Cooler weather, but more uncertainty on the teaching front

In the distance, across the water, you can see the Galata Tower on the Asian Side of Istanbul. This photo was taken in March. But the rest of the photos were taken today as my new roommate and I walked up the hill to the tower and climbed to the top (there's an elevator most of the way). Enjoy the view!
In the distance, across the water, you can see the Galata Tower on the Asian Side of Istanbul. This photo was taken in March. But the rest of the photos on this post were taken today as my new roommate and I walked up the hill to the Galata tower and climbed to the top (there’s an elevator most of the way). Enjoy the view!

I’m feeling better today. I was a bum the entire morning yesterday and then wandered around the Levent area all late afternoon and evening. I needed a distraction and am glad to have gotten it, but the heat didn’t make it much fun.
Honestly, if I had a place to teach that I knew was solid, I’d go now. I don’t. While I love each new country, it’s a huge upheaval: new culture and language, new school and curriculum, new apartment and city to navigate and new roommates and co-workers. The horrible roommate really knocked the wind out of my sails. My self-confidence took a hit, too. We take changes on people in life and it doesn’t always work out.

I’ve gotten used to much of the Turkish culture, know a little of the language and I have a safe apartment near my school. It’s near restaurants and shopping and keeps my transportation costs low. The school isn’t great, but frankly, most aren’t. I’m going to have to learn to live with that. I’m already half way through my contract, which finishes at the end of January. The school pays late, but they do pay. I know the curriculum, the students like me, and my body doesn’t need a big upheaval. If I leave now, I lose a contract bonus of one month’s pay, reimbursement of my flight here and my apartment deposit. Besides, there’s no guarantee that the next position will be better. Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I could stand a little stability for a while. I’m simply not up to a new challenge.

I’ve had friends suggest that I go “home” and lick my wounds. But there is no home. Everything I have fits in a couple suitcases and I go from job to job. While I love that freedom, I miss the stability. I miss the feeling of roots. I’m not complaining. This was my choice. I just have to learn to live with more uncertainty in life. I’m simply not as good at it as I thought I’d be.

With yesterday and today off from work I’m already feeling better. Now if the weather will just cool off a little. I think I’ll just stay until my contract is up at the end of January and then move on in February–maybe travel a bit or volunteer somewhere until April when I plan to meet friends in Spain to hike the Camino. I’ll take another full-time teaching position starting in late May. I’ve updated my resume and cover letter. I’ve gotten an excellent reference from my head teacher here. I signed up for an online job fair in November and I’ve already notified my placement agency of when my contract ends.

But I do have a new injury to report. Yesterday on the MetroBus, I managed to get a seat during a long ride. When I was getting up, out of the seat, just as I hovered over the arm rest, the bus hit a pothole. I came down hard on my backside. My tailbone is quite bruised. No major damage, but it’s very sore. I’ll be sitting down rather gingerly for a few days.

Walking up the hill, our first glimpse of the tower.
Walking up the hill, our first glimpse of the tower.
From the top

It rained yesterday and things have cooled off. The world is suddenly an easier place to live in! Last night I didn’t even turn on my fan. I expect to pick up the exploring I left off before the heat of summer stepped in and made it too hot to contemplate extra walking in the sun. I’m back from an exploratory walk around the neighborhood this morning. I’m trying to find a post office, but can’t. The few signs so far for post offices (Postane, PTT) have led to nothing—either no office or it was closed. But I’m told there is a reliable one around here if I can just find it.
It is Monday morning and I have an easier schedule for the next few days. Weekends are brutal with double classes and a commute to another branch. The morning class (who I mentally think of as the Angry Teenagers) will finish next weekend. I will not be sorry to see them go. Sunday, not a single student showed up until 20 minutes after the start time and then they demanded their break exactly on time, even though we were in the middle of an exercise. I actually asked a student to go home. She didn’t bring a book, wouldn’t participate in class and either had her nose in her phone or was sleeping. They spent most of the class celebrating another student’s birthday. I don’t know why I bother. Only one person should be advanced to Level 2, but ET promotes everyone. <sigh>

The weekend afternoon class has turned into my beloved class. They are in Avcilar and a Level 1 class. Only three of the students are really good, but these three make the whole class worthwhile. They make teaching worthwhile! The other three students are hit and miss as to attendance, so their work is too. Because I have to give out vocabulary sheets with each class (the words I will use in class each day), it takes twice as long to develop my lesson plan, but it seems worth it when you see a few students thriving.
At Sirinevler, classrooms are still locked, but we have some interesting news. First, Richard K., the man who hired me, is gone for English Time. Second, my branch (and perhaps others) has been sold. I don’t know what that will mean to my contract or my ability to teach here in Turkey. None of this information is official, but it comes from Robert, the head teacher:

“Richard Kirsten has resigned and I understand he’s taken up an offer to teach at a school outside Istanbul. Richard was a great manager and always very supportive and ready to help the teachers. We will surely miss him.
At this stage, until the dust settles, let’s get on with business as usual to the extent that we can. Watch this space for further announcements and be aware that I’m often in the dark as to what’s going on around here. … I understand also that Sirinevler was sold to Ozgur Bey but honestly not clear what this all implies. Hopefully things will get better soon.”

I wish I were as positive about it as Robert. I’ve notified Oxford Seminars (my placement agency and the place I got my TOEFL Teaching Certificate) as they’ve contacted me in the past about the stability of English Time. As they communicated to me, Turkey is an inherently “iffy” place and ET is their only active company at this time.

And that’s not the only unstable situation. Two days ago, I got this message from the US Consulate:

Security Incident Near U.S. Consulate Istanbul

Today, Saturday, August 22nd, there has been a shooting incident near the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. We urge individuals to please avoid that area for the time being. Please monitor the news for further developments and maintain security awareness.

U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution in the vicinity of large gatherings, as even peaceful gatherings can turn confrontational. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security, and follow instructions of local authorities.

I find it interesting that they did not mention AT ALL that 2 men were detained in shooting near Istanbul’s Dolmabahce palace four days ago. The men were allegedly targeting police officers, but it is a heavy tourist area.

Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 5 Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 8 Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 11

Monique, my new roommate has taught English before and studied languages. She's been in country for three days and knows more Turkish than I do!
Monique, my new roommate has taught English before and studied languages. She’s been in country for three days and knows more Turkish than I do!

Got a new roommate yesterday. Monique is a Canadian woman, mid-20’s. She has taught English before and seems to know some Arabic and a bit of Turkish. She’s beautiful and even though she had a 36 hour flight, was civil from the start. I think this bodes well!

Now that it’s cooled off, it’s much easier to walk. I need to train for the Camino next spring. While I am on my feet while I teach class, the best exercise is walking with weight. So far, I’ve been good about walking an hour or more a day, but need to add the “with weight” part. Maybe just a day-pack with books would be enough for now.

It’s amazing how much the cool weather has helped my mood. I feel more relaxed and more able to take on challenges. It also helps that new classes are opening up this weekend at my branch—I was beginning to think they were going to close it! There are still padlocked classrooms, but I’m told renovations will be “soon.” Pretty sure the Turkish “soon” is very different from the American “soon.” My morning weekend class finishes this Sunday, so I hope to have a new class to replace it immediately. This week I have a far more reasonable schedule of 25 teaching hours.

Having lunch today with Shelley. She is going back to Canada and I will miss her. She may come back to Istanbul, but it depends on many things back home for her. I also got an email from Maria, who left a couple months ago with health issues. She hoped to come back to Istanbul this month, but she is simply not well enough yet. Few people seem to finish their contracts—a good deal for the company as they don’t have to pay the contract bonus (approximately a month’s pay) or the travel reimbursement. It adds up to some serious money.

Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 16 Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 17 Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 198/26/2015
It’s getting warmer again, but is still better than the first of August. Had to turn my fan on to go to sleep last night. Took a two hour walk today, with a light backpack, and was drenched when I got home. Thank goodness for showers.

Lovely lunch with Shelley yesterday. She left for home (Canada) this morning early and I hope to hear that she’s landed safely. Her original plan was to return to Istanbul in a month or two, but with the instability here at our school, I’m not sure she will. Before she left, she gave me an entire suitcase filled with kitchen staples—salt, sugar, flour, oil, tea. I’m sharing with my roommates.

The good news at Sirinevler branch is that SIX new classes are opening up, starting this weekend. No idea where the students will go since classrooms remain locked, but I guess that’s not my problem. I get two of the classes, so there will be no break in my schedule as I go from one class to the next. (In fact I’ll have a slight overlap) That means that my hours will remain steady. Let’s hope that also means that my income will be steady. I found that Turkish staff at Sirinevler and the head office at Taksim (plus some teachers in two branches, at least) have yet to be paid for July. Also, Edgar, who returned after two months in the states, didn’t get his pay. This is money he was owed before he left, so he’s quite unhappy about it. Edgar isn’t one of my favorite people, but I think he should be paid for the time he worked. Robert introduced himself to the new owner and found the man uninterested in even greeting him. Our owner does not appear to be a “people person.”

From the base of the Galata Tower
From the base of the Galata Tower

Galata Tower, Istanbul, Aug 2015, 22

Stray cats are everywhere, but lovely.
Stray cats are everywhere, but lovely.

August, and it’s not just the weather that’s hot

It's August. There is little air conditioning on the metro. But these women have at least two (and probably three) layers of clothing covering everything but their hands and face. I am melting just looking at them.
It’s August. There is little air conditioning on the metro. But these women have at least two (and probably three) layers of clothing covering everything but their hands and face. Even scarves take a minimum of two to cover the hair completely. I am melting just looking at them.

My last few days of posts have been pretty negative. Living in another country where you don’t speak the language nor know the customs is unsettling. The company I work for, English Time, has new ownership. Things are in flux—and if you aren’t the one doing the changes, it never feels good. It’s worse when you have no idea what the plans are and no one will tell you. It just looks like a mess. Maybe it IS a mess. Maybe there’s a plan I know nothing of. Who can tell? Not me, that’s for sure.

But instability and not knowing are things I need to learn to live with. It’s part of the deal if you agree to be an ex-pat. I’m in no danger. I just feel unsettled. My company paid me late, but they do pay. I’ve got a financial safety net if they don’t. I have people I can stay with if I need to come home. The political system is (fairly) stable here in Turkey. I’m about as safe from physical harm as in most US cities (hey, no one is bombing churches here!), though political unrest does happen.
Things are uncomfortable, but not dangerous. Hey, life is uncomfortable wherever you live! I know my mood has been dark, but frankly a big thunderstorm and the cool air that follows would do more to perk me up than almost anything. It’s hot. I’ve moved too many times. And I need a day off.

It will all get better. Please don’t worry about me, folks.

I’ve not been affected, but there has been some unrest in Turkey. The US consulate sent a message that they would close for one day. Internet news reports:
“Istanbul (AFP) – Six members of the Turkish security forces were killed and the US consulate in Istanbul hit by a gun attack in a day of violence Monday blamed on Kurdish and Marxist radicals as Ankara pressed on with its air campaign against militants.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has claimed over 20 killings of police and soldiers since a devastating suicide attack three weeks ago in a mainly Kurdish town.
Around 390 PKK militants have also been killed in Turkish retaliatory raids, according to the Anatolia news agency.”

It’s been a very tough week. I moved all my belongings to a flat in Sirinevler (from Sukrubey) on Friday (August 7th), then on Monday (August 10th) I moved everything across the hall to my actual room—which is quite small but has good windows and a terrace. This room had been fellow teacher Alex’s but ET is moving him to Silivi to teach there. He’s not amused by this. While the room is tiny, at least it has a real bed, not a just a couch, and two dressers where I can hang up clothes and put things away.

I’ve had double classes for five straight days which is brutal enough after moving, but I’ve also had to travel to a new branch. Monday through Wednesday I taught in Beylikduzu in the morning. This neighborhood is a miserable one hour MetroBus ride to a branch I’d never been to before. The staff was nice, but my 23 students and I were forced into a theater style room that barely held us all. It had no air conditioning or air movement. Not even a fan. I had to constantly drink water to avoid dehydration due to sweating. There were no desks so the students could barely write. Almost all of the students are Libyan and came to Istanbul just to learn English. They have good language skills for Level 2 students and despite the class size were a delight to teach, even in the heat.

The other teachers, however, were simply horrible to me. This is my EX roommate’s branch and I can only imagine what she’s said about me. The head teacher, Mark, was very complimentary of my work. He told me that the students had asked for me to stay on. I told him that while he seemed nice and the students and staff were great, I hoped never to meet any of his teachers again. And could he forward my pay from this branch so I wouldn’t have to come back?

My name is a mystery to most of my students. They have never heard it before. Looking at the class roster, I think I know how they feel. I always introduce myself to a new class, but invariably a few come late. So on a break, I will hear, “Teacher, what name?” I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, but I turned quickly and said, “Oh! Beth! “ I didn’t realize my mistake for a full day. What they had heard was “Ohbeth” or as they are far more likely to say, “Ohbet.” There was a small argument among the students about this before I could clear it up.

Today was a particularly hot one. My students, though wonderful, require almost constant attention, even during breaks. It’s four straight hours and it can be exhausting work. Add to that a one hour MetroBus, both coming and returning. Today the buses were packed, a solid mass of people crammed into a small, airless space. There is no personal space and you can’t move without touching someone. Elbows in your back. Bags and children hitting your shins. Crying babies. Strollers taking up the aisle and rolling over your feet. It was all I could do to keep myself from screaming. I am “peopled out.” I live just off a busy city center and by the time I walked back to my flat, I was ready to be away from people for a solid week. Unfortunately, I have to teach tonight.

My new roommate is a very handsome, 26-year old black man. I’m surprised to find he’s from Alabama as he has no southern accent. He seems a good roomie, even if he did take out the electricity a couple times with his X-Box. The wiring in these old flats just isn’t up to US standards.

You see few tattoos in Turkey, but perhaps if you put Ataturk, the father of the country, on your shoulder it's ok. The man's dress is atypical. Even Turkish men usually wear a long sleeved shirt and perhaps a jacket, even in August. Earrings are very unusual and large necklaces uncommon, though bracelets are often worn. The beard, however, is practically de rigueur.
You see few tattoos in Turkey, but perhaps if you put Ataturk, the father of the country, on your shoulder it’s ok. The man’s dress is atypical. Even Turkish men usually wear a long sleeved shirt and perhaps a jacket, even in August. Earrings are very unusual and large necklaces uncommon, though bracelets are often worn. The beard, however, is practically de rigueur.

I received this email today from the Embassy of the United States of America located in Ankara, Turkey:

“The U.S. Embassy in Ankara informs U.S. citizens of an elevated threat level from terrorism in Turkey, as evidenced by the August 10 attack on the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, in which two DHKP/C members (one remains at large) fired weapons at the Consulate building.

The Embassy also notes that August 15 is the anniversary of the first Kurdistan Worker’s Party (known as PKK or Kongra-Gel (KGK)) attack against Turkish government installations. Historically, this anniversary date has prompted an escalation of violence by the PKK and other splinter groups. Recently, the PKK has targeted the Turkish military and Turkish National Police (TNP) officers and stations, while the DHKP/C has targeted TNP and Government of Turkey facilities.
U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey should be alert to the possibility of increased terror activity in urban and tourist areas, as well as throughout southeast Turkey. We urge U.S. citizens to exercise caution and maintain a high level of vigilance. U.S. citizens should be aware of the possibility that terrorists can conduct complex attacks, with secondary follow-on attacks targeting first responders to the initial attack. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, and monitor local news stations for updates.”

It’s Sunday and there’s never a dull moment, even on weekends. And not always in a good way. We should have been paid yesterday. The office used the excuse of “oh, it’s a weekend” to not paid us. Like they can’t see weekends coming? I think what bothers all of us is that we simply don’t know about our pay. We asked about it earlier in the week, but no one seemed to know. Will we get it on the day promised? The next? How about Monday? There’s no information. We aren’t exactly over-paid, so most of the teachers are broke by payday.

And speaking of no information, I was the first one in this morning to find classrooms padlocked. Robert came in a few minutes later and was just as surprised as I was. Neither of us could read the Turkish signs on the door. Robert’s the head teacher and when he asked the office he was given no explanation. He was told that Monday morning classes were canceled, but today’s classes would happen. WHERE? They opened my old classroom, but another teacher ended up in a makeshift office with no white board. (The signs turned out to say “closed for renovations.” The rooms all need it. The desks are broken, the AC doesn’t work, the windows don’t open and there’s no wifi, even though the school advertises it.)

We’ve been worried for the last couple weeks because classes aren’t opening up at this branch, while other branches have several new classes. Some of our teachers are on “loan” to other branches to deal with the shortages there. Will they come back? Our Turkish branch manager, Huysen, is blaming Robert—which is pretty ridiculous since Robert only manages teachers, not classes. He can’t open classes. We both suspect the entire office is far too busy watching soap operas to call students to arrange classes. Hey, those soaps aren’t gonna watch themselves!

A park in Atakoy, walking distance from my new flat. It's too hot to use the equipment and the men are just sitting there.
A park in Atakoy, walking distance from my new flat. It’s too hot to use the equipment and the men are just sitting there.

We finally got paid this evening, though we didn’t know for use until we actually saw the money. The classrooms are still mostly locked. We still have no explanation. Today, the computer wasn’t working, We have four, but only one ever woks. We couldn’t reach our files at all. But since there was no internet access either, it didn’t matter, because we also couldn’t use the printer. It was a disaster for my lesson plan. Something else was missing, too: Husyen. He’s the Turkish Branch manager who’s been so negative. I understand he was fired today. I’m not sure how much of the staff is still around. While I’m glad to see him go, I don’t actually know how that will affect this branch. Will they remodel the classrooms and unlock them? Will we get more classes? I have two classes finishing soon and will need new classes to stay employed. If we don’t get new classes, will I be sent to another branch to teach? If so, where? That would be disappointing, since I JUST moved here to this branch. On the other hand, if I’m not sent to another branch, I’m out of a job. What the heck is going on!?! A little communication could go a long way here.

I ended up teaching my class in the tiny makeshift office tonight (the office Husyen used to have). They found a small whiteboard—about one foot by two feet in size. It doesn’t meet the needs. It all just seems too unprofessional for a such a big company with branches all over Turkey plus a few scattered across the world. They have about 200 teachers just in the Istanbul metro.

So, at 10pm, I walked home, hoping to just take a shower and crawl into bed. It was another disappointing and unsettling day and I wanted to forget it. Instead, I find an email from someone I’d never met. Seems she is a new potential ET teacher. The school gave her my email—without my permission. She had a long list of questions about how it was to work for English Time. This did not improve my day. Fortunately, she told me who had given her my personal email, so I emailed that person. I politely asked that they not do this (very) unprofessional thing again. I also suggested that I might not be the best choice if they wanted someone to persuade this young woman to be a new teacher with ET. Under the circumstances, I’m finding it difficult to think of positive things to say.

This is from the YeniKapa (new gate) metro station. They have displayed several of the artifacts found while digging this line.
This is from the YeniKapa (new gate) metro station. They have displayed several of the artifacts found while digging this line.
People have probably continuously lived in this area for 10,000 years--we aren't that far from some of the word's earliest civilizations. It's pretty tough to dig and not find something.
People have probably continuously lived in this area for 10,000 years–we aren’t that far from some of the word’s earliest civilizations. It’s pretty tough to dig and not find something. Public works projects must be a nightmare.

8/18/2015  Five minutes before this evening’s class, the power went out. Since I’m still teaching class in the tiny make-shift office, it got really stuffy in a hurry and the windows don’t open. I’d planned to give the Reading Exam, but by 7pm it was already too dark to give any exam without overhead lights. We stuck around until 8pm, but the power didn’t come on. Classes were canceled and I’ll give the exam tomorrow. The next question, of course, if whether or not I’ll be paid….

Power outages are very common here. Most businesses have generators and are back with electricity in a few minutes after a power outage. In fact, the floors below us all had power from a generator. Why didn’t we?

August heat, roommate roulette

I’m doing OK, just VERY busy, We are short on teachers, so I’m working 40 TEACHING hours a week right now, not counting office hours, prep time or commuting. I do little else but work. The cause of the teacher’s shortage is poor communication, as always. During the month of Ramazan (mid-June to mid-July), plus a week or two on either side of that, there were few classes and no new classes. Some of the teachers were surprised by this and suddenly had no income. I knew about the month of holy fasting and had specifically asked about its timing and effect on classes, so I knew before I came. They didn’t. I simply planned other things to do during that month (I took the train to Bucharest, Romania. Then I flew to Paris!). But many of the younger teachers didn’t know about the break, nor did they have financial resources to afford it. So they quit–went back home or took another position. So now we are short teachers and I’m working too much. I hope it will even out in a month or so. Fingers crossed (which is an expression none of my students know, so I got to teach it to them).
I’ve checked the weather forecast in the USA and it is boiling there, so I hesitate to complain about the heat here. The advantage of The States over Turkey, however, is more air conditioning. I have none in my apartment, and only a few of the classrooms have working AC. I have taught all my students the Present Continuous phrase: “I am melting.” They also know a few new vocabulary words like: boiling, sweat, cool off, humid, air conditioning and miserable.

I was asked repeatedly by Robert, the Sirinevler head teacher, to consider taking his place when he leaves in October. I love to teach and I hate paperwork and politics, so I feel I’m better off remaining a simple teacher. I almost caved, but fortunately, Kate has stepped up to take the job. She is in her mid-to-late 20’s, very mature and organized, and this is her second teaching assignment (she was in Korea before). I think she will do great, plus it’s a good first management position for her and will look good on her resume. Being a head teacher is all about diplomacy and organization, so it won’t be easy, but she will do well and learn what she needs to. I hope it isn’t too frustrating for her and I will be as supportive as I can.

Upper management has decided that no one can take ANY time off–even one day–without their expressed permission. The teachers are protesting this and we will likely get a more reasonable ruling but not sure how long that will take. In the meantime, this will make it more challenging see my friend Kathy in October. I’m still confident that I can work this out, but I’m still not sure of where and when. I will work this out as soon as I can since I know this is important for good priced airfare. If I were SURE that my days off would not change, that would make it easier, but I have no control over my schedule and I am lucky to even get the week’s schedule starting Monday before I go to bed Saturday night. Makes it impossible to plan, huh?

I won’t go into details, but the new roommate situation is not working out and I’m going to have to move on. I’m still sleeping on a couch and I don’t have anywhere to hang my clothes. The roommate promised to buy furniture for my room before I agreed to move in. That was two months ago. She also promised to put the apartment in her name as well as the cable bill. She hasn’t followed through with any of these promises. Shortly after she returned from Copenhagen, she stopped speaking to me, so I don’t actually know what’s going on in her mind, but I can watch her behavior. She’s staying out all night, drinking heavily (I can’t even keep wine in the house because she drinks it) and she’s often late for work (based on the time she leaves the apartment she can’t possibly make it to school on time). She also rarely cleans, eats my food and didn’t pay the cable bill as promised. Now past due. I’ve also got concerns about the landlord, since he didn’t fix the water heater in a timely fashion and refuses to fix the shower.

Time to move on.

I’ve contacted Katt and Ali, who have several flats, and will see if they can arrange something for me that is walking distance to my school branch. This would have the added affect of keeping down my transportation costs and keeping off the over-crowded Metro, which is often the worst part of my day.

August 2, 2015
I have my first class that I truly dislike. They are mostly teen-aged, Level 1 students and their English is pretty poor. To be fair to them I am at least the third teacher they have seen, so it’s not like they expect me to stick around. I had to split up one couple because they were making out in class—that’s a first. (they later each sent me a FaceBook request. How odd?) They reluctantly moved, but spent the rest of the class on their phones and didn’t participate. My best English speaker can’t seem to shut up–short attention span theater! One young man is so far behind he should start again. But the worst is the oldest woman, E. She complains constantly, “Teacher, very difficult.” She is occasionally hostile and rolls her eyes a LOT. She influences the other girls negatively. Today I gave a 15 minute break (they are supposed to get 10 minutes) and she and 2 others took 20 additional minutes. So I decided to do the Writing Exam review while they were out, just for spite.

I have just a few more weeks of them. So I will try to remain as positive as I can and simply endure. (How very British of me!) But the class I feel most badly about is the new Level 1 class in Avcilar. I started the class last week and they are lovely, patient people. But they simply aren’t ready for an English speaker who knows almost no Turkish. I told the office manager that they needed our standard prep class—something all students are supposed to get before Level 1. These folks are struggling with the alphabet, numbers and know so few words that we could not communicate. Last week I abandoned the book. After the alphabet, we identified every noun in the room, plus most body parts. Then I taught them “This is a/an …” since I know the Turkish. We struggled with a few adjectives that I knew the Turkish for or they knew the English for. Then he/she/it/I/you/we/they and the “be” verb that goes with them. Then I acted out every verb I could think of: run, walk, sleep, snore……It was fun, but EXHAUSTING. I hate working without a plan like that. I wasn’t prepared at all, so I think it went well despite the problems—but it was successful to some extent because the class members are so positive and patient. This simply would not have worked with all students.

The office manager emailed me that she would get them some help and that their prep classes would be the next weekend. She hoped the class would be ready “in a few hours.” (I doubted that!) Fortunately, I forwarded the email to my head teacher, Robert, and the scheduler, Philip, with a note saying that I was now free on weekend afternoons. That’s the only reason I didn’t get into trouble when Avcilar’s office manager emailed Philip and asked why I wasn’t there to teach my class on Saturday! I was stunned. Apparently they were given 2 hours of tutoring Saturday and that’s supposed be enough to get them ready for Level 1?? I feel like I’m being set up to fail and taking my class down with me. But I will show up tomorrow and do my best. I can teach them some English, but I don’t see how they can pass Level 1.

August 4, 2015
I finished a Level 3 class today. It’s a group that I really like, so I’m disappointed to lose them. Classes wrap up quickly—weekday classes are just 5-6 weeks depending on if they are morning (4 hours a day) or evening (3 hours a day), so I’ve learned that it’s best to be slightly over-scheduled. Some class won’t work out. Another will finish before something new starts up.

If I understand it correctly, things at the Avcilar branch with the Level 1 class weren’t exactly as I was told. It’s partly a communication/translation issue (there’s no head teacher and the branch manager has only Level 1 English). IF I understand, the class had a bi-lingual teacher on Saturday. They didn’t want her. I know this teacher and have every reason to believe she’s good, so I don’t know what the issue is. But they wanted me back! I hope they know what they are doing. I figure I’ll learn Turkish or die trying while teaching this class. I don’t really believe they will do well on the exams. Possibly they won’t even finish the material. But I will try. It will take me twice as long to prepare classes for them. I decided I’ll have to do much more careful lesson planning and give them a vocabulary sheet with translated words each and every class.

Overnight, Katt emailed me and asked if I wanted to see the Sirinevler flats during my days off (Thur/Fri). I replied that I did. Maybe something will work out in that area. I don’t think living with Trudy can work out well. I can’t sleep on that couch much longer—my back hurts every morning. Our only form of communication now seems to be email. And the cable bill remains unpaid. Today she emailed she couldn’t find the cable contract and that since it was in my name it was my problem. I don’t think she’s going to like how I’m going to deal with the problem.

But the worst for me is that I’ve lost faith in people. Or at least my ability to judge people. I believed her. I trusted her from the word go. I was wrong. Trying to see the best in people doesn’t work out every time. IF she comes home, it’s usually after 3am—turning on lights and waking me up. Last night she and some male came in about 2:30a. I don’t know who it was or what they were doing. I don’t want to know. Sunday morning I met her coming home as I left the flat to go to work. She was wearing the clothes she had on Friday. And she was scheduled to teach, so she was late. Again.

Time for me to leave. I’ll be as fair as possible by paying my share of the next month’s rent (minus money she owes me). Let’s just hope that one of the rooms in Sirinevler is acceptable and I can secure it immediately.

I’m in the canteen now. It’s Trudy’s day off and so I don’t want to go home. Also, it is simply too hot to go home. There isn’t enough of a breeze at the apartment and I just sweat. At least here at the office, I can get in some AC. Let’s hope it cools off soon as none of the flats have AC. September should be better.

Yesterday I met Katt and secured a room in Sirinevler, just three blocks from my school.

Just moved the last bag to the new place. Emailed my departure to the EX-roomie. I can’t believe she will be surprised. The internet is in my name (something she was supposed to do) so I took the equipment and am canceling that today. (I had to pay for the modem and a huge early cancellation fee) I’ve given her until Thursday to put the apartment in her name–something the owner knew was supposed to happen immediately, so I expect no issue for her. If not, Ali, who knows the landlord, has agreed to go with me to explain the situation, since the landlord speaks no English. I can’t have my name on her lease.

It’s messy. I’m exhausted, but I hope the worst is over.

Unfortunately we are both teaching at the same branch in Avcilar on weekends. And I was asked to teach M-W morning (this week only) for a level 2 class in her regular branch, Beylikduzu. Let’s hope I can just teach my class and go each day.

Right now, I’m just terribly sad about the entire situation and exhausted from carting all my stuff on the Metro. Not the best way to move.

I’m teaching double classes for five days straight. At least I have over half the lesson plans already done.

July and the end of Ramazan

Hope this is a happy holiday weekend for all of the USA!

I am back in Istanbul. With somewhat limited funds and limited time I skipped Budapest. An adventure for the future, though. Bucharest was OK. Perhaps I needed a better plan to explore the city because I felt I didn’t really see the beauty of it. Not a horrible trip, but not very memorable. Think I will investigate the price of flights for future trips into Europe and skip the train. I plan to meet my dear friend, Kathy in October, perhaps in Serbia. The long train/bus trip really wore me out. I got in yesterday morning around 8am after traveling since noon the day before. The old Orient Express is not what it used to be. I slept most of the day and all of the night, waking up to do laundry, shower and eat. I almost feel human.

I now have three friends considering hiking the Camino with me next spring. Rather excited and surprised as I just assumed that I would be all alone on this trek. Of course, it is a long way off still and the plans may not work out for all of us. I feel lucky to have y any of them consider hiking with me. And not a whiner in the bunch. These long distance trails turn out to be more of a social experience than you’d think, and it would be nice to share memories.

This morning I walked to the sea and dipped my fingers into the water. It’s warm enough to swim and I think I may just do that tomorrow, after class. Wonder if I can find a snorkel and goggles? Love to see what’s down there. (Later I did get a snorkel. Never doing that again. Filthy water. I took an extra-long shower.)

Last week, with my Migros Card, I got a whole chicken for 1TL! (Migros is a local grocery) Last night I roasted it with onions, carrots and potatoes. Last night I picked the carcass, not too clean, and boiled it for broth with some herbs and half a lemon. This morning I strained it and I’m letting it cool to skim. It should be soup by tomorrow or the next day. I already have veggies cut up and frozen from an earlier excursion to the weekly market. Yum!

Ramadan is almost over and I’ll be glad to see the end of it. My neighbors seem to sleep all day and are awake and partying all night. Even the children are playing in the streets–loudly calling each other at 1am. Last night I went out on the terrace and told them to stop bouncing their ball on the wall of my apartment just outside my window. The sounds of laughter, arguing (there is SO much arguing!) and talking bounce off the tile which faces most buildings. It is almost impossible to sleep. Percussive sounds, like forks hitting plates or dishes being knocked together as they are washed and stacked, are particularly annoying. For those who venture out during the day, I find their bodies and breath especially pungent. I assume it is the keytones released when someone is fasting. The bodies of the men are strong but their breath is so much worse. The MetroBus is almost unbearable some mornings.

Bayram is a religious holiday and the entire Ramazan is a holy (lunar) month. The last four days is especially festive, called Seker Bayam (sugar holiday) and so the school is closed for four days. Of course, I wasn’t informed of this until the week before–no way to plan ahead! But communication is an afterthought, particularly to foreign teachers. Still, Shelley and I found an inexpensive package to Paris! For $550 U.S. each, we have round trip air and 4nights in a hotel near the Eiffel Tower. (I’ve posted my Paris pictures already)

Speaking of communication, I was called with 24-hours notice to come to the head office in Taksim (more than an hour away) to sign some papers for my work permit. We were asked to bring a photo–no information on the photo size, no consideration as to my teaching schedule. And when I got there, I found the head office had moved! Why don’t they mention these things? When I finally found the new building, a secretary thrust a three page document in front of me. It was in Turkish. She spoke no English and I have no idea what I signed. In theory, it is for my work permit, which I need.

Two nights ago, Trudy was packing to leave on a trip to Copenhagen. We heard a loud pop and our hallway filled with acrid smoke. I open the door to the stairway and could see that the entire building had no power. Lots of voices called “Tamom, tamom!” (Ok, ok!) so I didn’t worry much, but was still concerned about the white smoke (bayaz durman) that had come from the breaker box. One breaker was blown and I switched it back on. In 20 minutes the rest of the building had power, but not our apartment. We went upstairs to the landlord, “guc yok, elektrik yok.” (No power, no electric). Trudy needed to leave for her trip, so I was left with the issue. There was a parade of men in and out of our door until 11pm. I got a good look at the wiring and am surprised that we hadn’t had issues earlier–a tangle of extra-long wires and WAY too much exposed copper! Finally someone who actually seemed to know some electrical information got the lights on. He shortened wires to an appropriate length and put proper electrical ties on them. Phew! He even fixed a hall light that had never worked. But he didn’t get the power to the hot water heater going. The landlord said they would be back tomorrow. My shower that evening was short!

The next day I had to work but was home by 2:30p as I had promised. But no one came. At 5pm, I went to the landlord again. “Aksamlar” (evening), he said. But no one came. Another cold shower and laundry done in cold water. This morning I had to leave for Paris. I left a note in Turkish and a key for the landlord asking that the power be fixed before I am back on Sunday. We will see.

You can see my Paris Photos here.

A stroll along the Seine, Paris

I’m back in Istanbul, but still posting the last photos from my trip in Paris during the middle of July. Yes, I took about 1,000 photos. No, you won’t have to see them all. I think this will have to be the last of them.

One afternoon, Shelley and I took a stroll along the Seine on our way to a museum. Just a few photos I took on the way.
One afternoon, Shelley and I took a stroll along the Seine on our way to a museum. Just a few photos I took on the way.
Funny! And surprised the words are English.
Funny! And surprised the words are English.
A huge chalk board! He's Shelley, signing it.
A huge chalk board! He’s Shelley, signing it.
I guess it's art?
I guess it’s art?
This is the base of the Alexander III Bridge. Those "railroad ties" are seats, which you find all over this section of the Seine. They are made of recycled plastic.
This is the base of the Alexander III Bridge. Those “railroad ties” are seats, which you find all over this section of the Seine. They are made of recycled plastic.
These pods were presented as portable "hotel" rooms. Inside was a round couch with pillows. You'd have to sleep in a curve, but I guess. It's larger than the capsule hotel I stayed in in Saigon.
These pods were presented as portable “hotel” rooms. Inside was a round couch with pillows. You’d have to sleep in a curve, but I guess. It’s larger than the capsule hotel I stayed in in Saigon.
This is a floating greenhouse filled with plants. I had expected vegetables, but these were flowering.
This is a floating greenhouse filled with plants. I had expected vegetables, but these were flowering.
These hammocks were open for anyone to try out.
These hammocks were open for anyone to try out.
This floating greenhouse was lovely. There were lots of signs, but not in English, so I don't know exactly what they were trying to teach. Waht surprised me what that it was completely open and accessible--there was no caretaker or security.
This floating greenhouse was lovely. There were lots of signs, but not in English, so I don’t know exactly what they were trying to teach. Waht surprised me what that it was completely open and accessible–there was no caretaker or security.