Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what its like. For anyone thinking of coming to visit us here, you really have to. We're in a great area, full of more bars, cafes, and restaurants you could count, a night life that just goes on and on and on, and it is beautiful and historic too. Amazing. This year is just off to such a great start.
Our little kitchen is down a few stairs. We have a giant American size fridge, a microwave, washing machine and dishwasher. This will be the first time I've ever had a dishwasher! Our new oven is being delivered later today. Our stove is a two ring hot plate sort of thing. It will take some getting used to, but this seems to be a feature of many apartments in Istanbul.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
From the teachers who have taught at this university last year, it sounds like the students are very interesting, which is a polite term for crazy, unruly and spoiled. But I think the staff will be really great to work with and after previous teaching experiences I've had, I'm not too worried.
I gained another small glimpse into Turkish culture today at orientation. The man who was giving the morning presentations, one of our assistant directors for the English program, was a former army man, and as is the other assistant director. They were really lovely and helpful in talking about Turkish culture and how our future students might respond to certain things.
For one thing, they talked about ways to help students save face in the classroom while implementing classroom discipline. They said that if you are openly critical, Turkish students can be easily offended and become confrontational. So it is best to deal with issues privately so that students don't have to try and prove anything in front of their peers. Also, Turks are very proud of their culture and language and don't like to be told they can't use Turkish in their class, especially by a foreign teacher. However, it seems that if you show an interest in Turkish culture and language, students will really warm to that, and it will really help with creating positive rapport.
Overall, I am really optimistic about this year, but at the same time, I feel that I'm pretty realistic in my expectations. My main goals are to become a better teacher, to enjoy interacting with at least some of my students, and to learn as much about Turkish culture and language as I can. So, tomorrow is day two of orientation. We'll see how it goes.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
We traveled from Sultanahmet, just near the Galata bridge, over to Uskudar, one of the areas or neighborhoods of the Asian side of the city. It was a lot different from where we're staying now. It was a pretty quiet residential area, and there didn't seem to be loads of things to do. We did walk through a pretty impressive fish market though. As soon as I get a kitchen to cook in, I would definitely travel to Asia and back again to buy these fresh fish!
After much wandering, and a little of getting lost, we stopped for a cup of tea in a tea garden/cafe overlooking the Bosphorus. Later we stopped for another of Istanbul's lovely fish sandwich specialties (balik ekmek). The cafe was right on the water, and we had a lovely view. It seems that on every bit of space available at waters edge and on every bridge, there are tons of men fishing. They have buckets and pitchers and plastic cups full of sparkling little fish and rosy pink prawns. I'd love to join them sometime, but it is clearly a man's activity. I haven't seen a women at it yet.
Another thing I have enjoyed observing is the various headscarf fashions on displayed by women in the city. Maybe sometime I will be brave and ask some of them if I can take their picture, but that will have to wait until my Turkish is a lot better. I've seen women in the full burka, women in a more traditional countryside style headscarf, and women and girls with beautiful, colourful, stylishly arranged scarves. They look fabulous. I've been told that some headscarf styles make a political statement, some are purely a fashion statement, and some are a combination of the two. I hope to eventually be schooled in the art of wearing one and to try it out to see how I look in one.
Anyway, after our Uskudar experience, as we were heading to catch the return ferry to Sultanahmet, we were caught in the middle of four mosques, all sounding the Muslim call to prayer.
Traditionally, Muslims pray five set times a day, and a singer called a muezzin recites a prayer from the minaret of the mosque to remind the people that its time to pray. This prayer is called the adhan. Where we were, there were four mosques all in sight, and it was as if the four muezzins were competing with each other, pausing to allow the next to sing a verse before continuing. It is quite a remarkable sound. I think for anyone, it is a great opportunity to be brought back from your own private thoughts or whatever activities you're doing, and just to be in the moment and wake up to what is going on around you. In Istanbul, I think things are quite different from what I've heard this prayer time is like in other Muslim countries. Life just goes on and people just continue, walking, shopping, eating, drinking. I'm looking forward to learning more about Turkish people's experience of religion in the future.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Today was the best day ever! We saw the most amazing things. Our day started out with traditional Turkish breakfast in the hotel with a fellow teacher of mine who is staying next door to us in the hotel at the moment. He's lovely and we had a great chat about travel and culture, while eating our olives, bread, fresh sliced cucumber and tomatoes, with some over-steeped sweet tea to wash it down.
Fortified for a days activity, we first headed south down Istiklal Caddesi, a huge and bustling shopping street about five times longer than Grafton Street in Dublin, to Galata Tower. This tower was part of the fortifications the Genoese built in the city. This area of Istanbul was once the European part of the city, as opposed to the Ottoman part which centred around the Golden Horn (Halic). From here we enjoyed an amazing panoramic view of everything. I just can't believe how big the city is! It seems to go on forever in every direction!
Then we crossed the Galata Bridge over to Sultanahmet, the historic centre of Istanbul. Here we saw the Aya Sofya (Hagia Sofia in Greek, Church of the Divine Wisdom in English). It was first a Byzantine church and then a mosque. Now it's a museum. We also saw the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, a beautiful park, small cobbled streets lined with traditional wooden Ottoman style houses. Numerous times throughout the day there was heavy rain and even a thunder storm, followed by more sun and heat. We ate grilled corn next to a water fountain in a park between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. Later we rested in a comfy little out of the way place to drink a few cups of Turkish tea in delicate glass tea cups and smoked a nargile (water pipe with apple soaked tobacco). It was great to take a break and absorb all the experiences of the day. Then we headed back to the Galata Bridge, pushing our way through the crowded footpaths next to the ferry docks and grabbed a couple of fresh grilled fish sandwiches. They cost about €2 and were absolutely delicious. Then we crossed the bridge and hid from a sudden downpour beneath some building scaffolding and waited out a short thunder storm with some locals.
An ancient Egyptian obelisk, located in the former Hippodrome, a Roman chariot racing course.
Finally we made it back to our hotel to rest for a while. For dinner we headed to some nearby side streets full of small bars, meyhanes, and cafes. We had our first sampling of raki, which is Turkey's national drink. Its an anisse flavoured spirit, which you drink mixed with water. We went for mezelar again, because you get such beautiful variety. Tonight we had a couple of different patlican (eggplant/aubergine) dishes, and I just can't believe how good they were. Dripping with flavour, melting on your tongue, smoky, creamy, sweet, beautiful. This place is a food lover's paradise. Now, we're safely tucked in bed to rest up for our next adventure, with full stomachs and the sound of nearby Turkish party music ringing in our ears.