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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Recycling Istanbul Style

Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
I had an interesting conversation with one of my co-workers this past week, which actually cleared up one of the things that I hadn’t really understood from my wanderings around the streets of Istanbul. There have always been these people around (normally generalized as gypsies although I am not sure if that has an truth to it or not) who do one of two things. They either have these enormous bags (think taller than the person is and about as wide as my outstretched arms) which are on a set of wheels somewhat like a trolley and are steadily stuffed with cardboard and paper as their owners dig through the dumpsters and trashcans on the street. Or it is a man pushing a cart scattered over with what simple looks like refuse but is normally some form of electronic waste or else scrap metal. It turns out that these people are Istanbul’s answer to recycling. They collect the waste cardboard and metal and haul it out (huh…that’s what the horse carts on the main road are transporting so slowly!) to the factory where they are paid by weight for they have collected. The theory was also shared that some of these people work in groups, as it is not uncommon to see one pull out a cell phone and inform a friend that they have finished a certain street and are moving on to the next. It just makes me wonder how many other jobs there are out in this city that I have never imagined!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A couple of months ago I read a headline that said that Turkey was getting a new currency. Huh? I thought. How can that be? I sort of stored that information away in the back of my head, curious to see if it would actually happen while I was here. Well sure enough at the start of the new year the bank machine started spitting out new notes (It was fabulous for a while when all it would issue was 20 lira notes). In reality it hasn’t been as drastic of a change as it sounds. A few years before I arrived Turkey had taken steps to address the inflation problems they were having. They rescaled their currency moving from the Turkish lira to the New (yeni) Turkish lira (otherwise known as ytl) and chopping six zeros of the end. So 1,000,000 TL was worth 1 YTL. It was confusing enough when vendors in the market and some stores still priced goods using the old system. Now though, I guess that they’ve decided that the country will never go back to the old system. Or perhaps they just feel that it is no longer a new currency. So they’ve reissued all of the bills and coins and returned to calling it the Turkish lira. It seems to be a slow turnover…my wallet is a mix of ytl and tl. Although I am slightly amused be the fact that quite often in my change purse I can find the old tl, the ytl and the new tl. How many places do you know that have that many different versions of a currency circulating? I can also say that I’ve already been corrected several times by my students when I attempt to rephrase a question into something pertaining to them and use the ytl. Someone is always sure to speak up and say “Ms. C that no longer exists. You mean the tl, right?” So I’ll continue to slowly adjust to the new look and name, mourn the ending of bills with Kapadokya and Ephesus on them and enjoy that the new notes have a mathematician and a scientist. Above all I’ll just have to try to remember that it is now just the Turkish lira.

Paraguayan challenge

Last night someone asked me what the Paraguayan flag looked like. I had to admit that I didn't have any clue! Of course when I thought about I realized that very seldom do I know what a country's flag looks like before I ever arrive. But in the name of becoming better informed (which really means adding any little piece of information to my admittedly meager knowledge) I went to look it up. Turns out it is this:

And is one of the few countries which has a different seal on the front and back of their flag. In Paraguay's case the seal of the country and the seal of the treasury. I was kind of bummed that they weren't still using one of their provisional flags which I think is so much more unique and recognizable. Oh well.

Getting students excited

I am always thrilled as a teacher when I can get my kids excited and fired up about something. I was pretty sure I had a winner of a lesson today for LP students (those learning the English of mathematics) and it turns out I was right. All because of this little problem (try it if you have a bit of time and see what you get as a result):

Write down the month you were born in (as a number)
Multiply by 4
Add 13
Multiply by 25
Subtract 200
Add the day you were born on
Multiply by 2
Subtract 40
Multiply by 50
Add the last 2 digits of the year you were born in
Subtract 10500

**I'm not quite sure if it will work with students born in 2000 or later, I might need to check that out in future years. **

Friday, February 13, 2009

A new destination

Come July I'll be moving to Asuncion, Paraguay to start a two year teaching contract at the American School of Asuncion. I have to admit I'm a bit overwhelmed by the way things are working out (especially the way my timing will go this July) and am curious as to what I have really gotten myself into (again). I'm not sure I can even explain how little I knew about Paraguay when I accepted my job ('s in South America, they speak Spanish...that about sums it up). Thankfully since then I have learned a bit more, and found a few things to be excited about.

(1) Paraguay is one of only two landlocked countries in South America (Bolivia is the other one). It is bordered by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.
(2) The population of the country is less than that of Istanbul, about 6.8 million. The population of Asuncion is roughly 1.2 million. I did say I wanted something smaller.
(3) I'm moving back to a land of mangoes and papayas. Yum!
(4) Paraguay is the third largest exporter of soybeans in the world. Huh. Who knew?
(5) The majority of the population is bilingual speaking Spanish and Guarani. (I think I'll focus on learning Spanish.)
(6) There are only about 20 books printed in English about Paraguay. (I guess that's more than enough, just doesn't seem like that many...)

It should be an adventure!

Reflections on a job fair

International teaching has developed a unique (?) system of finding and hiring teachers. A couple of organizations (Search Associates and ISS among them) organize fairs where teachers looking for a placement and schools with positions to fill can meet, interview and possibly make a match. All of this usually occurs within 2-3 days. A few stressful, crazy, busy days at least on the side of the teacher.

Last week I was at one such fair in Boston (with 500 teaching candidates and around 100 schools). As I settle back into life in Istanbul I find myself reflecting on the things that I really must remember the next time I go through one of these things.

(1) I need to know and remember what I am looking for in a school. This time I really wanted a smaller school population - so why did I interview with a large school in Shanghai?
(2) You have to sell yourself. There is no one else to do it for you. If you don't sell yourself there is some other math teacher out there who will.
(3) Schedule eating breaks. I know that some people this year only managed to get 2 or 3 interviews. Because I am a math teacher this is seldom the case. I had 9 interviews in all (not counting call backs) and 5 of them were back to back. Not the best idea. It really is better if you have a bit of time to relax, take a deep breath, eat a snack, and make some notes so that you can keep the schools straight. I knew this, and had every intention of following it, but somehow still didn't quite work out.
(4) Sometimes it might be worth while to talk with someone even if they are not at a school you are currently interested in or if you don't quite meet their needs. You never know when the situation will change. In 3 years you may decide that is *the* school you want to be at, or the head may change schools and end up at your dream school. Contacts are good to make. Some of my most enjoyable time was spent speaking with the head of a school I had no interest in moving to (but where two ex-colleagues had returned to with happiness). She helped me to refocus on what I desired, gave me a different perspective, and made me feel as if there was one more person "on my side."

Hopefully getting this all written down will help me remember it the next time I end up in a similar situation.