Friday, September 30, 2011

Food and Photos!

This week has flown by so quickly. I've been settling into my new job pretty well and have been talking with more and more of my Turkish co-workers. Plus I had a huge ego-booster after being contacted for my opinion and advice on dealing with class management issues. I also had the most stimulating discussion of ...several years with a fellow CSer on facebook about whether homosexual couples should be allowed to raise children. It was a really interesting conversation because there were international perspectives playing a part and all were respectful in giving their opinions rather than attacking with their opinions. It was a real breath of fresh air and made me feel like I was back in University again debating different issues. Oh how I have missed that!  I could feel my brain synapsis flickering away as I thought how I could solidify my argument.  I hope to have more of those soon.

I've got a chalkfull weekend planned starting wtih the 3rd Lovers of Food event that I began organizing a month ago. This time it's being held on the Asian side at my friend Mehmet's place. I can't wait to taste all of the good food. I'll be cooking up some pasta with mushroom alfredo. Hope it comes out deliciously.

I'll be sure to bring some hardhats and safety goggles for the safety of the others. haha

On Saturday I'll be attending Scott Kelby's 4th Annual Worldwide Photowalk. Basically it's an all day event with a mob of people looking to get the most interesting photograph before the end of the day. What's better, they have prizes! What's best?  It's all free!  I'm planning to do some serious shooting and also making some new friends and connections in the photography community here.

On Sunday I'll  be heading to the Veliefendi Racecourse in Istanbul to photography the horse races.
This will be my first horse race and whats better is we are getting reserved spots for FREE! It'll be a great opportunity to get some awesome shots of some very impressive creatures.  I can't wait!

Special Deliveries! Day 3

It's always a great feeling when you know somebody is thinking of you from another place.
So Day 3 is all about those great packages. My dad has sent me packages several times since I left the USA and even though I get some corny momentos from him I still cherish them because I know they were heartfelt gifts..even if they don't help me completely.  So to everybody and anybody that has ever sent me a letter or a care package, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. They really do mean a lot to me and if I dont' have them with me I send them home for storage for when I finally do settle down somewhere. I can show my kids and grandkids all of the kind deeds that I've encountered in my travels around the world.

Have a great Friday.  This weekend will be a busy one for me.

Giant care package with all of my clothes, Harddrive, cooking knife, and some new momentos!

This is what was inside, minus the belt.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Bus Driver and Happy Students Day 2 0f 365

Every day I leave my house at 7:30am and my bus driver is stopping next to my front door to take me to my work as I still try to push away the effects of sleep.

Every day at 4pm I get on a bus and with the help of my very clever 4th grade student I'm able to communicate with the helper and the busdriver on the bus. They drop me off  on my street as they take other children to there homes.

This specialized service (perk) of my job is so awesome. How can I not be happy about it. I'm always happy to see this man every weekday morning and every weekday afternoon. It makes me feel welcome and has really helped me adjust to living here.

Without him I'd have to walk up this treacherous hill every single day!  When I do miss the bus my legs get some punishment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Project 365 BEGINS!

Day 1 of 365.

What makes me smile?

Living in Istanbul can give one many reasons to smile.
I love seeing the sunset fall over the water, it's rays of dying light splashing across the sky, lighting up the clouds to a fine simmer, and splashing across the ripples in the water. But what's better is eating while enjoying such a breathtaking view.

This is Istanbul.

This is Day 1. Sept. 27th, 2011

Bullying and Intolerance must STOP!




These words and actions are well alive not just in the adults but the youth of our nation and many parts of the world. Here is a clip about a young, gay teen who was bullied so much that he felt the only way to end it was ending his own life. A teen. What makes matters worse, the people that led him to completing this action were not even remorseful but rejoiced in his death and continued rejoicing even after his death during a school function in which his sister was present. Extremism and hate don't just happen in other countries people, it's happening in your own back the schools that are supposed to be preparing tomorrow's leaders. 

Teen still bullied even after death

American's love to say how great and free America is compared to the world yet are hypocritically a close-minded as we accuse other nations of being when it comes to human rights and 'freedom'  

How are all Americans free to be FREE when they can't even be themselves without fear of ridicule, repercussions, sometimes even ostracization?  They are only free if they believe the way others believe. Is that really freedom?  To live and think the way that others must?  

Here is another case of a teen that is literally bullied to death by other teens.
Where do you think these bullies get their ideas and rhetoric from? 

From the adults and media they consume. From their own politicians who are now calling for intolerant laws and practices that silence other opinions and ways of living that don't match up with their own beliefs. They support policies and actions saying some people are just less HUMAN than others and so should be treated as such. Aren't we all created equal as human beings? It's in the documents that went into the founding of the United States...yet this fact eluded many. They believe because of the unlucky chance that you were born on a boat or you don't have a slip of paper that you are less human and deserve less than human treatment than the next person.  Whatever happened to Freedom of Destiny?  

They get their rhetoric from their religious leaders who say that people who desire their own sex are less than human, abominations. Yes I know it says this in the old testiment. However so many people seem to forget that this is a nation that allows personal freedom. You are free to believe that it's incorrect but your belief should not inhibit or circumvent the beliefs of another. What right does anybody have to physically or verbally assault another person just because they talk, walk, dress, or have sex in their homes differently than you do???  

The answer is NONE. 

There really needs to be an anti-bullying campaign and legislation brought up to prevent this.

I agree with Jaimie's sister, bullying IS a hate crime.  

How can you claim to be spreading Freedom, democracy, and of course the American ideal of Free Will when you allow the suppression, bullying, and hate to continue to be fostered in the youth who will later become leaders of tomorrow?  

If you are wondering how you can get involved in stopping intolerance you can start by getting involved. Become educated through experience. If you see somebody suffering from bullying or other forms of intolerance do what you can to reach out or report the behavior.

You can also write to your local Congressman or government official asking for new legislation to have tougher penalties for those that are involved in bullying. Right now there are none except for a law against hazing. 

You can become involved in an interfaith community that promotes love and respect or you can locate the local GBLT community leaders and learn about what challenges they are facing. 

The biggest thing you can do though is be a shining light yourself. When you see something terrible happening in front of you don't just be a spectator, do something about it.

You may not agree with how somebody lives, but it doesn't mean you can't support their freedom to do so.  


National Suicide Prevention Hotline1-800-273-TALK (8255) 
National Council for Suicide Prevention 
SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) 
How to help someone who has posted suicidal content on Facebook 

For online support for LGBT teens, visit:

The Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gems from Tumblr

A little humor to start with.
Not from Flea's tumblr

I was browsing Tumblr a bit and found Flea's Tumblr account from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This guy is deep!   These are some of my favorite finds that he found.

As Flea said, it had to take a lot of balls to say this in that day and age!

I couldn't help but chuckle
The Pope's toilet? 

This poem just blows me away. WOW!
Way to go Senor Neruda.

Some may say child endangerment others may say a way of life or survival.
One thing is for certain.
This child will be a master of snakes

                                      And finally one to leave you thinking 

            “We have all learned now..that to judge anyone about anything is not only unnecessary ,harmful and really quiet foolish,but is the source of so much misery and conflict on our Planet.Because we know that all of this is just a twinkle of an eye when compared to Eternity .Each person has chosen the place they are in.They are there to learn ,whatever lesson they may have decided they need, to awaken from the illusion that they are separate from their Source.It may be a place that is so far from where we think we should be…But it is their choice.Not ours.We have chosen our own place…We walk through many changes in our lives….We have experienced many things since we started this journey.We know this now…To allow someone to discover the wonders of their life is what we all want in our own life.To be left alone to find out why.And thats OK…Who are we to even ‘think’ that we know what is best for someone else.When we can’t even understand our own life.Learning to allow others to move through their changes..will help calm our world ,will help us reach out and with a sincere motive,walk with those who we have chosen to cross our Path.
And yes we all have chosen to be in each others lives…..In Quantum Physics it has been discovered that everything that is being observed is influenced by the observer….Knowing this…Looking at someone with ‘no thought’ or opinion will help us go to that place, that may be on a deeper level ,but will show us that in essence we are all the same….Pure consciousness ,alive,aware and connected.”

                                                            source: parkstepp

Unlocking my Personality

Unlocking the Mind

I found this Personality profile saved from my recovered old harddrive I used during High school and university. I"m guessing I took the test at the University of Iowa Career Center in 2007 or 2008. Reading through it again it's a bit inspiring; awe inspiring at how accurate of a description it came out with from tests I took. What kind of job would best suit this personality type? I"m guessing some kind of mid-level management as I like to have recognition of my work or as I've often thought about doing, NGO work. What parts of this really stand true for YOU? Which sections do you think hit the mark about me or that you find surprising about me?


Joshua, your responses indicate that you are an exciting, enthusiastic, and persuasive person. You influence people and accomplish goals, assisted by your ability to express empathy and emotion. Dealing with details and regulations does not appeal to you. Big ventures, charged with opportunity, activate your ambitions. There are times when you prefer to be a one-person committee. You need to feel that you are liked, in order to be fully effective. ________________________________________________________________________________ Communication Style Joshua, you have strong social skills and are excellent at quickly establishing rapport. You enjoy talking to people and do so with enthusiasm and spontaneity. Your style of fast, lively expression is both engaging and effective. You are a fluent speaker who expresses thoughts quickly, optimistically, and persuasively. Also, Joshua, you respond to people with flexibility and open-mindedness. You relay a tone that is uninhibited, creative, and, at times, quite independent. You enjoy talking and can put people at ease. You use a fun, indirect style of communication. You are people-oriented and can easily relate with another person's point of view. Joshua, you are a natural team player. You readily delegate authority, and you embrace training. You do not care to be involved with too many technical details. You let others set game plans, priorities and time frames. You function well when you are allowed a lot of people-interaction. You would rather talk about details than write them down. You enjoy being the focus of attention. __________________________________________________________________________________ Leadership Style: Persuasive You perform your leadership role by using your exceptional ability to interpret your people's actions and dialogue, and then by persuading them to do things your way. You apply yourself to building team spirit and then may proceed to rely upon team decisions. You like to develop your subordinates, and you delegate both authority and details. You actively promote change and like to find new ways of accomplishing goals. __________________________________________________________________________________ Conscientiousness You balance solid, goal-oriented achievement and a relaxed approach to life. You may fluctuate between periods of highly motivated, achievement-oriented activity and periods of more easy-going behavior. Alternatively, you may demonstrate a sustained, moderate level of effort toward your goals. While you may not demonstrate an intense desire for achievement for its own sake, you are able to summon a sense of purposefulness and self-discipline when needed. The level of your positive motivation toward achievement may depend on the task or situation. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Motivation Motivation Needs: Joshua, you tend to be motivated by a great deal of interaction with people, and by identifying with a prestigious organization with a good public image. You desire opportunities to make more money for yourself, or to improve your status within the organization. You are motivated by praise, public recognition, and by acceptance. You are most productive when working as a team player, and when you are liked by others. You tend to be demotivated if your territory or opportunity is reduced in size, or if you are not allowed a significant amount of people-interaction or teamwork. Insufficient recognition from management and/or peers can also affect your motivation. You can be demotivated by a perception of not being personally liked, and by not being invited to meetings with peers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Good Showing

Today went a lot better. 

I used the fish puppet that my Korean Student's mother Sally made for me before I left Korea and made a lesson out of story telling.

For the 4th graders I told the story "The Rainbow Fish" by Marcus Pfister. The story is about a fish that has beautiful, sparkling scales but because it doesn't share it has no friends. Once it begins sharing it has friends and becomes a very happy and modest fish. It's a nice short story and the children seemed to understand it really well. However they did have a bit of a problem expressing their answers in English so I decided to have them tell me a very short story by drawing pictures comic-strip style. I was surprised with some of their stories. The one that stood out the most was a story these two girls called "Big Bear" It was about a bear that was proud and arrogant that he was so big and made fun of a rabbit for being so small. Then the elephant comes along and laughs at the bear for being so small. So understanding how the rabbit must have felt the bear returns to apologize. They made this short story in less than 15 minutes! I'm posting some other notable ones for you:

Big Bear. My favorite
The Rainbow Fish

Caring is Sharing
Santa Troubles

 For the 3rd graders I decided not to do the Rainbow Fish story because I felt it'd be better to work on some more basic vocabulary that I began with my introducation class such as "I am ____", "I like ____", etc. So I set them to task on drawing a picture of themselves and things they enjoy. I asked them to write four sentences. However I was really surprised when almost ALL of them were writing in cursive. I haven't used cursive, except for my signature, since I was in grade school and I don't know many other people that do either. I also so how they still mix capital and lowercase letters when writing in the vernacular style. So I insisted that they write in this style. This is where a road block came in. They just didn't understand what I wanted. I finally went for some outside help which wasn't very helpful. The head of the villa didn't understand what I wanted and the guy he called was very busy and a bit annoyed. So I went back to the class and just had them finish the assignment to the best of their abilities letting them write in cursive. After the class I was informed that they don't KNOW the vernacular case and are told not to write in it. They are taught to write in cursive only by mandate of the board of education. WOW! That was a surprise. But not a big deal. I can read the writing fine. Here are two great examples of work from my 3rd graders:

A sample without cursive
A sample with a mix of cursive and regular

 After classes we had a meeting. I have a meeting every Tuesday. I'm really thankful for this as before I was finding it hard to communicate with anybody to get the things I need such as materials, a curriculum, and my books. We now have books, the curriculum is still a bit of a mystery but I'll speak with the homeroom teachers on that, and I told them the materials I needed which consisted of atleast one reem of paper, pens, markers, and poster boards for each class so I could make a point chart.

Then one by one we were told to share how our classes had been so far. I was happy to go next to last. Since I had done the storytelling lessons I had actual visual aids to show and it was really a boost of confidence that I have everything under control. The Korean system of  last minute changes and lack of communication prepared me well for well..being prepared for a class with no compass to guide me. I'm really glad I kept my powerpoints I used while in Korea as they were a huge help. If I hadn't I'd have been pretty lost and stressed this week. Now that I have the books all will be well.

My second culture today happened during the meeting when I introduced myself to female colleagues who were wearing the hijab. I offered my hand and a big smile while introducing myself; the first one gave me the tips of her fingers shyly and the second looked at me uncomfortably and a little bit in shock. Then I pulled my hand away remembering my time back in Iowa when I would congregate with Muslims at the Mosque in Cedar Rapids. Men and women don't touch if they are not related. Woops!

I got a ride home in the school bus and I'll get picked up tomorrow at 7:35am so I best be off to bed so I'm not late for my free ride.

First day of work in Istanbul

After arriving back to Istanbul a month ago and bidding my time I was finally able to be back in the classroom, a real classroom.

Looking out the window of my school I feel like I'm in a castle upon a hill

I woke up without an alarm at 7am so I got on to check some messages before jumping in the shower at 8am and shaving to look good for the first day. All was going well. I went and used my last 10 Lira note to charge my transportation card before going to the bus stop in down the road, in front of the Capital Shopping Center. After waiting a bit and it was nearing 9am (My sheet said my first class starts at 9:40am and I was hoping to be a little early to setup and resolve any issues that might come up) I decided to get on a dolmush or a small van that you pay with cash. I told the driver Umraniye and got in the front seat so I could view when my stop came up.
Now my trip to the school should have been just 8minutes max, but somehow I had missed it (my stop is kisikli but with the dottless Turkish 'i's so it sounds like kusukluh) I saw the word on a sheet of paper above the dashboard, pointed at it and said "kisikli?"  "nerede?(where is)" The driver pointed behind him and said I should get off and cross the street. You see we'd already driven into Umraniye...but Kisikli is in Uskudar!

So I had to cross the street and go to another street that was going the opposite direction. I got on the dolmus and then we hit the traffic.  The 'first day of school' traffic. It was jam packed with parents taking their precious babies to school for the first day. The dolmus talked to the passengers and took a detour so not to be stuck in traffic on the highway. I'm glad he did however I was really sweating it as it was now 9:20am. Would I make it on time before my class began?
The driver and passengers told me to get off on this one hill that was really unfamiliar. I got off and was completely lost. I began texting, not believing that I'm already going to have to report being late on the FIRST day despite leaving an hour early for a trip that usually takes 8minutes.  "just my luck" I thought to myself.
This courtyard was full of students and parents.
Each villa (8 total) houses a grade level.
That's grades 1-8. I teach Grades 3 and 4.  

After asking several people where joshkun Kolehi (coskun Koleji) was I was finally pointed in the right direction and recognized the bottom of the hill I have to walk up to get to my school. I have yet to see that free shuttle my superiors have mentioned being there. I was going as fast as I could up that hill with my new black shoes that lack support. When I arrived there was a HUGE crowd in the main court with traditional music playing and these kids dancing in traditional attire. I was too stressed and worried about how late I was to pay much attention or enjoy the performance. I just wanted to find my classroom and talk to my superior and inform them of my situation and let them know I was there.

Luckily for me, the class I would have missed was cancelled due to the performance celebrating the opening of classes. What a relief!  So I used my introduction powerpoint I had from my time in Korea and the classes went really well.

At Lunch time I was feeling quite lost again. I was going downstairs when Jeffrey, the other American teacher just shook his head at me and said "we can't eat down there, it's girls only."  I was like, no way I'll just see for myself. But as soon as I decended the stairs the other English teacher was there sitting among the other female turkish teachers keeping to herself and looking up at me a bit forlornly. I was told I should eat upstairs with the guys.  So I did.

now, the children are not seperated by sex, it's only the adults. It doesn't just stop at the lunchroom either. No no, when I went to the teachers room on a lower floor in the 4th grade villa the ladies looked at me as if I had come into a dressing room. Then the one that was at the orientation..Tugce I believe came to me and told me that we are seperated and my room was upstairs with the men. She took me upstairs and then the men took me in and waited for the one Turkish teacher that knows English to tell me that it's just Turkish culture to seperate people by sex. He was referring to Islamic culture of course. So, while the school is not specifically religious, it definately has a strong, conservative environment.

After lunch, before my last class was to begun I felt that queesy, wet rumbling in my stomach that is the tell-tale sign of an emergency toilet. Noooo!  So far I had only seen traditional squat toilets. When I asked where the restroom is the guys took me to the restroom and I was like, but how do I use it? I've never used one of these (even though Korea had them I have this absolute fear of splattering my legs). Thankfully as my stomach really wasn't easy, they have TWO, yes TWO western toilets on the campus. A student guided me to the toilets and boy was I thankful. I informed them I'd be a little late for my class and then went. When I arrived to my last class I thanked the homeroom teacher. When the homeroom teacher left the kids were surprisingly quiet and watching me. When I said "Hello class" they all stood up and said "Hello teacher" and stayed standing until I told them to take a seat. The class ran really smoothly. I was thankful.

I've got a good feeling about teaching these students. There are a few that like to talk a bit more than others but that's normal in ANY classroom, especially an EFL classroom. This should be a good year once I get my curriculum.

I took a school bus home but was told I need to talk to my supervisor about getting picked up by the bus, especially since they don't speak English. When i got home I was just so exhausted. One of my new friend's Mehmet texted me asking if I'd like to go jogging this evening with him, but I had to decline. It was such a tiring day. Around seven o'clock I had laid down on my bed and passed out, waking back up at 10:30pm. I hadn't taken my contacts out and my right eye was almost sealed shut with puss. Yeah, that's right I noticed that both of my eyes were irritated this weekend and now they are moving into a full infection.

So tomorrow I'll be getting a small advance to get me through the next 3 weeks until my payday on October 10th. I'll be visiting the doc to get some drops to clear this little annoyance up before it becomes a big problem. Hope the kids aren't scared of my red eyes tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I haven't been given a curriculum or the books I'll be teaching from so I still have no idea what they're expecting me to teach now that my introductory class is finished. Any suggestions?  The kids seem pretty bright and have a good level of English, much better than the typical 3rd-4th graders I taught while in Korea.  Tomorrow we are having an English teachers meeting..I hope they give their expectations so I can work FOR them and not just guess what they want me to do.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lecture from the Past

I hear a knock at the door.
"It's open!" I shout.

The past walks in and sits across from me.

"It's been a while, how have you been?" I ask.

"Oh, same old, same old. Nothing has changed." replies the past as it stretches it's legs.
"What's new with you?" queries the past.

"I've moved on" I respond confidently.

"Oh Ho hooo!" laughs the past.
"I've heard this story before."

"I have," I defensively interject, "it's a new place with different people. I'll be happy again."

"Same story, different place! I've said it before and I'll say it again; you can't live in the past while writing the future. It's finished. Don't compare then and now. The future is unwritten for a reason, so you can tell a new story," responds the past.

"Okay okay, I'll write something new." I sigh in reply.

"Just remember, a good story doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and patience!
Enjoy the time now and write for the future, you will be rewarded," says the past in a voice that speaks with wisdom only age can obtain.

"It's time for me to go again."

And with that the past walks through the revolving door and it slowly comes to a stop.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Arriving to Istanbul and seeking a purpose

As I gazed across the sea I realized I made a complete circle.
While it was the end of one journey it was just the beginning of  another one.

I arrived to Istanbul on August 18th with a lot of traveling under my belt from the first time I got on the bus heading out of Istanbul towards Goreme in March. 

Looking back it's been kind of an amazing and eye opening trip. I learned a lot and especially learned that I'm resilient and don't give points living without any money at all. I can think my friends and family for their support for helping me through those rough points.  It's pretty cool to say that I took a trip by foot (boat as well) around the Black Sea.   If I were to do this again I'd definately budget for a specific trip and time frame to make sure I could enjoy each place thoroughly and..I think I'd try to have my accomodations planned ahead of time and leave my computer at home if at all possible. Why..well I spent a lot of my time looking for accomodations in McDonalds during a lot of my trip. Suffice to say, I've eaten A LOT of cheeseburgers on this trip.

I was able to get over some things I wanted to get over..somewhat. Now that I've traveled I find myself stuck in some kinda bubble looking out. I feel I'm without purpose now. I'm lonely..but not sure I want to be with anybody.  I'm not completely anti-social since arriving to Istanbul. I've organized a cooking group event that went really well. I've been out dancing at another event. I'll have hosted 5 Couchsurfers in my home by my 3rd week living here, I've even gotten some nice photos here and there. Yet I still feel like just escaping the world.  I'm not sure how to get over there feeling of having nothing wrong ..or something but not being able to pinpoint it. I'm doing what I can to get myself involved in the community but a lot of times I just want to escape into my computer in my room and avoid social situations all together. I arrived during the end of Ramadan but never went out once even though I know I could have gotten great shots. I just don't feel inspired to do anything at all so I make efforts to force myself to do things but I long for the days ...when it was obvious I was filled with energy and ideas..eager to go out and find new and amazing things. What happened to this zest?  How can I get it back?    

So this is my status at the moment..despite being in a great new city with endless opportunities I feel lost. I hope I'll soon find myself and exit this state of mind.

Where does it go, across the sea all alone?