Day to day in Istanbul

Share
A beggar on the street breast feeds her child. Her sign reads "Aciz" which means helpless.
A beggar on the street breast feeds her child. Her sign reads “Aciz” which means helpless.

6/21/2015
I am typing on my laptop and glad that the battery is charged. When you live in a foreign country, you quickly learn to keep your electronics charged and figure out where candles and flashlights are. We are in a power outage. No idea how long it will last (it was only an hour). These things usually don’t last long, but could last days. I don’t mind not having light, but I quickly miss internet access. I can, at least, check email on my smart phone.

Trudy and I have just returned with several bags of fresh vegetables from the open market. Every community has a market day and in Avcilar (pronounced Av Ja Ler) it is Sunday. The market blocks the street and stretches over a mile, beginning a block and a half from our apartment. Absolutely beautiful produce, but also plants, kitchen items, eggs, cheese, bread, clothes and household things. We quickly decided to split the cost of most vegetables and fruit. Items are sold by the kilo and few stalls will split a kilo.

The view from my third story apartment terrace.
The view from my third story apartment terrace.
From the terrace--and there's no elevator.
From the terrace–and there’s no elevator.

Buying clothes is a trip, since everything is in UK or European sizes—neither of which I understand. I had to do a Google search for my sizes and I keep a piece of paper in my wallet with them written down. In shoes I find I wear a size 40! This does not make me want to buy them. Honestly, I don’t enjoy clothes shopping, even in the best of conditions, so this makes it even worse. But I must replace things. I bought almost no clothing in Vietnam, except for socks, a silk nightgown and a silk robe. Nothing else would have fit me and besides the quality was too poor to consider a purchase. Here I have a better shot at things fitting and being of a quality I would pay for. Oddly enough, my first serious clothing purchase turned out to be bras. In a conservative Muslim country, it’s odd enough to buy lacy bras from a man. Odder still to buy them off table in an open market where the women are simply trying them on over their clothes. I hated it, but did exactly the same. How else can I know if they fit?

I tend to eat what is fresh and in season. Cherries are ripe now, so it is the fruit we eat every day. The peppers are beautiful, so all my dishes contain them. I tend to cook up a large portion of something and eat on it for four or five days at a time. I’ve also become accustomed to the Turkish custom of eating olives and white cheese for breakfast. We buy black olives by the kilo, which costs roughly 8TL (3 dollars, US).

This is a public beach, but a bit rocky for my tastes.
This is a public beach, but a bit rocky for my tastes.
Fishing in the Sea of Marmara. The sea is just a few blocks from my apartment and I walk there a couple times a week.
Fishing in the Sea of Marmara. The sea is just a few blocks from my apartment and I walk there a couple times a week.
Restrooms are marked in the English fashion with WC for water closet. In Turkish it's pronounced Wee Jee. Betting this one is just a hole in the floor....
Restrooms are marked in the English fashion with WC for water closet. In Turkish it’s pronounced Wee Jee. Betting this one is just a hole in the floor….

6/23/2015
Since the start of Ramazan a few days ago, I’ve been awakened at 2am by a drum. At first I thought I had imagined it. I’m a vivid dreamer and also typically able to go right back to sleep when awakened in the middle of the night. (In fact I love to wake up at 4am and tell myself, “Ah! I don’t have to get up yet!”) But last night, Trudy heard it too, so I’m not making it up. On my walk today, I saw a man with a large drum. Wish I spoke enough Turkish to ask him about it. Must remember to ask my students.

But later the mystery was solved. First, Trudy’s friend, Dilek, explained that the drum is to awaken the women at 2a so that they can prepare breakfast. Today a man in a fancy red vest carrying a drum knocked on the door. When I opened it, all I could understand was “para” which is the word for money. I said, “Yok Islam,” which is poor Turkish for “no Islam.” He then got testy and rubbed his fingers together in the universal symbol for money. I just shut the door. This probably won’t win me any awards with the neighborhood, but I have a difficult time paying to be awakened in the middle of the night.

Notice the cat. Stray cats are everywhere and everyone seems to feed them. These are waiting for the fishermen to catch and share.
Notice the cat. Stray cats are everywhere and everyone seems to feed them. These are waiting for the fishermen to catch and share.
Always practicing football.
Always practicing football.
Roses in the park.
Roses in the park.

Today I began a new level 3 class, daytime, Monday-Friday, 10a-2p. It is odd having a class that goes right through lunchtime. I have to bring a snack. But I eat the snack in the privacy of the teacher’s lounge, since so many of my students are fasting. This appears to be a wonderful group of about 14 students. Fortunately, they all seem to be at level, or at least close. I always start classes with a few exercises designed to let me know their vocabulary, and they did well with their first efforts. I had each introduce himself and no one stumbled. Then we reviewed all the verb tenses they should have learned in Levels 1 and 2. Success! I’m very excited with the class. The last week I’ve put in a strong effort to introduce a systematic vocabulary for each level, since this is decidedly lacking. I’ve already come up with dialogues, too, which gives reluctant students an opportunity to speak. It also builds familiarity with actual conversations and we always learn new vocabulary. So this class will be my most organized yet. I spend half of the four hour class in the book, then the other half with materials I’ve developed or found. I laid out a calendar of vocabulary lessons, dialogues, major activities, and even some of the warm-ups. I’m pretty excited about this. This could be my most successful yet. If I keep this up, I might be a pretty good teacher before I leave Turkey!

Not that it is likely to matter to English Time.

Based on recent changes, it’s highly unlikely that I would extend my stay here. Max, our teacher trainer who I’ve learned much from, was relieved of his duties last week. No one will fill his role. Our hourly system went electronic a few weeks ago, though none of us were given any information or training on it. The move went badly. The system simply stopped working late last week. Yesterday we were forwarded an email, ostensibly about work permits. Buried in paragraphs 4-5 was the announcement that we will soon go to a fingerprint system for check in and out of our classes. If we make any mistakes, we will not be paid. Finally, the head teacher position may also disappear. Starting next week, all teachers in Istanbul will be scheduled by a single person. Since there are over a dozen offices, some with35-40 teachers, this sounds like a disaster to me. Robert, my head teacher, has never been paid his “bonus” hours, promised to him and based on the productivity of his office. He’s decidedly unmotivated, as you might imagine. Robert leaves in October and you can see his interest waning with each passing day.

Great students; poor school. Sound familiar?

Cotton candy sellers take a break under cotton candy skies.
Cotton candy sellers take a break under cotton candy skies.

6/28/2015
I often play games to reinforce vocabulary or speaking. Last weekend I played Taboo with my students to review things in a house and jobs. I wrote phrases for them to say to help. “This is a thing in a house.” “This is a job.” “This thing is found in (room). “ This person works in ______.” “You use this to ____.” One student got the word fork and he started off well, and then got confused. Finally, he said, “This is the wife of the spoon.” We all laughed, but got the word right.
The summer here seem to be cooler than Atlanta. It does climb to 90F occasionally, but usually stays in the 80’s. Despite this, body odor, at least in the men, is surprisingly strong. And I’m not talking about the beggars, either. These men are usually young, fashionable men who appear to have clean clothes and styled hair. Their shoes will shine and they may have the latest iPhone 6. But when they stand next to you on the bus, you are almost knocked over by the stench. Wow. I never find stinky women, though.

Planning an excursion west to Bucharest, Romania and Budapest, Hungary for next week. These are two new countries for me and I’m very excited. It’s (mostly) by train. If I’d had 2 more days I’d have gone on the Vienna, but I barely have a week and this vacation has caused an uproar, unfortunately
I scheduled the timing of this week off carefully. I put it on the calendar over a month ago, during a week no one else was off. I chose a time when my existing classes were finished and during Ramazan when I was assured no new classes would begin. When I found that we would be getting a new scheduler, Philip, I immediately emailed him about my time off and didn’t buy a ticket until he had responded that he agreed with it. So imagine my surprise when mid-day yesterday I get an email from Philip about a L1 class beginning the next day. I asked for the time of the class (he hadn’t specified) and asked how we would cover it during my week off. He didn’t reply to me, but it sparked a heated series of emails between Robert (my head teacher) and Philip, which Robert forwarded to me. The level 1 class was given to someone else, Philip had deemed me “stupid” for taking time off and that several teachers (including me) didn’t deserve to teach if we were going to “leave our posts.”

This new experiment in scheduling isn’t going to be fun. And it seems there’s a fingerprint system coming soon. Always something new. Not always good, though.

I mentioned that the trip next week is “mostly” by train. Seems the tracks from Istanbul to the border are being refurbished, so it’s a bus ride. An overnight bus ride, since I leave the Sirceki station at 10pm. Oh dear. This sounds horrible. Bringing earplugs and a scarf to double as a blanket. May consider eyeshades and a pillow–(though with carry-on luggage that could be a problem. I love traveling. It’s getting there that’s the problem.

The view from one of my classrooms--seven stories above the E5. The median is where the MetroBuses run. The structure over the tracks is the Atakoy metro station.
The view from one of my classrooms–seven stories above the E5. The median is where the MetroBuses run. The structure over the tracks is the Atakoy metro station.

I continue to work on my Turkish, but it is mostly just nouns and adjectives. I don’t quite understand verbs yet—and tenses and most pronouns are added as suffixes to the verbs. Wish I could take a class. Still, I looked up at a new sign on the bus this morning and realized I could read enough of it to understand what was meant. Today I bought something in the canteen and noticed the empty cash drawer. “Para yok gun!” (No money today) I’m coming along. I have a Turkish to English dictionary and often just sit and translate words off signs during long metro rides, IF I can get a seat. If not, I listen to books or my Pimsler Turkish.

My level 1 class finishes this weekend. Everyone so far has passed, save one. I SO hope I can teach their level 2 class. The young gentleman who will not pass (though I have no control over whether or not he is moved onto level 2) started off with such promise. But stopped showing up for class and his English seemed to disintegrate. By the final speaking exam he could not understand the questions I asked and simply starting saying all the English words he knew. “What are you going to do this week?” “Ah….sofa….chair….cinema…mother…sister….” Oh dear.
Another issue with speaking questions is that they can be interpreted in more than one way. I have to show a photo of an attractive woman in an office, speaking on a telephone. I ask, “Where is the woman?” One student replied. “Well, she’s right there in the picture, of course!” He got full marks. Another question on the same photo is, “Describe how she may feel.” One 20-something man seemed surprised. “Teacher? Again?” So I repeated the question. He said, “Boobies. Soft!” Then he cupped his hands and flexed his fingers in an unmistakable gesture. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

And then there is the occasional poet in my class. Sahin always asks several ways to say a phrase. He’s my best student in the Level 2 class that just finished. It turns out he was looking for “the most beautiful way” to say something.
I adore my new Level 3 students that started with me this past week. Feeling guilty that they will have a sub for 3 days.

Share

Published by

Beth

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!

One thought on “Day to day in Istanbul”

  1. I have to admit–I got pretty distracted when I realized they sell cotton candy on the beach. Two of my favorite things in one place. . I’m glad you’re getting to laugh with your students!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *