Tag Archives: Professional American Women of Istanbul

The end in sight

Over the hump.

I’ve taught art for 13 years and every year the spring is exhausting! There’s always a rush to get through all the lessons you planned, squeeze in more school activities and enjoy the sunshine and social life that springtime brings. This year in Istanbul is no different, however, the end is in sight and I have a lot to be thankful for and much to look forward to.

I’ve lived here for eight months and the time has flown by, as I knew it would. No matter how tired I am on Friday night, I force myself out on the weekends to partake in this great city and I’m always glad I did. When my alarm goes off on Saturday morning, even when it is foggy or rainy outside, I force myself up and out. I cannot conquer this amazing city; there’s always too much going on. And because of its enormous size, by the time I get back around to another part of the city, so much has changed! It is constant, and I am energized by it.

It seems impossible that already this summer I will be considering my future and trying to determine my next career move. Because the hiring season for international teachers starts about a year ahead of the school year, this fall, when I return back to school to fulfill the second year of my contract, I will need to determine what I will do next. I have three choices and I swing back and forth like a pendulum between them. 1) Extend my two-year contract in Istanbul either for one or two more years, 2) job search for a new school in a new country (where?) and move again during the summer of 2015, 3) move back to the USA (where?) during the summer of 2015 and find a job, a car and a house (and thank you, Mr. Obama, new, required health insurance). Blah. There are so many emotions and realities tied up in those three options! I am hoping this summer, after I visit back in the USA, I will better be able to know the answer.

 

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

• I went to my first Istanbul Breakfast Club. Olga, the hostess who served us in her home, prepared a Moroccan breakfast. She had just returned from a Moroccan foodie tour and brought back spices and recipes to try out on us. This was perfect timing because . .

• I went to Morocco over Spring Break! I traveled with a friend from my school and stayed with another lovely teacher friend in Casablanca. We then took a train to Marrakech, stayed in a Riad, drank loads of mint çay, shopped in the souks and watched a snake charmer! I read most of my next month’s book club book, The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles, about Morocco. Nice, serendipitous connection.

• I went to the Istanbul Tulip Festival in Emergan Park. From my friend Ginney’s blog, Istanbul’da you can learn the history of the Turkish Tulip. This once-a-year event is the gateway to springtime in Istanbul. Over 20 million!!! tulip bulbs are planted in the city and it is gorgeous!

• I walked on the TOP of the ancient, Byzantine city walls during the “Love Tour”, a historical, walking tour that highlighted famous love stories of Istanbul. We also went in beautiful mosques and a preserved, mosaic-filled Christian church.

• I took my Grade 3 students on a field trip to the Hali Carpet Museum in Sultanhamet. It was amazing seeing the beautiful kalims that are centuries old!

• I went to my Canadian friend, Melanie’s art opening near Taksim and went to my Russian friend, Oxana’s art opening in Arnavutkoy. These ladies are so talented and both almost sold out of their creations before I got there.

• I’ve found an art store that I love and have slowly begun to buy some paint. I am finishing up a few watercolors and a couple of acrylic paintings.

• During the recent elections in Turkey, both twitter and youtube were blocked in the entire country! That’s been interesting…

• I went to a Picasso show at the Pera Museum. Picasso is always so inspirational and I had never seen these prints and ceramics!

• I’m looking forward to spending time over the next month traveling in Turkey to amazing cities east of Istanbul. Turkey is a traveler’s paradise. Istanbul was just ranked the most popular travel destination in the WORLD by TripAdvisor.

• I planned, installed and exhibited around 250 student artworks in my first Primary School Art Exhibition at my school. It was wildly successful and I was delighted for the attention it brought to my kids and the visual arts!

• I went to the fantastic Marc Quinn exhibition at Arter Gallery and was amazed at his talent for painting, sculpture and textiles. What an inspirational, contemporary artist!

• I continue to be active in two groups and am making many friends in each: PAWI (Professional American Women of Istanbul) and Global Minds Book Club. Both groups are comprised of international people who have vocations that are admired: artists, writers, journalists, charity workers, sociologists, attorneys, psychologists, translators, educators and business owners.

I want to challenge you to get out and learn something new today. Don’t let the day slip by without smiling and sharing a bit of yourself with the world.

 

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Wrapping Up The Year

treeimageDreams realized.

Sometimes I get paralyzed and can’t write. I have a hard time distinguishing what would be the best thing to share because I experience so much in this amazing city every week. I’m continuing to meet new people and I’m deepening relationships with friends I’ve met over the last four months. I’m witnessing wonderful, learning experiences in my classroom and I’ve (almost) memorized the names of my 240 students. I’m getting involved with organizations and continuing to explore art galleries, museums and the many little streets and shops in Istanbul.

Time is moving at an incredible pace. The end of another year will be here shortly and when I reflect on my Annual Review this year, it will show the satisfaction of a goal realized; a goal that began 7 years ago with a free trip I won to Paris and London.

PortaxeI am entirely grateful. My life is rich beyond measure. Somehow I was fortunate enough to get a job at a great school in a culturally rich city. Recently my school gave us an evening at Portaxe, a beautiful restaurant, on the shores of the Bosphorus. This was in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Day, an actual day on the Turkish calendar, in which teachers are given gifts of love. It is so nice to be in a country that actually appreciates its teachers! As we entered Portaxe, we were greeted with trays of cocktails and the evening was celebrated with an open bar, delicious food, live band and lots of dancing! This past week we were given a beautifully wrapped box containing a personalized bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and deliciously rich Christmas fruit cake.

PAWI11.9.13Two of the very best discoveries of moving to Istanbul are two organizations I’ve joined called FWI (Foreign Women of Istanbul) and PAWI (Professional American Women of Istanbul). FWI operates with a Facebook presence and these remarkable women can answer any question about Istanbul that is put before them, including, “Where can I find marshmallows in Istanbul?” and my recent question of “Are banks open on Sunday?” PAWI meetings are monthly and rotate between Asia Istanbul and Europe Istanbul. Their meetings always include guest speakers. Since I’ve been here, our speakers have included a psychologist, who shared her experiences of working with people on the residual effects of the Gezi protests, a historian-artist-writer who just published her second book, Drawing on Istanbul 2,  and the Adahan Hotel and Restaurant owner who spoke to us about the years of sacrifice she and her husband gave to an 1874 building, bringing it back from the dead and turning it into a thriving business.  The discussions and knowledge base of these women is broad. Some are attorneys, others writers. Some work in marketing, others as translators. Some are owners of restaurants and hotels and some work in banking and education. Within these groups I’m finding many new friends, each with her own unique story of how it is she lives in Istanbul.

I’m happy to report that I’ve also experienced my first snowfall in Istanbul. It was gorgeous! It not only snowed in Istanbul, it snowed all over the Middle East and we quickly learned how Cairo, Egypt got snow for the first time in 122 years! After easing myself down the hill that morning, and into my warm classroom, I was shocked at the beauty outside my wall of windows. The sight continued to amaze my students and I all day long as nature painted a frozen picture across the landscape. Although we were graciously given two days of early release, I was hoping for a snow day so I could somehow get to Aya Sophia, lay down in its courtyard and make a snow angel, as I’d heard of some teachers doing last year.

MiroThe availability of world-class art continues to amaze me. Last week I went with a Turkish friend to the Miro Exhibition. I found it difficult to concentrate on the beautiful artwork because I was distracted by the amazing architecture. The exhibition building was a canon factory during the Ottoman Empire and I could not keep my eyes from wandering to the domes of the brick ceiling. After leaving, we wandered down antique-filled streets, twisting and turning, as all Istanbul streets do, and walked by Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. We made a quick decision to view that collection another day.

choirThat evening I was able to listen to a friend sing in a choral concert at the British Consulate. Because of the bombing at this British Consulate in 2003, its grounds are heavily guarded and security is ever-present. Walking past photos of Queen Elizabeth and ancient looking framed documents, I noticed how elegantly the Christmas decorations were placed; fully regal, yet understated and charming. The singing was beautiful and transported me to thoughts of peace.

This week I will be flying to another distant, far-away place. I will spend the Christmas holiday with a friend that I met at the SEARCH Associates Boston International Job Fair last year! She got a job, that wretched, blizzard weekend, at an IB school in Switzerland, and she now lives there with her daughter. We’ve deepened our friendship over the months over Skype calls and we are eager to see each other again and share stories of the first half of our school year.

In these last few days of 2013, I want to challenge you to set your own plan in place. Kick the rock to start its tumble down the hill. Don’t be afraid to make your dream happen. This beautiful place I live- this dream that I’m living- did not happen overnight. I started planning it in 2006-almost eight years ago! Time goes quickly and life is such a gift. As we quietly pass into 2014, I wish you love, peace, health and inspiration. Be well!

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Anish is bliss


Anish Kapoor
Me and my art buddy.

Every weekend for the past month, I’ve been climbing stairs, high and low, and in and out of a variety of city districts, to look at contemporary art in this great city. The 13th Istanbul Biennale started on September 14, 2013, and a wide variety of galleries, museums and public art spaces have put their best foot forward. Amazing exhibitions and installations are being shown from one corner of the city to another.

Before I left the USA, I was reading many blogs about Istanbul written by people that were living here. When the riots started in June, I used these sources to stay abreast on the conditions in the neighborhoods that I soon would call home. Through my research, I came across a blog that I enjoyed because of the rich photos and personal commentary. After reading many articles, I decided to write the author and compliment her on her work of maintaining her blog. As it turns out, she wrote me back. Then I wrote again, etc., etc., and low and behold, once I moved here in August, we met face-to-face and have become friends. She, too, is an artist and we both belong to PAWI (Professional American Women in Istanbul) and Artists in Istanbul. My new friend, who has lived here almost a year, knows the city, and its language, better than I do. With Google maps in hand (and on iPhone), we’ve started conquering these exhibitions, one neighborhood at a time.

When I step into these venues, and catch my breath, I think, “I’m going to write about this!” but then I go to the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, and by the end of the day, I’m completely confused on what to write about. Too much to choose from! Today, I’ve decided to share with you photos from the stellar Anish Kapoor show at Sakip Sabanci Muzesi, north past Babek and close to the shores of the Bosphorus.

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Anish Kapoor is an Indian-Brit. His work being shown here in Istanbul covers the last 25 years of his career. As I looked at the monumental pieces of steel and marble I kept wondering how they got here; how did those enormous pieces make their way into this beautiful, but crowded, neighborhood on the Bosphorus? I rode the bus to get there and it took an hour. It’s not that far of distance, but the roads were so crowded with cars, motorcycles, buses, melon carts, pedestrians that it felt like I’d never arrive. Did the sculptures float up the Bosphorus on a barge? Did they arrive on a truck up the steep hills of the city? This would have been an interesting installation to see!

Americans may know his large, chrome-like “bean” the best. It sits in Chicago’s Millennium Park and is wildly popular. The sculpture’s title is actually, Cloud Gate and, although it went way over budget (to the tune of about $25 million) the city of Chicago and its residents love it! His most recent piece, Ark Nova, is a one-of-a-kind inflatable concert hall in Japan.

I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves. The work was mesmerizing and provoked curiosity. How did he do this? Were the pieces fabricated by machines? How many assistants does he have? I’m so fortunate to have been able to see this exhibition. It’s up through January sometime in the event you want to see it!

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