Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sunshine, Sights, and Spring

It's my birthday weekend and I'm celebrating in Izmir. I didn't really have any plans but thanks to free wi-fi at lunch(another thing I can't find much of in Malatya) I was able to map some routes, explore movie times, find the metro, etc. I'm a fan of walking along water and climbing hills for views so I was able to make a route that included both. Here are some things that caught my attention:

* My first spring flowers.

* Men selling battery operated shavers and hair clippers on the sidewalk.

* Men buzzing each
others heads in the park with those hair clippers. (The man bent over in the picture is buzzing the man on the grass.)

* Women and children selling bird seed for people to feed the pigeons and bird seed crunching under my feet because the birds are not hungry.

* Teenage boys climbing the ancient ruins above Izmir to fly their kites.
* Little boys finding trash bags and
bits of broken kite string to make and fly their own kites
* Play grounds, cell phone towers, picnickers, goats, and carpet weavers all located on and around the ruins of the Roman cisterns and castle at the top of the Izmir hill. (Just imagine inviting AT&T to build a cell tower, 2,000 friends to a picnic, and a bunch of middle school boys to a kite fighting competition at Mesa Verde National Park.)

* Couples talking together and enjoying each other's company...(I know I've been in Malatya too long when it seems strange to see this)

It's been therapeutic, to say the least, to be in a more "western culture."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Self Invite

It was 5:15 pm and I was standing in my doorway balancing my bicycle in one hand and trying to shut my apartment door with the other when my phone rang. Here is the conversation:
Her: Merhaba Penny. My daughter and I will come to your house tonight.
Me looking back at the dirty dishes piled in the sink, the stacks of paper on my tables, the lack of food in the house: What time?
Her: I don't understand.
Me: Ne saat( what time)?
Her: 7 or 8
Me: OK ($&@!.)
Her: We don't need dinner.
Me to myself: Thank God because it never even occurred to me to ask and I certainly couldn't cook it because I can't even cook for myself.
Me to her: OK see you.
Her: Gule Gule.
I rolled my bicycle back into my apartment, quickly washed the dishes, grabbed the piles of papers and stuffed them in my bedroom, and headed back out the door to run the errands I'd originally planned: printer ribbon, some food for dinner, and now some baklava to go with the copious amounts of tea they would drink.
I returned home at 6:45 and decided to cook dinner hoping they were leaning more towards an 8 pm arrival.
At 7:15 they called and asked me to buzz them in. I swallowed the last bite of salmon, started the water for tea, put on my slippers and located a few extra pairs of slippers. The kitchen was still a mess.
We exchanged our Turkish hugs and kisses and I ushered them into the living room where she presented me with some homemade chocolate cake, (my first in Turkey) and a beautiful hand painted scarf. I still don't understand the last minute self invitation but it did turn out to be a fun evening. Plus the cake and scarf were nice added bonuses....

Monday, March 26, 2012

Making a Difference - Part 2

I host an adult conversation club on Monday evenings at the local coffee shop. It's a small group but the conversation is lively and I always learn a great deal about Turkey. Tonight, for example, we discussed the education bill proposed in the Turkish parliament to raise the compulsory age for school attendance from 8th to 12th grade. The bill also contains a component to allow home-schooling students with disabilities or girls from conservative families who may want to keep them home after puberty. I'll save further discussion for a future blog.

But, my reason for writing is that I was also thrilled to learn tonight from one of the attendees that he feels this conversation group is making his academic writing much easier and faster. Keep in mind these graduate students and professors must submit most of their writing in English. It must be pride or vanity, but I'm happy to think that I'm making a tiny difference one little step at a time.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

150 km for Fresh Fish

There are two bike groups here in town. One group is generally younger and has fewer smokers. The other group is a mixture of ages but generally makes more tea, smoke and potty stops. Yesterday I joined the younger group because they were headed to Surgu, a place I'd heard mentioned for it's delicious fresh fish restaurant. I have to admit the idea of 150km round trip in one day gave me nightmares. But the idea of an adventure plus fresh fish was enough to
make my not bow out.
(rooster welcomes us a the first tea stop)

Let me stress by saying this was not an easy ride. It was all Turkish highway. That means we had a shoulder which is good, but we also had tons of tractor trailers each equipped with their own specially installed horns honking at us the entire trip. Theses were honks of
"hello" and some of the tones made me laugh, but they do detract from the natural beauty and serenity of the Taurus (I think) mountains. We had donkey carts filled to the brim with manure on the way to fertilize the "world famous" Malatya apricots on this warm and sunny day. We had about 45 km uphill going to the restaurant with a climb in elevation of about 500 m. We had a big tea stop at kilometer 27 and then no trees, gas stations, gulleys, rock outcroppings, or hiding places for the next 44. (The young, fast boys chose this as our second stop. Notice the lack of bathrooms.There were several houses and lots of people staring at us.)

When we arrived at Surgu (kilometer 71) my heart sank when I saw the shack( a.k.a fish restaurant) on the side of the road. I forced a big smile and prayed that I wouldn't get sick after eating. I found the WC
behind the kitchen and things began to look up. Even though it was aTurkish toilet, I was thrilled to see that it was very clean and there was a sink with running water, soap and paper towels. I joined my fellow bikers who were now basking in the sun and enjoying the 360 degree view of the snow capped mountains and tractor trailers parked in front of the restaurant. It was almost like sitting at the top of Telluride on a great spring skiing day only instead of sipping a beer we were sipping more tea. It was another "pinch myself, I can't believe I'm here in Turkey" moment.

After all 13 bikers arrived, the wife and son of the family set the table for us.The table was lovely. I was impressed by the little touches she made to make this a special meal.
glasses, plates and serving dishes all showed
evidence that this family put a lot of pride in their business. Thoughts of my mom's words, "It's all in the presentation" flashed through my head. A few minutes later the delicious food arrived: fresh greens, mixed salad, hot pita, fresh lemons, homemade relish tray, and steaming hot, fresh grilled fish. In typical Turkish style we ate (more like inhaled) the meal in silence. When the plates were cleared and the next pot of tea and fresh fruit were served the conversation resumed.

After paying our 7tl (about $4) for the meal, we rode home energized by the food and grateful that it was mostly downhill. (Family business owners)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Making a Difference?

Sometimes I really wonder if I'm making a difference here. I speak tons of English but in short, clipped sentences. Everyday at lunch I try to engage at least one new student in a conversation although those who I find at this late stage in the year are not the confident speakers of the first semester and often freeze at my tiniest attempt to speak English. My goal is to get everyone (teachers and students alike) to relax with the simple questions so they can move on to more interesting topics. Sometimes it works and they speak, and sometimes I think they've slept through the 10 hours/week of English they have had for the past 5 years. I can't even get them to tell me their name.

Here are some pictures and examples class activities to encourage English speaking:

I read Brown Bear Brown Bear to the second grade classes and made masks for the students to act out the story. I knew they understood when I could substitute a child's name for an animal and put only one child in a mask and they could respond. Ex: Furkan, Furkan, what do you see? I see a blue horse looking at me.

I made a conversation game to practice adverbs of frequency (always, sometimes, never). Planning this game ended up being a lucky fluke because one teacher left early and I had to take her class as well. It would have been almost impossible to teach this large group, but the game worked pretty well. I say "pretty well" because the boys only wrestled and climbed on the desks for half the class period instead of the entire time.

These three girls are not my students but they initiated a conversation with me at lunch recess. There are a handful of these "confi
dent" speakers in every grade. Next week I will start a club for confident 7th grade students and we will use the Voice of America Special English pod casts and videos to learn some current events around the world. I wish I could do more world conversation as I think there is a real need for knowledge about things outside of Turkey. For example, a 24 year old friend asked me if I'd ever heard of Afghanistan and if I knew where it is. She was curious because she had seen on the news where a Turkish Air Force helicopter had crashed there. I hope I can help the students understand more English and more about the world.

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of today's lunch/recess volleyball game. A 7th grade girl invited me to join the girls and some male middle school teachers. I should mention that the men substitute in and out when their cell phone rings and/or to sip their tea or hold each other's tea glass. And, like typical male teachers, they were really putting on a show for the girls. But they were also letting the girls serve from about 5 feet behind the net so the girls could feel successful, too. It was a beautiful day and fun to get out of the cafeteria and play.

Back to my self I making a difference? Well, in the fall, students couldn't have asked me to play volleyball speaking English. They couldn't have struck up a conversation about the beautiful sunny day. They wouldn't have understood directions for standing in a line and acting out a play. So maybe I've helped a tiny bit?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let's Start Monday with a Film

Upon arrival at school on Monday I was greeted with the glorious words, "You don't have to teach 2A. You can just accompany them to the Cinema (pronounced jinema) Salon and watch a film." I tried to keep from dancing across the playground, but I was seriously ecstatic. What a great start to the week!!!

March 18th is a significant starting date in what we call the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. The Turks use the term Cannakale but I also think that's their name of the Dardanelles. Every year they show this cartoon version of the campaign. As a matter of fact, this cartoon is very similar to the movie Galipolli by Mel Gibson. The cartoon is extremely bloody and violent and I think we watched all 25,000 Ottomans and 25,000 enemy troops (lots of Aussies and New Zealanders commemorate their soldiers with a visit on Anzac Day, April 26) die in the cartoon version.

I was curious about this film and the showing of it to young children so I inquired about it at my Monday night English conversation club. They all were quite familiar with the film, probably having seen it often, and were understanding of the content. But one student, a history buff, said something that really caught my attention and made things clear to me. He explained that WWI was the end of the Ottoman Empire but the real tragedy for Turkey was the end of the educated leadership and the educated citizens. That loss effectively closed Turkey off from the rest of the world for more than 60 years and they are still trying to recover. It wasn't until the 1980's when the president Turgut Ozel brought things like telephones, electricity and television to places like Malatya that things began to turn around for the citizens of Turkey.

I can still feel the effects of WWI today. Although I have high speed internet, many things people believe or do is reminiscent of the way I remember them 30 years ago. Cleaning commercials are one example. Another is the freedom of the men to be out galavanting at night. There is a shortage of information about the world and the younger generation has a very limited knowledge of anything but Turkish geography and history. One24 year old girl asked me the other day if I'd heard of Afghanistan and where it was because she'd seen on the news that Turkish helicopter has crashed there and many soldiers and several citizens had died. The maps of Malatya and Turkey hanging on my wall are always of interest to friends coming over. (I wish I'd brought a world map, too.)

Back to the movie..I can see why such a significant battle in the course of their history might be shown to their school children. And, I'm trying to relate to similar topics we may have studied in our history..the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and Pearl Harbor?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Miniature Grand Canyon

Today' hike was to a really neat canyon complete with caves nestled into canyon walls. I was imagining many generations of people living and/ or hiding in these caves. We took our first tea break in a very large cave with many separate rooms and a soot covered ceiling. It also had a deep hole inside that looked like a well but it wasn't. Here's the story.

When the Armenians had to flee Turkey, many thought they would return so they buried their gold and treasures in these caves. The hole was where someone had either buried or dug up (or both) some treasure. One man told me his relative found ten million dollars worth of gold in one of these caves and now lives in New York City.

On the hike we came across some carefully stacked rocked that also looked like a well. But this was a bird hunter's hiding place. And my nature loving hikers didn't like it so they all gathered around it and gleefully pushed the stones down. After they explained what the hunters do I would agree that the hunting technique does seem a little unsportsmanlike. The hunters bring along a live bird and hide in a pile of rocks. Then they hide in the now destroyed fortress. When the prisoner bird "calls", the other birds fly over to chat thus becoming easy targets.

After lunch in another cave, we slid down a snow field on our behinds. The track got a little slick from use, and I was glad I only went once. Six men thought a human toboggan would be a great idea. (They didn't consult me or I might have pointed out the myriad safety concerns surrounding their plan: obstacles on the path, trees, crashes of previous riders, broken sun glasses..) But some people just learn best with natural consequences and their epic "train wreck" will probably result in at least 2 MRI's.

On the bright side, I can see why this area is possibly slated to become a national park. It is beautiful.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

70 km + 70km/h winds = Tired

I won't bore you with the details but today's ride was grueling. For most of the ride my feet were frozen bricks and I couldn't even tell they were sliding off the pedals. But my body was sweating because of the steep grades and headwinds. Even so, it was a lot of fun and gave me lots of random bullet points for my blog:

* today's gas station pit stop had a regular toilet instead of a Turkish toilet, a real step into the 21st century. And, it matched American gas stations for cleanliness...not.

* Turkey built a relatively new dam on the Euphrates River to provide irrigation for the apricots. OK, so they buried a city and left partially submerged power lines. Water sports do not look like an option here.

* We build houses near the water so we can spend money on nice boats, docks, water front properties and expensive irrigation projects. Here the orchards and farms are near the water and the houses are on high on the hills.

*The sausages the bikers grill on the campfires taste a lot like Polish sausages. When it's cold like today, and the grease from the sausage drips out on your finger it hardens quickly and peels just like orange colored Elmer's glue. I could just feel the cholesterol hardening in my arteries.

*When the leader of my group says his career is" fitness instructor" and then lights a cigarette, it's a good think I don't speak fluent Turkish. I wonder what my smile said...

*All the Turkish bikers carry one small water bottle and fill it at the open water spigot at the village mosques. I'm still carrying bottled water....lots of it.

*The men's WCs at the mosques look fairly clean. The women's are not even fit for the mangy mother dog and her pups living outside. (ps the water spigots are often near the WCs)

*2/3 of our group asked a farmer in a truck to carry them and their bikes 10 km hill. He let them off in the middle of the best, downhill, wind free stretch of today's ride, blocking the entire one lane road so we had to stop. Then, they proceeded to smoke their cigarettes. Who does that?! Even when I got my mom and dad to drive me up Red Mountain, I never stopped on the fun ride down.

*I need to learn the words "single file" in Turkish because one biker kept at my side the entire ride practicing his English, which was really enjoyable until the big truckers came whizzing by honking. If I sped up to pass, he would speed up and the reverse was also true. It felt very dangerous.

I'm home now and really tuckered out, but it was a great day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cleaning Supplies

I have a confession. I don't like cleaning my Malatya apartment. I'll admit, I don't really like cleaning my Richland home either, but there, at least, I can read the labels on the cleaning supplies and be assured that a "lemon fresh scent" is a smell that I can actually tolerate. I don't have to look at the holes in the bathroom tile stuffed with plastic bags from God knows when. And I don't have to wipe up the black soot (from the 500,000 wood and plastic bag burning stoves) that permeates every nook and cranny of my apartment.

To be truthful, the only time I've really cleaned the whole apartment is when I've gotten the word that I might be getting a roommate (I've gotten that message 3 times.) The fact of the matter is, though, I like living in a clean, clutter free environment. Plus, I'm starving...but that's another story. So, I decided (with Eric's encouragement) to give back to my local community and hire a cleaner/cook one day per week. She starts tomorrow!

However, I'm a little embarrassed at my lack of cleaning supplies. You see, I've never really wanted to buy anything besides bleach because then life here seems more "permanent", and if I just pretend this is hotel room (albeit one that never gets cleaned) I can pretend I'm on a very long vacation.

Fast forward to Pazar Market tonight where I spent 20 minutes perusing the abundant cleaning supplies. The quantity and selection of cleaning products is testament to Turkish women and their housekeeping pride. I grabbed a few things based on the smallest size for the product type and on the pictures: Banyo (bathroom), Super Mutfak (super kitchen), Dadi (windows) but that confuses me because I know windows are pencere and Turkish Dad's don't clean, and my personal favorite Dixi - 24 saat (24 hours). Does this mean I can clean for 24 hours or the product will keep my house clean for 24 hours? In either case, I know neither claim is true.

Anyway, she comes tomorrow. And I'm hoping the joy of a clean house and tastiness of a home cooked meal will overshadow the smell of the foreign cleaning products.

PS. In case you're curious, cleaning supplies are cheap like bread. The total of everything in the picture is under 20TL or about $11.00.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 teas, 1 Turkish Coffee, and 80 KM

Yesterday was my first venture outside of the Malatya city limits without an airplane, but the excursion was by my favorite
mode of transportation, bicycle. I joined a group of men and woman (yes, 3 women!) for their weekly Saturday ride. Aside from the cold (I wore five layers including 3 jackets, 2 hats and 2 pairs of gloves) and the headwind both directions (serious chapped lips) it was a beautiful day and a really fun bike ride.

The Turkish twist on the typical bike tour is the number of
glasses of chai. We started with tea at the bike shop. Then, we made three stops over the course of 80 kilometers for
tea. Twice at the same gas station/chai shop about 20 km outside of town and one at a picnic ground where we ate lunch. Here, the leader of our group walked up to a house above the picnic ground and found a family who would prepare tea (no paper cups by the way) and bring it to the park. We finished with more chai back at the bike shop. (I would have preferred a cold beer at this point.) But my fellow riders switched to the big cups and downed another 4 or 5 glasses. It was here that I learned many of these people drink 30 cups of tea a day.

By the way, there are 2 problems with this quantity of tea: the need for toilets (they were all the disgusting Turkish type) and the quantity of caffeine (that's why I'm writing this po
st at at 4:30 am before the prayer call.

Another twist on the bike ride is the Turkish coffee. One woman brought along her copper Turkish coffee pot, 4 porcelain cups and saucers wrapped in paper towels and bag of Turkish coffee. At the aforementioned picnic grounds the bikers quickly made a fire (no fire pit...just feet to stamp on the ashes when the first spread a bit). Once they had some good, hot coals they buried the coffee pot in the coals and made the best cup of coffee I've had in a lon
g time. Did I mention we followed the cup of coffee with a glass of tea?

Lunch was chikofte (I learned it's illegal these days to use raw hamburger)so I ate it. I was also handed what looked like a bottle of pomegranate juice but turned out to be Salgam Suyu. Here are the ingredients: water, purple carrot (beet), turnip, salt, pounded wheat, and chili powder. I don't think I'll ever live here long enough to develop a taste for this drink. It is disgusting, especially when I thought I was going to drink pomegranate juice.

One other highlight of the trip was the ride through a famous Arabian horse farm. It was
just like being in Kentucky and I was told the horses sell for 1 million Turkish Lira.

Friday, March 9, 2012

White Sheep

"Sheep" rhymes with "jeep" which brings me back to the story of Sheep in a Jeep, but I feel it is only fair to report on the very positive experiences of these past few days which totally counteracts the red jeep experience from the last post.

First, I would like to thank the super creative teacher who shared online the sheep project with the "eep" behind the pull-through strip with the letters "d, j, sl, st, sw, w, b". Not being an elementary teacher myself, I never knew how much kids would be fascinated by this phonics activity but my 2nd graders loved this project. They were pulling those strips through, reading those words, (not sure if they know the meaning...) but they sure sound good reading those words. They like their sheep so much they pulled them out again today to read the words.

Second, I would like to thank the creator of cotton balls. The kindergartners love singing "Mary had a little Lamb" and crawling around behind me like little sheep. But, what they love even more is coloring a picture of Mary and gluing cotton balls on for the fleece of the sheep. And, they were singing the song while they worked. An added plus is the kindergarten teacher loved the project. She is a big fan of those really fancy art projects that look really cute and impressive to the parents, but they don't see that the teacher does about 75% of the work to make the parents impressed. I was happy that my project looked cute and all the kids except one did all their own work, and the aid had fun coloring and gluing that "one"...I thought about putting her name at the bottom.

Third, I would like to thank the Scotch company for the original invention of packing tape and their Turkish counterparts for their copy-cat tape for which I could almost find the edge in under 5 minutes. (no tape dispensers here) Anyway, I was able to repair my red jeep and use it for the remaining 3 second grades and the kindergartners. My jeep has been very helpful for teaching many things, but especially for the aforementioned book.

Fourth, I would like to thank a St. Joseph's school student for writing me and asking if "March came in like a lion in Malatya." She'd remembered my journal entry from last year which gave me hope that at least one student in my teaching career has paid attention.

Fifth, I would like to thank the Guiness Book of World Records for their fun facts to help teach superlatives: fastest, longest, fattest, tallest...These facts made for a great "quiz show" format in 5th grade which, in turn, rewarded the students who did their homework because they knew most of the answers which made their team win which gave them an "all expenses paid" trip to the snack bar, which made the boys mad which is only fair because they never do their homework.

Finally, I must thank the Malatya Mountaineering and Hiking Club for opening new doors and friendships. This weekend I will attempt several long bike rides outside the city limits. I am excited to feel the breeze in my face and the wind in my hair. Did I mention that I love biking?! So, what started out as a week of seeing "red" ended as calm as a little lamb or sheep.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Red Jeep

Yesterday I made a really cool, red Jeep out of a cardboard box to use as regalia for reading Sheep in Jeep. My intention was to use the Jeep to teach much of the vocabulary "steer", "behind" "sweep" "leap" etc. I had a student in 2A "test drive" the Jeep in class this morning and it was as big a success as I had anticipated. The students were anxious to be drivers and sheep to act out the story and learn a few words along the way.

Unfortunately I teach these students in the period right before lunch so am also required to escort them to the lunchroom all while trying to keep them from sneaking up the back staircase, kicking each other, punching each other in the face and chasing each other around the table. It also means I have to leave my class supplies on the teacher's desk and return for them after I eat.

Fast forward 30 minutes and picture a typical Turkish classroom during every break period: no supervision, no teacher, music playing, tops spinning, soccer (futball) balls ricocheting off walls, half nelsons with kids in tears, children jumping off desks, paper airplanes fly
ing, candy being inhaled, 100 yards dashes down the hall, etc. Now picture a really cool, cardboard, red Jeep that was the object of several students' fancy at the same time. (see below) And picture an English teacher whose anger was beyond words ripping up this class' behavior chart.

My rational side knows that ALL the students did not rip up this prop nor should they
be punished. My rational side also knows that there is a good chance that the students were not "intending" to wreck the Jeep, but rather fighting over who should be the driver. But my irrational side is so sick of the fact that there are no boundaries (like a teacher's desk being off limits or a teacher's glasses are only to be worn by the teacher...) that I don't care.
And right now I'm so tempted to make this class what they are used to..
students copying from the board into their notebooks for 50 minutes and me sipping chai and reading my book. I'm tempted to just forget about trying to help them actually "learn" something. It is so difficult to work in a classroom where there are no boundaries.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Winter Hike

I joined a group on Facebook awhile back because I had heard this group plans group
bike rides and hikes in Turkey. About a week ago I got an "invite" to an event. I didn't know what the event was so I copied and pasted the text into Google translate and was able to figure out
that they had planned a hike departing at 7:30 a.m. this morning and I should bring 2 liters of water, some snacks, and eat breakfast before I come. Google translate also said to wear light clothing but it's a good thing I trusted my instinct to bring warm clothing...I'll explain later...

I arrived early to the meeting point and was immediately
intimidated because I was the only woman, the only person older than 30, and one of only a few without an ice ax. As everyone snapped on their gators and buttoned up their North Face jackets (where does one even find this stuff in Malatya?) I was happy that at least I had on my North Face hiking shoes, my North Face rain jacket and my ski mittens. I was wearing enough "technical" clothing to not be a total gumby, but I refused to put plastic baggies in my shoes praying that my wool socks would be sufficient.

Gradually more people trickled in including a healthy, fit woman (Turkish English teacher...can you imagine?) and her husband. We hit if off instantly and I knew the day was going
to be a success. About 23 of us boarded a mini bus decked out with lots of fringe and lace and headed off to the trail head. The bus drove until the mini bus started sliding backwards in the snow. We hopped out, zipped up our jackets, waited while about 2/3 of the group smoked their "last" cigarette before heading up the mountain.

Our "guides" were trained mountaineering/trekking guides with experience in Turkey,
Germany, the United States, etc. They were carrying walkie talkies, extra gear, etc. They also both work for the military which I think is a good thing because that's how we were able to hike up this mountain. In other words, I don't think it is necessarily "open to the public."

Malatya had gotten several inches of snow last night which meant the mountain had gotten much more than that. Top off the snow with a brisk wind and we were hiking through drifts sometimes up to our thighs. ..well, I should say the guide's thighs...He was packing
the trail for us. We stopped often which was a good thing for the winded smokers but a bad thing for my new friend Gunlar and me because we would get colder and colder every time we stopped.

The scenery was beautiful but the weather was freezing(-15C before the wind chill). I was having visions of freezing to death on Mt. Everest or frost bite on Red Mountain because I was wearing every layer I had brought (3 jackets, 2 shirts, 2 hats and a scarf) and I was freezing going uphill in thigh deep snow. How was I ever going to survive coming down when much less energy is being expended?

Luckily the problem was solved at the crest of a very windy saddle. With the wind howling and the snow blowing in our faces, the guides indicated that we would break the group into two: those wanting to reach the summit and those ready to head back down. I chose "down" which was actually really fun with the jumping, sliding, and rolling, but still very cold. I could have skipped the stop for the picnic lunch because I knew those next ten minutes would take my feet and hands from "very cold" to "numb". But I had to admit my pb&j tasted really good although it did not warm me up.

When we got to the bottom we knew we would have an hour wait for the rest of the group, so our leader suggested we drive into the little village of Konak and drink some tea. Being that there were no tea gardens open at this time of the year, I guess it's common knowledge to head to the city office and meet the mayor (I think that's the translation for the man dressed in the tan and brown
striped zoot suit and fedora) and have tea with him. So that's what we did. He even had space heaters cranked up high so I could defrost my fingers and toes.

In spite of the bone chilling cold, it was a great day with interesting, fun, active people. I can't wait for the next event.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Gift of Time

One of the really nice opportunities that living in Turkey has provided is "guilt-free" time...time to think, time to research, time to read, time to write, time to learn new things. This morning, for example, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. with no pressure of a "to-do" list but rather time to sip coffee (still prefer a morning cup of Joe to the more culturally acceptable chai) and prepare a "would like to do" list. It's 11:30 a.m. and this is how I've spent my morning:
*reading and editing a graduate student paper titled "A State Accounting System in the Middle East in XIV Century: Example of Ilkahanid State (1256-1353). Although the writing has some serious editing problems, the idea that Turkish graduate students must write in English, even though most can't speak it, is pretty amazing to me. And although the topic appears quite dry, I found it fairly interesting. It appears those old empires including the Ottomans had some very sophisticated accounting and financial systems. They kept volumes of books that would amount to tax codes (laws) along with revisions as needed. The defense spending was divided into two categories, soldiers and officers, and when not enough taxes were collected the public housing projects and buildings were not finished.
*making a leek soup. The leeks here are plentiful...maybe even one of the staple vegetables this time of year...and very inexpensive...So I've got lunch and dinner for the next few days.
*studying Turkish. I try to complete 3-4 lessons a week each taking about an hour. I'm really good at translating Turkish into English but I'm terrible going from English to Turkish. I try not to cheat and look at the answers, but after awhile my brain gets tired of thinking and so I usually give myself a little help. I'm at the point now where I think I will hire a teacher for a weekly lesson because I think there may be several ways to say things but my book only gives one answer.
*talking to Eric. We usually talk once or twice a day but on the weekends it's nice because we aren't rushed by the pressure of me trying to catch a school bus or him trying to get to bed early enough for his 4:30 a.m. exercise class.

Now it's time to get dressed for the day, make my weekly 45 minute walk to the mall, see a graphic art exhibit produced by one of my colleagues, meet a parent for weekly English conversation practice (hopefully hers, not mine although sometimes I wonder after speaking in one syllable words all week), and buy snacks for the hike I'm going to join tomorrow with the Malatya Sports and Nature Club.

...and all this because I have the gift of time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Movie Reward Day

I think the 1st and 2nd graders were rewarded with a movie afternoon yesterday...either that or their teachers needed some extra tea time. In any event, I was notified that I would not be teaching two of my classes and could enjoy the extra free time.."drink some chai or coffee," they urged. Because I'd already drunk my second cup of coffee for the day, had worked through my three planning periods (Wednesdays are my easy day) and am really trying to improve my Turkish, I decided to join the students in the Sinema Salon for a movie instead.

I brought along my notebook to jot down words that I might want to learn and ideas for future classes. I plopped myself down next to an annoying, (one with no friends who runs around behind my back and then freezes when I turn around and thinks I don't see him...Ellen knows of whom I speak..)but extremely intelligent 2nd grade student. He was delighted to have a companion and was even more impressed that I was taking notes. Maybe I earned some "good behavior" points from him and modeled more appropriate uses for his unchecked ADHD.

Eventually the 160 or more students took their places; they never did stop talking or settle down, and the movie began. All of the classroom teachers left the salon (presumably to drink tea) and I sat as the lone white jacket amid the sea of orange plaid uniforms. I tried to ignore the chaos (it's actually fairly easy because I can't understand their tattle-telling) and focused on the movie, "The Extraordinary Adventures of Samy the Sea Turtle." The movie was in black and white, probably a pirated version because, as I read later on the internet, the original was in 3-D. Fortunately the animation was really good even though the Turkish words didn't quite match up to the lips. (This is another "voice-over" film which tends to be a problem for me because my brain attempts to lip read the English and forgets to listen to the Turkish.)

Anyway, I was really interested in this movie and wanted to see where Samy's life would take him over a course of 50 years with all the oil tankers sinking and global warming and what not. Unfortunately about 35 minutes into the movie, one of the 1st grade teachers entered the room and was not happy about the noise and activity level of the students. I think he asked them if they liked the film or if they would like a different film. (Here's where my teaching style and their teaching styles diverge. My question would have been something like this, "Would you like me to stop the movie right now and we can go back to class and take a spelling test, or would you like to zip your lips, sit on your hands, and watch the movie?")

Unfortunately the students responded with a "hayir [no]", they didn't like the movie. They wanted a different film. The teacher then inserted "Open Season 2", a stupid animated film, where the animation has little relevance to the words. For example, I, for the life of me, cannot figure out why the bear was using live rabbits as balls to throw at a target...Luckily, the pirated version of this film was not working very well so several of the teachers finally figured out this was a waste of time and took their students back to class. Unfortunately for me, it meant I had to teach the infamous 2C...At least now I know their reprehensible behavior, and yesterday was no exception, is not about me.