if I need it. But I don’t want to need it. I simply must get more comfortable with less stability.

On the plus side, I know my head teacher, Robert, is trying to balance schedules. He’s communicating as well and as fast as he can. And if I needed someone to back me up, he’s do it. But his hands are tied. He gets his information from the office. The branch office creates classes based on demand. Demand is fickle. Plus the office doesn’t communicate well and we don’t share much of a common language even if they did. Three weeks ago, Robert thought he needed more teachers. Now, I’m one of five with not enough hours. Robert is not paid well enough for the frustration he suffers. I wouldn’t have his job! He’s already announced that he’s going back to another school in Mexico in October and I will miss him. He’s grooming Gabriel to take his place. That’s a good move because Gabe is solid, but I’ll miss Robert. On the other hand, Robert says the school in Mexico is great and I might want to consider teaching there. Bonus!

It's a nice park to go for a walk or fish. There are benches and flowers.
This is the edge of the sea, and there’s a nice green space to enjoy it. It’s a great park to go for a long walk or fish. There are benches and flowers.

On a positive note, I just found out that Albert needs me to cover his classes while he goes home to Iran. We share a Level 5, weekday class (10a-2p). I teach Monday-Tuesday, but next week and the week after, I’ll need to cover his Wednesday through Friday. That should make up for the hours I’m losing with this class. What a relief! See, it usually works out, and today it all worked out in under 2 hours. I gotta learn trust the process.

And, this morning, I finally took a walk to the Sea of Marmara. I can see it from my balcony, but knew that it would be a climb coming back up the hill by my apartment. It was a beautiful morning, so I wanted to explore. There’s a lovely breakwater and park along the edge of the sea with benches, walking paths and a lovely view. It will make a great place to stroll in the morning or evening. I didn’t stay long since I thought I had a class to get to, but will go again soon.

This is the Sea of Marmara. Taken from a breakwater/park along the edge.
This is the Sea of Marmara. Taken from a breakwater/park along the edge.

Speaking of Plan B—I honestly think the political situation will be just fine here in Turkey, but I’m a person who only feels comfortable with a back-up idea or three. (Hence the trail name of Plan B!) I’ve just ordered a couple e-books on The Camino, a roughly 500 mile pilgrimage trail mostly through Spain. I’ve wanted to walk it for a while and I probably have all the equipment I need (Just need new shoes) , though it is stored at a dear friend’s house in NY. If the June elections go VERY badly and I think things are unsafe, I might figure out a place to store my stuff, get my hiking gear and walk the Camino. It’s just a thought for now. Nothing definite. But life is short and you have to start making plans for the things you want to do. We can run out of time so quickly…..

A large crowd gathered to hear the music and see the dancing. This was put on by a political candidate and I could later hear his speech outside the classroom windows. Wonder what he was saying?
A large crowd gathered to hear the music and see the dancing.  LOUD music, too. This was put on by a political candidate and I could later hear his speech outside the classroom windows. Wonder what he was saying?
This is a political rally at Şirinevlier square, just outside my school branch. Traditionally, only men sing and dance in Turkey, and it's a kind of line dance (similar to Greece).
This is a political rally at Şirinevler square, just outside my school branch. Traditionally, only men sing and dance in Turkey, and it’s a kind of line dance (similar to Greece).
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I can’t English today

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The monument in the center of Taksim Square shows Ataturk. On one side he is leading the troops into battle, on the other he is a statesman, leading his country into the future.
The monument in the center of Taksim Square shows Ataturk. On one side he is leading the troops into battle, on the other he is a statesman, leading his country into the future.

4/30/15

Teaching English to beginners will be the death of my vocabulary. Many of the teachers, when having a bad day, say, “I can’t English today.” It’s a joke, since modal verbs like “can” are very tough for non-native speakers. You really don’t see how crazy English is until you try to teach it.

Taksim Square, where I won't be going today. It's May Day, (also called International Worker's Day or Labor Day) and labor unions often have demonstrations. Sometimes they get violent.
Taksim Square, where I won’t be going today. It’s May Day, (also called International Worker’s Day or Labor Day) and labor unions often have demonstrations. Sometimes they get violent.

There is always something in life, but all-in-all, I’d say I’m managing well living and working half way around the world from where I was born and raised. Having roommates turns out to be the most consistently challenging thing. Cleanliness standards are different from person to person. I find I have to clean the kitchen before I cook and I often re-wash a dish before I use it. The young woman here (who leaves in less than 2 months, so I’m not investing energy into working this out) just isn’t clean. AND she plans to open a pie shop when she gets home! The Heath Inspectors will love her!

Gulhane Park
Gulhane Park

I have been so busy with classes that I don’t spend much time studying Turkish. But I find that I am picking up a few words by osmosis. Yesterday a student said something under his breath in Turkish, “Teacher, in time.” (“Hocam, zamanla” implying that this was a difficult concept, but he would learn it over time, so please give it up for now!) And I replied, “Inshallah.” (If Allah wills it) The class applauded! Also, I posted on the board “Make-up tests are Wednesdays at 6pm.” It was after 7pm on a Wednesday, so a few students were confused. They understood “make-up” and “Wednesday,” just not the “s” on the end, So I said, “Her Çarşamba: Çarşambalar” (Every Wednesday: Wednesdays). It’s really gratifying to be able to use my tiny bit of knowledge to help a student. I probably only know 150 words, but I’ve been told that if you understand the suffixes (I don’t yet) you can be functional with just 300 words. That’s encouraging!

My landlords are smokers (they live upstairs, so I can smell it often) but they hate alcohol. Ali is a Turkish Muslim and seems to have an almost irrational fear of alcohol. Katt is a Canadian, and usually abstains as well. So I have taken to hiding my single bottle of wine. I just have a glass before bed, but they were shocked to find that I ever had a drink. You could see in their eyes that they think less of me because of it!

There was a thunderstorm two days ago so these tulips are long gone now. Glad I went to Gulhane Park on Monday to see them.  The rest of the photo are of the park.
There was a thunderstorm two days ago so these tulips are long gone now. Glad I went to Gulhane Park on Monday to see them. The rest of the photos are of the park.

Politics are in full swing–lots of banners, music, dancing (only men sing and dance at traditional Turkish events) and political speeches. It’s the latter than concerns me. I can’t understand what’s being said, of course, but the sound and the spectacle reminds me of Hitler and WWII. There is a strong conservative movement in the air. Turkey is poised for change–the question is what change. The country is more conservative than when I visited in 2008–more head scarves, fewer women’s rights. Some of it is the old story: men wanting power and calling it “religion.” Some of it is the number of recent immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt. They are used to a more conservative, Islamic-centered government, not a democracy. Ataturk is rolling over in his grave! I am watching the situation as closely as I can. Elections are in June. If the wrong people get into power, I may have to move on. The most conservative branches don’t like foreign, particularly women, teachers. Honestly, I think that I will be able to finish out my contract here, but I’m looking for a Plan B, just in case. We teachers talk about it, when there are no English speaking Turks around.

Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 5 Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 3I think I’m doing well with teaching! I certainly spend a lot of time preparing for classes–too much based on how little I’m paid! But students ask to be in my classes and activities, ask for advice and even thank me for being their teacher. It brings me to tears. Not all teachers are doing so well–a few that came at the same time have washed out and are planning to go home.

I hope, now that my schedule is more even, that I can study more Turkish and get back to seeing more sights. I now have Thursday and Fridays off, starting this week. There was a scheduling error that I should have caught, so I will go into the office today (Thursday) for an hour to do a speaking activity, but that is all.

Last night, a terrific thunderstorm came up just as class was ending. I got soaked coming home. This will ruin the tulips, but I’m so glad I got to see them. Spring beauty is ephemeral. The tulips in Gulhane Park were so colorful. There must have been a million bulbs planted. The park was busy Monday. To think I was there for the first time less than two months ago and saw the first green blades of the tulip pushing through the earth! And now they are gone with the April showers. {Most of the photos on this page are from Gulhane Park}

Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 4 Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 11Monday was my interview with the police station for my residence permit. It took almost an hour and a half by metro to get to the office in Taksim. First I waited 45 minutes for my “handler” to show up. Then we stood in front of a police counter for 20 minutes. In the end, I was asked one simple question, “Have you ever been to Turkey?” I said, “Yes. As a tourist in 2008. This is why I came back.” He smiled and stamped my paperwork. I hope to see the permit soon.

I’m realizing that the hike last summer did not help my health at all. My hair is so thin and I think it is a combination of poor hair care and nutrition for 4.5 months. My skin looks older too. No woman wants that! Over all, my diet is very healthy now, so I hope my hair will grow back in strong. I’m adding some protein, as I think I may need it, too. Of course, I’m not as young as I used to be, so there’s that!

Have not had much internet access for several days. There’s a demolition going on next door and they took out the cable and the internet for the entire neighborhood. Wow–they are very unpopular! People stop at the site, shake their fist and yell at them! Must be worse than the fine they were given!

Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 15/1/15
I had a speaking activity yesterday and the topic was about politics. The older participants didn’t want to talk about it, but the younger ones did. I kept trying to steer the conversation to safer topics, but it was quite difficult. I could get them to discuss American politics, which seemed safer than Turkish politics, but the two older men, who I have much respect for, just weren’t commenting on any political topic. I apologized to them after, but they seemed to understand that I had tried to move the conversation in other directions. Both claimed they were “too tired to talk,” but I’m sure I saw fear in their eyes. The political climate in Turkey is volatile and it’s clear that change is coming. If the wrong leader comes into power, women’s rights, freedom of speech and foreigners will be gone with the wind. I hear the speeches in the square (meydani) outside school. I wish I knew what they were saying, but I’m sure I would not like much of it.

One of the American topics we discussed was how good we have it in the USA. And they are right! Complain all you want about gas prices, but they are 2-4 times higher in other countries. The students were shocked to have confirmed that most American families have 2 cars (most families here don’t even have one), that most middle class Americans own their own home (not just the rich), and that in ANY city in the US you can drink water directly from the tap. Everyone drinks bottled water here.

Gulhane Park
Gulhane Park

During the activity, I mentioned that Friday (today) was my day off and I planned to go to Topkapi Palace. They warned against it. This is May Day, an International worker’s holiday. It was banned for many years after 35 people were killed in 1978. Recently reinstated, there are concerns for violence. Here’s an excerpt from the Consular office email: “Following the lifting of the decades-long ban on May Day demonstrations in 2010 and the designation of May 1 as a national holiday, May Day events have been generally peaceful. In 2013, however, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who attempted to march to Taksim Square. The Istanbul Governor’s Office has approved the Yenikapı (Europe side) and Pendik (Asia side) areas as the official protest/demonstration locations on May 1. The U.S. Consulate General strongly recommends that all U.S. citizens avoid these areas, as well as Taksim Square, where the potential for unofficial protests/demonstrations exists.”

And an email, sent late last night, says morning classes are canceled. (Seriously? We can’t know about this until AFTER 10pm the day before? Communication, folks!) Maybe I’ll stay home. Keeping my electronics charged.

I really enjoy my level 5 class, Monday and Tuesday mornings. It’s a class I share with Albert and he has done an excellent job of teaching them vocabulary. After the Tuesday class (which ends at 2p), 10 students stayed for the speaking activity I led at 2:30. The assigned topic was lame, so we agreed on “What is your favorite memory?” They asked me to start, so I told them about a memory when I was 8yo, watching my parents dance in the kitchen while my father sang an old Hank Williams song. They were amazed by this simple memory. Their childhoods did not include anything like this. Most remembered childhood pranks, pulled with (or on!) friends, when they were about 10yo. Some were very mean things, like breaking windows, stealing candy from a shop or stopping a cab driver for a ride and then running away. It was so sad. It’s a different world, folks.

This woman is hand making manti, a tiny dumpling. Amazing, too!
This woman is hand making manti, a tiny dumpling. Amazing, too!
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Walking the walls and getting paid

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Spring in Istanbul, just outside the old city walls.
Spring in Istanbul, just outside the old city walls.

4/17/2015
I’m happy to report that English Time did pay us, only one day late. In fact, I was over paid! I was surprised when I saw the branch manager (the word is müdür!) counting out so much money. I asked to see the hours and he got defensive. To be fair, he had a line of angry teachers waiting for their money, and we later found that he didn’t have enough to pay everyone! Paying people late is bound to be stressful. I knew I worked about 85 hours, but the sheet he pointed to said 160—which is almost impossible. The manager and I don’t share a language, so most communication is done with single nouns and a lot of gestures. I said, “Mistake?” He growled and pointed again, violently, with his finger at the hours. Who am I to argue? So I signed for the money. When I got back to my room that evening, I got the necessary paperwork to prove the hours I had worked and put aside the money I needed to return. Later the next day I got a sheepish email stating that I’d been overpaid and could I please return the money?

It was a lovely walk along the Northern half of the Theodosian Walls and a beautiful Spring day. I was not successful in finding ANY of the sites I was looking for, but I enjoyed the 5 mile walk (out and back) along the old city walls of Constantinople.
It was a lovely walk along the Northern half of the Theodosian Walls and a beautiful Spring day. I was not successful in finding ANY of the sites I was looking for, but I enjoyed the 5 mile walk (out and back) along the old city walls of Constantinople.

4/26/2015
Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 21I finally got a day off Saturday, but somehow it wasn’t a very satisfying day. First, my roommate, Mags, had left the kitchen a mess—dirty dishes, sink clogged, all the surfaces needed to be washed and the floor swept and even sticky in spots. I started to clean it up, but when I took the trash (which was overflowing) to the front door, I saw that she had left the door open! I left a note saying that this was unacceptable. The underlying threat was that I’d tell Katt and Ali if it happened again. (She’s been warned about this behavior in the past and told she’d be kicked out if she did it again.) It was especially frustrating since I had JUST swept and mopped on Friday morning, including cleaning out the kitchen trash can, since Mags can’t seem to keep the trash inside the plastic liner. She’s sweet, but she seems to think she owns the kitchen and she doesn’t clean up after herself. I have not even spoken to her since. Didn’t think I could be civil.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 19I took the metro to walk the northern half of the Theodosian Walls, but somehow it just wasn’t that interesting. I couldn’t find the Chora church, either. I knew it was being remodeled, so I wasn’t planning to go in. And I didn’t find the scant remains of either old palace that should have been attached to the walls. It was about 5 miles of walking. I finally came home about 2p and just stayed in my room the rest of the evening. I was having a bad day and didn’t think I was fit for public consumption.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 23We have a new roommate, Magid, a retired man from Jordan. His wife died about 6 months ago and he is lonely. Not sure what he is doing here in Istanbul, probably just needed a change of scenery. He’s 62 and mostly keeps to himself. A tad messy and so far has not contributed to cleaning or to the household use items (toilet paper, dish soap, etc.). {Note: He and I talked about these things later and he simply didn’t understand the situation. I think all is resolved. Fingers crossed}

Football is played by young and old, even dogs.
Football is played by young and old, even dogs.

Did I mention I changed rooms? After Virginia moved out, her room was empty, so I took a look. Better light and a small balcony! You can see the Sea of Marmara from it. Lovely. So I talked to Katt and Ali and moved in. It took less than an hour to move my few belongings and arrange everything. I cleaned the old room (which Magid now lives in) and washed the sheets.

Today (Sunday) I taught my Level 1 class. Shelley had given them the Grammar exam Saturday, so I planned to review it with them. But I found several grading mistakes she had made and a major mistake in the answer key. She should know to check the answers! <sigh> She isn’t winning any points with this class. She’s already been removed from 2 other classes and this class has complained to me about her. If they go to the office, she’ll be sacked.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 29

The front "lawn" of the walls creates a narrow green space.
The front “lawn” of the walls creates a narrow green space.

Was so tired when I got back from class that I napped most of the afternoon. Hope I sleep tonight. (I did!)

These photos are all from my walk along the northern half of the Theodosian Walls. Enjoy!

A rare christian cemetery was locked up tight.
A rare Christian cemetery was locked up tight. This photo was taken through the gate.
Somewhere here are the remains of two old palaces, but I couldn't find anything. The Blachernae Palace is near the Golden Horn and is also known as The Prison of Anemas. I suspect it is one of the towers in the distance. It dates as far back as AD 500. The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus must have been grand back in the 10th Century. My guidebooks lists it as a museum, but I didn't find it. Perhaps it was on the inside walls, which I couldn't access without walking back a half mile to the Endirnekapi and back.
Somewhere here are the remains of two old palaces, but I couldn’t find anything. The Blachernae Palace is near the Golden Horn and is also known as The Prison of Anemas. I suspect it is one of the towers in the distance. It dates as far back as AD 500. The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus must have been grand back in the 10th Century. My guidebooks lists it as a museum, but I didn’t find it. Perhaps it was on the inside walls? I couldn’t pass to the other side without walking back a half mile to the Endirnekapi and back. I just wasn’t feeling it this day.
Life goes on just inside the walls of the old city.
Life goes on just inside the walls of the old city.
On a side street, I found this cat sanctuary. There must have been three dozen cats of all ages. They looked a bit thin and not entirely healthy, behind their fenced in nich.
On a side street, I found this cat sanctuary. There must have been three dozen cats of all ages. They looked a bit thin and not entirely healthy, behind their fenced in niche.
The ruins of the Theodosian Walls are now in the heart of the city--surrounded by modern structures. The walls are mostly crumbling in a thin green line around the old city.
The ruins of the Theodosian Walls are now in the heart of the city–surrounded by modern structures and cars speeding past. The walls are crumbling on the edge of their narrow line of green that marks the old city limits.
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Trouble in Paradise

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There's a Döner kebapci on every block in Istanbul--you can get a wrap (durum) or sandwich (samvic) for about 5TL. Döner is slices of meat on a rotating spit. The meat is usually lamb, but can be chicken, too.
There’s a Döner kebapci on every block in Istanbul–you can get a wrap (durum) or sandwich (samvic) for about 5TL. Döner is slices of meat on a rotating spit. The meat is usually lamb, but can be chicken, too.

4/16/2015
Istanbul is an amazing city. The history alone with worth the visit. Not to mention the baklava! And I do love teaching. The students seem to like my style. The flat I live in is ok—the one roommate who didn’t like me finished moving out yesterday, so that situation is looking up. At my branch, we has some great teachers and I particularly like my branch manager, Robert.

But the first serious issue just came up. Yesterday was payday. I didn’t get paid. No teacher at English Time in Istanbul got paid on the 15th as per our contract.

And it’s the second month in a row.

To be fair, last month, teachers were paid, just two days late. That’s likely to be the case this month, too.

But there are other red flags. I was promised I’d get a residence permit (the first step to a work permit) within days of arriving to Istanbul. We are coming up on 2 months; no permit. And two new teachers who came within days of me have not been found an apartment yet. They were told I got the last available apartment and they’ve been living in a tiny hotel room all this time. There are no plans to find living space for these two men, even though the contract clearly states that the company will find a place for you to live.

But the red flag that concerns me most is pretending there are no classes for some “inspectors.” This morning’s classes were canceled with less than 24 hours’ notice. Again. I’m pretty sure this is the fourth time. And the teachers aren’t allowed to be anywhere in the area. And the teachers don’t get paid even though no notice was given. When you don’t speak the predominate language, you often don’t know what’s going on. The office staff speaks little English, so there is no clear explanation, just the word “inspectors. “ What I’ve gathered is that the “inspectors” have something to do with taxes and the school is trying to hid how much business they are doing in order to pay less.

So, in short, I’m working for a company that lies, cheats and doesn’t pay on time. Oh joy.

This is the second company in a row with these issues. English Time is better than the school in Vietnam, but these are still serious issues. Is this how the English Teaching business works?

I had hoped I was working with a business where I could stay for awhile–maybe finish my 11 month contract and then move to another school location, perhaps in Antalya, for a second contract. Well, the second contract is out of the question. I don’t sign a second contract with a business that doesn’t honor the first one. Now, I am wondering if I can finish this contract.

Fishing off the Galata bridge
Fishing off the Galata bridge
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Settling-in, in Istanbul

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I am swamped with new classes, new curriculum, learning a new language/culture and getting settled in at my new apartment. But I do keep a short journal, occasionally.  The photos are from the Archeology Museum. I’m sure it’s an amazing place, but it’s under construction/reorganization/remodeling so many of the best items simply aren’t available to the public. I’ll return. Istanbul Archeology Museum, March 2015, 124/9/2015 Thursday
I’m teaching full-time, but weekday evening classes only last 6 weeks and I’ve joined most classes in progress. As a result, my Level 1 class finished up Tuesday night. I just love this group. Was thrilled that some of them contacted the office and asked for me as a teacher! So I will start their Level 2 class Monday. The students are mostly college age, here–no children like in Vietnam. They focus so much on grammar rules that I have to study to keep up with them! As a native English speaker, obviously I know how to say things, but you have to be able to explain why. Two of the new teachers are Hispanic and only speak English as a second language. Their accents are thick and their grammar poor. It’s difficult for their students and they’ve been removed from some classes. I don’t think they will make it. A LOT of new teachers wash out, particularly young ones. I don’t think they realize how much work it is to teach, particularly at first as you get used to a new school and curriculum.

Right now, while I’m learning the curriculum, I spend a lot of time preparing. Most evenings, I have a 3 hour class, and I spend at least that long preparing for the class. But it will get easier as I teach classes I’ve taught before. The school has already asked me to stay another year–even talked to me about management. I don’t want to manage, but I might consider another location in Turkey for a second year. I don’t have to make any decisions, yet.

My roommates are all 20-something and they make me feel old! I deal with the noise and the mess pretty well–frankly the three of them aren’t as messy as my single Vietnamese roommate, Bob, so that’s an improvement. But it’s a tiny kitchen and a single bath. With all their friends over it can be next to impossible to get into either room. And when their “overnight guests” hog the bathroom……it’s not really going that well.

It was a rainy day, so it wasn't inviting to sit outside among the ruins for tea.
It was a rainy day, so it wasn’t inviting to sit outside among the ruins for tea.
Cats of all kinds among the ruins.
Cats of all kinds among the ruins.

Later……

I went to Katt and Ali about noon today to ask about moving to another flat. Virginia simply doesn’t like me. Her boyfriend stays overnight—which is against the rules. Honestly, I don’t care what she does or with whom in her bedroom, but he hogs the bathroom! 45 minute showers in the morning! And when I asked who was in the bathroom (since all the residents were accounted for) NO ONE would answer my question. They ignored me as though I didn’t exist–As though I didn’t have the right to ask! Because I needed to pee and because I was curious, I simply waited to see who would exit the room. When her boyfriend came of of the bathroom (finally!) I just rolled my eyes. Later, I asked for a floor meeting to set ground rules about guests. After all, there are already four of us sharing a kitchen and a bathroom (with no real living room) so adding guests quickly gets to be an issue. The request was NOT well received. Virginia responded that it wasn’t needed. The other two didn’t respond at all.

And immediately, I began hearing interesting stories through the grapevine about Virginia’s opinion of me. And the dirty looks in the hallway confirm her feelings. Funny, since she was the one who told me all the “rules” and how much trouble I’d get in if I violated them. She explained them in a tone of a veiled threat! But I guess the rules don’t apply to her. I have tried to keep a low profile here at the flat. Which is easy because no one speaks to me. I would feel differently about this if I had actually complained. And it isn’t like I went to the landlords and told them about the overnight guests. I’m uncomfortable here. It’s no way to live. That’s why I asked to move. They told me they would see what they could do, but not to get my hopes up.

I wish you could see the detail on this statue. Breathtaking. But the photo quality is poor.
I wish you could see the detail on this statue. Breathtaking. But the photo quality isn’t good enough.
This is the actual chain that kept out invaders from sea! It was stretched across the mouth of the Golden Horn, keeping invaders out of Constantinople. Coupled with the land walls the city was secure for centuries.
This is the actual chain that kept out invaders from sea! It was stretched across the mouth of the Golden Horn, keeping invaders out of Constantinople. Coupled with the land walls the city was secure for centuries.
Information about the chain
Information about the chain

4/10/15 Friday
….and the roommate problems seem to have resolved themselves. I seriously didn’t intend to get Virginia kicked out. Yesterday, Victoria was told to leave the apartment. She’s been warned at least twice in the past about overnight guests. It’s clearly stated in the lease. And I was told that it’s a different “boyfriend” every time. Eeeeek! She has two weeks to get out. Unfortunately, Victoria blames me for this, and she has been very vocal about it. The next two weeks will not be fun. <sigh>

Such drama! I swear it’s the raging hormones. You can smell them in the air!

It’s a different world here. Last night, a young male student asked me to introduce him to a young female student from another class. I don’t know the girl, so I said no. He asked again, suggesting that I could tell her that he was a “good man” and could “help” her with her English. (Which is pretty hilarious considering his poor English.) I told him again that I couldn’t do this. I didn’t know him well enough to “endorse” him (so this also became a vocabulary lesson) and I had never met the young girl. I was not in a position to do this favor and I didn’t think this was something a teacher should do. He persisted, explaining (in broken English) that she would trust me if I said he was a good man. I said that was exactly why I couldn’t do it. I suggested that if he wanted to meet the girl, he should introduce himself. “No, Teacher. This Turkey. Cannot.”

IMHO, most young Turkish men are players: vain, overly concerned about their appearance with confidence fueled by testosterone and peer pressure. It reminds me of Italy. I’m glad to be above most of it, but it’s fun to be an audience. Sometimes.

I tried to show a video last night in our “cinema room” at school. I’ve been told that the equipment is pretty iffy and I don’t know that I’ll try again. The plan was to let the students watch a Mr. Bean video and practice describing actions. It failed miserably. First, the equipment proved unreliable. Then, the students simply couldn’t put together a full sentence to describe the action. I don’t think they have the vocabulary for this activity. The class is Level 3, so I feel they should have enough words to be able to do this—it’s an indication of how poor vocabulary training is in this curriculum. Baby steps. Will have to work on other simple descriptions first. Listening and Speaking, the final section, starts tonight for this class.

There was no information in English about this but it appears to be a sarcophagus, made of glazed pottery. Hope to learn more....
There was no information in English about this but it appears to be a sarcophagus, made of glazed pottery. Hope to learn more….
Fancy sarcophagus! How many people do they put in these things?
Fancy sarcophagus! How many people do they put in these things?

Much Later:
I didn’t like the way this man was looking at me on the Metro Bus. I couldn’t decide if he was angry or interested. Eventually, I decided it was a leer. OMG! He got off at my stop, but he turned left out of the bus. I was quite pleased that I was going right. But he reversed direction. Outside the station, he was clearly following me. I let him pass, but he stopped and talked to me, in Turkish. I smiled and said, “English” and tried to lose him again. He first walked on, but then stopped, spoke again and hooked his arm into mine so we could walk together. I politely untwined myself and said no. I even shook my finger at him. At the corner, he started to go straight, but stopped to watch me turn the corner. I said “bye, bye” firmly. He motioned for me to follow him. “Hayır Ya. Ben öğretmenim.” (“No. I’m a teacher.” If only I could say, “I’m not a prostitute.”) Then I picked up the pace to lose him. I decided that if he followed me to my apartment door, I would cross the street and go into the convenience store. I didn’t want him to know where I live or try to force his way into my door. He did not follow me, thankfully. I’m told it’s the blonde hair—only whores are blonde. To be fair, my hair is at least half gray by now. I’ve been growing it out for a year. But it still mystifies me. I don’t dress provocatively or wear much make up. I don’t start conversations, since I don’t speak Turkish. I’m surprised this has happened a few times, about once a week.

Later, I talked to some of the male teachers and they said I need to react more—be clearly offended, in any language. At the first leer, I should scowl. It the man doesn’t stop I should get verbal. They also think part of the issue is that I smile broadly—an open mouthed smile is flirting, here. Darn! To me, that’s just being friendly. Some of the long term, female teachers said they also have this problem frequently, regardless of their age. They avoid all eye contact, never smile or speak to anyone on the metro and sometimes just practice an “angry” look. Jeeze. I hope I don’t have to do this, but I don’t know what else to do.

I wanted to experience and understand another culture. That’s what this is, I guess.

I found this striking. The next photo has text about it.
I found this striking. The next photo has text about it.

Istanbul Archeology Museum, March 2015, 29Saturday 4/11/2015
In about 3 days I’ve gone from “New Teacher with a few classes” to “OMG, I can’t take another class” status. It’s pretty flattering, though, because student have actually gone to the office and asked for me. I think they like my (lack of an) accent. Once again that American-Midwestern that I speak helps out. And I have learned to speak more slowly. Not sure how I’m going to get through the next couple weeks, though.

It’s been a disappointing day, despite lovely weather. SOMEONE (I assume Victoria) has left the kitchen a total mess. AND I turned down an opportunity to go with Shelley, Maria and Kate to Galata Tower. I had a private lesson. Except the student didn’t show! So I came home, did my laundry (since no one was here) and have been working on lesson plans for the rest of the afternoon. Exciting Saturday night for me!

Monday 4/13/2015
Today I have 7 hours of class! The Level 5 class is shared with Albert—who doesn’t really want a co-teacher (which I actually completely understand). The students have asked for a native speaker, and he is Iranian. His English is great, but of course there are some pronunciation differences. I may have taken on more than I should, but I’m trying to work into a better schedule and that means than sometimes you have to overlap classes and work too many days in a row. Additionally, Gabriel is taking over Shelley’s portion of the Level 3 class that we shared. The students have complained about her. I don’t know the specifics. The class is certainly and handful. I’m exhausted after an evening with them, particularly if Ali is there. I was a fill-in, just 3 weeks ago, and wasn’t sure I’d last. Almost surprised that they are not complaining about me! But being a fill in means I didn’t have time to prepare for the class and I now know I could have done better. At the end of class, they are supposed to give a presentation for 10 minutes—this group has a hard time putting together a full sentence to describe an action! We should have been preparing the students for the final presentation and neither of us knew about it. We are new! I got to talk to Gabe about it and we have a plan for dealing with it, but it’s not the best. I wish someone had given me better advice on this Level 3, but I was just dealing with the class one section at a time—not good enough. Lesson learned.

I hate it, but Shelley isn’t doing that well here at English Time. She seems unhappy and now she’s been removed from a couple classes at the student’s request. We share a weekend class (which I will never do again). I have the students on Sunday, but they told me that they had trouble understanding her. I’ve tried to combat issues by reviewing all of her pages first thing on Sunday. They seem to need the review, but then, this isn’t surprising. It’s a very intensive course and a review of the previous material would help anyone. Grammar is the most difficult test and it comes first. I’ve been dismayed at the grades on the Grammar exams. I made up a special “mid-term” Grammar quiz. It has the format of the exam, but only uses two of the four verb tenses. I think it’s easier on them to see the types of questions and get a strong review of two tenses, just before they learn two new ones. I hope it will help them on the exam—which is coming up quickly! Shelley and Maria are going to Athens for a few days this week (yes, I was slightly hurt that I wasn’t asked, but the school could not have let all three of us go at one time, anyway). I’ll have the class Saturday and Sunday this coming week. I’ve got two new verb tenses to teach them and then review for the test, which should be the following weekend. Phew! I have no idea how they keep up!

This is the "nich" than marks the direction of prayer in a mosque.
This is the “nich” that marks the direction of prayer in a mosque.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

Tuesday 4/14/15
I am exhausted, but it has been a great few days. Sunday is my four hour, Level 1 class. Great attitudes and they seem to really love me. They asked about me teaching the class both Saturday and Sunday—that they planned to go to the office to request this. I asked them not to, to give Shelley another chance. After all, I would have their class both Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend because Shelley is going with Maria to Greece. And I let them know that Shelley is new to teaching, so she is still learning. I hope this placated them. Sunday afternoon, I prepared my Monday morning class (Level 5), my Monday evening class (Level 2) AND my Friday activity (Past Perfect Verb tense) before I went to bed. Phew!

Monday and Tuesday will be split shifts for me for the next 6 weeks. I teach 10a-2p Level 5 and 7p to 10p Level 2. Since I usually need to do lesson plans between the two, it makes for a long day! I’m sure that I spend much longer preparing for classes than most teachers, but I’m just not a person who wants to “wing it.” There is enough in life that you can’t prepare for. Besides, these students deserve the best. My best.

Monday, I met my new Level 5 students. AMAZING VOCABULARY! I did a simple exercise, asking for adjectives. I find it’s a great way to know what level your students are at. I expected the usual adjectives: Beautiful, tall, pretty and handsome. I got these and so much more—fantastic, frugal, malevolent (!!!), awesome, jealous, furious…. This is a real testament to Albert, who has had most of this group since Level 2. Albert usually teaches classes without a co-teacher, so I feel a bit badly about being asked to teach with him. He usually works alone and he’s being forced to work with me—though he has been very gracious about it. I was asked to teach two of the five class days because the students asked for a native English speaker. Of course, that’s the best way to learn pronunciation, idioms and slang. Albert (an Iranian who can speak Turkish, Arabic AND English) knows a lot of this, of course, but I think they are more confident with a native English speaker. Albert has arranged a class that doesn’t focus on the English Time book. This is great! We do a grammar topic from it every day, but he has a wonderful vocabulary reference (504 Words you must know) and a listening/speaking book with MP3 files (Passages). I add about an hour’s worth of activities—that’s a four hour class!

Monday night was also the start of my Level 2 class—these are mostly students that I taught Level 1. I understand more about the layout of the English Time classes now, so I can adjust the schedule to stay on track AND teach what’s most important. Plus Albert has inspired me to expand vocabulary! The ET books are strong on Grammar and OK on reading and writing, but Vocabulary, Listening and Speaking are poorly represented. SO, I laid out for the class what we would learn in Grammar (3 new verb tenses, conjunctions, clauses, and if) and put at date to the tests (roughly). There are about 5 new students who took Level 1 with someone else. The rest know me pretty well. I think the new students are not quite sure about me, yet. I hope to win them over. My co-teacher is Kate, who is young, but a wonderful teacher. She spent the last year in South Korea. This will be a good class!

Tuesday morning (this morning) I had the Level 5 students again. (Obviously, I did this lesson plan yesterday afternoon, between classes.) If they were shy yesterday, they were not today. I found that at least two of them had actually gone to the office and THANKED them for letting me be their teacher!!! Can you imagine that? This would never happen in The States. I could have cried when I heard this. They ask insightful questions, and they love speaking. But it is an exhausting, jam-packed, 4 hours of class. I always have lots scheduled—including some fun activities. Today was vocabulary review (504 Words), Listening and discussion (Passages), Hot/Cold (an activity where I explain how Americans use these words to mean close and far away. We guide someone to candy we have hidden using cold/colder/warm/warmer/hot/red hot). We also did a warm up where we name 10 things from a category and we practiced rhyming (a good way to work on pronunciation while having fun). I like variety in the class—keeps them interested. I also dropped a few things so we could go over their homework they were having trouble with—passive voice.

I was exhausted and fell asleep between classes, after I planned my evening lesson, of course!). Naps are wonderful when you work a split shift.
Tonight’s Level 2 class really rolled—they had learned Simple Future (using “will”) before they even realized it, and got to practice it a lot (they already know Future “be” going to, so this is even easier). We also reviewed Simple Past Tense. We played Taboo to review the Geography vocabulary from the book (mountain, stream, sea, island…) and I found some vocabulary on transportation to introduce. Seems they knew about 30-40% of those words already—which I think is a good mix. It’s not overwhelming that way.

And now I’m home, showered and falling into bed. I’m grateful to just have one evening class tomorrow—I will sleep in!

In other news, Virginia is actively moving out. She isn’t even staying here at the apartment anymore. She says she will be out by tomorrow afternoon, not taking her 2 weeks. She does manage to wreck the kitchen when she’s here and doesn’t do her dishes or take out her garbage. But it will all be over by this time tomorrow. And Augustine will be going home for 3 weeks (South Africa). His Gran (grandmother) isn’t doing well so he’s going home to spend time with her. Shelley is moving somewhere tomorrow. I knew she wasn’t happy with her flat, but I know no details. She and Maria will leave for 3 days in Greece Thursday.

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The New Mosque

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It's so big and the area so crowded, I had trouble getting far enough back to get a photo!
It’s so big and the area so crowded, I had trouble getting far enough back to get a photo!
The perfect break! Baklava and tea.
The perfect break! Baklava and tea.

In America, we think of something that’s 100 years old as being “very old.” Here in Istanbul, 100 years is barely considered “dusty.”

The Yeni Cami (Yen ee Jam ee) is one of the important items on the skyline, and shoreline, of Istanbul. The name means New Mosque, though “new” is clearly relative. It was completed in 1663. It was originally named the Valide Sultan Mosque. Begun in 1597, there were starts and stops, plus some partial reconstructions along the way, gaining it the name New Valide Sultan Mosque. Eventually, the population just called it the New Mosque. It’s an Ottoman imperial mosque located in the Eminönü quarter of Istanbul, Turkey. Located on the Golden Horn, the mosque is right at the at the Eminönü Metro tram stop and within view of the Galata Bridge.

The exterior of the mosque boasts 66 domes and semi domes, as well as two minarets. You can, BTW, know the importance of a mosque by the number of minarets (towers). Only a sultan (or his family, who also carry the title of sultan, even the mother and daughters) could have a mosque with two minarets. Imagine how important that makes the Hagia Sophia (with four minarets) and The Blue Mosque (with 6).

This is where the ablutions really take place. Men were lined up to wash their feet, face, eyes and ears as required before prayers. Hey, at least they are clean! Bonus, you can almost always find a public rest room (WC) at a mosque. There may be a small donation to use it.
This is where the ablutions really take place. Men were lined up to wash their feet, face, eyes and ears as required before prayers. Hey, at least they are clean! Bonus, you can almost always find a public rest room (WC) at a mosque. There may be a small donation to use it.

An elegant şadırvan (ablution fountain) stands in the center courtyard, but is only ornamental. The actual ritual purifications are performed with water taps on the south wall of the mosque. Stone blocks supplied from the island of Rhodes were used in the construction of the mosque. The complete complex consists of a hospital (no longer in use), primary school, public baths, a türbe (cemetery), two public fountains and a market (The Spice Bazaar). The public square has undergone a recent renovation and the two fountains are now modern and new. Much of the rest was blocked from the public during renovations.

This woman sells wheat grain to feed the pigeons and they seem very well fed indeed. Fatih is the name of the district that the New Mosque is in. Belediyesi translates as "municipality." Odd the Turkish words I know, huh?
This woman sells wheat grain to feed the pigeons and they seem very well fed indeed. Fatih is the name of the district that the New Mosque is in. Belediyesi translates as “municipality.” Odd the Turkish words I know, huh?
Found this on the internet: "If you stop by the Yeni Camii at the entrance of the Spice bazaar (a.k.a The Egyptian Bazzar) you will surely observe the numerous flocks of pigeons feeding around the mosque. This is one of the most true and consistent vision of Istanbul, the pigeons and hence the pigeon feeders. The crowd of pigeons here is tremendous and honestly the season doesn’t matter at all. Here pigeons always rely on constant food provided by the locals or the tourists. Wheat supply is sold for very little money in mobile stalls ..... Continuous feeding ends up with overwhelming pigeons but still you feel like feeding them. This is one of the musts I do whenever I am in the neighbourhood. I buy a plate of wheat and scatter it around on the pigeons like throwing a frisbee. After your visit to the mosque spend some time with the pigeons and they will relax you while you watch the hordes fly from one feeder to the other. It might even be scary at some times as the pigeons swoosh before you, just inches above your head, or face. I always believe that this is a magic show that everyone has to experience for themselves."   http://www.spottedbylocals.com/istanbul/the-pigeon-feeder/
Found this on the internet: “If you stop by the Yeni Camii at the entrance of the Spice bazaar (a.k.a The Egyptian Bazzar) you will surely observe the numerous flocks of pigeons feeding around the mosque. This is one of the most true and consistent vision of Istanbul, the pigeons and hence the pigeon feeders. The crowd of pigeons here is tremendous and honestly the season doesn’t matter at all.
Here pigeons always rely on constant food provided by the locals or the tourists. Wheat supply is sold for very little money in mobile stalls ….. Continuous feeding ends up with overwhelming pigeons but still you feel like feeding them. This is one of the musts I do whenever I am in the neighbourhood. I buy a plate of wheat and scatter it around on the pigeons like throwing a frisbee.
After your visit to the mosque spend some time with the pigeons and they will relax you while you watch the hordes fly from one feeder to the other. It might even be scary at some times as the pigeons swoosh before you, just inches above your head, or face. I always believe that this is a magic show that everyone has to experience for themselves.”
The entrance to the court yard. So many steps everywhere!
The entrance to the court yard. So many steps everywhere!
It was a busy day and I didn't go inside.
It was a busy day and I didn’t go inside.
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The Spice Bazaar

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Spice Bazaar has a total of 85 shops selling spices, Turkish delight and other sweets, jewellery, souvenirs, and dried fruits and nuts.
Spice Bazaar has a total of 85 shops selling spices, Turkish delight and other sweets, jewellery, souvenirs, and dried fruits and nuts.

4/4/2015

The local name of the bazaar, built in 1664.
The local name of the bazaar, built in 1664.

The world knows this ancient market place at The Spice Bazaar, located behind Yeni Camii (Yen ee Jam ee, New Mosque) near the Galata Bridge. But to those who live in Istanbul, this is Mısır Çarşısı (Musur Char shuh suh) , meaning Egyptian Bazaar. Located in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district, it is the second most famous covered shopping complex, after the Grand Bazaar.

According to Wikipedia: The building was endowed to the foundation of the New Mosque, and got its name “Egyptian Bazaar” (Turkish: Mısır Çarşısı) because it was built with the revenues from the Ottoman eyalet of Egypt in 1660. The word mısır has a double meaning in Turkish: “Egypt” and “maize”. This is why sometimes the name is wrongly translated as “Corn Bazaar”. The bazaar was (and still is) the center for spice trade in Istanbul, but in the last years more and more shops of other type are replacing the spice shops.

Unfortunately, it’s mostly a tourist trap these days—mandatory to see, of course, but prices are high and it’s not where the locals shop.

The building itself is part of the complex of the New Mosque. The revenues from the rented shops inside the bazaar building are used for the up keep of the mosque. This seems to be a common scheme and perhaps Christian churches should do the same.
The building itself is part of the complex of the New Mosque. The revenues from the rented shops inside the bazaar building are used for the up keep of the mosque. This seems to be a common scheme and perhaps Christian churches should do the same.
You can almost hear the sea from this seller's stand. If the New Mosque (Yeni Camii) wasn't in the way, you could see it. In a word: fresh.
You can almost hear the sea from this seller’s stand. If the New Mosque (Yeni Camii) wasn’t in the way, you could see it. In a word: fresh.
This is Bazad panir--white cheese. No Turk worth his salt would start the day without this and a handful of olives.
This is Beyaz Panir–white cheese. No Turk worth his salt would start the day without this and a handful of olives with his çay (chai, tea).

 

You may enjoy this article on buying spices here at the bazaar. http://fxcuisine.com/default.asp?language=2&Display=77&resolution=high
You may enjoy this article on buying spices here at the bazaar.
Just outside the entrance is a new square, complete with benches and modern fountains. This was completed about a year ago. On this perfect early spring day, it was a busy place.
Just outside the entrance is a new square, with benches and modern fountains. This was completed about a year ago. On this perfect early spring day, it was a busy place.

Flower market and park, 2015-04-03, 6

Just outside the Spice Market was a flower market--which also had pets.
Just outside the Spice Market was a flower market–which also had pets…….
...and leeches. Ewwwww.
…and leeches. Ewwwww.
Pet supplies and flower seeds.
Pet supplies and flower seeds.
I am happy to report that I can actually read this sign, and not just the English translation at the bottom.
I am happy to report that I can actually read this sign, and not just the English translation at the bottom. Progress!
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