My students take me to the top of the world

I’m lucky. I may be the luckiest people I know. My life isn’t always easy. It’s sometimes frustrating. I am frequently lost and clueless and can’t even pretend otherwise. And yet, I meet wonderful people, who show me amazing sites. Three former students took me out last week for pizza, tea and a trip to the top of the world.

Mirac, me, Emil and Hezar
Mirac, me, Emil and Hezar

Student outting, Jan 2016, 9

Istanbul is endless glasses of hot tea and lovely sights like this one. That's the Süleymaniye Mosque behind me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%BCleymaniye_Mosque
Istanbul is endless glasses of hot tea and lovely sights like this one. That’s the Süleymaniye Mosque behind me.
Yeah, this was probably dangerous, but how could I pass up a chance to be on top of the world?
Yeah, this was probably dangerous, but how could I pass up a chance to be on top of the world?

outing with students, Jan 2016, Istanbul, 4 Student outting, Jan 2016, 1

We had pizza and a view
We had pizza and a view

Student outting, Jan 2016, 6

This was the roof of an old building overlooking the Bosphorus. Safe? Probably not.
This was the roof of an old building overlooking the Bosphorus. Safe? Probably not.
Hezar, Mirac, Emel and me.
Hezar, Mirac, Emel and me.

My students give me a tour of Istanbul

After a Metro ride, my three Level 1 students took me to Eminönü, now a neighbourhood of Fatih district. This is the heart of the walled city of Constantine. From left to right: Aslan, Miraç and Hezar.
After a Metro ride, my three Level 1 students took me to Eminönü, now a neighbourhood of Fatih district. This is the heart of the walled city of Constantine. From left to right: Aslan, Miraç and Hezar. You can see the Galata Tower in the background. To the left is the Galata Bridge, where we had lunch.

I’ve bragged about my Level 1 students before. They are exceptional English students and they really study hard. But they are also great people. Yesterday, they took me out. They got to practice English. I got to see more of this amazing city!

Balek Ekmek--fish bread, or a fish sandwich. The fish was very fresh and tasty. A great lunch under the Galata Bridge.
Balek Ekmek–fish bread, or a fish sandwich. It was very fresh and tasty. A great lunch under the Galata Bridge, something that’s been on my list to do!
Here's an activity you won't see in The States! The gun uses pellets to shoot balloons. She's a pretty good shot, too!
Here’s an activity you won’t see in The States! The gun uses pellets to shoot balloons. She’s a pretty good shot, too!
Hazar poses by this cute tree in Gulhane Park, originally part of the grounds of Topkapi Palace.
Hezar poses by this cute tree in Gülhane Park, originally part of the grounds of Topkapı Palace.
Taking a break in Gulhane Park.
Taking a break in Gülhane Park. The name means rose house.
Aslan has fun in Gulhane Park.
Aslan has fun in Gülhane Park.
The entry gate to Istanbul University from Bayazid Square. This is the site of the first Ottoman palace, used by Mehmet the Conqueror while Topkapi Palace was under construction.
The entry gate to Istanbul University from Beyazıt Square. Hezar goes to school here. The Square is the former site of the Forum of Theodosius built by Constantine the Great. This is the site of the first Ottoman palace, used by Mehmet the Conqueror while Topkapi Palace was under construction. You can just see the top of the tower in the right side of the picture. Beyazıt Tower was originally wooden and was built as a fire watch tower. Ironically, it burned down and was replaced with this one.
This is part of the cemetery complex. It was closing as we got there, so we couldn't stay long. In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums (türbe) including the tombs of Sultan Suleiman I, his wife Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana) and their daughter Mihrimah Sultan. The sultans Suleiman II, Ahmed II and also Saliha Dilaşub Sultan and Safiye Sultan (died in 1777), the daughter of Mustafa II, are buried here.
We walked to the top of the hill to this is a cemetery, part of the Suleiman mosque complex. It was closing as we got there, so we couldn’t stay long or go into the mausoleum. In the garden behind the main mosque there are two mausoleums (türbe) including the tombs of Sultan Suleiman I, his wife Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana) and their daughter Mihrimah Sultan. The sultans Suleiman II, Ahmed II and also Saliha Dilaşub Sultan and Safiye Sultan (died in 1777), the daughter of Mustafa II, are buried here.
Just right of center is the Galata Tower. Below are the waters of the Bosphorus.
Just right of center is the Galata Tower. Below are the waters of the Bosphorus. The towers in the front are chimneys, originally part of the kitchen complex.
Aren't they good looking? They sit on a wall overlooking the Bosphorus.
Aren’t they good looking? They sit on a wall overlooking the Bosphorus.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is part of a huge complexa külliye, or complex with adjacent structures to service both religious and cultural needs. Originally, it contained a hospital, kitchens to feed the poor, a hamam (public bath), library, schools and much more.
The Süleymaniye Mosque is part of a huge complex, or külliye, with adjacent structures to service both religious and cultural needs. Originally, it contained a hospital, kitchens to feed the poor, a hamam (public bath), library, schools and much more.
This is my first view of the interior. I had taken a special side tour in 2008 when I came here as a tourist, but the interior was closed for renovations and cleaning. Obviously, they did a great job.
This is my first view of the interior. I had taken a special side tour in 2008 when I came here as a tourist. This mosque was to be the highlight of that tour, but the interior was closed for renovations and cleaning. Obviously, they did a great job. I felt lucky to come here.
Interior of the Süleymaniye Camii (mosque). The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1558, but today it looks brand new. Women are required to wear a head covering. Everyone takes off their shoes.
Interior of the Süleymaniye Camii (mosque). The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1558, but today it looks brand new. Women are required to wear a head covering. Everyone takes off their shoes.
The ceiling is amazing. Everything is so clean and perfect. Located on the 3rd hill of Istanbul (there are 7 hills, just like Rome), it is the largest mosque in the city, and one of the best-known sights of Istanbul.
The ceiling is amazing. Everything is so clean and perfect. Located on the 3rd hill of Istanbul (there are 7 hills, just like Rome), it is the largest mosque in the city, and one of the best-known sights of Istanbul. It’s easy to see from the waterfront.
The inner court of the Süleymaniye Mosque.
The inner court of the Süleymaniye Mosque.

Prince’s Islands

From the Bosphorus, this is the Topkai Palace in center. The Blue Mosque is left and the Hagia Sophia to the far left.
From the Bosporus, this is the Topkai Palace in center. The Blue Mosque is left and the Hagia Sophia to the far left.

Just a ferry ride away from bustling Istanbul are the Prince’s Islands–a busy spot for those seeking refuge from the heat and bustle of the city. I had a rare day off today, so found my way there. Because I must use public transportation and I’m a poor teacher, I spent longer getting there and back than I did on the island, but it was still a nice day.

The Ferry at Kabatas, and easy way to get to the four largest of the Prince's Islands.  The Islands get their name from a former palace, built by Roman Emperor Justin II in 569, known as Prinkipo (island of the prince). They were are famous place of exile during the Byzantine era.
The Ferry at Kabatas, and easy way to get to the four largest of the Prince’s Islands.
The Islands get their name from a former palace, built by Roman Emperor Justin II in 569, known as Prinkipo (island of the prince). They were are famous place of exile during the Byzantine era.
Inside the ferry--it's dated, but clean and comfortable. The ferry stops at four of the nine islands and then reverses course for the return. It's an unnecessarily long journey if you want to go to the largest island, like I did. There are faster ways, but none as inexpensive.
Inside the ferry–it’s dated, but clean and comfortable. The ferry stops at four of the nine islands and then reverses course for the return. It’s an unnecessarily long journey if you want to go to the largest island, like I did. There are faster ways, but none as inexpensive.
This is the Haydarpasa train station on the Asian side of Istanbul. You can take trains to central Turkey. Someday....
This is the Haydarpasa train station on the Asian side of Istanbul. You can take trains to central Turkey. Someday….
A man carrying simit. The price of bread is very cheap and I know this item usually costs 1 Turkish Lira. When I asked the price, he told me two Lira. I responded in Turkish, "No. One lira." (Hayır. Bir tane lira) He smiled and said, "Yes. One lira."
A man carrying simit. The price of bread is very cheap and I know this item usually costs 1 Turkish Lira. When I asked the price, he told me two Lira. I responded in Turkish, “No. One lira.” (Hayır. Bir lira) He smiled and said, “Yes. One lira.”
Here's the ferry pulling into Buyukada. Among the ex-pats who called this island home, Leon Trotsky.
Here’s the ferry pulling into Buyukada. Among the ex-pats who called this island home, Leon Trotsky.
I've mentioned the "squatty potty" before, but don't think I've included a photo. Not much, huh? Notice no toilet paper, just a faucet to wash with. No flush either. You fill the green bucket with water and rinse when you are done.
I’ve mentioned the “squatty potty” before, but don’t think I’ve included a photo. Not much, huh? Notice no toilet paper, just a faucet to wash with. No flush either. You fill the green bucket with water and rinse when you are done.
The ferry port. I could use the same card I used on metro buses and trams to get here.
The ferry port. I could use the same card I used on metro buses and trams to get here.
The town square.
The town square.
Only horses allowed on the island--no cars. But there were bicycles and electric scooters and golf carts.
Only horses allowed on the island–no cars. But there were bicycles and electric scooters and golf carts.
Many of the rich from Istanbul have summer homes on one of the Prince's Islands. This must be their private yachts.
Many of the rich from Istanbul have summer homes on one of the Prince’s Islands. This must be their private yachts.
Some of the homes needed some attention. Constant sun is hard on a paint job.
Some of the homes needed some attention. Constant sun is hard on a paint job.
Flowers everywhere.
Flowers everywhere.
Wish this house had been open to tour--interesting art, mostly blown glass.
Wish this house had been open to tour–interesting art, mostly blown glass.
It's a picturesque little town, but a bit touristy for me.
It’s a picturesque little town, but a bit touristy for me.
The mosque is in the center of the island (ada) on the top of the highest hill. I got my exercise!
The mosque is in the center of the island (ada) on the top of the highest hill. I got my exercise!
Bicycles for rent everywhere and lots of dondurma (ice cream). The islands are known for our pine trees.
Bicycles for rent everywhere and lots of dondurma (ice cream). The islands are known for our pine trees.
There are some very fancy hotels on the big island, Büyükada (Büyük means big). This is one of 9 islands all called the Prince's Islands.
There are some very fancy hotels on the big island, Büyükada (Büyük means big). This is one of 9 islands all called the Prince’s Islands.
It was a perfect summer day--sunny, with a slight breeze and the temps were below 80's.
It was a perfect summer day–sunny, with a slight breeze and the temps were below 80’s.
Did I mention that pedestrians do NOT have the right of way in Turkey? Walkers must get out of the way for all traffic, even horses.
Did I mention that pedestrians do NOT have the right of way in Turkey? Walkers must get out of the way for all traffic, even horses.
The man is carrying simit (pronounced see MIT) also called a Turkish bagel. It's a cheap snack item here. You see them sold everywhere, but I've not seen anyone carry them on their head.
The man is carrying simit (pronounced see MIT) also called a Turkish bagel. It’s a cheap snack item here. You see them sold everywhere, but I’ve not seen anyone carry them on their head.

 

Dealing with students and co-workers–it ain’t easy

5/8/2015
Ali’s mother cleans the apartment every other week (or so). We call her Mamacita and she is so sweet! She just lights up a room when she walks into it. We only share a few words, but I can count on a big smile every time I see her. Such a joy to be around.

The Level 3 class I was to teach was supposed to start last week. It didn’t, but I was told it was only postponed. It would start this coming weekend. Yesterday evening I got an email that it is postponed again. Jeeze! Feast or Famine. Just yesterday, R. was worried that I would feel overworked by taking over “all” of Albert’s Level 5 classes (weekday mornings). No going to be overworked. In fact, I’m afraid to turn down work under the circumstances. Robert’s advice is simply to take all the work you can get, then when you need a day off, get a substitute. I hate that sort of thing, but it may be the only way to be sure of enough hours. And R. didn’t need to worry so about the Level 5 class. It only has a week and a half more to go. It fact it’s just four additional classes (each 4 hours). And since Albert has left the majority of the exams and all the presentations to the end, that’s all I’ll be doing. I have to give exams in: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Plus everyone–roughly 18 people–has to give a presentation. Oh joy.

Trudy will be moving downstairs! Mags is moving out in about a month and that leaves her room open. I know that Trudy has trouble with all the cigarette smoke upstairs—I would too. And Mamacita and Ali’s sister seem to need a temporary place to live as well. Everyone wins, here. For me, it will mean all adults downstairs! And I do love Trudy—like a sister. I fear we will stay up way too late every evening talking about boys. OK, the boys she’s interested in. She seems to attract young men in their 20’s and 30’s. I only attract the stray man who wants a green card. 😉

5/12/2015
Clearly, I spoke too soon about who I attract.

The Saturday night party at Shelley’s was great fun. Wonderful food, amazing view from the balcony and good conversation. But at 10p, I was the first to leave the party because I had to teach in the morning.

Took a wrong turn walking back and after 5-6 blocks realized I was going the wrong way. I was still in a public street that was well lit, so I asked someone for directions, in Turkish. But then I couldn’t get rid of the guy. He was perhaps 30ish, very tall. He knew 4-5 English words. At first I thought he just wanted to practice English, so I let him. Then he wanted to hold hands and put his arm around me! I was polite, but kept saying “no” in Turkish, firmly ,and would shake off his advances. I’ve learned you can’t be too nice about this sort of thing. He kept asking the same question, over and over, but I don’t know what it was. I suspect he was asking for sex. I got more and more firm and loud with my “NO” but he didn’t quit. Then he grabbed my hand tried to get me to pull off into some dark corner. I don’t mean to say that he was abducting me, but he wanted me to follow him. I stopped, stood my ground and said NO (in Turkish). I gave a very clear hand jester and motioned for him to go away, NOW. He grabbed my hand again and I simply started screaming like a little girl in trouble. He ran away.

Honestly, I wasn’t scared. I was angry. Pissed off, actually! It was a public place and I had never left the lighted street. There were always people around. I’m pretty sure it’s the blonde hair, worn down around the shoulders. (Which makes no sense because I’ve been growing out the hair for 14+ months and there’s darn little blonde left. It’s mostly gray!) Stupid men. They think blonde hair means “prostitute.” And an American accent apparently means “free prostitute.” They think American are sex starved! Nope–this never happened to me in the US! Considering carrying a scarf to wrap my head in for times when I’m alone on a Fri/Sat night. Jeeeze. At least men who act like this are mostly cowards.

5/13/2015
Albert has gone to Iran. I am teaching all the classes in the Level 5 class we share (Mon-Fri, 10a-2p), but it’s only a week and a half. In fact, it’s only four additional classes. I’ve confirmed several times by email and in person with both R., the head teacher, and Albert, that I would teach the classes. In fact, I’ve thought it odd that I had to confirm SO many times (and I keep emails like this as evidence. CYA). But somehow R. asked Kate (another teacher who is excellent) to cover for Thursday and Friday. When I questioned R. about it first thing yesterday morning, he lost his mind. He started screaming at me. “I don’t care who teaches the class!” and then “I can’t remember what I’ve said!” I was too shocked to respond. Then he said that he couldn’t have one teacher teaching all the days of a class, I should know that, so he obviously wouldn’t have asked me to teach the class. Plus it was too much for me to do when there were other teachers who needed work. THEN he said I have complained repeatedly about working too many hours.

I composed myself as much as I could and apologized if I had given him the impression that I was overworked. That had not been my intent, particularly when there were few classes starting lately and I’d had two canceled on me. I reminded him that his advice to me was to take as many hours as were offered and that I was taking that advice. I added that if he wanted Kate to teach the class, it was obviously his call as head teacher. All that I was trying to do was to live up to what I had agreed to. I hope I didn’t sound like a petulant child. I collected my stuff and went to my classroom, but was pretty shaken up. My first hour of teaching was not one of my best.

Later that evening, R. came and asked, “Are we good?” I didn’t respond immediately, so he stammered about how earlier when he questioned me about taking the class he was only asking my availability, not if I would teach the class. We both knew that wasn’t true. But I didn’t really answer his question. We aren’t good, just yet. It’s very uncomfortable for me and it will take a couple days to get over it. But the long term affect is that now I don’t know what to believe when I’m asked to cover a class. <sigh>

That incident sucked all the joy from yesterday and it threatens to do it again today.

To be fair, I understand that R. is under a lot of pressure. Working with the branch office is difficult, almost impossible. I wouldn’t have the job for twice the money. Stress ruins short term memory, so Robert may have simply forgotten our conversation, then didn’t want to admit he was wrong. Additionally, he isn’t well paid AND this job means he doesn’t get to teach (which he loves), except for at the last minute (which is never fun). I’m trying to see his point of view. But the over-reaction still stings. Feeling very alone.

LATER: This evening, Gabe asked how I was. Another teacher had witnessed R’s outburst and she had told Gabe, so he knew the situation (Gabe will be the head teacher when R. leaves in October, so he’s up to date on personnel issues). I confided that I was feeling quite uneasy. I told him that it would take me a few days to get over it. Nothing was really wrong and that I understood that Robert was under a lot of stress and had snapped. But Gabe asked me to look him in the eyes. He said I was a great person, the best teacher of the bunch. He said he wanted me to know that he always had my back and to never forget it. I cried. It’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a long time. Bless him.

And, today, I got a glowing letter of recommendation from R. I think it’s his way of saying, “I’m sorry.” I’d asked for one a week or two ago, since I needed one more for my files.

I’m feeling much better now.

5/15/2015
I’ve been working a LOT of hours so not posting to the blog very often. With summer coming on, we have fewer classes starting, so I hate to turn down work when it is offered. This week I’ve mostly been filling in for other teachers, double shifts every day. AND I’ve had 4-one hour activities. Two folks have taken a holiday, so their classes and activities needed a teacher and I got the work. Next week I have a class ending, but will immediately start to cover the last two weeks of another class. A teacher has decided that teaching isn’t for him. He’s going home to London. So I’ve got hours for the next couple weeks, anyway.

R. has confided in me that some of the teachers that started at the same time as I did, simply won’t make it through their three month trial period–which ends soon. (And it will be his job to fire them. No wonder he’s stressed!) So he says I should not worry about hours. There will be fewer classes, but also fewer teachers, so it should even out. I guess we will see.

Today I had to tear up a test in front of a student–caught him cheating. I’d warned the kid (he’s probably 20 years old) more than once, so I can’t understand why he was so surprised by my actions. He sat there shocked for several minutes without speaking! We were taking 2 exams, back-to-back, and I told him he could take the second exam, but if I saw him cheating again, I’d do the same. I’m sure he will complain at the office, so I wrote up a full report, took photographs of the board instructions (which clearly label what “cheating” means) and informed my head teacher (R.) and the teacher trainer (Max). With all the work it took me, it would have been much easier to let him just cheat! I stood my ground when the kid protested after class, but it made me sick to my stomach to do. Honestly, if he has started with an apology instead of a demand, I might have given him a second chance. I guess we will never know. This is not the fun part of teaching.

Today was payday, but we’ve been paid late the last two months. I was covering a class for someone else, but no students showed up. That happens on a Friday night, especially since they just had a test yesterday and knew there would be substitute teacher (me!). You have to wait 35 minutes, inform the office of the situation, THEN email your head teacher. So it was almost 8pm before I left the school. At that point they still didn’t know if they would be paying that night. The branch manager was still out “getting the money.” No one was sure if he’s be back tonight or tomorrow. So I went home rather than wait around for what was probably nothing. But according to R., everyone who was still there at 10p got paid. Now it will probably be Monday before I see any money. <sigh>

Topkapı Palace, the harem

The Imperial Hall (Hünkâr Sofası), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.
The Imperial Hall (Hünkâr Sofası), also known as the Imperial Sofa, Throne Room Within or Hall of Diversions, is a domed hall in the Harem, believed to have been built in the late 16th century. It has the largest dome in the palace. The hall served as the official reception hall of the sultan as well as for the entertainment of the Harem. Here the sultan received his confidants, guests, his mother, his first wife (Hasseki), consorts, and his children. Entertainments, paying of homage during religious festivals, and wedding ceremonies took place here in the presence of the members of the dynasty.

Thursday, during a day off from teaching, I visited Istanbul’s original Ottoman Palace, Topkapı. Yesterday I shared photos of the palace, but today will add photos of the Harem. The word “harem” is a Arabic word, meaning forbidden and it was the private residence of the Sultan and his “family.”

Though not on the tour, the harem also included The Cage, a set of rooms where the sultan's brothers were confined to avoid them trying to take the throne. Brothers of sultans, kings and emperors were often killed, usually strangled, to keep them from trying to take over power.
Though not on the tour, the harem also included The Cage, a set of rooms where the sultan’s brothers were confined to avoid them trying to take the throne. Brothers of sultans, kings and emperors were often killed, usually strangled, to keep them from trying to take over power.
The domed ceiling of the Imperial Hall.  The harem was the residence of the sultan's wives, concubines and children. They were guarded by black African slaves, eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed in the harem.
The domed ceiling of the Imperial Hall.
The harem was the residence of the sultan’s wives, concubines and children. They were guarded by black African slaves, eunuchs. The sultan and his sons were the only other men allowed in the harem.

According to Wikipedia: “The Imperial Harem (Harem-i Hümayûn) occupied one of the sections of the private apartments of the sultan; it contained more than 400 rooms. The harem was home to the sultan’s mother, the Valide Sultan; the concubines and wives of the sultan; and the rest of his family, including children; and their servants. The harem consists of a series of buildings and structures, connected through hallways and courtyards. Every service team and hierarchical group residing in the harem had its own living space clustered around a courtyard. The number of rooms is not determined, with probably over 100,[78] of which only a few are open to the public. These apartments (Daires) were occupied respectively by the harem eunuchs, the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darüssaade Ağası), the concubines, the queen mother, the sultan’s consorts, the princes and the favorites. There was no trespassing beyond the gates of the harem, except for the sultan, the queen mother, the sultan’s consorts and favourites, the princes and the concubines as well as the eunuchs guarding the harem.

The harem wing was only added at the end of the 16th century. Many of the rooms and features in the Harem were designed by Mimar Sinan. The harem section opens into the Second Courtyard (Divan Meydanı), which the Gate of Carriages (Arabalar Kapısı) also opens to. The structures expanded over time towards the Golden Horn side and evolved into a huge complex. The buildings added to this complex from its initial date of construction in the 15th century to the early 19th century capture the stylistic development of palace design and decoration. Parts of the harem were redecorated under the sultans Mahmud I and Osman III in an Italian-inspired Ottoman Baroque style. These decorations contrast with those of the Ottoman classical age.”

Much of the palace is under renovation, so it’s not all open to the public. Also, many of the jewels, portraits, clothing and special exhibits do not allow photographs.

The women of the harem were slaves, gathered from the furthest corners of the Ottoman Empire and sometimes beyond. Their highest dream was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. This could possibly lead to marriage. At it's height, the harem contained over 1,000 concubines. The last of these women left in 1909.
The women of the harem were slaves, gathered from the furthest corners of the Ottoman Empire and sometimes beyond. Their highest dream was to become a favorite of the sultan and bear him a son. This could possibly lead to marriage. At it’s height, the harem contained over 1,000 concubines. The last of these women left in 1909.
This terrace is part of the Summer Palace and overlooks the Bosphorus. It has a large fountain and several pavilions (kiosks).
This terrace is part of the Summer Palace and overlooks the Bosphorus. It has a large fountain and several pavilions (kiosks).
The Baghdad Kiosk is situated on the terrace, beside the fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.
The Baghdad Kiosk is situated on the terrace, beside the fountain. It was built to commemorate the Baghdad Campaign of Murad IV after 1638.
At the foot of the hill you can see part of the original palace walls, now alongside a highway.
At the foot of the hill you can see part of the original palace walls, now alongside a highway.
Detail of a door, decorated with mother of pearl.
Detail of a door, decorated with mother of pearl.