Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Bevy Of Music Reviews - by Christopher

Sarah and I are on holiday from work all this week!

Which is awesome, because I’m finally getting a chance to catch up on the new records I’ve been ignoring for the last six months. Now I will listen to selections of each record and write reviews at the same time. Drop it!

1. Kings of Leon “Only By The Night”– Last year, Spoon produced a really interesting album with a somewhat fresh take on production aesthetic. This year, several artists and producers have decided to more or less follow suit. Kings of Leon definitely got the Spoon treatment. All sparse tremolo guitars echoing away in the background. And the same problem persists as on the last album; they seem to have nothing much to say. Almost every drumbeat is the same on each song, and it’s not that great of a drumbeat. Probably still a good band to see live, but this album misses the mark for me. Vocals are still impressive in the southern-rock genre, but nothing too fresh here. Any My Morning Jacket have left these guys in the dust. C

2. Beck “Modern Guilt”– Whole album got the Spoon treatment. You can still hear Beck in there behind the sparse tremolo guitars and room blips, and when you can, the record works. This is the first record I’ve listened to from Beck that sounds over-produced, and by that I mean that it sounds like Beck had a body of material written and then a producer took the tracks and made a totally different record out of it. I think one of the most consistent complaints that I have read in reviews of Beck albums in the past have had to do with his material sounding too over produced, but this is the first time I agree. At the end of the day, Beck still makes highly listenable candy with melodies that catch in my ear. B-

3. The Walkmen “You & Me” – I think it’s entirely feasible and good to capture a somber mood in music without careening into depression. Who cares, retort The Walkmen, let’s make an indulgently wallowing yawn fest. There are two songs that attempt to breathe some life into the affair, and they succeed. The rest is forgettable warbling set to a slow tempo. D

4. Cold War Kids “Loyalty to Loyalty” – I think if I was a senior in high school, this would by my idealistic rock band to get behind. They have a message, and they stick to it on almost every song: ‘Hey, there’s a lot of problems with American culture, you know?’ They even go so far as to name a track ‘Welcome To The Occupation.’ As with the favorite idealistic rock band of my time (Rage Against the Machine), lots of questions are posed and very few answers are attempted. But that’s okay, these guys actually do get an efficient groove going at times. C

5. Blitzen Trapper “Furr” – I guess this album is okay, but I can’t help comparing it to any number of 70’s AM radio dreck bands. ‘Saturday Nite’ is a great marriage of bliptronica and soul shuffle. Nothing much else pops out at me here. Except the name of their band, which provokes me to imagine someone whose job it is to kidnap reindeer. C-

6. Calexico “Carried To Dust” – Here is an example of a band I never would have given chance one before age 25. What was it about turning 25 that mellowed my tastes so much? I don’t know. Either way, this band is still the only band that I know of that makes music that their band name perfectly describes. Their sound is half California and half Mexico, and all sweltering afternoon heat cooking on the hood of a slowly cruising Cadillac. Coming soon to the muzak in your local Mexican restaurant near you! A-

7. Health “Disco” – Allow me to be exactly like I am for a second here. Uh, I like music which many people refer to as ‘euro trash music.’ I can’t help it. Something about the flashy lights and gleaming surfaces just finds a home in my head right next to my love of video games, sci-fi and anime. I didn’t try to like this stuff, but it’s the kind of stuff that I really like to listen to while driving or doing laundry. I have no excuse for liking it besides that I just like it and I’m sorry. I really want to give this album an A, but I’m too embarrassed so I’m going to give it a B+. But don’t listen to it, you’ll just feel embarrassed for me.

8. Cut Copy “In Ghost Colors” – So then why don’t I like Cut Copy if I’ve got such a soft spot for blippy euro trash? Because I lived through the eighties once already. There was some good stuff, there was some bad stuff, and there was a lot of mediocre stuff. Cut Copy are doing nothing new, and they’re doing it with an impenetrable, annoying wall of tremolo. Each song is a Joy Division track (but more so) or a repeating arpeggio. I can’t in good conscience give them a D, even though I want to, because there’s a new generation of pre-teens out there right now who don’t know anything about Duran Duran, Erasure, or Robert Smith. For them, this album will be a revelation. Especially for the ones who aren’t too sure about their sexuality just yet. Not to stereotype. C-

9. Ben Folds “Way to Normal” – Please allow me to bestow my first unhesitant, unquestionable A. He’s still witty as hell, he’s still rocking the butts, he’s still doing it all from behind a piano. I think he could snap his fingers at a microphone for 45 minutes and I would be like, why didn’t I think of that? I just trust this guy with my ears because he never lets me down. This album is great, good and fresh. Not many records work for all three of those adjectives. This one does. A

10. Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes” – This album is the very definition of the word ‘pastoral.’ But it
never loses my interest. I think because it manages to walk that line between pastoral and psychedelic without jumping over to either side too far. It’s a folk record all the way through, but the rhythm section keeps bringing the tracks back to a pop sensibility. Unquestionably the happiest sounding record I have heard this year. Somehow never seems sappy, though. Bottom line, I think this album succeeds because it successfully walks a very fine line. Every track delivers something special, whether in the soaring vocal harmonies, in the hooky cadences, or in the deceptively simple rhythm section. A

Please comment with your take on these records and I will be happy to skewer you with my mad skillz. Or politely acknowledge you, depending on where I'm at with things.

Annika - by Christopher

As some of you know, my friends Caleb and Shea have produced offspring.

Annika is, by all accounts and photos, healthy and adorable.

But since I'm not there, since I'm 6,472 miles away from her, this post can't concern itself with what I'd really like it to; specifically who this little person is and what she's like. The fact is that I probably won't get to meet her until she is three times older than she is now.

What I can write about is what Annika has already meant to me.

Caleb has gone before me through some of life's biggest turning points. He graduated college before me, he got engaged before me and he got married before me. Other friends have also 'scouted ahead' to unfamiliar territory, but Caleb and I were in close proximity for more than ten years and so his influence has been proportional.

Without analyzing it too deeply, suffice it to say that Caleb 'going first' has made it easier for me to follow. In these specific ways, Caleb has been like an older sibling for me. One who has gone through big life-changing events and come out on the other side willing to share what he learned.

I've always valued what he's had to say.

What he's saying to me now is written all over his face. In photos of him with his daughter. He looks tired, but happier than ever I remember seeing him. And when the time comes for me, I'll know who to talk to.

And in the meantime I can't wait to meet the newest Moss in person.

* * *

PS - Sarah turns 30 on the 17th, and I know she'd love to hear from YOU on her big day! This will be our first Turkey birthday, and I think her only birthday wish would be to hear from the people back home who love/like/remember her. She'd much rather spend her birthday with you than with the Turks, but dem's da berries. I don't issue many blatant pleas, so hopefully this blatant plea will be heeded. Thanks in advance!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mini-Tour of Bilkent University

Chris and I woke up this morning, took one look at this sky, and decided, let's go for a walk.

Without an umbrella.

Down a road that has no cover.

We walked down the long, deserted, unfinished road (the easiest way to get from our side of campus (East campus), to the other side of campus (Main Campus).)

Along the way we took some photos. Some of nature, some of buildings, some of animals. You can enjoy them in album form here if you so desire. (McNew I'm counting on you for some plant ID'ing.)

Our main goals today were to get to the bank before noon, see if the bookstore was open, eat some lunch, then make it back home - and all without getting wet.

Not only did we accomplish all our missions, but we even made time to do this as well.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Today We Went Shopping

At three, yes three, different malls.

The day started around 11am when Chris and I made our way down the hill to find a cab.  

We found said cab and began making our way to the Western edge of Ankara.

We arrived about 15 minutes later at "acity", on Istanbul Road.

Acity is an outlet mall of sorts and when we got there we had the whole place to ourselves.
Clothes stores, shoe stores, a few home electronics stores, but for some reason, our first stop was a children's toy store.

See if you can recognize any of these popular games:

(Julie - I took this picture especially for you.  I'm pretty sure it's a flipping, barking Kangal.)

I think Chris took this picture to help you at home see the variety of dolls on the doll isle.

And who can identify what is wrong with this children's toy?

After the toy store we made our way through some adult clothing and electronics stores, and then we headed to the food court for some lunch.

After lunch, a strange thing happened.

It was like someone opened the gates and about quadruple the amount of people were now shopping in acity.
Chris looked at his watch and figured out that church had just let out.

Some stores we couldn't even go into because of fire code violations.

So, we got another cab and made our way to another outlet store about 10 miles up the road, called Optimum.

Why we thought the crowds would be any different there, I have no idea.
But they weren't, and we suffered through and managed to find a nice down comforter for our bed.

We also found quite possibly the scariest thing I've ever seen at a children's playground. (Again, Julie, I thought of you.)

After shopping for more than 3 hours, "we" were ready to go.

At this point you might think we decided to call it a day and go home, but oh no...we made our way to one more shopping center.

This one is great though because it has this feat of engineering.

And then if you need some underwear, you will need to find your way to this aisle ( a warning: google might take this photo down, but I promise this picture has not been doctored in any way. might not be suitable for 18 and under. oh, and in the turkish language, all the letter C's are pronounced like the letter J.) So yeah, underwear aisle.

We ended the day with the closest we've been able to find to an Abuelo's or a El Fenix or a Taco Bell.

At the end of the day we had 2 new pairs of pants, a skirt, a napkin holder, a hanging clothes organizer, a new down comforter and knowledge never to shop after 1pm on a Sunday ever, ever again.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture

That's our topic in second grade for this term.

Doesn't sound like something second graders can handle, but believe me, they can and they do.

We have six "Units of Inquiry" throughout the year: "Who We Are, How We Organize Ourselves, How the World Works, Where We Are in Time and Place, How We Express Ourselves, and Sharing the Planet."
The whole school is on the same units at the same times, but within each grade the unit is approached differently.
So, for example, while we are doing "Nature vs. Nurture" in second grade (in relation to "Who We Are"), the 4th graders are doing "Peace at Home, Peace in the World" (in relation to "Who We Are") and studying how global behaviors affect peace and conflict.

The students are prompted at the beginning of the units to ask questions about the topic. Their questions are noted on paper and placed on the Program of Inquiry wall, and those questions, along with the teacher questions are what drive our next six weeks of study.

The study is only related to science, social studies and sometimes math. Language is taught separately.

How does one find a textbook to go with this curriculum?
The answer, you don't.

We search the internet and the library and outside experts and take field trips and basically come up with all the materials we need.
It's so much more exciting when as a teacher you are learning right along with the students.

It's challenging, it's engaging, it's called the PYP Curriculum, and I can't imagine teaching at a school that is not a PYP school.
I can't imagine sending my own kids to a school that isn't PYP.

This week we studied how DNA makes us each different. We used "dog DNA" to create some pretty funny looking dogs.

I'm pretty sure the teachers dog was the funniest though.

It's Friday so I won't beat you to death with educational jargon. Just wanted to communicate that Chris and I both are learning a lot here, and finding many good ideas to bring home someday.

We too are students!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Muchas, Muchas Gracias For You

Anytime this happens, it's a wonderful day.

We have lunches for weeks now.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Dream - by Christopher

5:36 am on Wednesday.

I woke up about six minutes ago from a dream I was having.

The dream began with me writing a note to my friend Pat. In it, I was thanking him for buying the expensive baseball game tickets and for paying to fly down. I was writing this really long front-and-back note to him.

Then, I looked up and I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant. Around the corner I could hear Pat talking. So I got up and walked around the corner and saw a booth. In the booth were Pat, Caleb, and John. I couldn't believe my luck as I walked over to them and said hello.

They were just as surprised to see me, but we all quickly got down to the urgent business of screwing around and making each other laugh. Caleb wanted me to go to the bar and use their phone to call his cell phone because he had recorded a new outgoing message he wanted me to hear. I could tell by the way the others were reacting to it that it must be really funny, so I got up and went to the bar to call his phone. And as I got up, I passed the unfinished note to Pat who began to read it.

As I walked to the bar, I felt a rush of relief since I wouldn't have to be around Pat while he read the note, because I would have felt too uncomfortable with him reading all of the emotional stuff I had written in it.

When I got to the bar, I asked the lady at the bar if I could use her phone. She handed it to me and I dialed Caleb's number and waited. His voicemail came on and his voice told me to leave a message after the beep. Then there was short pause and the sound of fumbling, then the F word really loud and then the voicemail beeped.

I laughed really big, because I imagined Caleb had either dropped the phone at the end of his outgoing message and couldn't get to it to finish his recording or had been watching a football game and something really bad had happened. Not that I've ever heard Caleb use language like that in real life.

As I turned around to go back to the guys, I noticed that Edgar, Rob and Wes were sitting at a table in the bar. They looked sullen and tired. I walked over to them and sat down next to Edgar and gave him a big hug. I asked them how they were doing.

Wes said they just got in, they had been driving all night and hadn't slept. I told them I was glad they had made it anyway, and Wes asked how I was doing. I said I was doing fine, and then I turned to Edgar and noticed how gray his hair was getting.

I asked Edgar why his hair was getting so gray, was he really stressed out at work ? He said no, it's just hard not being white in America. Then he laughed and I laughed, and I got up and told them to come into the other room where the rest of the guys were.

I walked into the restaurant but it was gone and I was walking through the crowd of an outdoor ampitheater. It was a small crowd of mostly young men and women and it was clear that a play was about to start on the stage. I found Ryan in the crowd and climbed into a seat next to him. The play started and I got bored quickly as I realized that the play was written by the lead actor and was going to be mostly a long-winded ego piece.

I turned to Ryan and pointed out to him all of the beautiful young ladies in the audience around us. He indicated that he had noticed, too. We both set about discussing quietly with each other which of the girls in the crowd we personally had the most interest in and which ones were not to our liking. By the end of it we both had decided on one or two girls we would each be pursuing after the boring play was over.

As soon as this decision was made, I woke up.

The feeling I had was a simple and very strong longing to be close to my friends. There are so many things I miss about them right now. I think I could write a post about each of them this morning, describing the qualities of their unique personalities that I crave. Ryan's vitality, Pat's quick wit, Edgar's wry sarcasm, Caleb's perfect timing, Wes's nimble nonsense, John's one liners, Rob's understatement.

I got to be around them again for a little while and now I'm not around them anymore. I'm in a strange room in Turkey. I won't be around them or any other friends for months. I think the dream was too real and now I'm wishing I could crawl back into bed and walk into the restaurant again.

But I can't. So I won't. Instead, I'm going to crawl back into bed and wait for the alarm to go off.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ho-Hum Day

Chris and I have been waiting for a ho-hum day in Turkey.

A day where nothing breaks, nothing surprises us and the pizza gets delivered correctly.

Today is as close as we've gotten.

That was until we went to buy a desk at the Home Depot-type store and ran into this.

Yes, the music is coming from inside the receptacle.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Curriculum Night

This last Wednesday was Curriculum Night at BUPS.

This was a chance for Chris and I to show what professional, intelligent teachers we both are.

Chris got to set-up his horse and dog show in the hallway for the parents to see as they walked by.

And I unknowingly left my drawings from a writing lesson up on the whiteboard.

They have got to be so glad to have us here.

Ya Got Any Weed? - by Christopher

I've been meaning to get this post up for the last two months, but it keeps ending up on the backburner.

And what is a backburner, anyway? Is it just the burner on your stovetop that are furthest from the front? Because if so, that saying makes no sense at all. The backburners are sometimes hotter than the frontburners, at least here at my apartment in Turkey.

Or is it more in relation to afterburners, like on fighter jets? If so, I need help finding the connection there from some of you military types.

In any case, I've been meaning to post this for a while. In fact, this post concerns certain events which transpired before we even left Dallas.

What happened was, I started asking the staff at drive-thru restaurants if they had any weed.

It began one Sunday afternoon as Sarah and I waited in my truck for our ice cream to be given to us. The nice young man who had taken my money and shut the drive-thru window was now staring deep into the screen of his cash register, entranced. His hair was dreadlocked and beaded and his meager facial hair was dotted by a messy landscape of acne.

I turned to Sarah and said, "That kid is stoned to the gills." She leaned forward and glanced up at him. "Yeah, could be."

"I wonder how long it would take us, if we limited ourselves to only asking drive-through restaurant employees, to get one of them to sell us weed," I mused.

"A year?" Sarah asked.

"Are you kidding? I bet if I asked this kid right now that he'd tell me to meet him up here after his shift and he'd sell me all the weed I wanted!"

"No, he doesn't have any weed, look at him! He's smoked it all. You'd have to talk to the guy he gets it from and I'll bet he doesn't work here or at any other drive through restaurant."

"Okay," I said. "We'll see."

The window slid open and the kid handed me our ice cream. "Here you go," he said with a hazy smile.

"Thanks. Hey by the way," I started.

But I froze. How does one ask to buy weed? Do you call it weed? What if I call it weed and he misunderstands me and I have to repeat the word 'weed' louder, and then I get him in trouble with his manager or something?

I decided to go for clear communication.

"Do you have any marijuana? You know, weed? Anything like that? "

His smile dropped for a second, then came back bigger. "Nahw man," he laughed. "Nahw..."

"Okay, well, you know. Never hurts to ask," I said and pulled away from the window.

Sarah and I laughed all the way back to our apartment, and I had so much fun asking the kid for weed that I decided to keep on asking.

One day, Sarah happened to be recording me at Sonic when our unsuspecting teenage waitress came to deliver our food.

What happened next is only a click away.

I hope everybody had a great weekend!

INTRODUCTIONS in Educational Psychology

On Thursday Chris and I started our graduate class in Educational Psychology.

As with most first days of class, we began our time together with a little get-to-know you ice breaker.

Ho-hum, I'm from America, I'm a teacher, I like travelling, what's your name?

For this session I was paired with an Aussie, Paul. I never would have guessed from his physique that Paul is an Aussie. He has an Asian-Euro-scruffy dark face and hair look about him.

But I learned about Aussie Paul, he about me, and then we were told to go find another group and introduce our partner to them.

So Paul and I sat and watched as two foreign gentlemen came sauntering over to us. We welcomed them to sit down and introduce themselves.

They looked 30, give or take a few years, dark-haired, dark-skinned, tall and very smiley.

Muhammad began by gesturing to his partner Raqued:

"This is Raqued. He is from Iraq and graduated with a degree in history. He likes Turkish Doma and stomach gravy."

S: "I'm sorry...stomach gravy?"

"Yes, you know...you take the spleen and the stomach juices and the blood and make a gravy. Is very tasty."

S: (screwed up face)

"No, no...it is not human spleen and blood, is juices made from cow! We are not cannibals."

S: "Ah, right."

"Yes. And Raqued's hobbies are reading, driving and shooting people in the streets."

S: (screwed up face) "I'm sorry, you shoot people in the streets? Like at their feet to be funny?"

Raqued and Muhammad both laughed.

"No, no, not for joke," Muhammad replied. "Is hobby shooting people. Like smoking no?" (big smile and smoking cigarette gesture)

S: "Um, okay..."

"So you introduce your friend?"

S: "Okkaaayyy...um, this is Paul. He's from Australia."

It's at this point that smiley Raqued leaned across myself to get in close to Paul and ask him "You are Muslim?"

P: "Ugh, no."

Raqued didn't move, as if waiting for elaboration.

P: "I'm actually Atheist."

I held my breath and waited for Raqued to unveil the weapon he'd been brandishing and to take off Paul's head in the name of Islam, but instead he just leaned in closer and said:
"You do not look Australian. You look Chinese."

Now I waited for Paul to pull out some kind of wicked Aussie Outback knife and show Raqued what an Aussie looks like, but instead he said mildly:
"My mom is from Sri Lanka and my dad is from Malaysia."

Raqued still leaning in with eager, childlike fascination asked: "Ah, your mom is Muslim?"

P: "Um, no."

Raqued: "She is Atheist?"

P: "Um, I think she is Christian."

This seemed to satisfy Raqued's thirst for Paul's family tree of theological leanings, and he eased back in his chair to hear the rest of Paul's story.

At that point I really couldn't even concentrate anymore on what I was supposed to be doing because I was using every available brain cell in my head to remember the details of this fascinating conversation.

But I told the group that Paul was a snowboarder and he liked teaching and then Paul introduced me.

When it was Raqued's turn to introduce Muhammad , he began by telling us that Muhammad was Muslim and that he had fourteen brothers and sisters, three of which died in the war.
I offered my condolences and Muhammand casually brushed the air with his hand and said "eh, this is what happens."

Like Raqued, Muhammad's hobbies included driving cars.

I asked if they meant racing cars, to which Raqued defiantly replied "no, we have cars, we do not drive donkeys!"


"But we do drive donkeys too," he added proudly.

Then Raqued shared that Muhammad had been fighting with the Iraqi army in the mountains for the last seven years.
A hush fell over the group and it was obvious no one knew quite what to say.

I noticed the professor out of the corner of my eye, and lucky for everyone involved, he told us it was time to wrap up our sharing session.

I took some notes on my pad in spanish so no one would know I was writing about them, and then I sat and waited for 45 long minutes to tell Chris or someone about this incredible, impossible conversation I had just witnessed.

During the break, I finally got Chris alone and began to tell him about the Iraqi's introduction. I got as far as 'stomach gravy' before Chris erupted in laughter.

I could tell this was going to be a long story.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Conditions Worth Falling in Love With

Wednesday it was summer in Ankara, Turkey.

Wednesday night, God flipped a switch and now it's Fall.

Last night was the first night that we have ever slept with all the windows closed.

We also had to scrounge up some blankets, and today, we both wore long-sleeved shirts to work.

We were all smiles as we walked to school in the crisp Autumn weather.

With high's in the 75's, we're looking forward to having the coolest weekend yet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finally, Cappadocia - by Christopher

We stepped off of a bus in the little town of Goreme at 11pm last Friday night.

We'd just travelled 350 miles in six hours after a long day of work and an even longer week. Like any tired traveller, all we wanted was a deep cave with five beds in it. This we were promptly given.

That video was shot on Saturday morning, since all we were able to do Friday night was become speedily unconscious. Actually, the whole group went right to sleep. Thirty-odd faculty and their children made the trip with us.

The first thing you should know about Goreme (and Turkey in general) is that there are wild cats and dogs everywhere. Sarah has a very difficult time not adopting them all, but this one we encountered on our way to the museum was particularly difficult to leave behind.

We arrived at the open air museum and I immediately launched into a geology lesson with Star Wars references. After which, I met one of the cave-dweller and discussed ancient poo. Then we got into the museum proper and viewed some truly impressive frescoes painted by centuries-old Christians. Each one was more impressive than the last.

Some photos of 900 year old frescoes from inside the Dark Church:


We felt sufficiently edified. And after hours of trekking through ancient caves, one needs some light entertainment. Cue other people's children! Then we went to lunch at an amazing underground bunker restaurant and went to a local artisan's shop and observed how clay from the river is used to make beautiful plates and cookware. Those photos and more will be linked at the bottom of this post.

Finally, we ended our Saturday afternoon with a trip to a Turkish winery, where we found the white to be tasty and the red to be, er, somewhat lacking. We rounded out the day with a long, delicious Turkish dinner and crawled into our cave for the night.

Sunday began with a bang as we got up early, donned our helmets and mounted up on ATV's. We quickly discovered that we had made a very good choice as the ATV's were dangerously fast and there was so very much to see. Also, we quickly discovered that Sarah loves ATV's as much as I do. So I made her commit to buying one someday and to taking our children on them. I guess we should probably have the kids first, but some deals are best to get while the getting's good, no?

As we 'tore it up' we contemplated the possibility of our parents enjoying the ATV tour. I felt my Mom might need some coaxing. Then we whooped like giddy children.

After we turned in our helmets and keys, we had just enough time to eat lunch and catch a quick recording of the muslim call to prayer which hapens throughout the day at different intervals. You can tell that Turkey is a secular country in many ways (everyone drinks alcohol, eats pork and enjoys sexy advertising), but I think most telling is the complete lack of impact the call to prayer seems to have on the locals. Nobody stops, nobody prays, or if they do it's quietly to themselves.

We had a quick bite and jumped on the bus and were headed back to Ankara by 2pm. At 8pm we crumpled to the floor of our apartment, exhausted and happy. Thus ended our first Turkish holiday.

For completists and photofiles, Sarah has judiciously compiled an edited album of our trip photos here. We really did get some good shots of the alien landscape, but there's no way to convey the scale of the place with images alone. We both look forward to taking our parents to Goreme when they come to visit.

The rest of the week is looking like this:

Our second Master's class is tomorow night and we start our Turkish language lessons at the university on Friday night. We'll be around this weekend doing laundry and (maybe) putting together a much-delayed second Sunday Matinee.

Oh, and I bought our plane tickets yesterday. We're coming home to Texas for Xmas! We'll be in town from Dec. 24th evening to Jan. 3rd evening. Put us down on your calendars for good-time jamborees, holiday cheer and salsa.

Lots of salsa.

Wednesday Mailbag

Dear Chris and Sarah,

When you go to American movies do you see subtitles in Turkish and laugh before the rest of the audience is done reading? I doubt you have buttered popcorn.



Dear txscottrc,

Your question raises an even more important question: Why, in the month that we have been living in Turkey, have we not made it to see a movie at the movie theatre?

I think the answer is tri-fold:
1. Teaching during the day
2. Learning during the night
3. Inability to summon up any more strength after completing #'s 1 and 2

We did see the movie theatre once. It was right next door to the Schlotzsky's and appeared to have movies in their original version.

I didn't smell any popcorn popping but am eager to investigate further.
Mayhaps this weekend? We will keep you updated.

Great question - better answer coming.

Theatre-notgoers in Turkey

Chris & Sarah:

Where is Bilkent University and do they speak English? Why does Turkey not have air conditioning? Why do you want a degree from Bilkent University? I don’t think Bilkent University degrees are accepted here in the U.S. Please ponder these questions until next Wednesday.

Aunt Mary from Garden City, Kansas

Dear Aunt Mary from Garden City,

What great questions.

First, Bilkent University is in Ankara, Turkey. Our school BUPS, is actually on the Bilkent campus.

The professors do speak English. In fact, the one we had last night is an American who studied at Dartmouth and received his PhD from UCLA.

We want a degree from Bilkent for a number of reasons.

Sarah has a passion for education, second language acquisition especially, and would like to learn more on the subject. She hopes to develop a curriculum or teaching resources to help teachers teach second language learners.

Chris has just stumbled upon his excitement about education and is eager to further explore the field. He is thinking about one day maybe getting his PhD and becoming a college professor.

There are also salary considerations. Both of us would be looking at more money if we had our masters degrees.

And why Bilkent specifically you might ask?

Because it's free and we live on its campus.

Our school BUPS has an agreement with the University that their teachers can enroll in the masters program for free.
To achieve the same goal at home would set up back at least $100,000.

The recognition of the degree varies from university to university in the States.

One of our professors has his PhD from Harvard, the other from Brown, and then Mr. UCLA. They have all led us to feel certain that Bilkent is an internationally recognized University and we should have no problems with US schools recognizing its validity.

Some places in Turkey do have air-conditioning, but most don't.

As far as we can gather, this is due to the fact that it's only really necessary 3 months out of the year. The other months open windows are said to be more than enough to stay happy, cold in fact.
We would like to say that it's environmental friendliness that is keeping AC's out of most Turkish homes but we don't have solid research to support that theory.
When we complain to people that it's hot, they look at us like we're crazy and say, "it's summer."

Hope that answers your questions, or at least causes you to think of more.

The Masters of Bilkent

(As a side note to the mailbag, it rained here today. That is the first time since we have been here, over 4 weeks now, that we have seen any precipitation...now that's newsworthy).

Keep the questions coming!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And Uh, Yeah - by Christopher

So maybe if we just keep stalling with fake posts you'll keep waiting patiently for us to post about our trip last weekend?


Look, we're sorry. The truth is that we've got the internet working now but we're the most exhausted we've been. We both started our master's program classes tonight after a day full of catching up on stuff we should have done over the weekend. We just got home after 12 hours and I will literally be asleep by 9pm, which is in fifteen minutes from now and I can barely think to write this post is the problem.

We're sorry.

How about this, we compromise:

Tomorrow we do Mailbag Wednesday since we already have so many great questions and answers, and by Thursday night our time we'll get a post of of our weekend up.

By Thursday we should be pretty well recovered and caught up with the week's work.



*Goodnight *

Monday, September 15, 2008

Home but Not Online

We are home sound and safe back in Ankara.

Had an amazing weekend.

Have pictures and videos and words to share but Internet is not cooperating at this moment.

Neither are our brains.

Can't wait to share, but being forced to.

Till tomorrow.

C & S

Friday, September 12, 2008

Driving A Car Sucks - by Christopher

Title too harsh?

Sorry but I'm just too peeved, cheesed-off, maddened, exasperated, ticked, flummoxed, and scrumpled to wear the gloves on this topic. Owning a car sucks, putting gas in it sucks, and risking your life every day driving it sucks.

I can't believe all the twenty-dollar bills I have crumpled up into little balls and thrown into a blast-furnace over owning a car. I look at all that money I have spent since I turned 16, and I just shudder with disgust. It's enough money to buy every piece of computer software I have ever wanted or will want. It's enough money to pay a surgeon to implant a 25 carat diamond unicorn horn on my forehead. It's enough damn money to choke a goat.

I will never be able to count how many precious, irreplaceable hours of my life have been spent staring at the back of the car in front of me while sitting motionless, trying in vain to ignore the obnoxious voice on the radio which is shouting at me to buy a car. I have been legally licensed to drive a car for 13 years, and I've spent a big portion of those years behind the wheel. Enough time to learn every language in the world. Enough time to read every book I have ever wanted to read and every book I will ever want to read. Enough time to build an orphanage, brick-by-stinking-brick, with just my tongue.

I've never had anything to compare to car ownership. But my eyes have been opened, fellow Texans.

You, my fellow Texans, are probably sitting in traffic somewhere right now, reading this post on your phones while dreaming of driving off of the overpass. Or of flying over the line of suckers in front of you in some rocket car, one of my favorite traffic daydreams. Or of all the useful and fun things you could be doing instead of operating the controls of your depreciating travel-box.

You poor, poor saps.

Most of you don't even have a choice! You've got to work to feed your face and your family's faces and you must own a car to get to work because there's no convenient alternative. Then you've got to pay to put gas in the car and pay to maintain the car and pay to insure the car. Because God forbid if the thing craps out (which it will), you can't get to work to earn enough money to pay someone to fix the thing!

What a great deal for the car manufacturers, the car dealerships, the fuzzy dice makers, the shyster mechanics, the smiling insurance salesmen and the multi-national conglomerated corporations behind them. And what a sucky deal for YOU!

Uh-oh, Chris has gone over to the other side, you're thinking.

He's been brainwashed by the pinko, euro-trash, liberal environmentalist Turkish tree-hugger coalition (the PELTTC). Soon it'll be nothing but 'meat is murder' and 'make trade free' and 'stop, drop and roll for endangered wombat cubs.'

I am concerned about wombat cubs, but only if they taste good over stove-top stuffing. I'm not urging you to save the Earth or Free Willy, and I haven't been brainwashed. But I have had a revelation.

Lewisville, Texas, America and every last soccer mom and African villager needs viable, cheap, convenient mass transit. My personal examples of the benefits are obvious and convincing:

1. While rıding the bus the last few weeks I've had plenty of extra time to read, listen to music and just think. I've enjoyed this time immensely. It sure beats having to stay constantly alert as I monotonously pilot my hulking deathtrap to the store.

2. The cost to me is either minimal or nothing to travel anywhere around the city. Granted, I'm not paying any taxes here, but I sure as heck do back in Texas. And after I pay my taxes, I still have to pay for brake pads, fresh oil, new tires, state inspections, and another new battery. I would rather everyone pay a little more tax for me to have convenient mass transit instead of paying through the nose every year for my depreciating heap.

3. On the bus, I am constantly surrounded by other people who are in the same situation I am. We're all on the bus, on the same team, and everyone is mostly on their best behavior because of it. I much prefer this to glaring angrily through my windshield at my neighbors as they cut me off. And these people on the bus feel to me like they are my neighbors. Unlike the barely-glimpsed strangers of the American road.

I could go on, but I think these three benefits have made the biggest impact on me in the last few weeks.

I was talking to Sarah about this at lunch. We will be returning to the states in two years without vehicles. Do we buy two cars when we come home? Is there any way to exist without them in Dallas? What about kids, how would we be able to get by without cars when the little Wehkamps hit the scene?

We don't know the answers. But the discussion is underway. If anyone has any ideas or advice, please pass it on. Unless your advice is to give up and be a sucker like everybody else, and then don't waste your time. We know we won't buy a car until we're absolutely sure there's no viable alternative.

It's early in the brainstorming process but I think the answer could involve mopeds. Or rocket shoes. Or living on a train. Or moving to Portland.

PS - Thanks to all of you who have written in with questions about our new home. We'll answer your questions with the mailbag post on Wednesday. Keep the questions coming!

Cappadocia or Bust

We are off to Cappadocia this weekend.

More specifically, Göreme.

We are taking the SLR and hope to have some amazing photographs that can compete with these stock photos we found online.

There is a group of about 30 of us from school going so for our first road trip we won't have to be solo.

Since we'll be gone there won't be any Sunday Matinee or any other babblings from us this weekend.

No laptops are traveling with us as we will be staying in a cave.

We will be back Sunday night but probably won't post anything then as we haven't done laundry in two weeks and it has to be done.

Chris has now taken to buying Turkish whitey tighties.

I must say, they fit him quite well.

We're in negotiations with Blogger right now for permission to post the whitey tighty pictures online.

A great weekend to all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Masters of the Universe - by Christopher

It's midnight where most of you are.

I think most of you are probably asleep.

It's 8am here and I just sat down at my desk in my computer lab/classroom and realized that I forgot to post some very exciting news:

Both Sarah and I have been accepted to the Master's program at Bilkent University! We're both enrolled in the Instructıon & Curriculum program. Our first class is this Tuesday.

The program offers a good mix of practical and theoretical curriculum. And there is a high degree of flexibility, which allows for a more specialized degree. Sarah will specialize toward second language aquisition and I will specialize in educational technology.

I'll try to complete this degree in less than seven years, Dad.

Trapped In The Bathroom - by Christopher

Our regular readers will see the title and assume that this post won't literally be about locking myself in the bathroom.

Instead, I must report to you that I locked myself in a bathroom stall for thirty minutes today.

I sat down to do my business in a stall which was more like a closet than a true bathroom 'stall.' It has a full-size closet door on it, and I happily swung it shut and went about answering nature's call. I didn't notice that there was no door handle until I was all zipped up and ready to go back to my classroom.

I banged on the door, I banged on the walls, I cupped my hands and shouted for help. No one appeared. I tried signaling someone with hoots and hollers for about ten minutes. I couldn't tell if anyone could hear me or not, but since no one had come, I set about surveying what meager resources were at hand.

I was standing in front of a closed door with no handle in a 5x7 closet with a toilet in it. In my pockets: a usb flash drive, two folded up class lists and a broken rubber band. At eye level was a two-pronged coat hook secured to the door with two screws. I gripped the hook, steeled myself, and ripped the hook out of the door, screws and all.

I put the screws in my pocket and tried to wedge the hook into the cavity where the handle should have been. I applied pressure and turned the hook, but it was too thin to rotate the latch mechanism.

Then, I thought of a different approach and took one of the screws out of my pocket. I placed the screw end of the screw against the bottom of the hinge pin near the top of the door. I smashed the metal base of the coat hook repeatedly against the head of the screw, trying to drive the hinge pin upward so that I could unhinge the door from its frame.

After ten or fifteen good smacks, it was clear I wasn't getting anywhere. Then I banged on the door some more and shouted some more. I think I felt a little panic at this point, even though I knew I was in a building full of other people in the middle of the day and that I wouldn't be trapped forever.

So I got desperate. I knew my best chance of getting out was to find something that would fit in the door handle socket to open the latch. So I pulled the top off of the toilet. Inside, I found the plastic float, the pipe that fills the top tank with water, and the long metal arm which attaches the former to the latter.


I disconnected the arm from the pipe assembly, unscrewed the plastic float, lined the arm up with the door handle socket and turned. It definitely fit into the socket perfectly, but it was too flimsy to engage the latch. So I pulled it back out of the socket, and folded the pliable metal arm in half. Now it had twice the strength but half the length.

I pushed it into the socket, turned with all my might, and the door quietly unlatched and swung open.

I walked to the sink and began to wash my hands. I caught sight of my watch and realized that I had locked myself in the bathroom for a little over thirty minutes. I looked at myself in the mirror.

Guess what the first thought that came into my head was?

"This will make for a good post tonight."

Wednesday Mailbag

Dear Chris and Sarah,

What item that you didn't take with you, or couldn't take with you to Turkey, do you miss most?

(And Chris, no video games.)



Dearest Jenica,

We have discovered only a handful of items that we couldn't take with us or wish we would have taken with us to Turkey.

Sarah wishes she would have packed trash cans (as they are three times as expensive here), zip lock bags (as they don't exist here), and rain (as it also, doesn't exist here.)

Chris wishes he would have packed more electrical converters, a water bottle, and an air conditioner.

We loved your question Jenica.

We hope you will all follow the Dr.'s lead and send more questions that we can answer in next Wednesday's mailbag.


Chris and Sarah

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Wehkamp Blog Feature

Our school has no textbooks.

On purpose.

BUPS/BIS runs a PYP Unit of Inquiry Program in which each six weeks one question drives the entire curriculum.

The one question leads to teacher questions, which lead to student questions which then lead to lesson plans.

This got me thinking...why not let our blog readers write and submit questions that we can then answer in our posts?

I'm thinking Letterman-style mail bag.

"Letters, we get letters..."

So post a comment with a question or email us personally if you're feeling shy. We promise not to reveal your identity if you wish to remain nameless.

We will take a handful of questions (or just use the only questions we receive, i.e. whatever our parents ask) - and answer them every Wednesday.

For example:

Dear Chris and Sarah,

Just wondering what your favorite pastime in Turkey is thus far?

Curious Cat

Dear Curious Cat,

We do have a favorite pastime here in Turkey.

It's called Cappy Breakfast time.

Every morning we take time to make fun of the carton the OJ comes in.

We try to think of all the funny words that rhyme with Cappy, then use those words to make fake Cappy commercials.

"To wake feeling snappy, get a tall glass of Cappy!"

"Don't feel crappy, drink your Snappy!"

We always leave the breakfast table laughing.

Thanks for your question Curious Cat.

Chris and Sarah

Monday, September 8, 2008

From Texas, With Love

There literally could not have been a better moment for this to show up in my classroom.

Feeling awfully sick, tired, beat-down...and here comes a care package from home.

The clouds parted, the sun came out, my lunch stayed inside my belly.

All was good with the world.

I went and got Chris and we carried the package home and immediately set about seeing what was inside.

Slicing open Pandora's Box

Cheetos and Fall foliage

Delirium over preservative-packed products

Gummy Teeth

Towel Jackpot

Cheesy Boy

Don't be shy about sending snail mail or packages.

As evidenced today the package will not only get here, but will be very well-received.

Thanks Mom and Dad W.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sick Kitty - by Christopher

Sarah has had her share of upset stomach and sheer exhaustion here just like everybody else, but today she has hit a wall. I came back from three-and-a-half hours of grocery shopping at 3:30 to find her unconscious in bed.

She's not feeling very good right now, so for those of you out there with any sympathy or empathy, I'm sure she'd appreciate some of it directed her way.

She was 150% fine yesterday during our walking tour, so I'm hoping that this will pass quickly and she will be feeling normal tomorrow.

When I got sick at the end of the school day Friday, she made me go to the doctor and get some antibiotics. She's already taking antibiotics for the cyst on her face, so I'm not sure what the next medication to take would be, but rest assured I'll get her to the doctor if this keeps up.

So no Sunday Matinee today. I need her up and around to run the camera and act in front of it. We'll shelve it for this weekend and get one posted for you next weekend.

Everybody have a memorable week!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Day Trip & Date Nite - by Christopher

Yesterday, we walked all over town. The photos and videos that we made should say it best.

1. Preparing For Departure

2. American Tourist

3. Hurry Up And Wait

4. Detour w/ Dining

5. Ice Cream = Happy

6. Destination

7. Change Of Plan

8. Shaky Cameraman

9. Tunali Street

10. Drinking A Tree

11. Inaudible Ending

From there we made it home safely and passed out. We're both sore from 6+ hours of walking, but we had a great time.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of SUNDAY MATINEE!

Simple Choice - by Christopher

As my first week of full-time ICT teaching comes to a close, I just wanted to relate one quick story.

Yesterday, one of my first grade boys peed his pants while sitting calmly and quietly playing a computer spelling game. Near the end of the class, as we were beginning to close down the computers and line them up, he approached Serdar (my Turkish teaching partner) and I and asked us in broken English if he could go to the restroom. The entire front and back of his jeans were soaked. Serdar took him to the restroom and when they came back a few minutes later, their homeroom teacher was already waiting to take the class back to their homeroom. The boy followed his class up the stairs as though nothing had happened at all.

He never cried, he never caused a scene, and he never panicked. Or if he did panic, he didn't let it show. He held his head up, accepted his mistake, and moved along, all wıthout being told to and without uttering a single word of complaint.

This little boy helped me to accept the mistakes I've made this week. Seeing his courage in the face of total defeat reminded me that every moment of every day we are given a simple choice:

Pee our pants and cry about it, or pee our pants and move along. Clean out our drawers as best we can and rejoin our class.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Problems I Don't Have

Many teachers have names ruined by “challenging” students.

They no longer want to name their child Thomas, because for a whole year Thomas spent every other day in the principal’s office.

Amber is out because she cried every day for a month of Kindergarten.

I feel very lucky because I have never once had to deal with this problem.
Yes, I’ve had challenging kids, and yes I’ve had criers, but the only names that have been ruined for me are Hispanic and Turkish.

I doubt Maria, Jose, Berkin, Derya or Bilgesu were ever in the running for names I might give to my offspring. It’s one problem in life I don’t have to worry with.

So that made me think, what other problems am I absolved from having to deal with?

Well, I don’t have to listen to loud car commercials screaming at me to “Buy, buy, buy before the Semi-Annual Labor Day President’s Day One Day a Year Choose Your Weekend Sales Event ends!!!!!!”

I don’t have the problem of running up a huge air-conditioning bill, as I have no A/C.

I don’t have to spend half a month's salary on gasoline because I don't have a car.

I don't have a morning commute, don't have to yell at traffic and don't feel bothered by a "level 9 jam factor" on 121.

I can talk about personal issues with Chris while we're grocery shopping because no one can understand us anyways.

Never do I have to wonder if bottled water is actually better than my tap water - it is.

I can't shrink my clothes in the dryer because my dryer is a big ball of fire in the sky.

I don't have to worry about keeping my grandmothers in the loop by writing long-hand letters and mailing them since both my grandma's are technological genius's and not only read the blog everyday, but email me as well (way to go Nan and Nana!).

And maybe the best part of all, I don't have the problem of boredom.

Everyday is a new adventure, a new challenge, a new laugh and sometimes, the realization that I have one less problem.

(P.S. Chris has been busy with the camera taking pictures of all the students here at BUPS this last week, we'll be back to the high-quality multi-media Wehkamp blogging that you're used to in no time.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hump Day - by Christopher

After writing such a long, laborious and descriptive narrative analogy two posts ago I have run out of analogy juice. So instead I'll simply direct your attention to the picture above:

That was Wednesday. My first Turkish hump day.

I was like this man. I was attempting to balance myself in a way that was completely unnatural and uncomfortable to me. In my case, I struggled to balance my duties as an IT intern and as an ICT teacher.

The IT intern is needed all over the campus in every building at every computer where a fellow faculty member can't log in. The ICT teacher is needed in one specific classroom, in one specific building, at several specific times throughout the day. IT intern gets stopped on his way to anywhere by anyone who needs their printer firmware upgraded, a longer ethernet cable, an update on when scanners are arriving (I don't know), or their class files from last year transferred to their new computer. So ICT teacher barely makes it (running) across the campus to his class on time as eighteen amped-up 5th graders hit the door at the same moment he does.

Lunch break gets cut in half when IT intern gets called away by IT director to go set-up new counselor on third floor of building next door. ICT teacher calls teaching partner on the way and reschedules their planning meeting for later. IT intern gets stopped on the way there by another teacher who only needs five minutes, please, just five minutes, figure out my internet, please. IT intern arrives to new counselor late, finishes setting-up late, and so ICT teacher barely gets to class on time as fifteen amped-up 4th graders hit the door at the same moment he does.

Twice today I almost grabbed someone's shirt and shouted in their face, "I don't know what I'm doing! I've never done any of this stuff before! I shouldn't be allowed to tell children anything about computers! Or anything about anything!! I'm bluffing my way through EVERYTHING!!!"

But now that I'm at home in my 70's Turkish chair listening to Herbert Von Karajan on my headphones and typing this I realize that I've been bluffing my way through every job I've ever had in some way or another.

What makes this job different and great is that everything I do involves fixing computers or teaching computers. And I love computers. Always have. No matter how stressed I was today, I never really felt like I was working. Certainly not the feeling of drudgery I normally associate with working. When I got home from work I stripped down to my underwear, fired up my laptop and went to work reasearching and designing a lesson plan to teach podcasting to my 5th graders.

So yes, Burke. The first thing I took off when I got home from work was my pants.

And I may be onto something here. Not like 'I'm reasonably sure I could tolerate this career for thirty-five years,' more like 'I'm reasonably sure I would enjoy something about this career each day.'

I've arrived to work thirty minutes early every day this week and I kind of liked it.

Most of you who know me have now turned off your computer, outraged that I would lie to you so blatantly. For you few who remain, I assure you I'm reporting nothing but the straight poop. This work doesn't feel like work. And I know, I can already hear you from all the way around the planet: talk to us in three weeks, Chris. Let's see how fast your mouth is running in three MONTHS of this. Tell us all how much you like it then.

I hear you. Don't go overboard, look before you leap and a third cliche. Gotcha. I'll update you on this topic as the journey unfolds.

PS - We ate Turkish Schlotzkey's last night and it was AWESOME. No, I did not try the dirt w/ cream on it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rules, But No Consequences

Today I realized that Ms. Verda and I have no set discipline plan.

We elicited classroom rules from the students on Monday. They did a great job of telling us to be nice, to be respectful and responsible and to be clean, etc. But we never discussed consequences for breaking those rules.

How, after teaching for 6 years did I manage to start the school year with no set discipline plan?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that I'm living in a country where I can't even properly order a pizza?

Only today did I notice that no consequence plan was in place when, while serving lunch duty, one of my students threw a piece of bread across the table and onto the floor.

And I'm not over-exaggerating when I say that was, and has remained, the first and only discipline problem I've had in two full days of school.

No lying, stealing, cheating, hitting, cursing, running, talking, etc...the kids are good kids and so happy and nice to each other, the teachers, the staff, and the school property.

The school comes with other challenges of course, but it's nice that they're different challenges than the ones I'm used to.

Right now my feet feel like they have been walking for 3 days across a rocky cliffside in stiletto heels.

It's only 8pm but I think I am going to bed whilst Chris forges a battle with the four (yes four) laptops scattering our living room.

He'll be happy to tell you about his first few days of school after he is victorious with all these portable computing devices.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Day of School

We did it.

We did what we came to do.

Today Chris and I began meeting our students and began teaching them.

Chris had a class of 5th graders and a class of 3rd graders rotate through his computer lab.

I met my homeroom class of 15 second graders.

Chris snapped a quick photo of us as we were touring the library.

Today we mostly discussed rules, organized school supplies, toured the campus, did introductions, and ate lunch.
Our goal today as a school was mostly to make sure the students went to the toilet, and got on their buses correctly to go home.
I think it's safe to say we were successful in both endeavours.

To celebrate (yes, we're celebrating at day one - we take every success very seriously here), Chris and I took the campus bus and found the "faculty only" restaurant.

Well, truth be told, we took the faculty bus and found the health center, the pharmacy, the electrical engineering department, human resources, a sculpture of the university's founder, and a philosophy of AI professor, without whom we never would have found the restaurant.

The bistro, as it's called, has great food and an amazing view of the city.

We ate Tostitos and beans and toasted our good fortune to have found each other and have found such a great new home.

Then we got buzzed off of one glass of wine because we're at 1800 ft. above sea level and that's 1200 more feet than we're used to.

Bring on Tuesday.