Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas in Turkey

Since Christmas isn't a Turkish holiday, I'm on my own to fill our apartment with holiday cheer.

There are tons of crafts online to make, but most of them require something that I don't have (like a craft store, a sewing machine, Christmas lights, etc.).

So, using scissors and note cards that I'm pretty sure I've lugged all over the world, I made our own Christmas tree. It looks slightly like a preschool project and absolutely nothing like my inspiration, but it's sufficient for us.

Jonathan and I aren't really gift people and, come to think of it, have never really given each other wrapped presents. But, I told him this year that we each had to get a gift and wrap it so we could put it under the tree.

More knitting projects are coming after Christmas (so the people who are receiving the gifts get to see them first).

Monday, December 07, 2009

Team Names

Yesterday while reviewing for an exam, I split my students into teams and had them come up with their own team names. Here's what we had:

Black Rock

I'm not sure what to think...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

Well, Black Friday in Turkey is a bit different than the states. This year, the Muslim festival of sacrifice fell on Friday (as referenced in a previous post). Jonathan and I woke up to the usual sunrise call to prayer, fell back asleep, woke up an hour later to some more noise coming from the mosque megaphones, fell back asleep, woke up again to cheering, fell asleep, heard the megaphone, heard the cheering, etc., etc.

The day was beautiful, so we decided to head out for a walk before we met some friends for lunch.

Turns out the place where the sheep were being kept is also the place where they were sacrificed. (I believe this was the source of the cheering.) Jonathan walked around there for awhile and I stayed outside. Here are some (graphic) pictures he got:

As we walked down the street on the other side of the sheep, I was looking at something and not paying attention to where I was walking. Just when Jonathan said, "Watch out!", I found myself standing in a pool of blood face to face with a dumpster overflowing with animal guts. My gag reflex kicked in and I quickly moved away, while Jonathan snuck in for another (graphic) picture that also captured my horror and disgust.

We got on the train to meet our friends in a popular touristy area. Some people were dressed up especially nicely due to visiting family. I especially loved this kid working it in his shiny silver suit.

Finally, I took advantage of being in a touristy area and took some pictures of the beautiful day.

The famous Aya Sofia.
The ancient city walls.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pizza Town

The latest ESL class funny...

So I asked my Level 1 class to split into groups and decide what country of the world they wanted to visit and why. Here's my conversation with one group member:

Jonathan: "What country does your group want to visit?"
Ozgur: "Italy."
Jonathan: "Why?"
Ozgur: "We want to see Pizza Town."
Jonathan: (I thought, Italy... pizza... makes sense.) "Is that a city in Italy?"
Ozgur: "No city. Town."
Jonathan: "A town is a small city."
Ozgur: "No. Not city. Building."
Jonathan: (Building?) "What?
Ozgur: (holds up his hand at a slant) "Pizza Town."
Jonathan: (I think for a second and then the realization hits me...) "You mean the Leaning Tower of Pisa!!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sheep

We stopped by one of the two "sheep tents" outside our house for a couple pics. Hopefully they'll be transporting them away from our neighborhood for the sacrifices on Friday. We'll let you know.

For more info on this particular holiday, check out this website:
Korban Bayram/Eid-al-Adha

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The New Place

We're still getting adjusted to the new place. We LOVE the location. We can find bread, fresh fruits and veggies, meat, spices, and any random piece of houseware we could ever want all within 2 blocks of our house. I realize that most of my readers can find all if this in the same store. But in Turkey, all of those things are found in different stores.'s pretty awesome that they're all super close to us. And much better can you get than a 10 minute walk away from 3 different Starbucks?

On the other hand, our apartment continues to surprise us in ways that, perhaps, aren't quite as charming as our location. We have a shifty toilet seat, Jonathan had to re-caulk the kitchen sink, our kitchen faucet isn't actually attached to our kitchen sink, our mattress is significantly bigger than the frame it's laying on, we can hear our neighbors cooking, talking, smoking, watching soap operas, etc. like it's happening in the next room, our washing machine knob has to be manually turned to move it into the next washing cycle, and there are mosquito guts all over the walls which makes us wonder what summertime has for us. All of these things give our apartment lots of character and so far, nothing has been a big problem.

A couple of weeks ago we turned on our heaters. They're old-school radiators that have hot water passing through them. (One of our recent guests referred to them as her Zen fountain.) Anyway, they work fine, which is great and our guests really appreciated them. (Did I mention we had 7 girls staying with us for the last 10 days?) Well, once the girls moved their stuff, I noticed some curious markings on the walls. And as I looked harder, I discovered the markings were mold. Yes, mold. Mold has, in past two weeks, taken over our entire house. I spent the evening scrubbing the walls and corners where it built up. I think it's because the heater makes our apartment more humid than the old walls can handle. Nevertheless, it's super gross and some of it isn't coming off! What should I do??? Here's a lovely picture of the monster:

I'm sure it would help if we hung our laundry outside to dry, which we often do. But, about a week ago, as we walked to class, we were overpowered by the smell of a farm. Turns out, about half a block away, there are hundreds of sheep being held until Friday when they will all be sacrificed for an Islamic holiday.

Forgetting about the smell, I hung a bunch of towels outside to dry yesterday. When I brought them in, I took a big whiff, expecting the delightful smell of laundry detergent and fresh air. Instead, I felt like I had rubbed my face in a dirty animal's fur. The laundry went straight back into the washing machine and is presently air drying next to the moldy wall.

I watched a clip from The Money Pit with my students today, and I couldn't help but laugh because some of it hit a little too close to home.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All In a Day's Work

Today, while teaching my beginner class, I asked them to make a list of the 5 things they couldn't live without on a desert island. Here were their answers:

Group 1:
1. compass
2. cigarettes
3. cell phone
4. tea and coffee
5. boyfriend

Group 2:
1. food
2. a gun
3. guitar
4. cigarettes
5. Raki (a Turkish liquor)

Group 3:
1. beer
2. oil
3. harpoon
4. coffee
5. a tractor

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Apartment Tour II

As requested, here's a tour of our new apartment!

Untitled from Sarah Pascual on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Still Here!

Sorry we haven't been blogging much.

Our teaching jobs have been taking up much more time than we thought! At the moment, Jonathan and I are both teaching 33 hours a week. So...33 hours of teaching + 2ish hours of lesson planning per class = around 55 hours of work a week (well, 33 hours of paid work and 20 hours of unpaid work). All in all, we're getting the hang of it.

Some of our favorite stories (or the ones we can remember at the moment):
-In talking about gambling, one student mentioned it was "satanic". I explained to him that it's a very strong word to use and if he felt that way, he should call it evil. He listened to me talk about it for a long time and when I was finished, he clarified that he actually said, "sechenik". This word means "choice" in Turkish--NOT satanic in English.
-When learning the present continuous form, one of Jonathan's students happily wrote, "I am going to Abaddon." Jonathan corrected her, teaching her to say, "I am going to hell." He didn't realized until later that she was probably trying to say something else.
-Students tend to confuse their possessive pronouns (my, yours, ours, etc.). I've heard things from, "I will cut your hair" to "Do you want to wash my hands" to "His girlfriend keeps calling me."

On another note, we moved into a new apartment on Thursday. It's a small 1 bedroom apartment in a different area of Istanbul. It's 10 minute walk to work and a 5 minute walk to Starbucks! The apartment itself is a bit dodgy, but we love the location. More on the new apartment soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Like I Don't Already Have Enough To Do

A few years ago, I made a list of things I want to do in life. Since then, I've done a few of them, forgotten quite a few, and still have some on the list.

One of the things on my list was to take a picture a day for a year. After running across a couple other blogs that were devoted to this, my motivation was renewed. But, with a little modification.

A dear friend of mine and I have decided to share the blog and each post a picture every day. Joy lives in Colorado and has an incredible eye for art and photography. I live in Istanbul, and though I'm not a natural, I still think it would be a lot of fun to try out.

So, check it out if you want to see a bit more of Colorado, Turkey, or anywhere in between.

We couldn't come up with a title, so Joy thought of an adjective, I thought of a noun, and we put them together!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Thessaloniki, Greece

Long story short, last week we found out our Turkish residency permits wouldn't make it until October 21st, exactly 5 days after our tourist visas expired. So, we had to make a quick visa run. We looked into plane tickets, but they were all super expensive last minute, so we opted for a train ride. Sofia, Bulgaria and Thessaloniki, Greece are both about a 14 hour train ride from Istanbul. We asked around a bit and were told that a train ride to Sofia can be risky, as the odds of us being placed in an old Russian train are quite high. So, we opted for a day in Thessaloniki instead.

Our train left Istanbul at 10pm on Tuesday night. We were stopped leaving the Turkish border and had to show them our passports, etc. at about 3:30am. We were stopped a second time at the Greek border a half hour later, when they came in our room and went through our bags.

We woke up around 7:30am and enjoyed the Greek countryside. We saw everything from tall mountains to farmland, to rivers.

We arrived in Thessaloniki around 11:30am and began reading the Biblical account of Paul's visit to the same city almost 2000 years ago in Acts 17.

Thessaloniki has a rich history, though the entire city burned down in the early 1900's, so the few older buildings that were there had basically been reconstructed from the ground up.

We walked into the town and had lunch at a bakery, complete with both bacon and parmesean cheese (neither of which we can find in Istanbul). Then, we walked down to the water and walked along the Thermaic Gulf (a gulf of the Aegean Sea) toward the White Tower.

The White Tower was originally part of the city wall and served as a prison at one point. Now it's a museum where you can climb to the top and see the city.

We also wandered through a couple of squares and pass a couple of churches.

Soon, we found ourselves at the Aya Sofia, which was built to resemble Istanbul's much larger and grander Aya Sofia.

The church was closed all afternoon for services, so we settled down on a bench in the park and enjoyed the birds.

After the church, we walked back along the water and found a Starbucks. What can I say? Old habits die hard.

There were quite a few Orthodox priests walking around, though this was the best picture I got.

Also lots of people selling knock off watches, purses, DVDs, you name it.

Finally, we walked back to the train station and continued the tradition of enjoying a delightful dessert. We had about 10 euros left, so we settled for a 2 euro meal, and spent the rest on dessert. Definitely worth it!

And we finished off the night sampling Mythos Beer, brewed and packaged in Thessaloniki. The can even claims it's "The worlds most famous Hellenic beer."

We woke up the next morning to the Turkish countryside. It reminded me a bit of the American mid-west.

On our train ride home, we met some other Americans who were spending a couple of days in Istanbul, so we met them for dinner last night and showed them one of our favorite areas to hang out. They asked us a lot about the Turkish sights and food and we were ashamed to confess that they, having seen the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, and Grand Bazaar, had seen more of Istanbul than we had! This means we need someone to visit us so we can show you around!

All in all, it was a good trip. Neither of us loved Thessaloniki and don't really desire to return, but we are excited to explore more of Greece someday.