Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

My house, Moda, Kadıköy, Istanbul, Turkey

Dedicated to Dillon - the cat who loved halloween

It seems very strange to be in Turkey where no one is celebrating halloween. Halloween and thanksgiving are my favorite holidays. I suppose I'll have to plan something for thanksgiving. I've been horribly lax in posting, sorry for that.

I've now been here two months. It seems like I just got here and yet that I've been here so long. I've been teaching at the school I found at the end of my last post for 6 weeks now. It's definetly been a learning experience. I have kindergardeners, second through seventh grade classes, high school english prep, and english teachers of the future. I see each class once a week for 40 minutes (known as an hour) (shorter with the kindergarden), making a total of about 12 hours a week plus planning time. A few of the classes are really challenging because they are too crowded and the kids don't listen, but for the most part they want to learn English. The other teachers have been really great about giving me ideas for lessons and generally helping me out when I have no idea what I'm doing. The turkish education is a bit different than the US system - more authority and less creative thinking.

I also have one private class. I'm teaching a businessman in his early 30s named Bora. He lived in San Diego for a year and his English is really good. Basically he's paying me a lot of money to talk with him for an hour and a half a week and assign homework. He just wants to make sure that he doesn't forget his english. He races sailboats, rides a motorcycle, and is looking for a house because he is about to get married, which means he gets to move out of his parents' house.

Just today I found another job teaching a conversation class 3 hours every sunday to recent university graduates. I have my first class sunday. Hopefully it will go well.

After being in Istanbul a month, and trying all the turkish websites, english websites, and builiten boards that I could find, I found a place to stay. Thanks so much to all the people who let me sleep on their couches (some of them fold out) while I was looking for a place to stay - Aylin, Kubi and Ali Kaan, Leah and the two dogs, Erol and his family, and Ali. I found a place by looking at the buliten board in the german bookstore at my friend Ferah's suggestion. I called and Amy answered.

The place I'm living is likely about 100 years old. I'm on the 5th floor, meaning I have a view and lots of stairs to climb. Out my window I can see hayasofia, the blue mosque, and topkapi palace. The floors are wood and the ceilings have been painted. On the down side the plumbing is a little bit sketcy and we haven't yet gotten a referigerator. But we do have hot showers, a stove, and a washing machine. Next month we plan to paint the kitchen and buy the refrigerator.

I have two and a half roommates. One is a Turkish guy named Orçun, a photographer by training who works in a book store on the european side. He only speaks Turkish. The other is a German guy named Ingo who is a photographer and that's what he gets paid for. He's only here til april. He speaks german and english. The half roommate is named Amy. She lives down the street and has a business that buys translation rights to books. She also does translation, and is using the last room as an office to do translation a few times a week. She is american and is fluent in Turkish. So when she's not around I find myself translating between Ingo and Orçun. Fortunatly Orçun is very patient and a good teacher. So I'm getting lots of Turkish practice.

When I moved in my room had this horrible wallpaper that was badly done. In my inocence, I thought it would be easy to take off. Three days later, and with some help from my friend Collette, it was finally off. Then I spent a day cleaning and sanding and two nights painting. After a week I could finally move my cusions into my room to sleep.

The bed was another story. When we moved in we found a carpenter to build a door to Amy's room. He was telling her how in the past he had made these seat bed things. I thought that sounded cool, and he told me he could make me one for 100 lira. That was thursday I think. He was supposed to bring it Tuesday. Tuesday and Wednesday nights I sat at home waiting. Thursday he brought a bed that looked like a set piece for a play. Except that had I built it, I could have done it better. Unfortunatly I paid him.

Next came seker bayram and my first ever trip to IKEA with Ali and his family. What an insane place. The stores were closed for the weekend, but on Monday, Orçun's day off from work, we got a washing machine and I got a mattress and a sort of closet made of cloth.

After a second trip to IKEA this past monday (republic day) and many trips to the ucuzlik pazari (store of cheap things) I feel settled in my house. I really really like it actually. My house is about a 15 minute walk to the ferry boat dock and the shared taxis that I take to work. I'm 5 minutes from two grocery stores and there's a corner store on my corner. A note about IKEA - the second time I went by bus and it was an adventure. It's designed for cars.

Today I got my first pay check (well, except that I'm not on the books so it was cash not a check). And then I went and opened a bank account. A few days ago I had gone to the tax office to get a tax number which is necessary for having a bank account. They are supposed to be sending me an ATM card in the mail.

That's about it for now. I'm gradually trying the resturants and cafes in my neighborhood. The guy who runs the bakery near my school knows me know because I go in there many mornings to get some breakfast on the way to school. Oddly I've been drinking more coffee here (turkey is primarily a tea drinking country) than I have in the rest of my life. I have brunch with roommates on the weekends and have already had two guests try out my floor. I've gotten into the networks of the professional american women in istanbul and the young female english teachers of istanbul. All the people in both networks are amazing. Life is good.