Wednesday, November 23, 2011

National Teacher's Day

The 24th of November is National Teacher's Day in Turkey. Now I'm going to be is not even a close 2nd to Thanksgiving and being with family, but for a teacher appreciation day, this is turning out to be a great celebration. This evening the parent board of the school(I think) provided a lovely evening for teachers and their families.

Following a delicious meal, we were treated to a great concert of traditional Turkish folk music. I could tell these were talented, professional musicians playing instruments that were both familiar and unfamiliar to me. My favorite were the percussionists. The man playing the bass drum who used an L-shaped paddle on one side and what looked like a conductor's baton on the other. At one point he put the drum strap in his mouth and twirled in circles while beating the drum. I don't know what kept him from getting dizzy and falling off the stage but he was sure a crowd pleaser.

The three other percussionists used different size hand drums. They beat with all of their fingers and the palms of their hands to achieve many different sounds and rhythms. Much of the music is played in different time signatures like 5/4, 7/8 or 10/8. With my Western 4/4 0r 3/4 musical background I have a very difficult time tapping to the beat.

Another instrumentalist included a wood wind player. He had four different sized instruments two of which used double reeds like an oboe. One man played what looked like a lap harp or auto harp and he used four fingers each holding metal picks. He tuned the pegs with a wrench similar to a harp or piano. One man played a balgama (looks like a 4-stringed guitar with a deeper, more rounded body) and one man played an electric violin. The vocalist used his voice in ways that drew lots of applause from the men in the audience. I think he vibrated his voice over 1/2 or 1/4 tones, tones I can't even sing because I'm so used to do re me...

Of final interest to me was the enthusiasm by the audience. The male teachers and staff all sat in the back of the auditorium and danced, cheered, and cat-called for special songs. They were like groupies at a rock concert. Of course, the audience enthusiasm fed the performers who reciprocated by pulling out the stops and putting on a great show. Sweat was pouring through the audience members' shirts and they kept calling for more encores. I've never before seen a group of men dancing and singing and having this much uninhibited alcohol-free fun.

This was a great evening and a great way to temporarily forget that I'm not with my family eating turkey...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Feasting on Films

I had the luxury of watching five movies this weekend. Having both the gift of time and an interesting way to spend it was like savoring rich chocolate and sipping a delicious red wine. I started my treat yesterday with the most recent "Jane Eyre." Having missed it when it was released in the States, I was thrilled to be able to see it on the big screen. Jane Eyre was one of my favorite books in junior high and seeing it again as an adult made me realize how strongly I was influenced by Jane's character and independence. I just wish I had her vocabulary with which to express myself. I then watched "Paris, Texas", a 1984 Sam Shepherd movie. I guess I was too busy getting married to have seen or remembered this when it first came out but it was a good film. The scorched brown earth of Texas and the wide main street littered with tumbleweeds made me feel like I was almost home.

Today was my tour of Europe and exposure to all the languages I know. I started with "Lisbon", a German film set in Portugal, spoken in German, Portuguese, and English, and subtitled in English and Turkish. This was a good "friendship" story where one friend had the courage and love to tell the other to get off his duff and get to work.

My second and favorite film of the day was "The Women on the 6th Floor" a French film set in modern day Paris and Spain spoken in French and Spanish with French, English, and Turkish subtitles. The reason I'm mentioning the languages is because I was using English, German, and French to add to my Turkish vocabulary. It was weird what was happening in my brain. The thing that was really interesting was when I started noticing when the person running the subtitles (yes, a person sits at a laptop attached to a projector pointed at the bottom of the big screen and tabs through Power Point slides of translations) was not in sync with the movie. Even more interesting to me was when my brain did not agree with the English translation. I know it takes a lot to be a translator, but in some cases, I think I could have done a better job today.

The last film of the day was "The Mosque." I had heard about this film and the basic plot was kind of interesting...a film maker had erected a movie set that included a mosque on private land in Morocco. During the making of this movie the local residents had started praying at the fake mosque so the land owner was not allowed to demolish the fake mosque nor could he go back to farming his land to support his family. The problem with the film was that there was no ending and left me just going "huh" at the end.

Although the day was really great, the highlight for me was hearing native English spoken in the lobby of the theater after the third movie. As a matter of fact, the sound of English voices and their blond hair attracted me enough to go say "hi" and "where are you from?" It turns out they were the jury for the film festival and had come from all over: LA, Toronto, the UK, France, German and Spain. (I need a job like this!) They asked me which films I'd seen and I was "spot on" in liking "The Women ..." and in my confusion of "The Mosque." They encouraged me to see "The Finger" and "Le Havre" which I can just make this week, if I head to the cinema directly from school.

Although I may never again have the opportunity to watch this many movies in one weekend, I'm glad I was able to enjoy the feast here in Malatya.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday night TV

So, it's Friday night and I'm watching my first TV detective program here in Turkey. The simple act of watching TV in a different language takes a lot of concentration and I'm really not picking up more than a few words and phrases, but thank goodness for the visuals. I know the good guys from the bad guys based on the following observations. The bad men drink alcoholic beverages which are fuzzied out kind of like we bleep out the bad language on the radio. The bad girl wears a skimpy, spaghetti strapped shirt and sleeps at the bad guy's house. The good girl wears a dress, serves her boyfriend tea, and rejects all of his advances for a kiss.The female detectives are blond from a box and serve the male detectives tea at every meeting. Car chases result in immediate gun fire or immediate arrest when the bad guy leaps from the Miranda rights read here....
flip to new channel...I found a local Malatya station with the words 2. Malatya International Film Festival, 18-24 November, 2011, printed on a screen behind a speaker wearing a black off the shoulder evening gown. (The gown attracted my attention because it's more revealing that most everything I see here. The English also attracted my attention and I kept rereading the words Malatya because I couldn't believe it.) Because I don't have a calendar and have completely lost track of days, I pulled out my phone and discovered that today is Nov. 18th and this program was being taped live. A quick search on the internet yielded positive results. I found the festival and the schedule of movies. Guess what I'm doing this weekend?! Watching movies!!!! Jane Eyre, Paris Texas, Istanbul Remember Me, and Lisbon Story to name a few. I wonder what else I've been missing without a tv?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taking out the Trash

When I moved into my apartment, I was told (or rather shown) to place my bags of trash on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building. In late summer especially it was kind of gross because the stray cats and dogs in the neighborhood were pretty good at sniffing out the chicken bones and fish skins so broken bags and garbage were strewn across the sidewalk. (With a dumpster, at least, the stray animals eat their meals inside the container and keep the streets clean.)

Luckily, at some time during the day, a man pushing a hand cart stops by our trash pile and picks up the bags of trash. There is even a short window of time when the sidewalk is trash free. (Where the trash goes after the man on with the push cart, I still don't know.) Anyway, all was fine and good until about two weeks ago when my neighbor Azzet saw me placing my bag of trash on the sidewalk and she waved her arm and clucked "Yok, yok!" and then proceeded to make me pick up my bag of trash and move it to a place behind the apartment gate so as not to be seen from the sidewalk. I obliged with a smile and thought that behind the gate was actually a better place to put the trash...It's out of sight for the pedestrians.

Fast forward to this morning when, as usual, I placed my trash behind the gate and heard a "Yok, yok!" plus a string of what sounded like Turkish expletives directed at me. An angry man's finger was pointing at my trash bag and then at me and indicating that my trash needed to be moved to the sidewalk. He wouldn't stop yelling until I did as I was told.

Well, either I'm in the middle of some type of apartment dwellers' argument about where trash bags should be placed, or there are unwritten rules about trash bags, times, and placements. (For example, if morning..on sidewalk...if night...behind gate...)In any event, I was not in the mood for this type of early morning berating. So, in my best angry Turkish voice I tried to convey my displeasure at the tone of his voice and the confusing unwritten rules about trash bags. Here are the 4 words I was able to say "Azzet ve sen.... anlamadin" (Azzet and you...I don't understand.) Yep...I don't think my message was clear at all. But it sure felt good to say in my angry voice...

What I really want to know is why the apartments one street behind have a dumpster. Then I wouldn't need to learn more vocabulary for this silly conversation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to make çig᷃kofte. (pronounced chikofta, I think)

1. Take 2 lbs of hamburger.

2. Grate 3 onions and kneed into the hamburger mixture.

3. Add 1 lb (or more) bulgur and knead into the meat.

4. Add oil until it feels right.

5. Add 1 cup of red chili paste and pomegranate sauce. Knead

6. Add 1 cup of mixed spices and 1 cup of black pepper and lots of salt. (They like salt here and buy it like we buy sugar)

7. Grate and add 10 cloves of garlic and 2 tomatoes.

8. Knead together.

9. Wipe the sweat off your brow. This is hard work.. almost 2 hours of kneading at this point.

9. Quarter one lemon and knead into the mixture.

10. Roll mixture into little cigars.

11. Pray that the onion juice and the lemon juice cooked the hamburger. Hopefully this is not my last blog entry.

Luncheon for Teachers

Yesterday, the wife of the owner of our school invited the teachers for lunch. All I knew was that the lunch started at either 1 or 1:30 and that she lived far away from the center of town and that someone would try to get me a ride.

At about 11:00 a.m. I got a call from my friend Seda who apologized that she couldn't get me a ride. I replied that it was no problem. I just needed a phone number or an address and I would either take a taxi or ride my bike. The key word here is "address." You see, I don't think they function with addresses here, only landmarks. So my independent thinking just didn't register. Seda wouldn't hear of it and said she would call me back.

A few minutes later she called again and said I could meet a different friend, Aysegul, at the bus transit center in the center of town and we could ride the bus together. Well, I arrived at the center of town at 12:50 to a mob of Saturday shoppers and students who were all waiting to catch buses home. It was a zoo of people all wearing black coats and scarves so they all looked alike, except me of course who kept getting approached by beggars and obnoxious teenage boys saying "hello and what's your name?" and then laughing because they can't say anymore than that . It took 20 minutes to find Aysegul. Between her little English and my little Turkish, we finally were able to find each other.

For the next 20 minutes I held her arm while she dragged me through the crowd going from bus to bus asking the driver where he was going. Did I mention it was freezing cold outside? In the meantime, we ran into two additional teachers so now there were four of us. Because all the buses were packed to overflowing, and because we were not finding a bus heading in the right direction, and because a car had just run into the side of a bus and been dragged 100 yards and was blocking the only road through the center of town, and because there were four of us, I suggested we split a taxi ride. (I even said this in Turkish and I was pretty proud of my suggestion and Turkish.) One even said, that's a good idea. But group decision making takes time, so in the meantime, we just kept walking through the crowds stopping at each bus asking for directions. We even lost one of our colleagues. Later, I discovered that she had actually jumped on a bus. Long story short, we did not ride a taxi, and we did eventually find a bus, which by the way was a long way from the house of the lunch, and we did eventually arrive about 45 minutes late or 15 minutes late (I never was exactly sure of the start time for the lunch).

As soon as we walked in and sat down, everyone jumped up, headed straight to the food, and started gobbling down whatever was closest to them...not even bothering to pass until about about 20 bites had been consumed to fill the void in those hungry tummies. Once the immediate hunger was filled, we were able to enjoy the rest of the dishes: kofte (grape leaves stuffed with rice and bulger), manti (Turkish meat raviolli with yogurt sauce), sauted vegetables, potato salad, spicy red chili sauce and garlic on bread, Turkish pancake (more like a quiche) and chai. The table was set with china dishes and sterling silver utensils. I should mention that the main course is eaten with a fork and a table spoon and they use the table spoon like a knife. Then dessert was served on a small plate. Each person got four desserts; one chocolate thing, one baklava, one thing that had stringed sugar that looks like coconut, and one cheesy thing rolled in powdered sugar. Dessert is eaten with a knife and a small fork. Sweet is an understatement.

I'm sure the owner's wife had been cooking for two days and we inhaled everything in about 20 minutes. The rest of the luncheon was spent listening to a women give a talk on the Koran. Here were the four points of the talk according to my translator: 1) don't gossip 2) wives should respect husbands and husbands should respect wives 3) love God 4) pray. The only things I understood on my own were "Allah" and the fact that I was getting very sleepy from the food and the effort required to listen and look attentive.

On a side note, the apartment was exactly where I thought it might be in the newer, very nice part of town. I actually ride my bike there every weekend and could have been at the apartment in 20 minutes versus the almost 1 1/2 hours it took via bus, etc. I am 100% sure I could have found the place on my own with either an apartment building name or a phone number. Yes, this sounds like bragging, but I'm really trying to illustrate the fact that not only do many people not leave this town, many don't ever leave their neighborhoods.

On a second side note, no one told me to bring my rhinestone studded stilettos. The shoe thing still confounds me. I know to remove my shoes before entering someone's house. And, at a colleague's suggestion, I bought five pairs of slippers to supply to friends visiting my house. So, I figured that this house would have slippers for me, as well. Well, now I know that for "fancy" events, I should carry the type of shoes in shopping bag that, in America, we would wear for dancing at a nightclub or for the annual Christmas party, and slip them on when entering the luncheon. Luckily, I did wear my Ann Taylor tailored skirt but it doesn't give quite the same effect in stocking feet (thank goodness I wore the pair with no holes!) But, I will need to shop for stilettos...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Appreciating What I've Got

I've been noticing that many of my Facebook friends have been making daily posts of things for which they are thankful. I don't know if they are keeping some kind of gratitude journal like Oprah several years ago, or if it is another type of gratitude challenge but their posts have inspired me to do the same with my blog. As a matter of fact, I've been reminded of the words Cher used to sing, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone.." And, spending time in Abu Dhabi with Eric made me grateful for many of the small things that have been missing for the past few months. Here is my abridged list:

Speaking hours of idiomatic English with lots of phrasal verbs to Eric and not having to explain myself.

Eating French butter made with cream, not yogurt

Eating whole grain bread

Eating toasted whole grain bread

Wearing shorts

Drinking brewed coffee

Drinking wine and beer

Being a passenger in a car where I am not the only one wearing a seat belt.

Stopping for pedestrians in a crosswalk

Sleeping in a king- sized bed with luxurious cotton sheets

Showering without seeing holes in the tiles stuffed with trash bags

Playing tennis with Eric and winning

Adidas stores (They are amazing over here!)

Riding the Dubai metro and seeing three mega malls in one day..

Going to movies

Taking naps at the beach.

Listening to piano music in hotel lounges

Above all, I'm grateful that Eric encouraged me to accept a job overseas because, even though it's easy to dwell on the things that I miss, our lives have been enriched by this experience.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hot peppers for lunch

Yesterday's school lunch reminded me of one difference between American and Turkish children... the tolerance for hot peppers. Let me first describe yesterday's fairly typical meal. The main course was doner (chicken roasted on a spit and then sliced into bit-sized pieces), rice pilaf, mixed green salad, and ayran (yogurt drink). The condiment was little yellow hot peppers. It was my day to sit with the second grade and not only was I busy refilling water cups, I was running to the serving line every few minutes for more hot peppers. Granted, the addition of the hot pepper made the chicken much more flavorful, but it also set my tongue on fire. And here these children were eating the peppers like they were candy! I thought to myself that it must be a dare by the boys, but it wasn't everyone was enjoying the little hot peppers. I can't remember a time when I saw my American students eating lots of hot peppers.

Then I started thinking about the fact that I'm really happy I get lunch everyday because it's definitely my best and healthiest meal. And, I'm glad I now enjoy the little hot peppers. And, I thought about how little complaining about food I see from children and how willingly they eat everyday what is served: spinach, grilled eggplant, baked fish, tons of tomatoes, roasted peppers, etc. So, thank goodness for hot peppers!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Letter to a computer program

Dear Google Chrome,

I know you think you were doing some nice consumer upgrades by changing your look and adding some new features. But today, I was just not in the mood to try and figure out something "new" . You see, I'd just spent the day trying to learn how to use a "smart board" simultaneously while teaching classes of rambunctious 4th and 2nd graders.

I know that, in most cases, having a "smart board" is a real asset and lots of fun! (This smart board replaced everything in the chalk white document I needed to learn it quickly!) I would agree that this piece of equipment is going to be great when I get a chance to practice. However, because we teachers arrive at school often after the students in the morning and because we leave at the same time, I do not have the opportunity to learn without interruption. To compound this problem, the computer commands including the program "Aspire" are all in Turkish (not to mention the Turkish keyboard) and the computer is not connected to the internet where I could get some quick translation help. So, classroom management, computer tutorial, and Turkish translation were all occurring simultaneously today while learning a new electronic presentation device. Fortunately, I did manage to open a clean white frame, change the marker to a really pretty peaceful blue color, and use an eraser.. I was pretty proud of myself for this...but I didn't get past this first step and could not figure out how to combine slides or save.

So you see, Google Chrome, this day sapped me all of my brainpower. I just wanted to come home after school and relax by checking my emails and Facebook messages and reading some newspapers on You, my centralized Google Chrome home page. But, no....You made me work through another computer tutorial and sort through a bunch of games that I'll never play. I just wanted to let you know about my displeasure.


Not game for Google change.

PS. Things could have been could have been in Turkish.