I love teaching in Istanbul. Before we came, when we told people about our plans in Turkey, I would conclude with something like, “Yeah, if it all works out the way we think it will, it will be a really good job.” It’s all worked out (meaning it’s a real school and they didn’t lie about what they offered to teachers), and it’s just as good, if not better, as we expected.
I have wanted to write about being here so many times in the last week – had so many stories I wanted to share – but when I’m in a position where I’m able to write, I don’t feel like it anymore.
Remember how I talked about Mehmet? The guy our school would send to guide us around Turkey? And how he couldn’t speak English and we spoke no Turkish and so our interactions were always polite, with the sporadic smile exchanged, but was obviously lacking conversation? It had been a while since we’d seen Mehmet – the last time was when he dropped us off at the apartment and I said, “Gule gule, Mehmet,” as he walked out the door. Steev has been pushing us to get our cell phones set up, and Ihsan promised me he’d go with us if we came by the school first and got him. Well, we walked in and Ihsan was on the phone. When he hung up, he said, “The man is coming down to go with you.” We didn’t know who was going, but we didn’t think about it much. We waited on the couch, talking to Ihsan. Ihsan looks at the door and says, “Oh, here he is.” Who is standing there but Mehmet? Kuba and I both burst out laughing. Oh, Mehmet… (He did not think it was very funny.) Kuba saw him the next day at a different branch and they had an actual conversation of hellos and how-are-yous. One small step for man…
My classes are really great. I teach pre-intermediate Monday through Thursday, a conversation class on Friday, and upper-intermediate and another conversation class on Sunday. We are observing a TOEFL class on Saturday mornings, which is a pain in the ass, frankly. I think Kuba wants to do TOEFL, which is fine with me, because I really enjoy the general English classes. I really like my Wednesday/Thursday class. They are talkative and energetic, but they also work on tasks when the time comes, and they’re really great at working together. My Monday/Tuesday class is full of younger Turkish men and one shy Turkish girl, and they are rambunctious. It’s actually a bit difficult to teach, because sometimes they don’t just shut up, and I get frustrated. You can’t talk over them when they’re shouting at each other in Turkish. But they mean well…
All of my students call me “Teacher,” or, sometimes, “Lauren Teacher.” Usually they just say, “Sorry…” to get my attention and then follow it with their question. Always a “thank you” afterwards.
I love teaching and our school is great, and the apartment is good, but Istanbul is huge, and I get too tired traveling around because you have to switch buses at certain points and find a different station and it’s just too cold to be wandering around… your feet get wet from the snow and you turn miserable. But when it gets nicer, I think we’ll start to venture out more. Last weekend, it was sunny on Friday after having rained all week, so Kuba and I walked through our part of town, Bakirkoy, down to the docks. We walked along, taking a break to sit on the wall of the sidewalk, with giant rocks breaking waves down below. It was beautiful. Far into the distance, we could see much of the city with its skyscrapers, and you’d think it was another world, it was so far away. But that’s Istanbul: full of people, not a quiet or empty part of the city for miles on end. Along the highways, you see graffiti and food carts, as if the city doesn’t take a breath, and behind them the city stretches so far that your eyes stop recognizing shapes before the city begins to quit. It’s overwhelming, daunting, and glorious. I wouldn’t want to live here permanently. Sometimes you feel like you can’t get away, and I start to miss standing in a field with nobody around and nothing reaching higher than the hay that’s growing tall in midsummer.