As my Paris trip came to an end, I had the sad realization that it was time for me to resume “real life” in Istanbul, which meant I needed to stop traveling and start working. However, in the 10 leading up to my start date, I knew I wanted make each day count. I corralled Ashton as my partner in crime and we spent those 10 days attending outdoor concerts on her college campus, dancing the night away in basements, hanging out with Turkish friends and taking a mini road trip to the Black Sea north of Istanbul.
On one day in particular, we set out our front door with a vague plan to visit an island. On the way to the ferries, we bumped into a friend from Florida who was wandering Istanbul as well, so we joined forces and hopped on a ferry headed for the Asian side of Istanbul. We spent the rest of the day eating Turkish ice cream, smoking hookah on a outdoor cushions and watching pods of dolphins navigate the Bosphorus. The sun’s rays made the afternoon all the more perfect. It’s days like that when I pat myself on the back for making the move to Turkey.
Despite the fun of those 10 days, I am proud to say that I have completed my first week of teaching English for pay. I’m working for the largest bread manufacturer in Turkey (If you know anything about this country, that’s saying a lot because Turkey loves its bread!). UNO Bread owns 70% of the marketshare in Turkey and is interested in expanding beyond the country’s borders, so UNO wants its employees to practice proper English.
That’s where I come in as a TEFL-certified teacher. I work with a group of nine college-educated managers who are excited to better their English. It’s only the first week, but I’m really excited to be working with these students who are more than willing to hold conversations and participate in class discussions.
I also had my first day at a language school where I’ll be working part-time doing one-on-one classes with students ranging from six years old to 40 years old. These types of classes are much more exhausting because it’s a conversation between two people instead of with 10. Regardless, it went well and I’m excited to get to know the students better. Thankfully 25 hours a week is considered full time in Turkey, so I should still have plenty of time to explore this beautiful place I’m beginning to call “home.”
As I’m getting more comfortable here, I’m starting to learn about soccer. I thought Americans were ridiculous when it comes to being football fans, but here in Turkey, the soccer fans are SO much worse. For example, Galatasaray fans aren’t even allowed to attend their team’s game against Fenerbache this Sunday because the city has predicted that the fans will become too violent following the game. Also, team buses are escorted by policemen around the city so the buses won’t be ambushed. On top of that, I was walking home the other night when more than 50 policemen flooded the street bearing gas masks and shields. I watched them as they methodically took place side-by-side near an area of town that has many sports bars. Apparently they were preparing for a predicted riot following Galatasaray’s win in a soccer match. I didn’t stick around to watch what would happen.
An interesting note is the police in Turkey. Ask any resident and they will tell you never to trust the cops here. I experienced this firsthand today when I was walking through the town center and felt a burning sensation in my eyes, nose and throat. At first I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something in the air, but began noticing other people covering their faces with tissues and shirt sleeves. When I asked what was causing the burn, someone explained that the police were releasing tear gas in the town square preemptively to warn people not to riot following the Besiktas soccer game that’s taking place as I type. According to my Twitter feed, thousands of people were affected by the tear gas and the city is upset with the “security measure” taken by police. It’s reasons like this that people here have little respect for their law enforcement.
Despite the crazy soccer teams and police who should have their badges revoked, I’m still loving Istanbul more and more everyday I’m here. I can’t believe it’s been nearly three months since I first arrived. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!