Monday, October 31, 2011

The Fun Continues... Cilgin Kiz's Family in Shock as she Visits "The Field of Dreams"

Our days in Manchester were all go, go go. It was great fun to visit the children and talk to them in their classrooms. We ironed out teething problems with the project and planned the next months activities.

Comenius Noticeboard in Crossgates Primary School.
We visited a secondary school. 1200 pupils, we don't have that many people living in our village. I wouldn't like to be organising that school. The sheer logistics of getting pupils from one room to another must be a nightmare.
The gym where we took part in the activities. 

Recreation area for the pupils
Next was Rochdale Town Hall. It is a very beautiful Victorian Gothic building. After a guided tour we stopped by to meet the Lord Mayor.

Section of the floor in the entry hall


Lion looks out over the town of Rochdale

Lord  Mayor and his wife

Year 5's, their teachers and visitors pose with the Mayor

And then we went bowling!  The Year 5 pupils came with us. What a great leveller. It was wonderful to see people without the language communicating effectively and having fun with the children. It loosened many of the inhibitions.

Checking out the scores!

The bowling was followed with a curry, now one of England's "traditional" foods. The two older Turkish men were not impressed. This surprised me, as spicy foods and rice would be very much part of their diet.

The next morning we were back in the school again to continue with our planning. It is funny. The funding for the project comes form a central agency in Europe. It is adminstered by local agencies in ach of our countries. But apart from the basic rule that we must spend the money on "mobilities", school visits, the rules that govern what we do with the money vary greatly from country to country. For example, as long as we can show that the money was spent in connection with the project we can use it as we wish. Our biggest expense outside the mobilities is paying for substitute teachers. Spain cannot do this, they try to plan the visits during school holidays. England can only travel Saturday to Wednesday or vice versa. We can travel as we wish, though three school days are seen as the norm. Thus, trying to plan the visit to Kayseri was difficult but eventually we reached a compromise.

Meeting finished we were given our packed lunches and once more headed off in the bus to visit Old Trafford, the home ground of Manchester United.

Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. "The Field of Dreams"

Everyone who knows me was highly amused with this part of my trip. They know I wouldn't cross the sitting room floor to switch on the telly to watch a soccer match, let alone the Irish Sea or "The Pond" as it's known here. We were brought on a guided tour.

I'll have to admit it was impressive, though one of the Poles was told in no uncertain terms she could not have a blade of grass to bring home to her soccer mad son, and Pilar was strongly reprimanded for putting her toe on the grass, the signs telling her not  were  pointed out to her and it was written in several languages including Spanish so inability to understand was not an acceptable excuse.

Strangely enough, none of the children transgressed.!!

Seating area where our guide is standing is the wheelchair area, behind him is the seating area for the blind. Earphones are provided with match commentary.

Our group!
Next it was the Imperial War Museum, with exhibits from two World Wars, a car blown up in Baghdad and some twisted girders from the World Trade Centre. It was very well done and the lightshow really brought the consequences of war home to us.

Fire Truck

Anti Aircraft Gun

This is the steel section from the World Trade Centre

This car was blown up on the streets of Baghdad

We went to an Italian restaurant that night. Hasan and Mustafa were delirious. They loved their pizza. They cleaned their plates and beamed at everyone. After the meal, the Turks headed for bed, the Poles returned to their B&B to "look after" their principal who had a headache. Did I hear the word "pretend" before "look after"? Mmmmmm.

The Irish and the Spanish along with the English co-ordinator headed for the pub.  Pilar started to wilt. She had been fighting a throat infection since she arrived. The voice was gone and bed was mandatory.  I was blamed for leading them all astray. They were easily led!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Farewell Manchester.

This is the last post in the Manchester series. I'm behind with my posts. I took a break for a while, both from writing and reading. But I'm back in the swing again. Hopefully, I will be able to keep up with the writing and I've started my blog reading again.

On the last morning of our Comenius visit to Rochdale we had a brief but informative tour of Manchester. The history of Manchester is very interesting, here are a few brief facts.

  • It was at the heart of the industrial revolution, mills for cotton, engineering firms made machines for the cotton industry, chemical firms made bleaches and dyes, this is turn lead to banking and financial services. Growing population led to improvement in transport and distribution services
  • In 18th century it was the cotton making capital of the world.
  • 80% of the world’s cotton was bought and sold in the Royal Exchange here
  • Business tycoons endowed the city with museums, galleries, libraries and theatres.
  • Manchester was at one end of the first intercity railway line, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway
  • The Manchester shipping canal was opened in 1894 and was the largest river navigation canal in the world.
  •  Cotton industry declined because of two world wars and Ghandhi’s boycott of British cotton
  •  Scientists first split the atom in Manchester
  •   Scientists developed the first programmable computer here.

Manchester Cathedral built in the vertical Gothic style
In 1996 an IRA bomb devastated the city centre. There was no loss of life, as a warning was given. But approximately 200 were injured, mainly by flying glass. The immense damage done to the surrounding buildings led to the total regeneration of the city centre. It is tough to stand in a multi -national group and to hear how a small group of fellow countrymen had wreaked such devastation on the city. Keeping our counsel, we were surprised to hear our guide say that many feel the bombing was the best thing that happened to the city as without it, it is doubtful whether the investment by private investors and government would have happened.

The Manchester 'Eye'

First apartments to sell in this building sold for £1m

Urban Renewal

Some of the old buildings remain.

Our tour was cut short as some of the group wanted some time to go shopping and the Arndale Centre, the biggest shopping centre in the UK was temptingly nearby. I had no desire to shop. As I'm off to Turkey again on Saturday, and I'm hoping to do a photography workshop next month, my credit card needs an intermission.
I could spend a lot of time here. A food market selling products from many different countries. The smell was heavenly!
Neady and I decided to head for Starbucks to fortify ourselves with a decaff tea and a strong cup of coffee before we headed for the shops. As it was after 11.00a.m it was safe enough to ring the daughter to catch up with the pipe bomb story. She would be awake and conscious enough to talk.  No-one will ever accuse our family of being boring!

The Royal Exchange where corn was bought and sold.

Inside the exchange.

The Exchange now houses a theatre in the round.

I had an hour to kill so I decided to wander around Marks and Spencers. Bad idea!!!! I thanked the Lord I wasn't flying Ryanair with their 15kg baggage allowance as I now have now added three new dresses, a pair of jeans and a new top to my wardrobe. But €15 for a new dress, how could I pass it by???

Next, we set off for the ballet. We met the rest of the group outside the theatre. We were booked into the matinee to see Strictly Gershwin performed by the English National Ballet.When I looked at our tickets I noticed it stated that there was restricted leg room.  Now, I'm known as Bridget the Midget by my loving daughters. They tower over me. I'm of average height at 5'4". I'm tired telling them that best goods come in small parcels. I'm sorry they were not there sitting beside me in the theatre. I would definitely have proved my point. I had no room for my legs. They would have been eating their knees! I felt sorry for Carlos beside me. At half time, he made a bolt for the empty seats higher up. This also gave me room to stretch my legs.

The leg space was not the only problem in the theatre. It was warm, nicely so, and dark. The show was excellent but try as I might  my head kept nodding. I didn't want to miss a minute of the performance, but all the going of the past few days, the late nights and the "strenuous" shopping hour all took their toll. I was mortified. Kathryn, who had gone to so much trouble to organize an interesting and varied programme for us, was sitting directly behind me. Dear God, she would think I was bored. I was quite relieved when some of my companions admitted to the same thing. Several of us were nodding.

After the show we took the train back to Rochdale. The Turks were amazed at the orderly queue of people off the train and then waiting patiently to get on board in an orderly fashion. One remarked that this is something you would never see in Turkey. The concept of "orderly" queue does not exist.

After a brief rest, a change into one of my new dresses we came together again for our "last supper." It fell to me as project coordinator to thank Jane and her colleagues for the wonderful visit. Then it was hugs and kisses all round as we wished each other well and promised to meet up in Seville in January.

A 04.30 start the next morning saw us on our way to the airport to catch an early flight home. It's only 3 months to our meeting in Seville.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm Back!

It's been a while since I've written a new post. For some reason my heart wasn't in it, possibly due to tiredness. Maybe it is due to the dreary weather and the days getting shorter, It certainly wasn't due to the lack of writing material. So I decided to pull myself into the corner by the scruff of the neck and give myself a good talking to. So here I am, I'm writing a new post and over the next week I'll begin to catch up on my reading. My apologies for my absence. I will get back to reading your blogs now.

Where to begin, the trip to Manchester? Opening my Facebook and seeing my daughter's post saying she had a bad day, involving a missing car, a pipe bomb and having to walk home? Or the recent tragic events in Turkey, the ongoing Kurdish problem that led to the deaths of 26 Turkish soldiers in Hakkari followed by the devasting earthquake in Van?

I suppose I should start at the beginning, with our visit to Crossgates Primary School in Rochdale. Of all the schools I will visit on our project "Our Place in Space" the prospect of visiting this one was the least exciting for me. Perhaps because England is such a close neighbour it didn't have the same "romance" as a trip to Seville" But what a trip! I was  so wrong.

The evening we arrived we had time to go for a walk around Hollingworth Lake.

The school was very interesting to see. The classrooms are open, there are no doors, yet there was not distraction of noise that I expected. Everywhere there was evidence of the children's work and photos of them having fun. They are taught their rights and that this brings responsibilities. They have a student council that are involved in school decision making, e.g. playground design. They are given an annual budget and it is at the discretion of the school management how this money is spent. 80% of it is spent on staff. The school was a credit to it's principal and staff. On entering the door you felt the warm friendly atmosphere that pervades the school.

It was also interesting to observe the different group dynamics. It was difficult for some of the group as they only spoke their native language and they had to talk through their english teachers.

The Spanish were great. Lots of fun and dying to talk. The newest member of their staff had often been to Ireland and amazingly had starred ( as an extra in an Irish language soap opera Ros na Rún) His sister is married and living on the west coast. Her sister-in-law works for TG4 an Irish language tv channel and he was roped in whenever they needed a "foreign-looking" extra.

The English were perfect hosts, mingled and chatted to all. They were delighted to show us their school and their area. I think if Kay and I lived near each other we would have some good times together.

The Turks were delighted with me. We could talk and I could interpret for them. It let their English teacher off the hook. He could go and talk to the Spanish while his colleagues struggled with the language and the food. To find someone they could communicate directly to was a welcome surprise. It was the first time two of them had travelled abroad. They had been warned that the food in England was inedible so they had filled their suitcases with Turkish delicacies such as borek and sarma. Unfortunately due to a late arrival at check in in Istanbul their suitcases had to stay behind. To be honest it was a head swelling occasion for me. Everyone was surprised at my apparently seamless switching from English to Turkish and there was even a couple of Irish words thrown in here and there. I'll have to watch it. People can die from swelling of the brain.

The Polish seemed to have a harder time mixing with the group but later a little birdie whispered that this might have had something to do with their principal being present.

As for the Irish. Well, we were just looking for the craic in the evening. There were only two of us, but we split up to talk to as many as we could. By the time we were coming home we had the low down on everyone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bob Kelly and His Teletubbies suitcase!

Yesterday we arrived in Manchester and we greeted by our English colleagues. Waiting with them were our colleagues from Spain. The Polish contingent flew into Liverpool and arrived at approximately the same time as we did.

The Turks had an adventure on the way. They arrived earlier minus their suitcases. They had travelled by overnight bus from Kayseri to Istanbul, a twelve hour journey. They arrived at check in with just a short time to spare. The airline  refused to take their bags as the plane was boarding. Their first introduction to Manchester was a trip to Tesco's to do some shopping for the coming days. Their bags are not following on!

 Speaking of luggage, Neady, my colleague, had the onerous duty of bringing a Teletubbies suitcase as hand luggage. The suitcase belongs to Bob Kelly, an 18" high yellow rabbit, who has his own passport and managed to wangle his way onto the trip.

Bob enjoys a rare moment of Irish sunshine before he sets of on his journey to Manchester.
Unable to manage the case himself, he batted his eyelashes at Neady and had her carry the bag for him. She swears never to do this again as it elicited all kinds of looks and comments as we made our way through airports, onto planes, into taxis. Why was a grown woman carrying her hand luggage in a Teletubbies suitcase???

Bob is a student in fourth class but has decided to move to Manchester to go to school there. He has brought his diary with him, outlining events in his life since this school year began. He suffers from "itchy feet" and has spent each night staying with a different classmate. Well, you know, rabbit families tend to be large and there wasn't much room for him in the burrow. He also tends to be a little scared of the dark.

He loves to play hurling, a national Irish game. Thought we might have a bit of a problem getting the hurl through security, so he reluctantly left it at home

I'm glad no-one weighed his hand luggage, it weighed a ton. Well, that's a slight exaggeration, it was more like 9 kilos, 2 kilos over the allowance.He has  packed some books, some of his favourite Irish legends, and a "children's" history of Ireland. He couldn't travel without his traditional music and his Riverdance DVD. I sneaked a quick peek in his suitcase and noticed a tea towel. I complimented him on being well trained but he informed me he has no intention of doing the dishes. The recipe for his favourite dinner, Irish Stew is on the tea towel. He is hoping if he gets homesick someone will make it for him.  But please whatever you do, do not confuse Irish stew with rabbit stew, in his hearing. He gets very distressed.
When he is not singing, dancing and hurling, he has been known to drive the ride on mower!
Today his adventure begins as he meets with the staff and students in his new school. Let's wish him well.

Bob sets out on his big adventure He is dressed and ready for his new school.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All Roads Lead to Manchester.

Tomorrow is an exciting day. Tomorrow, I will meet people I have only spoken to by email for the past 9 months.

Last January, our school hosted teachers from England and Spain. We met to put together an application for a Comenius Project ( projects for European schools funded by the European Commission for Education). The other schools were unable to attend the meeting.

Our project is entitled "Our Place in Space" and in June we received word that five of our original schools were accepted for project funding. Our project partners are England, Poland, Spain and Turkey.
Our school is the project co-ordinator and it is part of my post of responsibility.

To date we have recorded the weather for two weeks and compared results. If you like heat, Seville (Spain) was the place to be. If you like overcast cool weather, you could have had your pick of Manchester in England or Enniscorthy in Ireland

We have recorded our children saying "Hello. My name is..... I am ..years old," in their native language. This should be simple. However in Ireland, Irish, while it is our native language, for the majority of people it is their second language. So my class, who have just begun school, heard it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Our children have to learn their "native language"

Among the other activities to be completed this month is a PowerPoint presentation of our schools, the exchange of proverbs. We are also going to begin a blog to record the project activities.  We will exchange proverbs. It will be interesting to see if we have proverbs in common.

The children  in my school have been busy preparing a large notice board for the project. They have drawn maps of Europe and individual maps of of partner schools on a board that is 2.4m square. They are now looking forward to painting them.

 Tomorrow my colleague and I fly to Manchester for our first project meeting. We have been given a list of questions by our students for the Manchester pupils. We have a hectic schedule for the next four days. It ranges from meeting the children, to a discussion of the next phase of the project, we visit a secondary school, meet the major, visit Old Trafford and go to the ballet. But more than all this, I'm looking forward to meeting and chatting to people who  up to now were  simply names on the end of emails, and to meet again the three teachers who came to Ireland. We will see our planning become reality. I should even get the chance to practise my Turkish. Lots of blog fodder I hope!

Please forgive my absence visiting your blogs for the past couple of weeks and this week too. I hope start catching up next week. In the meantime I'm off to explore Manchester's "Place in Space"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The M&Ms Have Arrived!

This was a difficult August at home. Our dog, Piper, who was suffering from arthritis fell down the stairs and broke her leg. Because of her age and her arthritic condition the vet felt it would be more humane to put her to sleep. "The next time she fell, and fall she would, it could be a head injury," she said.

This was followed by our grand old lady Snuffy finally succumbing  to her illness and she passed away at the end of August. I'm ashamed to admit, I'm not really a dog person. But I am a cat lady. I was terribly upset when I heard the news about Snuffy, only days before I came home. It was more tears for Metin to deal with. He is from farming stock and has a much more prosaic attitude to animals.

Snuffy age 15
I still miss Snuffy plonking herself on top of me or on top of the keyboard when I'm trying to type. It was worse because Hubbie was adamant that there were no more animals coming into the house. I do not remember a time in my life when we didn't have a cat. The girls are the same. My Mum joined us and she too could not remember never having a cat.

Hubbie was on a loser. I couldn't push the issue. Having an animal is a long term commitment. With my plans to travel after retirement, I couldn't say that having a new cat was a good plan. Logically, it is probably a very bad idea. But the idea of not being greeted by a purring feline after I come home from work (even if it is only cupboard love) was unthinkable.

All I needed to do was wait for Youngest Daughter to come home from Paris. Devious, I know! But in many ways she is just like me. I think it, she says it. She ventures were I fear to tread. Last weekend was her second weekend at home. Snuffy was her cat. She got her for her ninth birthday. Youngest Daughter pulled out all the stops.  No. 2 Daughter chimed in. Hubbie didn't have a chance. He caved. The girls were in the car and off to the vets, like a shot. The vet had two beautiful ginger kittens. But one was already spoken for. The girls said they would take the remaining one.

Ginger puss gets adopted!
They took the phone number of another person who also had kittens.  This little one seemed lonely on his own. When the girls arrived home we decided he would be better if he had company. He will be on his own during the day. Once more the girls set off and brought home a tabby playmate for the ginger puss. She is a little older, eight weeks to his six. She appears enormous in comparison.

Big Sis takes a nap.

She is already filling the role of Big Sis. Both are extremely clean and used the litter tray from the time they arrived. Ginger is a typical boy who never puts down the toilet lid. He digs, does his business and leaves. Big Sis comes along behind and cleans up for him.

That only task  remaining was the naming  of them. The deal with Youngest Daughter was, if she persuaded Hubbie, she could name the kitties. In the end the three girls were involved and I had a veto. They went on a literary theme.  T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's book of Practical Cats" was produced and Mungojerrie and Macavity were christened.

The M&Ms have arrived and the house has rocked with laughter all weekend.....Hubbie's loudest of all.