Time

15/1/2016
<Sigh> You’d think that the worst thing about living in another country would be the language or maybe getting used to new foods. Or that the religion is a mystery and it is an important part of the culture. You are lost half the time and around people you can barely communicate. You’d guess this would be difficult. People often ask me ask about loneliness and the feeling of isolation.

Of course, these are, at times, frustrating. In my experience, though, you get used them and adapt. You get better at the language and you become a mime. You learn the tenets of the religion and how they apply to every day life. You find foods you like. You learn that being alone is OK. You learn your way around. You adjust.

My undying frustration is with TIME, or the perception of time, particularly appointments.

Obviously, there are time related differences in the USA, too. I’m from the Midwest, so when we agree to meet at “noon,” what that really means to me is that I will be at the appointed meeting spot at 11:45a, ready and waiting for the other person so that we can actually do the activity at noon. In the southern states, this would mean that we will try to be at the spot at noon, but no later than 12:15pm with the expectation that we will actually start the activity before 12:30. I was quite frustrated in the south until I realized this.

but time is fluid in the rest of the world. Based on results, “noon” means something entirely different. So far, in the last 10 days:

  • “I will call you at noon,” resulted in a 6pm phone call.
  • “Let’s have breakfast Thursday” clearly meant no such thing. There was no breakfast, nor any apology. When I ran into the person on Friday, they didn’t seem embarrassed or even mention it.
  • “The refrigerator will be fixed Monday,” resulted in a repairman showing up Tuesday to unplug the refrigerator with a promise that he would come the NEXT day, between 9 and 10a to actually fix it. I let my landlords know that I had to leave the apartment for an appointment at 10:30a. If the repairman didn’t come during the appointed time, I would not be there to let him in. Naturally, he didn’t come. In fact, he didn’t come all day. We were without a working fridge for a week.
  • The activity schedule at my school is, in theory, put out weekly, and starts on Mondays. The last month, when it was posted at all, it’s come out on Tuesday or even Wednesday. It may or may not be emailed to teachers, so no one knows when they are working. We haven’t seen a class schedule in over a month. New classes are handled by word of mouth. This has not gone well, yet nothing ever changes.
  • “I’ll be back in 2 minutes,” resulted in me being completely abandoned at lunch. I thought my dining companion was just walking outside for better phone reception. I have no idea where he went. After 15 minutes and no word from him, I walked outside to look for him. He’d taken a taxi and left. I paid the bill (his meal AND mine) and left. But at least I had the courtesy to text him what I was doing. He didn’t apologize, just said he had to leave.

This is not an unusual week, either. These actions frustrate me. It was just as bad in Vietnam. Time to me is ridged. I am honor-bound by time agreements. Not so, the rest of the world.

I don’t know if I can ever change my perception completely, but I’ve got to give up my concept of time if I want to keep traveling AND have low blood pressure.

1/17/2016 ADDITION: My contract says I’ll be paid on the 15th of the month for the previous month’s work. So far, I’ve been paid on time the full amount only twice. When my pay was two days late this month, I simply said, “if you cannot pay, maybe I cannot work.” The other teachers were shocked by my response. Most felt it was “threatening.” Before I left for the day, I was called into the office. I expected to be fired, but instead I was paid the full amount owed. It turns out I was the only teacher to be paid. The rest were offered 500TL toward their payment.

Being paid late is very common in Turkey, and I knew that. I agreed to come to work for English Time on the strength of their reputation for paying the full amount on the day owed. I knew they weren’t the highest paying school and they certainly don’t have the best teaching materials. I chose them because prompt and accurate payment is extremely important to me. The new owners have completely lost that reputation and now English Time is having trouble attracting native English speakers. No surprise there. I can’t recommend the school to teachers.

100 dead in suicide bombing

Friday prayers in the medan (public square)
Friday prayers in the medan (public square)
Friday prayers in the medan (public square)
Friday prayers in the medan (public square)

10/14/2015
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.

My dear friend, Burak, is an Emlak--a real estate agent. He works too much. We are here having tea, but his phone rings all the time. Poor man.
My dear friend, Burak, is an Emlak–a real estate agent. He works too much. We are here having tea, but his phone rings all the time. Poor man.
Akakoy sky.
Akakoy sky.

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.

Pizza is fairly easy to find in Istanbul. Good pizza, however, isn't. This is from My Secret Cafe, the best pizza I've tasted since leaving the US.
Pizza is fairly easy to find in Istanbul. Good pizza, however, isn’t. This is from My Secret Cafe, the best pizza I’ve tasted since leaving the US.
There are lots of chestnut vendors out on the streets of Istanbul. In the popular tourist districts like Sultanahmet and Taksim they need a license and get standardized red-white carts from the district authorities. In other districts jobless men make their own carts and start selling the popular snack in the working class neighborhoods of Istanbul.
There are lots of chestnut vendors out on the streets of Istanbul. In the popular tourist districts like Sultanahmet and Taksim they need a license and get standardized red-white carts from the district authorities. In other districts jobless men make their own carts and start selling the popular snack in the working class neighborhoods of Istanbul.

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.

More of a snack than a meal, midye dolma is none other than mussels on the half shell, mixed with spicy rice and served with a squeeze of lemon juice, served right out of a tray on every other street corner in Taksim at night. The trick with midye dolma is to keep eating as many as the seller gives you until you feel half-full and then stop. Otherwise, by the time the rice expands in your stomach and your brain receives the message that you’re full, you might look down to find that you’ve spent upwards of 20 TL – and worse, you just might start to feel too full.
More of a snack than a meal, midye dolma is none other than mussels on the half shell, mixed with spicy rice and served with a squeeze of lemon juice, served right out of a tray on every other street corner in Taksim at night. The trick with midye dolma is to keep eating as many as the seller gives you until you feel half-full and then stop. Otherwise, by the time the rice expands in your stomach and your brain receives the message that you’re full, you might look down to find that you’ve spent upwards of 20 TL – and worse, you just might start to feel too full.