Well, I think a new blog post is overdue. I apologize, it’s been a busy week or so with preparations for school (first classes on Monday!). The week has been filled with meetings of various kinds– with my fellow physics teachers, with home group teachers, full faculty meetings, technology meetings, you name it … I know that next year is going to be a lot easier!
So there are things that I like about our new situation, and things that I miss about our Kingston home. Just to get them out of the way, here’s some things I miss about Kingston, in no particular order: playing hockey, going out to see a movie, the public library, biking, and swimming. Now, here are some things that I like about Istanbul. The first would have to be the wonderful and interesting people at the school– there are people here who have taught all over the world (Dubai, UAE, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, the UK, US, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Sweden, and there’s lots more …). The non-teaching partners are also wonderful. Other things I like are: nightly walks along the Bosphorus, new food, friendly people, a new language (though I am finding Turkish hard), Turkish ice cream, the public transit system, and boat cruises.
Let me show some pictures I took on one of our nightly walks. The first two are some of the old “yalı” houses by the water. You can see they are casually squeezed in between newer buildings. I don’t know how old they are, but for me they evoke images of old Istanbul (maybe I’ve read too much Orhan Pamuk, who by the way, was a graduate of Robert College. I love his book “Istanbul: Memories of the City”. On a side-note, I’m going to be chaperoning some of the residential to see his “Museum of Innocence” in November!). I can’t wait for the winter weather to come, with rain and fog …
And a few other pictures from the walk:
I thought I would talk about some of the other things that are now part of our everyday lives. What about water? In Kingston we took drinking water out of the tap for granted. In many parts of the world, you can’t do this. I don’t think one will die if one drinks the water here, but it isn’t done. So you see a lot of water bottles. We get big jugs of water delivered every weekend, which is a bit better, because the jugs are re-used. I do brush my teeth and rinse food with tap water.
We walk and take public transit more than we did before, which is good. First of all, we can’t afford a car. Second, I wouldn’t want to drive here! It’s enjoyable walking to the shops, and you get to know the area and the people better that way. The only walk I dread is up the “hill”. As I’ve said before, we’re at the bottom of the hill, which is great for getting out into the local community. However, it does mean walking up to school (there are buses that go up in the morning, but I need the exercise). That hill is a real killer– I always sweat copiously after, and have to cool off before venturing on. It is a nice walk though, through forest in parts, so a nice transition. The hill does have an impact on the people living in the school. Those of us living at the top really have to think hard about going out of the school, because they’ll have to walk back up after (unless they have a car). So those people tend not to go out as much. Dale and I are both very happy with our location at the bottom.
Something else that’s part of our daily routine are stray dogs and cats. On the school grounds, there are many, many stray cats. Many of these have apparently been dumped here, as people think they will be taken in by those who live here. I can’t imagine just dropping off a cat that way … some of them do get taken in, but most are running wild. They do seem to get fed, but it can’t be an easy existence. Some of them, especially our friend “mama” (the cat who was on our bed the first night) are really friendly, while most are quite shy. Outside the school, there are many stray dogs– these always seem to be large dogs. They don’t appear to be starving, but many of them appear sad to us. The city does have a great system, where if you recycle pet food is dispersed. You can check it out here. I think it’s a brilliant idea. But they definitely have to do something about the stray animal situation. On a recent dinner in Arnavutkoy, we were stalked by one cat, and then later three, as you can see:
We probably go out for dinner more here than back in Kingston. Eating out here is pretty cheap, and we do this 2-3 times a week. You can get a good meal for about 20 TL (less than $10 CDN), and there are lots of good restaurants in Arnavutkoy and beyond. At one restaurant you go up to the front and pick out dishes, which is kind of fun. We also enjoy the local shops, and are establishing our favourite places for staples such as bread (at this place you can get a huge loaf of wonderful bread for 2 TL), fruit (good fruit, a little more expensive than other places), olives, cheese, etc. We have been going to the weekly local market (“pazar”) to get most of our fruits and vegetables. This is fun, as there are lots of vendors selling lots of different things. We always have to brush up on our numbers … you can bargain here, though we haven’t done that yet. For other things there are a couple of larger grocery stores, and we go to one of the “Migros” (Migros, and lots of other places, will deliver for free, so a lot of people do that). Unfortunately for me, beer and wine are not very cheap here …
There is certainly more bureaucracy here than in Kingston/Canada. In Canada you just buy a cell phone and get connected. Here it’s not so easy. I’ve already talked about the challenges of using a foreign phone here– you have to go to the tax office to have it registered, and then you go to a shop and get a sim card, etc, taking your passport, residence permit, first-born child, etc. Getting a bank account is also not easy, and it took me three visits to be able to use my bank card (however, once this is done, banking is similar to Canada– online banking is easy, though each time you do this, you are texted a pin– so you need a phone– and our card is also a debit card.
Well, that’s it for now. Thanks for sharing our journey! I’d welcome your thoughts about what you’d like me to talk about. In future blogs I want to talk more about the market, public transportation, and in my next blog I’ll share my experiences from the first week of teaching (which I am quite nervous about).
Terry Now Dale is going to add a few thoughts and experiences
I did a little research on the dogs of Istanbul, as there are over 100,000 in the city alone and you see these large mixed breeds everywhere you go, on the sidewalks and crossing streets, in the markets, peeking into and at times wandering into shops, nosing by your table at cafes, and sitting with you at the bus shelter. Unlike at home where there are strays who are picked up off the street and pets who belong to a family, there is a wider spectrum here with dogs who are used to living in cities and being dependent on humans but who do not belong specifically to any one owner. Unlike places in south America where they can roam in packs, the dogs here are mainly in ones and twos with the exception of some pack like behaviour in the early morning and late evening. Some dogs are friendly and respond to your voice, some are indifferent and some look wary. City council started a program a few years back involving a round up of street dogs, where they were neutered, vaccinated against rabies, tagged and returned to the street. There are divisive groups with differing perspectives on the dogs, some think the city will look like a more progressive place if the streets are cleared of them, and some are afraid of the dogs and see them as unclean, but many people show compassion toward them and I see this on a daily basis, like a car in busy traffic stopping as one crosses the street, by seeing shop keepers feed the dogs by their store fronts and put water out for them, by seeing small home made shelters of cardboard and wood set in front of homes and in parks. One proposal has been to round up dogs in the city and take them to an outlying forest, but there are already thousands of dogs there and people worry the street dogs will not survive and even protested against this idea, once again showing the complexity in this fascinating city. There is even division on campus as we have cats in every nook and cranny and they are breeding quickly. Some people have signs up not to feed them and others are taking them in. Our neighbour pours a big bag of cat food over the fence every week for the large group living outside our apt and the guards share their lunches with the mother cats who can then in turn have enough milk for their kittens. As Terry says to me: Dale, you can’t save them all. I carry kibble for dogs and cats wherever I go, although this is a drop in a large bucket. A staff member recently rescued a tiny diseased kitten who lost its mother and she is now happily with a colleague of ours, and we encountered a starving young mother cat, a skeleton with fur who lost her kittens, and she now has a little girl on campus who is thrilled to have her and has named her Luna. Every time we take our evening walk to a nearby park and see a favourite elderly yellow lab who mainly snoozes there and always wags his tail for us, my heart aches.
I will end here, there are so many things to write about. An extremely important topic that is reverberating around the world concerns the Syrian refugee crisis. This topic deserves its own blog and we will be sure to discuss it.
Terry and Dale