Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another week in Istanbul....

Ooops... Whole week went by and no updates.... sorry!
It was relatively uneventful... we did go on a whirlwind tour of several places last Sunday... I'll post a few pictures below, hopefully they will paint a better picture than me ;).
First Topkapi palace, then lunch in Sultanahmet section, then prayed in Sultanahmet mosque (The Blue Mosque), then to Eyup Sultan mosque for a little tour, then to a nice patio/terrace which had a GREAT view over the Bosphorus...  (actually went there again with Orhan yesterday)...  It's called Mimar Sinan Teras Cafe...   After the cafe we went to Today's Zaman newspaper which was very interesting because we learned a lot about recent history in Turkey.   Mehmed was touring around with the group... he was pretty good, enjoyed some things and hated others... I guess that's what you can expect when he's not travelling around with other kids.
The rest of the week was kind of uneventful.  I went to classes every day and Mehmed came with me on Monday and Friday, but went to the Turkish school on the other 3 days.  All in all he had a pretty good week... got to see his dad on Wednesday night and Thursday night.   Orhan's business is not finished yet so he's still staying in a hotel on the European side, and we're still staying with our hosts in Uskudar (Asian side).
Friday night we went to Samanyolu television which is a TV Station company with about 9 different stations.  It was pretty interesting.  Mehmed was only bored during the question and answer period but the rest of it he seemed to enjoy, especially the visit to the production room and the studio/set.  I don't think I can post pictures from that since they're in my phone.
Saturday we actually had a day off of classes since the girls were supposed to go to the Turkish Olympics.  I went there with my Turkish hosts - we didn't actually see any competition, just the booths from each country where they have a Turkish school.  Each country had some of their own local food, clothes, music, art or anything that is unique to the country.   There were also student natives from those countries who were learning Turkish and could communicate with the crowds about their school and countries.  The African countries drew the most attention, it was so crowded there that you almost couldn't approach the booths.
It took us less than two hours to visit the whole thing, and afterwards Dogan Bey (our host) dropped us off at Yeni Mosque to meet Orhan.  We wandered around the bazaars behind Yeni Camii and Suleymaniye, then went to have a snack on the Terrace at Mimar Sinan Terrace Cafe.... such a beautiful view...  I don't have those pics from Saturday because Orhan has the camera, but I will post the ones from our visit there last Sunday.
After that we went to visit his cousin Serafettin Hoca (he's an Imam at one of the smaller mosques there).   Then this morning we did a lot of walking... walked to Istiklal Caddesi (famous street), Orhan also had some business he needed to take care of, then later we went to a two hour Bosphorus tour (by boat) - that was Mehmed's choice, but the views were gorgeous and it was refreshing to be in the breeze on such a hot day.  After the boat tour, walked a bit through Misr Carsi (Corn/Egypt Market... not sure which is supposed to be the right translation since Misr means both)...  and slowly made our way back here to the house where we had a lovely fish barbeque courtesy of Dogan Bey and Nihan Hanim (our marvellous hosts)... it was really good, even Mehmed devoured most of his two fish!
And so here are some photos:
Our first "Teacher Helper" Sevilay , another student in the class, Sevara from Uzbekistan, and our teacher Seyda.

 The girls in Class with Ruth, one of our teachers.

 Gathered around and meeting the new arrivals.
 Mehmed and Idil playing bubbles off the patio.

 Mehmed and Idil goofing around when we took a walk for ice cream.
 Ice cream :)
 On the roof at Sema Hospital.
 Getting a talk by the chief (well, only) cardiologist at Sema hospital.  Translations courtesy of Murat Bey.
 Gathering room at Kimse Yok Mu

 Topkapi Saray (Castle)

 Sultan Ahmet Mosque.

 View from Mimar Sinan Teras Cafe.

 Today's Zaman Newspaper.

 Mehmed getting a lesson on ancient printing presses.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Reviving a Dead Blog... in Istanbul

Well, I'll revive this dead blog, even if it's only for a little while... so many people are wondering what is going on with us here in Istanbul that I thought I should type out more details than can be included in the little snippets here and there on Facebook.  Soooooo.......
From the beginning...  Mehmed and I arrived here on May 14th, that's a Monday.  We waited several hours in the airport while more people from our group arrived. Then we all went as a group to a nice restaurant, called Pirpirim Gaziantep Mutfagi....   Mehmed was super hyper because he was not medicated due to the difference of time that happens when travelling.   He lost the ipod there in the Mesjid (the little prayer room - something VERY refreshing to see, that even in restaurants you can always find a place to pray!).
Then we went back to the residence and settled in.  The residence was quite nice actually - all female, and there were two other families with small kids...  quite a bit younger than Mehmed unfortunately.  He enjoys them but its not the same as having a kid his own age around.  We had the Tuesday off to try to have time to get accustomed to the time difference.  Also on Tuesday we were introduced to the complete schedule of the program we are participating in.  To break it down, it goes like this:
May 16-June 30th is the Learn and Travel program.  It consists of 3 classes - two morning  classes with different teachers, and then the 3rd class is supposed to be reviewing as a group what we learned for the day.  I'll save some details about that program for another blog I think.
Since there are two sessions of Teach and Travel, the first (APPROX. June 15-July 15) is overlapping with our Learning session, and so we are not able to complete it - so instead we will be doing just tutoring during that time.   The second session is July 18-Aug 17th, and I will be teaching a class (English) at that time.  As of right now, I have no idea what city I will be assigned to for the teaching sessions, but I am hoping for Ankara so that we can stay with my sister in law and \Mehmed can play with his cousin Efe and see Sevgi's baby all the time.  
Wednesday May 16th we started our classes which actually take place within the residence - convenient for "commuting" obviously.  But the problem was that there was no actual babysitting or programs planned for the kids...   When we were told that there would be, it was more a matter of "we'll figure it out as it comes up"...  so Mehmed was bored, having no ipod, and no internet...  he waited patiently for me in the residence room, sometimes he played with the two boys.  So that went on for two days - Wednesday and Thursday...   but by Thursday night they had found a solution for us...   Thursday night we went to Camlica - which is a high hill on the Asian side of Istanbul, and we got to enjoy the view and go for coffee after sunset... that's where we met our new hosts...  Nihan Hanim (Hanim means like Mrs. in Turkish, except that they use it with peoples first names) and her daughter Idil.   They brought Mehmed and I to their home, where we felt very welcome!
The next day, Friday May 18th, I skipped my classes to go to the "school" with Mehmed....   Nihan is an English teacher at a private school...  Mehmed got to see the English department.  He also got to attend some classes with a younger boy named Yusuf who speaks English.  All Turkish kids are very friendly and they all want to know Mehmed.  He's finding it to be a very positive environment, since everyone is so friendly - even though that confused him on the first day... because he thought that they were "whispering" about him (and he says that in Canada most people are negative, so he just assumed that they were not saying nice things about him).
So I returned to my normal classes on Saturday (until 1:30 pm) and then came back to the new "home".   The next day Mehmed and I took a taxi to join the group on the European side at Miniaturk Park.  It's a park which has all kinds of miniature copies of true life buildings.  It was very nice and Mehmed enjoyed it.    We went to Eyup Sultan Mosque after that for lunch/dinner and then prayer before returning home.
The next week was back to classes for me...   sometimes I get home at 6pm, sometimes at 2pm, it depends if I stick around for the "group discussion class" - actually I prefer not too, I feel like I get more work done if I just come home and complete it on my own.   During the week, the first two days with Mehmed at the school were a bit difficult since he couldn't quite get settled into a routine and some little discrepancies bothered him.  By the third day, Nihan Hoca (hoca means teacher) had helped him to get settled into a routine and he follows her around to her classes and sometimes he attends other classes.  The kids are so friendly that he really seems to be enjoying it now... although I wouldn't say that he's learning any Turkish yet.   I guess it's still better for him to be there rather than bored in the residence.
Another activity that our organizers have planned for us are evening trips to various places:
1.  Wednesday May 16th - we went to Kaynak Holding company - they are a holding company of several publishing companies and possibly other types of companies as well.  We met the CEO, who was able to tell us some of the history of the Hizmet of Fethullah Gulen Cemaat - how they have seen a complete Islamic Revival in Turkey, from a time in 1960s when the police could and would arrest you just for coming together in a house to "discuss" Islam - to what it is today, where so many people are able to live their religion more openly and in fact it is still growing in such an obvious and wonderful way.  He told the story of the first "Camps" that were formed for the purpose of renewing faith and studying the risale-i-nur, and the first student dormitories, where students who couldn't afford it were given free accomodation.  Education and sharing faith are the two most fundamental goals at the core of the Hizmet...  His story was really touching and amazing to see the transformation in Turkey and around the world (he also talked about opening schools in poorer countries all around the world.
2.  Thursday May 17th - we went to Camlica hill, took photos and Mehmed and I left the group to stay with our host.
3.  Friday May 18th - the girls from our group were invited to sleep over at another student dormitory, where the students prepared for them a meal and they recited Quran and thikr together and got to know each other.  I didn't attend that because it was better for me to be with Mehmed.
4.  Sunday May 20th - the girls from the group got to go to Eyup Sultan Mosque for fajr prayer, which is apparently VERY crowed - subhanaAllah...  I missed that because we obviously couldnt join them at 3 a.m. and instead Mehmed and I took the taxi and joined them later at Miniaturk park which I already wrote about.
5.  Monday May 21st - the girls from the dorm also went to another female student residence for dinner and reading quran and making thikr (praising God)... again I missed this to be home with Mehmed.
6.  Thursday May 24th - Mehmed stayed home with Idil (the 9 year old daughter of our host) while I went with the group to Sema hospital.  We got to hear the story of an Islamic private hospital and some of the inspiration that goes on within its walls.   The chief and only cardiologist told stories about various patients who have stayed there and some of their remarks on how wonderful it is...   like the fact that they do not make any surgery without first taking ablution, and reciting the name of Allah/God before beginning - how female nurses and doctors are not prevented from wearing their hijab, even in the surgery room - how the surgery room is graced with a supplication and a praise using the name of Allah which means "The One who gives Intercession/Healing".  How one man had a heart attack in a nearby building, and a team of doctors went onsite and revived him, and they brought him back to the hospital and cared for him... and he revealed that he was actually the FIRST person to start a petition against the opening of an "Islamic private hospital" in the area - and how he said that he would now become their biggest advocate and bring all the sick people one by one to them so that they could see what great care they receive....   about the story of the woman who had had cancer for 2 years and finally passed away in their hospital (after visiting many hospitals during that time) - and her husband who came back with tears a week later to thank them for such amazing care... there was a nurse who had been trying to inject her vein and on the first try didn't succeed, so she began stroking the ladies hand gently, and supplicating to God "Oh Lord please let me find her vein easily so that she does not suffer any pain" and kissing the woman's hand - and this is apparently the loving and caring standard of all those who work there.
One of the philosophies of this hospital too is that all are cared for equally - which you would think goes without saying, but in Turkey that is not always the case - so many people are treated as second class citizens, but the philosophy here and in so many other hizmet places is that the more you reach out to those who hate Islam, the more people you can truly touch and soften their hearts towards the Muslims.
7.  Friday May 25th - Mehmed and I both went to "Kimse Yok Mu" - the organization which is a non-profit, humanitarian organization something like the red cross.  Except that this is a young organization, only 8 years old - actually our host there pointed at Mehmed and asked how old he was so we told him 8 and he said, we are a young child, just like this boy....   but it was amazing the projects that they have accomplished.   One story that touched me was the fact that their standard when they deliver meat to needy families in other countries is 5 kg packages - but in one country, I don't remember for sure, but it might have been Uganda - where the butchers prepared only 1.5 kg. packages for the needy families - and the man was asking them to change it, because this was a sub-standard gift for the families - but he was told that in fact most of the families in the villages they were going either didn't have electricity or, if they did, they didn't have refrigerators to keep meat.  He told us so many more things than this - it's an amazing organization to say the least...  I'm just going to link to their website and hopefully if anybody has read this much into my blog you may click on it out of interest:

Today, I went to class again while Mehmed went to the mall with Nihan Hanim and Idil.  They went to a movie and when my class was over I met them at starbucks where i found mehmed eating cheesecake... his new favorite thing, ordered everywhere we go....   so that's it... tomorrow we have a busy day planned going to eyup sultan, topkapi palace, aya sofia, sultan ahmet AND Today's Zaman newspaper.  From now on I will try to write something every day for anyone who's just dying to know what's going on!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A week in the life of Mehmed.....

4 weeks to the day that I forgot to medicate him, I forgot again... It must be something about Mondays.... This is a breakdown of what happened on Monday...  He apparently crawled around on the floor for most of the day.   When I picked him up at 3:20 he was crawling down the hall and both his teachers rolled their eyes and said that had pretty much been their entire day....   He made constant noises (probably his infamous pssssshhhhh psssshhhh crrrraaaaaasssshhhh noises) throughout the day, particularly disturbing during lesson time, pulled a mooner sometime around the end of the day, disappeared from the library where the class was having a lesson, and when he was informed by the teacher and his EA how his disappearance had frightened them (the library is near the front door of the school and they actually thought he might have left the school), his response was simply, "Well, I knew where I was"....   And there wasn't a chance in hell that he could have learned anything that day... focus was simply non-existent.  Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the hands on because even his teachers, who normally emphasize that sort of thing first, I think whatever it was just paled in comparison to the rest of their day.  Bear in mind that he's now 7 and in grade 2.   The SERT basically wrote a note in his agenda saying that his EA is a saint.   Can't say I disagree.   
Now I'm just recording it here because, well, it's probably a good idea to record stuff like this to remind myself on those days that I feel guilty for medicating him.   I have to feel guiltier for not medicating him... it deprives him of a day in which he can focus and actually benefit from school, never-mind the hell that it puts the teachers through.   Now, that's what happens when he's not medicated.   On days that he is medicated, I still get notes or information about random things like trying to hit a group of girls with a stick, standing in peoples faces and talking like Sylvester the cat (not funny for the recipients of all that saliva).  And that was just this week.   Ironically enough, even though I should NOT laugh at all this stuff, when you hear about everything all together, and days have passed since it all went down, and he's nowhere in ears reach, then sometimes it does bring out a bit of a giggle.   But PLEASE don't anyone tell that to his teachers.   And I totally welcome suggestions on end of year teacher gifts.....  If only I was a millionaire.....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back to School!

Well, Ramadan is over, and it was great while it lasted but man fasting can be exhausting!  Kind of a relief when you're back to eating all the time.  Mehmed only lasted about a week before he lost interest.  That's ok.... better than last year, when his interest only lasted a day!  At this rate, he should be participating fully by the time he hits puberty....
He was happy to go back to school since he was getting bored....  I have to admit that while our summer was going great before Ramadan, I slowed right down to 1st gear during the fasting so he didn't have as much fun after that.
He's doing well at school, I started him back on the Concerta, which I don't like because it totally cuts his appetite, but on the other hand, it definitely works for him.   I had a meeting with the teacher and support staff and they were very positive about his behavior.   So the Concerta is working for him, and my workaround for the appetite problem is that I give him high calorie milkshakes for his lunch and snack.  He eats less during the day but the milkshakes help to make sure he doesn't lose the weight.
He has had a few problems with girls at school.  I worry because he really seems to hate them, but I think I had some interesting insight into that psychology...  I make him talk about why he hates them and he said, "they make me feel stupid, usually I get in trouble when they're around, and I'm not one of them".   I thought I'd try to dig for physical feelings, so I asked him if anything happens to his body when they're around... like, does he go blind, or deaf, or can't breathe?  (no way I was going to "lead" him on that question)....   and he says to me, "Well, there is something that I told you last year but I think you forgot" (I didn't forget but like I said, I wasn't going to lead him)... he says, real quietly, "my dinky likes them when he's being stupid"!!! LOL.
I probably shouldn't be writing that in a blog but then again, it's one of those things you don't want to forget.   So, he hates girls, but "you know who" is starting to like them and the end result... he's made that "you know who" likes them and he takes it out on the girls!   Have I unravelled the 5000 year old mystery of why boys hit girls that they like?   LOL.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ramadan Mubarak!

It's that time of year again! I can't believe a whole year has passed... and this Ramadan is definately going much better for me than last year. Last year I'm 99% sure I had West Nile which I happened to come down with on the first day. It took me a week to get over the worst of the headaches and still another week after that to feel more like myself again. So this year, Al Hamdu Lillah (all praise is due to God Alone), Ramadan is GREAT. Sure I'm tired when I get up at 4 am to eat but I know it's worth it and I get plenty of time to rest during the day. The best part (for me) is that Mehmed is doing half-day fasts with us, which means that he's getting up at 4am too, and usually waiting up to pray with us (unless he's falling over exhausted). I love that. He's so sweet and he is really earnest in his efforts! Don't worry, there's no pressure on him to maintain his fast, if he wants to break it earlier than the noon prayer, he's welcome too, but so far he's only asked to do that once, MashAllah.
But I don't take him to the Taraweeh prayers at the mosque since we don't get home till almost midnight and that means waking him up for the 4am meal would just be torture.
To anyone who is celebrating, may Allah accept your intentions, forgive your sins and grant you all your du'a (supplication prayers). Ameen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thanks for the reminder Sherry!

LOL, yes, I did forget I had a blog again... I guess it's just not as interesting when you're not off travelling the world.
Not much to update... Mehmed started on a slow-release form of Ritalin in February. The complaints from the school have virtually died off which is WONDERFUL, and they even allow him to line up and go to the washroom at the same time as the other students, which sounds weird, but his reactions to the hustle and bustle were quite extreme - lots of screaming or acting out if he felt too jostled. So, he's definately made progress, thank God.

But I have done some web-reading on the drug and found that it can be very dangerous for the heart (particularly when used long term). When he first started he lost about 2 lbs in 1 month, but I've been giving him Slimfast and other protein based milkshakes, especially in his school lunches because that is the time of day he virtually refuses to eat (when he's medicated). They seem to be working because he has grown 1 inch and gained 5 lbs since February (I guess that means he's gained 7 since he lost the other 2). The other problem I find is that he is now far MORE hyper than he ever used to be, particularly in the evenings when it starts to wear off and on the many days (weekends and what not) that I don't give him any. I'm looking forward to the 2 month summer break so that I can see exactly how long it takes his body to return to the way he was before (hopefully minus the tantrums, aggression and a with just enough maturation that he has a little more self-control).
8 more days of school until summer officially begins and my freedom officially ends!
Oh well, at least I will still have my Wednesday group! (Gather with a bunch of women at the mosque or in our homes for reading & religious discussion. And we can't gather without lots of goodies and tea ;) - it's definately my favorite day of the week).
Well I guess that's all I've got to blog about for maybe another 6 months? JK - maybe we'll have some fun things to blog about this summer....
P.S. Thanks again for the nudge Sherry ;) - but having only 1 child I guess I just have far less going on so it's so much easier to forget. Your blog is waaaayyy more interesting.... That and having Grandma right downstairs means 1 less person wanting to read the updates.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Backyard Skating Rink

So, what can I say? It's winter and not much is happening....

But, we did do something for fun - we built a little backyard skating rink. We bought Orhan a pair of skates 3 years ago, and he tried them out back then, but after he crashed hard on his butt in public he hasn't made an effort to get back on them since then. Now that we have our private little rink, he actually made another go at it! He did not bad too, for somebody who's basically never skated before (you really can't count that time 3 years ago, he lasted all of 2 minutes on the ice I think).

So I made a little vid of our backyard rink, and since Mehmed enjoys trying out his little tricks & stuff, I thought I'd do a comparison between him and the Turkish Olympic figure skater, Tugba Karademir (pronounced tooba). She's the daughter of Orhan's friend Tayfun, so naturally we thought of her when we watched Mehmed doing his thing...


Needless to say, I'm not holding out much hope for any future Olympic potential coming out of our house. On the other hand, I'm praying hard for Tugba to do well in Vancouver!

On a Mehmed note, he seems to be doing great at home, except for a few long-lasting morning tantrums that make us late for school. Really weird things too, like freaking out because the leg of his pants get stuck up inside the leg of the snowpants, or like when he refused to use a cup to gargle after brushing his teeth and absolutely wanted my hand. These are not the kind of things you'd expect to cause a major 20 minute meltdown are they?

But he seems to STILL have problems keeping his hands to himself at school. When I picked him up on Friday, I watched as he pretended two big snowballs were guns, and while he pretended to shoot at this little two year old standing in front of him, I thought, 'Oh Brother', but didn't call him out on it (not expecting invisible bullets to actually cause the other child any harm) - until he just randomly kicked the poor little kid right in front of my eyes. And it was all just part of whatever game he was playing in his imagination. Arg. I usually try to tell myself that there must be some grand divine reason behind these trials, and that maybe one day he'll grow up to be a really peaceful man and a good Muslim. It's kind of hard to remember when you see your really big 6 year old randomly kick a 2 year old and make him cry :(.

Anyways, we're waiting on our next appointment with the pediatrician to review an ADHD form to be completed by his teacher. For kids with true ADHD, apparently the meds are very effective, but when trying them on kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it can be really hit and miss. About 75% of Mehmed's "aggressive" behaviour can usually be attributed to impulsiveness, so I'm praying that it helps him, especially at school! And, any improvements on his behaviour (i.e. tantrums) at home would just be icing on the cake.

Well, that's all for now... Happy Snow days!