Thursday, April 23, 2009

Issiz Adam

No crazy adventures lately... just a general enjoyment of life and people and spring... so I am posting a series of short entries with some pictures of that sentiment. This particular entry is about an evening when female Turkish and international teachers got together for a night of wine and a Turkish chic flick. The film was beautiful. Issiz Adam (2008) (loosley translated: Empty Man) is set in Istanbul, and will quickly dispel the belief about Muslims and Turks being conservative or Middleasternized. It is a story of those people whose lives have been isolated by modern lifestyles. Also included: Food, beautiful Turkish ballads from the 70s, and Turkish mothers. So if you see it in the Foreign Film section, I highly recommend it. It was also really nice to spend time with the Turkish teachers. Kivanc provided a beautiful spread of food.

Montana's Sunday Night Dinner Lives On...

The tradition lives on... good friends gathering for dinner every Sunday night, rotating homes.

Signs of Spring

The tortoises are out and about, looking for their mates...

The grass is GREEN!

We're climbing OUTSIDE! (no more plastic gym holds...'til next Winter)

The trees outside my window are budding. Soon I won't be able to see the soccer pitch.

More laughing...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cyrprus, "the Greek side"

After the conference, Stacy and I flew straight to Cyprus for our Spring Break, meeting her partner, Liam, and son, Gabe, at the Ankara airport on the way there.

Since the Turks invaded Cyprus in 1974 and "re"-claimed the northern half of the island as their territory, it is kind of tricky to enter the Greek/EU side. We flew into the airport in the Northern Turkish Republic of Cyprus, took a taxi to the UN-occupied "Green Zone," walked with our luggage across the Green Zone getting checked/searched by Turkish Border Control on one side and Greek Border Control on the other, then met our rental car representative, and drove 2-1/2 hours to a town on the south coast of the island called Paphos.

On the Greek side of the Green Zone, there were several propaganda posters showing numbers and faces of "innocent" Greek women and children who were killed when Turkey "invaded" the island in 1974. Funny, because pictures of "innocent Turkish women and children killed by the Greeks" during The War of Independence were used in the Anit Kabir Museum where Ataturk is buried in Ankara. An effective propaganda technique?? On the Turkish side of the Zone, there is a giant poster that reads,"The Turkish Northern Republic of Turkey FOREVER." This is a picture of the Green Zone. Pretty simple and unimpressive. Not at all what I expected.

It felt a bit tense walking through the Green Zone, but then the Greeks we met in Southern Cyprus also became quite tense when we said we were teachers from Ankara. "Why would you want to teach/live there?"

We rented a villa recommended to us by a colleague who went there with his family during our December break. The villa was functional to nice. There was a heated pool, and several patios and patio chair options to enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately, it rained for the first few days we were there and remained relatively chilly the rest of the time. So we resorted to lighting fires in the evening, cooking warm meals, and cozying up under wool blankets watching movies on cable. To be honest, I was fine with the weather. I needed the R & R; I felt so exhausted from work and then the whirlwind conference, that it was so nice to have nothing expected of me for a few days.

Of course, we still did and saw a lot. We checked out a winery, and visited the Baths of Aphrodite, the supposed pool where she and Adonis fell in love under the shade of a fig tree. The water is supposed to make you fertile and look 5 years younger. I didn't touch it. I teach 12th graders; I don't want to look any younger.

We also went out to eat at some "ethnic" restaurants. There is very little variety in food in Turkey, so we didn't go out for Cyprian food which is very similar to Turkish. Instead, Japanese, Chinese, etc...

We visited this Byzantine Church by the sea. It was nice to see churches again on this trip and in Bucharest. It had been awhile.

Gettin' artsy...

We each got massages, shopped in Paphos, and took a nature walk. The following sign was posted in the area right outside the Baths of Aphrodite, in an area marked, "Nature Walks." Can you imagine seeing this sign posted in a National Park in the U.S.?? You'd think it might be a good idea to find all those explosive devices and get rid of them BEFORE opening a nature reserve.

Luckily, no one lost a foot, and it was a beautiful walk. I love Mediterranean plants. Like a dork, I made Stacy, Liam, and Gabe play "Each One Teach One," and outdoor ed game.

And of course, we visited the sea a couple times. Gabe was so much fun to travel with; to see the world through the excitement of an 8-year-old was inspiring.

These are some sea caves we checked out.

Even though I didn't get to swim, it was still wonderful to sit and take it in. I do wish I lived by the sea sometimes.

Despite the chilliness, Gabe really really really wanted to "get wet" in the ocean. He is also obsessed with Avatar, and though I have not seen the anime films, I understand the characters are able to bend water with their special powers. So here is Gabe's attempt at bending water in the Mediterranean Ocean in March, which to me just looks like a hilarious interpretive dance.

The island is fastly developing. Everywhere you look, you see villas and hotels, all very similar looking. One day when the gang went to a bird park, I rented a bike and rode around some backroads, and everywhere I went there was construction.

I believe the Brits that are settling on the island have outnumbered the Cyprians at this point. And I don't know if it was the time of year, but most people we saw were white and over 65.

On my bikeride, I rode around a lot of banana plantations:

And here's my last time spent with the sea:

That's Spring Break 2009, Folks!

Bucharest, Romania

Stacy and I were accepted to receive professional development money to attend and present a session at the CEESA Conference in Bucharest, Romania. CEESA is the Central and Eastern European Schools Association, one of several regional associations of US State Department sponsored American Overseas Schools. BUPS is not a member of CEESA, but it is a great conference to attend to meet other international teachers from IB schools in this region of the world.

We were put up in an Executive Suite room in the Marriott. Our first night there we ordered room service and watched "Love Story," and had a girls' night in. The hotel:

The sessions we attended were inspiring, including the keynote speaker, John Joseph's address about brain research and reaching the emotional and imaginative "rooms" of our students, and NYU's Robert DiYanni's session about teaching poetry. He was truly a master teacher.

We also escaped to our room a few times to prepare for our presentation. Stacy preparing:

School had been so busy beforehand as this is the peak time of year for IB requirements, that we never had a chance to run through our presentation beforehand. We were given the very last time slot on the last day, but after some anxiety experienced in anticipation, our presentation went pretty well. It was a good first run, and we look forward to presenting it again someday. Perhaps meeting up at an English Teachers' Convention in the States. Our session is entitled, "The YouTUBE and You: Using Pop Culture in the English Language Arts Classroom." It consisted of a 2-hour session on how to use pop icons, filmclips, songs, etc. to provide a socio-historical context for studying literature, to practice higher level analytical skills by deconstructing the connotation of a media text and then transferring those skills to a literary text, fostering cross-cultural understanding by dissecting embedded values in media messages, and using a shared body of knowledge (pop culture) to connect with students and add fun to the classroom.

Unfortunately, it was such a small, broad conference that there were not many English teachers present to attend our session. But we had eight people come, a variety of math, technology, economics teachers. We received a lot of good feedback from them, and many were able to find some idea we presented as inspiration for their own subject areas.

As far as Bucharest goes, we didn't see much of it, as we were stuck inside fancy hotels the whole time. We did go out to dinner one night at a restaurant called, Poem, with 20 or so other international teachers we met from Macedonia, Norwary, and Romania. It was one of the most expensive restaurants in Bucharest. I had a very tasty lightly-fried salmon steak which I've never had prepared like that before. Romanian cuisine? I have no idea. Some other folks tried ordering Italian, and that was a disaster. They ordered gnocchi, and were served a pile of boiled potatoes covered in marinara sauce. Nice ambiance though.

The second night, CEESA had planned for us a fancy dinner and dancing at the Radisson Hotel. After we danced to the oldies, we snuck off and hit the town with some new friends. We wandered around the city, and came across this beautiful candlelight vigil being held in remembrance of a famous Romanian Pop star who had just died.

The city definitely had a Transylvanian feel; you could see how vampires could be associated with it. Especially the way it was lit up at night, the buildings with spotlights and harsh shadows.

All in all, a really great weekend of not enough sleep, good "girl time," being inspiring by other teachers, inspiring other teachers, and making friends from faraway places!