Topkapı Palace

The Gate of Salutation, entrance to the inner courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. From this vast palace complex, the Ottoman Empire was ruled for about 400 years.  The other courtyards are open parks, including Gulhane Park, which was covered in tulips this spring. The tulips will soon be pulled away, reveling the roses, for which the park is names. Another outer courtyard includes the green space around Hagia Eirene and a fountain, called the Executioner's fountain. It is so named because the executioner washed his hands and sword here after a public beheading.
The Gate of Salutation, entrance to the inner courtyard of the Topkapı Palace. From this vast palace complex, the Ottoman Empire was ruled for about 400 years.
The other courtyards are open parks, including Gulhane Park, which was covered in tulips this spring. The tulips will soon be pulled away, reveling the roses, for which the park is names. Another outer courtyard includes the green space around Hagia Eirene and a fountain, called the Executioner’s fountain. It is so named because the executioner washed his hands and sword here after a public beheading.

Went to Tapkapı Palace yesterday. It’s an amazing historical sight, but the crowds about did me in! Too many people. It was a beautiful, sunny, hot day and the lines were long. But the metro was worse. Can you say sardines?

The Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. This post is about the palace. Tomorrow, I’ll focus on photos of the harem.

The tulips are past their prime, but still beautiful.
The tulips are past their prime, but still beautiful.
The Tower of Justice, between trees of the courtyard. The tower symbolizes the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice. Everyone from afar was supposed to be able to see the tower to feel assured about the sultan's presence. The tower was also used by the sultan for viewing pleasures. The old tower used to have grilled windows, enabling him to see without being seen, adding to the aura of seclusion. The golden window in the Imperial Council is accessible through the Tower of Justice, thus adding to the importance of the symbolism of justice.
The Tower of Justice, between trees of the courtyard. The tower symbolizes the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice. Everyone from afar was supposed to be able to see the tower to feel assured about the sultan’s presence. The tower was also used by the sultan for viewing pleasures. The old tower used to have grilled windows, enabling him to see without being seen, adding to the aura of seclusion. The golden window in the Imperial Council is accessible through the Tower of Justice, thus adding to the importance of the symbolism of justice.
Entrance to the Imperial Council chambers. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state met.
Entrance to the Imperial Council chambers. The Imperial Council (Dîvân-ı Hümâyûn) building is the chamber in which the ministers of state met.
 The ceiling of the Imperial Council chambers. My photo of the golden window did not come out, but from the window, covered by a golden grill, the Sultan or the Valide Sultan (his mother) was able to follow deliberations of the council without being noticed. The window could be reached from the imperial quarters in the adjacent Tower of Justice. This grill was removed by Ataturk.
The ceiling of the Imperial Council chambers. My photo of the golden window did not come out, but from the window, covered by a golden grill, the Sultan or the Valide Sultan (his mother) was able to follow deliberations of the council without being noticed. The window could be reached from the imperial quarters in the adjacent Tower of Justice. This grill was removed by Ataturk.
The Tower of Justice. The tower is the tallest structure in the palace, making it clearly visible from the Bosphorus. The tower was probably originally constructed under Mehmed II and then renovated and enlarged by Suleiman I between 1527-1529.
The Tower of Justice. The tower is the tallest structure in the palace, making it clearly visible from the Bosphorus. The tower was probably originally constructed under Mehmed II and then renovated and enlarged by Suleiman I between 1527-1529.
The Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde or Bab-üs Saadet) is the entrance into the Inner Court (Enderûn). the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate has a dome supported by lean marble pillars. No one could pass this gate without the authority of the Sultan. Even the Grand Vizier was only granted authorization on specified days and under specified conditions. The small, indented stone on the ground in front of the gate marks the place where the banner of Muhammad was unfurled. The Grand Vizier or the commander going to war was entrusted with this banner in a solemn ceremony.
The Gate of Felicity (Bâbüssaâde or Bab-üs Saadet) is the entrance into the Inner Court (Enderûn). the private and residential areas of the palace. The gate has a dome supported by lean marble pillars. No one could pass this gate without the authority of the Sultan. Even the Grand Vizier was only granted authorization on specified days and under specified conditions. The small, indented stone on the ground in front of the gate marks the place where the banner of Muhammad was unfurled. The Grand Vizier or the commander going to war was entrusted with this banner in a solemn ceremony.
The throne room and chamber. Memet II (known as The Conquer) breached the walls of Constantinople in 1453. He chose this spot for his palace and construction began almost immediately. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here.
The throne room and chamber. Memet II (known as The Conquer) breached the walls of Constantinople in 1453. He chose this spot for his palace and construction began almost immediately. During Greek and Byzantine times, the acropolis of the ancient Greek city of Byzantion stood here.
Inside the throne room and audience chamber, where Sultans ruled from 1465–1856. before moving to the Dolmabahçe Palace.
Inside the throne room and audience chamber, where Sultans ruled from 1465–1856. before moving to the Dolmabahçe Palace.
The trees in the Topkapı Palace complex are remarkable, as many have fallen victim to a fungus that has completely hollowed out their trunks, over the course of centuries. The trees nonetheless survive and remain standing.
The trees in the Topkapı Palace complex are remarkable, as many have fallen victim to a fungus that has completely hollowed out their trunks, over the course of centuries. The trees nonetheless survive and remain standing.
The palace complex is located on the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu), a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, with a good view of the Bosphorus from many points of the palace. The site is hilly and one of the highest points close to the sea. The tower in the center is the Galata Tower.
The palace complex is located on the Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu), a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, with a good view of the Bosphorus from many points of the palace. The site is hilly and one of the highest points close to the sea. The tower in the center is the Galata Tower.
The Isnik tiles are a wonder--most of the interior walls have lavishly decorated tiles like this, in shades of blue. "Turquoise" literally means the color of the Turks. Isnik is a city in Turkey which produced these tiles, originally copies of Chinese porcelain.
The Isnik tiles are a wonder–most of the interior walls have lavishly decorated tiles like this, in shades of blue. “Turquoise” literally means the color of the Turks. Isnik is a city in Turkey which produced these tiles, originally copies of Chinese porcelain.
This reminded me of the window scene from Romeo and Juliet.
This reminded me of the window scene from Romeo and Juliet.
There was a special exhibit, hidden away and difficult to find. While I enjoyed the artifiacts and information about coffee at "A Drop of Pleasure," I liked the solitude most of all. I had a cool drink in the shade of this courtyard and collected myself. It's not even high season and the museum was bursting with people.
There was a special exhibit, hidden away and difficult to find. While I enjoyed the artifiacts and information about coffee at “A Drop of Pleasure,” I liked the solitude most of all. I had a cool drink in the shade of this courtyard and collected myself. It’s not even high season and the museum was bursting with people.
It was a hot summer day and museum goers seek the shade of one of the trees.
It was a hot summer day and museum goers seek the shade of one of the trees.

Çiğköfte and therapy

Left to right: Tuncay, Jon and Shelley.
Left to right: Tuncay, Jon and Shelley.

5/3/2015
A lovely day yesterday! I taught my Sunday class and after, the students took me out for lunch to practice English. I’m working hard on my Turkish again, and it slowly, slowly pays off. The students work so hard on their English that it is inspiring.

Jon is Kurdish, and his family is from an ancient city, located near the Iranian boarder. He's a level 4 student and doing very well with his English--but he takes every opportunity to practice. And yes, he is a handsome young man.
Jon is Kurdish, and his family is from an ancient city, located near the Iranian boarder. He’s a level 4 student and doing very well with his English–but he takes every opportunity to practice. And yes, he is a handsome young man.

After I prepared my Monday morning class, I took a quick nap then met other teachers at the school to walk to a student’s hour for home-made çiğköfte—a vegetarian version of bulgur (cracked wheat), onions and spices. Tasty! And Jon, who made it for us, got quite an upper body workout mixing the ingredients, as that “cooks” them. Jon is a Kurd, a minority, and there is a lot of prejudice here in Turkey against them. Albert (actually, Ali, from Iran) led us to Jon’s apartment and occasionally served as translator for Jon, a 4th level student.

Çiğ means raw and köfte is meatball. This dish was originally raw meat, but it’s seldom made with this in Istanbul. You can find it at most shops and even the grocery store, but it is a fat-less, vegetarian dish. It’s usually served rolled in a lettuce leaf or lavosh (a flat bread). We drank Ayran, a popular beverage in Turkish, made of thinned yogurt. It cools the tongue after the spicy meal. One of the ladies from the branch office, Barak, made a salad of chopped onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. It had a sauce of pomegranate syrups that was so tasty, a couple of the men drank it when it when we had eaten all the vegetables. It’s that tasty! There was lots of folk music and some dancing too!

Jon spent an HOUR mixing in ingredients--a serious upper body workout.
Jon spent an HOUR mixing in ingredients–a serious upper body workout.
The finished dish! Tasty, filling and spicy! The white parts are hard boiled egg, the last ingredient. It's rolled into lettuce or flat bread with a squeeze of lemon.
The finished dish! Tasty, filling and spicy! The white parts are hard boiled egg, the last ingredient. It’s rolled into lettuce or flat bread with a squeeze of lemon.
We ate it picnic style on the floor.
We ate it picnic style on the floor.

5/6/2015
Mondays and Tuesdays are tough days for me—double shift and usually at least one activity or private lesson. Next week, Albert is going back to Iran, his home country, for a couple weeks, so the entire class will be mine through the end of the class. The first week will be really tough. But since Albert has pretty much left all the tests and presentations to the last part of the class, that’s all I’ll be doing.

My private lesson yesterday (and again today) is with E., a sweet man in his early 30’s who is traveling to Spain, Portugal and Morocco for a month starting Saturday. We are practicing his “travel” English—booking tickets and hotels. Sounds like an amazing trip. He’s a nervous person and while his English isn’t perfect, he’s very understandable. Of course, more vocabulary would help. We often talk about religion and culture, so these are difficult subjects to discuss. Sometimes, though, I don’t think he is interested in the lessons at all. I think he just wants to be heard. He’s lonely, living with his mother, doesn’t really like his job. Travel is the only thing he seems to really like about his life and he has a second job just to afford it. He feels it’s time for him to make some big decisions in life, but her doesn’t really know the direction and hates to make a big change that will be bad for his widowed mother. It’s a tough time for him and English lessons are cheaper (and more acceptable) than therapy. He’s gone through several private teachers, but always asks for me now. Guess I’m his therapist!

Photos of Dancing from Sunday evening:

Jon and Barak dance for us!
Jon and Barak dance for us!

çiğköfte at Jon's, May 2015, 7

Notice the double tea pot. The bottom pot has only hot water. The top has very strong tea. You pour the strong tea into your glass then dilute it to your preferred strength. And there is always sugar! Lots of sugar!
Notice the double tea pot. The bottom pot has only hot water. The top has very strong tea. You pour the strong tea into your glass then dilute it to your preferred strength. And there is always sugar! Lots of sugar!

çiğköfte at Jon's, May 2015, 10

Disappointing schedules, new views

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).

I can’t English today

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!

Walking the walls and getting paid

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.