Tag Archives: School

How to Explain Halloween

A pirate, a witch, and a butterfly walk into a Turkish elementary school.


Or that’s how this story would begin if it were a joke. The punch line would have to involve something about being mobbed by second graders, kids pronouncing “candy” like “jan-dee” as if it were a Turkish word, and throwing candy and popcorn around when we ran out of things to do.

On the day after Halloween, Alex, Lindsay, and I headed to the elementary school where we volunteer as part of our CBL, or Community-Based Learning. Our plan was to teach second graders something about Halloween for their English class. We showed up to the school in our costumes, with bags of candy, masks, and popcorn in tow.

The result? Absolute, pure chaos. The very best kind.


We began with an explanation of Halloween, acting out trick-or-treating and teaching them some basic vocabulary: mask, candy, witch, boo, pumpkin, and so on. We then had groups of children come up in groups to act out trick-or-treating as I played the role of the neighbor.


I have no idea how much they actually understood of the whole lesson, but it was incredibly fun to fuel second graders’ sugar high and goofily attempt to explain Halloween.


At one point, we just called kids up to the front of the classroom and dressed them up in different masks to the delight of their classmates.


Back at the Lojman, we had also carved a pumpkin to celebrate the holiday, complete with a Turkish flag design.

Happy Halloween!

Back to Paradise

After a whirlwind vacation through Istanbul, Prague, Budapest, and Vienna, it’s nice to return back to my routine.


Especially when my routine includes daily runs dodging tourists along the harbor, trips to Cleopatra Beach to work on my tan (ha!), and endless cups of çay.


It’s good to be back.

Palmistry, UNO Games, and Harry’s


One of the special components of the McGhee program is the opportunity to participate in different options for Community-Based Learning (CBL) while you’re abroad. It’s an integral part of the experience because it allows you to get involved with the community and interact with the beautiful city and people of Alanya—whether it’s helping to plant a flowerbed at the waterfront or assisting special needs adults with a crafts workshop.

This semester, I signed up to help teach English at a local middle school in Alanya for my CBL. On Friday morning, we got a ride over to the school in the morning, where we met up with Mehmet Bey, who teaches us Turkish twice a week but also is a regular English teacher at the middle school. When we arrived, he gave us the basic run-down of the plan as we sipped cups of çay—first we’d help out with the seventh graders, then we’d go help out with the eighth graders.

We soon made our way up to the seventh grade classroom, being mobbed by students along the way who kept wanting to show off their English to us—“Hello! How are you! What’s your name!”

We introduced ourselves to the class, and then sat down with a group of students to help them go through the lesson. After so many years of language classes, I’ve always wondered how strange our conversations and readings must sound to native speakers. And so, it was a lot of fun to re-enact a dialogue with Amanda on the topic for the day as Sam and Pam. It went somewhere along the lines of this:

Sam: Hello, Pam! Let me see your palm.

Pam: Why do you want to see my palm?

Sam: I am studying palmistry. Palmistry can tell you about your personality and traits by reading the lines on your palm.

Pam: How does it work?

Sam: For example, you have strong lines on your palm, which means you must be optimistic.

Pam: I don’t believe it, but I need to go to the cinema at 4 o’clock.

Sam: Okay. Good bye!

I have no idea why Unit 1 of their textbooks includes a lesson on palmistry of all things—and I’m not quite sure any of the students understood what was going on—but it made for a very entertaining lesson.

After our lesson with the seventh graders, there was time for recess, so we went outside to join the rest of the kids. It was almost like we were celebrities—everywhere we went the kids would point at us, and then mob us with questions about what our names were and where we were from.

We then went to the eighth grade lesson, where Mehmet Bey handed us the textbook and told us what pages he wanted to go over today. And so, I somehow ended up leading the class through an impromptu lesson on the vocabulary for character traits.

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This time, the passage was an email from a girl to her friend back home about her new friends in London—“Let me tell you about Elaine. She is very rude and inconsiderate. I wish I had a true friend like you.” After reading it several times and going over the assigned questions, we worked on the pronunciation of some particularly difficult words: honest, punctual, ambitious, generous, etc. (Turkish is written phonetically, with 29 letters and 29 sounds—unfortunately, English isn’t quite as straightforward.)

At noon, we were picked up and had lunch at Yamaç Café before getting our stuff together to head down to the beach. (I can’t get there often enough!)

We had some time to read for class before getting ready for our reception that night. Every year, the McGhee Center hosts a huge reception for members of the Alanya community—host families, the mayor, and even the governor! It was hosted on this outdoor lawn, right next to Cleopatra Beach, with a huge buffet laid out for all of the guests. My host family came, so I was able to hang out with my host sister Müge and her friend Dilara, who is Mara’s host sister.

Afterwards, Müge and Dilara wanted to take us out to some places in Alanya. So, after the reception, we walked down to the waterfront near the Red Tower to listen to the free jazz festival that’s going on this weekend.

After watching the concert for a bit, we then played UNO for an hour or so at this café nearby, which has a huge collection of board games and cards that you can choose from.


By midnight, we finally headed over to Harry’s, a bar on the main strip that plays live music on the nights. We had a wonderful time listening to the band, who played all kinds of American rock and had an absolutely gifted lead singer.

I can’t name a better way to top off a Friday night than jumping onto the dance floor with Mara singing every word to “I Will Survive.”

On another note, I’ve updated Georgetown’s OIP blog with a summary of my time in Turkey so far:

The dance group took us backstage, and dressed us in elaborate costumes that represented traditional garb from various regions in Turkey. Our instructions? “Just follow what we do.”

And so, the nine of us took the stage along with our professional friends, clumsily walking and clapping with the beat as we acted out a traditional wedding ceremony. I’m pretty sure our Turkish audience was quite bewildered why a group of clumsy Americans were also included in the show that night. (We were too.)

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Life in Alanya

I like to get up early enough to sit in our living room and appreciate how the light streams through the cloud cover in the mornings, spotlighting different parts of the city from up above. I usually take some time to scan the headlines, check my email, and catch up with my family back home.

After a shower, I head downstairs to the common area, where a delightful woman named Urman always puts out a spread of different kinds of Turkish breads, pastries, fruit, honey, chocolate hazelnut spread, and peanut butter for us to choose from. She’s also shown me how to microwave my simit to eat it warm, and she usually hands me another kind of pastry or bread so I don’t miss what’s fresh for that day. I then pour myself a cup of kahve (coffee) or çay (tea, pronounced like “chai”) and head back upstairs with my plate and mug.

This morning, I sip on my kahve as I mindlessly browse Facebook, then turn back to browsing the New York Times. It’s raining this Thursday morning, which might otherwise be gloomy if I was a tourist here on vacation, but otherwise makes it incredibly pleasant to stay inside all day for classes.


On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a class in the morning period, from 9 to 12 noon. Today, it was the first meeting of my economics class on the Political Economy of the Turkish Republic, where Steve gave us an introductory overview of 19th century Ottoman history to set the stage for the rest of the semester. For most of the class, we’ll be discussing the effects of political events in the 20th century on the Turkish economy. In general, my classes are small. There is a total of nine Georgetown students on the trip, and we’re each required to take four out of the six classes offered in addition to Turkish. My class this morning was one of the largest: seven students.

The little classroom set up in the bottom floor of the lojman. (The McGhee Villa needs restoration work, so we're unable to take our classes there this semester. Although, this way we get the benefit of waking up 5 minutes before class and still making it in time.)

The little classroom set up in the bottom floor of the lojman. (The McGhee Villa needs restoration work, so we’re unable to take our classes there this semester. Although, this way we get the benefit of waking up 5 minutes before class and still making it in time.)

We got out slightly early, so I had some time to work on reading before lunch at 12. For lunch, it’s a short walk to a tiny restaurant down the road. The McGhee staff have worked with the woman who cooks there to plan out a variety of different dishes for lunch each day. On the first day, we got to sample a lavish spread for breakfast of all different types of jams; today, it was a kind of lentil soup, rice, salad, and köfte (meatballs).

After lunch, I usually have a small break before my afternoon class begins at 1:30. My afternoon classes meet twice a week for 90 minutes––today, we talked about the history of veiling in my theology class on “The State and the Veil,” which will compare veiling practices in various countries around the world.

Then, every day, we all have our Beginning Turkish class from 4 to 6 p.m., where we’re currently learning how to say basic phrases (how to say hello, good bye, thank you, sorry) as well as form basic sentences. (Ben Amerikaliyim!)

So far, we’ve been trying different restaurants each day for dinner, so we can then choose what we want our schedule and rotation of restaurants to be for the following months. This first week, we ate a wonderful buffet of all types of salads at a hotel down the hill, sliced open fresh fish from the restaurant down the road, and took our pick from a traditional Turkish kitchen. Today, we ate at a special restaurant called “Old House,” where the cook, “Uncle Charlie” as he told us to call him, puts together a new fixed menu each day based on what he finds at the market.

After dinner, we usually hang out in one of the living rooms of the apartments or work on reading. Our days are busy, but honestly, it’s nice to finally be able to settle into a routine.