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.

I can’t English today

The monument in the center of Taksim Square shows Ataturk. On one side he is leading the troops into battle, on the other he is a statesman, leading his country into the future.
The monument in the center of Taksim Square shows Ataturk. On one side he is leading the troops into battle, on the other he is a statesman, leading his country into the future.

4/30/15

Teaching English to beginners will be the death of my vocabulary. Many of the teachers, when having a bad day, say, “I can’t English today.” It’s a joke, since modal verbs like “can” are very tough for non-native speakers. You really don’t see how crazy English is until you try to teach it.

Taksim Square, where I won't be going today. It's May Day, (also called International Worker's Day or Labor Day) and labor unions often have demonstrations. Sometimes they get violent.
Taksim Square, where I won’t be going today. It’s May Day, (also called International Worker’s Day or Labor Day) and labor unions often have demonstrations. Sometimes they get violent.

There is always something in life, but all-in-all, I’d say I’m managing well living and working half way around the world from where I was born and raised. Having roommates turns out to be the most consistently challenging thing. Cleanliness standards are different from person to person. I find I have to clean the kitchen before I cook and I often re-wash a dish before I use it. The young woman here (who leaves in less than 2 months, so I’m not investing energy into working this out) just isn’t clean. AND she plans to open a pie shop when she gets home! The Heath Inspectors will love her!

Gulhane Park
Gulhane Park

I have been so busy with classes that I don’t spend much time studying Turkish. But I find that I am picking up a few words by osmosis. Yesterday a student said something under his breath in Turkish, “Teacher, in time.” (“Hocam, zamanla” implying that this was a difficult concept, but he would learn it over time, so please give it up for now!) And I replied, “Inshallah.” (If Allah wills it) The class applauded! Also, I posted on the board “Make-up tests are Wednesdays at 6pm.” It was after 7pm on a Wednesday, so a few students were confused. They understood “make-up” and “Wednesday,” just not the “s” on the end, So I said, “Her Çarşamba: Çarşambalar” (Every Wednesday: Wednesdays). It’s really gratifying to be able to use my tiny bit of knowledge to help a student. I probably only know 150 words, but I’ve been told that if you understand the suffixes (I don’t yet) you can be functional with just 300 words. That’s encouraging!

My landlords are smokers (they live upstairs, so I can smell it often) but they hate alcohol. Ali is a Turkish Muslim and seems to have an almost irrational fear of alcohol. Katt is a Canadian, and usually abstains as well. So I have taken to hiding my single bottle of wine. I just have a glass before bed, but they were shocked to find that I ever had a drink. You could see in their eyes that they think less of me because of it!

There was a thunderstorm two days ago so these tulips are long gone now. Glad I went to Gulhane Park on Monday to see them.  The rest of the photo are of the park.
There was a thunderstorm two days ago so these tulips are long gone now. Glad I went to Gulhane Park on Monday to see them. The rest of the photos are of the park.

Politics are in full swing–lots of banners, music, dancing (only men sing and dance at traditional Turkish events) and political speeches. It’s the latter than concerns me. I can’t understand what’s being said, of course, but the sound and the spectacle reminds me of Hitler and WWII. There is a strong conservative movement in the air. Turkey is poised for change–the question is what change. The country is more conservative than when I visited in 2008–more head scarves, fewer women’s rights. Some of it is the old story: men wanting power and calling it “religion.” Some of it is the number of recent immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt. They are used to a more conservative, Islamic-centered government, not a democracy. Ataturk is rolling over in his grave! I am watching the situation as closely as I can. Elections are in June. If the wrong people get into power, I may have to move on. The most conservative branches don’t like foreign, particularly women, teachers. Honestly, I think that I will be able to finish out my contract here, but I’m looking for a Plan B, just in case. We teachers talk about it, when there are no English speaking Turks around.

Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 5 Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 3I think I’m doing well with teaching! I certainly spend a lot of time preparing for classes–too much based on how little I’m paid! But students ask to be in my classes and activities, ask for advice and even thank me for being their teacher. It brings me to tears. Not all teachers are doing so well–a few that came at the same time have washed out and are planning to go home.

I hope, now that my schedule is more even, that I can study more Turkish and get back to seeing more sights. I now have Thursday and Fridays off, starting this week. There was a scheduling error that I should have caught, so I will go into the office today (Thursday) for an hour to do a speaking activity, but that is all.

Last night, a terrific thunderstorm came up just as class was ending. I got soaked coming home. This will ruin the tulips, but I’m so glad I got to see them. Spring beauty is ephemeral. The tulips in Gulhane Park were so colorful. There must have been a million bulbs planted. The park was busy Monday. To think I was there for the first time less than two months ago and saw the first green blades of the tulip pushing through the earth! And now they are gone with the April showers. {Most of the photos on this page are from Gulhane Park}

Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 4 Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 11Monday was my interview with the police station for my residence permit. It took almost an hour and a half by metro to get to the office in Taksim. First I waited 45 minutes for my “handler” to show up. Then we stood in front of a police counter for 20 minutes. In the end, I was asked one simple question, “Have you ever been to Turkey?” I said, “Yes. As a tourist in 2008. This is why I came back.” He smiled and stamped my paperwork. I hope to see the permit soon.

I’m realizing that the hike last summer did not help my health at all. My hair is so thin and I think it is a combination of poor hair care and nutrition for 4.5 months. My skin looks older too. No woman wants that! Over all, my diet is very healthy now, so I hope my hair will grow back in strong. I’m adding some protein, as I think I may need it, too. Of course, I’m not as young as I used to be, so there’s that!

Have not had much internet access for several days. There’s a demolition going on next door and they took out the cable and the internet for the entire neighborhood. Wow–they are very unpopular! People stop at the site, shake their fist and yell at them! Must be worse than the fine they were given!

Gulhane Park, April 25, 2015, 15/1/15
I had a speaking activity yesterday and the topic was about politics. The older participants didn’t want to talk about it, but the younger ones did. I kept trying to steer the conversation to safer topics, but it was quite difficult. I could get them to discuss American politics, which seemed safer than Turkish politics, but the two older men, who I have much respect for, just weren’t commenting on any political topic. I apologized to them after, but they seemed to understand that I had tried to move the conversation in other directions. Both claimed they were “too tired to talk,” but I’m sure I saw fear in their eyes. The political climate in Turkey is volatile and it’s clear that change is coming. If the wrong leader comes into power, women’s rights, freedom of speech and foreigners will be gone with the wind. I hear the speeches in the square (meydani) outside school. I wish I knew what they were saying, but I’m sure I would not like much of it.

One of the American topics we discussed was how good we have it in the USA. And they are right! Complain all you want about gas prices, but they are 2-4 times higher in other countries. The students were shocked to have confirmed that most American families have 2 cars (most families here don’t even have one), that most middle class Americans own their own home (not just the rich), and that in ANY city in the US you can drink water directly from the tap. Everyone drinks bottled water here.

Gulhane Park
Gulhane Park

During the activity, I mentioned that Friday (today) was my day off and I planned to go to Topkapi Palace. They warned against it. This is May Day, an International worker’s holiday. It was banned for many years after 35 people were killed in 1978. Recently reinstated, there are concerns for violence. Here’s an excerpt from the Consular office email: “Following the lifting of the decades-long ban on May Day demonstrations in 2010 and the designation of May 1 as a national holiday, May Day events have been generally peaceful. In 2013, however, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who attempted to march to Taksim Square. The Istanbul Governor’s Office has approved the Yenikapı (Europe side) and Pendik (Asia side) areas as the official protest/demonstration locations on May 1. The U.S. Consulate General strongly recommends that all U.S. citizens avoid these areas, as well as Taksim Square, where the potential for unofficial protests/demonstrations exists.”

And an email, sent late last night, says morning classes are canceled. (Seriously? We can’t know about this until AFTER 10pm the day before? Communication, folks!) Maybe I’ll stay home. Keeping my electronics charged.

I really enjoy my level 5 class, Monday and Tuesday mornings. It’s a class I share with Albert and he has done an excellent job of teaching them vocabulary. After the Tuesday class (which ends at 2p), 10 students stayed for the speaking activity I led at 2:30. The assigned topic was lame, so we agreed on “What is your favorite memory?” They asked me to start, so I told them about a memory when I was 8yo, watching my parents dance in the kitchen while my father sang an old Hank Williams song. They were amazed by this simple memory. Their childhoods did not include anything like this. Most remembered childhood pranks, pulled with (or on!) friends, when they were about 10yo. Some were very mean things, like breaking windows, stealing candy from a shop or stopping a cab driver for a ride and then running away. It was so sad. It’s a different world, folks.

This woman is hand making manti, a tiny dumpling. Amazing, too!
This woman is hand making manti, a tiny dumpling. Amazing, too!

Hagia Eirene, Istanbul

 

This is just outside the gate of the Topkai Palace, near the Archeology Museum and Gulhane Park.
This is just outside the gate of the Topkai Palace, near the Archeology Museum and Gulhane Park.

Hagia Irene or Hagia Eirene (Greek: “Holy Peace”, Turkish: Aya İrini), sometimes known also as Saint Irene. It is a former Eastern Orthodox church located in the outer courtyard of Topkapı Palace, near Gulhane Park in Istanbul, Turkey. It is open as a museum every day except Tuesday. The church was dedicated by Constantine to the peace of God, and is one of the three shrines which the Emperor devoted to God’s attributes, together with Hagia Sophia (Wisdom) and Hagia Dynamis (Force)

Personally, I didn’t think it was worth the 20TL they charged (The Archeology Museum only charged 15TL). There was no signage, no explanation, no decorations inside the church–just a very old, gutted building. I couldn’t get a good look at the dome, as there was netting stretched across the top–presumably to catch the pigeons–and their droppings–who clearly live here.

Hagia Eirene, Istanbul, Mar 2015, 3

You can see the edge of the netting they have stretched over the ceiling. It covers the view of the domed ceiling.
You can see the edge of the netting they have stretched over the ceiling. It covers the view of the domed ceiling.
It was a Sunday, but despite the crowds outside, I was alone in the church.
It was a Sunday, but despite the crowds outside, I was alone in the church.

According to Wikipedia: The building reputedly stands on the site of a pre-Christian temple. It ranks, in fact, as the first church built in Constantinople. Roman emperor Constantine I commissioned the first Hagia Irene [Reference?] church in the 4th century. It served as the church of the Patriarchate before Hagia Sophia was completed in 360. From May to July 381 the First Council of Constantinople took place in the church. It was burned down during the Nika revolt in 532.[2] Emperor Justinian I had the church restored in 548.

Heavily damaged by an earthquake in the 8th century, it dates in its present form largely from the repairs made at that time. The Emperor Constantine V ordered the restorations and had its interior decorated with mosaics and frescoes. Hagia Irene is the only example of a Byzantine church in the city which retains its original atrium. A great cross in the half-dome above the main narthex, where the image of the Pantocrator or Theotokos was usually placed in Byzantine tradition, is a unique vestige of the Iconoclastic art; presumably it replaced earlier decoration. The church was enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries.

The church measures 100 m × 32 m. It has the typical form of a Roman basilica, consisting of a nave and two aisles, divided by columns and pillars. It comprises a main space, a narthex, galleries and an atrium. The dome is 15m wide and 35m high and has twenty windows.

….After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II, the church was enclosed inside the walls of the Topkapi palace. The Janissaries used the church as an armoury. It was also used as a warehouse for war booty. During the reign of Sultan Ahmet III (1703–1730) it was converted into a weapons museum.

In 1846, Marshal of the Imperial Arsenal, Ahmed Fethi Paşa, made the church into a military antiques museum.  It was used as the Military Museum from 1908 until 1978 when it was turned over to the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

Today, the Hagia Irene serves mainly as a concert hall for classical music performances, due to its extraordinary acoustic characteristics and impressive atmosphere. Many of the concerts of the Istanbul International Music Festival have been held here every summer since 1980.

A rainy day in Gülhane Park, Istanbul

From a wall above the park you can see all the footpaths and landscaping. If you could see over the buildings on the right, you'd get a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. The tulips and other bulbs were just pushing through the pansies and the daffodils were ready to pop open.
From a wall above the park you can see the footpaths and landscaping. If you could see over the buildings on the right, you’d get a glimpse of the Bosphorus Strait. The tulips and other bulbs were just pushing through the pansies and the daffodils were ready to pop open.

Gülhane Park, or “Rosehouse Park,” is an historic urban park in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, Turkey. It used to be part of the Topkapı Palace. The south entrance of the park sports one of the larger gates of the palace. It is the oldest and one of the most expansive public parks in Istanbul. I found it a lovely, peaceful expanse of trees, flowers, benches and walkways–an escape from the busy, over-crowded city. I loved it, even if it drizzled the entire visit. It will be even more beautiful in April and May with flowers in bloom. It has it’s own tram stop (Tramvey).

Gulhane Park, Istanbul, March 2015, 2

This was such an unusual fountain. The water sprayed out and moved from right to left, like a turning page.
This was such an unusual fountain. The water sprayed out and moved from right to left, like a turning page.
The first statue of Atatürk in Turkey was erected in the park in 1926, sculpted by Heinrich Krippel.
The first statue of Atatürk in Turkey was erected in the park in 1926, sculpted by Heinrich Krippel.
I was looking for the Goth's column, but it turns out this isn't it. The park's Goths Column (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu), dating from Roman times, commemorates a Roman victory over the Goths. I'm not sure what this is. Anyone? This (from the internet, so you know it's true. LOL) According to an article I read, this is "the ruins of what appears to be an early Byzantine structure, consisting of a series of small rooms fronted by a rather irregular colonnade. These ruins have never been thoroughly investigated and their date and identity have not been established."
I was looking for the Goth’s column, but it turns out this isn’t it. The park’s Goths Column (Turkish: Gotlar Sütunu), dating from Roman times, commemorates a Roman victory over the Goths. I’m not sure what this is. Anyone? (from the internet, so you know it’s true. LOL) According to an article I read, this is “the ruins of what appears to be an early Byzantine structure, consisting of a series of small rooms fronted by a rather irregular colonnade. These ruins have never been thoroughly investigated and their date and identity have not been established.”

 

No idea what this is, except adorable.
No idea what this is, except adorable.
This is one of the walls of the park, formerly of the medieval palace. Notice the lines of brick between the stone. This isn't just decorative. It allows the walls to move slightly in an earthquake. A ridged structure would likely break. Yes, I am a wealth of almost completely useless information!
This is one of the walls of the park, formerly of the medieval palace. Notice the lines of brick between the stone. This isn’t just decorative. It allows the walls to move slightly in an earthquake. A ridged structure would likely break. Yes, I am a wealth of almost completely useless information!
This is the most unusual fountain I've seen yet. There are many fountains throughout the city of various designs. Some dating back to Roman times. But, unlike the fountains you find in Italy, these are not for drinking. They are for washing before prayers. The tap water is not recommended for drinking unless it is at least boiled. So far, I've stuck to bottled water.
This is the most unusual fountain I’ve seen yet. There are many fountains throughout the city and they are of various designs. Some date back to Roman times. But, unlike the fountains you find in Italy, these are not for drinking. They are for washing before prayers. The tap water is not recommended for drinking unless it is at least boiled. That’s what happens when you have a city of 20 to 30 million people. So far, I’ve stuck to bottled water.
It's not quite spring--but this daffodil (my favorite flower) is set to bloom on the first warm day.
It’s not quite spring–but this daffodil (my favorite flower) is set to bloom on the first warm day.
Gülhane Park was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace (the original Ottoman Palace) and mainly consisted of a grove. A section of the outer garden was planned as a park by the municipality and opened to the public in 1912. The Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam is located in the former stables of Topkapı Palace, on the western edge of the park. It was opened in May 2008. The museum features 140 replicas of inventions of the 8th to 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare. I'll check that out someday.
Gülhane Park was once part of the outer garden of Topkapı Palace (the original Ottoman Palace) and mainly consisted of a grove. This park was planned opened to the public in 1912, though it’s gone through several renovations. The Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam is located in the former stables of Topkapı Palace, on the western edge of the park (those are the buildings you see in the distance). It was opened in May 2008. The museum features 140 replicas of inventions of the 8th to 16th centuries, from astronomy, geography, chemistry, surveying, optics, medicine, architecture, physics and warfare. I’ll check that out someday.

According to Wikipedia: “The namesake of the park, the Gülhane (“Rosehouse”) present on the grounds, was the place where the 1839 Edict of Gülhane (Turkish: Tanzimât Fermanı or Gülhane Hatt-ı Şerif-î) was proclaimed. The edict launched the Tanzimat reforms in the Ottoman Empire, which modernized the empire and included changes such as the equalization of all Ottoman citizens, regardless of religion, before the law. The proclamation was made by Grand Vizier Mustafa Reşid Pasha, a leading statesman, diplomat, and reformer in the Empire.”