Viruses, scary answers and blue hair

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Istanbul University's grand entrance, as seen from the court yard of the Bayezid II Mosque.
Istanbul University’s grand entrance, as seen from the court yard of the Bayezid II Mosque.

3/22/15 Trying to get over a killer virus. The same one that’s going around school. Everyone has it. And it seems like about 3 weeks into any new country, I’m going to succumb to some bug. It’s no wonder, since I’m sure my immune system is bombarded with lots of new bacteria, viruses and the like. My theory is that by the time I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ll either have a super human immune system. Or something with kill me. One of those options.

Part of my job as an English teacher is to get my students talking. I play a game called “What If.” I have lots of “what if” questions that they draw from an envelope. It’s a great way to practice talking in English and (usually) we all get to laugh. This week I got the sweetest answer ever. The young man drew the question, “What if you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead. Who would it be?” He answered that he would have dinner with his girlfriend. When I asked “why” he said, “Because I don’t have girlfriend. I want to meet girlfriend!” Awwwwww!

And sometimes you get scary answers, too. Scary answers that don’t make any sense. One young man in the same class got the question, “What if you could commit any crime and get away with it. What would you do?” He answered that he first wanted to run barefoot for 20km. He would run as fast as he could in the dark along the highway. He said that he would be tired and that his feet would bleed. Then he would find his enemy and cut his throat with a knife. There was no mistaking his meaning. He demonstrated the action of cutting the throat. Twice.  Then he fell silent, along with the rest of the room, as he seemed to be picturing it in his mond. Trying not to react, I asked, after a pregnant pause, if he had an enemy. “No.” he said. Then smiled broadly, as if this was obviously the perfect answer.

The young man is not Turkish. He’s Iranian and his family left there a few years ago. They are now refuges. I find I get very odd answers from Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian refuge students. I imagine this is an aspect of war, dictatorship and oppression that we don’t think about. Eeeek.

The Bayezid II Mosque (Turkish: Beyazıt Camii, Bayezid Camii) is an Ottoman imperial mosque located in the Beyazıt Square area of Istanbul, Turkey, near the ruins of the Forum of Theodosius of ancient Constantinople. Though the square is still there, little remains of the forum. It's believed that it is constructed from former buildings on the site. As with many old buildings, there is constant re-construction.
The Bayezid II Mosque (Turkish: Beyazıt Camii, Bayezid Camii) is an Ottoman imperial mosque located in the Beyazıt Square area of Istanbul, Turkey, near the ruins of the Forum of Theodosius of ancient Constantinople. Though the square is still there, little remains of the forum. It’s believed that it is constructed from former buildings on the site. As with many old buildings, there is constant re-construction.

3/23/15

The virus isn’t gone, but I’m getting better. I had enough energy today to finish moving into my new apartment, do a second load of laundry, make a list of things I need to organize the room,  buy most of the items AND I still had time to do my lesson plan, answer some emails, get updated on social media, shower and wash my hair.  Then I had PIE for a late lunch. (it totally rocks to have a roommate who is a baker!) And that’s about the time I realized I had gotten ink in my freshly washed hair. Yeah. No idea how it got there. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t see where it came from. Other than on my hands, I can find no other ink staining anything. And now there’s no time to re-wash my hair and get it dry in time for school (I don’t own a blow dryer). SO I’m going to pretend it’s intentional. Think I can pull this off as a fashion statement? I found a scarf with the same shade of blue…..maybe a hat? (I the end, my students thought it was great! Even some of the younger teachers commented how great it looked. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was a huge mistake.)

The interior of the mosque is patterned after the Hagia Sophia on a smaller scale. It was built shortly after the Ottoman conquest (1453). The surrounding külliye complex (madrasah, primary school, imaret (public kitchen) and hammam), date from 1501 to 1506.
The interior of the mosque is patterned after the Hagia Sophia on a smaller scale. It was built shortly after the Ottoman conquest (1453). The surrounding külliye complex (madrasah, primary school, imaret (public kitchen) and hammam), date from 1501 to 1506.
There is constant construction going on in this city--much of it reconstruction to save ancient buildings.
There is constant construction going on in this city–much of it reconstruction to save ancient buildings.

3/26/15

I got a chance to talk to one of my new roommates, Trudy, yesterday. We are of similar age and sounds like our backgrounds have much in common as well. I really hope to spend a lot of time with her in future.  Anyway, she is also teaching at English Time at a branch that is very nearby, Avjular. Seems like it is a small branch, with mostly weekend classes. And that’s where she met Edgar, one of the new teachers who started a day earlier than I did. Edgar is a “piece of work” and really difficult to love. He’s been a bit “handy” with me. I put on my “mommy is angry” voice and told him I was old enough to be his mother and I was NOT interested in his advances. He’s barely spoken to me since. Fortunately.  Edgar is a very proud Mexican American. Nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, BUT he was hired as a native English speaker to teach English. The only language he wants to use is Spanish. I’m not convinced that English is really his first language—his speaking is very poor. He has awful grammar and worse pronunciation. I’d guess his writing is even worse than that. So, under the best of circumstances, he’s going to have difficulty teaching grammar to others, even modeling good grammar to others. But he is constantly speaking Spanish. AND he has been caught teaching his students Spanish, as well. Robert (the head teacher at Sirineviler) has warned him.

But Trudy didn’t know all this. She was just trying to teach her speaking activity—a one hour class of open speaking for any student who came by to talk. Edgar had already been too familiar with her (maybe he has a thing for older women?) and suggested that they could be “an item”—which she shot down immediately. But then he came into her activity class and took over. First he told the students that they needed to learn Spanish, NOT English. Then he suggested that Arabic and Chinese (Chinese is NOT a language) were also more important than English. He spoke too fast for these beginner level students, popped his gum constantly and began explaining that they needed Spanish so that they could party in Mexico and dance with chicas. Trudy got him out of the classroom, but her activity was ruined. She reported it to the head teacher at that branch and to Richard, the Istanbul HR manager. Today, I told Richard about the conversation. I don’t know what the other branch will do, but Richard has already talked to Edgar and told him that he should consider himself on final warning. The school has decided that he is on his own for finding a place to live—I assume that means they believe he will wash out.  At least I hope so.

I have looked and can’t seem to find a Swiffer–or anything quite like it. But at least they have vacuum cleaners in Turkey, unlike Vietnam. I can use the one in the apartment. The place is “fairly” well furnished, but missing a few items. Too many renters means that most of the glasses have seen better days–chips and cracks or broken and thrown away. I bought a mug just for my use and a couple of ceramic frying pans that were on sale. I plan to use them and leave them here.

But the apartment is roomy, light and I have a very large private bedroom. I really like all my roommates. It’s like having ready, made friends. Everyone is quiet, respectful and good sense of humor. I seldome have to clean up after anyone. I feel so lucky to have wandered into a good crowd. AND there’s a housekeeper who comes in every other week to do the big stuff. Yeah!

This is the entry way of the Bayezid II Mosque. Artwork abounds in these lovely old buildings--but the art is mostly flowers and Arabic or Persian script. Islam does not allow pictures (icons) of saints or gods.
This is the entry way of the Bayezid II Mosque. Artwork abounds in these lovely old buildings–but the art is mostly flowers and Arabic or Persian script. Islam does not allow pictures (icons) of saints or gods.

Work Schedule: Right now, I’m working M-F evening (3 hours each night), plus some one hour activity classes twice a week. I also have a 4 hour Sunday class and a floating 2 hour private lesson (most weeks). As time progresses I’ll probably end up teaching full days on the weekend (8 hours each day) and take two days off through the week. Looks like a more solid schedule, that’s easier to maintain.  The students are young adults, mainly. Most are going to university or are working fulltime. They take the English Time courses to meet a college requirement or for their job. The classes are very intense and focus heavily on grammar. I’m glad that I’ve started with two Level one classes (there are 6 levels) so that I can brush up on grammar as I teach!  I know almost nothing about holidays here–suspect Christmas and Easter are barely even mentioned but Ramadan (called Ramazan, here) is bound to be big. I am told that the class schedule in the summer is really light, so I might have a bit of time off.  Or not. Anyway, everything here is soooooo much better than the situation in Vietnam. Bien Hoa seems like a bad dream. Glad I could go there but very glad to be gone.

It's Spring! These iris will bloom soon!
It’s Spring! These iris will bloom soon! These were taken in a small, but well kept cemetery in the heart of the Grand Bazaar district.

I’m told that Istanbul gets snow once a year. It was the week before I came, so I fortunately missed out. Spring is in full force here–flowers beginning to bloom and leaves appearing on trees. Atlanta will be much the same right now.

No plans for where I will go next, but I’ve got a lead on a job in St. Petersburg, Russia (brrrrr!) and the school I’m at now (English Time) has already told me I can sign another contract and stay in Istanbul or I could move to another location in Turkey. Antalya is a Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast–an old Roman city with the original seaport, city wall and aqueduct.  It’s a thought!

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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

4 thoughts on “Viruses, scary answers and blue hair”

  1. Seems I need to go back & catch up on what happened in Vietnam! I’m sorry it ended up being a bad experience!
    Looks beautiful where you are now! So good to see you having all these incredible experiences!

    1. I didn’t write a lot about the issues I had in Vietnam. It wasn’t the country–the people are lovely and the food was good (though I probably won’t need to see another noodle soup for a few months). It came down to three things: 1). The owner of the school (an American) simply could not be trusted. I lost track of all the lies he told. 2). The school was never going to apply for a work visa (another whole set of lies), and I didn’t want to be an illegal worker any longer and 3). I was sick all the time in Vietnam. Some of it was stress (from a dysfunctional workplace where I was constantly scheduled 7 days a week), exacerbated by heat. I may also be allergic to something there or possibly was reacting a chemical left behind in the “American” War. For my mental and physical health, I needed to leave. I had a standing offer here in Istanbul and jumped at it.

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