Istanbul, Turkey
41° 1' N 28° 57' E
Oct 08, 2006 03:01
Distance 0km

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Text written in: English

Somewhere Between East and West

Turkey isn't European and it isn't Arabic either-one of my students said this when we were discussing whether Turkey should be admitted to the European Union. Before coming I assumed that since Turkey is Muslim, it must also be Arabic. Not so, most of my students dislike headscarves and the EU. Who would have guessed I'd be wrong to generalize an entire culture with vague images I'd seen in the media?

Always Take Your Shoes Off!!-I lucked out and found a room with a Turkish girl, Burcu (bor-JEW).  She has a nice cozy apartment in Besiktas, which is both close to Taskim (Istanbul's pulse) and Levant (my work). Burcu is studying American Literature in the American Cultural Studies Dept. (who knew our culture was that interesting?) and hopes to do her grad studies in the U.S. She's a great girl and a lot of fun to chat with. But there are definite culture clashes, mostly me repeatedly shocking her by not knowing simple household cultural rules. Such as being unable to walk anywhere in the house with outside shoes on, remembering to unplug every single appliance after use-toaster oven, lap-top, phone charger..everything), and the practice of leaving at least one window open in the apartment no matter what the temperature outside.

Fear Factor: Turkish Style- I happened to be in an adventurous mood when my roommate offered me some of her dinner.  She points to a pan with little funny shaped pieces of meat, and giggles "I think in your country you call them balls?'. Uh-huh, had me some lamb testicles. Hmmhmm...good. Not really. I had to cut a small piece, wrap it in bread, and dip it in a sauce to get it down. I  don't know what I expected it to taste like, but it was like gamey lamb. I then politely declined Burcu's offer of, "Rachel, would you like the last balls?''.

Mugged-This sucked. I was walking home (yes, by myself kinda late at night...I know, stupid of me) when a taxi driving past, suddenly stops and the man gets out yelling something.  I said I didn't need a ride, and suddenly he grabs my purse and runs back to the car. Stupidly I tried to get it back, which didn't work.  I lost some cash and my new phone I just purchased (uh..so annoying) and God forbid my camera. My roommate was real shocked, because we live in a real safe district and she'll run to the store late at night by herself.  But I guess for blondie, it'll be taxi's home from now on. Of course, it won't do me much good, if the driver robs me....I guess it's the downside of city life.

Learning to Teach-Teaching English is probably the craziest job ever (not that cleaning operating rooms isn't!!). Some days I come home exhausted-from planning lessons, and working, but mostly from constantly explaining myself.  Simple words such as 'waiting' or 'just as' or when to use 'near' or 'close' have such an obvious meaning that it's really hard to explain them simply. But, my students are wonderful, a mix of hardcore businesspeople, social housewives, and busy university students, all desperate to learn English. 

In Turkey it's essential to know at least English and has gotten to the point that a lot people are learning Chinese as a 3rd language to give them an edge.  It's really humbling to realize that teaching this skill actually effects their lives.  It also makes me feel blessed that just by growing up in America I have the opportunity to travel anywhere and teach, visit, and meet all these people because of a common language. 

Photos / videos of "Somewhere Between East and West":

me and Burcu-on her birthday This was Burcu trying her hand at the drums on her birthday burcu and her friend Ayoub, showing us how to dance Turkish style me by the Bosphorus the Bosphorus The Bosphorus an old cool lookin gate some of the crazy construction on Istiklal-notice the complete lack of safety lines or fences some of the crazy construction on Istiklal-you just literally hop over construction and jackhammers...craziness ha ha!! this is just a random hotdog statue in Taskim, I just had to take a pic of it, sorry mom-know its a bit perverted looking, but it really is too funny love birds holding wedding rings in their mouths-this lovely statue is right outside the grocery store by my house This was on Republic Day, when the whole city was covered in Turkish flags and pics of Attaturk-their beloved leader from the past a cool random shot of Burcu my students, Jana and Okan-they're fantastic, Jana my youngest at 16 tells me that I'm 'sugar' (sugar and sweet are the same thing in Turkish) and Okan is always giving me a hard time in class fellow teachers hard at work planning lessons me during one of my lessons-notice my drawing on the board to explain 'fireplace'-i'll become an expert at miming and drawing before this is over this is Gurken-one of my students, I explained to him my childhood nickname of airhead and he literally wrote down "what Rachel's mom says"-haha! this is Ortakoy, a lovely area-very touristy, but nice to place to chill out