Saturday, August 28, 2010


This is what I am calling my current strange mix of Turkish, English and copious amounts of pantomime. As I stated previously, in this country you must learn the language if you are to survive well and be independent, but I am not quite there yet. I've been here for just over 2 weeks and I can read most things (even if I have NO CLUE what it means) and I've got some vocabulary and basic phrases that I can use when need be. However, it doesn't quite cover what I need just yet, so I am using Turk-lish to get it done. Here are two examples:

The other day, I needed to purchase a power adapter from 220-110 volt so a few of the rechargeable items I brought with me could be charged. I had no idea how to ask for what I needed so I texted my lovely friend Merve (Mar-vey is more how it is pronounced) for the word for power converter. She dutifully sent me a text back and I bravely approached the customer service guy at the hardware store near me. He read the text and called around to get me what I wanted. After leading me to converters from 110-220 volt instead of the other way around, I had to rely on my limited Turkish and pantomime to explain that I wanted the opposite kind of conversion. The man was patient and we both laughed as we sorted out what I wanted and he led me to it in the store. The kicker? It's called an adaptor in Turkish (there should be two dots over the o to be spelled right, I think). *sigh* So easy, but my lack of understanding made it more complex, although entertaining... and the joke was on me, especially when the man looks at me and said keep the paper from the cashier, it has a two year guarantee! hahaha

Yesterday (Friday here) was delivery day for bottled water in our building. I was told to put out my empty (just emptied on Thursday night, how's that for timing?!?!) with about 5 TL on Friday morning and a new one and any change would be in it's place by the time I got home from school. So I followed directions and was eager to see if it all worked out when I got home from work on Friday afternoon... but alas, there was no water there. *sigh* This meant I had to make the dreaded phone call to the water company to request a bottle... now, I do know my apartment address in Turkish, so that's a plus. I know the word for bottle and water as well, but for this conversation, that was all I had going for me. So when I called (and yes, I still pantomimed even though he obviously couldn't see me), I said "hello (this way, he'd know a dumb foreigner was on the line). I need a sise (sheeshay) of su (sooo), lutfen (two dots above the u to make it loot-fen, which means please)." He sounded a little confused but then said yes, where and I gave my address in Turkish. He said yes and thank you and then hung up. No dates, no times, no anyway to know if I'd succeeded. Until today, that is... Today my doorbell rang and there was a fresh bottle of water and change in the envelope!! SUCCESS!!

So the lesson in all of this for the international person is work hard to learn the language but don't be afraid to take risks and try with your limited abilities...people will help you and appreciate your efforts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Roman Ankara

So the other day we were taken on a tour of the Roman parts of Ankara. Our guide was a local historian and archeologist. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to listen to a person who studies this stuff talk about it while taking is around. I learned a lot and my inner history nerd was fed. The picture above is some of the column tops that they've found. The columns cannot be found anywhere and it's assumed that they were broken down and used for other things once the Christians took over the city as Rome lost control of the area.

This is a picture of part of the Roman baths in Ankara. These baths were in use for over 500 years and were on and functioning for the entire time. The area being seen in this picture is where the hot water would have flowed under a marble floor in the heated rooms. Slaves were sent down a level below this one to stoke the fires that kept the water hot... 500 years of that... the baths were never shut down until they were permanently shut down... 500 years of slaves and trees being chopped down and what not. The effects of this deforestation are still being seen and the people of Ankara are working hard to correct it.

This column is topped by the nest of a stork. The column was placed there to commemorate the visit of someone important (the details escape me now), but it was around this time that the Ecumenical Counsel met in Ankara to discuss what books would be included in the Bible that we know and read today!

This is the Roman temple that was built to honour Augustus. Originally it was surrounded by columns that supported a wooden roof and there were no windows. History has it that the Christians took down the columns to use the marble for other uses and then added the three windows you now see. Also, one of the most famous and historical mosques in Ankara is built adjacent to this site. Finally, this temple is the ONLY one in all of history that carried the engravings that Augustus commissioned to detail his life's works and his funeral wishes before he died. All other copies that were sent to EVERY temple in the Roman Empire were destroyed or lost... only the ones in Anatolia survive and the one at this temple is written both in Latin and the people's language of the times... SO COOL!

This is the castle in Ankara. It is at the heart of the old city and the Roman road leads out from here. Along the road you can find the theatre, which is just below the castle itself and is still being excavated and preserved. We are viewing it from the temple area in this picture. The castle as three retaining walls around it that were added by each Empire that governed the area over time. I haven't had the chance to go inside and have a look yet, but am very excited to do so.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Foreign Living...

I really love living the expat life. I love going to places that most people view as exotic or strange for a visit, never mind to live. I love that my life seems out of the ordinary to them (when, in fact, it is quite ordinary but just in a different location). I love that the people I work with are like-minded to me and share so many of the same ideals and sense of adventure. I love that I am constantly challenged to learn new things, to adjust my thought processes and to become a little less ethnocentric in each place I visit and live in.
When I moved to Korea, I thought that I wouldn't survive it. I had an odd little apartment in a strange neighbourhood that had more cockroaches than I could shake a fist at (and I did shake my fist at them... often). There were weird smells that took my breath away in a bad way and yummy smells that did the same thing in a good way. But in Korea, I could get by quite easily as a foreigner with just a few phrases of Korean that helped me shop or direct taxis.
When I moved to Oman, the need to learn the language was less immediate than in Korea as most everyone spoke some English and it was easy to be there. The strange smells were few and far between (unless you counted the smell of something dead in my kitchen drain when I first moved there... *shudder*) and the yummy smells were more prominent. It was hotter, bt dryer and simply, easy.
The move to the US might have the hardest for me of all. Sure, there were no real language barriers (unless you counted my Canuck pronunciation of several words) but there were many more cultural differences that were harder to swallow since I looked like I could belong, I spoke the language fluently and I was from just up north. But it was still fairly easy to get along for the most part.
Now, I've moved to Turkey. I adore the history and what I know of the culture and the food. I find it easy to like being here, but I MUST learn the language. I can already direct a taxi for the most part and can ask simple questions, but the need to be fluent here is much more immediate than any other place I've been. Less people speak English here and even though they are inclined to help you to the best of their ability, without shared communication, it is hard for them and disappointing for both. So for the first time that I've lived anywhere, I feel an urgency to be able to communicate well. This is good. It's a new challenge and pleasure in foreign living!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TCKs and Birthdays Part Deux

Today is my birthday as I stated in a previous post.... I also stated that I was a TCK who struggles with a sense of belonging and all of that. I don't like being the center of attention, I much prefer to quietly go about my business behind the scenes, moving in and out like a shadow or something like that. I love love love making a HUGE deal of holidays and other people's birthdays or going away parties... it makes me happy to do that for people, it's part of my nature. But as for myself, it kind of weirds me out. As I did a teleclass on TCKs last night, I began to understand why... and I don't know if it's the same for all TCKs but it's the truth for me: I never feel like I belong anywhere... I feel like I can understand and function best in the international community where most people are like-minded to me but I still don't feel like I belong. I have lots and LOTS of good friends but only a few I would trust my heart and soul to... so when I come into a new community, I tend to connect very well and very quickly initially, but then I struggle to go deeper. As a TCK you are often left by friends and family or you are doing the leaving and it's always been out of my control (we moved for my dad's work all the time... no, he isn't in the military)... now that I am an adult, I seem to harbour residual fear of being left or forced to leave, so I choose not too get to close, not to seem to prominent and to leave before too many roots begin to settle in. It's how I've become a TCA (Third Culture Adult) and how I deal with all holidays, birthdays and friendships... I make them a non-issue.
Well, today, my new friend Charity heard my words and ignored them anyway (and I am grateful for it). She helped to organize a small surprise birthday gathering for me. I was totally taken by surprise (I freaked and headed for the bedroom so as to avoid all eyes on me.... hahaha... such a fool!!). I may have seemed ungrateful but it's not the case... I really appreciate the thought, the care, the planning and the friendship... I see all those things in the gathering, but the mass amount of intense and instant attention is a bit overwhelming and something I've tried to avoid for the better part of my life. So thank-you Charity for helping me have a normal birthday (usually, I spend it alone or at a quiet dinner... I've known a party or two in my time, but I prefer to keep it quiet), thank you for my first surprise party ever and thank you for being a friend that helped me grow in understanding myself a little more today!!

TCKs and Birthdays

For those of you who don't know what a TCK is, it's a Third Culture Kid. Here are some basic characteristics as taken off the website

There are different characteristics that impact the typical Third Culture Kid:
  • TCKs are 4 times as likely as non-TCKs to earn a bachelor's degree (81% vs 21%)
  • 40% earn an advanced degree (as compared to 5% of the non-TCK population.)
  • 45% of TCKs attended 3 universities before earning a degree.
  • 44% earned undergraduate degree after the age of 22.
  • Educators, medicine, professional positions, and self employment are the most common professions for TCKs.
  • TCKs are unlikely to work for big business, government, or follow their parents' career choices. "One won't find many TCKs in large corporations. Nor are there many in government ... they have not followed in parental footsteps".
  • 90% feel "out of sync" with their peers.
  • 90% report feeling as if they understand other cultures/peoples better than the average American.
  • 80% believe they can get along with anybody.
  • Divorce rates among TCKs are lower than the general population, but they marry older (25+).
    • Military brats, however, tend to marry earlier.
  • Linguistically adept (not as true for military ATCKs.)
    • A study whose subjects were all "career military brats"—those who had a parent in the military from birth through high school—shows that brats are linguistically adept.
  • Teenage TCKs are more mature than non-TCKs, but ironically take longer to "grow up" in their 20s.
  • More welcoming of others into their community.
  • Lack a sense of "where home is" but often nationalistic.
  • Some studies show a desire to "settle down" others a "restlessness to move".
  • Depression and suicide are more prominent among TCK's.
I am a TCK and can identify with most of these characteristics. I've known the term TCK since I went overseas to teach back in 1999. I even met and attended workshops with Dave Pollock, one of the founders of the terminology and initial studies about TCKs, but I've never taken the time to really learn about it all. That's changed recently as I try to understand myself and my students better.
As today is my birthday, I think about being a TCK and how it affects it. For one, I don't like big celebrations or parties in my honour, I'm much happier being told Happy Birthday and being left alone. I feel sad on my birthday usually. I put on a happy front because that's what you are meant to do in society, but generally I don't enjoy the day. It's not about getting older for me... it's about being detached from family, from close friends and all of that. Yes, I chose to live overseas and so I kind of force the detachment on myself, but I'm learning that it's almost a forced choice to be overseas. I have no sense of belonging, so it just seems easier and makes more sense to me to be perpetually starting over... Anyway... Happy Birthday to me!! :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stupidity Can Be An Adventure, Too!

Yes, that's right... stupidity. And the stupid one was ME!! I was feeling better this morning (I've had the Turkish Tummy that most newcomers get upon arrival - we get too excited about all the yummy foods and forget that our systems aren't used to it) and was on a roll getting ready. My mind was racing with all the things I wanted to get done, the people I needed to see and so on... I was ready early, able to keep down my breakfast and well rested. I got my things together, remembering the things I had forgotten the day before and then I traipsed out the door, promptly shutting it behind me... with my keys on the inside lock of the door... the doors lock to outside opening immediately. It was great. I had a spare in my pocket, but you can't open it when the key is on the inside like mine was... the spare just spins and spins... So, since I was early, I ran down to the main office and asked one of the Turkish staff (Gulcan) for help. She was wonderful and didn't laugh at me too much as she called the main housing office to see what could be done. Fortunately I live on the second floor and my balcony was open. The housing office thought that they could get in. I raced back to my apartment to meet the worker (this way people would know he wasn't breaking in to steal) and see how this could be done. The worker spoke no English and my Turkish lessons haven't covered "I'm an idiot and locked myself out, please help me" just yet, so with some pantomime he got the message and a ladder. The ladder was too short for him, which prompted a great deal of running back and forth, cell phones and the like on his part. On my part, I got to look as stupid as I felt. Eventually a hero came along. One of the other foreign teachers has her lovely partner here (Charity and Jordan) and he was wandering past and asked what was going on. Even more fortunate for me, he is a rock climber and used his skills to climb the ladder and monkey his way onto my balcony and inside. What the worker couldn't do in the 20 minutes that he had, Jordan completed in about 3 minutes. Thank goodness for that!!! So my adventure into stupidity ended well and taught me the lesson to NEVER EVER leave my keys in the inside lock!! If this school had the monkey award like my school in Korea did (I never got it in the 3 years I worked there) I would have gotten it for sure for that stunt!! hahaha... what a day!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Friends...

One of the best parts of being international is that your circle of friends is ever expanding. I've come to love and rely on the types of friends that you make overseas. Here in Turkey it is a bit unique because the school I am working in now has each expat teacher paired with a Turkish national teacher for a team teaching experience. I love this because it allows me easier access to the local people, customs and so on. It's also helped to expand my circle of friends that much more. Below are some of the new friends I've had the pleasure to meet so far in my new adventure in Ankara:

Two my new Turkish friends, Gamze and Merve. They are just about the sweetest people that I've met here. They help you with everything, they are kind, generous and beautiful. I am so thankful to count them among my friends here...

The 106(fauxtel) and Main Campus (Merkez Kampus) crew. Our first few days in Turkey were spent bonding on this bus. We had to be shuttled everywhere because we weren't over where the school and most of the teachers are. They are Tim, Christina, Kim, Brennan, Jordan and Charity. I've laughed hard with these folks and they make me smile...

Brennan's long arms come in handy for a photo. He's in there with Charity, Gamze, Merve and I. We always have a good time together.

This was at a dinner that the school took us too, we were a bit spoiled with meals and parties that first week. I'm there with Christina, Tim, Katie, Burcu, Isil and Gamze. I love that it's not just foreigners enjoying each other's company. I've felt very accepted here and happy to be a part of this staff this far. I can't wait to see what the year brings me!!

And there's Edmund and Kim. Edmund wasn't part of our bus group, but he is a new teacher with the rest of us and we seem to have all bonded well as a group. I'm now enjoying getting to know some of the other staff as well.

Ah... A Mixed Voltage Life

So one of the hazards of living internationally is getting all your electronic devices to sync up. I haven't had too much of an issue for the most part but this is the first school that I've worked for that doesn't give you a power converter or provide a way for you to get one cheap. This is also the first year I've owned a Nook E-Reading device. I bought it to save on luggage for getting reading materials here. When I got it, I made sure that it could charge on my computer because I would be in a 220 volt world and the device is 110 volt. I was assured that this is what it is built for and all that jazz. When I got it home, I charged it on my computer to be sure and it worked well... but now that I have it in Turkey, it won't charge at all. So I guess I need to get a power converter in order to charge it. Oh well!! I needed one for my toothbrush anyway! :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Now That's Hospitality!!

When we arrived in Turkey we were taken to our temporary housing and left to relax for a bit before we were whisked off to the first of many dinners and other orientation events. When I arrived in my room, I found there was a bag full of books and items about Turkey, I also found a large gift bag full of a bunch of goodies to help you settle in plus a fridge full of milk, bread, cheese, butter, eggs and fruit. It's a good way to be welcomed to your new residence. Thanks, BLIS!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


One of the things that I love about living overseas is the languages. I had a teacher in high school who told me that I should study and teach languages and because I didn't like her I never really did. But now I must admit that I LOVE learning new languages. My newest one is Turkish of course. And here in Ankara, you really NEED it to get around, shop and make friends. Fortunately the school I am now working for provides lessons! I had my first lesson today and learned a lot of basics that I got to put to use right away thanks to my new Turkish friends and colleagues. So nice!! I'm really looking forward to studying it more, using it more and gaining some fluency!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can't Always Get What You Want...

So I finally arrived in Turkey yesterday. It was hot, as to be expected. I was sweaty, as to be expected. There were new people, sounds, smells and sights... as to be expected. As expected, we were picked up by some of the lovely staff at the school and put on buses with our luggage. So far, all good... then we arrived at our lojman (that's the word for apartments or dorms here), only it wasn't my lojman at all... this was NOT as expected. We were taken off the bus and then told that our lojmans weren't ready just yet and that we would stay in the temporary place until they were. When asked for a ball park figure of when that might be, we were told a week or two. No specific dates (not as expected for westerners... but it's all inshallah here). So we were placed in a "hotel" which I will now refer to as the fauxtel... it is a studio apartment that is modern, clean and SMALL. Nothing wrong with it except that there is no AC and no fans... (oh and the stores are sold out of fans at the moment because it's the hottest summer in over 6 years... awesome!! hahaha). But I won't complain because the Rolling Stones always taught me that you just can't always get what you want, but you get what you need!! And isn't that true enough. Welcome to the international teaching world... it doesn't always make sense but a sense of humour and the attitude of gratitude get you what you need and sometimes what you want!!

Here are some pics of my Fauxtel lojamn:

The view from my window... it faces east so the sunrise wakes me... not all bad!!

The biffy... small but sleek and functional... a good combo.

Looking in from the door.

Kitchenette from the window you were earlier looking out.

And the rest of it... it's small but it's good for the moment. Can't wait to get my real lojman and decorate!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flight Etiquette

So yesterday I arrived in Turkey, the place I will be calling home for the next two years or so. But as I took the 3 flights that it took for me to get here, I began to form an idea of what the rules for going on a plane should be... now bear in mind that on a plane you are sharing close quarters with strangers and a LOT of recycled air... so here are my thoughts:

1. Don't eat foods that make you really gassy the days leading up to your flight. Five hours of smelling your bowels does no one any favours. (I was so nauseous after my flight from Vancouver to Toronto that I thought I wouldn't make it... the guy next to me let one go at least every 5 minutes... so so so so gross)

2. If you are sick with a cold, WEAR A FACE MASK!! Listening to you hack and cough (so maybe, just maybe, take some medicine before the flight and bring some with you for the flight) for an additional 8 hours does nothing for the sleep of the other passengers... not to mention the germ spreading that is going on. (I am so holding the old hackers on my Toronto to Munich flight responsible for any phlegm that might occur in me over the next few days)

3. If you are traveling with young children and they don't fly well, don't be afraid to use some dramamine or Benadryl or SOMETHING to help them sleep. Flying is really uncomfortable for kids... they are confined to a small space, they can't run around and play, the altitude changes are hard on their little ears and it's hard to sleep in a seat or mommy's lap. Help them (AND THE REST OF US) out by helping them sleep a little... helps you out later too as they will be better rested on the other end and so will you!! (Okay, what I really think - and this sounds awful coming from one who has dedicated her LIFE to working with kids - is that there should be a family section on the plane... like the back section should be all for families... they should have a little play area where kids can roam etc because it's annoying as all get out to have a toddler grab you in the aisle as they pass when you are sound asleep, never mind the screaming all the time... can you tell there were MANY unhappy babies on my flights?!?!)

4. BE POLITE!! Pushing and shoving to get your seat or to get off the plan doesn't help you get anywhere that much faster. Say please and thank you to the air staff.... they have a tough job to do, they deserve your courtesy.

So what I am saying is be on your best behaviour, because even though you may not see those people on the plane ever again, you might and if we all abide by my little rules, traveling would be much more pleasant for everyone!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Taking It With Me

As I begin to pack and prepare to get on the plane (just a few days now before I take off!!!), I have to think about what I will take with me and what I won't. And today, I am struck by the thought that they are one in the same. I will take with me the memories and love of my family and friends here but I will also leave them behind in a physical sense.

This past weekend we had our annual family gathering of the Collins side. I love this gathering and I am rarely able to attend because of where I am living or finances or both. This year, not only was I able to be there, but ALL of my cousins were there. What a wonderful time. I truly love my family and I even like them and not everyone can say that. I am thankful for the time of reconnection with them so that I can selfishly take new memories with me as I head out for my next great adventure in international teaching.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Preparing to GO!!

It's the final 2 weeks before I start my new adventure. I have the contract, I have the ministry permission to teach there, I have my degree originals ready to pack, I have the 20+ passport pictures for documents there, I have the visa and I have WAY too many things to pack!! My new school doesn't offer shipping, so I have to pack what I want in suitcases. Thank goodness that my parents are gracious enough to store my furniture and books for me. It makes a big difference. So now I have to find a way to fit all my worldly goods that I want to take with me into 4 suitcases and 1 carry-on. I know about rolling the stuff and I know about vacuum seal bags... but I gotta make sure they aren't overweight because that is an additional $100 on top of the $225 for the extra 2 bags. As it is, it will cost me $450 to get those 2 bags over there and I only get reimbursed for $300 so... *sigh* decisions, decisions. Just when you thought that being an international teacher was all about fun and games!! ;) I love what I do though and would recommend it to anyone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Downside of Summer

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that this post will be about how the only downside of summer is that it's over eventually.... WRONG!! Well, partially wrong. I do hate when the summer comes to an end, but I LOVE the idea of meeting the new class that I have the privilege of working with. But, I digress... let me get to the point of this post....

One of the downsides of summer for an international teacher (particularly if you don't own your own home and you are staying with family or friends) is that you live out of a suitcase (or in my case at the moment, boxes and piles). It's never good to have your stuff stuffed in a bag and to constantly be looking for what you wanted to wear (especially if you are a clothes horse like me). It's also a bit of a drag to constantly be repacking because your stuff ends up in such a mess.... But, again, I digress...

The biggest downside of summer for me (especially this year) is knowing that I can't do enough for my family. My parents are getting a little bit older and they have a HUGE (5 bedroom) home and it often needs repairs and cleaning. I do the best I can when I am home, but I always leave wondering if I could have done more. I tend to make lists of what I can do next time I am home, but then when I come back, there are more urgent things to do. My parents do what they can but my dad works full time and there are things that my mom just can't do... I know it frustrates them as well. My dad is constantly telling me NOT to do anything or to help them... but I just can't help it. *sigh* So the downside for me is that there isn't enough time or money for me to help them the way I want to... maybe next year.