Hi everyone: this will be a short blog, but I thought I’d tell you about a few things, and I’d like to post as regularly as I can. Dale has plans to do a post focusing on food, which seems to be of interest to many of you.
As I said in my last blog, this past week was the Bayram holiday. In addition to going to Gallipoli and Canakkale, we also did a bit of exploring around Istanbul. One day Dale and I walked up the Bosphorus to explore the Rumelihisari or Rumeli Fortress. This was built in 1451-1452 (which I think is a very short time!) by Mehmet the Conquerer. We had noticed it every time we have taken a ferry cruise up the Bosphorus, and wanted to explore it. Unfortunately, one cannot walk along the walls, but it was still very much worth a visit. The views of the Bosphorus and city are outstanding, and it is always wonderful to see and think about something over 500 years old. Rumeli has seen recent controversy with the decision by the government to build a mosque inside the fortress, which has been a concert venue for decades. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures:
On Saturday we decided to venture down to the old city to explore the Basilica Cistern. We did this in some trepidation, as we knew that there would be a lot of people there during a holiday weekend. And yes, this was quite true, with buses and trams being very packed (on one tram we were literally pushed in, and we were worried about a father with a young baby. But everyone was okay. I am very impressed by how much public transit is used in Istanbul, and how good a system it is. You really don’t need a car to live here), and there were swarms of people when we arrived. However, I had heard from several people how cool the Cistern is, and I’m glad that we made it. After a short wait in line, we were able to enter. The Cistern is very atmospheric, with gently lapping water, “ghostly carp”, impressive columns, and beautiful lighting. Oh, and it also has “Medusa Head” pillars, one side-ways and one upside-down; theories abound as to their origin. A lovely escape from the summer heat; I can only imagine how fantastic it would be to hear a concert there at night.
So it was a little hard for me to make the transition from holiday back to teaching. I am struck by how full-on teaching is. Not only does it take a lot of time to prepare for each class (one luxury I have is of being able to prepare the same lesson for different sections of the same course- but then the challenge is keeping all of those sections coordinated, and also of keeping coordinated with my fellow teachers teaching different sections of that course. I have to keep good notes of where I get to each class). Every class there are decisions to be made about whether to push on with something, or change tack; how long to let discussion go; trying to judge if students are understanding, etc, etc … of course, this is old news to my teacher friends! I don’t want you to think that I’m complaining though! I really like the variety of my day, which includes teaching, prep, and weekly home-group meetings, flag ceremony duty, lunch-time duty, other meetings, talking with students, chatting with fellow teachers. I am still working to know all the students’ names, but I am enjoying getting to know them. Overall, they are really lovely and kind. So it has been overall a very positive experience so far. It helps to talk to my fellow new teachers, and other teachers who haven’t been here that long; they remind me not to be hard on myself, and that this is a challenging job!
To give you some feel for the public transportation options in Istanbul, I’ll describe our trip to a party that we went to last night. Our destination was on the Asian side, almost directly across the Bosphorus from us. However, getting there was not so simple. We first took a bus outside our door to Besiktas, then took a ferry from Besiktas to Uskadar on the Asian side. We then took a dolmus (a shared taxi, in this case a minibus in which about 20 people were crammed in) north along the water. We ended by taking a taxi for the last part. So there are lots of ways to get around Istanbul, and public transportation is cheap. Each public transportation segment was 2 lira or less (less than $1 US/CDN), and taxis are also incredibly cheap (our longest taxi ride was about 20 minutes and cost 20 lira, so 5 lira per person). The downside is the traffic- on the way back, we got stuck in heavy traffic outside Ortakoy (the district between us and Besiktas)– without traffic, this would take 5 minutes or less, but last night it was 40 minutes– we would have done better to get out and walk. Istanbul is an amazing city, and if they could fix the traffic problem it would be even better …
I have talked a lot about the cats around here. It looks like we will be adopting a cat in a few weeks! More may follow, stay tuned … One not so nice cat-related story is that two of the people on campus (one teacher, and one partner of a teacher) have had to have rabies shots this fall after having been bitten and/or scratched by cats on campus. That has made all of us more more cautious about approaching cats here. On a final, more positive note, I will leave you with this picture of a cat who likes to sleep in the tree in our front yard
We hope that all of you are doing well, wherever you are, and know that we are thinking of you, especially those of you going through difficult times. We welcome your comments, and please let us know things that you would like us to talk about. Note that I managed to stop myself from talking about either the Canadian or Turkish elections!
Terry and Dale