Christmas in Istanbul is rather strange. Around the 22nd of December people start decorating their windows with holly and lights. Christmas trees and toy Santa dolls start appearing in store displays around the 23rd. Christmas comes and goes on the 25th, however none of your students wish you a Merry Christmas. Even the Turkish staff at work is totally oblivious to the holiday. Around the 28th people dressed in Santa Claus costumes start roaming the streets of Istanbul, more trees, more lights, more holly. Students start giving you gifts around the 29th… total confusion.
-This week has been quite nice. I taught six days in a row, covering two morning classes for my partner teacher, Katie, who went on holiday for Christmas, as well as teaching my regular two morning classes, two evening classes and two weekend classes.
-We are having a dinner party tonight with our Canadian pals and our landlord Ahmet. Ahmet told Gavin he is going to bring a bottle of Rakı, which we have yet to try and is an alcoholic drink similar to Ouzo or Sambuca. Should prove to be interesting.
-Istanbul has been getting colder by the minute. For the past few days we have had freezing rain all day and night making walks to and from work unbearable and going out after work impossible. My only saving grace has been the hat Oya got me for Christmas, without which I might have frozen to death.
-Gavin finally decided it was time to turn the heat on after we went a week (editors note: a day) without being able to feel our hands. However he refuses to turn on the radiators in any room but the living room (editors note: saving energy is good for the Earth and cost effective). After my complaints and protests that we should be able to turn the heat on in our bedroom so we didn’t have to sleep in hoodies and sweatpants every night, I received a hot water bottle for Christmas. Thanks Gavin.
-My Weekend Level One class threw me a surprise New Years party after class, complete with tons of homemade Turkish dishes, decorations, balloons, and music. I felt like a movie start as the girls in my class lined up to take pictures with me, giggled, and begged me to get my boyfriend. After Gavin finally arrived, there was more giggling, more picture taking and finally we got a chance to eat. Gavin’s only comment about the party was that the Profiterole was “slop on top of slop.” I think he was just upset at the lack of booze. (pictures of this party and of my lovely Turkish students can be found on facebook.)
-Our stage of temporary poverty is nearly to an end, as we recently learned that our monthly rent allowance is given out on the 3rd of each month. Gavin plans to buy himself a cheap guitar with some of his allowance, I plan to buy myself a cozy fleece blanket. But in the meantime I have perfected Poverty Stricken Teachers in Istanbul classics such as rice and beans, eggplant pasta, and lentil soup. YUM!
***On an even more exciting note, the photo of me on Election night that made it to the cover of the Seattle Times was voted as one of the Top 10 photos of the year out of over 6,000 photos taken for the newspaper. It was reprinted again, for the THIRD time. I need to start collecting royalties on that picture….first the front page, then tee shirts, now again on the front page….