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.
My first day back from Belgrade (photos to follow soon) has been disappointing at best. First, I have a cold. It’s not unusual when I travel to pick up a bug, but it’s inconvenient. It was raining when I landed in Istanbul and the rain continued through today–cool, wet and humid. The laundry I did will never dry. Shortly before I left Belgrade I was sent an email saying I have a new weekend morning class. I find it rude to give less than 48 hours’ notice for a class, but it’s the norm here. So, even though I got in late and I felt badly, I prepared my lesson plan for the next morning. I got up in the dark and walked to class in the rain. I printed my materials and then asked to see the register so I’d know how many copies to make. Except there was no class. It had been canceled. In fact, it had been canceled BEFORE I was even given the class! After a couple email exchanges, it turns out that out of the 5 new classes “scheduled” to begin this week (2 of which were mine), only one will actually begin. Did I mention we have issues? Part of the problem is disorganization. Part is a lack of bi-lingual staff. And part of the problem is a total lack of concern for teachers.
At my afternoon class, I set up my materials, then walked out to get my class register, which took 2 minutes. When I returned, three of my markers were gone. Stolen. I’m pretty sure it was Trudy (the ex-roommate), not that I have any way to prove that. But there were few students here. She’s been rude to my students on breaks and she picked a fight with another teacher last weekend. It feels like I’m back in 3rd grade.
But there were highlights. Before I left, One of my students had brought me a lovely pair of handmade slippers for me to give to my dear friend Kathy in Belgrade. They are beautiful. Her grandmother made them and they fit Kathy’s small feet perfectly. (My humongous feet would have stretched them out!) Kathy, being the considerate soul that she is, naturally wrote them thank you notes on a post card. You can’t imagine how thrilled they were–their first English letter!
Coming home from school today a young man got up and gave me his seat on the MetroBus. It’s been raining all day and the bus was packed, so it was a really nice gesture. At the next stop a man limped on and I realized he could barely stand. I started to get up, but the young man across from me motioned for me to stay put and he gave the man his seat. It was only then that I realized that the man was injured. He had a huge cut on his leg and had lost a lot of blood. It looked like someone had cut a chunk of meat from just below his knee—an open wound three inches wide and no skin to cover it. I gave the man some tissues and a plastic bag for the bloody used tissues, but that was all I had. He kept talking to me. I couldn’t make him understand that I don’t speak Turkish (I can say “I don’t speak Turkish. I speak English.”) Since I didn’t share a language with anyone on the bus, I don’t know what happened to him. He seemed delirious–he was talking to himself, and sometimes to someone out the window, who wasn’t there. He would almost lose consciousness, then perk up. He seemed too clean to be homeless, but I think there was something more wrong with him besides just the injury. My heart went out to him.
In a city this size you see so much sadness. It attracts a lot of refugees. But it really puts my piddly little problems into perspective.
My depression is lifting. I won’t say I’m completely over it, but I have accepted my situation here and–as long as I’m paid and treated fairly–plan to stay in Istanbul long enough to finish my contract. My friends have asked if I’m safe here and it’s a valid question. The recent suicide bombing in the capital city of Ankora is very unsettling. While that was many miles away and they weren’t targeting foreigners, it doesn’t make me want to extend my time here. I stay away from crowds and demonstrations as much as possible. But I’ve come to the conclusion that nowhere is safe. Hence the depression.
I’m sure all teachers find that their students are at different levels. A class that finished today was an especially difficult one in this respect. I had two students who were really superior. While it wouldn’t be easy, I think you could drop them in NYC and in two months, they’d be fluent English speakers. That’s quite an achievement for a level 3 student. I also had a student in the same class get a zero on a speaking exam. The exam is simple enough. I just ask two questions. The first was “Tell me about your city.” I’d given them a list of the possible questions and we’d practiced them many times, but she rarely came to class. She couldn’t even understand the question. I asked it 5 times. The same student hadn’t taken her Grammar exam (which is past due). I let her take it but I don’t know why she bothered. She got a 27%. On a multiple choice test, that’s barely above the probability of chance! If you aren’t going to attend class or do the homework, why bother? Clearly, I don’t understand. I suspect I find the situation more depressing than she does. I had another student in this same class who always came, but spent all his time on his phone. He didn’t do the assignments in class, didn’t do homework, didn’t listen or engage at all. When I’d call of him, I’d have to tell him what page and exercise we were doing. Why come? These classes aren’t cheap, either.
The cooler weather is so nice. Fall is finally here. We’ve had a lot of rain and I got completely soaked coming home from class the other evening. A hot shower after really felt good! Unfortunately, my Roommate, Monique, isn’t feeling well. She has a cold, but I could see last night that it really hit her hard. She went to school this morning, so I hope she feels better. Most or her students are 8year olds, and I’m sure she needs extra energy to deal with them. She says she has a “biter” in one class. That makes my students look a lot better.
Have I mentioned that pedestrians don’t have right of way here in Turkey? The other day I saw an elderly man get his foot run over by a driver. The car stopped right on top of the man’s foot and it took some screaming to get him to move a few inches off of the guy. The older man dropped to the ground in pain and the driver took off. Disgraceful.
From the Consulate:
Embassy of the United States of America Ankara, Turkey October 16, 2015
Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Restriction on Pre-Election Gathering:
U.S. Embassy Ankara advises U.S. citizens that effective immediately, all official U.S. government employees and their dependents are directed to avoid any political demonstrations, rallies and large gatherings throughout Turkey until further notice. Terrorist attacks, such as the suicide bombings on October 10 in a central Ankara public plaza that killed approximately 100 people and injured upwards of 200, can occur without warning.
U.S. citizens should avoid the site of the October 10 suicide bombing, near the Ankara Train Station in Ulus. Crowds and traffic congestion are expected all day Saturday, October 17.
U.S. citizens in Turkey are reminded of the importance of maintaining security vigilance. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates.
I am catching up on things during the Bayram holiday. It coincides with the beginning of Fall. I have five days and have been cleaning, answering emails and sorting photos. I still have lesson plans to do, but I feel more organized. And now, I’ll catch up on my journaling.
First, this is a special religious holiday. In English it is the Feast of the Sacrifice.
I had images of calves and sheep being slaughtered in the streets, but that just doesn’t happen anymore—at least not in a big city like Istanbul. Maybe outside the city, though. Being a farm girl, I know where my meat comes from, so I can’t say anything negative about slaughtering animals. I’m not crazy about doing it, but I’m not a vegetarian, so I can’t complain. And, traditionally, a third of the meat is given to the poor.
Wednesday was the first full day of the holiday. Alex and I took two new teachers, Stephanie and Teresa, to see the Hagia Sophia. I had really looked forward to the audio tour, but it didn’t work and they wouldn’t give me my money back. Horrible. But I had a good time walking them around to the big sites in the old town. I hope they learned a few things and I didn’t bore them too much. I love playing tour guide!
Yesterday, three of my level 1 students from Avcilar took me out and we had a great time. I’ve posted photos.
On the 15th, we were paid, but I didn’t get my money for the hours at Avcilar. Seems the person who bought Sirinevler bought a few other branches, but not Avcilar. I’m surprised that they let me teach at both, but I’ve already been told I won’t get to teach another at a different branch. Easier on me, but I will miss these students. When I got there Saturday, I was paid for all the money I had disputed—a real relief. It means I am still planning to stay through the end of my contract. But there are others who have not been paid and I’m keeping an eye on the situation.
And my Level 1 students played Taboo with English words that day. They breezed through the Level 1 words, and I had to go to the Level 3 words to give them a challenge. Yeah! Best students on the planet!
The new owner is doing some remodeling at Sirinevler. All the signs and tiles in the suspended ceiling came down Monday and Tuesday. Looks like they plan to paint, which will make the school look better. I hope that is good news, but the place was a total mess and it was difficult to run classes with all the noise and disruption. Not that I’m an expert, but it seems to me that a new owner would only invest in the appearance of the school if he wanted to 1). Make things better or 2) Sell the school. I guess we will see if there are any substantial capital investments, like electronics; new furniture; improved heating and air conditioning; upgraded media room and computers. We will see. The latest Turkish office manager is great–Meylin speaks some English and used to work at Avcilar. Big improvement for the English teachers.
Robert, our head teacher, had trouble getting back into the country this past weekend. He had been in France with his wife seeing friends for four days. (as an aside, he brought me a bottle of really nice wine as a thank you for filling in for him as head teacher! Yum!) They wouldn’t accept his US passport or the paperwork that indicated his residence permit was applied for. But he could come in on his Australian passport. Dual citizenship has privileges. And guess what he got on Monday? His work permit! He’s leaving in less than a month and he finally gets his work permit. It’s crazy. I have a residence card, but no work permit.