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.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Through my window

Last week I had to introduce myself to my on-line learning community by describing my view through one of my windows. I thought this was an interesting exercise, although I must admit I took a fair amount of poetic license with it...all the things could have been true, just not all out of the same window.

As I perch in the bay window of my apartment in the morning I stare out over the field that abuts the school property. In the slight reflection I catch a glimpse of the photos that hang on my wall. Pictures of people and places that have shaped the person I am - family at home in Texas, images of Guinea in West Africa, the magical moment in the desert in Mauritania, exploring in Australia, some of the many excursions I’ve managed to take here in Turkey…Through the open window I can see and hear the sheep grazing in the field. At that moment I hear the call to prayer, which reminds me that even though it may look as if I live in the country I am actually just on the (far) outskirts of Istanbul. Part of my life takes place in the dynamic sprawling European/Asian city, the rest in the more peaceful area where the school is located. As I sit and think my eyes keep drifting to the road, and the call to prayer serves as my call to leave the window and take off for a run.

Then I added more, as people actually wanted to hear *something* about the school, after all we are in an education program.

Luckily (at least I feel that it is a good thing) I don't see the school from the window. When you are living on campus, I think that being able to have your house completely separate from the school is a definite luxury. I do look out over our creche (the preschool for on campus children) and the accompanying playground which is often filled with shrieks and laughter in the afternoon. When I do finally take off on my run I manage to circle the entire campus in about a mile. I laugh whenever I pass the elementary school for it now has a trojan horse in the playground which is taller than any of the two story wings that make up the school. Past the caged fields and the gravel soccer field/track I hit the student dormitories (very pink!) and then circle around the high school building. I marvel at the imposing entrance to the x-shaped structure and know that I'll soon be returning as the halls fill with students to teach my first math class of the day, and hope that I'll soon have the names of my 98 students sorted out before the end of the third week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Iftar in Sultanahmet

One of the things I enjoy about the Ramadan season is having the chance to head into the old part of the city to explore the Ramadan festival that is always held in the hippodrome. Last night I got my chance to experience the atmosphere. The reason I actually like Sultanahmet this time of year is that it is much more focused on Turks then it is on visitors. There is a more friendly, town fair type of feeling to the whole area. Yes there are plenty of tourists in the area still, but the whole set up is for residents. A way to celebrate the holy month and enjoy the breaking of the fast at sunset. Happily for those of us not fasting we arrived in Sultanahmet just minutes before the mosque call signaled that it was time to eat. We didn't have to wait! Instead we could go straight to a gozleme stand and enjoy our first warm treat of the night. Tucked up on the grass happily eating we were free to imagine that we were no different from any others sitting on the green space of the hippodrome - to imagine that for once, we were just one more resident of Istanbul enjoying what the city has to offer.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Saturday I got the chance to explore another area of Istanbul with one of my Turkish colleagues. Technically we said we were going to take photos, but instead we ended up spending more time sitting, talking, and enjoying the cooler region of Istanbul. Beykoz is pretty far up the Bosphorus - what seems more like a smaller town then a part of the big Istanbul city. It is apparently a region which draws many of the immigrants from the Black Sea region because of its cooler temperatures and extra greenery. The houses are in that style (according to M - I wouldn't really know) and the streets were a lot of fun to wander. However, I enjoyed sitting along the side of the Bosphorus in a city run cafe the most. It probably didn't hurt that it is the middle of Ramazan either, as it means there weren't nearly as many people out at the cafe mid-day.

Public Exercise Machines

There is a new trend in Istanbul to install exercise equipment in some of the public parks. I find it a bit odd. I'll run in public, but I'm not so sure how comfortable I would be on a glider, back press or side swinger (ok, so I don't know the technical names for most of the machines I checked out the other day - but you should get an idea of what they do from my made up names) where anyone who was passing by could see me. Talking with a Turkish friend the point was made that most of your everyday Turks would never be able to experience these machines if they weren't in the public areas. They don't have enough money to join a gym, and Turks don't seem to be nearly as obsessed with exercising as many Americans I know. So perhaps the easy access to these machines will help them to exercise a bit more. I just don't know if I'll get used to seeing fully covered, head-scarved women exercising on machines in the park. I think I'll stick to running, myself.


Somehow it doesn't seem quite fair that classes haven't even started (students arrive tomorrow) and yet I have already had to give several different sets of exams. I came back to school a week early to help give the grade 10 transfer exams - which is exactly what it sounds like, an exam that gives interested students a chance to transfer into our school from an exam at the end of the summer. We did have to be a bit careful for some borderline grades as students have to earn at least a 55 in either math or science in order to enter the school - and as always these students still have the right to appeal a score in court (it's better for us not to even give a grade which may result in an appeal). This past week students had a second chance to take the grade-raising exams and the responsibility exams. Their first attempt was in June just after school ended. The grade-raising exam is again what it sounds like, a single exam which will get averaged with their end of year grade. It is a bit deceptive to call it a grade-raising exam as quite often it ends up lowering their average (a result the students never seem to anticipate). Responsibility exams are for those students who have failed a class during the normal school year (either for the just finished year or a previous year). They get a one exam shot (which will continue to get repeated semester after semester until they manage to pass or finally give up) to pass. All it takes is passing the single exam to retroactively pass them for the year. I still have my doubts about the educational value of these exams, but I do realize it is something that I have no control over. Its a Turkish Education Ministry decision.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quote of the week

Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another.

- Marquis de Condorcet

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another photo being used

I got a message the today that another one of my photos is being used. This time in some sort of travel guide that has been modified for the iphone. The cool thing is that they sent a link that will let me (and you) see what it would look like.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New favorites

I've finally taken the time to search out two of my new favorite artists that I've discovered recently. Pierneef is a South African artist that I discovered at one of the museums while I was there. This I think is my all time favorite painting of his.

The other is a Turkish artist, Mustafa Ata, who falls more into the modern/geometrical category. Istanbul Modern always has one of his paintings hanging in their permanent exhibition. I just love the lines in his people.