October 12, 2014

Sunday Morning Reflections

First, may I suggest that you check out this beautiful video of Turkey: video link here

It's Sunday morning here in Talas.

I haven't taken my usual dive into the electronic version of The New York Times (Thank you, Chris!) yet, but instead I've opened up my blog.

Unlike the entries I wrote from Cambodia in which I tried to capture each excruciating drop of sweat, I find my entries from Turkey deserve a more even keel. Living and working in Talas at a university where my expertise is desired and rewarded, I feel valuable. Being married to Alan, a coworker, confident, and most-trusted friend, is wonderful. We have learned so much about each other since May 31st. Moving to Turkey together has highlighted our strengths and weaknesses as a couple and forced us to work on them.

Speaking of strengths and weaknesses, last week, Alan and I needed to pay our internet bill. When we arrived at the shop, Alan realized that he had left the slip of paper with our account number at home. As we had walked 20 minutes to get to the shop, we decided to try anyway. Between my vocabulary and Alan's grammar, our Turkish sometimes gets us through. The next twenty minutes were a struggle for all involved. First, they thought we wanted to set up new internet, but of course we didn't catch that, so after struggling to say our address and translate some terms of the contract...I realized that we weren't on the same page. Next, the employee and I had an exchange that, translated, probably went like this, but with more grammatical inaccuracy on my part.

Jena: Ma'am. But, now internet.

Employee: Right now, do you have internet?

Jena: Yes. At home. We want to buy. I mean not buy! At home. Now.

Employee: Do you have the account number?

Jena: Unfortunately. At home.

Employee: ....

Jena: Passport?

Employee: Ok. Yes. Let's try to find your account via your passport.

Employee: Here it is. I am writing the account number. DO NOT lose it this time.

Jena: Yes. Ok.

Employee: That'll be 66 lira.

So, from this encounter, I learned that I didn't know the verb for "to pay", nor the word for "account." On the way home, a random turkish guy shouted "Good Evening!" and then told us how he wasn't selling anything, he just wanted to practice English. We took his number, written on Alan's hand, and bid him adieu, wishing he had been a few blocks back to help us at the internet store.

To shift topics, one aspect of Flagstaff that I loved and hated was that anywhere I went I was bound to run into a colleague, student, or former student. Even after just a few weeks in Talas, I have a huge network of people, and I now see colleagues and students everywhere. In the grocery store, on the bus, at the mall. I can't get away! But it's nice to know people--helps me feel more integrated.

Oh, and to share an incredible "small world" story, one of my Turkish colleagues spent part of her childhood in the US. Guess where? Culler middle school, Lincoln, Nebraska. I mean seriously! I didn't go to Culler (Mickle Missles, all the way!), but I've been inside that building. Out of all the cities in the US and in Turkey, she and I have our childhood home and an adult home in common. It's pretty incredible, if you ask me. She even said "Go Huskers!" --a true taste of home.

On the work front, I will say that no MA program can prepare teachers for life in the real world. Every program has stakeholders pulling in all directions, and every program has unique challenges and demands in curricula, technology, and assessment. The best MA programs prepare teachers to adapt to the circumstances and apply their knowledge however they can given the particular constraints. Okay, enough rambling. Basically, I feel like the teaching context I'm in currently really pushes me to develop as a teacher. However, the benefit of having studied theory and research for two years is that I feel comfortable presenting a professional development workshops and discussing research articles with colleagues, which happened to be two opportunities last week. In fact, I will say that one of the best final exams I was ever given was to create a powerpoint presentation and handout for a hypothetical professional development workshop. Thank you Dr. Stoller! Much love from Turkey! This kind of assignment required us to pull together our knowledge in a meaningful and practical way that we could actually use in the future! Alan, another American colleague, and I each presented a few ideas for teaching vocabulary. Our colleagues have responded well, reporting back that our suggestions have been fun and useful in the classroom. Later in the week, a few colleagues gathered to discuss a journal article from TESOL Quarterly. It felt great to sink my teeth into some academic work and have a meaningful discussion about the implications of the article in our context here in Talas. To sum up, the two years of intense MA study prepared me well (though the adaptation is up to me!).

Now to a topic more behind the scenes (sorry for my randomness this morning). ISIS, ISIL, or IS. If you live in America, I'm sure that you are bombarded with news about the self-proclaimed Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The most recent stories are coming from Kobane, a Syrian town on the Turkish border. This town is on the verge of falling to ISIS, and in the process, stirring up huge international debate among myriad stakeholders. The US embassy in Ankara sends me frequent messages about how the situation is affecting Turkey. Recently, clashes between Kurdish and Turkish forces have resulted in injuries and death in various cities around Turkey. Sites of demonstrations are considered the biggest danger to foreigners, so the embassy simply advises us to avoid large gatherings of people and stay informed about local events. In addition, there are travel restrictions on Southern and Eastern parts of Turkey because of the intensity of the clashes there. For Alan and me, life goes on as usual. Our city is conservative and quiet. Only small protests happen downtown, far away from our sleepy suburb. I opened this post by saying that I haven't dove into the NYT yet, and based on what's happening in neighboring areas, I think you can understand that sometimes the headlines make me fearful, or at the very least, somewhat worried. As of know, there is nothing to worry about in Talas or Kayseri. Staying informed and keeping one's attention on the surroundings are the best protection.

Wow. I don't want to end on that note. Let's see. It's time for my second cup of tea, and maybe time to wake Alan up. We have tentative plans to visit a dog refuge on the outskirts of the city. Our friends have a car, and there are visitation hours. The only problem is falling in love with these animals. Maybe one day (hopefully not too far from now) we will have a dog-friendly place (and of course, also cat-friendly!).