A day of mixed blessings

These are sıcak tatlı--hot sweets. First dough is deep fried as you see here. Then it's dropped in a sweet syrup to coat completely. Each ring is .50TL (about 10 cents) and eaten hot.
These are sıcak tatlı–hot sweets. First dough is deep fried as you see here. Then it’s dropped in a sweet syrup to coat completely. Each ring is .50TL (about 10 cents) and eaten hot.

10/24/2015
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.

They are incredibly sticky and sweet, but one is very satisfying on a cold evening.
They are incredibly sticky and sweet, but one is very satisfying on a cold evening.

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.

Just saw this on FB: “not knowing” is the whole … point. Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. All of it.”

This is Döner kebab, one of the most common street foods in Istanbul. This particular rotisserie of meat is chicken. The sliced meat is served wrapped in a flatbread called durum. Usually tomato and herbs are added too. While this looks like the Greek gyro, any Turk worth his salt will tell you otherwise! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doner_kebab
This is Döner kebab, one of the most common street foods in Istanbul. This particular rotisserie of meat is chicken. The sliced meat is served wrapped in a flatbread (like a tortilla) and called durum. Usually tomato and herbs are added too. While this looks like the Greek gyro, any Turk worth his salt will tell you otherwise!

I’m official!

Boats moored on the Marmara.
Boats moored on the Marmara.

5/20/2015
This week marked third month in Turkey–and technically my teaching probation period is up. Since no one has said otherwise, I guess I’m a full-fledged teacher at English Time, now. The school has gotten me my Residence Permit, so I’m here legally (something I couldn’t say in Vietnam, which is one of the reasons I left). They say they have applied for a work visa, so that’s good, too. I like to stay legal! A teacher across the hall skipped her police interview and so she didn’t get her Residence Permit. She was deported a couple weeks ago!

My students seem to like me and I certainly enjoy teaching. Of course, there’s the occasional student that I want to banish from the classroom, but that’s normal. Teachers are well respected here and my students are kind and mostly attentive. They often thank me for being their teacher–I don’t think that would ever happen in The States.

I still got it!
I still got it!

I do, however, spend WAY too much time preparing for class. For every hour I’m in class, I spend an additional hour preparing. And, of course, I’m only paid for teaching, not preparation, travel or paperwork before and after each class. But that is true of all teachers, I guess. The last two weeks I’ve only had 1 day off and most of the days I’ve had double shifts. You have to have some double shifts or you can’t get enough hours, but doing it every day is exhausting. With summer coming on, there are fewer classes starting, so I hate to turn down work when it’s offer now. I’ve been covering for other teachers who are taking time off. But I have this morning off and am doing laundry, cleaning and I slept in–that was wonderful! And I have a full day off tomorrow.

New roomie--Trudy!
New roomie–Trudy!

Final bit of news–one of the teachers that I room with has found an apartment we can share. It’s a little less money than the apartment I’m in now, but it will just be two of us. The current apartment has 7 people in it. I share a bathroom and kitchen with three others and it can be next to impossible to get into either. The living room is shared with everyone, but in practice, the landlords control it, so there’s nowhere to just “hang out.” And I pay for cable that I never get to enjoy. Female renters are not allowed overnight guests, though the men are. The landlords are nosy. They want to know where you are going, where you have been, who you are with. Lately they’ve been particularly nosy about alcohol consumption. I got some negative comments because I had a bottle of wine IN MY ROOM! And the male landlord is a bit too familiar, if you get my meaning.

For me, the most difficult thing is that I have the highest cleanliness standards of the bunch. I end up cleaning after everyone else–particularly in the kitchen. It’s getting old.

I’m grateful to be moving on. I own very little and the new place is walking distance from here. The move should be an easy one. This should lower my stress level. I need a certain amount of privacy and alone time to recover after work. Most people think of me as an extrovert and it’s true that I easily talk to new people and am very verbal. However, I need to be alone to recharge and that makes me an introvert. It’s hard to get alone time in an apartment with 7 people. Trudy, my soon-to-be roommate, works different shifts from me, so we won’t be forced together all the time.

Trudy and some very fresh bread to share--puffed up and hot from the oven.
Trudy and some very fresh bread to share–puffed up and hot from the oven.

Dolmabahçe Palace

This is the four story clock tower and the Dolmabahce Mosque in the background. The clock tower was added to Dolmabahçe Palace, It stands in front of the Treasury Gate along the European waterfront of Bosphorus. Designed in Ottoman neo-baroque style, thetower stands on a floor area of 8.5 × 8.5 m (28 × 28 ft) at a height of 27 m (89 ft).
This is the four story clock tower and the Dolmabahce Mosque in the background. The clock tower stands in front of the Treasury Gate along the European waterfront of Bosphorus. Designed in Ottoman neo-baroque style, the tower stands on a floor area of 8.5 × 8.5 m (28 × 28 ft) at a height of 27 m (89 ft).
My day started with a traditional Turkish breakfast (kahvalti): cheese (paynir), salad vegetables, bread(ekmek), egg (yumerta), honey (muz), olives (zeytin) and tea (cay). Yes, I learn all the food words easily.
My day started with a traditional Turkish breakfast (kahvalti): cheese (paynir), salad vegetables, bread(ekmek), egg (yumerta), honey (muz), olives (zeytin) and tea (cay). Yes, I learn all the food words easily.

Today I had a rare day off and decided to visit the Dolmabahçe (DOL MA BA CHAY) Palace, the last Ottoman Palace constructed. It is a mix of styles and frankly too opulent for it’s own good. It reminded me of a “small” man buying a fancy Lamborghini to impress the ladies, and doing so on credit. This isn’t far off the mark, either, since the Ottoman Empire was in decline when this palace was built and much of the money was borrowed.

I've missed clover! It was simply too hot to grow in south Vietnam. But I looked down and saw this 5 leaf clover just inside the Treasury Gate.
I’ve missed clover! It was simply too hot to grow in south Vietnam. But I looked down and saw this 5 leaf clover just inside the Treasury Gate.

I couldn’t take photos inside, so these are all taken outside the buildings. The palace has belonged to the state since 1924 and is now a museum. The cost to tour both the palace and the harem is 40 Turkish Lira (about $18US). The English tour guide for the palace spoke so poorly and with such a thick accent, I have no idea what he said–and I’m typically very good with accents. The guide for the haram was quite good and easy to understand.

If you say the words out loud, they often make sense.
If you say the words out loud, they often make sense.

The most amazing thing for me was the crystal staircase. It stunned visitors from the first. It is made of Baccarat Crystal and brass, with a polished mahogany rail. I was in awe of the numerous crystal chandeliers–every room seemed to have one or more. Just keeping them clean would have taken a small army! The Ceremonial Hall with its domed ceiling has (reportedly) the world’s heaviest chandelier, an estimated 4 tons. All the window treatments were rich and varied. The parquet floors were covered by lavish silk carpets. Even the doorknobs and keyhole covers were ornate, hand painted porcelain. But the mish-mash of styles and over-abundance of gold leaf was too much for me–like someone trying too hard. Lavish, but unlivable.

The Treasury Gate. Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It has an area of 45,000 square meters (11.2 acres), and contains 285 rooms (150 in the haram), 46 halls, 6 baths (hamam) and 68 toilets (most are ornate, marble holes in the floor). The huge expense of building this palace--roughly 35 tons of gold--placed an enormous burden on the state and contributed to the  financial decline of the Ottoman Empire. Eventually, it slid into bankruptcy and was known as the "sick man of Europe" by European powers.
The Treasury Gate. Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey. It has an area of 45,000 square meters (11.2 acres), and contains 285 rooms (150 in the haram), 46 halls, 6 baths (hamam) and 68 toilets (most are ornate, marble holes in the floor).
The huge expense of building this palace–roughly 35 tons of gold–placed an enormous burden on the state and contributed to the financial decline of the Ottoman Empire. Eventually, it slid into bankruptcy and was known as the “sick man of Europe.”
View of the palace from the waterfront. The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosphorus strait, used for the Ottoman fleet. The area was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much appreciated by the Ottoman sultans. This is where the name comes from. Dolmabahçe (Filled-in Garden) comes from the Turkish dolma meaning "filled" and bahçe meaning "garden." Various small summer palaces and wooden pavilions were built here during the 18th and 19th centuries ultimately forming a palace complex.
View of the palace from the waterfront. The site of Dolmabahçe was originally a bay on the Bosphorus strait, used for the Ottoman fleet. The area was reclaimed gradually during the 18th century to become an imperial garden, much adored by the Ottoman sultans. This is where the name comes from: Dolmabahçe (Filled-in Garden) comes from the Turkish dolma meaning “filled” and bahçe meaning “garden.” Various small summer palaces and wooden pavilions were built here during the 18th and 19th centuries ultimately forming a palace complex.
The Dolmabahçe Mosque was commissioned by queen mother Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan. After she died, Sultan Abdülmecid, her son, continued to support the construction of the mosque, which was completed in 1855
The Dolmabahçe Mosque was commissioned by queen mother Bezmi Alem Valide Sultan. After she died, Sultan Abdülmecid, her son, continued to support the construction of the mosque, which was completed in 1855.
Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. Previously, the Sultan and family had lived at the Topkapı Palace (which I will see later since it is also a museum), but  the medieval Topkapı lacked contemporary style, luxury, and comfort. The sultan wanted something to compare with the palaces of the European monarchs, Abdülmecid built a new modern palace, using mostly borrowed funds from foreign interests and a devaluing the currency by issuing lots of paper money.
Dolmabahçe Palace was built by the Empire’s 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, between 1843 and 1856. Previously, the Sultan and family had lived at the Topkapı Palace (which I will see later). The medieval Topkapı lacked contemporary style, luxury and comfort. The sultan wanted something to compare with the palaces of European monarchs. Abdülmecid built a modern palace, using mostly borrowed funds from foreign interests and by a devaluing the currency by issuing lots of paper money.

Dolmabahche Palace, Istanbul, March 2015, 13

One of the entrance gates. Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six Sultans from 1856  until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi, who was banish from Turkey along with his family in 1924.  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers. He enacted some of his most important legislation here. Atatürk spent the last days here as well, dying in one of the bedrooms  on November 10, 1938 at 9:05. all of the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time in his honor.
The Sultan’s entrance gate. Dolmabahçe Palace was home to six Sultans from 1856 until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924, The last royal to live here was Caliph Abdülmecid Efendi, who was banish from Turkey along with his family.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summer. He enacted some of his most important legislation here. Atatürk spent his last days here as well, dying in one of the bedrooms on November 10, 1938 at 9:05a. All of the clocks in the palace are stopped at this time in his honor.
Tomb of Hoca Ahmet Turani. I could find nothing about him on the web and I can't read Turkish. Yet. But this grave is in the garden area of the palace.
Tomb of Hoca Ahmet Turani. I could find nothing about him on the web and I can’t read Turkish. Yet. But this grave is in the garden area of the palace.

The following are NOT my photos. All are licensed by Wikimedia Commons. I use them since I could not take photos and I want you to see some the inside palace.

Façade of the Selamlik--the entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. by OscarKosy
Façade of the Selamlik–the entrance of the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul.  The gardens will be beautiful in about a month. You could already see tulips and other bulbs pushing their way out of the ground. This photo must have been taken in Spring or early summer. Photo by OscarKosy.
The chandelier gifted by Queen Victoria, and may be the heaviest in the world. The domed ceiling alone with worth the visit.  Ceremonial hall,  Dolmabahce March 2008 pano4" by Gryffindor
The chandelier, gifted by Queen Victoria, may be the heaviest in the world. The domed ceiling alone with worth the visit.
Ceremonial hall, Dolmabahce March 2008 pano4″ by Gryffindor
Baccarat crystal balusters of the Crystal Staircase "Dolmabahce Baccarat bannister" by Peace01234
Baccarat crystal balusters of the Crystal Staircase
“Dolmabahce Baccarat bannister” by Peace01234
Ambassador's Hall (Süfera Salonu) with two bearskin rugs--the bears looked like they needed dusting. The standing chandeliers were beautiful.  "Ambassador Hall Dolmabahce March 2008panoc" by Gryffindor
Ambassador’s Hall (Süfera Salonu) with two bearskin rugs–the bears looked like they needed dusting. The standing chandeliers were beautiful.
“Ambassador Hall Dolmabahce March 2008panoc” by Gryffindor
Blue Hall "Dolmabahce Palace ced" by Mircea Ostoia - originally posted to Flickr
Blue Hall
“Dolmabahce Palace ced” by Mircea Ostoia – originally posted to Flickr
The Pink Hall "Dolmabahce Palacasdfe" by Mircea Ostoia - originally posted to Flickr
The Pink Hall
“Dolmabahce Palacasdfe” by Mircea Ostoia – originally posted to Flickr
The bed Ataturk died in.  "Ataturk deathbed Dolmabahce March 2008" by Gryffindor
The bed Ataturk died in.
“Ataturk deathbed Dolmabahce March 2008” by Gryffindor