Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Archive for the tag “Wealth”

Different Sides of Istanbul

A lovely dinner with Ceyda, my sister’s Turkish penpal from middle school!

Istanbul is a HUGE city, and just when I start thinking that I know something about it, I am surprised by something new.  I think this is because Istanbul is often on both ends of the extremes:

  • Rich and Poor
  • Safe and Dangerous
  • Touristy and “Local”
  • Easy and hard to get around
  • Europe and Asia
  • Quiet and Loud

Here is some evidence that Istanbul can’t be pegged as one single “type.”

Shopping: Yesterday, I visited a famous old market called the Grand Bazaar, located in the Old City.  It was touristy, but it’s been around for years, and is very authentic in many ways. Today, I had a very different shopping experience.  In order to visit a school, I took a ferry across the Bosphorus River to the Asian side of Istanbul.  I came across a mall, and thought it would be interesting to check out.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected for a Turkish mall:

The public school that I visited today

Schools: The public school that I visited today was nice, but some aspects were hard to see.  Most classes have 30-40 students, and many students wore dirty or ripped uniforms.  They were eager to learn about the United States and tell me about their school, but most of them said that they don’t like school. They were also very rowdy, and the teacher had to raise her voice to speak over them. She also told me that most of these students will not attend college.  I’m guessing this is due to financial obstacles.  Despite the challenges, I was impressed by the kindness of the teachers and they were enthusiastic about using project-based learning approaches. The students gave me their email addresses as they are interested in American penpals.  Tomorrow, I am visiting a private school, so it’ll be exciting to see how it is different. You can meet some of the students and teachers in this little video:

The restaurant we ate at has a private boat which took us across the sea (from Asia to Europe) back home from dinner

Public Transportation: I have been spending tons of time on public buses, trams, and ferries.  All of them feel very safe, and I am blown away by how helpful people have been to me.  Since I don’t speak Turkish and don’t have a bus card, I often have to ask for help from locals to get where I am trying to go. I’ve had multiple people pay for my fare, get on the wrong bus in order to help me out, and go out of their way to stay with me and get me help. It’s really amazing. I feel like I’ve got little Turkish guardian angels everywhere, looking after me.  Today was one of the only times that I felt unsafe, when at the end of the day, my bus encountered a riot of sorts. People were celebrating a big football match win (two Turkish teams), but it got out of control a few cars away from where we were, and the police had to come break it up.  I was debating what to do.  Getting off the bus and running seemed like a bad idea, because then I’d be IN the mob. So, I stayed put with my new Turkish bus friends, and got out my camera:

As you can see, Istanbul is full of surprises. What will tomorrow bring?

Kids are kids

Students at the Kindergarten are excited to see one of my balloon creations, a buzzing bee.

No matter where you go, kids are kids.  Today, we spent more time at Zaporizhia Classical Lyceum, and we also visited a “kindergarten,” which is the word that they use here for a nursery school.

Kindergartens here are public and officially they are free for any child age two to six.  I use the word “officially” because I get the impression that sometimes parents are asked to donate money or need to give bribes to get students in.  The one we visited today is one of the better ones in the area.  Like in the United States, parents need to get on a waiting list when the baby is born to get them into the kindergarten of their choice.

A classroom at the Kindergarten. As you can see, they have lots of resources.

The school we visited is open for many hours — from 6:30 am until the evening. From two years old, they have structured classes to attend. We observed classes of gymnastics, painting, English language, music, writing, and more.  The students have class from 8:30 until lunch, and then there’s a nap room they sleep in.  The school appears to have many resources, from stuffed animals and other toys to a swimming pool and sauna. Class size is approximately one teacher for every ten children.

A young student plays on an obstacle course with her mother.


We also spent more time at Zaporizhia Classical Lyceum.  In the English classes that we’ve visited, they use multiple methods of instruction.

Students in 2nd Form say hello

They have workbooks for grammar exercises and CDs to listen to songs and readings.  They also ask students to share opinions and information about themselves.
The teachers here also value games and activities that get students moving.  For example, we observed our host teacher, Lydia, leading a quiz game where teams of first grade students competed against each other to remember English vocabulary. Like in the United States, the game made students excited and they had a hard time controlling their enthusiasm:

Lydia and Lumilla with their 10th form students

Overall, the students are very formal in the classroom. They dress in button down shirts and nice slacks and skirts. They stand when the teacher enters and are very polite.  They are taught to recite answers, poems, and songs. However, when we see the way that the teachers here interact with the students outside of class, it’s clear the relationship is warm and anything but formal. Our host teacher, Lydia, gets phone calls on her cell phone from parents of her students, and she follows their growth from when they are very little until they are adults. It’s clear that the relationship is personal and she knows her students well.

The Classical Lyceum "Couch Area"

Tonight we had a traditional dinner with Lydia, the principal, and two other teachers. We had a grand time!  The kindness and warmth make Zaporizhya feel like home.  Soon, I will post photos of our wonderful evening.

Isn’t travel too expensive?

The open roads of Peru

“You can travel to any country where your heart leads” is a line from one of my favorite songs, Everything Possible, by the fabulous Fred Small. I hope that my students leave my class knowing that the world is their oyster.

But, wait a minute– is that really true? Let’s face the facts.  Travel is expensive and many people live their lives without ever leaving the country, much less the state. Fear can hold us back, but even more real and all powerful is the way money controls our lives. Is everything really possible?

In Western Samoa as a high school student

While I wish that everything WERE possible, I know that my list of countries is far longer than most people’s lists.  I’d love to say that I earned all of these opportunities with my smart choices, creative job searching, and hard work, but I can’t take full credit. In fact, I was born into a family that valued travel and had the financial resources to allow me international experiences at an early age.  When I was fifteen, I spent my first summer abroad, studying French.  At seventeen, I participated in a service-learning program in Western Samoa. These experiences were hugely influential to who I am today, and certainly helped me get into the university of my choice, Northwestern. Negotiating awkward situations trying to navigate dinner conversation in French and sleeping on a straw mat on the floor offered me more than a sense of independence. Traveling abroad in high school taught me that connecting with people despite cultural, racial, and linguistic differences is hard… but worth it. My life is so much richer for all of the experiences I’ve gained learning about other peoples and places. I feel extremely lucky.

Making balloons in Mali

They say that “with privilege comes responsibility.”  My hope is that I can use my experiences and opportunities to help others realize their dreams.  Since I know a lot about international travel, I want to make this offer to any readers out there. Can I support you in finding ways to get overseas? Please get in touch if you are seeking advice in how to get yourself or your children abroad.  I would love to help.

In the meantime, here are some tips for anyone interested in international travel.  Visiting other countries can be part of anyone’s life, but it won’t necessarily be easy.  The first step is really wanting to do it. Get a passport and learn about all the places that are out there. Educate yourself by talking to other people who have gone where you want to go. Then, don’t let money get in your way and start getting creative:

This is the actual ad that I answered in 2000, and this job brought me to Nepal, Thailand, South Africa, Pakistan, and India.

1) Find ways to get paid to travel — My first job after college was as a private tutor for an American family traveling around the world.  I got it by answering an ad in the Boston Globe, and a few weeks later, I was getting paid to hop on a plane to Nepal.

2) Find ways to travel for free — Whether you are a student or working professional, there are all sorts of organizations that sponsor volunteering and studying abroad.  For example, as a teacher, there are lots of grants and volunteer opportunities that will pay for your flight and expenses, like the Teachers for Global Classrooms program.  If you speak English, there are people all over the world who would love to learn from you, and they’ll often help get you there in exchange for your language tutoring.

My homestay family in Guatemala

3) Travel on the Cheap — A hotel room in Western Europe can often cost hundreds of dollars.   However, when I traveled in India, I was able to find a decent room for less than two dollars a night.  Likewise, in Guatemala, I attended a language school that provided one-on-one private Spanish lessons for five hours a day, as well as room and board (all meals and a homestay) for $150 per week. If you look around, there are ways to travel very inexpensively. If couchsurfing and WOOFing aren’t part of your vocabularly, look up these organizations and others that help people travel on a budget. Alternatively, ask around and see if any friends of friends might be able to host you.  Staying with a local is always the best way to really get to know a place, AND you’ll save on lodging costs.

4) Save up— It’s easy to think that we need that new video game or iPad or car, but do we really?  I’ve decided to make choices in my life to save my money for travel.  I don’t own a house or any fancy furniture, but I do have a lot of great stories to tell about experiences that I’ll remember forever.

A moment to remember, the Okavango Delta in Botswana

Love from Vancouver Island, Canada

Of course, it isn’t necessary to travel internationally to have these kinds of cultural experiences, but I wish with all of my heart that each of my students will one day get to experience another country. Most likely, it won’t come cheaply. It’ll take a long time to save up and a whole lot of work.  Probably, at some point while traveling, there will be a moment that is super unfamiliar or lonely or scary.  There will be other moments that elicit a smile from ear to ear.  And it’ll be worth every cent.

So when students say they want to travel like me, I tell them that anything is possible if they make it a priority in their lives. They probably already have resources all around them.  It’s just a question of finding them. And there’s one resource who just wrote this blog entry.

Here I am on a microlight over Victoria Falls, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe

“Fly the great big sky. See the great big sea. Kick through continents. Busting boundaries… Roam if you want to, Roam around the world… ” — The B 52s

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