I lived in Istanbul for almost two years as a Teacher of English as a foreign language – what follows are notes from a journal I kept during my time there:
First Impressions / Year One:
At The Language Academy Ranch:
It’s interesting being judged by students who don’t speak the language I’m teaching, and who wouldn’t know whether or not I’m a good teacher who’s fluent in my language or not, if their lives depended on it. Many times their epiphanies of learning were simply answers copied from the answer key and when that answer is no longer in reach there is withdrawal with big smiles and “I don’t understand”. How can that be when you just said you did?
Students in general, but especially beginners, should not be given answer keys; it’s just bad business. This school uses the availability of answer keys with the text as a marketing ploy. That’s a wrong approach. It makes being stuck in the back with a double-edge sword as encouragement to walk the plank preferable. Pick a killer whale with its mouth already open.
A universal aside: Toilet paper as tissue, the wrong end but suit yourself. There’s always tissue as toilet paper but in that case you’re doing your backside a favor or is it considered prestigious because the tissues cost more?
A Relaxing Cup Of Joe:
It just doesn’t feel right. There’s music on the balcony at Starbucks but the traffic is so loud I can’t hear. At least they are consistent with their coffee, something that Dunkin’ Donuts fails at here. I’ve never tasted anything so bad.
Sublime Thought: Existentialist and mystical fast food lunches leave one as empty as the places of origin. It’s right to dump on the bad and jeans aren’t too tight but I’d rather live than contemplate what is existence.
The sun almost shone bright today. It did happen.
Observations and Tastes: Olive oil is good, chocolate – eh, dried fruits and nuts abundant. Hamburgers are lamb Joe’s (as opposed to sloppy) and lamb’s throats are slit in the streets in celebration of the slaughter; the streets can be rather messy. Cheeses are the bomb; what a wondrous variety. Yogurt is outstanding. My son has friends in Italy who ask him to bring them yogurt when he comes to visit and Italy is the place to go for great food.
The Police Here Carry Automatic Weaponry: I am not particularly inspired by the police station. It went very smoothly with someone who speaks Turkish.
As I Venture Out On My Own: A ride on the Bosphorus and did I almost get picked up? It’s hard to tell in Turkish. He asked if I was Italian, I think, or was it Anatolian, Cappadocian, that’s the other place. He said, “English, no Turkish” when he saw my book and I said “yeah, Italian-American”. I don’t speak Italian. He wanted to go to the shady part of the boat but I was there for the sun. Then he made sign language for ‘give me your phone number”. I said, “What for? You can’t speak English.” I’d rather get a tan if I can.
The guy at Starbucks who wants to practice his English wanted to take me to the Islands on a tour so he could talk. “Can I have your phone number?” Well, no actually and after he brought me my white chocolate mocha latte. Now I’ll probably never get good service. Meanwhile: the crew back at Starbucks in Bakırköy were stumped when I asked them to ice my macchiato. I deprived them of talking about me in front of me in a foreign language I didn’t speak yet by walking away in a samba after telling them to forget it. Now whom is he going to roll his eyes about? I sure don’t know.
Afterthought: Did the young guy want to stab me and take my wallet on the shady side of the boat, which takes away from cool shade and throws a diabolical light on it? Now I have to wonder: Do they ask for your phone number when they want to stab you in Turkey?
Someone spoke English to me tonight. Nice neighbors.
Grandma as the con in her pretty purple print dress, I just don’t need that many tissues, but when I see her I’ll buy them. She’s one of the people that lends that special character to the town.
A Mayor’s Wife Who Sends A Car: My private S. takes her test so I’ll write I guess. It’s not the same as Starbucks but those guys aggravated me anyway. I’ll get back there sooner or later. I wonder if should check schedules to avoid people of course. I want to meet up with you – not. S. does so well with understanding innuendo lately although she can’t get it out of her mouth sometimes. We’ll keep working on that.
Practicing English: My beginner class decided to take me out to dinner. We went to this place by the shore and I was impressed by how noisy it was. They weren’t the least bit disturbed by it, in fact to them, it was as if there weren’t noise at all. I got a phone call and had difficulty hearing my son who wanted to ensure I was ok. The PKK, an in-house terrorist group, had blown up a few shops in the square near to where he lives, and he was concerned the students had taken me to one of the local restaurants. I assured him we were a safe distance away. The next day I took a walk through the square. The PKK wanted to make a statement only so there wasn’t as much damage as could have been, but there was just enough.
Don’t Mention It: My roommate who deserves no mention has stooped to new lows. Peeping through bedroom keyholes wasn’t enough, now it’s the bathroom and wiping his backside with the toilet brush. All I can come up with is what a tool (a word that wasn’t popular then when I was writing this but it is now). Major L for LOSER, give me an L, give me an O, give me an SER – what’s that spell? Believe it or not, the name of someone that contains only 3 letters. (And as I sit here reading this over remembering that guy, I can’t remember his name, which stood for something beautiful like sea or dolphin, but he wasn’t.)
After reflecting, thinking, and giving up, his name came to me as I was waking from sleep this morning, Ido, which in Istanbul is the name of the sea bus company that uses the image of a dolphin as its logo: Istanbul Deniz Otobüsleri.
I feel happy today, an epiphany, breakthrough, coming together or am I dying of a rare fatal disease? Some days nothing’s good enough. Anyway, my student will have a good holiday because he scored high and the others will do well. I can feel it.
Stay tuned if you care to. I’m just getting started.
Here’s an addendum: In a word, Rakı (spelled with the “funny” i, the one that’s not dotted, so it has an “ih” sound.)
Rakı is a traditional liquor, similar to Ouzo or Sambuca, that can be drunk two ways: one straight up of course and the other diluted with water. When water is added it turns the liquid a cloudy white and is referred to as “bulls milk”. I tried it both ways and prefer it straight. The one quality, I noticed, about Rakı that stands out is similar to how alcohols relax the body, this one dulls the mind. I’ve described it to my students as ‘it makes you stupid’. (I’d never drink Rakı on a school night, let me tell you.) They’ve laughed out loud at that knowing too well its effects. I also have a cool person, unusual woman reputation because I drink it straight, (I think the water spoils the taste) which makes me… I don’t know… like I’m tough because I can handle it. Really, I’m just trying to blend and pay my respects to the culture.
One evening a bunch of us were out, or it was the night I turned everyone on to an international food fest at the house (see what I mean) and the Rakı was flowing. I didn’t have to teach the next day – good thing – anyway, I tried to put a wash on and couldn’t get the machine to start. I checked the outlet, reset the dials, made sure the door was shut and was completely baffled. I ran across the street to the school (convenient right) and grabbed the guy in the office for assistance. He looked at the machine, reached out, pushed the machine door, it clicked closed and the wash cycle started. We looked at each other and I said, “no more Rakı”. He thought that was the greatest; needless to say everyone knew about it and my cool reputation got even cooler, but I might find another way to blend and stay alert.
Copyright © 2013 Margaret Prezioso-Frye
Did the AC kick on? Is that me? Gee, I hope not, I’ve the door open and the fan on to let fresh air in to clear my head, unstuff my nose from artificial cool, so I get up and wander through listening. It’s everyone else outside as all units kicked in but mine. Good. Let’s see how far into the morning I can go before the door must be closed and the AC gets to play. For now birds chirp loud and clear, land on the wood rail looking for stale bread… word got around I leave stuff out from time to time. You just never know when.
And so the morning begins, the sky brightens a bit, cool breeze on my legs and an espresso before it’s too hot out to drink it. Of course, nothing wrong with it iced.
That reminds me…
Iced coffee might seem simple, even as a request in a café but not everywhere. I was teaching in Istanbul and of course frequented the local Starbucks, a prestigious place for coffee according to many Turks. One day I ordered an iced espresso, an item not on the list of coffees served. To my surprise I totally confused the two baristas behind the counter. It was easier for them to think I was a buffoon who didn’t know her coffee than for them to add ice to my espresso. My best charades getting us nowhere I wasn’t much better toward them totally aghast they couldn’t fulfill my simple request. I got it hot and we parted making cranky faces at each other. The next time I went the lightbulb was on. I ordered espresso, then asked for a cup of ice. Easy. They were wondering what I was doing but I had made two understandable requests exclusive of each other. First I added sugar to the hot beverage then took the espresso and poured it over the ice. I raised my cup and smiled big, they looked with delighted surprise at the cup, then each other laughing. They told their manager about it. After that it was put on the menu: Iced Coffee.
We were temporarily lost in translation, no more than that resulting in a chip being made in the language barrier, a hand extended toward getting along. Good business I think.
Does it still feel new or are we caught in the everyday forgetting a new year, resolutions, how to do things different, all the promises we make to ourselves? I’ve got to tell you what I’m becoming aware of is how stuff outside me wants me to throw in the towel and succumb to whatever stuff outside me is shoveling. I guess the point is “outside of me” as long as I keep it that way.
Now there’s a step.
Today is beautiful and cool, 60 degrees, low humidity, a treasure for this part of the world. I’m sitting here wearing a light sweater over shorts and a sleeveless top scratching me head over how my iCloud storage can remain almost full when all I do is remove stuff from my iPhone.
Sitting unmotivated in the best way. Listening to chirping, feeling the cool before it reaches almost 80, in a couple shots of espresso, and looking around the living room wile, beguile, while my little guest plays his games on the tablet. The most energy I want to spend is sighing although I will brush my teeth.
Then I thought about the scant half bag of generic raisin bran crunch.
I’ll turn it into muffins. The recipe easy enough I can mix it by hand with a whisk and not disturb what’s peaceful including me.
Only one thing left to do.
Get up from the chair…
Coming up with a title isn’t always easy. I woke as I do during wee hour time, resituated myself and started thinking about peacefulness and intimacy that I feel while the world sleeps and ‘now what would I call it’. My first inclination is something to do with the muse and darkness but I’ve used those so many times, what this time? Then, I thought of a thought I had walking to work a morning or two ago, thinking to myself ‘it might be interesting but see what happens, I’m walking and can’t pull up the laptop to write, hopefully I’ll remember’. Another blogger a while back had suggested taking notes on a cell phone, something I’ve done since then but not this time. It may have been raining and I didn’t want to pull it out. At that point I got out of bed and propped myself up by the computer. Sometimes it’ll come back during writing… so far not yet.
There goes the light bulb however dim. I’m going to do a little research and see if I can find what struck me.
Nope but I did get something accomplished business-wise. And I’m winding down so I should be able to relax and sleep ‘till the alarm goes off.
The aftermath of action and experience, historically, influences decision-making. We (the mind) recall what happened and consider the circumstance under which what happened took place. Business likes to call it synergy – the combination of physical functions of the body that makes a personal environment within ourselves, commonly known as us that are more than capable of reevaluating the happening. Some people won’t accept this synergetic evaluation. They are what can be called hotheaded. They know the details but justify the emotional response that makes precedent in the brain. From this I could set precedent for other non-connected decisions. The brain doesn’t consider the way to act, the environment we create for ourselves does. The brain does the math and we take it from there.
We can certainly create an artificial environment for ourselves thanks to anxiety or even exhilaration from happiness, simply in the over exaggeration of the emotion. The mind again does the math and we take it away as in being at the starting gate and we’re off. These people are referred to as paranoid – victims of anxiety – and ditz-brained over-reactionary due to exhilaration. Neither make a very good business professional along with the hotheaded one.
When faced with circumstances, it’s best to internalize them, meaning allowing our synergetic selves to know all possible outcomes depending on response and select the best response/outcome not keep it bottled up inside, let the pressure build and not even notice how far a radius when we explode. We must look closely at the math. If we don’t allow for this process, we create unnecessary complicated equations that show what we lack. Of course, this still doesn’t tell us why so many people react and don’t evolve from their reaction. Our decision-making can be influenced by an emotional response exclusive of ourselves. You know how it works: “my sister had a hard time with that so I don’t think it’s good.”