Indian Summer in Istanbul

IMG_065711/27/2015

I’ve had a lot of free time, so I’ve been walking a lot. Atakoy is the next neighborhood across the E5 and the flowers have been particularly lovely in the cool, but sunny weather. There’s a surprising number of roses (gul). It’s been my favorite weather so far. Yesterday, the rain moved in and it looks like more on the way. That will likely ruin the blooms, but I took a few photos to remember them by.IMG_0654 IMG_0649 IMG_0653

Eating Turkey in Turkey

Aylin, Nadine, Barbara, me, Stephanie, Talin and Alex. Kate came later.
Aylin, Nadine, Barbara, me, Stephanie, Talin and Alex. Kate came later.

11/27/2015
I so enjoyed the Thanksgiving feast at school yesterday, organized by some of the teachers. It was a true thanksgiving potluck with lots of folks contributing. The award goes to Stephanie, who baked the turkey, and made pumpkin pie and rolls from scratch. This was her first time making all these items, so it was really great that everything turned out so well. As she said on FB, “I have made purée from an actual pumpkin and making ground cinnamon from cinnamon sticks Istanbul is upping my pilgrim game.” Somayah’s Iranian potato salad was also a big hit, plus it was beautiful. (I think she commented that this was her first and last Thanksgiving.) And though there was no cranberry sauce, the stuffing was great.

I contributed deviled eggs (which mystified the Turks in the office) and panna cotta (they took one bite to be polite and then pushed it aside). It can be overwhelming to try new foods, and Turks are particularly sensitive. When my students talk about other cuisines, it is usually with disdain. I thought our office staff (those who came) were pretty daring.

Stephanie with her perfectly roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. Both survived the trip by metro bus to the school.
Stephanie with her perfectly roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. Both survived the trip by metro bus to the school.
Barbara made cornbread, an item the Turks recognized.
Barbara made cornbread, an item the Turks recognized.

After the dinner, there was a power outage at school, so classes were canceled. We all grabbed a bus to Bakrikoy to go to a bar. With soccer on the TV, it rounded out a truly traditional Thanksgiving—too much food, lots to be thankful for and football.

We chowed down like there was no tomorrow! Nadine, Stephanie and Somayah.
We chowed down like there was no tomorrow! Nadine, Stephanie and Somayah.
Barbara and a Turkish man from our office--he was clearly the most daring of the staff. I think he tried everything!
Barbara and a Turkish man from our office–he was clearly the most daring of the staff. I think he tried everything!
Alex and his devilish grin came in from Silivi.
Alex and his devilish grin came in from Silivi.
Her smile was so good, I used both pictures.
Her smile was so good, I used both pictures.
This week's drawing, in honor of Thanksgiving.
This week’s drawing, in honor of Thanksgiving.

Teachers Day

My flowers for Teacher's Day. This includes the bouquet my students gave me, plus a single rose from the branch office.
My flowers for Teacher’s Day. This includes the bouquet my students gave me, plus a single rose from the branch office.

11/24/2015
Today was Teacher’s day. My favorite students from Avcilar met me as school and brought me flowers. It was wonderful surprise and I was so thrilled to catch up with them. They are really special students who work extra hard and I’m depressed that I am not their level 2 teacher.

Me with my beloved Level 1 students. All have now moved onto Level 2, but since they are at the Avcilar Branch, they have a new teacher. Best group of students ever. Mirac, Hezar and Aslan.
Me with my beloved Level 1 students. All have now moved onto Level 2, but since they are at the Avcilar Branch, they have a new teacher. Best group of students ever. Mirac, Hezar and Aslan.
Me with flowers for Teacher's Day.
Me with flowers for Teacher’s Day.

Then I took my flowers and went to the Teacher’s room where the office staff threw us a lovely Teacher’s Day party with a cake and cookies. Each of us got a coffee mug and even a rose. Lovely. It’s the first gesture like that by ET since I arrived here in Turkey. It was really nice and I think everyone appreciated it.

That is, I appreciated it, but I didn’t I understood it.

The office staff first had to take their photos with the party spread—no teachers in the photos, just staff. Then they took my flowers and posed with them. Seriously. Each of the women took my flowers—without asking—and had their picture taken holding them. Then they posed in groups with my flowers and the cake. In the meantime, the English teachers were standing to the side just waiting. After the staff had posted the photos to Facebook we were allowed to eat.

I’m not angry or upset. They didn’t hurt my flowers. It would simply never occur to me to have my photo taken with else’s flowers, or to take them without asking. There is just so much I don’t “get.” And I have to accept that I never will.

Cake!
Cake!
The Sirinevler Branch teachers during November 2015: Somayah, Kate, Talin, Stephanie, Foroogh, Barbara and (in front) Edgar.
The Sirinevler Branch teachers during November 2015: Somayah, Kate, Talin, Stephanie, Foroogh, Barbara and (in front) Edgar.
A full spread.
A full spread.

Teachers Day, Istanbul Nov 2015, 2Notes from earlier days:

11/17/2015
Yesterday was payday. My pay was short 20 hours. Again. My pay has been late or wrong more times than it’s been right and on time. Part of me just wonders why I continue working here. I showed them my time sheet and asked them to verify. They agreed they owed me the money and said they’d contact the office and I’d be paid today (Tuesday) but of course it didn’t happen.

It’s actually the inconsistency and unknown that I have issues with. So far, I’ve always gotten the money I was owed, but it’s a hassle and I’ve depended heavily on help from a head teacher. Now there isn’t one. Even when I eventually get the money, it’s a loss of faith, another stab in my heart that says, “This is a stupid. Why are you here?”

11/20/2015
Just went to the office to print materials for the weekend and see if the money from my “missing” 20 hours was there. Due to a math error I was paid for just under 18 hours. Jeeze, what a classy place. Oh and did I mention that the good computer is broken. Still. And the printer isn’t working. This isn’t going to be a fun weekend.

11/23/2015
I’m always grateful to be able to sleep in on Monday morning. Weekends are tough. This one was 18 teaching hours—spent almost entirely on my feet. But I have really good students and the classes went well. I’ve only got one problem students—a guy who sleeps in class. I’m going to ask the office to deal with him.

I was successful in getting one of the computers up and running and attaching a new keyboard to the second one (cannibalized from a non-working model). Both are now attached to the printer! My tech skills are pretty limited, but clearly better than anyone in the office. We have no tech department, so we fend for ourselves. The printer was finally fixed last Saturday.

This week is Thanksgiving. Wonder if I can find turkey? I like the idea of eating turkey in Turkey!

Heard today: “Time is the school in which we learn, time is the fire in which we burn.” ~Delmore Schwartz , quoted in The Year of Magical Thinking, a book I’m listening to as I walk.

The Cats of Istanbul

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They run wild and you see them everywhere. These are photos from a single walk of about an hour in length. I saw several more cats than these.

This one is licking some ice cream I gave him--and waiting for more.
This one is licking some ice cream I gave him–and waiting for more.
I like the cat houses I see outside some businesses.
I like the cat houses I see outside some businesses.
Playing in the sunshine. These cats are often fed--you see cat food one the street, usually just poured in a pile on the sidewalk. There are also water bowls. When you see a stray dog, it will have a tag in it's ear, indicating it's been spayed/neutered. There isn't a program for cats.
Playing in the sunshine. These cats are often well fed–you see cat food on the street, usually just poured in a pile on the sidewalk. There are also water bowls. When you see a stray dog, it will have a tag in it’s ear, indicating it’s been spayed/neutered. There isn’t a program for cats.
Love the calicoes. Most are surprisingly healthy looking, though this one was a bit rough.
Love the calicoes. Most are surprisingly healthy looking, though this one was a bit rough.
It's a cat house! I can't read all the Turkish, but "ev hayvanlar" means "animal's home."
It’s a cat house! I can’t read all the Turkish, but “ev hayvanlar” means “animal’s home.”
Burak, my Turkish friend who has been so good to me.
Burak, my Turkish friend who has been so good to me.
My friend and fellow teacher, Alex.
My friend and fellow teacher, Alex.
I've learned that a red license plate means a government car.
I’ve learned that a red license plate means a government car.

Free time in Istanbul

Here's something I saw on my walk today that I didn't expect! So far, this is the only Christmas item I've seen.
Here’s something I saw on my walk today that I didn’t expect! So far, this is the only Christmas item I’ve seen.

My school isn’t keeping me all that busy through the week. At first I spent some time catching up on cleaning, laundry and lesson plans that needed attention. And then as I continued to have more time, I decided to make a list of the things I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time.

First, I bought a ukulele. They’re small and I should be able to carry it around with me all over the world. With only four strings, they are pretty easy to learn. So far, I can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which is also the ABC Song, who knew?), You Are My Sunshine and Amazing Grace.  I’m working up to another song I really want to do, but it’s a bit out of my league at the moment. But I know 7-8 chords already, so I’m on my way.

I'm telling you the stray cats are everywhere. This one was in a store window.
I’m telling you the stray cats are everywhere. This one was in a store window.

I’ve been using the time to walk and listen to audio books. Last week I listened to The Sociopath Next Door (did you know that 1 in 25 people is a sociopath?) and The Heat of the Moon (which was just OK). This week started The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. Yes, I have eclectic tastes. And I’m putting in a lot of miles. The weather is great, too. The cooler temps are great for walking.

And I’m learning to draw. Last week, I focused on cartoon pencil drawings. But this week I’ve started more realistic pictures, using colored pencils. I’m starting with vegetables. Hey, you can learn almost anything on YouTube!

Beet
Beet
Carrot
Carrot

Short notes from other days:

11/17/2015
Yesterday was payday. And, as is getting common, there were issues. My pay was short 20 hours. Again. My pay has been late or wrong more times than it’s been right and on time. I’m just heartbroken and part of me just wonders why I continue working here.

11/9/2015
Another disappointing weekend at school. The good news is that I have two weekend classes—that means a minimum of 16 hours a week which will stretch to the end of my contract. While that’s not a full load, it is the bare minimum to stay afloat financially here. Let’s hope I can get another class during the weekday when this one finishes.

The bad news is that the afternoon class was one I took over from Maria, who has decided she won’t come back to Istanbul. Philip said he didn’t think there was much work in Sirinevler or the surrounding branches, so one class was all he could promise her. That’s simply not enough hours to stay afloat financially, nor to take on the expense of flying here from Miami and renting an apartment. So he told me to take over her class. But he didn’t tell the office, so when I asked about the class, they said there wasn’t one. I almost turned and walked away. So many classes I’ve been given end this way, two last month alone. But the office was still waiting for Maria. Luckily I asked a few more questions and told them that Maria was not coming. What if I’d just said, “OK” and walked out? Then when I was given the register I find it’s a class IN PROGRESS. These students have had 8 class hours already. The material I prepared wasn’t appropriate for them. And who ever the teacher was (Meylin said it was “her friend”) left no information about what was covered. Have I mentioned the lack of communication here?

It’s really difficult to do a good job with so little communication.