Thursday, December 16, 2010
Life in Turkey is finally settling down. I moved into my new flat last week, we have had no hot water, no heat, no stove, no refrigerator or any furniture for the first week, but we did manage to have a little house warming party!! The party was not up to my usual standards, but of course a goodtime. It was great to see my new house filled with all the new friends I have made in the last 6 weeks.
The flat is super cute, like a dollhouse or a house for midgets. The place is unfurnished, which is why it’s so cheap but also why we are living with the bare essential. I did get over to Ikea this week and purchased myself a big girl bed. Sad to say, but this is the first time I have had my own bed and own room in almost a year. I think that means I am a grown up.
The flat is defiantly still a work in progress. No kitchen really or tables or any sofas but the location is perfect. A great neighborhood close to all our friends and just a 15-minute walk to my work (uphill). Work is at full speed. I am up to almost 40 hours of teaching, which means a lot more time lesson planning and way less time sleeping. But I an actually still enjoy going to work 6 days a week and my students are really cool.
I wish I had more to report about Istanbul besides the fact that winter has finally arrived. We had a little snowstorm last weekend and the temperature most days has been around 10 degrees Celsius and I have no winter coat!
Last week, I did get to experience a traditional Turkish “Raki” night. Raki is the liquor of Turkey; it is really indescribable but similar to the Greek liquor Orzo or Sambuca. There is only one proper way to drink Raki, and that is over a long period of time in a big group and served with many different kinds of Meza or fish. Meza’s are the small dishes of cold appetizers such as cheese, potatoes, salad and a bunch of other things I don’t know the names of you eat before your meal. You mix the Raki with a small amount of water that turns the liquor a milky color. The affects of Raki are a little different then your typical alcohol. It’s not so much of a drunk feeling but I mellow, funny and chatty induced behavior. Overall an enjoyable night and another chance to add to my list of local drinks.
- I have had a fresh Guinness in Ireland (with some Jameson).
- I have drank Sake in Japan.
- Way too much Soju in Korea.
- Buckets of SangSom in Thailand.
- A schooner in Australia.
- Wine in Italy and France.
- A proper Cider in a London pub
- Tequila in Mexico, I just don’t remember it
- A beer with Germans at Oktoberfest and some Jagermiester too!
- And now Raki in Turkey
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Really? I have been here a month! The time has seriously flown by, but I feel very adjusted to my life here (besides the fact that I am still homeless). Work is going quite well. I have decided to just work at one school and I have about 25 hours a week so far. I work weekend mornings and weekdays from about 2pm till 10pm, with Tuesday as my day off. Not your typical 9 to 5 but I think it keeps work from getting so monotonous and I am almost nocturnal now. Which is great in a city like Istanbul where everything is open late and you can get anything from beer to Chinese food delivered to house 24-7.
After 2 weeks at Ali’s house, he has passed mealong to his friend Erhan. I meet Erhan a few weeks ago at his birthday party and right away I knew this was a good guy to know in Istanbul. Erhan has graciously opened his home up to me, I am sure when he agreed to let me stay there he had no idea I would be there for the next 3 weeks. Erhan’s house is just a 20-minute walk to my work and his home is always lively and full of friends.
Last week was Bayram, the Muslim holiday to celebrate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to God, good thing God intervened and told him to sacrifice a ram instead. So, each year Muslims recreate this act by sacrificing a lamb, cow sheep or goat. The meat is divided and given to relatives, friends and neighbors and the needy. Being a vegetarian, I was quite nervous about this sacrificing holiday, especially when I heard the city smells of blood for the whole week and there will be carnage everywhere. I have been lucky to avoid all scenes of massacre so far and any smells of blood.
Due to Bayram, all schools are off for the week. Which would have been great if A. I had money and B. I was ready for a vacation. But Erhan was kind enough to invite me to his hometown, Izmit (just an hour outside Istanbul). I feel so lucky to be “going home for the holidays.” Izmit is a small suburb right on the sea, quiet and suburban. The holiday felt very familiar, lots of food, family, deserts and little kids in their Sunday best.The rest of my holiday was mellow and uneventful. I did find some time to get a new tattoo. I have been thinking about getting another tattoo for a while, and when your new best friend is a tattoo artist, what better time then the present. I picked an Arabic style font in red ink with the “STARS” and “ALIGN” across my right and left wrist. It’s the title to one of my favorite Kaskade tracks (I am officially obsessed) and it reminds me to trust in fate.
On Sunday I went my first professional basketball game, which was pretty exciting because I got to see Mr. Alan Iverson play. It was only his second game with Besitkas and the fans were going mental. Apparently in Turkey games are so intense only one of the teams fans are allowed to come to the game. The entire time the Besitkas fans were chanting and singing. And the few times I had my friends translate what they were saying, instantly regretted it. Lets just say it was a lot of talk about players mothers and various body parts. At the end of the game the visiting team had to berushed off the court by the riot squad in full gear. That’s pretty much all that is happening. I still love it here, I enjoy the chaos of the city but the kick back style of the Turks and I can’t get over Turkish breakfast!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Merhaba!! I made it safely to Turkey even though my flight was pretty horrendous. I had 2 layovers, no in-flight entertainment, hangover and stuck in the way back in the middle seats for each leg of my flight!! I didn't have the normal feelings of excitement and anticipation that you usually get before an international trip, just a headache and the feeling that I was in way over my head.
After a few moments of panic that no one was going to pick me up at the airport, I spotted Ali! He and his two friends came to pick me up and the first thing they did was take me out for a beer. That's when I knew everything was going to be okay.
I spent the first week running from job interview to job interview. I had like seven appointments and one demo lesson in my first four days in Istanbul. On day five I signed two contracts with two reputable language schools. I will mostly be teaching young Turks and business professionals. I am already working six days a week and building up my hours so hopefully in a few weeks I will be working full-time.
It’s been a great experience spending the last two weeks in a Turkish home. I am already addicted to Turkish breakfast: fresh whole wheat breads, tomato spread, jams, an array of cheeses and grapes and of course Turkish tea. It also doesn't hurt that Ali and his friends love to talk about San Diego, which makes me feel right at home. Ali has been so gracious and really shown me why Turkish people are famous for their hospitality. We have become fast friends and he has really saved my ass in Turkey. I am scared when I move out that I wont eat (I hate knowing the local language at restaurants) or know how to get anywhere or know who recharge my phone or talk to anyone. I feel like a baby bird leaving the safety of the nest but I am stoked for my own flat!
Some of my first observations about Istanbul:
The traffic is pretty much the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. My 40 km commute to work can take anywhere from 45 minutes to over two hours. The streets look a lot Bangkok minus the motorbikes and New York City minus cars staying in designated lanes plus pedestrians running in and out of traffic. We sometimes sit in gridlock traffic for hours barely moving when it's not even rush hour. I hoping to not really have to deal with when I move and I can walk to work.
One of my favorites things about Istanbul is seeing the turrets from all the Mosques scattered every few blocks through out the city. I also really like hearing the Adhan, the call for pray, five times a day from the Mosques. It always makes me stop for a minute and be grateful.
Its surprises me every time I travel to a new country how much you can learn. My first day here I thought my brain might implode from learning so much in one day. I hadn't really prepared myself mentally for this and It all became very real when I arrived. I hadn't really spent much time thinking about the language barrier or how I would learn Turkish but within the first hours I remembered all to well the feeling of listening to people talk for hours and not having a clue what's going. I also realized how much I talk in America and maybe almost dominate most conversations. Now that I can't share my every thought I have a lot of time to think, even when I am surrounded by a group of people. It's nice to have so much time to think, but sometimes I feel like I am constantly making mental notes. I hope this forces me to actually try and learn Turkish. I can at least read the letters but I defiantly have a lot of work to do on my pronunciation.
I recently read a quote that summed up my thoughts exactly;
"Once I leave the US, I am not bound by the rules of my culture. And when I am a foreigner in another country, I am exempt from the local rules. This extraordinary situation means that there are no rules in my life. I am free to live by the standards and ideals and rules I create for myself." - Rita Golden Gelman
Friday, October 22, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
So after 6 months back in America, I got the travel itch. I started looking for jobs all over the world: Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt, Argentina and everywhere in between. And then one day I decided Turkey ! And ever since then I have been asked why Turkey?
My answer is really long actually ... First I didnt want to go to Asia again so that rules out China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Then I was thinking Southeast Asia but i have already been to Thailand so many times .. then I was thinking about South America but most of the work there is volunteer and you need some money saved up before you go. Work as an English teacher in Europe is usually reserved for EU citizens. The Middle East was another option, the pay is good but the Women's quality sucks. So that leaves me with MIDDLE EARTH or more precisely Turkey.
Istanbul is literally both in Asia and in Europe. Istanbul has a population of 12.8 million people. Turkey is 99% muslim but the most secular of any majority Islam country. Isanbul is also home to one of the world oldest bazzar. The nightlife is suppose to be insane and the mediterranean food phenomenal.
I began searching for work in istanbul about a month ago. I was offered a job at a language school (which prompted me to buy my plane ticket to Istanbul) but after some investigating I learned about the schools bad reputation. I decide to decline the job but continue on my mission to Istanbul. For the past two weeks I have been sending my resume to English schools and Au Pair agencies all over Istanbul. I have had several skype interviews and I even have some lined up for next week. So I am hopeful that with some charm and hard work I can land a job right away.
By some chance luck, a friend of a friend living in Istanbul has offered to pick me up form the airport and let me stay with him until I am settled in. Sweeeett!!!
So what is boils down to is, I packed up my life in San Diego, left the love of my life (Brittany), bought a ticket across the world in hopes of finding a job, finding a new place to live, making new friends and surviving on the $400.00 in my bank account. I can only guess which countries I will visit and the new experiences I will gain. Stayed tuned for new posts and let the new adventure begin!!!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Things I am going to miss
-Men wearing heeled shoes and man purses, with tighter jeans and better haircuts then me, who aren't even gay!
-The subway! Not once this whole year have I ever wished I had a car, remind me why California hasn't caught on to this idea?
-Cheap taxis, not tipping and no taxes
-No crime. I can leave my purse in any bar and be confident no one will take it. I can lose my phone and assume I will get in back in a few days.
-Not paying rent and having a salary
-The best TOFU in the world
-Bars never closing and the fact that is completely acceptable to pass out anywhere (for examples please refer here www.blackoutkorea.blogspot.com )
-My students and Lacy <3
Things I won’t miss
-The smell of kimchi and soju on the subway
-Being forced to eat Korean lunch at school everyday
-Getting pushed by everyone all the time
-Not being able to read anything or understand any thing in Korean
-Any food that contains rice or black bean that is trying to be passed off as a sweet, candy or dessert.
-Living in a concrete jungle
Reasons I know I have been in Asia a little too long
-I have mad chopstick skills
-When I run into someone the thought of saying excuse me doesn't even cross my mind
-I have forgot what tipping is
-When I see a white person I find myself staring at them and thinking they are weird and wondering what they are doing here
-I bow to everyone in every situation has become an uncontrollable reflex
-It is a compulsion to put up a peace sign in every picture
Greatest moments this year (stole this idea from Brittany)
-My first trip to Thailand, where I meet my Brummie mates and my counter parts Brittany and Lacy. Thailand changed my life redefining my views on gender roles and sexuality and showing me the simpler side of life.
-Becoming an Elementary school teacher. I found a career I could really be happy doing for a long time. A job that I strive to do better at everyday, that is truly fulfilling and makes me proud to say what I do.
-Going to Beijing with my mom. Not only was standing in Tienanmen square or on the Great Wall the coolest things I have ever done but I got to go to Olympic Swim cube, awesome!
-Discovering my happy place. Sitting in a hammock on my bungalow porch in Ko Phangan overlooking two beaches discussing the meaning of life with two people who make me a better person, Andrew and Brittany.
-Taking my 3rd students swimming and getting totally destroyed in almost every race.
-Going bungee jumping. Taking that step off the edge was single scariest action I have ever taken and screamed the whole way down but I did it!
-Overall, being fortunate enough to have the means and opportunity to travel. I honestly believe you can’t really understand who you are or where you come from until you experience someone else’s way of life. Traveling gives you the freedom to be your true self. The continuous experience of meeting new people from all over the world is a consent reminder to yourself of who you are. I more content and confident then I have ever been in my life. I feel empowered and capable of things I never imagined. I no longer am concerned with keeping to some fictional life track defined by my age. My goals are more focused on the present, being true to myself and being happy.
Friday, February 5, 2010
First finish up my contract in Korea. February 11 will be my last day of work after that Lacy and I are headed to Thailand. Yeah I know my third trip this year, but I really freaking love this place. We are going down to the southern islands and kicking on the beach for two weeks.
Then around March 1st Brittany and my friend Willie are meeting me in Bangkok. From there we are going river tubing in Laos then making our way to the famous Ankor Wat temple in Cambodia. Hopefully there will be enough time for a stop off to our favorite island in Thailand, Ko Chang before we fly back to Korea on March 9th.
I am going to use my free flight from Seoul (included in my teaching contract) to fly to Sydney, Australia. I came up with this last minute tip to OZ after Brittany’s and mine original plan to explore Vietnam crumbled. So , now I going to spend about 18 days down under visiting my friend Eunyoung. I am super excited to go to Australia, it has always been on the top of my list of places to visit. I hope I don’t waste all my money there before I came back to the states. It's a little bit more pricey there then Southeast Asia and I going to have to remember to tip.
Speaking of being back in America, exciting news: Brittany has decided to move with me to San Diego. We are going to find jobs as nannies and swim coaches for the summer until we come up with the plan for our next adventure. We are so sad that our other third Lacy won’t be with us, she will be staying a little longer in Korea and hopefully joining us at the end of the summer. Wherever in the world that may be:)
So I’ve got 7 more weeks before I touch down in California. I am slightly nervous, I will have spent 14 months in the East and I am expecting some intense culture shock. I am glad Brittany will be there to share my pain and I am sure spending time babysitting my nieces will make the transition that much easier.
Well I think I did a good job updating. I don’t think I did so well on the short part.
On Christmas day the ladies and I packed up our bags and headed to the Philippines for a two week holiday! We caught a late night flight into Manila airport, we had a 6 hour layover (which turned into 12 hours because the closed the airport we were suppose to fly into) before we caught our domestic flight into Kalibo. Once we reached Kalibo we had to take an hour ride in a overcrowded van to the port, then a short ferry ride to the small island of Boracay,(aka Paradise). Why do the most beautiful beaches always take the longest to get to?
Out of all the tropical beaches I have been to this year, I think Boracay might rank first. The white sand and clear waters went on for as far as you could see. We spent most of our days lounging on the beach, sailing around the island, meeting the locals, drinking fresh mango shakes and watching the sunset. And when the sun went down we were up to our usual nightlife antics, especially with the local San Miguel beers costing about a dollar each.I know, I know, hard life for a paid vacation.
Before we knew it, it was News Year Eve and the island was in the midst of high tourist season. We rang in the New Year at a “white party” on the beach with some crazy Aussies and fun Swedish boys. I couldn't’t imagine a better place to start 2010, a beautiful beach with my two besties. I think this year is gonna be a good one!
Our original plan was to leave Boracay after we had fully recovered from our New Years hangovers and check out some of the other island in the Philippines but it’s just so hard to get on that ferry. We ended up making good friends with the managers of our hotel and some of the local bars and we were having so much fun we couldn’t imagine leaving. So our 7 days stay turned into 12 days, we didn’t get a chance to see any of the other island but I think we made the most of our trip. Sure we could have traveled more but aren't the relationships you make more important then the sights you see? My trip can best be summed up in this video I made. I know it's long but there are some great landscape shots and I promise I wasn't drinking as much as it appears.
One of the best days on the island was when our friend Sadrock took us sailing to his home on the mainland. He brought us to a friends house where they were celebrating some Saints day (the Philippines is overwhelming Catholic), they gave us lunch and invited us to their BBQ. It was rare opportunity to be welcomed into the village’s celebration and share some beers with the locals.
But by far my favorite memory from the trip was scuba diving. We had a few hours training before we were dropped in the middle of the ocean for a 40 minute dive. In the beginning it was a little scary and totally unnatural to be breathing underwater but after you get over the mental block it’s amazing! We were swimming through spectacular coral reefs filled with exotic neon fish. I seriously felt like I was swimming in the movie Finding Nemo and all the characters were there. I didn’t even know colors that bright existed in nature. The Philippine's crystal clear water and thriving ecosystem makes it home to some of the best dive sites in the world. I can’t wait to get certified and dive again.
Our last night in Boracay, Brittany and I had serious ambitions for getting permanent jobs on the island. I was in training as a DJ and Brittany had her first shift behind the bar. We plan on brushing up on our skills and applying for jobs on our next visit.
I really feel in love with Boracay. Not only was it a beautiful place but the people are what made our trip. The Filipino people have to be some of the kindest and most hospitable people, not to mention there English is practically fluent. It was so refreshing to be in such a friendly and open culture, which made coming back to Korea that much more difficult.
When the day finally came to broad the ferry to the mainland and endure the flight the Manila, we were all but happy. We spent a night in Manila trying to readjust back to the city life but nothing can quite prepare for the shock of reality.
I was still in my shorts and sandals when we landed in Seoul, where temperatures were below freezing and a couple feet of snow had piled up on the ground. Coming back to Korea was more then depressing then I feared. Getting cut in front of, elbowed and knocked out the way, all before I made my way back to my apartment really made starting count the days till the end.
First it got cold, then it got colder, then it got freezing, then is snowed and snowed some more. When the novelty of my first winter worn off, I finally realized what my New England friend, Brittany was warning me about. Not wanting to ever leave the house, sleeping all day, craving the warm food and the biggest shock to me was how much of a homebody I became. I actually found myself staying home on weekend nights, shocking!
School broke for vacation on the 22nd but before I was free, I had to go on a 2 day teachers retreat. I was not looking forward to 48 awkward hours with my 70 Korean coworkers not speaking to me, eating Korean food for 6 meals straight and me not understanding anything that was going on. For the most part my all fears came true and then some. I spent 12 hours riding on bus with a hacking cough on the verge of a breakdown. Not the ideal situation right before Chirstmas to be overloaded with Korean culture when you are missing the holidays at home with your family and friends. On the plus side I did win some money from the Principal for my awesome dance and noreabong (karaoke) skills at our teachers talent show. Althought, I credit my looming vacation in paradise to my survial of this trip.