Serenity in Altınoluk

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Sometimes, amidst all of the chaos of work, crowds, wild traffic, and bureaucracy, I forget how peaceful Turkey can be.  Our Swedish friend, who we met in Stockholm last year, has a summer house in Altınoluk and kindly invited us out for the weekend, which we gladly accepted.

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Altınoluk is a lovely village on the Aegean coast, near Edremit.  We spent most of our time enjoying the wonderful weather and taking long walks throughout the village and olive groves.

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We happened to run into some of her relatives (her husband was Turkish) on our daily walk, who invited us in for coffee.  One of the things I so greatly admire about Turkish culture is the hospitality and sense of community.

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After a nice chat, we went down to the local fishery for lunch, where we indulged in some freshly caught sardines.  They were delicious.

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Much to my delight, we followed up our lunch with a visit to the local pazar.  I bought some delicious olives to snack on, as well as a couple of pretty summer dresses.

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Without a doubt, the best part of the weekend was sitting out on the patio drinking coffee and exchanging stories.  I learned so much about what Turkey was like in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s (which was fascinating) and about traveling through Europe in general. When the sun started to set, we exchanged the cups of coffee for glasses of wine and talked late into the night.    I felt refreshed in a way I haven’t felt in quite a long time and realized I haven’t been taking enough time for myself lately.  Some good company, village charm, and fresh air were exactly what I needed.

Türkiye’de Çok Kedi Var: Round 4

As I was looking through my photos, I realized I hadn’t posted one of these in a long time. I also realized that I take a lot of photos of cats.

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Diggin’ this guy’s vibes

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The only kind of cat fights I have to break up regularly…thank goodness

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This cat reminded me of a clock

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Also, there’s this.

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And who can resist a photo like this? ❤

I’m certain I’ve said this more than once now, but the cat culture is one of the things I have always loved most about Turkey.  I’ve always wanted a pet cat, but feel that my living situation isn’t stable enough to make that kind of commitment.  In Turkey, I feel like I can love, pet, and take care of cats without the responsibility of being a pet owner because they are such a big part of every city and not completely wild.

Tides of Change

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How the hell is it already May?

The sun is brighter than ever, often waking me up well before my alarm clock.  The weather is more bearable, the flowers are blooming…change is in the air and it all seems so sudden.

I feel like this second half of the school year has been blazing by at thrice the normal speed.  There is a part of me that is happy about that because all teachers naturally rejoice at the thought of summer, but there is another part of me that isn’t ready for all the change that comes with it.

Being an expat means that you have to learn to say a lot more goodbyes than most people.  Goodbye to friends and family in the motherland.  Goodbye to fellow expat friends who move on to other adventures.  Of course, being a teacher also means a lot of goodbyes.  Goodbyes to teachers and staff who leave or retire…and to all of the students who are off to do bigger and better things.

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Escape the room shenanigans in Istanbul…we succeeded, of course.

This year is no different.  We have quite a few goodbyes in our near future and are trying to soak up the present while it’s still here.  We’ve been sticking around campus more often than usual and going on adventures with friends who will soon be leaving.

As for us, Turkey is stuck with us for at least one more year.  We signed on for a third year at the school and are looking forward to what next year will bring.

In the meantime, we are trying to enjoy what’s left of now.

Tabletop Tag!

I’ve been a bit of a homebody these last few weeks due to a nasty illness and the usual pile of work that never seems to end.  Still, I’ve managed to pack in quite a bit of low key fun lately, such as binging on podcasts and dusting off my bookshelf….but my favorite pastime these days has been tabletop gaming.

I totally struck gold with my current co-workers.  My game collection was one of my top priorities when I moved to Turkey and I was so happy when I discovered that practically everyone else in our department also had an amazing game collection…and we’re not talking Monopoly here (although we’ve developed an affinity for a version of Trivial Pursuit from the ’80s).  Among the five of us, we have Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Pandemic, and many other games of the like.  For the past two years, we have tried to get together at least once a week after school for an intense board game session. I pretty much live for Thursday nights now.

When I stumbled upon this Tabletop tag from A Geek Girl’s Guide, I knew I had to participate.  Here goes:

1. Favorite type of tabletop games?

I especially love strategy games, but lately I’ve been loving cooperative games as well.

2. Favorite time to play tabletop games?

Thursday nights on campus!  It’s the perfect way to gear up for the weekend.

3. Favorite game you have ever played?

Betrayal at House on the Hill!  It’s a different game every single time!

4. First game you ever played?

My earliest tabletop gaming memory is playing Sorry with my parents.

5. What’s the most recent game you’ve played?

Gloom!

6. What game have you played the most?

That’s a tough question.  Probably Mancala or Scrabble.

7. What game do you want to add to your shelf?

My friend has Pandemic and I’d really love to own it as well.  I also have my eye on Resistance.

8. Favorite game to share with non-gamers?

I like Farkle because it’s so simple.

9. Well-known game you’ve never played?

I have friends that rave about Magic, but I haven’t dabbled in it yet.

10. Show off your game shelf

I wish I could say I had a beautiful game shelf, but it’s really more of a game bag at this point.  In order to maximize the number of games I could bring with me to Turkey, I had to throw away all of the boxes they came in (it felt so wrong!) and instead, organize all of the boards, cards, and tiny pieces into a variety of Ziploc bags.

My collection currently includes:

  • Betrayal at House on the Hill
  • Fluxx
  • Gloom
  • Aggravation
  • Risk
  • Mancala
  • Clue
  • Scrabble Apple
  • Quelf
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Story Cubes (also great for teaching!)
  • LCR
  • Uno
  • Tavla (Turkish Backgammon)
  • Werewolf

If you want to participate in the tag:

1. Favorite type of tabletop games?

2. Favorite time to play tabletop games?

3. Favorite game you have ever played?

4. First game you ever played?

5. What’s the most recent game you’ve played?

6. What game have you played the most?

7. What game do you want to add to your shelf?

8. Favorite game to share with non-gamers?

9. Well-known game you’ve never played?

10. Show off your game shelf!

I’m looking forward to adding to my collection this summer!

B(eating) Burnout

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What a long, strange term it has been.  My life has pretty much revolved around nothing but work for the past two months and I can really feel it.  Now that we are reaching the end-of-term chaos, I am more exhausted than ever.  No amount of sleep or coffee seems to wake me up anymore and I find myself daydreaming about spring break at least twice an hour.

For the most part, we have stayed on campus this term, mainly because of work obligations.  After FIVE consecutive weeks of nothing but this tiny microcosm, I had to get out before I lost my mind, so we FINALLY went to Istanbul for the weekend for no other reason than to get the hell off campus.

Can you tell I’m a little burnt out?

Luckily, I dealt with it in the healthiest way I know how:  retail therapy and binge eating!  It was super effective.

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We started off with  breakfast at a new, hipster cereal restaurant in Moda called Crazy Flakes and it didn’t disappoint.  They sell cereal brands from all over the world, including my beloved Peanut Butter Crunch!  You can mix cereals with a variety of toppings, but I opted for a plain bowl with some sliced bananas on top.  SO good!  My husband went straight for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

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Afterward, we hopped on the ferry over to Galata, where we planned to spend the night.  We walked and shopped around Istiklal before taking a little detour to Cezayir Sokağı, known informally as “The French Street” for its pastel pink facades and floral decor.  It’s a fun-looking street, but there isn’t much that’s French about it.  After about five minutes of being harassed by waiters to come sit down, we headed back to Istiklal.

Turning back to Galata, we went to one of our favorite restaurants in all of Istanbul, Picante, for some delicious Mexican food and real margaritas.  After dinner, we were pretty much out for the count, so we called it a night and watched YouTube videos until we succumbed to our food comas.

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The next morning, we walked down to our favorite breakfast joint, Arada Cafe.  They serve a delightful mix of both Turkish and Lebanese foods and all of it is homemade and delicious.  We got the Turkish/Lebanese breakfast platter, which was basically an epic feast with all of the classic Turkish breakfast staples, as well as hummus, tahini, falafel, zahter, and all kinds of other delicious things I didn’t even know the name of.  Needless to say, I didn’t need lunch or dinner later that evening.

We tried our best to walk off the food babies while doing a little last minute shopping for SPAIN next week!  The end of the term is nigh and I am so ready!

Any teachers out there:  How do you deal with burnout?  I find it especially hard as an expat in a very small, sheltered community.

 

Sunlight

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in the far-flung corner of a dream,

i see myself and

the way the sunlight swallows wayward tendrils

 

i look older than i’ve ever been,

but there is beauty in the way i hold my cup

so intrepidly

 

from my unearthly vantage point, i watch the steam spiral

upward, like a great staircase

and i wonder where it would take me

 

if i followed.

 

***Hello, world!  I have been drowning in grading, duties, and exams, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t celebrate World Poetry Day, so here is my contribution to the cause!***

 

Happy International Women’s Day

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Gift from the art teacher, as per tradition.

This day always sneaks up on me and it sparks so many feelings all once.

Like my sophomore year of high school, when the guy they had hired to train the light technicians for drama club (I was one of two) would only teach the boy (meanwhile asking me to do menial tasks like hold ladders or grab lightbulbs), despite the fact that I had more experience. When I told the drama teacher about it, he simply said he was in no position to turn down free help and that I would just have to deal with it. I quit the next day.

Or my freshman year of college, when my Spanish professor would constantly ask where the female students were if not in class, would virtually ignore make students, and often made inappropriate remarks about clothing. I quit that too.

Or every time I’ve walked home alone ever…special shout out to the creep who followed me home while admitting he’d been watching me for awhile because he liked the way I dressed.

I also think of the good things. Like when I walked into my grandpa’s house and saw the sign that read “A woman’s place is in the House…and the Senate.” Or the time my little brother watched my sister get catcalled…and said how sorry he was that women were treated that way and vowed not to do the same.

I was pleasantly surprised today when I was wished a Happy Women’s Day by several colleagues, students, and pazar salesmen. I also had a good talk with my mentor students about the day; what it means, why we have it, where we go from here.

At times – when I hear sexist remarks, see sexist comments on the internet, or all of the horrible ilk that seems to be all of politics at the moment- I feel discouraged.  But then I see millions of women all over the world coming together to march in solidarity, people standing up and calling others out on their misogyny, and strong, powerful women breaking barriers every day and I feel hopeful again.  The world is far from perfect; we still need a day to remind humanity that it is shutting half of itself out.  It’s a work in progress, but at least we are moving.