Sunday, May 4, 2008

6 months sonra...

Ahem! Hello again, my vast following of loyal readers! 6 months later, and I'm back to report on the various deeds and misdeeds of the last half year. I won't pretend it's been an uneventful 6 months, or that I'll even pretend to fill you in on anything, but being slightly obsessive compulsive, I have to finish what I've started, so let me summarize. Briefly.

The highlight of November was the St. Andrew's Day Ball, put on by the Ankara Caledonian Society on November 30.  The food was unfortunately nothing to write home about (including a disappointing haggis), but drinks and dancing were aplenty, which made for a convivial atmosphere and I do believe a good time was had by all.  About 25 members of the CELTA and SSI programs ended up going; all alerted to it by yours truly.

Myself and a rather skeptical looking Ananda

December was a month of contrasts. It was the best of times, it was....well anyway, 6 long months seemed to stretch ahead as we realized we'd only finished one course and had three to go. On the other hand, teaching was no longer as stressful as it had been, and we had our first significant break over Christmas. I decided to visit Izmir (formerly Smyrna) with a friend, Gloria. It was a really nice and restful week; happened to coincide with Kurban Bayram (Sacrifice Holiday, also know as guess what? That's right: Eid-al-Adha, to commemorate Abraham's sacrifice of "Ishmael" on Mount Moriah). One day we walked up to Kadifekale (literally Velvet Castle) on top of the hill, and had to side step rivulets of blood running down the cobblestone streets as people were slaughtering sheep left, right and center! Also met up with an old friend from high school (wow I sound like someone in his 50s), Murat, who was visiting family in Izmir; we sat and had tea on the waterfront in Izmir. Took a day as well to visit Bergama (formerly Pergamum), which was pretty cool.  I tried my hand at some poetry while in Izmir, inspired during a ferry trip at sunset.

Izmir ferries

Moon Over Izmir

We sat on the ferry, she and I,
And the Moon,
Magnificent, white, and full,
Hung in the purpling sky
Over Izmir.

Smog shrouded the coast as the sun set behind our backs--
It was beautiful still, but you weren't there.

As the wind whipped the sea and threatened
To carry spray over the side and into our faces,
The gulls flapped, awkward yet persistent,
Hanging in the air like the promise of tonight.

And as I thought,
"Isn't this sort of like life, always expectantly waiting
for the shore ahead or looking back to the one behind,
instead of living in the moment?"
I had to chuckle at my own philosophic pretensions.

It's tomorrow now,
And tonight never came,
And I am reminded of something a famous poet once said,
While trying hard not
To imagine how the wind would have whipped your hair,

Still the seagulls squawk expectantly,
Hanging in the air above the pier like portents.

Or like the promise of next week.

That was December. January was nothing too special, except the end of the second course, and saying goodbye to some students I'd actually grown quite fond of :) Beginning of February meant another week-long break, for which I visited Mum and Dad in Morocco--first time I'd been back in exactly 10 years. It was every bit as good as I remembered--the sounds and smells, the sights...and the food! I loved Taza (the town they live in about halfway between Fes and the Algerian border), and the people I met there. Overall a restful and enjoyable week.

Coming back meant the beginning of course three and also the CELTA course for me--the principal reason I came to Turkey for this job. CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, and would give me a certificate that is recognized worldwide, and a requirement for a lot of TEFL jobs--handy thing to have. The CELTA lasted 8 weeks, and was extremely intensive! Each week we had a Teaching Practice in which we were observed very stringently for a lesson, which may not sound like a lot, but involved planning meticulously, deciding what objectives needed to be covered and how to cover them (if they weren't covered it would be considered a failed lesson), as well as 3 days of class input, and an assignment almost every week.
 A proud moment with the CELTA group and instructors after completing the course

 That (the CELTA) and course 3 finished mid April, which meant it was time for another week-long break. This time I traveled with Christina and Wendi to the South East of Turkey, which was incredible! We visited quite a few cities in the week, starting with a flight from Ankara to Adana, which we spent the morning and afternoon in, before getting a bus onto Antakya (aka Hattay). General consensus was that Hattay was one of (or the) best town on the trip, although my personal vote was for Mardin, which we'll get to in a moment. After a couple of nights there, we got another dolmus (small bus where you pass your money forward through the ranks of passengers to the driver and receive your change back in the same way) to Gaziantep, renowned among Turkish cities for its culinary prowess. It lived up to its name, as I had there the best Iskender Kebap (slivers of meat over bread with tomato sauce and melted butter and yogurt on top)I've had in Turkey, as well as some incredible Fistikli Baklava (Pistachio baklava).

Balik Golbasi (The Pool of Abraham) at Urfa

Then it was on to Urfa, where we visited the Pool of Abraham, where according to Muslim tradition Abraham was thrown to his death from the castle overlooking the city. The forest into which he fell turned into water, and the stones in the forest became fish, and they can still be found there today, lending the pool it's Turkish name, Balik Golbasi (Fish Lake). We managed to procure for ourselves (actually he asked if he could trail along and practice his English with us) an impromptu tour guide of 19 or 20 who went by Yusuf (although not before being surrounded by a gaggle of 9 or 10 curious youths--my posse). He took us up to the castle on top of the hill, where we were set upon by another gaggle--this time of middle--high school aged girls, who were eager to speak to us and have their picture taken with us. Then it was a theological conversation with Yusuf under the shade provided by the castle wall, before heading back down and getting a refreshing drink in a cafe that's ensconced in a cave--very touristy, but atmospheric nonetheless). Finally it was on to Mardin, my favourite town on the trip, but which because it is so late in the evening I won't go into too much detail on. Suffice to say the people were friendly, the food excellent, and the views (overlooking the hazy Syrian plains to the South as the sun set and we sipped cay on a terrace) unbeatable. Then it was back to Ankara, which was not without misadventure--our plane was cancelled, which meant a 14-hour bus trip back on my 23rd birthday.

Christina, Wendi and me with the cocuklar (children) of Adana, where we proved a big hit

And finally, to conclude, the fourth and final course has started, meaning there are 7 weeks left of teaching, before the summer "hols" start. Looking forward to it, although not to the prospect of leaving behind some wonderful friends I've made, as well as the language and country that I've just really started to appreciate. That's all for now, but watch this space, I'll be back soon...

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