Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sunny Antalya

We spent yesterday doing just what we set out to do - soak up the sun in sunny Antalya.

After a tasty breakfast of bread, jam, hard-boiled eggs and juice, we started walking to the beach.

It took us about an hour to get there, but it's like they say, it's sometimes more about the journey than the destination. We saw lots of funny things on the way.

Like super Ataturk and his buddies

And this guy

And always this guy

The beach we went to was quite pebbly so we did our best to get comfy.

We listened to a podcast or two and just enjoyed the warm sun.

After sun-bathing we ate lunch and walked around the town some more. Quite a lot to see. I think the harbor is one of my favorite spots.

Our goals right now are to soak up the sun, keep our eating out costs low, and keep in touch with all of you. So far, so good.

My dad said to send more pictures, that he couldn't get enough. So I'm taking him at his word...we'll include daily albums along with the videos so you can see and be more places with us.

Antalya Day 1

Antalya Day 2

Daily Videos:

Chris at the Harbor

Sarah on the Beach

Lunchtime Recap

Monday, March 23, 2009

First Day of Spring Break

Well, we started spring break today. Complete with rain and snow. Yes, it snowed today.

I feel like we're in a bit of a holding pattern as far as the blog is concerned. For those of you that know why, you understand. For those that don't know why, you don't understand, but you will soon enough.

For right now, I'm tired of touching raw chicken and listening to cars drive through my house. If only there was a way to be on a beach on the Meditterrean with someone to cook my meals for me...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009


We talk a lot during our lives about heartbreak and break-ups, disappointing relationship and the pain that goes with them.

Usually when we talk about heartbreak we're talking about a relationship with another human being; but humans aren't the only things that break our hearts.

Places, things, ideas, hopes...can all be heartbreakers.

I've broken up with quite a few places and ideas. Some have broken up with me.

I remember the high hopes I had for BUPS and for Ankara. I really thought I would love teaching here and love the city. Both broke my heart.
BUPS is disorganized and their priorities are out of whack.
Ankara is as exciting and cultural as an empty shoe box.

I remember the first time (and subsequently the only time) I went skiing in Taos, New Mexico. I got sick all over the bathroom in the lodge just hours after arriving. Worst altitude sickness (and only altitude sickness) I've ever had. That was a real disappointing relationship that mountain and I had.

My very first apartment in Madrid broke my heart. I expected to be put up in a really posh, nicely furnished abode.

Snotty-nosed kid I was.

I immediately turned up my nose at the room. The room complete with a balcony and en-suite bathroom.

I was really upset when I had to break-up with Madrid. I loved living there and hated having to leave. I cried on the plane and watched out the window until the city was covered by clouds. I still think about Madrid and wonder how it's doing. Who it's seeing now, what it looks like, how it's changed.

I remember when I had to break up with my apartment at TCU. I loved living there. Loved my roommates, loved my room; but I had to move on, had to grow up. That was really painful.
My mom and I drove away in the packed up UHaul and I tried not to cry as I watched a place with so many great memories, fade away behind me.

Not all break-ups are clean. Some can get pretty messy.

When I tried to break-up with Austin Ranch they tried to take all my money.

Some break-ups, however, are extremely easy. It becomes obvious to one or both participants that it's time for a change. These break-ups are often the most difficult because it's hard to explain to one party that it's time to move on...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Security Wall No Makey Sense

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the picture needs some help.

The US government gave our school $2 million dollars to build a "security" wall around the campus. Basically it's a wall to keep out dogs because the security guard will let anyone with a pulse in, and if you really wanted to cause harm here, a 6 ft. high cement wall is not going to stop you.

The current fence has been knocked down, and the new wall is being poured. The Turks might be slow at a lot of things, but wall construction is not one of them.
You tell them to build a wall, they're going to build that wall.

While the wall is going up though, we have to remain secure.

I guess that's why they left the gate with a locker room lock intact, and tore down all the fence around it (locking door circled in blue, lack of fence outlined in yellow).

That's right, that entire yellow line used to be fence, but is now air.

But we do still have the locking door. So, if the gate is locked, you now have to walk 2 feet to the left or right of the gate, and proceed forward. What a security measure!

I wish I could say I've given up trying to figure out this place, but I haven't. I really want things here to be logical. I keep trying to apply my ideas of logic and reason and I think that's my trouble.

If it makes sense to the Turks to take down a whole fence but leave the gate standing and lock it, who am I to say that makes no sense?

Except that, it makes no sense.

Neither does it make sense to me that every day this week my building has been without electricity, but that somehow, at every meeting we have, there never, never fails to be a spread of tea and cookies.

I guess it comes down to priorities?

If that is the case, I have to believe that tea consumption, horn-honking, talking and wall construction are the priorities here. Whilst reliable electricity, drinkable water and a solution to rabid dogs barely make the radar screen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Turkish Cinema - by Christopher

I just wanted to share some of the fantastic examples of the Turkish cinema industry. If you get some time, do yourself a favor and watch these jaw-droppingly awful examples of copyright infringement. So far, every Turkish remake I've seen is far superior to the American original.

The Turkish Superman

The Turkish Rambo

The Turkish Batman & Robin

The Turkish Star Wars

The Turkish E.T.

The Turkish Rocky

And in case you're thinking that after the 80's Turkish cinema began to stand on it's own two feet and create original content, think again.

The Turkish Matrix

Turkish Rambo is my favorite by far. At 00:55 in the guy with the rocket launcher just makes me lose it every time! And I love how every time Rambo stoops down he finds some fresh ammo.

Let me know which one is your favorite ;D

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Snow Days Here Folks

I will never take another Texas snow day for granted.

You know, the days where school is cancelled because someone, somewhere mentioned that snow might fall.

We went to school today in this. My kids slipped on ice, the electricity in our building was out...it was just spectacular.

Enjoy that Texas sun for us!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The 7 Day Life - by Christopher

Let's assume that I will live to be 91 years old.

This will be a pretty ripe old age I think. Maybe I'll think differently when I make it to 90. But from 30, 91 seems good.

If 91 is the endpoint I can divide my lifetime into 7 distinct days. Each day comprised of thirteen years.

Monday was birth to age thirteen. A lot happened on Monday and it all happened very quickly. I went from totally vacant and defenseless to pimples and armpit hair seemingly overnight. My parents went from benign, servile giants to bitter adversaries.

Tuesday had a lot of up's and down's in the time between age 14 and 26. There were thrilling highs and crippling lows. There was danger, romance and excitement. Tuesday was all about discovery of this place and of myself.

Wednesday is hump day. From age 27 to 39 I'm traversing a big hump in the road of big responsibilities; marriage, old friendships changing, children, serious financial responsibilities, possibly the first serious health issues, parents getting older and serious work responsibilities. Wednesday won't have as much variety as Tuesday. But Wednesday's experiences will be deep, rich, and long-lasting. And ten times more challenging.

By this method of measuring my lifespan I am writing to you from 5:33 AM Wednesday morning. The sun is just barely coming up on my day. And the rest of the week is totally undiscovered country.

But from what I've seen of men who are further along in their week, Thursday looks like the day where you start to reap what you've sown (or pick what you've planted). From age 40 to 52 marriages flourish, or they crumble. Ties with offspring strengthen or weaken. Friendships expand or disappear completely. Making good decisions on Wednesday can produce a strong family, meaningful wealth, loyal relationships and respect. Making bad decisions on Wednesday can produce a shattered family and a shallow, desperate life.

Friday is still too far away for me to accurately judge. Age 53 to 65 looks a lot like Thursday to me from here. There is one clear difference though; if you've done enough quality work on Wednesday and Thursday and kept to your plan, you can leave work Friday night and never go back.

I think that how a man spends his Saturday is an accurate judge of who he wants to be. In this version of Saturday, it's the opposite: the life a man has led for the past 65 years dictates what his Saturday can be. The spectrum of possible Saturdays is wide. From age 66 to 78 people do everything from dying of hypertension heart attacks to going bungee jumping for the first time to collecting porcelain cat statues.

By Saturday a man has got the personality and habits he'll carry with him to the end. If he's got a lot of regrets about the decisions he made earlier in the week, well, we probably won't have to put up with his crap for very long. If he's ready to move forward and take on new challenges in a radically different world than the one he remembers, he's got a good chance of seeing Sunday.

Sunday is known as a day of rest in almost every modern human culture.

From age 79 to 91 a big portion of humanity lays down to rest forever. It seems to me that choosing how we die should be just as essential as choosing how we live. But that's really not the case today.

Most of us die in a hospital bed whether we want to or not. I don't know how many of you like hospitals, but I've found little there to enjoy. To me they are cold, sterile, impersonal places where tattered magazines are the only distractions and a staff of numbed automatons perform the actions they've been trained to perform on an endless parade of tragedy.

I do not want to die in a hospital. I would much rather go down in an airplane, die in a firey car crash, or drown off the coast of California. When I tell people this they invariably shudder at the very mention of these forms of death. But I shudder at the thought of slipping away in a musty room with flourescent bulbs where hundreds have slipped away before me, on sheets that have been gripped in the white knuckles of so many dying dozens, my gasping reflection in the dim eyeball of a cheap TV set mounted high on a wall the last fluttering image I see.

Give me the airplane, the car, the watery embrace of the deep. So much better than the loss of individuality intrinsic to dying in a hospital bed.

But let's get back to Wednesday.

The sun is just creeping over the horizon. There is so much in store for me today that all I can do is pray for the strength to endure and the clear vision to take the right turns at the right times.

In a very real sense I'm starting all over again, but I've also learned a lot from the mistakes of Monday and Tuesday. I'm looking at the sunrise and I'm thinking about how there are still more mistakes to be made, and I'm making the choice again to pick myself up and keep learning no matter what comes.

It's a choice I'll make all week.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Smile, It's a Bad Day

I'm in a mood today.

Getting out of bed was really hard and I felt like throttling every student I encountered.

Instead of ending the day on a sour note, I'm going to close with some sunny, light and fluffy things.

You already know the go-to's (Chris, my family, my friends, FRIENDS, jelly beans, puppies)...but here are some lesser known items that make me smile, laugh, think or distract me long enough to forget I'm in a mood.

The first thing that makes me smile are Mom's that take the time to turn their child's artwork into pillows. I don't know how one does this but I'm pretty sure I'm going to try to find out.

The second thing, this poster from Simon Evans entitled "Everything I Have." What an awesome idea. I want to do this but everything I have is scattered across two continents.

I love cheap and resourceful ideas for organization.

This one makes me think. Typographical time experiment by Nadine Grenier, a student at ESAD Strasbourg. The message: "le temps passe, et chaque fois qu'il y a du temps passe, il y a quelque chose qui s'efface" only appears every 12 hours - when the clocks line up. Quote from Jules Romains, which roughly translates to "Time passes, and every time the time passes, there is something that fades."

And this Indian poster of "Our Duties Towards Ourself" which encourages us to do some curls, contemplate a holding tank of water, eat alone on the floor, read silently, then dress in a wildly colored striped shirt and turn some levers on a textile machine.

Ah, the day is better already.

Just in time for bed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Ambassador of Fun - by Christopher

The Dallas Stars hockey team had a radio promotion a couple of years back where Brett Hull would enthusiastically hype the upcoming game. He would introduce himself at the beginning of the spot as “the ambassador of fun.”

Maybe it stuck in my head all this time so that when I meet US Ambassador James Jeffrey today I can shake his hand and introduce myself as Chris Wehkamp, “the ambassador of fun.”

That little joke might take some of the edge off of this forced encounter. Not that I’m terribly disinclined to meet the ambassador. I think I suggested to Sarah a few times over the last several months that we make a trip to the U.S. embassy. You know, take the tour and admire the sniper towers and all that.

No, I’m just miffed at the occurrence of yet another poorly planned, spur-of-the-moment meeting. With no clear purpose. With mandatory attendance.

Ambassador Jeffrey was either invited by our administration to descend upon our campus or invited himself, I don’t know which. All that has been made clear to us, the staff of the school, is that our presence is requested before His Grace at 3pm, and don’t be late. And screw you if you had other things planned for 3pm.

An email announcing this meet-and-greet went out yesterday, the day before the event. That’s pretty poor planning on somebody’s part to announce a mandatory meeting for all American staff and students the day before the event. Especially one scheduled for the end of the day when most staff either have periods to teach or other, marginally less pointless meetings.

Really, what sort of event could be more pointless than the one we are tasked with attending today? I didn’t travel six thousand miles away from America to listen to one of her mouthpieces crack wise. Or pontificate. Or to subject myself to beaurocratic glad-handing. And what else besides these three things could an ambassador do with me?

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Turkish elementary schools have been stable for decades, so he can’t be planning to stage peace talks with us. Maybe he’ll offer us an olive branch anyway? I’ve always wanted to be offered an olive branch; maybe today’s finally the day.

I just can’t imagine what in Batman’s Batboat this guy could possibly have to say to me that would be worth listening to. Besides maybe, “Yep, we all came to Ankara. What the hell were we thinking, am I right?”

But even that wouldn’t be worth rearranging my afternoon on a day’s notice.

I’m actually really sorry for the guy. Not one person I’ve spoken with wants to go to this meeting today. But if we’d been told a week before-hand, and been given the choice to go, I’m sure he’d be greeted today by an enthusiastic group who actually wants to be in attendance. Maybe Sarah and I would even be in that group.

Oh, well. He’ll have to show his antique toy train collection to a crowd of grumps instead, or whatever he’s going to do. Shake our hands and smile in our faces is probably all.

I hope he doesn’t enact crippling trade sanctions against our school cafeteria when we fail to register shock and awe.

Ambassador Visit

Today US Ambassador to Turkey, Mr. James Franklin Jeffrey came to visit our school.

He was accompanied by (or accompanied?...it wasn't really clear), Mr. Ali Doğramacı, the rector of the University, and son of İhsan Doğramacı, the founder of Bilkent University.  Mr. Ali is kind of like a Turkish Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Barack Obama all rolled into one.  When he says jump, you ask how high.

All American citizens were invited to join, so Chris and I, along with 3 of my students, made our way to the library.

I have no intention of adding my own commentary to any of the proceedings.
These men travel with a security force numbering about seven, and I write this from a country where youtube is banned.  
We'll talk later.
There was a 15 minute power point about our school, Mr. Ali spoke about the future of BUPS/BIS, and then Mr. Jeffrey encouraged us to join the foreign service.

(Mr. Jeffrey on the left, Mr. Ali to right of him)

(Mr. Ali Doğramacı)

During the question and answer session, I came really close to bribing one of my students to ask the Ambassador "Hey, Mr. Ambassador, do you have to keep your mouth closed in the shower?"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Savings Time

Yesterday Chris and I packed a picnic lunch and took off for the park. We read books, stared at the sky, ate carrot sticks and played catch.

While laying on the blanket I got to thinking about the people back home and wondering who messed up their day because they forgot it was daylight savings time.

I didn't get to save any time yesterday. I don't know when Turkey "springs forward", but it weren't yesterday.

Since I didn't get to save any daylight, I tried to think of other things that I'd like to save.

I'd like to save up enough air in my lungs to dive into the waters of the Caribbean and stay down for 30 minutes.

I'd like to save enough money to vaccinate and eradicate HIV-AIDS in Africa.

I'd like to save good teachers from quitting the education system by raising all their salaries to $100,000 a year, on the condition that their classrooms can be equipped with a 24hr. surveillance camera.

I'd like to save enough money to invite all my friends and family to a week-long Costa Rican get-a-way.

I'd like to save $50 on every Target purchase, just for being cute.

I'd like to save vivid, quickly accessible memories of all the nice things Chris has done for me, so that when I get mad at him, the anger will subside quicker.

I'd like to save all the old family photos and reel to reels that show my family tree all the way back to great, great, great grandparents.

I'd like to save myself a trip to the allergist and have these allergies go away on their own.

And, finally, I'd like to save some fun, exciting news for a future post.  It's too early now...but it's going to be great.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sarah will probably say that it was her influence that got me to cut my hair tonight.

The truth is, I was ready for the trim.

We plan to sleep in tomorrow and then work on our new gameplan.

The details of which are forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday Mailbag

This month in school we are studying how to be "inquirers". The students are encouraged to ask questions and push the limits of their curiosity.

So, for that reason, I am going to let them ask the Wednesday mailbag questions. You'll find below some work that, to those not in the field of education, or that don't have children, might prove hard to read, but if you can read them, they're full of gems. They got to choose their own topic. I didn't nudge them towards Mr. Chris, they just really like him. Can't blame 'em.

Happy Wednesday,

Sarah and the rest of Class 2B