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.

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I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

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