White Elephant                Skiing in Bulgaria                                                                                                       The Blob,  Vol. 2, Issue 12, December 2007
Thursday December 13th, 2007

.........................................White Elephant....................................... 

Oh man, I'm so thankful for good friends off campus this year!  It's so fun having a closer to normal life!
In order to get off campus, though, I now have keys to five different apartments.  I actually slept in four different places in four nights this week and all of it was platonic! (really)
Don't tell anyone, but that's Batman, Spider-man and Superman on the left. ;)  Batman and Superman seem to enjoy every opportunity they get to torture good 'ol innocent Spidey.
We had a little white elephant gift exchange which was a lot of fun.  I got a nice reading lamp and Batman got a memory stick courtesy of my not being able to find the student who lost it last year.  Charlotte got some nice coasters (middle left).  Mateo, bottom left, is a student from Italy who's staying at Mark's place (he's in the States on business just now).  Anyways, Mateo decided to give away Mark's coasters as his white elephant.  Quite a cheeky fellow, eh?
Jerilyn got a nice little shawl and Kurt especially adored his shawl which doubled as a sash in his belly dancing performance later in the evening.

Here's a quote I liked this week:
"Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult--once we truly understand and accept it--then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult.  Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be
easy.  They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others.  I know about this moaning because I have done my share.
Life is a series of problems.  Do we want to moan about them or solve them?

From "The Road Less Travelled" by M. Scott Peck


Sunday December 30th, 2007

Skiing in Bulgaria

Skiing in Bulgaria is a well kept secret - very cheap and beautiful country.  Seeing snow at Christmas was especially nice. :)
We (Jerilyn, Mary Beth and I), took a 13 hour overnight train there and back.  There's a McDonald's at the train station in Sofia which doesn't sell hamburgers!  I thought I'd seen all of the pizza toppings living in Taiwan, but I discovered a new one in Bulgaria - pickles!
We went cross country skiing for a day and downhill skiing for two days.  The cross country trail was used for a biathlon and the downhill run has been used in a World Cup.
We came back New Year's Eve and I spent Christmas day
with a family and friends in Istanbul.  It felt strange to walk around the city on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and not see snow or Christmas cheer everywhere but seeing a Christmas tree and presents and all on the day made it feel like home.  I also went to the Christmas Eve service which I really liked.  We did the cliché lighting candles at the end while singing Silent Night but it was so fun.  We also sang some other carols.  Some of the verses were translated into Turkish and while most of the people there were international, we seemed to sing louder on the Turkish verses.
We lucked out with the Turkish holiday falling on the Wednesday before Christmas which is why I was able to go skiing.  We were supposed to teach on Dec. 24th and again
tomorrow on Dec. 31st.  The funny thing is that only 30 of the almost two hundred grade nine students came to school on the 24th and I expect that even fewer will come on the 31st because many Turks treat New Year's like we treat Christmas in Canada and most don't celebrate Christmas.
I still haven't decided about what to do for New Year's.  Some friends are having a Halloween New Year's party which I'd like to go to with my Spider-man costume but I'm also not crazy about joining a big group party.
So what will the New Year bring?  That's a big question this coming year.  2008 seem to hold a lot of change in store for me.  Will I go back to Canada next year or move on to China?  That is yet to be seen.  I'm planning to go to a job fair in February and I'm curious to see how it goes. 
I was quite overwhelmed at the last job fair I attended in 2006.  I didn't expect so many schools to be desperate for computer teachers.  This job fair will be of a slightly higher caliber so I'm curious to see how I'll fair.  Part of me would love to go back to Canada in 2008 but another part of me wants to stay overseas a little longer.  Everyday now actually makes it more difficult for me to leave Istanbul.  The longer you stay somewhere, the more connections you make and the harder it can become to leave.  One helpful thing is that a few of my good friends will be leaving Istanbul in 2008 so that will help make it easier for me. 
May 2008 be a great year for us all! 
Happy New Year everyone!