Getting settled in Bolivia

Here’s my new roomie, Jade. She’s a vegetarian, great cook and is starting her fourth year of teaching at the school. She’s been invaluable to me and it’s only my third day in country! What would I do without her? The kitchen is pretty well outfitted. There’s a four burner (propane) gas stove AND oven (there were no working ovens in Vietnam, Mexico or Peru!). Also a full sized fridge, and the water from the tap is potable (though a very high mineral content) and there’s even hot water. I’ve not seen potable or hot water from the sink outside of the USA!

My flight to Bolivia from The States was uneventful, but long and tiring. I arrived (very) late Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 and was extremely grateful to see Mariela and Jaclyn, from the school, there to greet me.  I talked with the director, Maria, by phone, as the ladies drove me to my new apartment. She promised to meet me the next day. However minutes later, she sent a text to Mariela saying I should “rest” and she’d call me. She didn’t call on Wednesday. We walked to the school on Thursday, but she didn’t come in that day. Or Friday. So I’ve not met her yet. Perhaps Monday? Schedules are very fluid here.

The landscaping at the condo community includes many exotic, tropical plants.

Information is fluid as well. My roommate is Jade and she’s 26 and from New Zealand (not 36, from London as promised. I’d only agreed to a roommate because I thought she was older, over thirty). She’s starting her fourth year of teaching here, so it’s difficult to imagine someone got “confused.” There’s a third roommate, Miguel, coming in a day or two. (I had not agreed to a third roommate, especially not a male.)

I’m hopeful that it will workout. In fact, Jade has been amazing–my room was ready, the kitchen stocked, she cooked for me, she helped me get cash, showed me around and she’s given me such a huge amount of information I won’t be able to remember it all. She walked me to the school on Thursday and introduced me to several people, is helping me understand the culture, schedule, paperwork. Her Spanish is amazing. I’m so jealous! Honestly, it would be difficult without her help.

This is fresh cacao fruit, the same plant that chocolate is made from. I bought it on our shopping trip!
We sliced open the cacao fruit. There’s not much flesh, but a small amount clings to the seeds. According to Jade, the fruit tastes like “a slimy lemon drop.” Unfortunately, this fruit was past its prime and didn’t taste so good.

I’ve learned that information/truth has different standards outside the USA. I’m learning to roll with it and pick my battles. So far, there are no deal breakers. It’s not what I expected and not exactly as promised, but so far it’s OK.

We got wifi today! Still working on a phone, though, which could happen Monday. Jade moved into the apartment shortly before me, so not everything is sorted.  The apartment is very good: full kitchen (mostly outfitted), a bathroom (mostly to myself), clothes washer and a small “garden” in back. In fact it’s a two-story, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house with a detached “maid’s” bedroom and full bath at the back of the house, behind the “garden.” It’s a gated condominium community with pool and (very small) exercise facility (though we still need to be given access to them). Seems very safe. It’s a 15 minute walk to the school I’ll be working at where I’ll teach 4th grade (called year 5, here). Teachers show up January 23, but classes don’t start until February 5, (all a week later than I’d been told). I will probably need to go to the school the week of the 15th, but I’m not sure because I have no information about orientation. In fact, I don’t know if there is an orientation. There are a couple (very small) restaurants and a decent sized grocery nearby, plus fruit and vegetable trucks come by on Saturdays. I’m well outside the city center, but there are buses (that I have to figure out) and taxis are not too pricey. I don’t have a car and doesn’t look like a bicycle would be worth the money–too much traffic.

The front of the condo. It’s a gated community, so most doors are not locked, just a latched screen door. Jade is in the kitchen (window to the left) baking.

I’m hopeful it will work out. I’d be more comfortable if I had more information, but experience tells me that these things usually sort themselves out. And, besides, I have an extra week to prepare, since classes start later than I’d been told. I have a copy of most of my textbooks (no Science book, nor teacher’s any manuals), so I’m reading the classroom materials now. Classes start at 7:30a, but end at 1:30p. In the past, teachers have been released shortly after. My contract says I have to stay until 3:30p, so that could be a new standard. If yes, that will be my class prep/grading time. If no, I’ll probably do that at home.

My bed. Notice the stack of textbooks I’m reading. That will keep me busy this weekend.
My bedroom has a great closet–a real asset in a small room. The window looks out over the back yard.
It’s a horrible photo of the back yard–called the garden–through my new window screen. So glad to even have screens–the bugs are serious here in this tropical climate. January is summer and highs have been in the mid-80’s F. The back wall leads to the “maid’s” bedroom(which we use as storage) and full bath (which will be Miguel’s), as well as a washing area. This includes a clothes washer, a luxury I’ve seldom had access to  in the last couple years.
Here’s the dining area, which is part of one large living room. The french doors lead to the back yard. We just had screen doors installed. Though they aren’t hung perfectly yet, the breeze to the front door is amazing.
Living room. We have no working TV and the AC in this room isn’t working (yet) either.

Here’s the clubhouse. The guys in the pool were grilling something that smelled amazing.
Here’s the pool with some handsome men (hombres guapos) using it. Look at those dark skies. It’s summer and the rainy season, though the rain is intermittent. Hope SOON to get access to this pool!
Through the locked glass doors is the exercise facility. Mostly a weight machine and some stationary bikes. I’d love a treadmill, but no dice. Hope to get a key to this soon, too.
The condos are all the same, except some are two story (shown) and the others are one story.

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

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. 😉

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.

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.

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>

Walking the walls and getting paid

Spring in Istanbul, just outside the old city walls.
Spring in Istanbul, just outside the old city walls.

I’m happy to report that English Time did pay us, only one day late. In fact, I was over paid! I was surprised when I saw the branch manager (the word is müdür!) counting out so much money. I asked to see the hours and he got defensive. To be fair, he had a line of angry teachers waiting for their money, and we later found that he didn’t have enough to pay everyone! Paying people late is bound to be stressful. I knew I worked about 85 hours, but the sheet he pointed to said 160—which is almost impossible. The manager and I don’t share a language, so most communication is done with single nouns and a lot of gestures. I said, “Mistake?” He growled and pointed again, violently, with his finger at the hours. Who am I to argue? So I signed for the money. When I got back to my room that evening, I got the necessary paperwork to prove the hours I had worked and put aside the money I needed to return. Later the next day I got a sheepish email stating that I’d been overpaid and could I please return the money?

It was a lovely walk along the Northern half of the Theodosian Walls and a beautiful Spring day. I was not successful in finding ANY of the sites I was looking for, but I enjoyed the 5 mile walk (out and back) along the old city walls of Constantinople.
It was a lovely walk along the Northern half of the Theodosian Walls and a beautiful Spring day. I was not successful in finding ANY of the sites I was looking for, but I enjoyed the 5 mile walk (out and back) along the old city walls of Constantinople.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 21I finally got a day off Saturday, but somehow it wasn’t a very satisfying day. First, my roommate, Mags, had left the kitchen a mess—dirty dishes, sink clogged, all the surfaces needed to be washed and the floor swept and even sticky in spots. I started to clean it up, but when I took the trash (which was overflowing) to the front door, I saw that she had left the door open! I left a note saying that this was unacceptable. The underlying threat was that I’d tell Katt and Ali if it happened again. (She’s been warned about this behavior in the past and told she’d be kicked out if she did it again.) It was especially frustrating since I had JUST swept and mopped on Friday morning, including cleaning out the kitchen trash can, since Mags can’t seem to keep the trash inside the plastic liner. She’s sweet, but she seems to think she owns the kitchen and she doesn’t clean up after herself. I have not even spoken to her since. Didn’t think I could be civil.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 19I took the metro to walk the northern half of the Theodosian Walls, but somehow it just wasn’t that interesting. I couldn’t find the Chora church, either. I knew it was being remodeled, so I wasn’t planning to go in. And I didn’t find the scant remains of either old palace that should have been attached to the walls. It was about 5 miles of walking. I finally came home about 2p and just stayed in my room the rest of the evening. I was having a bad day and didn’t think I was fit for public consumption.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 23We have a new roommate, Magid, a retired man from Jordan. His wife died about 6 months ago and he is lonely. Not sure what he is doing here in Istanbul, probably just needed a change of scenery. He’s 62 and mostly keeps to himself. A tad messy and so far has not contributed to cleaning or to the household use items (toilet paper, dish soap, etc.). {Note: He and I talked about these things later and he simply didn’t understand the situation. I think all is resolved. Fingers crossed}

Football is played by young and old, even dogs.
Football is played by young and old, even dogs.

Did I mention I changed rooms? After Virginia moved out, her room was empty, so I took a look. Better light and a small balcony! You can see the Sea of Marmara from it. Lovely. So I talked to Katt and Ali and moved in. It took less than an hour to move my few belongings and arrange everything. I cleaned the old room (which Magid now lives in) and washed the sheets.

Today (Sunday) I taught my Level 1 class. Shelley had given them the Grammar exam Saturday, so I planned to review it with them. But I found several grading mistakes she had made and a major mistake in the answer key. She should know to check the answers! <sigh> She isn’t winning any points with this class. She’s already been removed from 2 other classes and this class has complained to me about her. If they go to the office, she’ll be sacked.

Theodosian Walls, North, 042615, 29

The front "lawn" of the walls creates a narrow green space.
The front “lawn” of the walls creates a narrow green space.

Was so tired when I got back from class that I napped most of the afternoon. Hope I sleep tonight. (I did!)

These photos are all from my walk along the northern half of the Theodosian Walls. Enjoy!

A rare christian cemetery was locked up tight.
A rare Christian cemetery was locked up tight. This photo was taken through the gate.
Somewhere here are the remains of two old palaces, but I couldn't find anything. The Blachernae Palace is near the Golden Horn and is also known as The Prison of Anemas. I suspect it is one of the towers in the distance. It dates as far back as AD 500. The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus must have been grand back in the 10th Century. My guidebooks lists it as a museum, but I didn't find it. Perhaps it was on the inside walls, which I couldn't access without walking back a half mile to the Endirnekapi and back.
Somewhere here are the remains of two old palaces, but I couldn’t find anything. The Blachernae Palace is near the Golden Horn and is also known as The Prison of Anemas. I suspect it is one of the towers in the distance. It dates as far back as AD 500. The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus must have been grand back in the 10th Century. My guidebooks lists it as a museum, but I didn’t find it. Perhaps it was on the inside walls? I couldn’t pass to the other side without walking back a half mile to the Endirnekapi and back. I just wasn’t feeling it this day.
Life goes on just inside the walls of the old city.
Life goes on just inside the walls of the old city.
On a side street, I found this cat sanctuary. There must have been three dozen cats of all ages. They looked a bit thin and not entirely healthy, behind their fenced in nich.
On a side street, I found this cat sanctuary. There must have been three dozen cats of all ages. They looked a bit thin and not entirely healthy, behind their fenced in niche.
The ruins of the Theodosian Walls are now in the heart of the city--surrounded by modern structures. The walls are mostly crumbling in a thin green line around the old city.
The ruins of the Theodosian Walls are now in the heart of the city–surrounded by modern structures and cars speeding past. The walls are crumbling on the edge of their narrow line of green that marks the old city limits.

Trouble in Paradise

There's a Döner kebapci on every block in Istanbul--you can get a wrap (durum) or sandwich (samvic) for about 5TL. Döner is slices of meat on a rotating spit. The meat is usually lamb, but can be chicken, too.
There’s a Döner kebapci on every block in Istanbul–you can get a wrap (durum) or sandwich (samvic) for about 5TL. Döner is slices of meat on a rotating spit. The meat is usually lamb, but can be chicken, too.

Istanbul is an amazing city. The history alone with worth the visit. Not to mention the baklava! And I do love teaching. The students seem to like my style. The flat I live in is ok—the one roommate who didn’t like me finished moving out yesterday, so that situation is looking up. At my branch, we has some great teachers and I particularly like my branch manager, Robert.

But the first serious issue just came up. Yesterday was payday. I didn’t get paid. No teacher at English Time in Istanbul got paid on the 15th as per our contract.

And it’s the second month in a row.

To be fair, last month, teachers were paid, just two days late. That’s likely to be the case this month, too.

But there are other red flags. I was promised I’d get a residence permit (the first step to a work permit) within days of arriving to Istanbul. We are coming up on 2 months; no permit. And two new teachers who came within days of me have not been found an apartment yet. They were told I got the last available apartment and they’ve been living in a tiny hotel room all this time. There are no plans to find living space for these two men, even though the contract clearly states that the company will find a place for you to live.

But the red flag that concerns me most is pretending there are no classes for some “inspectors.” This morning’s classes were canceled with less than 24 hours’ notice. Again. I’m pretty sure this is the fourth time. And the teachers aren’t allowed to be anywhere in the area. And the teachers don’t get paid even though no notice was given. When you don’t speak the predominate language, you often don’t know what’s going on. The office staff speaks little English, so there is no clear explanation, just the word “inspectors. “ What I’ve gathered is that the “inspectors” have something to do with taxes and the school is trying to hid how much business they are doing in order to pay less.

So, in short, I’m working for a company that lies, cheats and doesn’t pay on time. Oh joy.

This is the second company in a row with these issues. English Time is better than the school in Vietnam, but these are still serious issues. Is this how the English Teaching business works?

I had hoped I was working with a business where I could stay for awhile–maybe finish my 11 month contract and then move to another school location, perhaps in Antalya, for a second contract. Well, the second contract is out of the question. I don’t sign a second contract with a business that doesn’t honor the first one. Now, I am wondering if I can finish this contract.

Fishing off the Galata bridge
Fishing off the Galata bridge

Settling-in, in Istanbul

I am swamped with new classes, new curriculum, learning a new language/culture and getting settled in at my new apartment. But I do keep a short journal, occasionally.  The photos are from the Archeology Museum. I’m sure it’s an amazing place, but it’s under construction/reorganization/remodeling so many of the best items simply aren’t available to the public. I’ll return. Istanbul Archeology Museum, March 2015, 124/9/2015 Thursday
I’m teaching full-time, but weekday evening classes only last 6 weeks and I’ve joined most classes in progress. As a result, my Level 1 class finished up Tuesday night. I just love this group. Was thrilled that some of them contacted the office and asked for me as a teacher! So I will start their Level 2 class Monday. The students are mostly college age, here–no children like in Vietnam. They focus so much on grammar rules that I have to study to keep up with them! As a native English speaker, obviously I know how to say things, but you have to be able to explain why. Two of the new teachers are Hispanic and only speak English as a second language. Their accents are thick and their grammar poor. It’s difficult for their students and they’ve been removed from some classes. I don’t think they will make it. A LOT of new teachers wash out, particularly young ones. I don’t think they realize how much work it is to teach, particularly at first as you get used to a new school and curriculum.

Right now, while I’m learning the curriculum, I spend a lot of time preparing. Most evenings, I have a 3 hour class, and I spend at least that long preparing for the class. But it will get easier as I teach classes I’ve taught before. The school has already asked me to stay another year–even talked to me about management. I don’t want to manage, but I might consider another location in Turkey for a second year. I don’t have to make any decisions, yet.

My roommates are all 20-something and they make me feel old! I deal with the noise and the mess pretty well–frankly the three of them aren’t as messy as my single Vietnamese roommate, Bob, so that’s an improvement. But it’s a tiny kitchen and a single bath. With all their friends over it can be next to impossible to get into either room. And when their “overnight guests” hog the bathroom……it’s not really going that well.

It was a rainy day, so it wasn't inviting to sit outside among the ruins for tea.
It was a rainy day, so it wasn’t inviting to sit outside among the ruins for tea.
Cats of all kinds among the ruins.
Cats of all kinds among the ruins.


I went to Katt and Ali about noon today to ask about moving to another flat. Virginia simply doesn’t like me. Her boyfriend stays overnight—which is against the rules. Honestly, I don’t care what she does or with whom in her bedroom, but he hogs the bathroom! 45 minute showers in the morning! And when I asked who was in the bathroom (since all the residents were accounted for) NO ONE would answer my question. They ignored me as though I didn’t exist–As though I didn’t have the right to ask! Because I needed to pee and because I was curious, I simply waited to see who would exit the room. When her boyfriend came of of the bathroom (finally!) I just rolled my eyes. Later, I asked for a floor meeting to set ground rules about guests. After all, there are already four of us sharing a kitchen and a bathroom (with no real living room) so adding guests quickly gets to be an issue. The request was NOT well received. Virginia responded that it wasn’t needed. The other two didn’t respond at all.

And immediately, I began hearing interesting stories through the grapevine about Virginia’s opinion of me. And the dirty looks in the hallway confirm her feelings. Funny, since she was the one who told me all the “rules” and how much trouble I’d get in if I violated them. She explained them in a tone of a veiled threat! But I guess the rules don’t apply to her. I have tried to keep a low profile here at the flat. Which is easy because no one speaks to me. I would feel differently about this if I had actually complained. And it isn’t like I went to the landlords and told them about the overnight guests. I’m uncomfortable here. It’s no way to live. That’s why I asked to move. They told me they would see what they could do, but not to get my hopes up.

I wish you could see the detail on this statue. Breathtaking. But the photo quality is poor.
I wish you could see the detail on this statue. Breathtaking. But the photo quality isn’t good enough.
This is the actual chain that kept out invaders from sea! It was stretched across the mouth of the Golden Horn, keeping invaders out of Constantinople. Coupled with the land walls the city was secure for centuries.
This is the actual chain that kept out invaders from sea! It was stretched across the mouth of the Golden Horn, keeping invaders out of Constantinople. Coupled with the land walls the city was secure for centuries.
Information about the chain
Information about the chain

4/10/15 Friday
….and the roommate problems seem to have resolved themselves. I seriously didn’t intend to get Virginia kicked out. Yesterday, Victoria was told to leave the apartment. She’s been warned at least twice in the past about overnight guests. It’s clearly stated in the lease. And I was told that it’s a different “boyfriend” every time. Eeeeek! She has two weeks to get out. Unfortunately, Victoria blames me for this, and she has been very vocal about it. The next two weeks will not be fun. <sigh>

Such drama! I swear it’s the raging hormones. You can smell them in the air!

It’s a different world here. Last night, a young male student asked me to introduce him to a young female student from another class. I don’t know the girl, so I said no. He asked again, suggesting that I could tell her that he was a “good man” and could “help” her with her English. (Which is pretty hilarious considering his poor English.) I told him again that I couldn’t do this. I didn’t know him well enough to “endorse” him (so this also became a vocabulary lesson) and I had never met the young girl. I was not in a position to do this favor and I didn’t think this was something a teacher should do. He persisted, explaining (in broken English) that she would trust me if I said he was a good man. I said that was exactly why I couldn’t do it. I suggested that if he wanted to meet the girl, he should introduce himself. “No, Teacher. This Turkey. Cannot.”

IMHO, most young Turkish men are players: vain, overly concerned about their appearance with confidence fueled by testosterone and peer pressure. It reminds me of Italy. I’m glad to be above most of it, but it’s fun to be an audience. Sometimes.

I tried to show a video last night in our “cinema room” at school. I’ve been told that the equipment is pretty iffy and I don’t know that I’ll try again. The plan was to let the students watch a Mr. Bean video and practice describing actions. It failed miserably. First, the equipment proved unreliable. Then, the students simply couldn’t put together a full sentence to describe the action. I don’t think they have the vocabulary for this activity. The class is Level 3, so I feel they should have enough words to be able to do this—it’s an indication of how poor vocabulary training is in this curriculum. Baby steps. Will have to work on other simple descriptions first. Listening and Speaking, the final section, starts tonight for this class.

There was no information in English about this but it appears to be a sarcophagus, made of glazed pottery. Hope to learn more....
There was no information in English about this but it appears to be a sarcophagus, made of glazed pottery. Hope to learn more….
Fancy sarcophagus! How many people do they put in these things?
Fancy sarcophagus! How many people do they put in these things?

Much Later:
I didn’t like the way this man was looking at me on the Metro Bus. I couldn’t decide if he was angry or interested. Eventually, I decided it was a leer. OMG! He got off at my stop, but he turned left out of the bus. I was quite pleased that I was going right. But he reversed direction. Outside the station, he was clearly following me. I let him pass, but he stopped and talked to me, in Turkish. I smiled and said, “English” and tried to lose him again. He first walked on, but then stopped, spoke again and hooked his arm into mine so we could walk together. I politely untwined myself and said no. I even shook my finger at him. At the corner, he started to go straight, but stopped to watch me turn the corner. I said “bye, bye” firmly. He motioned for me to follow him. “Hayır Ya. Ben öğretmenim.” (“No. I’m a teacher.” If only I could say, “I’m not a prostitute.”) Then I picked up the pace to lose him. I decided that if he followed me to my apartment door, I would cross the street and go into the convenience store. I didn’t want him to know where I live or try to force his way into my door. He did not follow me, thankfully. I’m told it’s the blonde hair—only whores are blonde. To be fair, my hair is at least half gray by now. I’ve been growing it out for a year. But it still mystifies me. I don’t dress provocatively or wear much make up. I don’t start conversations, since I don’t speak Turkish. I’m surprised this has happened a few times, about once a week.

Later, I talked to some of the male teachers and they said I need to react more—be clearly offended, in any language. At the first leer, I should scowl. It the man doesn’t stop I should get verbal. They also think part of the issue is that I smile broadly—an open mouthed smile is flirting, here. Darn! To me, that’s just being friendly. Some of the long term, female teachers said they also have this problem frequently, regardless of their age. They avoid all eye contact, never smile or speak to anyone on the metro and sometimes just practice an “angry” look. Jeeze. I hope I don’t have to do this, but I don’t know what else to do.

I wanted to experience and understand another culture. That’s what this is, I guess.

I found this striking. The next photo has text about it.
I found this striking. The next photo has text about it.

Istanbul Archeology Museum, March 2015, 29Saturday 4/11/2015
In about 3 days I’ve gone from “New Teacher with a few classes” to “OMG, I can’t take another class” status. It’s pretty flattering, though, because student have actually gone to the office and asked for me. I think they like my (lack of an) accent. Once again that American-Midwestern that I speak helps out. And I have learned to speak more slowly. Not sure how I’m going to get through the next couple weeks, though.

It’s been a disappointing day, despite lovely weather. SOMEONE (I assume Victoria) has left the kitchen a total mess. AND I turned down an opportunity to go with Shelley, Maria and Kate to Galata Tower. I had a private lesson. Except the student didn’t show! So I came home, did my laundry (since no one was here) and have been working on lesson plans for the rest of the afternoon. Exciting Saturday night for me!

Monday 4/13/2015
Today I have 7 hours of class! The Level 5 class is shared with Albert—who doesn’t really want a co-teacher (which I actually completely understand). The students have asked for a native speaker, and he is Iranian. His English is great, but of course there are some pronunciation differences. I may have taken on more than I should, but I’m trying to work into a better schedule and that means than sometimes you have to overlap classes and work too many days in a row. Additionally, Gabriel is taking over Shelley’s portion of the Level 3 class that we shared. The students have complained about her. I don’t know the specifics. The class is certainly and handful. I’m exhausted after an evening with them, particularly if Ali is there. I was a fill-in, just 3 weeks ago, and wasn’t sure I’d last. Almost surprised that they are not complaining about me! But being a fill in means I didn’t have time to prepare for the class and I now know I could have done better. At the end of class, they are supposed to give a presentation for 10 minutes—this group has a hard time putting together a full sentence to describe an action! We should have been preparing the students for the final presentation and neither of us knew about it. We are new! I got to talk to Gabe about it and we have a plan for dealing with it, but it’s not the best. I wish someone had given me better advice on this Level 3, but I was just dealing with the class one section at a time—not good enough. Lesson learned.

I hate it, but Shelley isn’t doing that well here at English Time. She seems unhappy and now she’s been removed from a couple classes at the student’s request. We share a weekend class (which I will never do again). I have the students on Sunday, but they told me that they had trouble understanding her. I’ve tried to combat issues by reviewing all of her pages first thing on Sunday. They seem to need the review, but then, this isn’t surprising. It’s a very intensive course and a review of the previous material would help anyone. Grammar is the most difficult test and it comes first. I’ve been dismayed at the grades on the Grammar exams. I made up a special “mid-term” Grammar quiz. It has the format of the exam, but only uses two of the four verb tenses. I think it’s easier on them to see the types of questions and get a strong review of two tenses, just before they learn two new ones. I hope it will help them on the exam—which is coming up quickly! Shelley and Maria are going to Athens for a few days this week (yes, I was slightly hurt that I wasn’t asked, but the school could not have let all three of us go at one time, anyway). I’ll have the class Saturday and Sunday this coming week. I’ve got two new verb tenses to teach them and then review for the test, which should be the following weekend. Phew! I have no idea how they keep up!

This is the "nich" than marks the direction of prayer in a mosque.
This is the “nich” that marks the direction of prayer in a mosque.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

Tuesday 4/14/15
I am exhausted, but it has been a great few days. Sunday is my four hour, Level 1 class. Great attitudes and they seem to really love me. They asked about me teaching the class both Saturday and Sunday—that they planned to go to the office to request this. I asked them not to, to give Shelley another chance. After all, I would have their class both Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend because Shelley is going with Maria to Greece. And I let them know that Shelley is new to teaching, so she is still learning. I hope this placated them. Sunday afternoon, I prepared my Monday morning class (Level 5), my Monday evening class (Level 2) AND my Friday activity (Past Perfect Verb tense) before I went to bed. Phew!

Monday and Tuesday will be split shifts for me for the next 6 weeks. I teach 10a-2p Level 5 and 7p to 10p Level 2. Since I usually need to do lesson plans between the two, it makes for a long day! I’m sure that I spend much longer preparing for classes than most teachers, but I’m just not a person who wants to “wing it.” There is enough in life that you can’t prepare for. Besides, these students deserve the best. My best.

Monday, I met my new Level 5 students. AMAZING VOCABULARY! I did a simple exercise, asking for adjectives. I find it’s a great way to know what level your students are at. I expected the usual adjectives: Beautiful, tall, pretty and handsome. I got these and so much more—fantastic, frugal, malevolent (!!!), awesome, jealous, furious…. This is a real testament to Albert, who has had most of this group since Level 2. Albert usually teaches classes without a co-teacher, so I feel a bit badly about being asked to teach with him. He usually works alone and he’s being forced to work with me—though he has been very gracious about it. I was asked to teach two of the five class days because the students asked for a native English speaker. Of course, that’s the best way to learn pronunciation, idioms and slang. Albert (an Iranian who can speak Turkish, Arabic AND English) knows a lot of this, of course, but I think they are more confident with a native English speaker. Albert has arranged a class that doesn’t focus on the English Time book. This is great! We do a grammar topic from it every day, but he has a wonderful vocabulary reference (504 Words you must know) and a listening/speaking book with MP3 files (Passages). I add about an hour’s worth of activities—that’s a four hour class!

Monday night was also the start of my Level 2 class—these are mostly students that I taught Level 1. I understand more about the layout of the English Time classes now, so I can adjust the schedule to stay on track AND teach what’s most important. Plus Albert has inspired me to expand vocabulary! The ET books are strong on Grammar and OK on reading and writing, but Vocabulary, Listening and Speaking are poorly represented. SO, I laid out for the class what we would learn in Grammar (3 new verb tenses, conjunctions, clauses, and if) and put at date to the tests (roughly). There are about 5 new students who took Level 1 with someone else. The rest know me pretty well. I think the new students are not quite sure about me, yet. I hope to win them over. My co-teacher is Kate, who is young, but a wonderful teacher. She spent the last year in South Korea. This will be a good class!

Tuesday morning (this morning) I had the Level 5 students again. (Obviously, I did this lesson plan yesterday afternoon, between classes.) If they were shy yesterday, they were not today. I found that at least two of them had actually gone to the office and THANKED them for letting me be their teacher!!! Can you imagine that? This would never happen in The States. I could have cried when I heard this. They ask insightful questions, and they love speaking. But it is an exhausting, jam-packed, 4 hours of class. I always have lots scheduled—including some fun activities. Today was vocabulary review (504 Words), Listening and discussion (Passages), Hot/Cold (an activity where I explain how Americans use these words to mean close and far away. We guide someone to candy we have hidden using cold/colder/warm/warmer/hot/red hot). We also did a warm up where we name 10 things from a category and we practiced rhyming (a good way to work on pronunciation while having fun). I like variety in the class—keeps them interested. I also dropped a few things so we could go over their homework they were having trouble with—passive voice.

I was exhausted and fell asleep between classes, after I planned my evening lesson, of course!). Naps are wonderful when you work a split shift.
Tonight’s Level 2 class really rolled—they had learned Simple Future (using “will”) before they even realized it, and got to practice it a lot (they already know Future “be” going to, so this is even easier). We also reviewed Simple Past Tense. We played Taboo to review the Geography vocabulary from the book (mountain, stream, sea, island…) and I found some vocabulary on transportation to introduce. Seems they knew about 30-40% of those words already—which I think is a good mix. It’s not overwhelming that way.

And now I’m home, showered and falling into bed. I’m grateful to just have one evening class tomorrow—I will sleep in!

In other news, Virginia is actively moving out. She isn’t even staying here at the apartment anymore. She says she will be out by tomorrow afternoon, not taking her 2 weeks. She does manage to wreck the kitchen when she’s here and doesn’t do her dishes or take out her garbage. But it will all be over by this time tomorrow. And Augustine will be going home for 3 weeks (South Africa). His Gran (grandmother) isn’t doing well so he’s going home to spend time with her. Shelley is moving somewhere tomorrow. I knew she wasn’t happy with her flat, but I know no details. She and Maria will leave for 3 days in Greece Thursday.