Thursday, October 29, 2009

A New Routine

There are some definite differences working at a DODDs school in a foreign country. At this point, things that I at first thought were strange, I no longer even give any thought to. But every once in awhile, I still think, "this sure is different and kind of weird."
Here was my normal morning routine in the States...Leave the house and hope I'm early enough to stop at the Carribou Coffee drive-thru. If I was pressed for time, I could save a few precious minutes by 1)actually going inside rather than going through the drive-thru 2) ordering a regular coffee and not something fancy that required more time. Then, with coffee in tow, I would proceed to school, passing huge McMansions on nice, smooth new roads, with not much traffic. I would pull into my usual parking spot next to my friend, Karen, and head to my music room.
Here is my new routine in good ole Turkey (if I'm subbing). I head out the door with Tim with my empty coffee mug in tow (to be filled up at school because, horror or all horror, there are no coffee places on the way) and we pull our ridiculously heavy door shut hard, so we make sure it closes. We gingerly walk on our marble (I think, or something like it) walkway, hoping not to slip, and then proceed up a marble spiral staircase for a couple flights (really hoping not to slip). At the top of the stairs, we arrive on the street level and before walking to the car, we wave to the guard (who looks a bit disheveled from his night shift) and if it's a Turkish holiday (like yesterday-Turkish Republic Day) we dodge the giant Turkish flag that hangs right smack dab in the opening.
We walk down a bit to our car, which sits next to some of our other American neighbors' cars, in a carport type of thing. We pass some Turkish students in their school uniforms, people walking their giant dogs, and several giant pictures of Ataturk hanging from the various apartment buildings. We head to school, driving down a narrow, curvy road with cars parked on both sides of it, making it difficult for cars coming both ways to have enough space. As we wind our way through these neighborhoods, we pass little grocery stores (like mini 7-11's minus the slurpees), people headed to work (some in western clothes, some in more traditional Turkish clothes), and men carrying giant plates of simits (like thin bagels) on their heads, calling out to their customers. Sometimes these simit men will stand on the sidewalk next to a traffic light and people just roll down their window and buy their simits there. Well, I guess we do have some "drive-thrus" here in Turkey:)
We hang a left at the sign that says to "Balgat" and "Konya." We often hang a left on a red, which is ok to do here, and encouraged. After that, we find ourselves on a more major road with technically 3 lanes, but that quickly become about 5 lanes or so because, really, who cares about those lines painted on the road?:) We stay out of the right lane, mostly, because the public buses or school buses will just stop without warning to pick up their passengers.
After about 10 minutes, we've made it on to the base. We pull up, turn off the engine, pop the hood, roll the window down, and get our id ready to hand over. We exchange Good Mornings (in English or Turkish) with the guards, who know us pretty well at this point, while they look at our id's, check under the hood, in the trunk, and under the car. Then, they wave us on and tell us "Iyi gunler," or "have a good day." We drive slowly past the Turkish soldiers who are newbies and are marching in a formation, or the older higher-ups, with their more fancy uniforms.
Before driving onto the American part, we have to show our id's again. We know the guards here even better. They are usually pretty friendly and call me "Madame" and Tim "Teacher" or "Coach." Tim has played soccer with some of these guys. They let us pass, more "Iyi Gunlers" are exchanged and we park and head into school.
The kids at school are from all over, which keeps it interesting. I've always loved international schools. You get a lot of different perspectives coming into your classroom and you, even as the teacher, you end up learning a lot about other countries and cultures. Most kids speak 2 languages at the minimum. Many of their parents are pretty important. I walked into the lounge the other day and saw a parents who'd left his business card on the table. He was the "Second Secretary" for the Embassy of Uzbekistan. Our school is home to students from a lot of those countries you don't know much about. Those weird mixes of Soviet, Muslim, and Asian elements. Those "stan" countries. Some are more religiously conservative, some not so much. Many girls wear head coverings. Some struggle with the decision to or not to wear it. I think it is difficult for them in such a Western kind of environment. Often, many of the girls will start to wear the covering, then the next day not wear. They flip flop, trying to decide on their identity when they feel like they don't really belong anywhere.
It in the middle all of this exoticness, you'll see an American kid wearing a Redskins sweatshirt or Nationals t-shirt (I give those kids extra points:). That always makes me smile-just a little taste of home. Many of the kids actually moved here from Arlington, VA and we talk about our favorite restaurants from home and what schools they went to. There are several Georgians here too(both the state and the country) and that always makes Tim happy:) With them, there are other people with southern accents.:) It's funny how much the kids comment about Tim's accent. I'll ask them "Do you think Mr. Redden has a Southern accent," and they always give me an overwhelming "Yes!!" Tim is so good for those American kids who have moved around a lot. He can really relate to them, since he moved around a lot as a kid. That is a lot of why he was drawn to teaching for DODDs.
Sometimes in the middle of teaching, we'll hear "pop, pop, pop, pop." Just as I'm wondering what in the world that is, I remember it's the Turkish soldiers practicing on the shooting range. It is kind of weird because the shooting range is pretty close to us, so the sound is very loud. I'm usually the only one who flinches. The kids are so used to it,they don't even notice anymore.
For lunch, the middle school and high school kids have access to the BX or commissary for lunch. The commissary is like an American grocery store and the BX, is like a food court.
When school is over, everyone takes a bus, or their parents pick them up. There are no high schoolers driving themselves to and from school. Buses certainly aren't the big yellow ones we are used to in the States. They look more like vans.
Tim and I usually split up at the end of the day. I rush home to teach piano lessons, while he stays and works on his endless amount of stuff. I arrive home and the guard asks me how I am. Since I am no longer studying Turkish and using English all day long, I usually can't think of my answer quick enough. Lately, I've said some really ridiculous things in Turkish, thinking I've said the right thing. The guard usually laughs and I smile smugly thinking I've said something clever and he is amused by the fact I said it in Turkish. Au contraire. Several minutes later, it dawns on me what I've said I feel like an idiot. Here are 2 examples...
Guard: Nasilsiniz, Kate? (How are you, Kate?)
Me: Ben unutuyorum. (I forget)

Note: I meant to say "I'm tired," but I mixed up my verbs.

Guard: Nasilsiniz, Kate?
Me: Ben ilac. (I'm medicine)

I mixed up the word for medicine and sick. Oops.

Well, folks, time to wrap this entry up. This is way too long! Just wanted you to have sneak peak into parts of our day:) Things surely have changed!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lessons from Phil

Alright, everyone. I couldn't stay away from the sappy blogs for too long:) My dad emailed me this a few weeks ago. I think it is worth posting, as it reminds us all, to "put in in the bag." You'll see what I mean....

As Alan (our pastor) has begun a series on fear, I wanted to share a story from last week about my “special” friends, Phil and James. I need to give you a little background on them first. As most of you know, Phil and James are regular attendees. They both have some mental illness. I don’t know what their diagnosis is and they are both in the Loudoun County social services system.

Phil often tells me how much he enjoys worship on his way to Church. They give offerings to God as the plate is passed. Phil is very proactive during the services, clapping and raising his hands and making some beautiful sounds during the worship songs that only God understands. He is the one with the full beard, affectionately called Sasquatch by his friend and roommate, James. He will often come up to you and say “no more Mormon” if you can understand what he is saying. He went to their Church for awhile. Reiff baptized him several months ago in one of our services. He came out of the water with a thumbs up sign and you all clapped for him.

James was up front with me to light Phil’s candle during the Baptism. I specifically told him to not touch the matches and that I would light Phil’s candle. James proceeds to pick up the lighter and try to light all the candles that were unlit. I quickly panicked and told him to put the lighter down and surprisingly enough he listened. Never a dull moment. James is less demonstrative during the service. He sits quietly during the service and claps during the songs. He worked for Luck Stone for 15 years?, I think, before getting laid off a year ago. He is yet to find work.

I never really know what either one of them comprehends from the message. Alan’s message on fear Sunday was not discussed on the way home. We came back to the picnic which they thoroughly enjoyed. They both talk about their family here at this Church and how many friends they have here. On the way home from the picnic, James is asking me whether he will ever find work and will I take him in if he can’t afford his apartment. Phil is sitting in the back seat humming something. He hears our conversation up front and says something which I cannot interpret. He repeats it again twice and I still cannot understand what he is saying. He gets a little frustrated with me and tells James to interpret for me. That’s funny because I can hardly understand James either some times. James finally says, Phil says to “put it in the bag.”

I say what is it and what bag? Upon saying this, I immediately understood what he was saying. Alan’s sermon was about putting your fears in the bag and lifting your requests before God (Jame’s unemployment). After this, Phil says to James in a very optimistic, encouraging way, that God will take care of him. Isn’t that amazing? What an encouragement to me. God talks about coming to him with a childlike faith, like Phil. He understood exactly what God was saying thru Alan. What about you? What are the fears that keep you from being all that God intended you to be thru his Son, Jesus Christ. I look forward to this sermon series from Alan and the practical application demonstrated by our brother in Christ, Phil. Also, would you pray for a job for James.

Hope that is an encouragement to you today. Put it all in the bag.

Here Piggy, Piggy, Piggy

Enough of my sappy posts...time for the Ankara news. Well, swine flu has hit us (and yes it does affect places where pork is not eaten:). Several of the other international schools here got swine flu before us and were promptly shut down. We had our first 2 cases (and so far the only ones) of it last week. There was quite a buzz around school. Some students were completely freaked out in the hallways and I found myself being the reassurer. Other students were still drinking from each other's water bottles and giving big kisses on the cheek and I found myself being the enforcer. Some of the embassies kept their healthy kids home because of fear of contracting the flu. Others took it in stride.
So, as of this week we are the only school that is open in the city of Ankara. Every other school has been shut down for the week (even schools without any swine flu). But, we are trudging along. Our kids are the only ones at bus stops in the morning. Our kids aren't on the basketball court at 11 a.m. or running around their apartments like crazy at 1 p.m. Nope, they are in algebra or art, chemistry or chorus. And all the while we are hoping none else gets this swine flu.
I think I'll go wash my hands now...:)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Friends, Family, Fireflies, and Songs

Good Morning all. It's a beautiful fall morning. I'm sitting at the table, looking out into the valley, looking into God's creation and listening to Sara Groves new cd, Fireflies and Songs. The vines that wrap around and climb our apartment building have turned a beautiful shade of fiery red. The roses are still in bloom. The sky is a beautiful blue and even makes the uglier apartment buildings look almost pretty against it. It is a quiet morning-no subbing for me. Just a chance to reflect on this beauty and God's encouragement and care.
My friend Micah called this morning. She is coming in a few weeks (from Montenegro) and I'm incredibly excited about that!!! I'm looking forward to a wonderful time of talking for hours over coffee (which, by the way, my friend Rebecca sent a great recipe for a pumpkin latte you can make in the crock pot!), walking around Ankara, and reconnecting with my dear friend. Right before Micah called, Sara Groves sang a song about peopel in our lives who make our lives "half as bad and twice as good." That has been incredibly true for me and this morning, I'm thankful for my friends and family and what they mean to me.
Sara Groves' new album was sent to me via Jill. I cannot put into words what a gift that was. Jill and I have bonded greatly over many a Sara Groves song-nodding our heads in agreement with her, harmonizing together and weeping as she touches the deepest part of us with her truthful and encouraging words.
It's funny how God knows how to comfort us or encourage us when we need it. I have been missing my friends and family terribly this week. Living overseas is exotic and an adventure, but it can be lonely sometimes, being so far from people you love. Poor Tim has had to endure a more emotional Kate this week (I'd like to add that he handles it incredibly well-knowing when to pass me a kleenex or make a joke). I am so thankful this morning for Jill sending me this music, for Micah calling me this morning, for Rebecca sending me a recipe for something she knows I will love, for talking to Rebecca (Tim's sister) last night and getting an update on Parker, for talking to my mom yesterday about everything I could think of, for emails from my brothers and sister-in-law (who said she missed hanging out with me), for emails from my dad that are both touching and hilarious, for Tim's mom sending us an old letter that his Granny sent him and his siblings when they were young (complete with illustrations), and for both our families checking in on us via email or phone just to see how we are doing. All these things are a blessing and encourage us as we go about our day. Thanks for making our lives "half as bad and twice as good." Love you all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ode to Fall, An Escape from Fear

I have never been a lover of fall. So many people I know choose fall as their favorite season, but I have always had negative associations with it. For me, fall always signified the end of summer, the beginning of work, the coming of winter. Fall made me anxious when I thought about. I think it all goes back to being a student and being anxious about the begining of school. Who would I sit with at the lunch table? Would I be able to handle a heavier course load? Would I be in classes with my friends? Would I have a homecoming date?? I'm not kidding about the homecoming date thing. I would always be really worried about that and even after college, I still carried that subconscious fear with me, though there were no more Homecoming dances to attend.
Even after I started teaching I had a slight dread of fall. Would I like the new teachers on the staff? Would I have the same lunch time as my good friend, Karen? Would my new principal like me? Would my shows be good this year? Would I get along with the new itinerant music teacher? Fall signified returning to a very, very busy and tiring schedule and getting up early again, something I've always hated. Fall marked a significant change and change, for me, is hard and a cause of anxiety.
When I started this blog, I thought it would be a short little blog about how I went from fearing fall to loving it. I thought it would be a blog filled with anecdotes about me asking if they sold Pumpkin Spice lattes at the Ankara Starbucks and attempting my first apple pie. Instead, I sat here drinking my Oregon Chai latte and thinking about the idea of fear and anxiousness and how it prevents us from enjoying so much and moving ahead.
I meant to write a blog on that several weeks ago as a follow-up to my blog on "reinventing oneself." I talked about being in Turkey and having to define myself with new roles and putting away old ideas of who I was. Last year I was not so successful on the "reinvention of Kate," but I said I was determined this year to embrace my new life here and reinvent myself. So, why is is so hard for me to reinvent myself, so hard to change, and welcome new things? Fear, my friends. Fear.
I am, by nature, a worrier-I come by this honestly. I'm the person on the plane saying to my husband, "What was that?? Do you think that was normal?" I'm the person who is worried all day about maybe having left a straightening iron on (thanks, dad-and I don't think that straighteners are the #1 cause of home fires). I'm the person who almost makes herself sick because she's afraid she offended someone accidentally by something she said to them earlier that day. I'm the person who worries about doing a great job, who worries about looking good, who worries about people's perception of her. I'm a worrier through and through and I fear a lot. That's the truth of it. I'm a fearful person.
And it is that fear that prevents me from enjoying new things that come my way (new jobs, new friends, new opportunites). It is fear that prevents me from enjoying and embracing the things that God has in store for me-new things, things out of my comfort zone, unexpected things.
Rather than trying to think of my own profound thing to say on fear, I'll close this out by reminding myself that God says, "Fear not!" He says: For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
Ok, Lord. I'm going to embrace the new things You have for me. And by "embrace" I mean I'm going to hold Your hand tightly and let you lead me forward, despite my fear, despite my worry.
I might even learn to love fall along the way. Having a permanent "Homecoming Date" certainly doesn't hurt:)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Hello again, everyone! I've been away for a bit because I couldn't access our blog site. Very frustrating!
While I've been gone, I've been subbing a ton at school. Including me, there are only 2 subs for the whole K-12 school. So, needless to say, I have a lot of work! This is good, but it makes it hard to plan my schedule. Often I don't know what my week will hold. Sometimes I don't find out I'm subbing until the morning of. Last Monday I was still in my pajamas when the school secretary called to see if I could come in. After I hurriedly got dressed, slapped on some make-up, so as not to frighten the students, I learned my lesson and now I get up with Tim and get ready, just in case. It's good for me, either way, to have a schedule.
Subbing has been kind of a love/hate thing for me lately. It's very strange to teach and have your own classroom for 10 years, and then become a sub. When you walk in a teacher's room, you don't really know their expectations, their subjects (I told the Spanish class last week that I only knew 2 Spanish words: hola and Speedy Gonzales), or the students. I find myself frustrated because I often feel like a babysitter and don't feel like I do as good of a job as I would like. The high schoolers are a whole new world to me. I'm an elementary teacher through and through. I understand little kids, I feel comfortable with them, I know how to teach them. With the high school classes, it's hard to quickly gauge a class and figure out who is telling the truth and who is making up "Mr. Such and Such let's us do open book tests." Well, that's a pretty easy one to figure out, but sometimes it's a fine line between being too strict and too nice. You don't want to be unreasonable, but you don't want to be a sucker either.
As with any kind of teaching, there are always funny things the kids say. I used to keep a book of my favorite quotes, but in the last couple years I've stopped doing that. I think I should start again. Here are a couple gems from this last week...

-from a high school student in the cooking class: "Mrs. Redden, this recipe calls for evaporated milk. If it's evaporated, what's the point?"

-from a kindergartner: "You know, I really just don't want to go to school."

-another from a kindergartener who really missed his mom: "I hope the angels don't remind me about my mom while I'm at lunch." My response: "I think the angels will leave you alone while you eat"

-another kindergartner: The teacher was passing out pretzel sticks for snack and this particular child said, "Are these vegetarian?"

-from AP European History: Student 1-"When they talk about how the "Christian Church" was effected in the Reformation, do they mean the Catholic Church? Student 2- "Yeah, the Catholic Church. Isn't that the whole point of the Reformation?"

-an answer from a biology student: The worksheet was fill-in-the blank and said, "When humans sweat, heat causes _______________. The answer was evaporation, but the student wrote sweating.

-one from Tim's class: Tim asked one 6th grader which name he preferred to be called, his official name or his nickname. He said, "Just call me Mr. A." Needless to say, that didn't fly with Mr. Redden.

-a general comment I get: "Oh! You're Mr. Redden's wife." This in itself isn't that funny, but I always want to say, "Haven't you seen the gigantic picture of me that Mr. Redden blew up and put at the front of his room?? You can't miss it!"

Well, I certainly am learning a lot, though. In the past week and a half, I've "taught" Spanish, Biology, Chemistry, Study Skills, kindergarten, art, cooking, and AP European History. I heard today the cooking classes took whole chickens and cut them up, apparently with lots of guts and gore. I'm really thankful I did not have to sub for that class because as I have stated before, I'm already pretty close to becoming a vegetarian, with the exception of cheeseburgers. Who knows what my subbing future holds? I will definitely keep you posted on my adventures (which I'm hoping will take place more in the elementary classroom.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Tale of Drums and Canons

Like I said in the previous blog, in Beypazari, we stayed in this beautifully restored, huge Ottoman house. When we got back to our room after a long day climbing hills and shopping, we were exhausted! We fell asleep around 9:30 or 10. Well, I should say Tim fell asleep around that time. I was wide awake due to the hoard of children playing hide and go seek on the street below our windows (and since there was no AC, we had to have all the windows open). This went on until after midnight. The kids here are not back in school, yet, so they were free, apparently, to do whatever they wanted however late they wanted. They were yelling, carrying on, and making me madder by the minute. I finally got to sleep after midnight and was sleeping peacefully until I was woken up by a loud banging sound around 3 or so. was still dark outside. What in the world was that? My initial reaction was fear because the sound was unknown to me and was occuring in the middle of the night in a town I wasn't familiar with. The sound started getting louder and closer. I then figured out there was a pattern to the sound. It was like a bass drum was playing. My next reaction was to figure out the rhythm this guy was playing. Let's see...the first couple measures were syncopated and the last one was a triplet. Ahhh! Ridiculous that I was doing rhythmic dicatation in my head at 3 in the morning. Who the heck was this guy?? Then I remembered a book I read about different ex-pats experiences in Turkey. I remembered this one lady who had moved to Cappadocia and had gone to the trouble of buying new Ramadan drums for the village. Ah ha! Ramadan drums. That was it!!! Now I remembered. A man goes around the village, beating a huge drum very loudly, in order to wake all the people up before the sun comes up. That way, they can have one more meal before sunrise. Because after sunrise, there's no food or water til the sun goes down! I peaked out the window when he was on our street to see him. He was wearing a big drum over his shoulders on his front, just pounding away. I was pleased to have figured this out, but not so thrilled that he banged for another hour. I finally fell back asleep, only to be awoken by the firing of a canon. Good grief! What in the world!??! Oh, yeah. That was the signal that the sun was officially up. We had heard the same shot the evening before to signal that the sun had gone down.
The next morning and really the whole next day, I was exhasuted. The children, drum, and canon had kept me up, preventing my sleep. But you know what?? I'm really glad we were in Beypazari to experience these cultural traditions. In Ankara, the big city, we sometimes get a watered down version of culture. Often Turkish culture is intermingled with European, modern trends and often we are in engrossed in our own American community. But in the small historic village of Beypazari, the preservation of history and culture is alive and well.
A little addendum... I once heard a story that my husband slept through an entire hurricane. Though I knew he was a pretty heavy sleeper, I thought that was hard to believe. Well, I don't question that story anymore because that boy slept through screaming children, bass drums, and canons without moving a muscle. I guess when we have kids I'll be the one getting up in the middle of the night!