Teachers Day

My first Teachers Day (Turkish observed) was Thursday! 

It happened to fall on Thanksgiving! And TEOG (a national placement test for 8th graders),  so I had a short holiday Wednesday and Thursday.  

Typically students give gifts to their teachers as a thank you for all they do.  Sometimes it’s just flowers, and sometimes it’s some niiiiiice stuff.  One teacher got a tea cup set from English Home! Dang! 

Of course I got a whole lot of nothing.  Not even a flower! Since parents don’t get to meet the native teachers we don’t really count… İ cant lie,  I was a bit sad when everyone else was being lavished with gifts while I sat in the teachers room all by my lonesome.  

Since we don’t celebrate teachers day in the US it shouldn’t make me sad.  But what can I do? 

At least the school gave us gift boxes! 
We also were treated to a night out at a fancy hotel on Tuesday.  Service took us from the school in the evening and we enjoyed a social evening of dancing, eating, and (for everyone else) drinking! 

I was sick but tried to make the most of it. 

But in all honesty, I was in it for the sales! Every shop had a special teachers day campaign. I got new shoes and replaced some of my makeup that I was scrapping the bottom of the bottle for. 

But no matter what, Thanksgiving was on my mind. We again couldn’t do anything because of our living situation… And it’s making me homesick. 

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Knee Jerk Reactions

Whenever something bad happens, you tend to have that initial “knee jerk” reaction. A reflex, if you will.  My previous post basically covered hubby’s reflex to losing his job. 

You know, the “we can’t move out now” , “we will move to new city” , “everything sucks” kind of stuff.  

Well, we are trying to take a few days to step back and really evaluate the situation and the best next move. 

For both of us.  

At the moment, moving out is back in the table, taking some time off to take more professional/technical courses, and other personal development stuff is also a possibility. 

While nothing is clear right now, the only thing we can be certain of is that we have each other- and that’s what matters. 

Prayers and positivity appreciated.  

My Love/Hate Relationship with Teaching

It’s been a bit longer than a month since I’ve started teaching.

About 5 weeks since we got our books and started classes in earnest.

And I must say, I’ve developed quite the relationship with teaching.  Some days it is more love.  Some days it is more hate.  But it is definitely quite the mix.

As I had expected, the students are wild.  Wild-ish? Well, the ones who started out well behaved are being more and more naughty as the weeks progress; and the ones who were bad are learning how to behave.  What is this madness? For example, the second graders are now staying in their seats (mostly) instead of running around the room…but the 9th graders are fist fighting in the front of the room in the middle of class.

What is wrong with these people?

 Of course, having no real grade to give them, no tests, and not being on the “interactive” list on the computer doesn’t help.  Honestly, my class is a bit of a joke. No one takes it seriously, and I’m starting to not take it seriously either.  And the parents aren’t too helpful most of the time either.

But for some reason, when I see my students in the hall or outside of school completely, they pay more attention to me than they do in class! They will go out of there way to say hello, sometimes spending the whole lunch period trying to speak in English!

WHY!?!?

 When we have a good lesson, or when I hear them shout “HI TEACHER!” from across the street and run up to say hi, I love being a teacher.  The hours and pay certainly don’t hurt. But when they refuse to write the answers to their book activities, even AFTER I write them on the board…play with toys in my class…run around hollering…REFUSING to stop and listen to a SINGLE WORD I SAY.

At that moment, I really hate teaching.

It’s a big learning curve, moving from young adults (university) to children.  I hope it gets easier, and I find my own rhythm, because I want this career to work.  At least in Turkey, where it’s a very cushy job.  Man, but do you earn your pay in the war grounds…I mean class room!

NOTE: Follow me on Instagram tomorrow to see a day in the life of a teacher!

This is My Life Now

It hit me last weekend, you know? 

This is my life now. 

When we were invited to a sunnet on Sunday night, and my response was “I can’t,  I have work in the morning”.  That’s when I realized things are starting to become normal. 

I was writing just a few months ago about how I felt like I was in some twilight zone.  When I first came to Turkey it was like a vacation, I wanted to do everything and go everywhere. Then I was in a rut, not doing anything (not by choice), and not leaving the house for weeks at a time. 

That was a dark time. 

But now I’m starting to find that balance that people have when they live a normal life.  I have work responsibilities, come home, clean and cook,  get up and do it again. On weekends I do stuff with the hubby or see friends.  When did I flip the switch towards normal? 

I mean,  we aren’t totally settled in to our lives yet. We still live with my in laws,  but they’ve been gone for a few months at the summer house so we’ve had more space. Before you know it they’ll be back and maybe their presence will light a fire under hubby’s ass to get us out of here. 

But then again,  now they are talking about moving us downstairs into the gross bottom floor apartment. But that’s a story for another post.  

In the meantime, I’ll keep striving for a new normal. 

Hello Turkey, Bye bye rights

Well well well, it happened again.

When I entered this private school system, I was told I was free to wear my scarf.  Lo and behold, that wasn’t the case!  Two weeks into working and I’ve been hit with new restrictions:

  1. No black scarf, ever.
  2. Nothing but turban style is accepted.

Well, when did this happen I wonder?  And why? After filtering down the chain of command, the information arrived to my fellow English teacher.  The school principal told the English Dept chair, and they told my coworker, and she told me.  I mean, it was better coming from her mouth because we’ve already formed a relationship (and bless the English chairs heart, she did NOT want to broach this subject.  She knew right away how ridiculous it was).

So after four or five instances of wearing a black turban, I was told I can’t do that anymore because it’s seen as “political”.  I’m not sure how, but ok.  Turkey is pretty crazy so it’s probably true. And I wore a more traditional style (around the neck and down the back, not covering the shoulders) once because the turban looked bad with my outfit.  Apparently that was also unacceptable.  Um…?

While I am partially mad that this is an issue at all (after having a discussion before I even started that this wouldn’t be), I’m mostly mad because this wasn’t laid out at the very beginning. This is stuff I need to know from day 1.  Maybe this info was passed on from down high, I have no idea, but I can tell you now I don’t blame the English department crew.  They had nothing to do with it.  I just don’t like changes being thrown at me like this.

The Chair even called me to make sure I wasn’t upset or thought that anyone had complained or said bad things about me. She encouraged my right to make my own choice regarding covering vs not covering, but that she had to convey this information to me.

Like I said, I’m not mad at her.  Hell, I’m grateful for being able to wear my scarf at all in a school.  And I have no intention of quitting (even though some people live in a world where they don’t need to work, and assume I live there too), because there’s not much better that I can do right now. Most other schools (hell, even most industries) won’t let me wear a scarf at all.

Because when you’re in Turkey…it’s bye bye rights.

Working Girl

I’ve been keeping this very much under wraps, but since it is all official now, I will go ahead and let you all know…

I’m a productive member of Turkish society now!

I have a job!

Yes, as you probably guessed, it’s as an English teacher. I should put that CELTA to use, right?  And when the demand for native speaking English teachers is so high, it seems silly to deny a position I could do that pays pretty well.  Yes, it’s at a private school (koleji), since the requirements for state schools are different. Will it be permanent? If I like it- sure!

While I’m here, let me give a few tips to those who are looking to be English teachers in Turkey.  If you do a quick google search, you can see that a LOT of horror stories pop up.  By no means am I a pro, but I do know a few “red flags”.

  1. Work Permit.  In order to work in Turkey under ANY profession, you need a work permit.  You are not allowed to work until it COMES IN.  If a school tells you that you don’t need a permit- they are LYING. If they say you can start working after applying for a permit, they are LYING.  If they say you need to pay for your permit out of pocket- they are LYING! The only thing you have to pay (and even then, they should pay for it) is the fee that comes after you’ve been approved for the work permit (lsat year it was 200TL).  And they should be doing the application for you.  If any of these things come up, that’s a big red flag.
  2. Not requiring any certification.  Some schools say that you don’t need a certificate (or a good one) to teach “conversational” English because it’s not grammar and whatnot.  That may be kind of true, but it is sketch AS HELL.  If they don’t want a certificate from you for teaching (or they accept a sketchy one that has no clout), you may want to be wary about that position.
  3. Sign a contract you don’t understand.  A lot of schools will give you a contract in Turkish, even though you don’t speak the language.  Some may have a version in English, but not many do.  If they don’t give you time to have someone help you translate the contract, or give you time to think about it or seek outside counsel, then run.  Hell, even if they say they will explain it for you…you don’t know them! They may not tell you the whole truth!  It is your right to understand the contract before you sign it*.
  4. Unwilling to budge.  It they tell you xyz is part of the work they expect you to do, but your contract says otherwise…make a note on your contract.  If they won’t allow you to make changes (which, like the US, is legally binding when written in) even though they SAID that xyz is your actual case, then be wary.  They will say that each contract is standard because they are a corporation- but you have every right to make changes in pen.  If they won’t do it, then they are likely planning to hold you to the standards written in the contract- even if they say otherwise.

These are more than just my own findings.  While taking my CELTA I sought the advise of other English teachers in Turkey, and they confirmed my own thoughts.  While Turkey is a great country that I think everyone should experience once, it is just like anywhere else…and will take advantage of the naive.  Do your research and be prepared when looking for a teaching job here!  I believe there is a blacklist out there for native English teachers, where others list schools where they had a bad experience.

Good luck!

*in Turkish labor law, it is stated that you cannot be held to a contract you don’t understand/ was wrongly explained to you.  However, if you leave your job because of unfair work conditions or a contract you didn’t understand, you’ll lose your work permit/residency permit and have to leave the country.  So be forewarned!

 

When The System Doesn’t Work

  Well, I hadn’t announced it on here, but I applied for that job (permit) I had told yall about a month ago.

Come to find out,  I can’t take it.

Why?

Because of Turkey’s back assward system.

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Apparently, if you apply for a work permit while living under a separate residency permit (short term,  family, etc), your new work permit voids your old residency permit.  Regardless of how much time you have left.

Regardless of the giant fee you just paid a few months ago.

Regardless that it’s a shorter residency permit than the one you have.

Nevermind the huge amount of money you had to come up with to get the permit to begin with.

You’d think someone on a family residency permit would, you know, have a family and want to work.

So, when I came to find this out… I had to say no to the job.  I feel like a jerk because they had put in so much effort to get the work permit for me, but I didn’t sign up for voiding my previous permit that I just paid a hefty sum for. No. No good. 

Plus when you take a work based residency, your residency permit is tied to the job.  If you leave the job, you lose your residency permit. I had been so comfortable with knowing that my residency permit wasn’t tied to a working – that if I was wronged in the job I had the freedom to leave and be in the clear.

Well,  if I’m going to be in this kind of risky situation,  I sure as hell need to be paid a lot more.  Plus, if I’m throwing away my expensive family permit, I should be compensated for that.  Maybe I’m not being fair, because it isn’t the fault of the job that this happened.  It’s the fault of the system.

But I can’t put myself at risk because I feel bad for the company. I have to look out for me.

I hate this.

So it’s back to staring at white walls for me. One more step closer to insanity.

Life Decisions

Whyyyyy is life so hard?!

Read that in the whiniest voice imaginable,  and that’s basically been me for the last week.

Let me give you a little back story:

So,  I applied for an office job I saw on kariyer.net (along with a slew of other jobs) that requested a native English speaker for a job handling paperwork and phone calls that are all coming in in English. 

Well,  I got an interview!

Then I got an offer!!

But it’s not as easy as that.  There’s a lot of pros and cons to this job,  which is making it really hard to decide to take it or not.  I’m already dragging my butt producing the necessary documents for a work visa so I can get some advice from other expats here, and other people familiar with this place.

First off,  let me clarify again that I am living with my in laws and we (hubby and I) have no income.  Due to the drama in our lives,  it’s possible hubby won’t be able to work for a few months or even more than a year.  So… Yah.  Pressure. Even though no one is asking me to work or provide for us, I put it on myself.

Let me lay out why this decision is so hard. Let’s start with the cons. I mean,  there are more pros than cons,  but the cons are pretty big.

CONS

1. Commuting
Always a big issue with jobs in large cities… The commute and the cost thereof.  This job is minimum 1hr away,  and the commute is completely by metro (subway style, but above ground.  What else do you call that?).  From my door to the metro is 5 minutes,  and from the metro to the office door is 5 minutes,  but the rest is in a slam packed cabin.  Standing room only (plus a change in trains at one stop).  The cost comes to 100tl per month, not to mention having to get up extra early and come home kind of late.

2. The pay
While the pay isnt terrible, it’s not great.  Gone are the dreams of making big money based on being american/native English speaker.  Yes,  as a private school teacher you can make a nice profit, but these jobs are neither long term nor terribly legitimate (I. E. The working conditions can be bad,  some legal corners can be cut, and other things that are a smidgen sketchy). And I think you recall the hijab problem I blogged about before. But anyway,  the job pays 2.5k a month,  which is not bad but also not as much as someone like me could potentially make.  That’s where things get confusing, because a lot of our expectations are based on rumors and stories, not directly from the horses mouth,  so to speak. While half of this camp says that is a severe devaluing of my abilities, others say I should jump on it because it’s the upper bracket for such positions.

3. Taxes
I have to pay taxes on income to the US ;( boo.

4. Locked Contract
With the work contract, I’ll be locked in for a year. If any better opportunities come along, I’ll be out of luck until the contract expires.

PROS

1. Getting out of the house
A stupid pro according to my husband, but an important one to me. I need to get out of this house! I need to be productive! I need to have something else to do than stare at a blank wall and work as a maid all day! Even my mother in law agrees with this.

2. Good working conditions (or so it appears?)
One of the big red flags I’ve been hearing from other expats is the big discrepancy between US and Turkish working conditions. Since I haven’t had any experiences myself, I’ll let you Google some horror stories (or tell yours in the comments!). But anyway, as far as this office goes… Everyone speaks English (well, but not fluent), the hours are fair with a little leeway for tardiness (9am to 5.30p, but if you are 10 or 15 min late it’s ok because my commute is long), no weekends EVER, clean and modern working space. Oh, and a coffee machine.

3. The pay
While I said the pay isn’t great, it’s also not bad. In any case, it’s a hell of a lot more than 0tl a month, or even worse, spending from our savings (which we’ve been doing since we got here).

4. Additional opportunities
This position gives me the chance to travel internationally on the company’s dime. Plus I’ll be in contact with people that often request private English tutoring (for which I am able to provide with pure profit to me). Oh, and from what I’ve been told, I can take a Turkish course through the company for free for one hour during work hours.

5. Insurance
They pay my insurance (and I think hubby gets added under me as well), which means no more monthly fee for us!

6. Financial freedom, Socialization, and independence
Both scary and exciting… If I have a Monday through Friday job, that means I’ll have to go out into this country alone. Travel by myself. Actually be part of this country. That’s both terrifying and exhilarating. At some point I need to stop being a tourist and start being a citizen (which I’ll be applying for in May İnşallah). Going hand in hand with that, I will need to get a phone, be social with my coworkers, and make some friends (İnşallah. At the very least be a pleasant coworker). Actually, you know, live a normal life for once.

So this is where I’m at. Do you see the conundrum here? While I would be perfectly happy to take a job much closer to home… One in the hand is worth two in the bush, am I right? Personally, I’m leaning towards taking it… But my worrying husband is less excited. I’m waiting on a bit of information from a friend to help seal the deal.

What do you think I should do?

The job hunt has begun!

Hello my dear friends/ followers- I have some exciting (ish?) news!  I have been sitting on my backside long enough…and I am on the look-out for a job!

6 months of nothing is just…it’s enough.

 As is the case for everything in Turkey, word of mouth is the best way to get your news out there.  If anyone knows of/works at a school looking for native english speakers to teach English in the Izmir area- let me know!

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Thanks in advance!

A change of opinion

My husband and I have been enjoying the first two days of our vacation (mashallah), sunshine and blue skies!  This has been more than a break for us thusfar, it’s been a chance for us to think about our current situation as far as school is concerned. and where we want to go from here.   Last night we began looking at real estate for this area, just for fun.  How expensive is it to live on an island? Ofcourse, as you  can probably imagne, the prices ranged between 100k-300k, regardless of location on the island.  Well, what about in Turkey?  We then looked up real estate in the small ocean town where the in-laws have built a beach house (a long project that’s been around since before the hubby was born).  The price was still around 100k…turkish lira.  If you aren’t familiar with the conversion factor at this time (April 2014), it’s 2.13 (USD->TL). So that means… about 50K dollars.  WHAT?  yes. An Agean sea view apartment, 2 or 3 bedrooms, 50k dollars.

At this point the hubby shared with me that if we both could work in the US, even for one year, we could make more than twice that much together.  He expressed a desire to work in the US, even if it’s only for a few years.  Surely, he stated, this would give us a huge leg up financially in Turkey.  I nodded my head, smiling, then opened my mouth and said:

“But I wan’t to live in Turkey.”

Hm, since when did THAT happen?  I surprised myself with this candid statement.  He smiled and said that he knew that I would be happy living in Turkey.  But I still can’t help but wonder when my opinion on this matter became so concrete.  Turkey seemed like a cloud on the horizon, perhaps there is a silver lining somewhere- but it was a cloud none the less.  But now,  there is no doubt in my mind that I want to experience life in Turkey!  The food, the culture, the life style…I want it all!  Whether or not I could work in Turkey, I don’t know, but I know I wan’t to try!  Additionally, I miss my in-laws!  Being in University,  I am not close to either my in-laws or my own family.  Indeed, I don’t even hear from my own family as frequently as I hear from my in-laws (once a month/ every two weeks vs every weekend).  I’m not angry or accusing my family of not caring, they are simply busy, working, while my in-laws are retired.  Still, there is no doubt that I love them all, and living further and further away from my own family makes living in Turkey seem less difficult (on a personal front).

So where does that leave us now?  Well, struggling to finish our degrees seems to be the case.  He is still unsure if he can take his PhD at this rate, but I am always the encouraging voice in the background.  Hayirlisi olsun.  Whatever comes next is nasip.