The Day After the Revolution

A few weeks ago I started talking about starting yoga while here in Istanbul. And I talked about it and talked about it and talked about it…

It became a running joke at work that I would leave Istanbul without going to a single yoga class.
One day when I came home from work, I mentioned to Feraz that it was a yoga night at the studio by our house. Then I got cozy on the couch. Usually this is the first step to a doomed evening. The couch is soo  comfy. Once you are on it, there is no point of ever leaving. Then, Feraz and I ate the delicious okra and potatoes we had made. We set up the latest Gossip Girl and settled in for some good home cooked food and a side of that saucy serena and her bestie blair. It was such a great episode! It was such a tasty meal! 
And then the clock crept closer to the hour that I quietly let pass every evening there is a yoga class. But Feraz wasn’t going to let me weasel out of this one. “It’s almost time for yoga!” he said. I scrunched my face and said, “Should we go?” as if this was a brand new idea. 
Go we did.
My first impression of the studio was good. There were huge photographs of theatre students all over the walls. Incidentally, the yoga studio is connected to a film school. (Hena, come move in with us!) So, up, up we went past all the photos. One floor. Two floors. Three floors. The higher we climber the hotter the rooms got. Four floors.  Almost there…Five floors… Six floors! Finally, we arrived to the reception area. As we paid for our class we came to realize that the teacher for our class didn’t know English and the class would be taught in Turkish.
How about the Thursday night teacher, does she speak English? Yes. How about the Saturday and Sunday teachers, do they speak English? Yes. This was the only night the teacher didn’t speak English. I turned to Feraz and helpfully suggested that we walk along the Bosporus for exercise. No go. The receptionist suggested that we try the class and if we couldn’t follow along we could leave early and she would give us our money back. Even my lawyerly brain couldn’t argue with that so up we went, one more flight of stairs, to our class.
For the first fifteen minutes, I used all my energy and discipline to not laugh and fall over. Even though I like yoga and its effect on my body and mind, hearing someone instruct you in Turkish while there are loud ahhhhhhs as the room exhales ands hearing lots of funny words at the same time can set off a serious case of the giggles. The best part was looking over at Feraz who is totally new to yoga. His face always had a look of intense concentration or extreme confusion so that was pretty comical in itself.
Eventually my body started to feel the various positions and I had to start concentrating. Every now and then the teacher would come up to me and adjust me a little bit and whisper “I am so sorry I don’t know English.” I wanted to hug her she was so nice! At the very end we laid down in our cool down mode. We had large round pillows under our knees and it felt amazing. But it wasn’t over! The teacher brought out a blanket and laid it over me. Then she brought a scented eye pillow and put that on. Ahhhhhh. So amazing. In those last five minutes as I laid there I felt perfect. 

Hey teacher! Leave those kids alone!

So I thought I’d tell you all about what I think of teaching in Istanbul.  I’m happy to say that right now at least, I LOVE IT!  

One of my objectives for coming to Istanbul was to try my hand and teaching and see if I liked it enough to make a career out of it.  Alhumdulillah after a lot of help and preparation, I managed to find a teaching position a week after arriving in Istanbul.  Right now I’m teaching an intermediate-level  English class at Fatih University.  Now, this isn’t an English class like the ones that you probably took at university or secondary school.  This is a class on learning how to speak and read English properly.  The students that I teach are all adults – either teachers themselves or university graduates.  This is because, from what I understand, learning English in Turkey is a very common thing and is a must if you want to get ahead in the business world, or get paid more, or get that promotion that you want.  Usually students take a TOEFL test after learning English, and based on the score that they receive on that, they’ll have more opportunities or the chance for advancement in their careers.  Of course many students also want to learn English because they want to move out of Turkey to an English-speaking country, usually America.  So for them to be taught English by someone like me, who lives in America, can be a real learning (funny, I know) experience.  Not only do they get the chance to test their language skills, but they can also ask me whatever they want about what it’s actually like to live in the country they want to immigrate to.

I get a real buzz out of teaching.  I feel like a performer on a stage with the students as my audience.  I’m sure it’s similar to the feeling that musicians get when they play in a concert.  It’s also not a bad thing if my students actually learn something from me!  I don’t know if they have yet actually, as there’s been no tests since I’ve been their teacher, but it’ll make me happy if I discover that their scores have improved.  I think another reason that I like teaching so much is b/c right now at least, there isn’t much for me to do outside of class for my class.  The lesson plans are taken straight from a book and I just have to help the students get through them, and answer any questions that they might have.

Having adult students that are actually paying money to attend class also must make a difference.  In fact, I remember that when I was a substitute teacher in Dearborn this was a real problem.  The students just didn’t want to be at school and some of them would do whatever they could to mess with you and get out of class.  It’s not like that here.  If you don’t want to be in class, don’t turn up.  It’s ultimately the students’ responsibility to do their homework and make an effort so that their English skills improve.  I just need to help that process in whatever way that I can, and make my classes interesting and engaging so that my students want to learn and actually look forward to coming to class at 9:30 in the morning.

Tell me how does it feel

PSA to everyone who can even maybe afford it: Get a cleaning lady!

Having a cleaning lady is magical. This morning as I left the apartment. I eyed things scattered everywhere. And like a typical desi I wanted to clean the apartment before the cleaning lady got there. But I was committed to getting to work early to finish a project so away I went. 
Then there was that moment when I came home. I had forgotten she was coming. First I noticed the shoe rack. All the shoes were lined up and put away in their cubby holes. Then there was the kitchen. The glorious shine of the counter, the crumb free stove, and not a dish in sight. Then I saw the laundry all hung washed and hung, the clothes i left to be ironed were all crisp and hanging in the closet. She goes through all the drawers and closets and folds everything. As an extra nice touch, she lays a white summery dress on the bed, almost as to say, it is a beautiful day! Wear this and have a fabulous night!
Another amazing thing about our cleaning lady is that her name is Roza so in my head I call her Daroza… All you Gossip Girl fans, be jealous. Be very, very jealous.
After a great day at work and then coming home to this sparkling apartment I was happy to call it a day. But I had promised some friends from work that I would meet them up for dinner and nargeelah. 
Even though Feraz was having a bit of a headache and I wanted to just stay cozy and lazy on the sofa, we headed out to meet my friends. What a good move that was!! There is something so amazing about a new group of friends that you care for. There is the freshness of everyone’s jokes, the newness of all the stories and the wonder of discovering people. I laughed so much. I loved how everyone in the group is just so open, and kind and not putting on a facade or acting or trying to be something.  We all loved the cheesy eighties, and later nineties music that came on. I think I lost my voice from karaokeing when I shouldn’t have been. I found another person who likes to sing to the songs as much as I do! And as we walked down Istikal street late into the night, we sang A Whole New World and every now and then I yelled Istanbul!!
New Pictures:

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts

All this business about Swine Flu is a little annoying. What’s the worst that can happen? We all die. The world comes to a screeching halt. And that’s it.

Someone recently said to me, “It’s only life, Sumeera.” But I think that is wrong, It’s LIFE! and then, it’s only death.
The older I get, the lower tolerance I have for scaredy-cats. Of people who don’t discover the world because there is a terrorist or a disease or a goblin behind every door. I am sick of politicians and opportunists preying on this fear.
This past Friday it was May Day and work was cancelled and we were advised not to venture out. Since I still had my conference to attend I had to go out and look for a taxi to take me to the conference hotel because the metro had been shut down in fear of terrorist attacks. I could not make it out of my neighborhood because there were police blockades everywhere. After trying to talk to a few of the taxi drivers who were stranded on the side-streets I decided it would just be easier to walk the 5kms to the hotel. As I started my walk I saw more and more police. They were standing on the sidewalks, leaning against cars, sitting on their motorbikes, they were everywhere! One street was completely lined with huge travel buses. Inside them waited hundreds of riot police who would be ready to respond in case things got messy. At the end of the street were two huge tanks facing the Bosporus.
That night I decided to stay in and now I wonder if I regret it. The next day I read that there had been riots right by our apartment and police had used tear gas and water cannons to calm the crowds. Out there life was happening and instead I was holed up in my apartment. I already have forgotten whatever it was I was doing but I am sure if I had gone out into Taksim square I would not have quickly forgotten what I saw.
I am not saying that we should live our life with complete abandon, without concern for life or limb but I am saying that at the end of the day if I am to die, I would rather have lived first. I don’t want to be the person wishing they had said something, had been somewhere, had done something.
While Feraz and I were in the Liverpool Museum there was a quote: “History will be kind to me, for I shall write it.” I can’t say with certainty that this will be true for me but I can say that in my history I will not live in fear of swine flu, of monsters, of words or of judgment. And, for me, it will never be only life. If anything, that is something to fear.