Since I have been here for just five nights, I am still in the acclimation process of adjusting to life in Istanbul. To be honest, I hardly know any Turkish, but I am really trying hard to learn! I would prefer to take a class to learn about the grammar and such because I feel that I would do better with a more systematic approach to learning the language. However, I have not had the time to even look into any of this because everything has been so crazy busy so far! So I keep practicing and seize each opportunity to speak the small amount of Turkish that I know. When I went out with Emrah and his friends on the second night that I was here, they told me that if I am unable to think of which word to say, it is better to just use French. Specifically, they said that it is better to say “merci” instead of “thank you.” Although I am not sure if this is exactly true, when I have been unable to remember my Turkish, I have been speaking French instead of English, and things have worked out well so far!
Really, I do want to learn more Turkish because I cannot even begin to explain how incredibly strange it is to go to work in a place where hardly anyone speaks English, or even Spanish or French! Yesterday I taught all of my own classes and I am teaching English to first, second, and third graders. Of course I tried my best to explain to them that I unfortunately do not speak any Turkish, but they spoke to me all day long in Turkish, which was totally crazy! However, I believe that I will be learning Turkish rather quickly, whether or not I take classes because of these students who are constantly talking!
At lunchtime, it is a bit bizarre because I am not really able to communicate with the women while eating. So during these times, it is strange to be around complete Turkish, but I try to communicate with them and they try to communicate with me. Since a few of them can speak some English, they do their best to translate, which is ever so kind of them! What I think is super amusing is the fact that they have so many crazy questions for me all of the time! Of course they want to know where I am from and how I found the job, but they also want to know a lot of personal information, which has at times been a bit challenging. I try to keep it pretty light because I want to be professional and I wish not to offend any of them because I obviously have a much different perspective on relationships and such. Yet they want to know if I have a husband and when I tell them that I do not, they want to know if I have a boyfriend. It is all very funny because even if I did have a boyfriend here, what in the world would I tell them about my relationship since our ideas on such things are so different? I have already been advised to keep all of these types of details to myself to avoid any issues, and I am following this advice!
Yes, things are very separate between the men and women here, which is very strange to me, but is just part of the culture here. At lunch, the women and men eat in separate areas. Even between classes there are different teacher rooms where the men and women go for a break before the next class begins. Even though it has been explained to me, I still think it is super crazy that the men and women are so divided at school. Seriously, yesterday when I was teaching a class, a man came in to give some papers to some students and he did not even acknowledge my presence! It was as if I was invisible!
Thankfully, I have a wonderful flat mate to help to explain all of the stuff that to me seems so strange and different here in Istanbul. Since she wants to practice her English, it works out perfectly because we always have an abundance of fun stuff to discuss since I have a million questions about life in Turkey and the culture. Thankfully, she said that the school just sounds as if it is conservative, which was also told to me by the directors, so hopefully she is right and not everything is so divided like what I see at work. In all reality, I am so grateful to have a job and all of these situations are all just part of the experience!
Since she had read my previous blog post about the toilet in the ground at school, last night she told me more about it. These toilets actually have a name, which is an “alaturka,” but of course I was referring to it as a “squat toilet,” so I had to explain to her what that meant in English, which was quite comical! When I had said something to my British friend at work about it, she had told me that everyone prefers those because they believe that it is cleaner, yet she doesn’t use them because she pees on her leg. Of course this made me laugh, but I wondered if it was true, so I am happy that I had someone to ask about it! Müge confirmed that she also believes that they are cleaner and she explained how they are used. Obviously, it was a rather hilarious conversation and I could not think of any other person that could have explained it all better to me! I am thanking my lucky stars that I have all of these helpers along the way to help me to get used to life in Turkey!