Reflections / Turkey

Some Updates, Political and Personal

At least some news of the uprisings here have probably reached you by now. Since my last post, there have been regular waves of peace followed by more turmoil, and both sides of the protests have remained persistent in their aggression. Many of the demonstrations, at least in Istanbul, are now centered in just a couple areas of the city, and much of the surrounding area continues to function normally. A couple nights ago, when things were arguably at their worst, I was able to smell the tear gas from my apartment. It was bad enough that I couldn’t walk much further than the corner minimart before starting to cry and cough. Since then, it seems that things have calmed down, and I just wanted to assure you that I am safe and well and that any and all violence has taken place relatively far from where I am. There has been, however, nightly noise parties organized to show support for those in the front lines. The action starts around 9pm, and there’s car-honking, pot-banging, light-flashing, and chanting and cheering for about an hour before things start to fade out. Here’s a video I took as the sounds were picking up in my neighborhood:

Regarding the protests themselves, I’m not sure what you’ve heard or in what ways it’s been presented, but I don’t think I have much more to say regarding the social and political motives and actions of all that’s happened. I wish that as someone living here locally I could help provide more insight, but I simply don’t know enough, and, considering my sources, I don’t think I could say much of anything with certainty. It’s difficult to reach conclusions because there is absolutely zero Turkish coverage of the events, so all of the information I’ve been getting is either from international sources without details or the impassioned and often misinformed spewings on social media.

In the case of the latter, sometimes people are right; most other times they’re inclined to sensationalize. Much like it is back home, really. The difficulty comes in never really knowing which is which. Most of the public seems to side with the protestors, but there’s been a substantial amount of vandalism in the recent gatherings that many are viewing as detrimental to the cause (some credit it to hooligans unaffiliated with the movement looking for a reason to cause destruction). There are those who would call the protestors hypocrites, or who wonder why they’re acting against someone they once voted for. There are those who try to argue that this is no different than what would happen in the States and so it’s not worth paying attention to. There are those who compare it to Syria and Iran and Egypt and others and say that the brutality exhibited can’t touch what’s happened in those countries. Some say that Turkey is throwing a tantrum that, like Egypt, will make the news for a couple weeks but ultimately lead to nothing. Then there are those who take pride in their apathy and think they’re making a point by not caring, and still there are those who actually support the current powers that be.

There’s a lot to consider. There’s a lot that people don’t know. There’s even more that I don’t know. I can only hope that something positive comes of it, and that the many who have been injured are able to heal.

As for personal events here, I’m excited to announce some new job opportunities that are starting up for me!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been spending some time working with a transcription service that sends me audio files of interviews conducted by various oil and gas magazines. I type out what’s said and send the document back to my employer before he sends it on to the magazine for editing and eventual publishing. The magazines are ones I’ve never heard of and would never have reason to read, but they’re big names in the oil community, and while the work is almost always tedious and boring and filled with terminology and context I don’t understand, sometimes there’s a sliver of insight that’s actually pretty interesting.

The owner of the transcription company also operates a tutoring service. He essentially acts as a liaison between teachers and students who are interested in one-on-one English lessons. He matches students to teachers based on location and experience level before setting up a trial lesson that allows both parties to determine if they want to pursue regular sessions together. If all systems are go, it’s up to the teacher and student to decide when and how often they want to meet. The other day I met with a Turkish woman and her 8-year-old daughter in their home. I spent an hour and a half with each, and things went well, so I’ll be spending a few hours with them every week during the summer to help them with their English.

In addition, I just signed a contract for a preschool starting in September. Given my past experience teaching children, I did think long and hard about whether it was wise to jump into another similar position, but during my several visits to the school I’ve noticed some distinct and positive differences, and I feel like I have to give it a chance. For one, the classes are much smaller than the classes I taught in Cambodia. There are never more than 10 children to a teacher, and if you’ve got more than that in your class, it means you’re working with another teacher. The classes are also organized by age, so there are no 2-year-olds trying to learn the same things as 6-year-olds. Plus, the school is a dedicated early childhood center, so the oldest student age is 6, and they have classrooms stocked with craft supplies and toys, unlike my Cambodian school, which had no such materials and had kindergarteners trying to navigate the same hallways at the same time as high school students. The owner seems like a genuinely wonderful lady, and the teachers who are already there seem happy and they’re excited that I’m joining the team. The atmosphere is great, the pay is good, the location is perfect (just a 20-minute bus ride and a short walk through a fancy neighborhood), and I’m not sure I’ll find that kind of trifecta anywhere else. The official school term starts in September, but I’ve also been approached about helping with their summer school program, which would start in a couple weeks. I’m excited to have figured out employment in a position that seems promising, and I will, of course, be writing about it as much as I can!

In other news, Yalda, my roommate, has her family in town, and they’re staying with us in the apartment. Eight people to one bathroom is surprisingly more manageable than you might think, and they brought suitcases full of delicious Iranian food with them, and they’re so friendly and kind, so their company has been nice.

Apart from that, there’s not much to report. Current events have made it difficult to travel much around the city, if only for fear of transportation suddenly shutting down, or the uncertainty of where activity is actually taking place. Things appear to be much more peaceful now, though, so I’ll probably venture a little further out tomorrow. I’ll be in touch with any major updates as I learn them, but for now, all my love!

(P.S. The owner of the preschool wants my parents to know that they did a great job. In case that wasn’t already public knowledge, I’m just gonna shout it out here.)

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2 thoughts on “Some Updates, Political and Personal

  1. Sara, so happy to hear that you are safe and well. I laughed when I heard that you were going back to pre-school, but this sounds like a wonderful place and I know you will do great. Stay alert and thanks for keeping us updated. All the best,,,,, Bev

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