Musings on my adventures around the world and my ties back in Texas as well as some of the the ideas I have to adapt and create to keep those places close to home.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Logic Puzzles

Today we had our New Year's Party at school. Yeah, one of the sad parts about some international schools is that you don't get that lovely two week holiday around Christmas. No worries. I'll be enjoying at the beginning of February when I head off to Egypt and Jordan. So back to the party. One of the teacher's put out a logic puzzle challenge for a free bottle of champagne. Now me, I was excited about the puzzles but not about the champagne. In fact when I e-mailed in my responses I even told her that I didn't want the prize, I just wanted to know if my answers were correct. Turns out they were. And the first three people with the correct answers got a bottle. The amusing part? Two of us don't drink alcohol at all. We were just entering to know if our answers were correct. You just can't tempt a math teacher that way.

If you're interested, here's the three puzzles we had to correctly answer in order to gain that bubbly drink...

(1) Reindeer Games
Santa is standing on one side of a cold lake and with him are an abominable snowman, a reindeer and a box with carrots. In the lake is a small iceberg. Santa wants to cross the lake with all three “items” which are with him. There is only room for Santa and one item on the iceberg… But if he leaves the reindeer with the carrots alone on one side of the lake the reindeer will eat the carrots. If he leaves the abominable snowman and the reindeer on one side the abominable snowman will eat the reindeer. Only Santa can separate the abominable snowman from the reindeer and the reindeer from the carrots.How can Santa cross the lake with all three items, without one eating the other?

(2) Who is Naughty or Nice?
Santa is delivering presents and takes a wrong turn somewhere, now he is lost in a forest. The forest is between two villages. In village “A” live only liars, they always lie. In village “B” people always tell the truth. Santa meets a stranger from one of the villages in the forest and can ask him only one question.Which question should Santa ask him to know for sure where village “B” is?

(3) Who owns the Zebra?

The tags have fallen off some of the Christmas gifts and Santa needs to figure out which presents go where. Help him use the clues below to figure out which house is which and where the presents belong….

There are five different houses.
Each house has its own color.
Each house has a child of a different nationality.
Each child left out a different drink for Santa.
Each child has a different pet.
Each child asked for a different Christmas present.

The English child lives in the red house.
The Australian has a dog.
The Turkish child left out tea.
The Green house is on the left side of the white house.
The child in the green house left out coffee.
The child that asked for world peace has birds.
The child in the yellow house asked for a trampoline.
The child in the middle house left out milk.
The American lives in the first house.
The child that asked for a new bicycle lives in the house next to the house with cats.
The child in the house next to the house with the horse, asked for world peace.
The child who asked for the new Harry Potter book left out beer.
The Canadian child asked for a White Christmas (snow).
The American lives next to the blue house.
Water was left out in the house next to the house where a child asked for a new bicycle.
Who owns the zebra?

I'm not going to post the answers, but let me know if you think you got them right and want your answers checked.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Closing in on Christmas

It's really odd to stop and realize that Christmas day is only 4 days away (almost 3 as I'll soon be heading to bed). As I get closer it feels less and less like Christmas. One of the oddest things is that I'm still teaching, with 3 days to go. I have class tomorrow which makes it feel like the Christmas season doesn't start until after that. Sure makes for a short Christmas season when you tie it into time off, which being a teacher I tend to take for granted. I guess I was lucky to get a Christmas to New Year break while I was in Guinea. That at least made it seem much more like the holiday season. Although thinking back I don't actually think my break started much before the 25th. It's just that having the extended break made it at least seem like a holiday. I'm not entirely sure it will seem that way here. Even though I have Christmas music streaming through my computer I can't quite come to terms with the fact that Christmas is almost upon us. Hopefully I'll be more into the spirit by Saturday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Baking Cookies

As part of my attempt to recreate the holiday season here I invited my neighbor's daughters (4 year old twins) over to make cookies with me. What fun! I wasn't really sure how well it would work. After all I was going to have two kids to keep occupied and interested. Luckily I had two different types of cookies that I wanted to make - chocolate chip and mint chocolate cookies (yes I found that I could make mint chocolate cookies with mint extract since I can't get mint chocolate chips here). I just gave each of them a bowl, added ingredients to each bowl according to the recipe sitting in front of each kid and had them continually mixing. The fun really came when we went to put cookies on the tray. No spoons for us! It's always more fun when you use your hands. We rolled balls until they got bored with that and then moved on to making cookie snakes. I figured it couldn't hurt the cookies. And half the fun of doing things with kids is seeing what their imagination comes up with. In this case cookie snakes. Thanks Carmen and Katrina for the smiles and laughs which helped make the cookie baking a continuous part of my holiday tradition.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Call to Military Service

2 weeks ago....
So I was a bit confused when I walked into my office around lunch as someone called for one of my office mates, Cem (pronounced Jim). I knew that I had seen him this morning when all seemed well, only one of the other girls said that he was at the doctors. ???I didn't think there was anything wrong with him.Turns out that the only thing wrong was a call to do his physical test to enter his mandatory military service(5 months and 5 days for him since he's a college graduate - 18 months otherwise, or a year as anofficer). Now, as you can imagine this isn't exactly a great time for him to be leaving for 5 months -especially as we're already covering for a teacher who is out for 2 months with a broken heel. So it seems(if I understand my department right) that the school took Cem and another teacher to a doctor today to get a signed physician's form saying that they are ill (you don't ever use the word sick here) and are not physically capable of taking the entrance test.Voila - Cem's put off his military service until at least the next time they take a new group in. I know the plan is for him to miss the last month of school and then do the majority of his service over the summer. I'm interested to see what else has to be contrived in order to make this timing work out.

The amusing thing is the debate that is now going on in the school. If he has a doctor's note saying that he is "ill" (never mind that no one can read what is actually wrong with him on the note) does that mean that he can't be at school either? Even though he is perfectly fine? You start to see where I get a little muddled thinking about all of this. Cem's pushing for coming and working but just not signing anything - in other words making it so that there is no official documentation of him being at school. After all it seems like the signatures are what really matter here,not the actual truth of the matter. I'm curious to see what is decided. Will we have an invisible colleague (more common then you'd think as technically the elementary school is supposed to only have Turkish teachers - only a problem when ministry representatives show up to observe the school for a week) for a couple of days, or will we have to pick up the hours he normally covers.

It's times like this that I really see the difference between Turkey and the US. But in some ways I guess it's all about working the system to get what you want. It is just so much more apparent here that you are working the system....

Turns out that Cem did have to miss class for a week. We picked up his hours and he came back to school Thursday. The funny thing is that it isn't over. He still has to present his excuse to the board. Only when he left to do it after spending a couple of hours all he got was a date on which he has to return in order to officially present his doctor's note. I do wonder when this thing will be finally finished.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

What would you bring

If you were moving overseas what would be the three things that you would absolutely have to take with you?

When I arrived in Turkey I was surprised to find that my list wasn't really all that similar to what others were deeming necessary. Perhaps it was my previous travelling with the Peace Corps. All I know is that my luggage was significantly less and with a different selection than many of the other teachers. My three favorite/most used objects brought are small tool kit (thanks dad), three photo ropes ( which were hanging on the wall with pictures attached the same evening I arrived, and a sharp paring knife. Everything else was icing on the cake...

Of course this is not the same as the question that occurs several months later as I beg people to send me packages...What would you have people send you? The top things on my list? Vanilla extract, index cards, Hershey's kisses, mint chocolate chips, dried ranch dressing. Can you tell that half of my memories of home are about food? The list is of course a little biased towards holiday cooking, but fairly representative of what I miss anyways.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Clinging to memories

It's funny to me how much I seem to focus on recreating bits of home when I'm abroad. And then as soon as I get back to the states I seem to focus on reconstructing some of the more charming bits of my life abroad. What is it that makes humans so contrary? I guess in a way it is wanting the best of both worlds.

Three separate experiences brought this to mind today. The first was making an advent wreath for myself. While in Istanbul last weekend I bought four candle (blue and green - they're not quite the right color, but you have to be willing to improvise a bit) which I stuck to tea plates. After school today I went out with my scissors and stole some branches from the pine trees in my back yard. With some twist ties and a little bit of patience I soon had a live (soon to be dead) wreath for my table. Makes it seem a bit more like the Christmas season.

I've also been bugging my sister for pictures of my niece. The joys of the electronic age. Even though I'm 8 time zones away I can still get messages almost instantaneously and (as long as people are on top of it) keep updated on how things are changing visually. It's that bit in parenthesis that I"m having trouble with currently. So I've started a one e-mail a day campaign to my sister and brother-in-law with the hope that new pictures will be posted soon. I'm quite pleased with the one I have planned for tomorrow:
When you're far far away
With a little growing niece
You sit and wonder "Has she grown today?"
Pictures are good, they're just a small piece
To remind you when you travel there's a price to pay
I've left you all behind, but hey -
the images don't have to cease!

I also brought a little bit of Guinea (West Africa) into my kitchen today. I hosted a dinner for a couple of other returned peace corps volunteers. Mmmmm...mafe tiga (peanut sauce on rice for those who aren't familiar with fulani). Always makes me smile to taste it. Takes me back to sitting outside with my family learning the words for all the ingredients at the same time that I learned to make it. Whenever I smell the sauce I can't help but think of Fatim, NaBintu and Oumou (the three daughters of my neighbors in Koundara). Even though I haven't seen them in 4 years they are still bringing a smile to my face.