Monday, August 30, 2010

Adventure Time? I think so.

An end to a summer. A start to a semester. And a start to a countdown. It's incredible, unbelievable, heartwarming, and all around unknown. I booked the ticket for spring semester which will combine a need SL reunion, a semester of enjoying food and language, and a summer of friends and traveling. It's more than I could ask for.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Change of Plans

Even though Turkey had a lot to offer- the history, mosques, museums, countryside, the beaches, etc.- the au pair job ended up being a little too much for me to handle. Here's the story...

The week after we returned from Ayvalik was the start to my days with the kids on my own. And let me tell you, they weren't very full of speaking English, but were full of terribly dubbed Hannah Montana in Turkish. It was really nice to hang out with the American girl, but that wasn't guaranteed and definitely didn't outweigh the time with the kids. The kids were great when they felt like playing with me, which was maybe an hour out of our seven hour days. Other than that they treated me like a toy, played with me when they wanted, but completely ignored me when they didn't. And trust me, I never thought a six and seven year old would get to me like that.

Over the weekend we went to a family friend's house for dinner. I didn't mind too much going out with the family and seeing the culture of other people. But this night I was basically brought along as the babysitter for four non-English speaking kids. Granted, they all understood it, but that doesn't mean they would listen. This house was something out of a magazine. First of all, it was an actual house and not a five story condo. And second, it had a yard, which is totally unheard of. They had a beautiful view of the city and had a separate room outside with walls you could move up and down. It was complete with couches, a dining room table, and a kitchen. I was asked to occupy the kids and get them to play a game they just couldn't resist. Right. I tried my best, but I could really only get the attention of the three year old who spent the whole night talking to me in Turkish. On top of everything I had done something to my foot, which made walking quite a task. And chasing kids did not seem to help. For dinner I sat inside with the kids an ate something the cooking lady made. She was such a miserable looking lady, there just wasn't a trace of happiness on her face. I learned later that this family didn't have any close relationships with their workers (which was very different from my family), because they'd had problems in the past and they didn't want the hassle of having something crazy like friendships. Anyways, during dinner the mom of the two boys came in and turned on the television. She said it helps them zone out so they will stay in one place and eat. Nice. I was instructed to make sure the kids ate ALL their dinner before they left. Ayse Naz, the little girl I took care of, didn't finish of course. She tried to pull all these toys out of my hand and eventually proceeded to get them and run off. So when I told Sinem about it she said Ayse Naz wouldn't receive any dessert that night.

And yet again she did.

It was the final straw for me. These parents who, at times, were so good to their kids. But they were raised being given EVERYTHING. They have no appreciation for things. When a kid is little they are usually proud to show you something they have, whether it be something they can do or something they got for their birthday. Not these kids, and seeing this other wealthy family, I could tell they were raised the same way. They never had to say thank you for anything. They never cleaned up after themselves or had to make their beds or tidy their rooms. Nothing. I doubt that's all family's, but in my case, I simply couldn't handle the thought of living with it for another six weeks. And so started the adventure of leaving...

Monday I was supposed to go to the doctor with Sinem, who had hurt her knee. The morning I was with the kids. I was told that they needed to brush their teeth and get dressed in the morning, you know, before the do anything else. Understandable. She told me is their nintendos or tv or a game was stopping them from doing so and they weren't listening to me then I had permission to give them a warning then take them away. So, Monday morning after they watched a ridiculous amount of the terribly dubbed Disney channel I asked them to get ready. Finally after the last show was over I had to turn it off. I went into Sevket's room and he was playing with these Smackdown cards. I nicely told him he had to get dressed and brush his teeth then he could play with the cards. It was a beautiful day outside and there was no way were going to stay in the house again. I told him he could bring the cards with him. He refused. I gave him to the count of five then said I'd take away the cards. Then I did. And he threw an even bigger fit. Finally I got Nurdan to come help. And because of our language barrier she finally gave back the cards and nothing had changed. They were taught to get what they wanted if they threw a fit. Great. Later when I talked to Sinem about it she said I shouldn't take things away from them, because she wants them to like me and if I do that then they won't. This is completely opposite from the first comment she made about how I have to be an authoritative figure to them.

So I was upset at how things had gone. And I was still upset from the night before. I was upset that I was attached to this family all the time. My free time was really limited. I knew I could have tried to wait until the 29th of July and go meet my family in Greece, but I seriously couldn't last another month of counting down hours of the day. I was there to have a good time with these kids. Why stay in a situation where I was dreading every morning? That's not how it should be. I wanted to stay in Istanbul on my own and stay in a hostel or something, but I didn't have the money to do that for a month and a half. No way.

Monday I went to the doctor with Sinem. She had to have a really minor surgery to take the screws out of her knee. The doctor said she'd be fine to go to London this upcoming weekend and it wasn't going to be a big deal. She was worried though and she was worried about work. But, she worked for her dad. He wasn't going to fire her. He wasn't going to hate her for having to get something done to her knee. After the doctor's office I told her I had a family emergency and I may possibly have to go home. She said she couldn't handle another stressor right then and to talk to her once I knew more of what was going on. Great. The car ride home was silent. I could tell she was really upset about other stuff and I wasn't going to get in her way. At the house she was yelling up a storm on the phone. I couldn't handle it. I e-mailed my mom and she found a ticket for me to go home the following morning. Thank God for her. I went and told Sinem someone in my family died and I had to go home. At first she was sympathetic, but later that night came in and told me how irresponsible I was being abandoning her and her family. I offered to pay her back for the portion of the ticket she bought or to fly someone else out. She said the money wasn't the point and they had made arrangements for me to be there this summer. And without me there's no one to watch the kids.

Wait a second.

First of all, she has a nanny. Nurdan has been with the kids since they were born. When I got this position she told me, "I don't want you to feel like you're doing work, you are simply there to teach them English." Alright. I know it's a little bit more work for Nurdan to watch the kids, but she did it the summer before and she helped do it during the school year.

Second, Sinem's mom lives ONE HOUSE away. She doesn't work. Why can't she help out with the kids? Oh right, Sinem said her mom likes her kids, but not enough to take care of them every day. She has her own things to do. What happened to Turkish families giving everything to their children?

Third, even if something had happened to my family, shouldn't that come first? Shouldn't she understand if something came up and I have to go back? She kept asking me just to stay another month. That would defeat the purpose of me going back now. And I'd already confirmed the ticket. If I'm wrong about this, let me know.

So that was my last conversation with Sinem. Her telling me that I'm letting down her family and storming out saying there's nothing else she has to say to me. Not another word was said by the family that night. I woke up early the next morning and made my way out by 8 am before they woke up. I got a taxi to the airport and made my journey back. With some delay in New York (missing two flights, being put up in a hotel for the night and flying out in the morning), I finally made it home. I've never been so happy to see Washington. Never. And with no plans for the next six weeks except probably going back to work, it's such a relief from the last five days.

Now instead of Istanbul adventures the blog will be full of summer adventures. A change of pace, but oh well. Istanbul isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I'll be back on my own time :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ayvalik and Istanbul

Since the last time I've written I've settled in with the family and the culture a bit more. Two days after I arrived we traveled down to the west coast to a place called Ayvalik. The mom, Sinem, the kids, Sevket and Ayse Naz, the nanny, Nurdan, and the driver all went down for five days. We spent the day swimming and eating and swimming and eating and went into town in the afternoon. The last couple nights Sinem and I took a walk down the beach and swam in the ocean after the sun set. It was definitely a relaxing few days of staying up late and waking up even later. The last two nights we had thunder and lighting storms, which were awesome to watch off the back patio. By the fifth day it took us nine hours to get back to Istanbul after we missed two ferry boats. Woops.

The last two days I've spent playing with the kids during the day. I still have a hard time getting them to speak English with me, but it's getting better. We've been doing a lot of dancing, dressing up, coloring, and playing soccer. Yesterday I successfully got three balls and one shoe stuck in a tree. Don't worry, the pool man came along and got them all down. Today I met the other American au pair in the complex. The two kids she looks after, Mina and Melda, came over and all the kids played together. It was nice to talk to someone and tonight we're going to go walk down the marina or up on the main street with all the shops. Yeah!

Pictures will come soon. And if not here, then Facebook. For whatever reason they're not uploading...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Welcome to Istanbul!

Man oh man. I had one heck of a journey to get here, but I made it! I woke up at 4 am on the morning of the 15th and Colin was nice enough to take me to the airport so early :) I first flew to Atlanta. My flight was delayed by almost an hour because of thunderstorms. Once we got into the sky I saw lightning out our window. Ah! And we had some MAJOR turbulence. The worst I've ever been in... But luckily we made it to New York and I BARELY made my flight to Amsterdam. Within the first hour of our flight the flight attendant made an announcement asking if there was a medical doctor on board. A woman behind me was sitting in her seat looking as if she was about to faint. The woman she was traveling with was trying to rub some color back into her lips. It was quite crazy. But they ended up moving the people sitting next to her and let her lay down the entire flight. We made it to Amsterdam with no problems. My layover was 8 hours ad 40 minutes. I slept on and off for three hours up in the cafe. After I changed some money I ended up meeting someone from Washington! We hung out for a while and passed the time. He was on his way to Israel to dig up some cool stuff. I took a picture with him and his stuffed traveling turtle, Pickles. I went to my gate as they were boarding and flew the last 3 hours of my journey. It was when I landed that the real fun began...

I got off the plane and headed towards customs. I had to buy a 90 day visa for 35TL or $20. Going through the passport line the woman simply scanned my passport and I was on my way. I headed to baggage carousel #6 and of course, my bag was missing. I went and filled out the claim and headed out the airport. There was supposed to be a driver waiting for me with my name on a sign. But as I walked out, there was no driver. I walked back and forth double checking, but still, no driver. I had no phone and even if I did I had forgotten to write down Sinem's address and telephone number. I went into a place where you book hotels to use their computer. I had some difficulties signing into my g-mail, where all my information was, but luckily I figured it out. I tried to call Sinem with their phone, but it was so muffled I couldn't hear her. I lost some hope and set out to look for another phone. These two men had seen me walk by multiple times asked me what I was looking for. I explained the situation and the younger of the two let me use his cell phone. I got finally got ahold of Sinem. She was so apologetic explaining that she thought my flight came in the next day at 12:20, not that time in the middle of the night. She told me she'd pay for a taxi and had me put her on the phone with the driver. After they hung up the older man asked me to go in to the Duty Free shop and buy him some whiskey for the next day (since you need a passport to buy it in there). I told him I would if he gave me a cheaper taxi ride, which he did. He gave me money and I legally bought alcohol in a foreign country! When I got back the man ended up passing me off to a different taxi driver (yeah, he just used me for the whiskey) and I was on my way yet again.

The driver was really friendly and didn't speak a lot of English. I tried to make some conversation with him and he said I was very nice. We drove through the old city of Istanbul at night. Seeing all the mosques lit up on the hill gave me such a calm feeling after the hectic journey. Once we made it to the house Sinem came and let me in the house. She was very apologetic once again. She got me some water then her and her husband and I sat out on the balcony. Their house is lovely. The second floor of this development. It's a flat with 5 rooms, a large kitchen, kitchen, and dining room. They sent me off to bed since they had to get up for work and I had to rest. I slept on and off from 4am til 2pm the next day. I hung out around the house, writing and reading, until the family came home. I met the house lady, Nordan, and she made me some breakfast. The little girl, Ayse Naz, came home first. The Sinem and the boy, Sevket, came home next. The afternoon was spent walking around outside and driving around the neighborhood. This part of Istanbul is very modern and very European. For dinner we all went out to sushi, conveyer belt style. Once we were back I read the kids some books before bed. I then got onto the internet and spent the night talking and updating and whatnot.

That's the adventure so far. I'll get pictures up sometime. Probably once I get my bag with the cords... But that's all for now :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Pre-Departure Thoughts

Tuesday is coming soon. My mind has been filled with the requirements of my summer class, weekend excursions, and trying to see everyone before I leave. It's a somewhat kind distraction from the uneasy thoughts that come up right before traveling to somewhere new. I know come Tuesday morning at 5am when I'm arriving at the airport, my mind will probably be in a different place. Luckily my travel writing class has given me the opportunity to talk and listen to the beauty of traveling. It puts this trip into perspective again. I also recently talked to a family friend that has been to Turkey quite a few times, so I'm ready with the best cities, restaurants, and sites to visit.

While I'm gone I will be sure to write in here since it will be hard to send everyone an individual update. Now of course, here are some pictures of where I'll be going :)