Getting So Excited!

I am waking up everyday so excited for our new adventure.  It is getting more and more real!  I packed up most of the shipment that will be staying in Turkey (at the summer house) as well as the stuff that will be shipped to the US.  We are going to be staying with some friends in Dallas for a while which will give us time to get phones, buy a car, maybe even get Texas drivers licenses.  I have to get fingerprinted for my new school as well.  We will get all the bureaucratic things done in Dallas, and then we will go on vacation in Austin with our friends.  They were the friends we toured Texas with in 2012, and they came to visit us in Turkey last year.  I apparently have been very lax on the blogging as I did not blog about the epic international fun.  Anyway, we are incredibly excited to be moving close to our friends, Shawn was Bulent’s landlord when he was a grad student in Texas in the early 2000s.  Their bromance has lasted and deepened over the years.  I met Shawn’s wife Larinda in 2012, two years after she made and sent (to Turkey) the most beautiful shadow box with our wedding invitation and wedding photo.  I was so glad we hit it off, and so excited that we will be closer in distance!   Whee!   27 days and counting to the move! 

On Touching Children

In the United States you are not supposed to touch children familiarly unless they are yours, or the spawn of a close friend or family member.  As a teacher I was always very careful to keep my physical distance.  The only time I touched kids was when I was breaking up fights and tearing them apart or when they graduated and were saying goodbye.  There was one time when I flashed a girl my fun bits, but that was on a field trip to the beach and there were no doors on the stalls of the public bathrooms.

When I was a babysitter in college I always asked what the parents wanted me to do when I had to go to the bathroom.  When you haul a baby into the bathroom it is one thing, but when a toddler talks you want permission.  It was never a problem, “So…do you want me to leave your baby alone and unsupervised or do you want them to come into the bathroom with me?”  It was always the latter, but I still felt the need for specific permission.

In Turkey it is completely different.  Strangers pet children on the head and pinch their cheeks.  In a restaurant a toddler might be carried off by a waiter, played with, coddled, given treats and returned a while later.  Children running around in restaurants (1st difference…this is acceptable behavior) may be snatched into laps for kisses and then let go, a Turkish catch and release program.

In Turkey, parents and their children may feel insulted if you do not touch or snuggle their child.  They might feel rejected or unappreciated if they have not received a certain amount of physical attention.  I have gotten used to touching my students.  It was really strange at first.  In the beginning it made me really nervous to touch them, or worse when they touched me.  GAHHH.  They would come up, lean on me , put their heads on my shoulder, or touch my arms.   *Shudder*  I was so accustomed for this to be taboo it took quite a while to become comfortable with the situation.

Nowadays it is easy for me to touch students.  I have actually pinched cheeks.  I tweak their pony tails, rub their heads, pass a hand over their back, rub their arm, give their hands a squeeze.   Occationally I drag them around by their itty bitty neck ties they are required to wear.  They love it.  It makes them feel appreciated and valued.  It gives us a connection, a foundation on which to build a working relationship in the classroom.  I don’t hug my current students, but will my former students.  I kiss their cheeks when they give me presents, whether it is a bracelet or card they made for me or a silk scarf.

2013-12-08 16.50.02

Today I cuddled a child completely unknown to me, I was walking my dog in the park and the situation led me to it.  He was being chased by a street dog, one I know and never bothers me.   I feed him, and his puppies, he usually rolls over for belly rubs from me and has actually protected my small terrier from other street dogs.  About 10, the boy was terrified, the dog wasn’t biting him, but was barking and lunging at him.  He had gone too close to where the puppies were.  He kept running, and the dog was chasing him.  I told him, in my teacher voice, “Stay still, Don’t run.” I was so glad I know all the imperative forms in Turkish from my hall duty experience at school!  “Come here, son.” (In Turkey you only refer to children as “children”, “daughter” or “son”)  So while the dog was lunging at him (I knew the dog wouldn’t hurt us) I hugged him, stroked his face and talked to him.  “It’s ok, let’s go, together  ok…?” My Turkish is still a little weak.  The dog continued to follow and lunge, so I tucked the kid under my arm and held his hands so he wouldn’t get nipped.  Meanwhile I scolded the dog, who then stopped.  But the minute I separated from the boy, the dog started lunging again.  So I put my arm around him, stroked his face and then Butterfinger and I walked him home.  While I could have helped him regardless of the touching, but it made him feel safer, feel comforted.  Without it he might has still felt scared and lost and alone.

Clearly touching needs to be appropriate, but I have learned the value of it with children, the connection it can provide, a link to help a child, encourage, and console.  Maybe I find this interesting because I do not have my own children and discovering how this stuff works.

As with everything, there are pros and cons for each of my countries.  For example, in Turkey people don’t stand in lines, they push their way to the front and fight for service.  But while you are standing there bewildered and waiting your turn, I guarantee that some old lady will haul your kid onto their lap so they don’t have to stand while you figure it out.

The Vicious Dog in question…

Yes, that is him playing with children on the slide.

2013-10-02 17.21.39-1

Summer Migration

Since I have moved to Turkey, each year I have returned to the U.S. for the summer.  This year was no different, through it seemed to go by very quickly.  When I go home things are usually really busy.  I try to visit as many friends and family members as possible, as many times as possible.  This summer I was also able to attend two great friends’ wedding receptions.

This year was especially busy as we relocated.  I knew when my father died, it would make sense for my mother to downsize sooner rather than later.  The home I grew up in is amazingly beautiful, built in 1880, set deep in the country, with many acres of lawn and gardens and flower beds.   However, it is a large  property to maintain for a single woman.  

HOUSE

The new house she found is great.  Big enough for our family, but small enough for her needs.  There is space for Elliot  when he visits and  for me to maintain migration pattern from Turkey.  It also is 20 minutes closer to the city, and she is practically neighbors with several of her friends.  And wonders of wonders, she is now a FIVE minute drive to a town where there is a grocery store, liquor store and several small restaurants! 

house 

The new place, dubbed “The River House” , is adorable.  Lest you think we are leaving we are leaving the idyllic country for suburbia…there is enough country there to make the transition easy.  Behind the house there is a field of wildflowers and waterfront on a river.   It does not quite compare to the view off the porch of the big house…but little would.

house2

Considering that we moved from a five bedroom Victorian to a two bedroom house the move went surprisingly well.  Between maintaining the yard at the new house, sprucing up the yard at at the old house, the move, two wedding and many visits with family and friends, the summer went by very quickly! 

Last week I completed my migration cycle and returned to Turkey.  I flew in on a Wednesday and the very next day drove down to Marmaris with my father-in-law.  I have about a week left at the summer house, with very limited internet access.  I am using the time to rest and rejuvenate before the school year starts again.   I plan on resuming regular posting once I no longer need to use my cell phone as a portable hot spot.  

School is starting soon or has start already for many. As a teacher, for me the start of the new year is not January, but rather September.  New year, new students, and life goes on.   Enjoy what is left of summer! 

Lost and Found

Several times recently I have gotten lost on my way somewhere.  I got the directions confused and ended up having no idea of where I was.  I had two options, go with it or turn around go back and start stressing.  In years past I would have done the latter, however, one of the things I am better at now is the former. 

In Turkey this is important.  Sometimes when you are doing something, whether it is driving, paperwork, trying to get something done, there are obstacles.  But getting tense about it will not help. TRUST ME!  My husband likes to say the F-Word in Turkey is “Flexibility.”  One has to be flexible to get stuff done. 

So when I was lost, I just kept driving.  One of the great things about driving in Turkey is the road signs.  Not the street signs, you could die of old age looking for a particular street.  But the road signs are great, they are all over the place and direct you to different neighborhoods.  Most people know how to get around then they are in a neighborhood, the hard part is getting there. 

In this sign the white signs are to neighborhoods, the blue to a different city.  The blue sign will take you to a highway.  Another thing about Turkey is there is no East/West North/South Highway nonsense.  The highways are designated by the major city they go to.  For example, for this highway, one direction is called Konya Road, the other Samsun Road.  This is helpful for people (me) who get their directions mixed up. 

2013-04-24 16.17.04

 

So when I get lost, I just keep driving and look for the road signs.  The other day when I was completely lost, I ended up right where I wanted to be.  Funny how that happens. 

New Page Under American and Turkish Fusion

SUBSTITUTIONS!

We have all been there.   You are craving a certain dish from home, or want to make some food in your recipe repertoire but are lacking ingredients.  Maybe they are not sold in the local market, or you would have to sell a kidney on the black market to afford it.  I will keep adding substitutions as things I have done in the past occur to me.

 

Phone Debacle

GAHHHHH!  (Insert more inarticulate sounds here!)  I have been having some phone issues lately.   In August I bought a Samsung Galaxy SIII to replace the four year old Apple IPhone 3GS my cousin had given me as a wedding present.  I liked the IPhone but it just wasn’t running very fast which was compounded by the fact for it to work in Turkey it had to be jail broken and I couldn’t update the operating system with out re-jail breaking it each time.  So I decided, as I haven’t bought a new phone since 2008, I would get one I really liked.

s3fronts

In Turkey you can register a foreign phone every two years.  I thought I had registered my last phone in August of 2010, so no problem.  HAH!  I had forgotten that I had actually registered my IPhone in February of 2011, however, my registration application did not bounce.  If they had told me I couldn’t register it at the time, I could have asked Bülent to register the phone.  Instead one morning in November my phone stopped working.   It had been shut off as “unregistered” even though I had tried to register it and had received no communication that there was a problem in the process. 

I called the government office which does the registration and they told me I could re-register the phone in January of 2013.  I was leaving the country (you need a stamp showing entrance to the country less than 30 prior to register the phone) and coming back on December 26th for my trip to Vienna.  So no smartphone for 2 months, fine.

Well, not so fine.  When I called to double check the registration issues on January 2 it turns out my entrance to the country has to be after January 1, 2013 , as well.  Which means I will not be able to register my phone until after I return to the U.S. in February.

I borrowed a friend’s extra phone for the duration.  It is a basic phone will calling and texting, and it has been interesting.  Did I die without my smartphone? No. Have I been lost and wish I had the Google Map app? Yes. 

While I like smartphones, and will be using one again in February, in some ways I think we are over reliant on them.  While I always was careful not to abuse my phone, I have been more sensitive to the way we use them.  Checking Facebook while talking to each other, using it while at restaurants—keeping on top of what is happing online does not keep us in the present.  Rather it distracts us from the experience we are having, keeping us from fully living in the present, in the now.  When your attention is on your smartphone you are not really there.   I will definitely be careful to stay in the present once I have my smartphone back.  Though it will be nice to have Whatsapp back so I can text my mother and brother again- but that is a kind of in the present thing too. 

 

For the details on phone registration in Turkey, check out Adventures in Ankara’s post. 

Hoşgeldiniz to 2013

Welcome to the New Year!  I hope everyone had safe and happy New Years celebrations.  Bülent and I have been so busy lately that we welcomed the New Year from bed, where we had been snuggling and watching movies.  It worked for me!  Start the New Year as you mean to continue right?  I am sure many people are thinking about New Year Resolutions and how to make changes.  I think I am just going to continue the journey I started several months ago, trying to appreciate the good, and live a more balanced life.

It has been a difficult year.  This day last year I was packing my bags to go back to the U.S.  I  had taken a leave of absence due to my father’s health and was supposed to head back at the end of the semester in late January.  I had spoken to my family a couple of days before and I had decided to change my plane ticket on December 30.  It was expensive to change a ticket two days before the flight, but it was the best decision I ever made.  My father’s funeral was on the original date in January on which I was supposed to arrive. 

I had taken the semester off and my school had hired someone to take my place, so I stayed in N.H., grieving and healing with my family.  It was difficult to be separated from my husband for six months, but has changed our relationship for the better.  We are stronger and more united, we know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to help the other…been there, done that.  We have now had bad and trying times and just love each other more for our individual responses to them. 

My time in the U.S. last year was very precious to me.  It allowed me to spend time with my mother while she needed me, and while I needed her.  I was able to get to know my brother as the man he is now, as opposed to the boy he was when I left.  I was also able to get to know his long time girlfriend, who is as lovely inside as she is out.  I went to my college roommate’s wedding and celebrated her happiness with her, and our college friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in five years.   I drove from Texas to New Hampshire, meeting Bülent’s dearest old friends, and visiting mine along the way.   I also went to BlogHer ‘12!

My oldest and dearest friend made me an Auntie—albeit in a terrifying way.  Due to her daughter’s insistence to make a (extremely early) entrance I was able to meet her in the NICU before I came back to Turkey.  

Health wise: Bülent and I went vegetarian (almost six months now) and I joined a gym a few months ago.  The breast lumps have been vanquished—well not vanquished but at least identified as benign.  To top it all off, our dog, Butterfinger, is not letting cataracts get her down.   

The year has been challenging and rewarding.  I am hoping that this next year will be easier, because we kind of need a break.  But we are starting the year off right.  Last year my dad wanted to take our family on a last vacation, a cruise, due to his limited mobility, but he died before we were able.  

Well, we are taking that fucking cruise.  Come January break, my mom, brother and I are going to go.  We are going to celebrate what was, what is and what is to come, because that is what life is all about.  So 2013—bring it on!

Forget CEOs! Teachers Get Bonuses!

In Turkey, November 24th is Teacher’s Day.

Inside and outside of one of my cards. (We are still practicing articles.  There are none in Turkish. My kids think they are tricky—clearly.)

20121205_190831 (1)20121205_190809

  Teacher’s day is a serious business in Turkey.  To understand why, a little history is necessary.     It was only 90 years ago, in 1923,  that five years of primary education became compulsory and publically funded.  It was not until 1951 that middle schools were introduced and eight years of education became available to the public.  It was only in 1997 that it became compulsory to complete 8th grade. 

Comparing it to the U.S., it may seem strange that children have only been required to finish 8th grade for 15 years, however it is a matter of  when and where education began.  In 1923, when Atatürk created the public education system, only 10 % of the population was literate. 

He had big goals and wanted his country to be modern, to do this he knew literacy was needed, at the least.  However by 1926 there were only 200 teachers in Turkey and to accomplish his goal to provide publically funded education to children until the 5th grade he needed about 3000.  There were simply not enough teachers in the country. 

Teacher Education programs were quickly established, though the dearth of teachers  is one of the reasons for the tradition of large class sizes (in recent times about 4o or 50 students in a class in public schools, 30 in private).   For all of the challenges, from 1923 to 1999 the official illiteracy rate lowered from 90% to 14.3%, a tremendous drop in about 75 years (Karakaşoğlu, 2007, p. 790).

Due to the historical context of education in this country, teachers are greatly valued.  The term “Hocam” (my teacher) is an honorific and a very respectful salutation .  There is no difference in terminology for a university professor with a PhD from a primary school teacher—they are all considered equally important and are all “Hocam.”    On Teacher’s Day in Turkey, students present their teachers with chocolates and flowers, sometimes other presents too.  In the past, in addition to the lovely home-made cards and sweet letters, I have received a set of towels, scarves, mugs, and even sweaters!  On Teacher’s Day our school gives bonuses based on how many years you have been at the institution.  For some of the older teachers the bonus is equivalent or exceeds a month’s salary.  For me, it was a meaningful gift ( almost $300).   Some students even visit their former, retired teachers at home on Teacher’s Day.  It is very interesting to me that as a “Developing” country Turkey is able to financially reward teachers to such an extent.   I worked in the U.S. as a teacher and was never even wished a “Happy Teacher’s Day,” let alone a gift from your employer! 

 

P.S.There is a Teacher’s Day in the U.S., it is on Tuesday during Teacher Appreciation Week, which takes place in the first full week of May—Who Knew?

Revised Cooking Page!

A while back I created an Ev Yemeği/Home Cooking page, which has been sadly neglected, thought I cook all the time.  When I post recipes, I have been doing so in a haphazard way.  So over the next few weeks I will try to dedicate some time and energy to both posting more recipes and organizing the page itself.   I spend a significant amount of my time cooking, and eating, as evidenced by this blog.  So here is the beginning of this new branch of Far From the Sticks:

 Close to the Kitchen: Ev  Yemeği 

RULING TURKEY

Survived!

I have survived the first week of school.  It went pretty well.  I missed teaching and the kids.  There is something special about the first week of school, when the kids are a little scared and trying to make a good impression.

A lot of my students from last year have come looking for me and have asked how my father is.  They knew he was ill, but are surprised when I tell them he died.  A couple times little girls have actually teared up.

Being back I knew people might ask how it was to be home and how my father is. What I didn’t expect from people is the comment…Wow you had a really long vacation!  They seemed to skipped over the terminal illness and death thing.   I had a particularly awkward encounter with  my neighbor.  First she commented on my long vacation, I said I went home because my father was very ill—he had cancer.  So then she asked what kind.  I said prostate because I don’t know how to say endocrine tumor in Turkish.  She said, oh..that’s not so bad, my father has that, then she asked how my father was now.  Dead.   I think she has been avoiding eye contact.

On my quest to have a more balanced life, I have been going to bed earlier this year.  It makes such a difference to go to sleep at 10 instead of 12.  It makes the morning so much less painful.  On the other hand, it is a habit that makes mornings come early.  It means that by 9 am this morning, I had showered, blown my hair dry, had breakfast, and walked the dog.  I had tried to sleep in, but to no avail.  I have a wedding to go to tonight.  I will have to take a nap to be able to stay conscious past 10!