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.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Alternative Healthcare

A little over a year ago, Jonathan and I re-evaluated our Kaiser healthcare plan through my work. Neither of us go to the doctor more than once a year (if that), but we were paying over $100 a month for our coverage. We had no idea where the money we were paying went, but figured it was probably not going somewhere that we felt really good about.

When it came time to renew our coverage, Jonathan and I started researching some alternative options. We considered turning down coverage altogether, but didn't want to leave our families in a tough situation if something really bad happened. Then, we came across Christian Healthcare Ministries, a non-insurance, cost-sharing program. Every month, we send in a certain amount of money, and it's put into a pool that is distributed directly to other members who have medical needs. We joined a little over a year ago and though neither of us has been to the doctor since, we've felt really good about where the money we send in monthly goes.

A couple of months ago, CNN did a spread on it as well and it's really worth checking out.

It's great to believe in a company we give so much money to.

P.S. If the link doesn't work, google "Christian Healthcare Ministries CNN." Youtube is blocked in Turkey, so I can't actually watch it from my computer.