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.

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Berlin!

Berlin was amazing. I loved the city, the people, the food, the language, pretty much everything. It was nice to be in a country where I could communicate again and for once be the person translating instead of having things translated for me. There was a lot of history and not enough time to see everything I wanted to. We did a free walking tour, checked out monuments and museums, went to the clubs, and met some amazing people. Let me just take a minute to plug Wombats City Hostel in Berlin. They were incredibly helpful and accommodating and the hostel itself was clean and in a great location. We made friends with people from all over the world and I even managed to make a Thanksgiving dinner sans oven in the Hostel kitchen. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and a nice break from the chaos of Istanbul. (The people in Berlin would not cross if there wasn’t a cross walk and wouldn’t walk across a street if the sign was red–even if there were no cars coming!)

I haven’t had much time to post about Berlin in the two weeks that I’ve been back and haven’t even loaded pictures from my camera yet. But I do have a few pictures from my phone to post. Hopefully things at school will calm down soon and I’ll be able to regularly post again.

The Brandburg Tor at night. My camera phone does not do it justice.

The Brandburg Tor at night. My camera phone does not do it justice.

Remnants of the wall (Die Mauer) in front of an old Nazi building that is now used as a finance building on the East side.

Remnants of the wall (Die Mauer) in front of an old Nazi building that is now used as a finance building on the East side.

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A brick line stands where most of the wall used to stand, dividing East from West. My friend is currently on the West, while I stay to the East.

I can't remember the official name of this memorial, but it was basically a memorial in the middle of Berlin that was supposed to be for those who lost their lives to the Holocaust. It's dimensions were interesting; it looks like all one height, but as you walk through it, it devours you in a maze of different towers.

I can’t remember the official name of this memorial, but it was basically a memorial in the middle of Berlin that was supposed to be for those who lost their lives to the Holocaust. It’s dimensions were interesting; it looks like all one height, but as you walk through it, it devours you in a maze of different towers.

Standing in the monument.

Standing in the monument.

A statue for good old Goethe.

A statue for good old Goethe.

This guy was hanging out on the building next to us. We got to wake up to him every morning.

This guy was hanging out on the building next to us. We got to wake up to him every morning.

This was outside a Jewish graveyard. I didn't manage to get the whole message in there, but it reads, "We love the Jews & all other people. But we love Mother Nature most."

This was outside a Jewish graveyard. I didn’t manage to get the whole message in there, but it reads, “We love the Jews & all other people. But we love Mother Nature most.”

A girl can dream

A girl can dream

Banana Cake and Berlin

My roommate’s dad is very sweet to us and since he knows I like bananas, he is always bringing me some. The problem is that they usually go bad before I can eat them. The easy American fix for this is banana bread. However, I didn’t realize this was an American fix (or maybe it’s just not a Turkish one–I haven’t quite figured it out yet) until I made some the other day. In fact, since there were so many bananas, I made two batches and decided to share most of them. When I took some down to the family I tutor for, she looked confused as to what it actually was.

“Mus ekmek,” I explain, which is the best I can do. It’s literally banana and bread, but with all the suffixes in Turkish, I have no idea if it’s right.

Mmm, banana cake sprinkled with brown sugar.

“Bread? Is this not a cake?”

Well, no. In English, we call this bread. But if you look at it, it does contain a different consistency than most regular breads. It shares a closer consistency to cake in my opinion and it is sweeter, but hadn’t thought of it until she actually pointed it out. Which, if it were bread would make it some form of Mus Pasta, as pasta in Turkish is actually cake. I know, I was confused too.

Either way, the smell of it baking reminded me of home and if I were in the States, I would be stuffing my face next Thursday with Thanksgiving foods. And for the record, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Ever. Who doesn’t love a holiday that centers around food? Alas, I will not be home for Thanksgiving this year, but I will be in Berlin with a friend from the States. So it will be fun to see how we can celebrate it together in a country that doesn’t celebrate it. Maybe we’ll have some mus pasta.

Updates

Yet again I have fallen behind on my updates and I apologize. I know that from my last post it probably seems that I am sitting around, homesick for Oreos and Mexican food. And while I do constantly crave enchiladas, I am enjoying Istanbul. In fact, since my last post, I’ve managed to discover more of the city. Since my last post, I’ve experienced my first Bayram (or holiday) and got to enjoy the Historical District. I’ve managed to hang out with more expats, which can be helpful because as a foreigner you can sometimes appreciate the local attractions more. (For example, I really only went to the Washington Monument when taking friends who came to visit.) But instead of writing long, descriptive paragraphs about the sights I’ve seen and things I’ve done in the past week, I thought I would finally post some pictures.

Eating ice cream and enjoying the view of the Boshporus.

This is seriously only a PORTION of a mall I went to. I was so dumbstruck at the ridiculousness of it that I had to stop and take a picture.

Why yes, this is an ashtray in the bathroom.

Getting ready for Bayram!

Enjoying my fun Halloween socks sent from a friend and post cards and pictures from back home.

My friends brought their adorable pugs along on some of our adventures.

They have some fantastic street art here in Istanbul.

The delicious Bayram meal my roommate’s mom made for us. I don’t normally like lamb, but it was fantastic. Short Turkish lesson: pilav=rice, et=meat, ekmek=break, and coke=cola

We went up to this cool old abandoned orphanage. According to the sign, it was both “dangerous and forbidden.”

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Six things I’ve learned about Turkey so far

Today is the last day of my first week of work in Turkey and below are some things I’ve noticed in my week here:

1. Cats are the new squirrels

I haven’t seen a single squirrel roaming the sidewalks since I’ve been here, but I feel like T.S. Eliot because there are cats everywhere. You’ll find them on the sidewalks, lounging by buildings or under trees, playing on the side fo the street. And often, people will leave open jugs of water and food for them–almost like feeding the brids. They’re the city pets.

By the school where I work, I’ve also seen many stray dogs. I’ve learned that the ones with tags in their ears have seen the vet and had their immunizations. Personally, I’m more partial to the dogs, but unfortunately, the cats seem more abundant. I have yet to pet either.

2. Tea is essential to making it through the day

There is a tea room on almost every floor, in every building at my school. People drink tea in the morning, they drink it at breakfast, they drink it after meals and before bed. You’d think there would be a bigger British influence here with all the tea they drink, but perhaps the Turks started that trend before the Brits…

3. Traffic laws are arbitrary

I learned to drive outside of DC, which isn’t an easy task within itself, but I also learned to drive in DC in a Durango. If you know anything of DC driving, you know that you have to drive like you’re always running late and no one else on the road matters. If you don’t, you are run over by assholes who are running late and think they’re the only ones on the whole Beltway who matter. And you must go at least 10 miles over the speed limit when you aren’t stuck in a traffic jam.

Thank God I learned to drive in that environment so that I’m not completely scared riding the bus to and from work every day, because these people don’t care anything about traffic laws. A one lane road may contain a few lanes of traffic, and brakes are not necessary unless you are one foot from the driver in front of you or about one foot from hitting a pedestrian. Also, though seatbelts are a fantastic idea in this country, you hardly ever see people wearing them. And I’ve often seen children or babies just sitting on parent’s laps, without a seatbelt. It’s an eye opener, for sure.

Oh, and red lights? Those don’t necessarily mean stop. When I hit the crossing button and it says I can walk, I always make sure to check twice, because while most cars will stop at a red light, some will simply drive around the line and straight through the light. Other things such as turn signals and automatic transmissions are also not commonly used or found here. But horns, well those are used plenty.

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Making the transition

Over the past three weeks, I’ve taken six flights between four states, two countries, been in three continents, and stayed at five different houses. But I made it. I arrived in Istanbul around five yesterday evening and started work at eight this morning. I’m a bit jet lagged and actually quite exhausted, but I love it. I’ve only been here a day and I can already tell that Istanbul is going to be amazing. Ok, so recap of the last day or so.

After staying with friends in North Carolina, I boarded my plane to DC and was able to meet up with a couple more friends in the airport. After realizing I’d read my ticket wrong and almost missed my flight, I was able to see how fantastic Turkish Arilines really is. Despite the fact that I flew economy, they fed me like I was a starving child and tended to my every need. Not to mention that I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat and had plenty of leg room and free movies. They also handed out toiletry bags containing a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, eye cover, lip balm, socks, and earplugs. I was dreading my 10 hour flight, but I can honestly say that I’ve never had such a pleasant flight (and I’ve flown more than I care to remember).

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One more day…

Well tomorrow is my last day in the States before I ship out to Turkey. Luckily, I got to visit more family before I left. After leaving Florida, I flew off to North Carolina. I always forget how much I miss the South and the people here until I come back. It makes me realize that I could be okay setting here, but that would first require settling. 🙂

So I got to hang out on the eastern side of the state with my mom, sister, stepdad, and their chihuahua, Ella. We made cookies, played Just Dance, watched movies together. Overall, it was a very relaxing visit before the chaos begins. I know my family is having a bit of a rough time dealing with me going so far, so I’m super glad I got to spend time with them. Who knows? Maybe they’ll visit Turkey for Thanksgiving! (Sorry, pun intended.)

Yesterday afternoon I made my way to the Triangle area to visit my brother at Duke and some friends from college. I know today and tomorrow will go by super fast, so I’m trying to get some last minute stuff done and hope I don’t forget anything before I leave.  But by tomorrow evening, I’ll be on a plane and leaving for my next big adventure. As always, more updates to come…

Burns, Ants, and Hurricanes

The first part of my multifaceted trip is over: I left Colorado and took the two flights to sunny Florida to see family. I didn’t exactly get to sunbathe by the water much when I was living next to the mountains in a landlocked state, so of course the first thing I did was go to the beach to catch some rays. And it only took about two hours after leaving the beach to realize that my skin was not quite used to the sun and I had a sweet sunburn, which is still lobster red. But the beach was beautiful and I got to test out my new Nook. Luckily, I didn’t get any sand on it.

Lying out and reading with Grandma at the Emerald coast

After the beach and watching some Dr. Who episodes and swimming with the siblings, my dad and I went canoeing on the Bayou. Once we got the canoe in the water and got on our way, I realized that I’d conveniently stepped in a fire ant hill getting the canoe in and they were loving my feet. We had to pull over to a beach and rinse it out. So I got to add fire ant bites to my sunburn. Thanks to Florida, I’m looking super attractive.

Little did I know that there was an army of fire ants waiting to attack.

But overall it was a great visit: awesome weather, good company and good times. And I conveniently made it out before Hurricane Isaac met me there. After just a few days, I yet again found myself in the airport and on my way to North Carolina. More to come and adventures to follow…

Four ways to make packing less stressful

I have officially finished my last day of work in Colorado Springs and now begins the frenzy of getting everything ready to move out of the country by Thursday. Amidst training my replacements, getting shots and physicals, and getting paperwork together, I remembered that I still had to do the most important and tedious task: pack. Ugh.

You’d think that after moving as many times as I have and shuffling between two houses while I was growing up that packing would be more a routine than a chore. And it is a routine, but it’s one that I don’t necessarily look forward to. And I’ve found that packing to move to a foreign country is a bit more laborious than packing for vacation. So in order to make it a bit more enjoyable, I have been doing the following:

1. Purging

The Goodwill pile on my trunk is turning into a small mountain and I love it. Perhaps it’s weird for a girl to enjoy getting rid of clothes, but it feels liberating. I go through my clothes every couple months and I still manage to find things to get rid of. I can’t understand why I hold on to some things for so long. The other day I got rid of a pair of red Tims that I hadn’t worn since my freshman year of college. That was six years ago. Why do I still have those? Well, I don’t anymore, but I lugged them around for six years without ever wearing them. But the best part is that now I get to fill their spot with a new pair of shoes.

2. Pretending that my suitcase is a Tetris screen

I hate Geometry, but I love Tetris. And packing efficiently is always comparable to a good game of Tetris. If you’re skilled, you can fit 15 items into a spot that most people could only fit 10. You could interlock your items so that they lie perfectly flat at the top of your suitcase–not need to use that expansion zipper. What’s that you say? Two pairs of boots, two pairs of heels, six piles of clothes, a pile of books, four framed photos, and a teddy bear?  Step aside and press play, because I’ve got this.

3. Suffocating my clothes

I don’t know the official name for the bags that you put your clothes in and suck all the air out of, but I love them. Perhaps they’re called dehydration bags? I usually like to use the PC term of sucky bags. And right now, I have about four sucky bags in each of my suitcases to save space.

The magic of sucky bags

The suitcase in this picture really does have four, yes four, bags of winter clothes packed into the right side and it’s only halfway packed. I have yet to “dehydrate” the other side to match. The only disadvantage of these magical bags is that I can fit way more into my suitcases than I normally could, which might lead to certain weight issues at the airport. Therefore I’m weighing my suitcase with every additional bag. 40.9 lbs and counting…

4. Duct taping my suitcases.

I’m not a huge fan of the color pink, but a few years ago I bought hot pink luggage because I was tired of not being able to tell my black bags apart from the billions of other black bags at the airport. Around the third time of using said pink luggage, I got halfway home from the airport when I was called because I’d mistakingly pickled up someone else’s same hot pink luggage. I threw out the luggage and decided to come up with a new plan. Do you know how many patterns duct tape comes in now?

In case you are having a hard time believing the awesomeness of the above picture, let me reassure you–yes, that is mustache duct tape. I decorated my suitcases with mustache duct tape because while someone out there may have hot pink luggage, I’d like to see someone top mustache luggage…unless they had luggage with an actual mustache. That would top it. 

Turkey Time

“Uncertainty is always a part of the taking charge process.”

— Harold Geneen

It’s amazing how life can change so quickly. This time last week I was looking for jobs in Denver and wondering what my Labor Day plans would be. Today, I’m organizing suitcases and sending in paperwork to accept a job offer at a private school in Istanbul. I leave next Thursday (sadly, this turkey on a Thursday does not come with stuffing and casserole) to visit family on the East coast and then hopefully ship out by September 1st. It gives me just enough time to throw things together (the to-do list grows each day instead of shrinks) and not enough time to think about what I’m actually about to do. Continue reading