Snow, flowers and too much food

Snow in Turkey only comes about once a year and lasts for 2-3 days. Still, someone found a way to make the most of it.
Snow in Turkey only comes about once a year and lasts for 2-3 days. Still, someone found a way to make the most of it.

12/31/2015
The first real snow today and I went for a long walk and metro ride to take photos.

Learning English is spotty. Wednesday evening I said to my students, “See you next year.” There was an audible gasp in the room. “Teacher?” I repeated it and they were confused and alarmed. So I wrote it on the board and explained that I’d see them Monday, which would be 2016. Huge laughter. “Good one, teacher.”
So they can say and use the phrase “Good one” but don’t know “See you next year?” Always a teaching moment, for them and me.

Small victories with the Turkish language. The other day, I understood when a woman said to me in the elevator, “Cucuk var?” It translates literally as “Children exist?” but I understood her to mean, “Do you have children?” “Yok, yok.” (Literally, “they do not exist” but generally it just means “No.”)
I also understood when someone asked, “Tavuk sos?” They were serving me food. The translation is “chicken sauce” but I realized they wanted to know if I wanted gravy. Kinda a shame I can’t stick around long enough to really learn this language.

January 2, 2016
Happy New Year! First day back in classes and had to give a L1 Reading exam. The average was 62%. This makes me think I am wasting my time teaching English. I have two more exams on Monday. This will be a difficult week.

Feeling uneasy that I don’t have everything organized for the future as I’d like, but there is still time. I’ve put in a lot of work, but places just don’t hire this far out. And my work-for-stay place in Portugal seems to have fallen off the map—no response from them. Yesterday I reviewed my resume, applied for 5 jobs, applied for 12 work-for-stay places for the month of March, did lesson plans and laundry. I also sent a note reminding the school offices that I have only one month left on my contract. If I could trust them to pay as agreed, I’d stay here through the end of March, but I’ve probably pressed my luck staying this long. The school has stopped putting out a schedule for activities. We assume it’s a way to save money.

Mostly, I feel like I’m just waiting. My placement agency won’t post my resume with companies until February. I understand their position. I’ve applied to some jobs myself, but obviously many schools are trying to get teachers for January and won’t pay attention to my resume. It’s a struggle. This must be what learning patience is. I don’t have to like it, though.

January 3, 2016
My morning class seems to have forgotten English. It’s a level 1 class, but they took the Reading exam yesterday and did horrible. Today, I had a difficult time getting them to identify nouns, verbs and adjectives. And I know the Turkish words for these things. It breaks my heart. Am I doing the wrong thing with my life? Maybe every teacher feels this way at times? These same students did well in the beginning, but now, halfway through, they have lost focus and interest. It’s a weekend class, so if they don’t practice during the week all the information falls out of their head. Every Saturday it’s like starting over.

I'm sure his heart was in the right place, but by the time he presented flowers I just wanted him to leave. I did accept the flower graciously as his apology, but insisted that he go.
I’m sure his heart was in the right place, but by the time he presented flowers I just wanted him to leave. I did accept the flower graciously as his apology, but insisted that he go.

Here’s a new experience: I just kicked a kid out of class for smoking! H. is a 20-something, ought-to-know better, problem child. Not dumb, but I can’t figure why he is in class. He comes late, leaves early, finds an excuse to leave the class a couple times an hour and comes back late from break every hour. He refuses to do more than 2 out of 10 questions on any in class exercise. Sometimes he won’t even do that much. But today, I was writing on the board, my back to the class, while the students filed in from first break. It got deadly silent behind me. When I turned to face the class, every eye was on him. He had a huge smile on his face and held a lit cigarette!

I told him to get out of my class. He first seemed shocked, then took it in stride and packed his things and went with no argument. Then he came back 10 minutes later to apologize. I was trying to teach class, did not want to waste any more time on him, so I asked him to leave. Another 10 minutes and he was back again, with FLOWERS. Seriously? I just wanted him to go. I know the apology and flowers sound like a sweet thing, but he’d wasted too much of the class’ time already.

So his spelling is poor, but it was an apology. That is not his handwriting, however, so I don't know who he found to write this.
So his spelling is poor, but it was an apology. That is not his handwriting, however, so I don’t know who he found to write this.

January 4, 2016
I may never eat again. OK, maybe I won’t eat until tomorrow. Just had lunch with a student’s father and his friend. Both are taking English courses and wanted to practice English. They fed me too much! Such great food and company. This is an easy way to eat in Turkey and I could arrange for more free meals and LOTS of tea this way if I wanted to.

Ahmet, my student's father and me, over eating etli ekmek (meat bread) and adana kebabs.
Ahmet, my student’s father and me, over-eating etli ekmek (meat bread) and adana kebabs.
The restaurant, Mevlana Pide, makes their own ayran--a frothy yogurt drink. It's quite good and particularly nice with spicy food.
The restaurant, Mevlana Pide, makes their own ayran–a frothy yogurt drink. It’s quite good and particularly nice with spicy food.
Kunefe is a rich, super-sweet dessert of cheese, pastry and lots of sugar. It's a specialty of the city of Hatay, where Ahmet is from. That's butter and pistachios on top.
Kunefe is a rich, super-sweet dessert of cheese, pastry and lots of sugar. It’s a specialty of the city of Hatay, where Ahmet is from. That’s butter and pistachios on top.

White “Christmas”

Istanbul gets it's annual snowfall.
Istanbul gets it’s annual snowfall.

This is the last day of 2015, but according to my students it is “Christmas.” I’ve tried to explain to them that many other countries celebrate Christmas on December 25, but I don’t think they are convince. It snowed a bit yesterday, but overnight the snow began to stick. It’s beautiful out there and what makes it more so is that I don’t have to work!

First I walked my neighborhood of Sirinevler–slick and slippery! No salt or snow shovels. When the temperature drops tonight this will really be a mess. My students tell me that we get about one snowfall a year here. It snowed the week before I came to Istanbul, so I missed last year’s. I bought a hat and gloves in Saigon before I came. I’ve been saving them just for this purpose.

My neighborhood got hit by snow!
My neighborhood got hit by snow!
Sirinevler square
Sirinevler square
From the top of an office building overlooking the E-5. Traffic was still running pretty well. Not sure that will be true in a few hours.
From the top of an office building overlooking the E-5. Traffic was still running pretty well. Not sure that will be true in a few hours.

Then I took public transportation to Beyazit Square, Istanbul University and a hike to the Suleyman Mosque.

The front of the Suleyman Mosque.
The front of the Suleyman Mosque.

Suleyman Mosque, Dec 31, 2015, 7 Suleyman Mosque, Dec 31, 2015, 6 Suleyman Mosque, Dec 31, 2015, 9

The Suleyman Mosque overlooks the Bosphorous, but the waters were so much warmer than the air temperature that fog clouded the view. This is the back side, that faces the water. You walk through the graveyard to get here.
The Suleyman Mosque overlooks the Bosphorous, but the waters were so much warmer than the air temperature that fog clouded the view. This is the back side, that faces the water. You walk through the graveyard to get here.

Finally, I went to the center of the old city, which is also the tourist district: Sultanahmet Square.

Haiga Sophia (Ayasofa) in the snow.
Hagia Sophia (Ayasofa) in the snow.
There were several snowmen, but none were very fancy. In the background is The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami)
There were several snowmen, but none were very fancy. In the background is The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami)
Sultanahmet Square, with the Blue Mosque in the background. I was surprised to find this fountain still running.
Sultanahmet Square, with the Blue Mosque in the background. I was surprised to find this fountain still running.
From the spina of the former Hippodrome, now a park. The German Fountain. BTW, the Turkish word of horse racing park is still hippodrome.
From the spina of the former Hippodrome, now a park. The German Fountain. BTW, the Turkish word for horse racing park is still hippodrome.
Those palm trees probably give a hint at how often it snows here. Sultanahmet Meydani.
Those palm trees probably give a hint at how often it snows here. Sultanahmet Meydani.
Reminds me of my favorite dog growing up, Lobo. Still miss him.
Reminds me of my favorite dog growing up, Lobo. Still miss him.

And finally, Happy, Happy New Year to all. The weather looks like it might get bad, so I’ll probably stay home. Hope this is your best year yet!

Ring in the New Year, even with a cracked bell.
Ring in the New Year, even with a cracked bell.