A bit of laughter in the classroom

I can’t seem to motivate myself to write anything about my recent travels. I keep meaning to get to it but I get sidetracked on different things. One of my projects is my ongoing story I’ve been writing in Turkish for the past 5 months. Well, I’ve been writing it in a language that resembles Turkish in many ways and then in my lessons my teacher helps me to translate it into Turkish.This week I got sidetracked from my Turkish story. I was walking down the hall and ran into my FCE students (preparing for their Cambridge exams, so they are all at a very high level) and they were all eager to tell me that they were emailing me directions to their houses. Now, most of my students like me, but to hear about them emailing me directions to their homes, I was a bit concerned and taken aback. I asked them the reason for their emailing me. Apparently I was going to be staying with them at their homes, didn’t I know? Hadn’t the other teachers told me?

After a few minutes of bewilderment I put it together that this was their writing teacher’s way of motivating them to actually do that week’s assignment, which was writing an informal email. As the students find me a most wonderful man, my colleague adapted the assignment in the book to be an email from me, telling them that I was returning to Turkey after 5 years of being away and needed advice about where I should go. The students had to draft pretend responses to me.

Unbeknownst to my students, my colleague gave me their emails and I had a great time constructing various responses. While I can’t motivate myself to write my travel stories, I basically didn’t sleep for two days because I was too busy coming up with bizarre stories to write to my students. I’ve put them all below. Whether they appreciate my stories or not, who’s to say. Most of the time if I prepare something and bring it to class expecting a good response I end up going home depressed. So they probably won’t like my stories, maybe won’t even read them. But at least here I’ve had a good time and enjoyed the creative process.


1. To: _________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Coming to Turkey
Hi _______!
Thank you so much for your quick response to my email. Sorry it’s taken a while for me to reply, but my caretakers don’t let me use the internet often. I realized after I sent you the last email that I didn’t even ask to stay at your place (how cheeky of me!) but I’m so thankful you’re willing to accommodate me. Your directions to your house from the airport are very clear, so I should have no problems finding it.
Thanks for the recommendations for trips in Turkey, too! I’m disappointed that you won’t be able to join me on any excursions outside of Istanbul but I’m sure you’ll have fun at your cousin’s wedding. I have already been to Cappadocia so I don’t think I’ll go there, but I hear there is a museum of a famous mental institution in Edirne. Part of the reason I would like to see this museum relates to why I had to leave Turkey in 2014. You probably already heard the story, but I’ll tell it again.
I really liked reading ESL textbooks when I was teaching at _______. Every night I’d go home and read New English File until 3am. The only problem was I started to become a bit obsessive about it. I started to collect sets of them and arrange them by color in my apartment. Soon my interest spread to other books as well. Cutting Edge, Open Forum, Person to Person, Face to Face, Speak Up, etc. I couldn’t stop myself, I had to have them all. Then one day my landlord visited my flat and complained about me to the police, because I had completely filled the flat with ESL textbooks. You couldn’t even walk through the front door! The police then informed the institute for higher education, who then said I was mentally unfit to be an English teacher and revoked my work permit. I no longer had a job, so I had to return to Michigan, where I was put in an institution for helping hoarders, or obsessive collectors, as I like to say. I’ve been living here since then, but I’m much better now and they will let me out next week.
Anyway, I’m excited about my new career in the arts and the new life ahead of me. As you can understand, I had to get out of English teaching because all those textbooks are too tempting for me. I’m going to be working in Art History so I’ll be very happy to see the history and art museums in Istanbul. If you can come with me to them, that would be great! But please, don’t let me buy any art books, I don’t want to start up old habits again!
See you soon,
Steven
2. To:__________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Visiting Turkey again
Hi ________!
Thanks so much for your response, and I’m glad to hear that you’ll be able to host me. Would you believe it, none of the others wanted to let me stay at their house; they don’t even want to see me! I suppose it’s related to why I stopped teaching and had to leave Turkey four years ago. I know it was a big story back then, but maybe I should refresh your memory.
One day when I was waiting for the 41E to go home in the evening, I saw the local goat running towards the bus stop. I was a bit frightened, so I started to run away, hoping to hide inside Has Antepli and escape the angry goat. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it and the goat attacked me, biting off three fingers, my nose and a chunk of my ear.
It turned out that the goat had rabies, so I had to be vaccinated. Because I’d lost three fingers, I could no longer hold chalk to write on the chalkboard, so I could no longer teach. Besides, I was so embarrassed about being attacked by the local goat that I couldn’t bear the students’ laughter anymore. Everyone used to compliment my nose but now they just pointed and laughed. I went back to Michigan to reexamine what to do with my life, and I decided to go back to school. I’m going to focus on the history of the use of goats in art, from the Byzantines to the present era.
Thanks for the recommendation to go to Cappadocia and see the fairy chimneys. I went there a few years ago and it was lovely. Now, however, I’m much more interested in goats. I hear that Kilis, a small town near Gaziantep, is famous for their goats. Do you know anything about Kilis? What should I do there when I’m not busy with my goat research? I’m sorry you’re too busy with school to join me, I’m sure you would love to do goat research with me. But maybe you can find good art exhibits in Istanbul that focus on goats. If you could let me know about where I can find good goat art, I’d really appreciate it. I don’t know if the Pera has goat art or not, but that’s a good idea for a place to start.
Anyway, thanks again for welcoming me back and letting me stay with you. It’ll be so good to catch up! Take care!
Steven


3. To: _______
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Holiday in Turkey
Hi _________!
Thanks so much for your reply, and I’m so glad that you’re going to be able to host and entertain me! I’d also love to meet up with the other people from class; that would be great. I’ll be sure to bring my swimming suit; I’d love to go swimming. As you may have heard, the past 5 years have been hard on me and swimming is one thing my psychiatrist tells me I should do to help calm my nerves.
If we do meet with the other classmates and people from class, please don’t invite Rex to join us. I know he was my good friend while I was at ______, but I can’t bear to see him now, even though it’s been so long. Maybe you didn’t hear what happened? As you know, I got married in 2014, but at the wedding when Rex saw my wife, he immediately fell in love with her and began seducing her. You know Rex, he’s so charming and funny. Well, my wife couldn’t resist him and after just a few short months she left me. I was so depressed that I had to leave Turkey to try and put myself back together. My ex-wife and Rex are happily married now but I’m still so hurt by it; please don’t tell Rex that I’ve come back to Istanbul. But yes, swimming is one thing my psychiatrist tells me will help me feel better about my divorce.
As I said before, I’ve become interested in the arts. I’m working on an article now about artwork containing wives who leave their husbands for their husband’s friends. I’m not sure which exhibits I should go to, but maybe you can help me find good ones. It’s not just painting, but all forms of art, so maybe you can tell me good films or television series I should research to help me along.
As for my arrival, I get in on the 27thin the morning. I can let you know the exact time later, after I find my ticket. I seem to have misplaced it! The visa and customs can take a while though, so who knows how long it may take to actually get in. I think I can find the metro and the Bayrampaşa station without too much trouble. Again, thanks so much for letting me stay with you. I’ll be so glad to see you again, it’s been too long! I’m so happy you’re going to have a lot of free time to show me around.
Looking forward to seeing you soon,
Steven


4. To: _______
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Coming to Turkey soon!
Hi _________!
Thanks so much for responding to my email so quickly. I’m glad that you will be able to let me stay at your place. I must apologize for being cheeky in my last email (I realized too late that I didn’t even ask if I could stay at your place!) but I’m still glad that it will work out. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I’ll be able to afford a taxi to your place, so if you could send me directions for public transportation, that would be better. Come to think of it, why don’t you just send a driver to the airport to pick me up?
Thanks for the suggestions about what to do when I’m there! I don’t know about Abant Lake, so of course I would love to go fishing there! That’s great that you’ll be going abroad with your boyfriend, where will you go? You’ve been traveling a lot these days I hear. How was your year abroad in Estonia? As far as trips outside of Istanbul go, I really would like to go to Kayseri. It’s part of my growing fascination with shoe shiners, and I hear that the best shoe shiners all come from Kayseri. I hear there’s an annual festival of shoe shiners there, do you know when it is?
My interest in shoe shiners began I guess when I won the lottery and stopped teaching. I’d always liked shining my shoes but now that I wasn’t teaching I could do it all day. I grew so fond of it that I started going down to the pier in Kadıköy and shining other people’s shoes for free, since I didn’t need the money. But then all of the other shoe shiners got angry with me because I was working in their area and stealing all of their customers. They beat me up one night and threatened my life. They told me if they ever saw me shining shoes again that they’d drown me in a bucket of shoe cream. It was because of this that I decided to leave Turkey four years ago.

Now I’ve become interested in art and am doing a PhD. My thesis examines how the shoe shiner has been used in Turkish music and art. Do you have any idea which exhibits have paintings of shoe shiners? This is also why I would like to go to Kayseri for the shoe shiner festival, but I’m not sure when it is. I really hope I don’t miss it!
I’m really excited about my trip and am so glad I’ll be able to see you! I’ll keep you informed about my flight and the dates as it gets closer so you can send a driver to come get me at the right time. See you soon!
Steven

 

5. To: ___________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Upcoming visit to Turkey!
Hi __________!
Thanks so much for your response, and I’m so excited to see you soon! Do you think if I go to your place by bus I’ll have trouble with my wheelchair? Also, is your home wheelchair-friendly? I’m so excited that at least some of my former students still want to see me. I’ve stopped teaching, as I’m sure you know, the story made headlines a few years ago. Do you remember it?

As you know, I liked to tell very funny puns in class, but many of my students didn’t like them. Sometimes they would even become angry! Anyway, after I told my favorite pun one day (what happens when chemists die? They barium!), my students rebelled against me and threw me out of the classroom 308 window. I shattered my legs and have never been able to walk since then. Who knew my jokes were so bad that they would one day cripple me? Anyway, I went home to be with my family as I recovered. I’m excited to be coming back to Turkey, but don’t worry, I won’t tell any more puns. I’ve learned my lesson!

I’m glad to hear that you’re taking a Japanese language course! I wouldn’t think that you would have time for that, since you’re so busy with your new job as the mayor. I think it would be nice if you could put up some signs alerting people that the area is a “no-pun zone” so that nobody else has the same fate as I had on that awful day. I also think you should do something about the local goat problem. Sometimes they can be angry and attack people. I heard a story about one man losing his fingers, nose and a chunk of his ear after being attacked by the local goat! But I know you’re busy and these are minor concerns, so if you are unable to do them, I understand.
I’m sorry to hear that you don’t want to join me when I visit the art museums. You don’t know what you’re missing! I guess I’ll have to roll around from exhibit to exhibit by myself. If you can let me know which ones I should definitely see, and if they’re wheelchair-friendly or not, I’d really appreciate it!
I’m really glad to be coming to see you, and don’t worry, I won’t tell you any bad jokes. I’ll let you know my flight details as the date comes closer.
See you soon!
Steven

 

6. To: ________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Coming to Turkey again!
Hi ________!
Thanks so much for your message! I’m so excited to be coming back to Turkey and I’m glad that you’ll be able to host me. I’m afraid the taxis from the airport are too expensive for me, all my money I made when I was here went to pay for my operation. I have an idea though, why don’t you just send a driver to take me from the airport to your place?
You may not recognize me when I come, so much has happened in the last five years since we had our class. That summer I decided to have a hair transplant. After so many years of baldness I was tired of everyone making fun of me all the time. I was so self-conscious! You wouldn’t believe how mean people can be to you when you’re bald. Besides, my head would get very cold in the winters.
Anyway, after my hair transplant surgery, I looked completely different. I had become so handsome that the students were afraid to look at me. Sometimes they would even start crying in class and eventually just stopped coming to my lessons. But it wasn’t only the students who were affected by my beautiful new hair! The teachers were all jealous of me. They all stopped talking to me and sometimes would write hateful messages and leave them on my desk. They even tried to light my hair on fire once. I came to regret my hair transplant because it made me so handsome that everyone turned against me. I decided to go into solitude and live alone in the woods, where my beauty wouldn’t cause anyone to hate me.
I’m so thankful for your advice on what to see when I’m in Turkey. Başdeğirmen sounds like a lovely place, I’m sure I will love their breakfast. But can it be better than the breakfast at Kale restaurant by Rumeli Hisarı? Also, for art museums, I’m currently interested in art that deals with social problems resulting from body enhancement surgery, specifically with the dangers of hair transplant surgeries. If you have any ideas about that, I would really love your help.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing you again! I’ll inform you of my flight details as the date gets closer. See you soon!
Steven
P.S. Do you know which shops sell the best hair gel?

 

7. To: _________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Return to Turkey
Hi ________!
Thanks so much for responding to my last email. I’m really looking forward to coming back to Istanbul after these five long years. It will be so good to see you! Thanks so much for the recommendations to visit Ephesus, Pamukkale and Cappadocia; although in my condition I’m afraid I won’t be able to see them. Because of what happened five years ago, the ruins and shapes of the rocks in many of these places still remind me of pieces of chalk. The terror would be too much for me.
Surely you heard about what happened on that horrible spring day in 2013 which led to my departure from Turkey? Maybe you’ve forgotten; I’ll refresh your memory. It turned out that everyone from the afternoon FCE 2 class passed the exam but not everyone in the morning FCE 1 class did. Rex, who taught speaking and listening for FCE 1, became very jealous of my teaching skills. One day as I was leaving the classroom, Rex trapped me in a corner and blinded me with chalk dust. I couldn’t breathe; there was so much chalk dust everywhere! Rex then tried to poke my eyes out with pieces of chalk which he’d carefully sharpened at home over the past weeks. Thankfully, Ayşe and Büşra came running and saved me just in time. I had to spend some time in the hospital but have never been the same since then. I had developed Calxophobia, or the fear of chalk. As you can understand, I could no longer teach at _______ University. I decided to return to the USA for therapy.
After 5 years I can now see chalk and not faint from terror, but if I were to go to a place with ancient ruins I’m afraid my old phobia would resurface. In my mind they all look like pieces of chalk. I want to take it easy and just see museums. My therapist says that maybe if I just see pictures of chalk it will help me to conquer my fear and one day I will be brave enough to go to places like Cappadocia, but I’m not ready yet. Do you know if there are any art exhibits that have chalk galleries? I think that this would be good for me. If you could do some research and find out for me, I’d really appreciate it.
Anyway, I’m really glad that you’ll be able to see me when I’m back in Istanbul. As the date for my trip gets closer I’ll fill you in on all of my flight details. Also, if you could make sure there isn’t any chalk in your house that would be really nice too. I’m really looking forward to seeing you!
Best,
Steven


8. To:________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Coming back to Turkey!
Hi ________!
I’m so glad to hear back from you! It’s so nice to hear from some of my students again, everyone had stopped contacting me after what happened back in 2013. I’m so glad that you’ll be willing to host me. Don’t believe the rumors and don’t be afraid, even though it’s the time of the Tulip Festival I won’t steal the tulips. It’s so hard to find people who believe my story! I think you’re the only one.
You remember back in 2013 when they announced the winner for the Best Accented Language Dude award, or the BALD award, don’t you? Well, I was the winner by a hair, and Rex was second place. Rex was very jealous, however. Around the same time, someone stole all of the tulips from the Istanbul Tulip festival. One night when I returned home to my apartment, the police were there waiting to arrest me! Apparently someone had put the tulips inside my apartment, had used photoshop to create pictures of me stealing all of the tulips and had planted evidence at the scene of the crime!
Well, needless to say, it was a big scandal. The institute for higher education revoked my work permit and I couldn’t teach anymore. Everyone at the university hated me. I was stripped of the BALD award, which was then given to Rex. I ended up getting deported. Now it’s been five years and I can return to Turkey to clear my name. I know you believe me, that it wasn’t me who stole the tulips. It must have been Rex! He was jealous about not winning the BALD award so he framed me with the tulips, knowing that I would lose the award and he would get it.
As I said before, I’ve begun a new career working in art history, so yes I am excited to go see some museums in Istanbul. To be honest, though, the real reason for my visit is to get my vengeance on Rex for everything that’s happened to me in the last five years. I want to reclaim my BALD award and win back the hearts of my students and colleagues. Do you think you can help me convince them that it was Rex, and not me who stole all of those tulips five years ago?
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon, it’s been too long. Thank you so much for believing my story all along. Anyway, I’ll let you know my flight details as my trip gets closer so you know when to expect me. See you soon!
Best,
Steven

 

9. To: ________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Visit
Hi ________!
Thanks so much for your quick response to my email. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you! I’m glad that you’ll be able to host me at your house as well; I’ll need to be in a comfortable place in order to practice for the big show coming up. I told you about it before, didn’t I? Maybe I didn’t mention it.
Anyway, back when we were doing that FCE class I was started to learn how to play the ney. I became very good at it and even started to write my own music. It was very popular. It was kind of like Mercan Dede’s music, I called it Sufi electro-ney chillout music. My 2014 hit “I tried to catch the fog but I mist” won the Eurovision song contest, as I’m sure you remember.
The only problem was that I quickly became more popular than Mercan Dede, who began to be jealous of my superior talent at Sufi electro-ney chillout music. He began to insert subliminal messages in his songs to manipulate his fans to attack me. It’s a good thing I had that nazar bracelet because I managed to uncover a secret murder plot against me and I was able to escape in time. I had to flee back to Michigan where I’ve been living since then, perfecting my ney skills. Mercan Dede has finally accepted my challenge and has told his fans to leave me in peace. Next month he and I will have a ney duel onstage at Babylon to see once and for all who is the Sufi electro-ney chillout master.
I know you’re busy but I do hope you will be able to go to the show at Babylon. I need to have some supporters there so Mercan Dede’s fans don’t try to kill me. I’m hoping you can talk to some of the other people from the FCE class and see if they will come support me. Don’t bother with Rex, though, he was my friend but he was always a Mercan Dede fan. I was sad to find out that he was the mastermind behind the plot for my murder in 2015.
Thank you for your recommendations for things to see. Because I’m preparing for my duel with Mercan Dede, I won’t have time to go to Northern Turkey for rafting. I need to learn more about Sufism. Do you know museums that have Sufi inspired art? I hear that I should see the Galata Mevlevi dervish lodge, do you know it? Also, maybe I should go to Konya or Haci Bektaş. Do you know what I should do there?
Anyway, I’m very excited to be able to see you again! Thanks so much for letting me stay at your place. I’ll let you know my travel details in my next email, I misplaced my ticket somewhere.
Take care!
Steven

 

10. To:_______
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Traveling to Turkey again!
Hi ______!
It’s been so long, I’m so glad that you still remember me and responded to my email! Thank you so much for letting me stay with you, it means a lot to me. Unfortunately, a taxi will be too expensive for me. I think I will just walk from the airport. Is it far?
That’s a great idea about going on a gastronomy tour of Turkey, especially considering my new profession. I’m disappointed that you won’t be able to go with me, though, as I’m not sure exactly where I should go. Do you know which cities in Istanbul are famous for the best simits? I need to go to these places to learn from the simit masters. I’ll do some research, but I don’t think I’ll go with a tourism agency. I think the agencies will charge me too much money and I don’t want to have to spend time with stupid, loud, obnoxious tourists.
I told you about my new job before, didn’t I? After many years of teaching I decided that I would follow my true passion and become a simitçi. I was always interested in simitçi s, I even wrote a short story about one, back when we were doing that FCE class. I sold the story to TRT and it became a big hit, I’m sure you know about it. Is the series still going on? Anyway, with the money I got from my story I was able to become a simitçi, but I’m still learning about it; I’m not a simit usta yet. I don’t have a good enough voice to be a truly good simitçi. Unfortunately, in the USA it’s really difficult to make simits and they aren’t popular, so I’m really excited to be back in Turkey for a little while where more people appreciate simits.
I also want to see art galleries. I want to see historical paintings of old Istanbul that have simitçis in them, because I’m writing a book about how the simitçi has been portrayed in Turkish art. Do you know any galleries that have paintings of simitçis? If you could help me find some, I would really appreciate it. I know the painter Melling had some paintings with simitçis, but I don’t know where to find them. Maybe in Dolmabahçe palace?
Anyway, I’m really glad that you responded to my email. I’m really looking forward to seeing you again! I’ll let you know my travel details later, I can’t seem to find my ticket but it’s in my email somewhere. If you could tell me how to walk to your place from the airport, I’d appreciate it. Hopefully I’ll be able to sell some simits along the way!
Take care and see you soon!
Steven

11. To: _________
From: Steven
Subject: Re:Re: Coming back to Turkey!

Hi ______!
I’m so glad that you replied to my email! I’m really looking forward to seeing you. It’s been so long and so much has changed! I know that you’ll be busy when I’m there but I’m hoping that, even if you can’t accompany me on my trips outside of Istanbul, that you will be able to show me some really good museums when I am there in the city.
Who could have guessed that the year after you took the FCE examination and did so well, that Turkey would close all of the English language programs all over the country and deport all of their foreign English teachers? I guess it was connected with the whole world’s sudden interest in Turkish history and culture. It’s definitely been an interesting four years since leaving Turkey, but my Turkish has really improved. I’m nearly fluent now, and last year became a certified teacher of Turkish. (I don’t know why I’m writing to you in English, I should be writing to you in Turkish!) It’s been interesting to see how English teachers all over the world slowly had to return to the USA because English completely lost its importance. At least all of the students are happier at the university now! You’ll be surprised to hear that we hardly even speak English at home now! Everyone’s having a difficult time learning Turkish so I’m thankful for my years I spent in Istanbul.
This trip that I’m making to Istanbul now is very important for my career as a Turkish teacher in the USA. Because it’s so competitive to get a job as a Turkish teacher in the universities’ language preparatory programs here, it really helps to know a lot about Turkey. I’m hoping to learn all I can about Turkey’s history and art, so I think I should really see Hagia Sophia and Topkapi. Can you show me around those places? I also should probably learn about Turkish food, as American fast food companies will all close soon and be replaced with Turkish restaurants. I need to be able to help my students learn about Turkish food. There’s so much that my students will need to learn about Turkish culture, so if I can become an expert on my trip (with your help!) it will be really good for my career.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing you. I get to the Büyükçekmece airport sometime in the evening, but I’m not sure exactly what time. I’ll let you know tomorrow.
Take care and see you soon!
Steven