2013 in Review

I realize I’m 10 days late with this, but it’s still important to reflect, so here it goes. Last year, I fell short on some of my goals, but I also accomplished a lot, so I’d say that depending on how you look at it, it actually evens out pretty well. But let’s go through the goals 1 by 1 from last year:

1. Read at least 25 books

I read 15. Half of my goal isn’t horrible, but definitely not good enough. It’s easy to let excuses like work and grading get in the way, but when I think back to how I managed to read so much during grad school, despite classes and a thesis, I just can’t justify reading only 15 books–especially as an English teacher. So this year it changes. It has to.

2. Write at least 10o blog posts

Well that didn’t happen, but I did write a lot more this year. I may not have final drafts of my new stories, but NaNoWriMo really helped me kick-start my writing habit again. And I may not have written a novel, but I was able to start a collection of short stories about my adventures in Turkey. Why not use my travel as inspiration? I can’t wait to write more this year.

3. Submit at least 3 things for publishing

Nope. Didn’t submit one. We’ll have to reevaluate this goal because I’ve failed majorly two years in a row.

4. Challenge myself more/actively continue my learning

Done and done. Last year I applied to two PhD programs and didn’t get into either, but that’s ok. Life presented me with other opportunities. I moved into my own apartment this year  and living in a foreign country on your own is one of the best and worst kinds of challenges. Not to mention, I’ve been learning more Turkish, refreshing my German, taking dance lessons, and reevaluating what I want out of life. This past year was a great year for spiritual growth and though it had some rough patches, it was amazing in so many ways. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my capabilities, and about where I want to be. Also check. Living on my own has helped me realize what’s there for me. In my second year in Istanbul, I’m still learning new things everyday. I’m using this chance to travel and learn and get as many experiences out of it as I can.

So now the time comes for my goals for 2013.

Continue writing about my adventures. Hell, just continue writing.

I’d forgotten what an amazing feeling it is to lose yourself in a piece of writing and I don’t want to forget that feeling again. This year, I’m going to forget about submitting anything and just concentrate on actually writing it first.

Read at least 25 books

I will do it this year! I will!

Be healthier

As  I get older, I realize how fragile we are. True, I’m not exactly old, but in the past year I’ve had bronchitis, two intestinal infections, and a sprained wrist just from slipping on ice. Not to mention numerous colds and allergy related annoyances. So this year I am going to take more time and pay more attention to my health–physical, spiritual, and emotional. If I’m sick, no more staying up late to grade. If I’m feeling lazy, no more staying inside all day. If I’m upset, no more dwelling on negative things. This year will be happy and healthy, dammit.

Get a job back in the States

My plan is to move back this summer, so Inshallah (God willing as they say in Turkish), I’m able to do so. Applications start this weekend.

 

I would include continue learning and challenging myself, but I think that at this point, they should just be givens. Hopefully this is something I’ll continue doing no mater what.

 

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NaNoWriMo Updated

Well, I didn’t reach the 50,000 words, but I did way better than last year. At 18,000 words, I have a great start to something new. November was a little rocky as far as work and other things, so I’m not displeased with 18,000. Of course it’s all very rough and I’d like to review, edit, add, etc., but I hope to post some samples soon.

And as the new year approaches, it’ll soon be time for me to review my goals from last year’s post, reflect on 2013, and figure out what I want to do next year. Thanks for keeping up with me. 🙂

Teaching portfolio

Last spring I made my first ever video resume. It was a lot of work to figure out at first, but worth the effort in the end. I’ve realized that in order to keep up with the market, I need to not only integrate technology into my lesson plans, but my job applications as well.

I’ve always had a teaching portfolio. They make sure you develop one before you finish teaching school. But my teaching portfolio back home was a 3″ fancy notebook full of papers and pictures and cds of videos. True, it has that personal touch of student work, but it is a bit cumbersome to bring with to interviews. So after seeing a friend’s online portfolio, I decided to do the same.

I used weebly.com to make my online teaching portfolio and while I used the free version, I was still able to make it look professional. I could add lesson plans, photos of the class, handouts, presentations, my teaching philosophy, and my new video resume. It’s amazing! I feel like a grown up.

You can check out my new and improved teaching portfolio here. 

NaNoWriMo

I’m at it again. Two years ago I attempted National Novel Writing Month and failed miserably. I got to about 4,000 words before I was distracted by something that I don’t really remember.

This year I’m trying to be more productive and dedicated to things, so I’m determined to make it work. So far, one week in, I’m at 8,000 words. Not too bad. I’m writing stories based off of my experiences here in Istanbul, so there’s lots of constant inspiration around me. What a silly person I would be if I didn’t take advantage of it. I’ll post more updates as the month continues. Maybe once it ends and I’ve done a bit of editing, I’ll even post some excerpts.

Four things Turkey has taught me about myself

In the fall I applied for graduate school programs, but did not get in. In January, I told my current job that I wouldn’t be returning next year. In the spring, I began to apply for jobs back in the States—39 in all, but I did not get an offer. In fact, some schools did not even send an acknowledgment that they had received my application at all. I signed up with a teaching agency; they are incredibly helpful, but told me that prime hiring time had passed. Although, they did help me figure out how to make a video resume.

Then, just a couple weeks after school ended, my boss called and offered me a position with the high school. Another teacher had decided not to stay and they wanted me back and were willing to negotiate with me. After talking with my family and the agency, I have decided to stay. I like Turkey, but was ready to go home and still do miss the States in a lot of ways and I plan to return after this next school year (with more experience, skills, and money). I have a new apartment, I’ll take Turkish lessons, and I’ll get to travel a bit more. This decision was not easy, however, and made me really reflect on the past year. So here are some of the things Turkey has made me realize:

  1. Somehow I’ve done something right in the friend department. I’ve had so many friends take the time to Skype, put together care packages, send post cards or letters, or even fly thousands of miles to visit. When you’re that far from home, something as simple as a letter or a few minutes on Skype, or even an email, is incredibly rewarding.
  2. Believe it or not, I’m fairly good at getting context clues and reading certain situations. I have managed to learn a bit of basic Turkish, but there are still instances almost every day where I have no idea what people are saying to me. And telling them that I only speak a little bit of Turkish either makes them try their limited English or just speak more Turkish, but also use more hand gestures. When the latter occurs, all I can do is guess. And it turns out that my guesses are right 90% of the time. And 80% of the time my broken Turkish responses seem to be enough of a response. I thought this has to be something that everyone can do, but then I started dating my boyfriend and let’s just say that he’s much better at memorizing the vocabulary than I am. I keep him around for reading things, but he lets me do the talking.
  3. I take a lot of things for granted. Here are just a few: shower stalls, trees and scenery, internet freedoms, ranch dressing (and a variety of other foods), being able to express myself to anyone (ie doctors, parents of students, hairdressers, the clerk at the clothing store), having a car and the freedoms that come with it, being able to find books in English, all the difficulties foreigners have to deal with in the States.
  4. I can be more diligent that I have been. I’m working on it, but I’ve been getting a lot better about writing more regularly, taking initiative to continue learning, reading more, etc. Of course I’m not where I’d like to be, but being in Turkey has forced me to think about what I want and not waste my time. I watched two episodes of The Office before writing this blog post, though, so I’m still working on it.

Of course this isn’t everything, but it’s just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of this previous year.

Paper resumes just don’t sell like they used to

As my year in Turkey is coming to  a close, I find myself, yet again, on the hunt for a new job. It’s harder to stay away from the South than I thought it would be and I’ll probably end up back in North Carolina by August. But hopefully that doesn’t mean that I will move (again) without a job. While that did work out when I moved to Colorado, it can lead to a stressful month or so until you can get settled. So I am doing as much as I can in advance: I’ve applied to 30 jobs, signed up with the Southern Teachers Agency, and officially made my very first video resume.

That’s right, folks. Since I’m so far away, the agency recommended that I make a video resume to make my application more personal. I looked into it and apparently, this is quite the thing to do now, whether you’re abroad or not. It took a few days of researching, writing, filming, and editing, but I don’t think the final result wasn’t too bad (other than being a bit choppy).

In the meantime, if you’re interested in making a video resume of your own, here are some of the resources I used to help me:

http://www.southernteachers.com/Internal/CmsViewer.aspx?CmsPageListingId=34

http://mashable.com/2011/01/17/tips-video-resumes/

http://jobsearch.about.com/od/videoresumes/a/videoresume.htm

http://blog.mailvu.com/blog/sample-video-resume-script/

If only my smart phone made me smarter

When I travel somewhere for just a short time, I often don’t take out my camera when I should because I’m too busy looking at cool new things or I’m too afraid of looking like a tourist. But now that I’m living somewhere, I often don’t take my camera places because I’m too busy going to work or I’m too afraid of looking like a tourist. Thank God for smart phones. Though the camera on my Nokia is a bit iffy. Perhaps I should just get over the tourist thing. Despite everyone telling me I look like a Turk, I’m pretty sure they know I’m a fake as soon as I try to talk to them.

In the meantime, here are some smart phone pics.

Street cats around here like to hang out in the shops.

Street cats around here like to hang out in the shops.

Some of the local art in Kadikoy.

Some of the local art in Kadikoy.

Some more of the local art.

Some more of the local art.

Taking the ferry home.

Taking the ferry home.

Sunset on the Bosphorus.

Sunset on the Bosphorus.

The Big Turkish Balloon at the Kadkikoy Iskele (ferry station)

The Big Turkish Balloon at the Kadkikoy Iskele (ferry station)

More of the Kadikoy Iskele

More of the Kadikoy Iskele

2012 Review

Last year I decided that instead of making resolutions that would never come to fruition, I was going to try to make attainable goals, while still trying to challenge myself. I realized that I needed to find a happy medium between striving to be better and being realistic. The result was a lengthy blog post and a few goals for the new year. A year later, it’s time to reevaluate these goals, determine how realistic I really was, and decide new goals for 2013.

2012 Goals

Read at least 30 books

I’ve been keeping track of all the books I read this year and I am disappointed to say that I did not reach 30. However, I did reach 17 and I guess that’s not too bad. It was fun always keeping this goal in mind; though I enjoy reading and usually read more than many (I think), I think that having this goal in the back of my mind pushed me to read a little more than I normally would.

Write at least 10 short stories

…I may have fallen way short on this one. I wrote one short story this whole year. As they say in Turkey, “oof ya.” (That’s a phonetic interpretation, of course.) I need to work on this

Submit at least 3 things for publishing

I submitted one thing for publishing. While it’s not three, it’s more than zero. I definitely need to work on this for next year.

Move to Istanbul

Check. Done and done. I accomplished one of the biggest goals I set for myself. Not too shabby.

Reach 200 blog posts

The main purpose of this goal was to make sure that I was continuously writing. Last year was the first year in 13 that I was not in school and that I didn’t have someone telling me to write something. I needed to make sure that I could maintain some sort of writing schedule (be it an erratic schedule) on my own and that I wouldn’t get lazy just because the teachers were gone. Final result: 107 posts. No, it’s not 200, but I don’t think it’s a horrible number either. It shows me that I don’t need teachers to make me write and that I am capable of pushing myself. However, I want to push myself even more next year.

Challenge myself more

Check. I have done nothing but challenge myself this past year. I worked at a job where I was solely responsible for the whole department. I traveled on a low-budget, pushed myself to get a teaching license in a new state, moved to a foreign country, started learning a new language, started a new job, and retook the GRE and have been working on PhD applications. Not to mention I lived through an apocalypse. I think that counts.

Take advantage of what’s available to me

I feel that I am still working on this one. While I took advantage of plenty this past year, I don’t think I took advantage of as much as I could. Now that I am in Istanbul, I realize that I missed out on some things in the States. I need to actively work towards going out and experiencing what’s around me.

2013 Goals

So now it’s time to decide what to focus on for 2013. While the below goals may not be everything I want to do for 2013, they are at least some things I can try to hold myself to.

Read at least 25 books

Reading goal, take two. I’m hoping that by dropping it by five, I will be more likely to reach it. I will again keep track of them on my “books read” page, but I won’t hold myself to writing reviews of them.

Submit at least 3 things for publishing

Yes, I’m going to try this again. I’m not going to adjust the number, though, because this is when I have to tell myself that I am completely capable of this, but I must manage my time better and not be so lackadaisical about things I want to achieve.

Write at least 100 blog posts

I have to say that I am impressed with myself and how much I actually posted this past year. Though I didn’t reach my goal, I did make a greater effort to post more regularly and my numbers were much greater than last year. True, the posts are not masterpieces or my best writing in any way, but they keep me writing and researching. So this year only leaves room for more improvement.

Continue to challenge myself more

Since I’m living in a country where I don’t speak the language very well, I don’t think this should be too hard. I just have to make sure that I don’t let my friends help me with things when I can easily do them for myself (such as order my food or ask for change). And I also plan to travel as much as possible this year and continue to go places I have never been before.

Actively continue my learning

This goal is something I do anyway, but I want to hold myself to it. I’m always listening to podcasts, reading the paper or essays, and am currently trying to learn Turkish (though this one is more of a necessity). Perhaps in this new year I can take some additional classes or try to learn some new skill. But as a teacher, I think it’s vital to always continue learning.

One of the many reasons I love David Sedaris

Before I moved to Turkey I broke down and bought a Nook. My aversion to E-Readers didn’t outweigh my desire to constantly have books with me and since bringing my library of several hundreds books to Turkey was nixed by my limitation of suitcase space, a Nook seemed the second best option. (I ended up actually only bringing 15 physical books, which is impressive for me.) Of course I picked the simplest, cheapest one I could find and even that one (the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, in case you were wondering) is fancier than I really need it to be. If only they would sell them with that used book smell…

I’m still on my kick of reading 30 books this year, though I’ve only just reached the halfway point nine months in. I’m in love with David Sedaris and one of the books I downloaded to my fancy new digital, black magic library was Me Talk Pretty One Day. Somehow I’d managed to overlook this classic when going through my Sedaris binge a few years ago. But I’m glad of it, because it fits perfectly with my current situation.

The book is essentially a collection of short stories based on various events in Sedaris’ life. Quite a few of the stories are based on his life in Paris and that’s where our situations connect. He moved to Paris with his partner, but knew only two words of French when he first moved there: “bottleneck” and “ashtray.” When I moved to Turkey, I knew maybe eight Turkish words, granted a bit more helpful than “bottleneck” and “ashtray.” But the point is that as he lived there longer, he began to write words on note cards and expand his vocabulary. He went from two to 200 to 600 to 1000. I cannot tell you how many words I know in English or German, but I can literally count up the words and phrases I know in Turkish and as Sedaris says, “It was an odd sensation to hold my entire vocabulary in my hands.” Imagine that your day to day life is based off of less than 30 words!

Continue reading

I can hear the bells: Turkish wedding, Part II

Now to continue the story. After the ceremony, we went to lunch and met with friends to carpool to the reception. The reception was at a beautiful venue on the outskirts of Istanbul. If you went outside and upstairs to the top, you could see the bridge between the European and Asian sides. Downstairs, we walked in to where dinner was going to be. (I felt quite special, because they were checking names of guests–not just everyone gets to go to to these things.) We walked into a large, square room lined with decorative mirrors. The tables were set with gold chargers and silverware and white plates and napkins, with pink and white flower centerpieces. Towards the front of the room was a dance floor, which seemed to be set in an intricate, tile pattern. Much to our pleasure, we were placed at the table closest to the dance floor. Everything was beautiful, and so far, not too unlike the Western weddings I’d attended.

But then the food came. We were served a five course meal. The appetizer was a sampler of a sort of bean soup, cheeses, various meat salads, a potato salad I was told is called “American” or “Russian” salad, and bread. We were then given a light greens salad, an entree of lamb and rice, a fruit platter, and then slices from the wedding cake for dessert. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of lamb, but everything else was delicious. It wasn’t until we were served the entree that the bride and groom showed up and immediately went into their first dance together. After they finished dancing, they went around to all the tables to greet their guests. In the meantime, photographers went around each table, taking pictures and later printing and placing them in cardboard foldouts and selling them for about 10 or 20 Liras.

And then there was the dancing. Traditional dancing, modern dancing, group dancing, couple dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. They had a dj most of the night, but for a while, a band came in and joined the fun as well. I danced little while, always making sure to make my way back to my plate when a new course was served. Towards the end of the night, I was beginning to get tired (I had to get up for work at 5:30 the next morning). But this is not exactly the place where people let you rest. The groom dragged me to the floor for the bouquet toss–a tradition I don’t even participate in at Western weddings–and then there was more dancing.

All in all, it was an enriching experience and a great way to spend my first weekend in Istanbul.