Thursday, January 24, 2013

Paying Cash at the Kasa

I love paying cash for things in Turkey and this evening rewarded me with the most memorable experience to date. Whether the store is a large national chain or a small mom and pop organization, neither ever seems to be able to make change. A 100, 50 or 10 lire note are all the same in terms of probability that the store will be able to make change. Be it a store cash register, or shoe box, or owner's pant pocket there is never enough change and the clerk usually has go on a treasure hunt.

Tonight I needed new printer cartridge so I walked across the street to Tekno SA, a large Turkish "Best Buy" type computer/appliance store. I took the escalator to the second floor - this is a big store - and was greeted by a cute/handsomeish young computer geek who said the obligatory "Welcome" (Hos Geldiniz) and I replied with appropriate and  polite "Happy to be here" (Hos bulduk) which is really a joke because there are a million other places I would rather be at this moment. Anyway, having bought many ink cartridges here before, I marched over to the display and picked up the HP301 black and looked around for an open Kasa (cashier). I was proud of myself for remembering not to take the escalator to the first for a Kasa because apparently, I need to pay for this upstairs..

The store was not very busy and I spotted an empty Kasa across the room with a clerk sitting at her cash register talking on the phone. I walked up to the counter, placed my box on the shelf and smiled. Never pulling the phone from her ear, she gestured wildly and pointed back to the side of the room from whence I'd just come, and spewed a litany of words. I interpreted her message to mean, "Go back to the cashier over there. It's their department and I only ring up headphones and cameras." But, maybe she said, "Can't you tell I'm in the middle of an important phone conversation with my fiance' with whom I've been engaged for six-years?" I never can tell because my Turkish just isn't very good outside of the context of taxis and homework excuses.

The cashier to which she'd pointed was, unfortunately unmanned (or unwomaned..I didn't know yet.)  I waited patiently for several minutes all the while watching  her phone conversation from across the room. I decided to have some fun.  I waited until she looked up (she was still talking on the phone) and I did the universal "throw up of my arms, point at the empty Kasa, and helpless "What-can an innocent shopper do to get some service around here?" shrug. I hoped she would interpret it correctly and get off her butt, put down her phone and help me. She interpreted half of it correctly. She did get off her butt and she did march across the room. But instead of helping me, she marched into the stock room, grabbed the cute little computer geek who had welcomed me to the store, and told him to get out and help me. (Her phone never left her ear.) Unfortunately, what I could tell, but she couldn't tell because multi-tasking is difficult with a phone glued to your ear, was that he was in the middle of helping another customer.

Cute computer geek politely explained to the customer he was helping  that he would be "right back" and he kindly rang up my purchase. I handed him a 100 lire note (about $60  for a $30 purchase) thinking this was a big enough store and late enough in the day to get me some smaller bills. (Why do the ATM's only disburse these 100's anyway?..They're impossible to spend.) Well, I was wrong. Cute computer geek handed me part of the change. Then he walked to another cash register, opened it and dug through the bills to no avail. (I guess they don't worry about employees having balanced cash drawers.) Next  (and this took a lot of courage) he walked back to phone-glued-to-ear girl and opened her drawer. No luck. After this, he gave me a polite wave and  started jogging down the escalator stairs to the first floor. After what seemed like 5 minutes his head reappeared as he jogged back up the escalator waving the correct change in his hands.

Eighteen months ago this kind of service would have driven me crazy, but today I know to expect nothing to go as expected. The only bummer in this entire transaction was that I couldn't communicate to cute geek that I appreciated his super pleasant, helpful demeanor and that I felt phone-girl should be fired. Unfortunately, based upon my observations of Turkish management styles, phone girl is probably his boss.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Turkish Folk Music and Raki - A Relaxing Combination

I met a colleague in Alsancak and shared a taxi to a restaurant located in the dark, back alley of an old abandoned  industrial zone. I'm not sure I would have left the cab on my own but with her guidance and assurance, we walked into the restaurant/night club where several of the high school teachers had just started gathering for an end-of-term dinner that our principal had organized.

The walls were covered with little ledges holding real lit candles. The only additional illumination in the room came from the muted, subdued colors of the multi-coloredTurkish glass lamps. The quarter tones and arrhythmic beats of Turkish music filled the room.We were transported to an older period and time in Turkish culture.

I was seated between the principal and a very nice science teacher. I felt bad for the science teacher because I can't speak much Turkish and she can't speak much English. But, the principal can speak English and I noticed the raki glasses on the table so I figured that after awhile it wouldn't matter much whether we could talk or not. I could tell everyone was in the mood to unwind after a long semester.

The table was filled with Turkish mezza (appetizers), an important part of any Turkish meal, but especially one that includes raki. I was determined to taste everything and drink very slowly, following each sip of raki with a large drink of water. Having only drunk raki a handful of times, I think it's effects can be very deceiving. They say you should always see the waiter break the seal of the raki bottle or the drink will make you blind. I think that's just a "saying" to make sure you keep track of how many bottles have been opened. But my past experience with raki is that it makes both hearing and seeing difficult. The food, water and pacing are very important.

Not long into the dinner a group of musicians appeared on the stage: two violins, three percussionists, a clarinet and what looks likes an auto-harp. The musician playing the "auto-harp" has picks on most of his fingers and changes the key of the strings often by sliding a lever and using a tuning fork on the pins similar to what a piano tuner would do.

The interesting thing about Turkish folk music is that almost everyone over here (Malatya and Izmir included) knows all the words to most of the traditional Turkish folk songs. They can even tell you what region the song is from. And, each region has it's own style of dance that goes with the song, and most women can show you that style, too. The only equivalent I can think of in American music is Christmas music and not everyone can sing those songs either. Granted, when I was a child we were taught American folk songs at school, but I think we've lost that tradition in our curriculum. Most of the music in the text books available to me appeared to be "world music" or "pop music". And, I can't think of a single place where I could go and find Americans singing along except maybe in the south, Nashville for example. And, because I don't know country music very well, I wouldn't be able to join in.

But, I digress...perhaps the raki is still "talking"  In conclusion,the music, the singing, the dancing, and the raki made for a memorable, relaxing, enjoyable end to the semester and beginning of the holiday break.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Today's Walk

After I was "rejected" from getting a doctor's note today, I took a long walk down random streets. First I saw this man selling chunks of bread from these giants loaves. It looked delicious so I bought a chunk. The size of the loaf is deceiving. Even when I thought I was just buying a little, it ended up weighing 1.58 kilograms. That's like about 3 pounds of bread for a little less than $2.00. Thank goodness I have a freezer and a place to exercise.

These two horses live in this little field about 1/4 mile from my apartment. I'm sure I saw the white horse running free several weeks ago down the 6 lane divided highway just behind where I was standing to snap this photo. Either he found his way home or his someone brought him back. It would have caused some major injuries had he and a speeding vehicle collided.

These carriages are in the same field as the horses, separated only by what looks to me like a gypsy shack. 50 years ago, people traveled around Bostanli, the town several kilometers from my apartment with these carriages. It's still possible to ride a carriage through town, kind of like riding through Central Park in NYC and the fee is very minimal, even less than a taxi ride I think.

Above is the view of my apartments from the bus stop near my house. Because everyone jaywalks to catch the bus, the city put in a nice gravel path lined with shrubs. We still run across 6 lanes of traffic to catch the bus but what we lack in safety we gain in beauty.

To the right is a picture a a new pedestrian path being constructed on a very busy thoroughfare. What my camera didn't capture is the 12x12 in gap between concrete slabs. I nearly fell in during broad daylight. I wonder who failed to cross the gaps at night?

(On a side note, I think this is a bigger safety concern than my doctor's note, or lack thereof.)

Fitness Crisis

I've been working out at the small fitness facility in my apartment complex for over a month now. My original goal of jogging or biking by the sea daily for one year just didn't take into account the mud and flooding that occurs regularly along the sea side every time there is a large rain or the packs of dogs that are generally docile during daylight hours but very aggressive at dusk and darkness. So, I finally broke down and jumped on the tread mill about a month ago. Things had been progressing nicely until Tuesday when I hopped off the machine, sweat dripping down my chin and soaking my t-shirt, and the man-who-hangs-out-behind-the-lone-desk motioned me over.

He asked my name, address, etc. and finally indicated that I couldn't exercise any more. I needed a doctor's permission, a photo, and, of course, some cash for the membership fee. In my best Turkish (which really isn't good at all) I said this was a big problem. First, the realtor had told me my fees included the fitness center. Second I wouldn't be able to go to a doctor because they work Monday - Friday 8-5 and I work the same hours and longer.  Then I said everyone in Turkey is a "liar" (I'm not proud of my word choice) but he agreed...either that or he didn't understand.

I marched up to my apartment...obviously I hadn't worked out enough to get rid of the stress...and pounded out an email to the apartment manager. He speaks pretty good English and responded first thing the next morning when he arrived at work. His email was conciliatory and included cute little emoticons like smiley faces and hearts. He said, "No problem. Just go to the clinic at your school and have them write a little note saying you can exercise. And, I'm very sorry but your realtor was ill informed, but Soyak Mavesehir is the least expensive fitness salon in all of Izmir...100 TL for a year."  (He's got a point there..about $60/year plus a sauna that I didn't even know about..)

After reading the email I asked my supervisor if she could call the school clinic and explain what I needed. A couple minutes later, she turned to me and said, "They don't give health certificates. They can only give shots and medicine including prescribing antibiotics, but they can't write a note." She looked online and found a hospital(that's where you find the doctors here in Turkey) near my house that was open on Saturday. She wrote my request in Turkish so I would be able to show the staff and sent me off.

Fast forward to today when the only item on my agenda was to get a note so I could exercise again. I walked to the hospital at 9:00, waited in line for about 10 minutes, said a friendly optimistic hello, and showed the clerk my note. She shook her head and said they don't do those here. I asked here where I should go and she shrugged her shoulders, "Bilmiyorum." (I don't know.)

I left the hospital really irritated about a stupid rule. (I don't even think they have personal injury lawyers here or if they do, the City of Izmir must be exempt from any and all responsibility for dangerous construction zones and unmarked hazards. Anyway, I dialed the apartment manager again and offered two suggestions:

1. He finds me a doctor who will write the required note.
or 2. I write a note that says I accept all responsibility for exercising. I won't hold anyone responsible for any actions but my own.
He said he would get back to me.

I continued on my angry walk and was greeted with all kinds of things to make me smile. It was definitely a silver-lining kind of day.(The walk deserves a post of it's own.) While walking I even contemplated the fact that the guy-behind-the-fitness-desk just needed a piece of paper, and I went so far as to consider creating a fake doctor name and signature-I could design a letter head on my computer- and solve this problem.

Fortunately, I returned home just past noon and ran into the apartment manager. He said the problem was solved. I could write a note saying I would accept full responsibility for my actions. And he would take responsibility for my note. WIN!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Exam Tears

I entered my 9th grade class yesterday to slumped shoulders, red eyes, and despondent faces. The students had just finished taking a GDS exam, a 160 minute, 160 multiple choice question exam. The students take one of the high-stakes exams 4 times per year and tremendous weight, including the distribution of scholarship money, is placed upon the outcome of these exams.

One young girl said she just wanted to transfer to a school where she could be at the top of the academic list instead of the bottom. (Trust me, she's very far from from the bottom, but in the eyes of a teenager, even a few points from the top can feel like the bottom.) As added pressure, I can imagine that many of these students will go home to questions like "How did you do?" "Who is above you?" "Why didn't you do better than him or her?" "We'd better buy more practice books and sign up for more after- school and Saturday tutoring so you can be at the top of the list." and so on...

Anyway, after all this, I knew a lot of learning was not going to take place. In essence they had just completed an SAT test in terms of time and brain power. So I felt some talking, reassurances from a teacher, and fun could be in order. Plus, I love these students and it was breaking my heart to see their despondency.

I started like this: "Don't let yourself be defined by a number. When I look around this room I see intelligent, creative, curious, enthusiastic and hard-working students. I see kind, generous, honest and loving people. You have wonderful futures and bright opportunities ahead."

Then I related an anecdote about one of my favorite administrators in Maryland. He used to tell the middle school students that he left law school after 2 years. He always started his pep talks with "someone has to be at the bottom" and that "bottom of the list" was him.  He was a  "B" student in a competitive law school environment and that just wasn't good enough. Lucky for me, he found his niche in education. I went on to explain that he was amazing with students and an amazing role model. He taught me how to relate to adolescents and how to make learning fun.

The amazing thing is the students listened. You could hear a pin drop. (I never get this kind of quiet in Turkey.) Then they clapped at the end. They dried their tears and started laughing especially when I explained how my Maryland administrator used to dress up to demonstrate the school dress-code.

We ended the class with a fun speaking lesson using maps from around the world about "asking for" and "giving" directions. Many will head abroad, including New York City and Boston, for the upcoming semester break and their iPhones with Google maps will be too expensive in the absence of WiFi so the conversation was fun and practical. And, they have another skill that is not necessarily measured on a standardized test.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Downton Abby Fest

I was prompted to purchase Season 3 of Downton Abby yesterday when all the Facebook posts started coming across about Lady Edith. Worried that the "Lady Edith" whatever (I still didn't know if it was good or bad) would be revealed before I had a chance to watch it for myself, I decided to take action. This morning, promptly at 6:00 am, I started the Season 3 downloads on my computer. After a day at school in anticipation of a great evening of entertainment, I forced myself to exercise, warmed up some leftovers, poured myself a glass of wine and settled in for a 3 episode TV fest. What a great night!

My favorite character is Shirley Mac Lane as the American grandmother. She captures the subtle American mannerisms with her own Shirley Mac Lane twist. When she suggests they all have a picnic in the middle of castle, I laughed out loud. I can't tell you how many times I've suggested "outrageous" (they seem normal to me) ideas over here with my American optimism and matter-of-fact-ness only to be given looks like I was an alien from outer space. What I lack is Shirley's ability to suggest an idea with the assumption that it will be followed. My new hair color with its tinge of red and  some red lipstick should help with the empowerment.

Unfortunately, regarding Lady Edith saga, the Facebook posts did impact my viewing. I was able to predict the unfortunate outcome thus making it a little less enjoyable. But, I'm trying to remain vague enough to not spoil the show for my readers.

Although this post really has nothing to do with Turkey, it does show how I've changed my evening routine. I've never been much of a TV watcher, but lately I've discovered the pleasure in purchasing an entire HBO or PBS series on line and watching one hour (tonight's the exception) per weekday. The cost is less than monthly cable TV. I avoid commercials. I don't have the stress of programming those recording devices..I can't even remember what they're called. And, I only get to choose the exact moment I start watching.

By they way, I'm open for suggestions about other series. I've enjoyed Band of Brothers, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, and, of course, Downton Abby. Anything I'm missing?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Make a Wish

I was almost mentally prepared for the 75 kilometer bike ride today that I'd signed up for and embarked upon this morning at 9:00 a.m., but when, after pedaling for almost 4 hours and after having  passed 3 exit signs for Kemalpasa, what I'd thought was our destination, I knew I was going to have to dig deep for enthusiasm, energy, and enjoyment because this was going to be a long day. It already felt longer than 35 or 40 km which would have been half-way.

The reason I'd signed up for this trip was because I'd been to Kemalpasa before. It's a cute village nestled among some mountains so I was anticipating some windy, hilly one lane donkey cart paths..I actually love these little villages and roads. But the reality was I was riding on was a 4 - 6 lane divided highway complete with on and off ramps, piles of litter along the side of the road, and factories spewing smoke and emitting very nasty manure-like smells, and guard dogs chasing us (or barking from their chains..which was better and safer for us) every 100 yards or so. One smart guy even brought what I thought was a tazer that he was shooting at the dogs. He would point it at them, a blue light would go on and the dogs would whimper away. Lucky for me, however, it must have been a noise emitter because he was rather careless with his pointing and aimed it several times in the direction of us the bikers but nothing happened.Thank God because I was just imagining writhing on the ground in agony from an electric shock.

At 4 1/2 hours into the ride, we stopped at a little restaurant/house. I was so happy..not only was my  tush sore because I haven't ridden in over a month, but I was starving, too. Unfortunately, the man indicated he was closed on Sunday. This was his loss..well, ours too because we were starving..but I'll bet the 14 of us may have been more income than he'd had the entire month...But his loss was our gain because we rode another 5 kilometers(who's counting? Oh, I was) down the highway. We pulled into what turned out to be a lovely, clean...actually I should say, clean, lovely restaurant..Our odemeters registered 55 kilometers. We all inhaled a delicious meal of homemade chicken soup and iskender...meat on top of bread slathered with a yogurt, tomato sauce. We then mounted our bikes and started the long journey home.

The good thing about living on the coast is everything from inland is downhill heading home.The ride was much quicker and easier, and we almost got back to our respective towns before it was too dark.

I was able to muster just enough energy to stop at the grocery story en route to my house.  I'm glad I did because this stop was the highlight of my day. Just as I was trying to swing my very exhausted leg over my seat to park my bike, a strange woman approached me, pointed to my gold earrings, pointed to the newly risen crescent moon and indicated we needed to make a wish. Apparently gold and crescent moons are special so we turned, faced the moon, and shared this special wish making moment in silence. I thanked her for sharing this bit of tradition and culture and we introduced ourselves. It was a very special, sentimental moment and the start of a tradition that I will continue indefinitely. By the way, my wish did come true and that was to have enough energy to make it home and to give the Turkish drivers enough patience and eyesight to see me while I was riding in the dark.

In case you're wondering, the final total was 110 kilometers or about 70 miles..Normally, that's a doable day but the key is to be mentally prepared...Today, I just wasn't...

I've attached some pictures for you to grasp the "beauty" of the day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Building a New Nation

My 7th graders just started a unit on building a new nation. Their key vocabulary words are citizen, democracy, representation, crown, liberty, taxes and government. The students are given a brief history of the reasons behind the American Revolution which is then enforced through excerpts of speeches from Abigail Adams (supporting the colonists) and Nathan Powell (supporting the king). For one of my classes this abstract vocabulary is way too difficult and they are really not interested.(I don't really blame them..after all they will only have Turkish history for 12 years and they have their hero in Ataturk)..But for the other class one student spent her entire recess trying to understand why we would through a bunch of tea into the sea. She was genuinely interested, and when I explained it in terms of the cost one glass of chai plus some taxes for the King in England, she really understood and we had a great discussion.

I think the ultimate goal of this unit is not necessarily to understand American history but rather to have each student write and give a speech. The idea of speech writing is reinforced by the fact that on the pages directly following Abigail's and Nathan's speeches is as two page spread of "great" speeches in American history. Here's the list:

Abraham Lincoln - Gettysburg Address
Cesar Chavez- Political Activist but no speech referenced
Frederick Douglas - What to the Slave is the 4th of July?
Maya Angelou - On the Pulse of the Morning - not a speech but a poem..
Soujourner Truth - Ain't I a Woman
John F. Kennedy - Ask not what....but what you can do for your country.
Eleanor Roosevelt - Human Rights for UN but no speech referenced.
Barack Obama - No speech referenced but he "gave a good speech" before he became President.

This got me to wondering...Are there any "great" speeches given by conservatives to give balance to this list...some speeches that may have even influenced history? A quick Google search yielded many  positive results but here are just a few:

Ronald Reagan - A Time for Choosing
Milton Friedman - The Role of Government in our Society
Dinesh D'Souza - Why America is So Great

Coincidentally, I'm currently reading Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham which is an excellent refresher on the thinking, courage, risks, and doubts before, during and after the American Revolution. I'm sure there are numerous Jefferson speeches that could be referenced regarding Building a New Nation that would much better fit the theme and title of the unit and illustrate the goal of delivering a good speech than a poem by Maya Angelou or a political activist with no speech mentioned.

But then I ask myself why I care what a book is teaching across the Atlantic...and the answer is simple...I miss America...not the foreign view of America where were are the "bad guys" that "consume the most, fight the most, pollute the most, cause of most of the world's problems, and (oh, by the way, thanks for the billions in aid) donate the most." I miss the America where we work hard, do great things, change the world for better, and  to give just one small example make great, functional toilets.

So, to have some fun, I will locate a good speech...I'm open for suggestions here..and create a listening exercise of a "great" American speech by someone of my own choosing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Greece's Economic Crisis - One Tourist's Perspective

Black Pebble Beach

Today I read an article with my Turkish students about Greece's economic crisis. I don't know the date of the article or where it was "copied from" but it was in the "curriculum" so today we read and discussed. I learned a lot of facts from this article and  was probably much more interested than my students because I'd just returned from a weekend jaunt to Chios. Here is a little of what I learned from the article:
 - 2 out of 5 people work in tourism and Greece hopes to increase that number to 2 out of 4.
Outside the monastery.
 - Greece believes that just selling its islands as a cheap "sun and sand" vacation isn't working. It needs to sell the history and sites as well, which means digging some artifacts out of storage, dusting off some customs officers desks to make island entry quicker, and unlocking the doors to some places that have been closed for the past 400 or more years.
- Greece realizes that they need broaden their market..for example invite their neighbors (notice I didn't say friends) such as Turkish citizens who live nearby and have some disposable income.
We couldn't find Homer's Rock but this seems like a good place to teach from.

That being said, here's what I witnessed during my off season trip across the sea:
 - It felt like 4 out of 5 people were working in tourism except they weren't working between 12 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday because it is nap/lunch time..The rest weren't working at all.
Road to the monastery
- Because it is the off-season we were mainly interested in historical sites. The "sun and sand" would have to wait until next summer. Unfortunately, the historical sites were not well-marked. With 4 people in the car navigating, reading signs, reading maps, and turning on data roaming for GPS we were unable to locate one of the Trip Advisor top 10 sites and the other was so hidden and tucked away up a narrow 4-wheel drive road that we had to park the tiny rental Fiat and walk the remaining 2 kilometers only to find this UNESCO World Heritage Site closed. (austerity measures...maybe?)
- Greece has followed through on their promise to market to Turkey. As a matter of fact the stacks and stacks of tourist information brochures were written only in Turkish. We couldn't find a single English version. But the reality is, of the 15 or so people on the ferry, at least 6 of us were English speakers working in Turkey. Although the hotels are relatively inexpensive and therefore a good buy for the Turks, the food and drinks are at European prices and the currency is the Euro so Turkish citizens are not going to buy anything. Therefor the impact on the Greek economy is may be minimal.

As an active tourist,  here's my advice to Greece:
- Write some brochures in English and keep them on hand at all times. You'll reach a much bigger spending crowd with a few of those puppies on hand. I enjoyed the pictures from the Turkish version but I might have actually shopped if I could read the details.
- Advise your tourism workers that they might want to consider changing their ancient custom of closing at lunch time because when a the once-a-day ferry arrives with weekend tourists at noon and leaves the next day at 4 pm, they've removed lots of possible times for tourists to spend their money.
- Take those brochures, go for a drive around the island, and check for a match of signage to site. You might even add a few signs and post some hours of operation, too.

Even if Greece doesn't take my advice here's what you will like if you visit:
- The people...They smile. They're friendly. They like to party. They like to sing and dance.
- The coffee bars...maybe these are European and I'm just out of touch ..but Greece has the coolest coffee bars, decked out like real bars, and buzzing with atmosphere and fun.
- The scenery...You can't believe how many different types of beaches, mountains, coves, rocks, trees, churches,  monasteries, and vegetation awaits you on each tiny island.
- The food...from the baklava and pastries to the calamari and Greek salads with fresh feta, you'll never go hungry.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wish vs. Resolution

I've been beginning each class this week with the student's task of writing their New Year's Resolution(s). We've always made resolutions in our family and I like the opportunity to pass along some culture.

lighting a wish balloon on New Year's Eve

In the case of teaching, I had to check the  understanding of "resolution" and not "wish". It reminds me of when our youngest was about 5 years old and her resolution was to "Go to Disneyworld." We all laughed because we thought she was so cute, but we also realized that she didn't understand the difference between a resolution and a wish. In Turkey they make New Year's wishes. For example, last weekend in Cesme we saw and photographed many "wish" trees. On New Year's Eve, we lit paper hot air balloons, made wishes, and watched our balloons fly off into the dark sky. To help explain "resolution" without a dictionary, I gave examples like "I resolve to eat more fruits and vegetables" or "I resolve to do 10 push ups per day." For most students that was enough but several still needed more. So I a continuum where I started with words like "I would like"  (25 - 50% possible ) - "I wish" (51-90%ish) -  "I resolve" (90--100%). This seemed to work for the rest of the students and they began to write. But, when I saw their answers and behavior, I still wasn't so sure.

For example, in one of my lower classes most of the students wrote they "resolve to get better grades". Most had to borrow a pencil to write this. Most never take notes (except those who had extra pencils and paper to lend) or bring a book, or stop talking long enough to listen. Many started eating the scraps of paper left over from an earlier exercise while thinking of the "resolution". ( Luckily they didn't have any pens or mechanical pencils with which to shoot the spit wads.)

I've been wondering if it is Turkish students or most students in general who do not understand the connection between a "resolution" (you're going to make it happen) or a "wish" (there's a pretty good chance nothing will change.) I guess my point here is that even in making a "resolution", the attitude is  more like a " wish" as in "I wish my grades would magically improve without me doing a lick of work"  or "I wish I would ace this exam although I haven't studied one bit."

wish tree in Cesme
So back to the idea of "wish" vs. "resolution". I wish you all health and happiness. But, I resolve to...well. not everything is public.. but rest assured I have the steps in place to make it 90-100% sure.