Teaching Has Begun

It’s been awhile dear readers, it will come as little surprise to you that when you start working, you have less time to do things like blog! I’ve taught two full weeks of classes now and next week in the Muslim Holiday of Kurban Bayrumu (i.e. six day weekend). This holiday, as my students tell me, “cut sheep, eat sugar, kiss hands, mother father.” By which they are imparting that this is the Festival of Sacrifice that commemorates Abraham sacrificing a sheep instead of his son (Ishmael, not Isaac). To celebrate each family kills a sheep and gives the meat to the poor. As well, it’s like Thanksgiving, students go home, eat lots of food and desserts. It’s also tradition to kiss the hands of your elders and they give you money. Pretty sweet holiday.

Teaching has been great fun so far. I love my students and they tell me on a daily basis, in Turkish at the beginning and now in English, that I am sweet or sweetness. I have a feeling that some of them will find this blog, as 8 of them have already found my facebook, so I won’t tell too many stories about them. My students all have learned some english previously, but few have spoken much English. So my job is more to encourage them to speak, re-teach them vocab, and create a positive class atmosphere than anything else. I teach two engineering classes and two tourism classes listening and speaking. They take all sorts of other English classes: grammar, reading, movies, etc. It’s fun because my students are engaged, most seem pleased to be there, and they always say things you don’t expect. There’s a 10 minute break in the middle of each 2 hour class and my classes like to use that time to teach me Turkish, ask me questions or teach me how to Turkish dance. Also, for anything out of the ordinary that I do, they’ll clap and cheer — anything from reading a dialogue in different voices to saying a Turkish word. I think my favorite part of being in Erzurum is my students and teaching, which is pretty great.

On my first day of class, no one came because they didn’t know their schedules. Second day, half of them came. I took pictures of my students to try to learn their names then. After that I told the class they could leave and I was waving at the door. They thought I meant I wanted a class picture, so I went with it. Here you go.I’ve also started to create real friendships with Turks, which is really exciting, but still full of cultural miscommunications and difficulties. It’s surprising the number of friendships that blossom with a dictionary on each side and half English and half Turkish, but I feel like that’s where my Turkish will actually come from. It is good to be getting to know my English teaching co-workers who are Turkish as well.

I went to a conference last weekend that had people from countries on the Silk Road. Which means it included everything from the water policy of Tajikistan to distance learning in Bangladesh to Medical School policies in Iraq. Afterward there was an exhibition of Turkish dancing. I will try to post a video of that soon.

Tonight, I’m headed to a sleepover with Turkish girls. On Wednesday, I’ll leave for Georgia (and possibly Armenia) on a bus for five or six days.


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