10:43 Sunday 29th July 2018

Don't you just hate it when:

* There's someone you fancy the arse off.
* You also like them as a person.
* They make you smile with their silly sense of humour.
* The impressive bulge in their jeans doesn't hurt matters.
* They also like you as a person.
* You make them smile with your silly sense of humour.
* And it's a totally adorable smile.
* But they're less than half your age...
* You've got basic arabic and they've got basic english, but there's still a language barrier...
* They're completely oblivious to how you feel...
* Because they're a sheltered innocent...
* And their dad is a close friend of a close friend of yours.

Yeah. Last year Mustafa was my unrequited mid-life crisis. Looks like I've got one for this year. Ah well.

13:58 Thursday 26th July 2018

This house has three front doors. Demonstrating the dangers of not thinking though your priorities.

I should explain.

Turks are very security conscious. That's "security" as in "feeling protected" rather than "being secure". All the windows have bars - though not all have glass. All the doors are metal - and some have two locks, both opened by the same key. Which is a tiny bit of insanity, all on it's own.

The driveway has a large, sliding metal gate. Nearly impossible to climb over, and you'd need an armoured truck to break through it. But it's too much trouble to keep locking and unlocking the padlock, so you can just slide it open.

Set into the gate is a door. You open it from the inside by pulling on a short horizontal chain, which pulls out the catch, equivalent to turning an ordinary door handle. You open it from the outside by pressing a lever which operates the same mechanism, and you can keep people from letting themselves in by disconnecting the chain, while still letting yourself out by pulling the catch directly.

But they can still slide the gate open if the padlock isn't fastened. Which of course they do because of course it isn't.

Yes, someone put a lot of thought into making sure no one could get in if you don't want them to. And then someone else put a lot of thought into finding ways to let yourself in if you've locked yourself out. And then a third person put a lot of thought into making sure it's only you who can do that. Etc, Etc.

Result: A pointlessly convoluted way to operate a pointless door set into a pointless gate. But wait, there's more.

The front doors can only be opened from the inside, or by someone with a key on the outside. Or more usually, by banging loud enough that someone already inside can let you in. That's the simple part.

The first front door leads into a hallway, and stairs leading to the second and third floors. The second front door is next to the stairs, leading to the main living areas - kitchen, TV room doubling as children's bedroom, downstairs non-children's bedroom, western style bathroom, and traditional arabic style toilet, this last complete with facilities for you to wash yourself at both ends.

And you can't open it from outside without a key. Which it why people are constantly locking themselves out when the wind blows it shut. Which is probably why there's an extra little mechanism which can be used to prop the door open ajar from the inside, or configured a different way, from the outside. Except the first way actually locks the door ajar, and is an absolute bugger to unlock.

So what do you do when you've locked youself out of your own home, and the holder of the single set of keys has driven off on business, incidentally leaving the gate wide open?

Easy. Because there's a third front door, leading into the kitchen. It's barred and covered with metal gauze, and can only be opened from inside. Unless you've made a hole in the gauze specifically for reaching through and turning the key on the inside. Which is precisely what we do.

This is what happens when you need to feel like there's security, but you also need to use doors.

20:37 Tuesday 24th July 2018

Just how early is the pattern set? At what age is the template formed for a person's personality?

I remember the precise moment, at age 4, when I decided to try talking to myself. I'd been told it was "the first sign of going mad" by varied relations, which never made sense to me, so...I wandered around the playground for half an hour, asking myself questions and trying to come up with answers.

And seemingly, I didn't go mad as a result. Thus proving my family didn't know what they were talking about. Just as I suspected.

But where did the suspicion come from? When around the same age I asked my mother what happens to you after you did, and she said something about "paradise", and I realised she didn't believe a word she was saying...what observation prompted the realisation, and what temperament prompted the observation? Presumably the same one that prompted the question.

For the first week or so, my oldest student was Ryaan, age 17. Liked to talk about how much he loved Islam and believed in the literal truth of the Qu'ran. While being intensely curious about why people chose not to follow the muslim path of prayer, marriage and children. Also curious about drugs, alcohol and shameless sex. So basically, your average teen covering severe doubts with overconfident bluster.

Bushra. I think she was 14. Enters the classroom and immediately goes into zoneout mode. Not rebellious, not dumb - just enters a dream world at every opportunity.

Next in age was Nau'ura - or Nora, if you prefer. She's 13, dresses like a partygoing 18-year old, loves pop music, tries to play the mature and sensible adult taking care of children, and isn't remotely interested in learning english.

Then Yusef, Bushra's brother, a 12 year old boy who combines wanting to be gregarious with social awkwardness. Good grasp of basic english, quick to learn new words and grammar, much happier in the classroom than the outside world. Watches violent war films but doesn't seem to actually like them. The Turkish Sheldon Cooper, and I like him.

Malika. She's 10, knows every meme going, loves flowers and memorising lists. Without a doubt the brightest of the lot, and has worked out the way to remeber stuff is frequent repitition. But can't manage to generate sentences. By which I mean, she's the only one to even try, but she just can't. Could probably memorise the dictionary, and do it well, and enjoy doing it, but putting three words together in a row is a paradigm shift away.

Aya is 8 and... there's not much to say about her. Dutifully does the tasks, but has no curiosity or passion. Like her older sister, she probably could memorise the dictionary, as a purely mechanical exercise, never asking why she was doing it. One of nature's civil servants.

Almassa is (I think) 7. And she's fiercely independant, impossible to dominate. Unfortunately she's also stupid and lazy. Stupid as in "It simply didn't occur to her that jumping up and down on a trampoline while holding a baby, whiplash might not be good for the baby's head". Lazy as in "never does anything unless she's asked". Stupid and lazy as in "hasn't mastered the alphabet of her native language".

Wessam is 5, but with a mental age of 2 or 3. Almost zero language, and a habit of taking off his clothes whenever he feels like it. And vaguely toying with his errect penis in front of his sisters. He's got two kinds of crying. First, the outraged howl of frustration when he doesn't get his own way. But second, an entirely different sound, that he can turn on and off at will, as a way to manipulate adults. Yes, he's got strategy, and tactics, planning, and possibly fallback positions.

Almaha is an absolutely adorable 3 year old girl. Endlessly chatty with basic Arabic and bits of English mixed in, takes every opportunity to get herself picked up and/or hugged by anyone. She's got something in common with Wessam - an absolute refusal to wear underwear and a habit of, um, displaying the fact in class. It seems only the teacher is bothered by this. But her crying is a simple response to anything she can't handle - being hit by a sibling, not being able to climb down stairs, or her schoolmarmish finger-wagging at some minor rule-breaking ignored.

The youngest person in the house is Emir. He's one, he loves being hugged by everyone except me, and he shows signs of problem-solving intelligence - untying simple knots, and planning which toys to use in which order.

So I think I know who will be what in 25 years time. Almaha probably won't be a flasher, but the gregarious innocence is there. Almassa will be amoral and selfish, but too disorganised for real crime, Bushra will float through life, Ryaan will call himself a muslim but will find excuses to break the rules - but only the minor ones. And Malika will follow her father into academia, probably something high up and medical.

Some would be tempted to ascribe this to genetics, by which they mean predestination, not heredity. Because we've got five people here from the same parents, and little else in common. But it does seem that when we say the childhood sets the pattern, it's very early childhood indeed. And the influences are as mysterious as they are powerful.

22:37 Monday 23rd July 2018

We're were supposed to be having a Philipino maid. Which is to say a young woman staying for a month, traveling from Dubai on a tourist visa, doing a little housework and a lot of remidial work with Wessam.

Small problem: She accepted that Jamal pay for her flight out...but said she didn't need a flight back. Which means not only was she planning to take the flight out and disappear, she was also stupid enough to telegraph the fact.

Which is why the authorities at Dubai picked her up at the airport. Which is why we don't have help in helping Wessam develop basic language and social skills.

That's social skills such as "not climbing on top of the car and jumping up and down on the roof". And "not climbing on top of the kitchen sink and crying in panic when he realises he can't get down".

It seems the latest fad in training children with developmental delays is: Behaviorism. Going under various three letter abbreviations and some technical-sounding terminology to make it sound both newer and more complex than it really is, it's the old model of "punishment and reward" to form patterns of emotional response.

Paranoia about middle eastern terrorists, strippers jumping out of cakes, and long discredited psychological theories returning. It seems the 1970s are back in style.

13:11 Thursday 19th July 2018

Next to the rural town of Iskanderun, is the seaside resort town of Arsuz. And that's were I was yesterday.

Now, there's two things I don't like: Mountains and sea. Which is to say, the vertigo of mountains and the enormous wide turbulence of the sea. Not exactly phobias, but I get nervous. So it's somehow inevitable I spend three months living in a Mediterranean paradise that's got lots of mountain's, and lots of sea.

So, yesterday we went to Arsuz, and I got persuaded to try a boat ride. An hour in a slightly rickety-looking, slightly petrol-smelling boat, with my host, and the pilot who speaks tourist vocabulary in several languages.

I didn't so much mind the dry heaving over the edge. Or the splashing of seawater all over our clothes. Or even the occasional big wave which knocked us and our cans of beer over.

(Oh yes, I got persuaded to try beer. Didn't like that either.)

No, it was just the vast...unsolidity of the water. You can't walk on it, I can barely float in it, you can't breathe in it, you can't reason with it and you can't even predict it. Two thirds of the earth's surface is trying to kill you.

But I did have an idea. Maybe it's not vertigo. Maybe it's something akin to agoraphobia. I can control my emotions enough to prevent panic or freezing, so it's not a classic phobic reaction, but I think I really, really don't like open spaces.

Jamal of course loved every minute. He even enjoyed getting soaked by spray. I have to admit the cold water was welcome, as a counteragent to the sun.

There then followed the routine round of eating too much excellent food in bizarrely cheap restaurants, sitting and digesting while Jamal smoked the shisha ("hookah" in Turkey), failing to blag our way into posh hotels...and then eating even more too much excellent food.

And I don't care if that sentence wasn't quite grammatical.

Turkish Bath

19:35 Monday 16th July 2018

If I'm ever mad enough to do this again, a few things to bring next time:

<b>A small towel</b>

As opposed to the large face flannel stuffed into my luggage. You never know when you'll need to wash - face or body - and you also never know when you </i>can</i> wash. When you can, even when you don't stictly need, do. And when you do, have something on hand to dry yourself.

The reason you can't always wash is: water isn't always trivially available from taps. For the last two days, we've been without water. Today, a man from Turkmenistan came, towing two megaton (he said) water tank with a tractor. As I write, his water tank on the ground is filling our water tank on the roof, by a hydrolic process I don't quite understand.

And yes, the Turkish for "Hydrolic" is, more or less, "Hydrolic". But probably spelled "Hidrolik".

When the man from Turkmenistan isn't available, the mosque down the road manages a constant supply of water, which an hour ago I used to give myself an improvised cold shower - by taking a deep breath and pouring a jug of water over my head - and then washed two shirts in the sink.

They're hanging on the line now, so hopefully tomorrow I can change out of this stickily sweat-infused shirt I've been wearing for three days. Why have I been wearing it for three days? Because all my other shirts are in the wash. But they haven't been washed. Because we've been out of water.

You can also get it damp, and use it to cool yourself off.

And you can clean the whiteboard with it.

Douglas Adams was right.

<b>A Long HDMI Cable</i>

For connecting the laptop to the TV, when the electricity is working, for showing videos to children, sneaking in a bit of English tuition.

But if you use your own cable, disconnect it when not in use. Because, as we found out yesterday, children have the magical ability to destroy anything. Including furniture, toys, and computer peripherals.

<b>A Spare Mains Power Converter</b>

...in addition to the non-spare one. Because not only do children destroy things, but non-children lose things.

<b>Knife, Fork, Spoon</b>

One of each, because they won't always be provided. To be cleaned with the towel.

<b>Laptop Recharging Battery</b>

One of those batteries you recharge from the mains, so you can recharge your laptop, phone etc. from <i>them</i> when the mains electricity isn't working.

Also, when you're not using your phone for calling or internetting, keep it in airplane mode. It's a small hassle to switch it out of and back into airplane mode once or twice a day, but you use less data, and it <i>really</i> saves the battery.

Switch on data, download emails, switch off data, write replies to be sent next time you switch data on.


For preference lightweight, possibly slip-ons, but durable. I brought tough trainers for walking the mountains, and carpet slippers for everything else that I can't do barefoot. They both work well, but a single good pair of sandals would cover all bases.

Turkish Resort

14:15 Sunday 15th July 2018

For me, a day off is when you do whatever interests you - without pressure of time or other people's expectations. For our Arab cousins, it's when we do nice things for each other.

Yesterday was a day off, and Jamal my host did nice things for his family, and me. The family were deposited with their friends, where they could run around, play, sleep, fight, sing songs and do all those things children love doing. Usually at the tops of their voices.

I got taken to a hotel resort. With beach, swimming pool, sun loungers ... and someone improvising jazz saxophone over a techno backing. Had I been warned, I might have been able to bring swimming clothes. But he lent me his. And I managed to rip them open while getting some bruises as I attempted to climb into the pool.

I've been through a few holiday resorts in my time, and I can't recall anyone looking happy in them. People stroll around, take dips, sunbathe, drink coffee in the restaurant and cola under the umbrellas. Sometimes they venture into the ocean, or strenuously pose for "spontaneous" family photos.

But the photos are the only places they seem to smile.

Perhaps holidays are things to only plan for and look back upon. Like wedding days but not birthdays, diets but not blow-outs.

But the main event was at another hotel. The owner was a friend of my host, and the event was a wedding party. Presumably there was a bride and groom somewhere around, but the garden was filled with around 200 guests, all in improbably formal attire...and all of it white.

Not just the clothes, but the table, chairs, cockery, lighting fixtures and stage were sparkly white. It was like something out of a disney cartoon. Or 1973.

The interesting thing is what it says about the Turkish economy. Like, you can run a hotel that's priced out of the range of ordinary folk, but that rich bastards would never think of using. Turkey has a social climbing middle class, specifically an <i>upper</i> middle class - one with kitsch bad taste, aspirations to live in a dream world, glamourous wives who run the large small businesses their husband's own, love of the police so long as they're not present, and lofty but vague ambitions to make it big while pretending all they really care about is family.

Which means Turkey may now be more part of Europe than part of Arabia.

There was catered food, which like all food at all formal events I've been to, was amazingly well presented, sometimes unidentifiable, and made me violently ill.

After a few minutes failing to throw it up in the toilet - while outside a man appeared to be changing his socks? - I settled for sipping coca cola. Which was labeled in Turkish "Orijinal Tat". Well, quite.

This is what happens when you do nice things for me. I embarrass you by splitting your shorts and being unable to eat your food, while wishing I was back in my little room, figuring things out on a computer.


21:03 Thursday 12th July 2018

I'm writing this with one fewer tooth than yesterday.

It wasn't a canine, and it wasn't an incisor, so I suppose it must have been a molar. It had already had a root canal, and at some point the root nerve had died, there was an enormous cavity which had been filled twice - once the filling dropped out, a the second one seemed to crumble into powder. It was my cursed tooth.

In the weeks before coming here, I kept telling myself I should have it looked at. And I kept putting it off because there was no pain. There was the minor inconvenience that after every meal the massive hole filled up with compacted food, and I kept some toothpicks around especially to dig it out of that one tooth.

Then on Tuesday it suddenly started to hurt. And on Wednesday it started to turn black. So today, my host very kindly introduced me to a Syrian dentist.

At the weekend, one of the daughters had developed toothache, which turned out to be three teeth fighting for one space, one trying to push out the other two from below. One trip to the dentist, several injections and quite a few tears later, all three were gone.

Tomorrow, one of the wives is going with a cavity.

But today, it was me. The fellow told me in broken english that it was far too late for treatment - indeed, that I should have had an extraction two or three months earlier. Pretty much what I expected.

There then followed a half hour titanic struggle between him and my tooth. Which managed to break into at least three pieces, while somehow refusing to budge. There was much drilling to create purchase points for the other tools, a lot of pushing to wedge it out, and some delving into gum recesses to make sure there weren't any stray bits still up there.

As I sat in the waiting room, lips numb but a dull persistant ache around my new hole, surrounding a sharp point of stabbing pain, we chatted... about the peculiarities of english spelling, the importance of religion in arab life, and about how the western media demonises muslims as terrorists.

I'm not sure how eloquent I was, waiting for the painkillers to take effect and with a wad of cotton in my mouth to stanch the blood. But we agreed.

I must say, he's an excellent dentist. Back in england something like this would have left me in pain for a week afterward. But the anasthetic has worn off, and I'm in no pain at all.

Two or three years ago, I had a recurrant abcess, which led to two adjacent teeth being pulled. With this one gone on the other side, I am now nearly symmetrical.

Is is "one fewer tooth" or "one fewer teeth"?


14:23 Tuesday 10th July 2018

An alternative view of teaching is that it's a job like any other. And thus, in most cases, a complete waste of time.

There's something in business called "The 80:20 Rule". 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, and it's 20% of sellers doing 80% of the selling. 80% of productivity comes from 20% of staff, and 80% of cockups come from another 20%.

This is obviously a gross oversimplification, but some gross oversimplifications are also useful as guides. In my times in universities, I've found that in classes of 19, around 3 students stand to benefit from the course they've signed up to - about 20%. And probably 1 in 5 lecturers manage a better job than a decent textbook. I'd even stick my neck out to say 1 in 5 textbooks are great, and another 1 in 5 are worse than useless, with 3 being mediocre.

And I've got five students. One never pays attention, three sort of grasp the basic point, and yes, one asks all the questions and does all the tasks.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that most people are just a bit useless at most things - and there's nothing I can do to change that. How useless? So useless that, in response to that sentence, they think it's a brilliant ripose to say "But have you ever thought you might be the useless one? I bet you never thought of that, did you."

Turkish Kebab

21:26 Saturday 7th July 2018

In Europe, the weekend is Saturday and Sunday. In Saudi, it's Friday and Saturday. They changed to that when I was living there in 2012, to help align their businesses with those of the west - an openly given economic reason. Even the government which habitially lies even when it doesn't have to, doesn't lie <i>all</i> the time.

In this house, during this holiday, for this family, the weekend is Saturday. I get a day to myself, the kids get a day out looked after by friends, the parents get a few hours off from cleaning and shouting...and I get treated to an astonishingly good meal at an expensive restaurant.

Bill Maher once described mobile phones as "food cameras"...and hopefully I'll be able to prove him right whenever I get to post this.

But after every weekend there is a week. Which  for a teacher with a class means revising the previous week's work. Which in practice means teaching it all over again because they've forgotten. Which means, on top of the monday morning blues at sunday lunchtime, a lot of slightly tedious grammar has to be (re-)re-taught, before we can get to the interesting stuff.

Which involves making sentences about scenes from kid's TV shows. Did I mention I don't like kids very much? But I do rather enjoy their TV.

If you ever find yourself teaching, find something they enjoy </i>and</i> you like. Whether it's manga comics, fluid dynamics or church history. If you can manage to twist whatever subject you're teaching around something that appeals to both sides of the classroom, the actual process of teaching should be easy.

Turk E-mail

21:28 Friday 6th July 2018

Yep, it's definitely bright makes me happy, and dim makes me sad. Unless it's life makes me sad, and bright makes me temporarily not sad any more.

But one thing which does make me happy is: I'm got a sim card, with internet. I've never had a phone data plan before - I was always just as connected as I wanted to be. But now, thanks to the kindness of my host, the patience of his family, and the helpfullness of the staff in the <i>third</i> phone shop we drove to in a boiling hot car on a sweltering day...I can chat about nothing by email on <i>my</i> scheduling.

And human relationships are built on chatting about nothing.

Turkey Neck

21:24 Thursday 5th July 2018

Why should darkness make me miserable? Why should a bright glowing computer screen cheer me right up? More to the point, why should dark <i>Turkish</i> night skies make me more homesick than I've ever felt, while bright Turkish sun makes me relaxed and carefree, whereas British light and dark has no such effect? Even <i>more</i> to the point, why should this start now? Assuming it's not all psychosomatic?

I don't know either. And maybe I'm just stuggling to find patterns in corellations. For now, I just leave the question open.

Plan for tomorrow's lesson:
* Revise the previous day's lesson - on names for major body parts.
* Optionally extend body part list with "toes", "tongue" etc, from flashcards.
* Extend earlier lesson on basic colours, introducing concepts of "light" and "dark". And possibly "medium".
* Use student's clothes as props, identifying "dark grey jacket", "light green skirt" etc. Clothing words already taught.
* Optionally, use photos of multi-coloured parrots to teach bird body parts, and get students to identify their colours.
* Treat (bribe) students with another Mr Bean video.

As for the day after...no idea. But a similar pattern.

Apparently I'm a good teacher. Which is to say, students say I'm a good teacher. Which is to say, students like me - which is not the same thing at all. So I've really got no idea whether I'm much good at all.

But seeing as I've met some seriously <i>bad</i> teachers - who are of course the one's who think they're brilliant - I reckon I'm pretty good at <i>not</i> doing what they do in the classroom. Which is mainly to assume that whatever they think they've taught, students have perfectly learned. Without checking.

I have never yet encountered an exam which measured anything more than how good a particular student is at that particular exam on that particular day. I've had students who'd been getting high marks for five years, who hadn't mastered personal pronouns. I've had students placed in my Lower Intermediate class, who actually had advanced conversational skills - they just hadn't memorised the theory. Such students are always useful, as they can explain things to the rest of the class in their own language.

Today, a girl student asked me what the English word is for "Shaanta". It's the large flexible container that contains your hold luggage on an air flight. It's the place you pack either bulky items, or things you won't need till you've landed and unpacked. It's probably got wheels and an extendable handle for dragging it along the ground. There's also a rigid plastic version that tends to be a horrible colour.

And I've no idea what it's called.

"Luggage Case"? "Hold Compartment Container"? "Non-Hand-Luggage Bag"? "The big one you don't carry with you on the plane"? I settled on "Case" for simplicity, but I would have failed that question in an exam.

The notion of "general fluency" breaks down when you look at it. I'm just fluent in most - but not all - of the kinds of english that are needed in the situations where I find myself.

Put me in charge of repairing a nuclear reactor, and I'm no longer a fluent user of English. Ask me to name every electrical item I brought with me from England, and I'm struggling. "0.25 meter black insulated thin audio cable with 2.5 millimeter male jack plug at one end and female equivalent at the other, designed for short extension but purchased for protection of frequently plugged and unplugged jack sockets"? It's just "where I plug my headphones into".


22:14 Wednesday July 4th 2018

One of the existentialists wrote about it - "That nameless sadness that comes over you in hotel rooms, places not imbued with your presence". It might have been Jean-Paul Sartre, or Maurice Merleau-Ponty, or Martin Buber. Is it really just a way of saying we need familiarity for comfort? That we relate emotionally to our surroundings by hundreds of habitual bodily interactions. That home is not where you feel secure, but where it never occurs to you to feel insecure?

The trouble with emotions is, they're rarely about what they're focused on. You think you're being impatient with scissors that won't cut, but you're really worried about how you're going to pay the rent. You think you love your ex, but really you want to start a family because you've never quite shaken the notion that it makes you respectable - to people who you despise and who you know will never respect you.

I've got almost no appetite at the moment. I'm simply not hungry. I've asked to receive only the final meal of each day, and when it comes, eating it feels more like a duty. It's fresh, well-prepared, healthy and tasty meditaranian fare - but half a plate is enough.

This is me who can munch through an entire packet of chocolate biscuits, just to have something to go with some cups of tea. This is me who can buy a variety six-pack of crisps, intending to have them occasionally as a treat - but knowing full well they'll all be gone within an hour. And when I'm depressed, I eat <i>more</i>.

I wrote a long, rambling email to mother earlier - mainly so I could miss her less by chatting "with" her for a while. But I hardly ever chatted with her while she was in the same house.

Aren't you supposed to get <i>more</i> emotionally self-sufficient as the years go by?

There was a moment, in October 2011, when I'd been living in Saudi for a week or two. I found myself back at home with my parents, happy to be there, happy to have returned. But then I realised I had no idea <i>how</i> I'd returned. And then I woke up, in my Saudi hotel room, and felt very sad for a few minutes.

But it was just a moment, and I settled in quickly. Now I'm homesick every night.

I think I know what this feels like. Not heartache but heartbreak. I've been briefly in love a few times, but the only one that really counts was with Nick. I was 32, he was closeted, and it would never have worked. And yes, I knew at the time it would never work even as I was desperately searching for a way to <i>make</i> it work.

We had one night together, and I held him close for so long because I knew I'd never get another chance.

So what I'm saying is, I feel like I've been dumped. This is...grief. But the only things I've lost are 24-hour wi-fi and a hot shower. While gaining half a dozen new friends, and time for the little creative projects I didn't have time for before.

There is a shower, but it's lukewarm.

At A Turk

18:18 Tuesday July 3rd

One reason I qualified as an ESL teacher, as opposed to any other kind of teacher, is that I much prefer to teach adults. It's many times easier to learn a foreign language if you're a child, but you're more likely to want to learn if you're an adult.

Business English is frighteningly dull, Technical Writing English has weird grammar, and Conversational English is basically a massive list of nonsensical idioms to memorise. <i>But</i>, there is demand for these things, and the demand is mainly from adults.

So...yeah. My youngest student is 3. My oldest is 17, and the one below that is 10. And there's a 1 year old wandering around, and a 5 year old with the level of a 3 year old having tantrums in the next room.

So I'm teaching my least favourite age group, and I'm teaching them basic grammar - my least favourite subject.

And I'm depressed. And I can't tell how much of that is nothing more than doing an easy job that I happen not to like. And expect to be doing for another few months. And possibly longer.

This morning I managed to make it somewhat easier, by getting the laptop to talk to the TV. Because children (and adults actually) are much happier staring at printed text on a glowing screen, than the same text handwritten on a whiteboard. And if they like static video, they <i>love</i> moving video.

The day before leaving, I loaded up on kids TV recordings - Shaun the Sheep, Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Wolfblood, The Dumping Ground and such - in the hope that I could use them in lessons. And now, I can.

This morning it was "Introduction to Phrasal Verbs with Shaun the Sheep". Tomorrow it will be...actually I've no idea how to do "Personal Pronouns with David Tennant's Doctor Who". But if nothing else, a slideshow of animal nouns is available - I put it together six years ago, from a clickbait webpage of "Amazing Animal Photos".

It gets dark here at around 18:00. After which, there's two or three more hours of children running and shouting in the house. Running, shouting, laughing, playing, fighting, falling, crying, arguing, slamming doors, scraping knees, squealing for no reason, from c07:00 to c22:00. Good thing I work better at night.

Turkish Delight

21:20 Monday July 2nd 2018

A middle aged man isn't supposed to cry uncontrollably for an hour. At least, not because he misses his mother. At least, not if it's only been a week since he last saw her. At least, not if it's 24 hours since her last email.

And he's certainly not supposed to do it in front of young children. Not when he's supposed to be an authority figure of some kind.

I should probably explain.

I'm in Turkey - again. Food good, scenery scenic, locals friendly if more than a touch parochial, mod cons minimal but comfortable, internet access close to non-existant.

Okay, I should probably explain a bit more.

Seven days ago, my friend and sometime employer Jamal contacted my by WhatsApp, saying that job offer he'd made six months ago, involving me teaching English to his various offspring by his two wives, while they were on an extended vacation in Iskanderon, a rural part of Turkey where wife number two lives, while simultaneously attempting to set up a longer term job doing the same kind of teaching to locals...

...yeah, that offer. Well it was all happening right now so could I leave on a jet plane the following day - at 07:10 hours from the unpleasantly unreachable Standsted airport, after 2+ hours on a coach and a sleepless night of panicked packing. On a airline that couldn't handle hold luggage, just a rucksack of essentials.

Well, we compromised. In the form of two airlines that <i>did</i> allow emigration-size luggage, on wednesday. From the easily reachable Gatwick airport. Just so long as I didn't mind (1) checking out the luggage at the connecting Izmir airport, only to check it back in again with a different airline at the same airport. And (2) a 14 hour stopover before the latter.

At Gatwick, you are permitted to carry up to 100ml of water (one fifth of a small plastic bottle) through security, just in case the water turns out to be a bomb. So once you've disposed of your bottles of water in the handy recepticles provided, you can buy identical (but more expensive) bottles of water in the waiting area.

Some airlines try to sell you stuff in flight - usually food and drink. Thomas Cook airlines try to sell you food and drink, and devices on which to watch movies and TV shows and incredibly boring documentaries...and then the media product itself. And their own brand of lottery tickets. And other things, all through the damn 2.5 hour flight.

They do this to families who've brought their own tablet devices, loaded with their own movies. Some of who inexplicably pay to dollar - well, top sterling - to watch episodes of Spongebob Squarepants and The Big Bang Theory on greatly inferior, airline rented devices.

So, at Izmir airport, I spent the first 15 of my 500 Turkish Lire (or is it Lira?) on a quite excellent toasted cheese sandwich at an open air cafe...and settled down with my 16.7kg hold luggage (of an absolute maximum permitted 15kg), and my 7kg hand luggage (of an absolute maximum permitter 5kg).

Ever slept on airport seating? I can attest that it's certainly possible. Just not for more than 10 minutes at a time. Now, I have quite a large collection of audiobooks, many of them classics that I'm always intending to listen to one day. Including Joseph Conrad's <i>Heart of Darkness</i>, which took up a good five hours - at double tempo.

It's about the bureaucratic insanity that comes with maintaining a colonial empire. And it's about the search for the mysterious "Kurtz", the kind of whackjob who can become hyper-charismatic to the subjects of such an empire. Really, it's a series of character sketches connected by a loose plot. It's worth the effort, just for them.

And so, onto the provincial airport of Hatay province, where I'm met, fed, and shown gratefully to bed by my host.

And a week later I suddenly can't stop crying. For a solid hour. Then suddenly I'm alright again, but those blog posts I've been putting off writing - I really feel the need to start writing them.

Maybe more on the last week later. There's no way I can post these as I'm writing - it's a rural area with almost no net infrastructure. There's electricity by pylons, and windfarms, and decent housing. But we are halfway up a mountain, and apparently there's wild pigs roaming around.

One thing: It happened as I was writing an email to my mother. One I didn't know when I'd be able to send. And I suddenly realised how much I missed her. Even though it's only been a week, and there's been SMS messages and a few emails.

I don't know. But someone once said most thinking is done by talking. This is my version of talking. So this is my version of figuring it out.

Turkey Trot

I've been living and working in Turkey for about a month. And I've been keeping a sort of diary.

Internet access here in the mountains is by phone only, and my phone is a bit rubbish. But I'm going to try and post what I've written so far.

My old friend and sometime employer Jamal has a second wife here, plus a house. He's taking a three month working holiday, with four daughters and a son by wife number one, a baby son by wife number two who has a much younger brother, plus there's a housekeeper with son and daughter.

Result: A lot of children on holiday, combined with an ambition they learn english.

Do we in know any ESL teachers? For preference with experience working in the middle east, popular with children, flexible in the classroom and interested in a little tourism? Perhaps known to the world as "Kapitano"?

So here I am.

More, if I can figure out how, to come.