My crazy, nomadic life

These former students took me out on the town last week. We had a wonderful time. It's the students I will miss most. As frustrating as teaching can be, this is the reason I love it.
These former students took me out on the town last week. We had a wonderful time. It’s the students I will miss most. As frustrating as teaching can be, this is the reason I love it.

5/2/2016
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Let’s see if I can sum things up:

I Got Paid: My contract with English Time here is Istanbul ended Monday, Feb 1. I was promised I’d be paid that day (or the next day at the latest) in my home branch at Şirinevler. Of course it wasn’t that simple, naturally. ET restructured their school branches as of that very day and suddenly no one wanted to be responsible for paying me. On top of that, the branch manager for Şirinevler was suddenly gone with no explanation, so no one was actually in charge there. I was given a lot of frustrating mis-information, but eventually went to the head office in Mecidiyeköy and camped out until they paid me at the end of the day Wednesday, Feb 3. The money included my hourly wages for January, an end-of-contract bonus and a travel reimbursement, so it was a substantial amount of cash. It’s enough to fund some future adventures without having to dip into savings. I am relieved to finally be paid, but the runaround did nothing to endear me to the school.

12647301_1189316187768968_8088413790124966169_nOddly, the first thing they did after paying me was to offer me another contract! I laughed, then closed my mouth and waved goodbye as I walked out. I fear the unladylike (and useless) utterances that would have passed my lips if I had replied. Maybe I’ve finally learned some diplomacy? Or maybe I was just tired.

The teachers took me out Saturday night and I ate way too much! What a great group to work with.
The teachers took me out Saturday night as a send off. I ate way too much! What a great group to work with. When you work closely with people like this, you are connected forever.

New Work: I have a verbal agreement on a summer job in Russia. I’m very excited about this as it’s an interesting country and June and July seem like the best times to live there. I might not be hardy enough for a winter in Russia! I’ll be the first native English speaker that the school has ever had, so it will be an experience for all of us. More about the school later.

I have interviewed with a few other places, but last night had a good conversation with a school in Mexico. That seems to be my best option at the moment for work beginning in August (assuming they offer me a position). It doesn’t pay well, but I have a friend who worked there before and I trust his opinion of the school. Frankly, I’ve had two disappointing posts in a row and it would be a blessing to my mental health to be somewhere that lived up to its contract. Also, this school is closed on Sundays, so I’m guaranteed at least one day off a week. Overwork and slow payments are getting tiresome.

These are students from my last day of class who stuck around for a selfie with me. I will really miss these level 1 students: Can, Enes, Pelin, me, Bursra and Emil.
These are students from my last day of class who stuck around for a selfie with me. I will really miss these level 1 students: Can (taking the photo), Enes, Pelin, me, Bursra (in the scarf) and Emil.

Spanish: I work daily on my Spanish and while I am making progress, I’m pretty horrible. It’s surprising how poor at languages I can be when I love them so much! I’m using DulLingo on the laptop (which I do daily), an app on my phone called iLang (for vocabulary practice) and I’ve completed lessons 1-5 in Pimsleur (which I listen to while I walk). I’ll be in Spain for 2.5 months and need to have a functional level of language. Plus it will help tremendously if I am offered the job in Mexico. Many Americans speak Spanish, not to mention Spain, Mexico and almost all of South and Central America. It’s an important language to know. Wish me luck.

But let me add that learning Spanish as I live in Istanbul and need to converse in Turkish while teaching English grammar, is disorienting. I don’t always know what language will come out of my mouth!

2016 is going to be another year of adventure! Here’s the short list:

February: Leave Istanbul. Visit Athens, Greece on my own and and Edinburgh, Scotland with two dear friends, Julia and Kathy from NY. Kathy went to school there so she will be an excellent tour guide!

March: A few days in Barcelona, Spain, then volunteer teaching and a teacher improvement program in Valencia, Spain. I’m quite excited because I’ll be there over Easter, which should be spectacular. Also, there’s something called the Fire Festival that should make for some great blog photos! The last days of the month, I will head to Pamplona, Spain to meet three dear US friends: Kathy (NY), Stephanie (VA) and Tim (TX).

April to mid-May: Three of us will become pilgrims and hike the Camino (aka The Walk, The Way of St. James) from Pamplona to Santiago, and then (if our feet are still good) on to the sea at Finisterra! It’s an ancient pilgrim’s path to the church at Santiago where the bones of St. James are supposed to be buried. There are many paths to this church, but we are walking one of the main one, usually called The French Way. Selfishly, I convinced my partners to skip the Pyrenees mountains on the French/Spanish border. The weather is precarious in April and besides, I hiked enough mountains on the AT for a lifetime! This is traditionally a religious pilgrimage. I’m not a particularly religious person, though I have a spiritual side.  If we do the entire distance, it’s “only” 500 miles. I think this will be an easier walk than the AT hike: less elevation change, more fresh food, we will stay in hostels every night and eat fresh food every day. Because I don’t need a tent or stove, my pack will be ridiculously light, as well. Oh, and wine. There will be wine! Hum…..bottles of wine might weight the pack down a bit. And where did I pack that cork screw?

Mid-May to June: Not planned yet, but ideally, I’d like to see a bit of Russia before I start teaching there. What I’ve checked out so far is horribly expensive, so we will see…..

June and July: Teaching a summer school program in Nakhodka, Russia. The city is located on the Pacific Ocean, near Vladivostok. The school pays me, takes care of travel there and back and provides accommodations.

August: Still working on this, but by this point I’ll really need a year-long contract and stay put for a while.

Did I mention I love my crazy, nomadic life?

This is what passes for recycling in Istanbul. These men are not city workers, but they provide a valuable city service. They pick through the trash on street corners and bins. They recycle plastic, glass, old clothes, damaged machinery, cardboard...anything they can make money from. It's a tremendous amount of work for little pay and done by new immigrants and the poor. There is also a city trash service. These men are constantly sweeping the streets by hand and filling their bins. Cigarettes, candy wrappers and all refuse is simply thrown on the street. There are few bins.
This is what passes for recycling in Istanbul. These men are not city workers, but they provide a valuable city service. They pick through the trash on street corners and bins. They recycle plastic, glass, old clothes, damaged machinery, cardboard…anything they can make money from. It’s a tremendous amount of work for little pay and done by new immigrants and the poor. There is also a city trash service. These men are constantly sweeping the streets by hand and filling their bins. Cigarettes, candy wrappers and all refuse is simply thrown on the street. There are few bins.

Contracts ending

12/10/2015
S. will be leaving in just a few days. She is going back to Iran, sadly. We are taking her out Saturday night to celebrate (it’s a surprise). E. continues to teach and his students seem really happy with him. He’s mastered Level 1-2 Grammar. I have not seen him teach, but I have a good feeling about him. I didn’t know if he could make it as a teacher, but it’s nice to see someone succeed. His contract goes until April, but he hasn’t mentioned any plans for after. I share two classes with K. and she is a very competent and thorough teacher. Probably the best teacher at our branch. She is getting frustrated with English Time, though she doesn’t say much about it.

Somayah's going away party. Left to right: Foroogh, Somayay, Alex, Edgar (holding mugs of beer), Stephanie, me, Aylin, and Kate.
S’s going away party. I’ve removed names for privacy.

12/12/2015
We surprised S. with a going away party tonight. We told her we were going shopping for avocados so that she could try guacamole. Believe it or not, she didn’t see through this flimsy story. It is a testament to her basic goodness that she thought we were telling her the truth.

Alex, fooling around.
A., fooling around.

A couple stories from fellow teachers and their Adventures in English Grammar!
• Teacher: “Do you like soup?”
• Male Student: “Yes, I like soup.”
• Teacher: “What is your favorite soup?”
• Male Student: “Cock. I like cock.”
(The student meant chicken soup, made from a rooster, but in homophobic Turkey, this is a dangerous response. )

And when another teacher asked a student about marriage customs, one of the female students said, “We give bride nipple.” (She meant the rubber tip from a baby bottle.)

And this one I experienced this week:
The test question was: “What are you doing right now?” The student was supposed to give an answer using Present Continuous. One student answered, “I doing friend at moment.” Oh My! (Please read last line in the voice of George Taki)

12/14/15
The things my students say surprise and sadden me, at times. Today my Level 3 class did a dialogue and answered questions using the conditional, if. The question was, “What would you do if you were invisible?” (Type 2, Unreal). One of my favorite students answered in perfect English, “I would carry bombs to Israel.” I wanted to cry. He said it as though it was the most natural response in the world.

I need to move on.

12/17/2015
Still working more hours than I want, but coping. On my time off, I’m busy applying for jobs. The good news is that Somayah was paid her bonus on her last day as promised. It was paid in Turkish Lira (the contract promises US dollars), but at a fair exchange rate, so that’s acceptable. We were also paid on time and the full amount on the 15th of the month for November. That is only the second time I’ve been paid correctly and on time since I arrived here in February (10 months). Of course, I am still owed 40TL for October and no one seems to remember the money is owed. So that money is gone. It isn’t enough to quit over, but it is just one more thing in a long line of promises that are not kept. Speaking of that, we were promised by the head office we could take time off during Christmas, but the Sirinevler office said that’s not true. We will all be working Christmas day. Ho ho ho.

My current concern is for K. Her contract finishes in late February and she still does not have a residence card or work permit. Without these documents, a person is here illegally (once their tourist visa expires) and working illegally. She had another appointment this week to address the situation, but AGAIN there was a mis-communication. The time and place she was told to come to were wrong. Again. She can be deported, though it isn’t likely. What IS likely is that when she leaves the country in February she will be heavily fined (again) and her passport will be flagged for overstaying her visa a second time. This will certainly make it impossible for her to come back to Turkey EVER and may affect her ability to go to other countries.

In short, at this time I cannot recommend anyone work for English Time, Turkey. I understand that the latest owner wants to sell the branches he owns and I’ve seen groups of business people touring the branch. I assume they are potential buyers. Let’s hope someone better, more interested in education and legal operations will buy these branches.

Christmas is not a holiday that they celebrate in Turkey, so no decorations or Christmas music. This is Hanukkah week and OF COURSE there is nothing for that either. So far, I saw one Christmas tree in Avcilar, but it looked out of place. So, no holiday for me! But the Christmas spirit is inside you, anyway. I have everything I need, so presents aren’t important. I’m trying to arrange a Secret Santa gift exchange, just for fun.

The last day of my contract is February 3. I have a few adventures planned for immediately following.

–First, I will spend a week in Athens. I’ve never been to Greece, so am excited.
–Then I have a week in Edinburgh, Scotland where I will meet up with two friends. One of them went to school there, so can be our tour guide.
–I am arranging a month on a work-for-stay farm for the March. I have a verbal agreement with a place in Portugal where I will be working on some construction projects, including alternative energy for heating and electricity. I hope to learn a lot while I am there, though it will probably be very hard work. I have some back up ideas if it falls through, however.
–Starting the first of April, I will hike The Camino in Spain. I have three friends who have expressed an interest and hope that at least one of them will make it. We will start in Pamplona, hike to Santigo, then go on to Finisterra and walk to the ocean. Basically we will walk the length of Spain, east to west. It’s 500 miles and will take about 6 weeks. This is a path I’ve wanted to take for some time. Actually, there are several paths, but this one is the most popular. It’s an old Christian pilgrim’s path. It was featured in the film, The Way.

So I will need to go back to full time work after all of that! I am applying for jobs and hope to hear something soon. I’ve applied to many places and hope to arrange something soon. Oxford Seminars (my placement agency) says they won’t send out my resume until at least January–they are filling more urgent requests at the moment. They also seem to think I will have difficulty finding a full-time position in May. They say I may have to wait until August or September during the hiring “rush.” And they keep sending me information about volunteer jobs. While I don’t need a lot of money, I do need paid work. I am a tad frustrated.
I wish it were all arranged and I knew where I was going to be in May. It is hard to stay calm, but it is certain that 2016 will be another year of adventure!

Not my circus, not my monkeys

monkeys-310/7/2015
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’ve been really low lately, my lowest point since leaving the US. While I like Istanbul, I find the school I work for a very negative experience. They’ve never had a great curriculum, but the recent issues with getting paid, extra-poor communication, lack of resources (I have a class finishing their second week with no books!) and constant staff changes have made it worse. A couple weeks ago, they started remodeling and it’s a guessing game as to whether or not I’ll be able to print materials or even have lights in my classroom. I got confirmation that the school is just being prettied up to sell. Again. In short, the owner is just trying to make a quick buck, cares nothing for teaching and will do as little as possible for the teachers, students or staff. And the staff members don’t care about doing a good job since the owner doesn’t care.

I can expect nothing. No support. No assistance.

Oddly, this has made me feel better. I know, it sounds crazy, but I do better with information–even bad news. Before, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t even know that the remodeling was occurring or what would be done. Now I know what to expect. Knowledge is comfort, if not power.

And I’m going to try to focus less on the school and more on my experience here. I can’t do the kind of teaching job that I want to do. I don’t have any resources. I’ll do the best I can, but stop pushing for more. As they say in Poland: Not my circus, not my monkeys.

SO! Positive stuff: The weather is lovely here. Temps have dropped and we will soon need some heat at night. I feel much better now that it’s not so hot and humid (yeah, I would have melted in Vietnam). The flat is located very close to the school, so I don’t spend so much time (or money) packed into the Metro like a sardine. These are the best roommates I’ve had since I moved here. Sure, I’d like it if someone else occasionally took out the trash or vacuumed, but at least they don’t leave a mess in the kitchen and are never loud at night. Our newest roommate seems very nice, but we have no language in common. Muhammad speaks Arabic. I don’t. So it good that he is a nice guy since I couldn’t communicate with him. Rashawn is from The States and is very considerate. Monique from Australia is super. It’s a relief not to dread coming home!

I found out I can take up to 10 days off around Christmas. It’s not a school holiday–they simply cancel your classes for those days. No idea what I will do or if I will take the time. Possibilities….

What I’m most excited about is that I will see my dear friend Kathy later this month. She is going on a tour and I will meet her at the end in Belgrade, Serbia. I really miss her. She’s the friend that took me in when I had to get off the Appalachian Trail. She and her amazing neighbor, Julia (who came and got me even though she had never even met me), have been so kind I could never repay them.Considering getting these for my students.

Considering getting these for my students.

Messages from the Consulate:
“Embassy of the United States of America Ankara, Turkey October 1, 2015
Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Maintaining Security Awareness
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara would like to remind U.S. citizens of the importance of maintaining security vigilance and to take appropriate steps to ensure their ongoing security awareness in light of the continued security situation in Turkey.
As mentioned in the Worldwide Caution from July 29, 2015, “The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas… In response to the airstrikes, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world.” Also, terrorist organizations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) have been known to target Turkish Government offices and police stations.

Remodeling is Chaos

An inlet on the Sea of Marmara, near Florya, Istanbul.
An inlet on the Sea of Marmara, near Florya, Istanbul.

9/28/2015
A disappointing return to school today after a nice holiday break. As I feared, the remodeling of Sirinevler, English Time is not complete. Despite promises, I’d venture to say that not a single thing was done during the break. The place is a mess. Cabinets are down. Furniture and equipment are scattered everywhere. This morning most of the lighting and air conditioning didn’t work. The computers weren’t hooked up to the internet or the printer, so I couldn’t print handouts or use the readings I meticulously edited yesterday. I had to move my classroom twice this morning. They were scraping paint in my assigned room. The second room was so hot and stuffy we had to move out—the A/C is shut down (it never worked well anyway) and if we opened a window we couldn’t hear for all the traffic noise. The E-5 is a 10 lane highway just below the window.

The last room had no light, no A/C, but since it faced the other side of the building, we could stand the noise. But then, right outside our classroom, they started sawing ceiling panels and using a nail gun to put them up. My students just abandoned class after that. Just as well. The fine dust from sanding was making us all cough, anyway. Let’s hope that wasn’t lead based paint.
Tonight, 5 new classes are scheduled to begin, but there aren’t enough classrooms for them. (They opened 3 of them, using every room we could get in, which the construction continued.) I can’t believe how disorganized everything is. How can I possibly do a good job in the middle of this? Why didn’t they do this while we were closed for five days?

An inlet on the Sea of Marmara, near Florya, Istanbul.
An inlet on the Sea of Marmara, near Florya, Istanbul.
Sea of Marmara
Sea of Marmara

But there is some good news: Kate was able to get back into the country. No idea how she did it. Naturally, ET won’t reimburse her for the fine she had to pay because THEY didn’t get her a residence card. I’m thrilled she’s here, since she’s scheduled to be the new head teacher. Robert’s last day is Wednesday and he is clearly over it. This is the second week in a row we haven’t gotten a schedule and he’s testy, too. I understand that he has some serious pain in one foot, so that’s part of the issue, but he’s bitten my head off one too many times.
And Kate brought me back a Brita water pitcher with filters! Finally, clean water! I’m speechless.

Later: And now I’m really depressed. When I filled the pitcher for the first time, I realized it has a crack and won’t hold water. Can I just go back to bed?

This is my morning sandwich. I have it 2-3 times a week. It has meat, hard boiled eggs, cheese and veggies. At 3.5TL it's a real deal (that's about $1) and I can pick it up on my way to school.
This is my morning sandwich. I have it 2-3 times a week. It has meat, hard boiled eggs, cheese and veggies. At 3.5TL it’s a real deal (that’s about $1) and I can pick it up on my way to school.
These are the fixings for my breakfast sandwich. The red stuff to the left is a spicy sauce, the black is olive paste, then potato salad. The white stuff in the second row is spreadable cheese.
These are the fixings for my breakfast sandwich. The red stuff to the left is a spicy sauce, the black is olive paste, then potato salad. The white stuff in the second row is spreadable cheese.
And here's my man who fixes it each morning from a rolling cart in front of his store. He speaks a little English and is very kind. That's his whole store behind him. After breakfast, he converts the cart to hold other things for sale. Right now, it's pickled veggies.
And here’s my man who fixes it each morning from a rolling cart in front of his store. He speaks a little English and is very kind. That’s his whole store behind him. After breakfast, he converts the cart to hold other things for sale. Right now, it’s pickled veggies.

9/29/2015
The remodeling has brought me down–my lowest point since arriving in Istanbul. This morning I had to argue why my students needed a classroom with working lights since they were taking an exam on this dark, cloudy day. I try to tell myself that the remodeling is good news in the long run, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re washing drywall dust out of your hair and worried that the paint they are scraping may have lead in it. And all the work seems to be cosmetic, no real improvements. I just want to do a good job and that takes a minimum of support. End of rant <puts away soapbox>

The bright spot in the week is that Kate made it back. No idea how she talked herself back into the country. English Time was supposed to get her a resident permit, but didn’t, so she was fined for overstaying her visa and told never to come back. She’s scheduled to be the new head teacher, but I’m not sure what will happen until it does around here.

9/30/15
Had to change classrooms again this morning. Mine was flooded. No, I have no idea why. At least the new room has light on this dark rainy day. And it’s cooler, so maybe we won’t notice that the A/C doesn’t work. (We did) During the renovation they’ve stopped cleaning and the classrooms are filthy–drywall dust and paint scrapings all over the floor, chairs. I have to shower when I get home each day. Someone finally emptied the trash cans this morning, at least.

My morning Level 3 students took the Reading exam yesterday and the average is 69%. Sad. I am shocked at how little they understand on the exam. But I also had a 98%, so someone is getting it. Most students only come half the time so it’s not surprising. I think 4 hours a day, 5 days a week is too much, except for the most intense learners who have nothing else to focus on. Add in a big holiday in the middle, the beginning of public school/university and the chaos of construction–it’s a recipe for poor performance and absences. It doesn’t help that their teacher is frustrated and can’t print even a simple lesson plan to bring better materials to class.

Borek is a common breakfast pastry. It can be filled with cheese (paynir) or meat (et). This is the place I usually get it from. Most restuarants are very small and have little or no indoor seating, so small, portable tables are outside.
Borek is a common breakfast pastry. It can be filled with cheese (paynir) or meat (et). This is the place I usually get it from. Most restaurants are very small and have little or no indoor seating, so small, portable tables are outside.
Poor photo through a window, but you can see the man slicing borek.
Poor photo through a window, but you can see the man slicing borek.
This is my sliced borek, ready to eat.
This is my sliced borek, ready to eat.

10/1/2015
And after all that, English Time just decided there will be NO head teacher. Kate performed a miracle to get back into Turkey. They arranged a time for her to come to the office and sign her agreement. When she arrived, they’d changed the deal, so she didn’t sign. And now they just pull the rug out from under her.

I work for liars. This is not good.

Holiday break: Feast of the Sacrifice

Stray cats everywhere in Istanbul. These are in the cemetery. As you can see, people set out food and water for them. Notice the date on the grave: 1305!
Stray cats everywhere in Istanbul. These are in the cemetery. As you can see, people set out food and water for them. Notice the date on the grave: 1305!

9/26/2015
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.

I took Stephanie to the Grand Bazaar. That's her in front with the blue shirt. This is one of the the entrances.
I took Stephanie to the Grand Bazaar. That’s her in front with the blue shirt. This is one of the the entrances.

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!

Alex and I took Stephanie and Teresa (new English Time teachers) to the Hagia Sophia. It is getting some much needed attention, so there's lots of scaffolding.
Alex and I took Stephanie and Teresa (new English Time teachers) to the Hagia Sophia. It is getting some much needed attention, so there’s lots of scaffolding.

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.

From the fourth story window of the English Time school in Avcilar. It's a nice shopping area.
From the fourth story window of the English Time school in Avcilar. It’s a nice shopping area.
This is looking down into the pedestrian mall of Avcilar. This is from the fourth story window of the English Time school. I love street performers.
This is looking down into the pedestrian mall of Avcilar. This is from the fourth story window of the English Time school. I love street performers.

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.

Kumpir is my new comfort food in Istanbul. This guy makes them about a block from my apartment. He speaks fair English, too. Kumpir is a stuffed baked potato.
Kumpir is my new comfort food in Istanbul. This guy makes them about a block from my apartment. He speaks fair English, too. Kumpir is a stuffed baked potato.
These are some of the toppings. Naturally, I like everything, so have them all added.
These are some of the toppings. Naturally, I like everything, so have them all added.
This is the final result--and over stuffed baked potato. It's yummy, and more than a meal.
This is the final result: an over-stuffed baked potato. It’s yummy, and more than a meal.

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.

Avcilar MetroBus taken from the pedestrian bridge.
Avcilar MetroBus taken from the pedestrian bridge.
You see lots of begging, particularly in the Metro areas. The sign translates as "helpless." And it's hard to know who is and who isn't. Usually, the children fan out and beg separately. They also run wild and unsupervised on the buses, since they can ride for free. Avcilar MetroBus pedestrian bridge.
You see lots of begging, particularly in the Metro areas. The sign translates as “helpless.” And it’s hard to know who is and who isn’t. Usually, the children fan out and beg separately. They also run wild and unsupervised on the buses, since they can ride for free. Avcilar MetroBus pedestrian bridge.
The E5, taken as dusk from the Avcilar MetroBus pedestrian bridge.
The E5, taken as dusk from the Avcilar MetroBus pedestrian bridge.
The entrance to the Avcilar shopping area has a statue of Ataturk.
The entrance to the Avcilar shopping area has a statue of Ataturk.