I’ve created a Flickr account so those of you who are not my friend on Facebook can see some of my photos from Turkey! My name on Flickr is also BeingAnnie, and you can see the photos by clicking here. I’m going to play around with the plugin I installed and with Flickr, then I’ll get more creative with my picture uploading on here. I hope you enjoy all of the pictures
Those are my pictures from Istanbul, I just wanted to see if it would work, and it did!
I think if you were to ask an exchange student what the best part of their exchange year was, it would probably be an event that involved other exchange students. Being with other people who understand your situation, who are having nearly the same difficulties and struggles as you, and who can communicate with easily is very nice. Also, exchange students are probably the most fun people in the world (if you don’t believe me, consult Urban Dictionary, “Foreign Exchange Student: Most awesome person you will ever meet. . .”). Last Thursday, the fourth I believe, I got an email saying that my Rotary district was having our second Orientation meeting over the weekend, and that the next day Riad and I would be travelling to Izmir to meet with the rest of the exchange students. Yay!!!
So, Friday morning I had to go into school for the first two hours, then I got to leave at 11 to be able to go to the bus station that afternoon. Riad came over to my house, and we traveled together to the bus station then we found our bus and were off to Izmir. The bus ride was about 5 or 6 hours long, but we did a combination of sleep, attempt to speak Turkish to the man working and handing out snacks on the bus, and be cute and foreign (haha). We finally made it to Izmir around 7 or 8 o’clock. We met with one of the Rotarians in Izmir who took me to another Rotarians’ house and Riad to his house for the night. After dropping my things off at Zeynep’s house, I met her son, Emre, and another exchange student from South Africa, Tove, for dinner. I actually was just waiting by the sea in Izmir for Emre to find me, just like an innocent little American girl and Emre attacked me from the back, and I didn’t even react, I just turned around and said “Hey! It’s you!” I think I need to work on this, I took a self defense course with my Girl Scout Troop way back, I need to remember what I learned just in case… Anways, Tove has been in Turkey for eight or nine months now, so I was able to laugh at her exchange stories and Emre’s exchange stories from when he was in Brazil. After dinner and dessert, Tove went to her host parent’s house and Emre and I returned to his house where we ended up watching TV while he got mad at me for knowing nothing about American Pop Culture. Right before I went to bed, Emre asked me if I wanted to watch a movie, so we ended up staying up past the wee hours of the morning watching movies. When you’re young and an exchange student, pulling all nighters doesn’t have much of an effect on you.
Saturday morning I got to meet up with the rest of the exchange students! It’d been two or three weeks since I’d seen these kids, and they get to see each other a lot because they all live in Izmir, so it was really nice for Riad and I to see our friends again. We all got on a bus and drove for about an hour to Kuşadası. On the way there we stopped at a museum with statues (that moved and had eye lashes… yikes!) that showed what life was like in a Turkish village through the 50′s, 60′s and part of the 70′s. It was neat to be able to see all of these scenes; it was a lot different from the American 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, but I couldn’t get over the strangely life like beings that were churning butter or sharpening knives. It was a little creepy. After the museum we arrived at our hotel where we had an orientation meeting about dealing with our problems. We wrote the bad and the good parts of our exchanges on a piece of paper, then we got a random paper with bads and goods and we gave the person advise for how to deal with the problem. It was nice to hear everyones’ struggles because it assured us that we were all having similar problems and that we’re not doing anything wrong; it’s normal to have a few bumps here and there.
After our first orientation, we were able to go down to the beach, yes Ohioans, I said the beach, we went to the beach in October. My Brazilian friend and I just walked along the beach talking and taking photos. I don’t like swimming, especially in salt water, so I was glad Felipe hung out with me. After our fun time at the beach, we had to return to the hotel and go to another orientation about theft and crimes and how to avoid them or react if in a bad situation. The Rotarians made everything sound very scary, and I understand that they have to tell us these things, but scaring us seems like a strange approach to that. I feel like I should be aware of the dangers, not scared of them. I don’t know, that’s just my own opinion.
After this orientation meeting, we all packed up on our little bus again and were off to the city center for dinner and window shopping. Dinner was very fun with all of the exchange students laughing and talking about our countries and schools. I showed everyone I could lick my elbow. Everyone was impressed; I’m such an impressive person. I represent America well. :) After our fun shopping and eating, we again returned to the hotel and all of the exchange students gathered in one of the rooms to talk. We had some funny conversations, but also some serious ones. I was so glad that all 15-ish of us could all gather in a room and talk. I hope we remain this close throughout the year. We ended the evening with all of us singing our national anthems, and I realized how deep and emotional America’s is. It was a really fun night, but my Canadian roommate and I returned to our room and talked politics at like 1am, then we were afraid our room was haunted and didn’t get to sleep until about 2:30. As I said, when you’re a young exchange student, you can cope with very little sleep.
The next morning we all gathered our flags and packed up in our little bus to go to Mother Mary’s house. We got to walk through her home and then put a wish on the wall (see the pictures to understand). I walked on the same ground as Jesus! We then continued on our little journey to Ephesus. It was hard to imagine that this city has been around for thousands and thousands of years, and America has been known for just over 500 years. People had been walking around the same ground that I was walking on that long ago; it’s so hard for me to perceive time and just plain crazy for me to think about. We got many group pictures with our flags over the weekend and we even met a few fellow Americans, even one who graduated from OSU! It’s such a small world. I had a great weekend with my Exchange friends, but Riad and I had to catch the bus home at 6. I ended up sleeping the whole entire bus ride because I had only had like 6 hours of sleep over the past two days. We finally returned to Bursa after midnight, and I was happy to be home and able to sleep in my bed. At the end of this week I get to go on another Rotary Trip to Kapadokya, which I’m really looking forward to and I will be sure to tell you all about that in about a week when I get back!
I’ve finally been able to get into a routine after being here for a month and a half, and I go to school everyday from 8:50am-5pm and by the time I get home, I feel like my day is completely finished and I never have time to blog because it usually starts as a quick little post and turns into hours of writing. I like writing, so it’s okay. I think the last time I posted about my exchange was my first day of school, and that was about three weeks ago, so obviously a lot has happened since then. Right now I’ll tell you about Food Day at my school!
Alrighty, so one of my English teachers is very determined to teach me Turkish, so one day (about two weeks ago) during class he asks me (in Turkish) what I like to do, and I think to myself, “Okay, well last year my life mainly consisted of studying, complaining about AP Physics, and reading Sparknotes… what do I like to do? I guess I like to read, I never read. Hmm, I’ll just be normal and tell him I like to hang out with my friends.” I cannot say “I like to hang out with my friends” in Turkish. I told him in English, so he told me in Turkish, and it was very long and I don’t remember it anymore. The next day, the same teacher asked me what I like to do, and I obviously didn’t remember the huge long sentence he told me for “I like to hang out with my friends,” but I remembered a verb I learned from my Rosetta Stone course the night before for cooking, and I told him I liked to cook. This is true. I really like to cook, and I haven’t been able to cook here, and I realllllly miss cooking. So, my teacher asked me if I wanted to make something for the class, and I said once I got the package from my parents with brown sugar and baking soda and other things that are not easily found outside of the United States I could make chocolate chip cookies for the class. He had this grand idea to have a food day for everyone to bring in a food and then the Turkish kids would say in English what they did and I would explain what I did in Turkish. This didn’t seem too bad until he said “Food day is in a week, next Friday!” and I was like “UGHHH I’m not going to have my brown sugar in a week!!!” I didn’t actually say anything, I just had a giant epic sigh in my head when he announced the news.
The next Friday came around very quickly and Thursday night I had to enter my host parents’ kitchen and attempt to make Chocolate Chip Cookies using margarine white sugar, salt, baking powder, eggs, flour, chocolate and vanilla (that I brought from home). In America I use unsalted butter, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs, vanilla, flour and chocolate chips to make cookies. I kept reminding myself that I made cookies for my Spanish host family with nearly the same exact ingredients and they came out perfectly fine. These did not come out perfectly fine. I had to bake them on a glass 9″x13″ pan in a toaster oven. The cookies made in the glass pan came out really hard and brittle, and there wasn’t a metal cookie sheet here, so I ended up making the cookies in the muffin pan I brought from home and only letting them cook like half way, so when they deflated they would still be squishy. This all ended up working out, but the 45 minute task of making cookies turned out taking like 3 hours, and I ended the night angry that my cookies were not up to par and tired because it was nearly 11:00 and I was sick of being in the kitchen with my ugly cookies. I ended up going to bed, trying to cram the Turkish of what I did to prepare the cookies in my head, and hoping that tomorrow would be a happy day.
I woke up in the morning in a much better mood, and was off to school with my messed up cookies. None of these Turks knew what “Annie’s Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies” were supposed to taste like, and I knew I could just bring better ones in once I made a nice batch. Once I got to school, my friends all showed me their yummy Turkish Foods, and I grew excited for third period to try the yummy foods. I was able to memorize my speech (I already knew about half the words in it, so it wasn’t very hard to memorize), and I was giving the speech to the second period teacher and she said “Aww, you’re so cute when you speak Turkish” and everything was working out nicely. I bought some milk to go with the cookies from the school store before 3rd period and told the class, in very simple, redundant Turkish how I prepared my cookies (most of it was a lie though because it was quite an experiment making them). My friends brought in Baklava, Grape Leaves, Borek (a filled pastry, this one was filled with potatoes and cheese) and Lentil Kofte (kofte is like meatballs, but these were made with lentils rather than meat). Everything was delicious, and I told my friend “I wish food day was everyday!” and she said, “Me too, but I can’t take the kilos,” so I replied, “I’m an exchange student, BRING ON THE KILOS!!!”
It ended up being a really nice Food Day, and everyone enjoyed my cookies. I was so happy to be able to speak Turkish to the class, and everyone was supportive of everyone else in their attempts to speak a foreign language. We had someone come in to take pictures to post onto the school website, so I’ll post a link later once those get posted to the internet. I feel like I’m becoming closer to my school friends and I enjoy being with all of them. For now, I need to get some Turkish going up in my head so I can improve my relationship and communication with them. It’s great how all over the world food brings people together.
Last night I realized I really like writing about people in my life. This doesn’t really have much to do with my exchange but, keeping with the previous theme, I’m going to write about the person who has supported me my whole entire life and loves me no matter what kind of shenanigans I get myself into.
This is my mom:
You can usually find my mom out on the porch reading a book, unless she’s busy being Super Woman. My mom is such a hardworking and loving woman. She spends her days in a classroom with nearly 30 nine and ten year old kids. It amazes me that she is able to go to work every day with a smile on her face when she has so many kids to teach. Every time I visit her, within an hour of being there I ask her how the heck she does what she does. She is constantly being bombarded by “Mrs. Johnson!”s and kids walking around aimlessly asking her what to do, but some how she finds time to teach these kids about her love for reading and writing. She teaches kids to be curious; to ask questions and find answers. She lets the kids use different kinds of technology to share their information and teaches them how to blog and have fun with their writing. I was able to go into work with my mom last year for the last week or so and on one of the the last days of school, the class got to Skype with an author of one of the books they just read. The author asked how many of the students wanted to have a career in writing, and at least half of the kids raised their hands. Later, my mom asked each of the students what their favorite part of the year was and nearly every student’s answer had something to do with writing, reading or Poetry Friday.
After my mom finishes teaching these kids, she will usually do even more to make herself a better teacher. Nothing is impossible for my mom. She wanted to go back to school, so she and I stayed up late this summer studying math for her test. I know the math was hard for her; she’s been doing 4th grade math for 20 years, but she knew that she had to understand it in order to pass the entrance exam, and she worked through all of it, and passed! Now after working in the classroom, she is going to OSU to get her doctorate. She loves to learn and will set a goal, and not give up until she’s reached that goal.
After my mom has spent a long day in the classroom, she comes home to be a mom. Of all of the roles she plays, I think she plays “mom” best. She will support my brother, sister and I during anything. When Zach had his little college hopping stage last year, I think he nearly drove her insane, but she never thought about telling him that he couldn’t go to the college he wanted to go to. She watched her first born daughter move all the way to California, multiple times for work, which was really hard for the whole family, and therefore hardest on Mom.
After hosting Sana, (oh yeah, my mom has another daughter all the way in India. We were all broken hearted when she went back home.) my mom knew I wanted to be an exchange student, and seeing all of the opportunities that have been opened to Sana, she wanted it for me as well. I could tell early on how hard it was going to be on her for me to leave, but, as the most amazing mom in the world, she let me go.
When I was fifteen, I went through my “I hate my mom” stage. Looking back, I had no reason whatsoever to think my mom was stupid or to not her like her to any extent, but when you’re a freshman in high school, you do silly things that you will never completely understand looking back. I mean, all moms have their crazy moments, but I really overreacted to them I guess. Although I hated my mom, and thought she was stupid, she still allowed me to go off on a short term exchange to Spain when I was sixteen. I think my time in Spain really helped the relationship between my mom and I. When I didn’t have my mom around me to fight with when I needed to fight, or hug when I needed a hug, I missed her so much! My host sister was going through her “I hate my mom” stage when I was in Spain, and I really liked my host mom, so I was able to see that moms really aren’t that bad. I realized how much my does to help me, and that I was stupid for ever deciding I needed to fight with her.
My mom always tells me about how when I was born, I was a little tiny, six weeks early, five pound baby. I wasn’t in the best health, as you can imagine, being six weeks early, my lungs were not fully developed and I had no eyebrows (the eyebrows have nothing to do with my health, I just think it’s hilarious to picture myself without eyebrows). The nurses took little tiny me away to go feed me, but I wouldn’t let them feed me! I wanted my momma to feed me, because she is my mom and I wanted to be with her! I mean, I had to come out six weeks early to see her, I didn’t want the doctors to take me away! Once I was healthy, my mom stayed home with my brother and I until I started kindergarten. My mom loved to spend time with Zach and I, and she always had something fun planned for us. Sometimes I even got to watch daytime soap operas. That was a treat. :)
I could never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever ask for a better mom. Ever. My mom is the most supportive, encouraging, and kind women I have ever met. My mom has always been there for me, whether I fell off my bike, got a bad grade, or been sick she has been able to help me through everything. She has raised my siblings and I to be open minded, and curious. My mom is an amazing teacher, student, sister, learner, daughter, friend, baker (especially baker…mmm… I miss her food) and mom. I will never truly be able to tell her how much I appreciate her support over the last 17 and a half years. It’s going to be hard this year not having her with me to get me through the hard times, but I guess that’s growing up and becoming an adult. I know she won’t always be around to write a strongly worded letter to an unappreciated employer, or pay for me to have the cool new piece of technology, but I’m always going to remember the great times I had with her growing up. From making cookies after kissing bruised knees, to picking out prom dresses, she’s always been there.
So, after my mom opens her heart to everyone around her and is helpful in every way possible, that is when you’ll find her sitting on the porch reading a book. And although this book reading means she is trying to relax after a long day, it doesn’t mean she has stopped being my mother. She will always be my mom, and I will always see her as Super Woman.
I love you, Mom
When I started to write my last post, I just wanted to talk about learning languages, but now has me thinking about the bigger picture of this year and how things that may seem unimportant can turn out to be so much more.
I was talking to a friend a few nights ago who reminded me that this is my exchange, and my year. He reminded me to leave no room for regret, and to not worry about the little things. I’m not going to remember the small, trivial things. It’s the wonderful, amazing and life changing experiences that will be kept in my memory for the rest of my life.
Five years from now I’m not going to remember the day I had a cold and sat at home learning Turkish, but I will always remember the day in the January 2011 Rotary Weekend when I was stopped on the stairwell by some Chilean guy as one of the most awkward and greatest moments of my life. I can distinctly remember him smiling at me as he stopped walking upstairs, turned around and muttering some nonsense to me while we both nervously laughed. I didn’t know why he stopped me, or why we were so awkward about it, but I am so glad he did stop me. Sana (my Indian sister) then found us in the stairwell together, so we then left the stairwell and awkwardly walked around COSI (a science museum in Columbus) as other kids made jokes about us. A few hours later, we were randomly selected to have dinner together at a Rotarian’s house, where I spoke broken Spanish to him and he told the Rotarians and me about his home town and about being an exchange student. After dinner and gathering once again with the other exchange students we sat in a circle together having a conversation with a few of our other friends that I’m sure everyone in that circle remembers. (Oh goodness…)
Since that night he and I spent every Rotary Weekend together. We had so much fun together at these weekends, and had a few awkward moments (especially at Jam for Japan, a benefit concert we exchange students organized). I only got to see him once a month, and the last time I saw him we did a team building activity to work on our communication skills. We quickly paired up for the activity because, we were nearly attached at the hip. We both got a sheet of paper, and we stood back to back as I gave him instructions on how to fold the paper and then rip off a corner. I folded and ripped my paper according to my instructions as well. When I finished telling him what to do, we turned around compare our finished products. Our papers didn’t match, and he accused me of being a bad instruction giver, as I accused him of being a bad listener. (He was a bad listener.) We then switched roles and I listened and tried my best to follow the instructions he gave me. That time our papers did match. We learned from our past, failed communication and were able to do it correctly the second time.
After our activity, all of the exchange students got together to say some final goodbyes. It was a very emotional day, and it was raining. It was like a movie. It was perfect. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would see him. I told him we’d see each other before he went back home, but we never got the chance to get together.
He and I will Skype or chat every couple months, and it surprises me that we can always find something to talk about. Or sing about, we like to sing “Jar of Hearts” and “Colgando en tus Manos” together. I never would have thought that the random kid in the stairwell would now be one of my closest friends and confidants in the whole wide world. He can always make me laugh and I can tell him absolutely anything. I know he will always give me advice for whatever I’m going through, because he strangely seems to have been through everything I go through. We often wonder what it would have been like if we lived in the same city while he was here, or if we did anything differently while he was still in the United States, but I think we did everything right. We left no room for regret, and he still will remind me this is my year and tries to stop me from making the mistakes he made.
That moment in the staircase seems so irrelevant, but that moment led to a friendship that I will always value. We can’t go looking for the moments when we meet person who will change our lives. It just happens. Whether it’s a life long friend, or a first love, or a friend with an expiration date, we cannot control how or when they come into our lives. But they come, and they change us, and they give us memories. Whether these moments are captured in our hearts, or our minds, or a song, we will always cherish them and we’ll always remember the way the people in our memories touch our lives and shape who we are.
One of my best friends came into my life through an email. If my mom ignored that email, or it accidentally got sent to the spam folder,my family never would have agreed to host Sana. I never would have become an exchange student, and I never would have come to Turkey. But (getting to the point) I never would have been wandering around COSI’s stairwell, and I never would have meet Alberto, and I never would have been reminded to leave no room for regret during the year of my life.
As I’ve said in my earlier blog posts, I’m pretty bored at school because the English classes are really easy for me and I understand NOTHING in the Turkish classes, so, to occupy my time, I usually study Turkish with my “Elementary Turkish” book. Since I’ve only gone to school four days, and I cannot speak Turkish, I haven’t really been able to make many friends outside of my class, so this weekend I sat down and have been working out of my Turkish book. As I sit here and translate sentences like “I saw a cat in the tree.” and “I saw a garden. I entered the garden.” I realize that learning a language from a book is like, really hard, and really boring. I cannot focus and I get frustrated with myself really quickly because I have to look up the same word ten times without remembering it, and I have to constantly look up what each suffix means, and which vowel to use because vowels can only be used with certain other vowels. Also, the word order is nearly opposite of English word order, so I have to constantly have that on my mind as well. I found putting note cards with basic rules and words right in front of my face helped me not have to constantly get out my dictionary or notes, but it was still really hard and time consuming. Today I translated 35 sentences before having my “”my brain is complete mush” moment.
So, once my
brain turned to mush, I decided to do some research on learning languages. I first was on a Turkish learning website, and the author of the website wrote about research that was done that showed Turkish children are the fastest at learning their native language. Children in Turkey can speak grammatically correct Turkish by the time they are 2-3 years old, whereas it takes 4-5 years for German speaking children and 12 years for Arab speaking children. The suffixes used in Turkish and the fact that Turkish is very regular makes it an easier language to learn, as a first language at least. The author didn’t write anything about how long it takes English speaking children to speak grammatically correctly, so I started to do some more research. I found a website (in English, so I’m assuming it’s about English speaking babies) that talked about how babies learn to speak and understand language, and it said that there should be no worries if a child doesn’t have it’s first word by the time it’s two and it’s first sentence by the time it is three. By that time a Turkish baby would be babbling off in perfect Turkish. No pressure American babies.
I then just started researching languages in general, and hard vs. easy languages for English speakers to learn as a second language, because this whole “learning a new language” is REALLY hard for me. I went through different websites that talked about which languages are hardest or easiest and why, but Turkish was not on either list, meaning it must be somewhere in the middle. I then came across a website that compared easy, middle and hard languages. The picture of the website is running along the side of this blog post , you can click on it to enlarge it if you want to read it.
As you can see, Turkish is a middle language with “significant differences from English.” According to this, I (if I’m average) I will take me 44 weeks to achieve language proficiency. Forty four weeks is 308 days. I have 311 days total in Turkey (including the 26 that have already passed) . On the bright side, I DO have time to become proficient in Turkish this year, and I KNOW I have the ability to make this happen. On the down side, if I end up being “average,” I will only have four days with my proficient Turkish in Turkey. I tend to test advanced in math and writing, so hopefully my language learning skills will also be advanced.
Something else I noticed in this article was he fact that an average person could have language proficiency in Spanish in 575-600 hours. I have had (approximately) 546 hours of Spanish class (4 years x 182 days per year x .75 hours per day). I am not nearly proficient in Spanish. Either the last 29-54 hours work magic, I have not had proper language learning resources, or I am not advanced or average in language learning. I think the last 29-54 hours would do the trick.
Anyways…. I’ve been doing more research as I write this post, and I found a wikiHow “How to Learn Turkish.” That site really can teach you anything. I’ve visit wikiHow like a million times this week trying to get rid of my cold (nothing has worked). Nevertheless, the site talks about nine “easy” (pssht) steps on how to learn Turkish, with a small disclaimer at the end warning that I “may never learn to speak properly; that it takes a long time to learn, especially the verbs; and that the subjects are attached to the end of the verbs” (I told you the order is crazy). I just hope this how-to is more promising than the how-tos on getting rid of a cold.
Today was kind of good and bad. I’ve been lately feeling like there is no hope for learning Turkish, but reading about learning languages has assured me that it will in time happen, and at some point, whether it’s three, or six, or maybe even nine months from now, it will click. I have noticed that I can understand more of what people say, even though it’s still only a few words, it’s more than the five words I understood my first day here. I just cannot give up, and I have to keep motivating myself to learn this language and culture as best as I can.
On Friday I had a really stupid moment and couldn’t open the door to the apartment door, and then my neighbor helped me and opened it for me in ten seconds. He looked at me, then at his little brother who also failed while trying to help me and said “Never, ever, ever give up.” That is the biggest cliche in the world, but it is so true, and I need to remember it every single day for the rest of my exchange. I’m going to have days that I want to give up and wonder to myself why the heck I’m in Turkey, but I can’t give up.
(I can’t find a good stopping place, this all continues on my next post, but I want the next one to be separate because it has a whole new idea.. sooo…. read the next one!)
Today was my first day of Turkish school! Going into today was very scary for me, and I was worried about not being able to communicate or getting lost, probably the same things the average person would be worried about. On the bright side, I had no problem communicating and I didn’t get lost. My host dad and I went into school at 10am, which was 2 hours after school started, I’m not quite sure why I was allowed to go in later, but I wasn’t going to complain. After I got to school we found one of the English teachers who gave me a tour of the school and my host dad left. The structure of the school itself wasn’t very complicated, especially because all of my classes are in the same room, so I only need to know where the one classroom, the cafeteria and bathrooms are. I then went into class at the beginning of either third or fourth period (I don’t know the class schedule yet) and had an English grammar class. There are only four other students in my class, so the whole period the teacher just talked with me, asking me questions about America and then the other students told me about Turkey. After that we had a Turkish literature lesson, which wasn’t necessarily boring, but I just sat there the whole time listening to the other students read and the teacher talk about Turkish literature. One of the girls in the class knows English really well, so she tried to explain some of the things the teacher was saying. After that we went to lunch. I think all of the students in the high school portion of the school went to lunch at the same time, but we quickly ate our food then had time for the rest of the period. One of the students who knows English really well and I walked around the school then hung out in the classroom during the free period. Later, we had a German lesson, and the teacher just drew pictures on the board and gave us the words for them. I was really glad there were pictures and I didn’t have to understand the translations, some of the pictures she even wrote the Turkish word as well so I could learn both. After German we had two more periods of English vocabulary, which is nice because it’s in English, but I already know all of the vocabulary they are learning so it was really easy. The school day was finally over at 4:45! It was a pretty long day, but it went fairly quickly. Throughout the whole school day the students were looking at me funny in the hallway because they all knew there was a new American girl at school. I felt very on display, it was a little bit uncomfortable, but I know this will all stop pretty quickly. It was a pretty easy day, but I am now home and resisting the urge to take a nice long nap because I am exhausted and I have a cold. I hope I have another good day tomorrow!
I’ve been meaning to blog for a few days now, but I haven’t been home since Friday morning, so I haven’t had access to WiFi to make that happen! Anyways, right now it’s Wednesday night and I’m typing up a blog post now to post when I go to a cafe and can connect my computer to the WiFi.
So, you are probably asking yourself “What has Annie been up to since Friday and why isn’t she at home?” (I know, the suspense is probably killing you, because my life is so fantastically exciting. Also, it’s super weird to be saying the word “home” and have it mean somewhere 5,000-ish miles from Hilliard, OH) I have been in Izmir! I came to Izmir with Riad, the other exchange student in Bursa, on Friday for an RYE (Rotary Youth Exchange) Orientation on Saturday. I’d been looking forward to Orientation all week because exchange student gatherings are the best! Well, Riad and I rode the bus to Izmir, and it took about six hours! We pretty much just slept the whole time, and when there was about an hour or two left, I was awoken by someone’s cell phone. Anyone who has been around me when I’m tired or I’ve just woken up knows I’m not the most pleasant person when I’m not fully rested, and I woke up and was thinking, “Jeeeezzzz, turn off your phone!” I then fell asleep, but then ten minutes later I woke up again to the same phone, and I thought again, “Pick up your phone!!!” I then fell back asleep, and naturally woke up again about ten minutes later. I looked at my phone to see I had two missed calls and a text message. OOPS. It was just our ride from the bus station trying to figure out when Riad and I would be arriving at the bus station.
Once Riad and I got to the bus station, we were at first a little afraid to be going out into a random bus station without any Turkish because we didn’t know who exactly would be picking us up, but it’s pretty easy for someone to spot two exchange students. We usually look lost and if you say something to us, we do a blank stare then slightly nod, then smile. Riad and I quickly found Emre, a past
exchange student (a “rebound”) and our ride to the Rotarian’s house, and we were off! It was my first time in a taxi, it wasn’t very exciting, not like the movies (It’s like I was expecting Ranjit to say “HELLO!” from How I Met Your Mother) On the way to Emre’s house, we were making conversation, and I was like “Oh, I know someone from Izmir, his name is Orhan, he went on exchange to Ohio” and Emre said “I know him! He went to my school!” You have many “it’s a small world” experiences as an exchange student. We then got to Emre’s house to have dinner and I met two RYE coordinators of district 2440 (Rotary is separated into districts, multiple Rotary clubs make up a Rotary district).
After dinner Emre took Riad and me out to show us Izmir. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the sea, but he told us many good things to have on our minds while in Turkey, such as how to read people and also to never EVER trust the cars while crossing the street. We then found a cafe next to the sea and we had Turkish Tea and Emre taught us how to play backgammon, people play it a lot at the cafes here. We had a bunch of teas, and we decided that the tea has something addictive in it because it truly is addicting and we think it makes you see things. I swear I saw a shooting star Friday night. Emre and Riad both think I’m insane. After our fun night by the sea, I went to a different Rotartian’s house for the night to get some needed rest to prepare myself for Saturday!
Oh my goodness, Saturday is in my “KEEP THIS DAY IN MY MEMORY FOREVER” section of my brain. I can’t stop smiling right now thinking about it. It might sound non-memorable to some of you readers, but I thought it was wonderful. The morning started off by watching BBC World News and hearing about America for the first time in two weeks during breakfast. It was strange to be watching European’s (excuse me, Britain’s ) side of American news. It wasn’t bad, just different. After breakfast Goskin (the Rotarian) and I went to the RYE Orientation where I met all of the other inbound exchange students in my district for this year. There were a few other Americans, and also Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians and Indonesians representing their homes. I didn’t deeply think about it then, but right now I’m realizing that I’m spending my exchange with these kids, and I knew absolutely nothing about them when I first entered that room, but by the end of this year, they will be my family and I will be keeping contact with at least one or two of them for the rest of my life. (WOW! I love exchange students.) We started off the orientation by going over the Rotary rules, and by looking at last year’s exchange students’ videos of their year. We then went out for lunch and had a mini tour and history lesson of Izmir. It was history of 10,000 years packed into 20 minutes. Good stuff. On our tour, we saw about six brides getting their pictures taken! They’re are brides EVERYWHERE.
The Rotary portion of Saturday slowly ended and we said our long goodbyes, and about 10 exchange students (inbounds and rebounds) went to a cafe for dinner. We laughed and talked about American TV and maple syrup (there was a Canadian at the table) while listening to Glee Christmas music. Ya know, normal stuff. I can’t even remember everything we did, but I remember it was really fun. After dinner, I went to Ahenk’s, a rebound, house for the night. It was a little awkward at first because we didn’t know what to talk about for the hour long bus ride back to her house, but we talked the whole way without any too awkward of pauses. We then got off the bus and walked to her house, and even got free ice cream from the man who ran the shop next to her house! He tried to speak English to me, it was nice.
Ahenk and I were sitting around in her room without anything to do, and her mom had earlier asked me if I’d ever had Turkish Coffee, and I hadn’t so we decided to go out for some Turkish Coffee. I will start this by stating that I am a tea drinker, not a coffee drinker, so when the waiter asked me how sweet I wanted the coffee, I had no idea what to say, so I said medium sweet. It was not sweet at all, I ended up putting two packets of sugar in it so that I could get it all down. I ended up spilling it all over my hands trying to stir it, and Ahenk, her brother, Ahmet, and I could not stop laughing. I eventually drank the whole cup, I had to take it all in one gulp because it wouldn’t have gone down any other way. Apparently it’s weird to drink coffee like that. (Duh, Annie) After the coffee was finished, I put my cup upside down on my plate and waited for the liquid part to drain out so Ahenk and Ahmet would be able to read my fortune. Ahmet said, “Okay, I’m making all of this up, it means absolutely nothing. The people who do this are crazy.” So he ended up seeing random shapes, like a bug and a car and told me about his past experiences going to a fortune teller. He said (keep this in mind, those of you who go to Turkish fortune tellers), the fortune teller will say whatever they want, and if they don’t like you, they will say “oh…” and tell you a bad fortune; they usually give bad fortunes to be dramatic.
After the coffee incident, Ahmet drove Ahenk and I home and we began to get ready for bed because it was nearly midnight. I got my journal and Turkish books out and I showed Ahenk my Turkish books, and she found some Turkish-English flash cards and gave them to me because she no longer needed them. We then sat on her bed and she wrote down Turkish bedroom vocabulary, then we went to the kitchen and she wrote Turkish kitchen and food vocabulary for me. We quietly moved on to the living room to get living room vocabulary. We also went through the vocabulary in my Turkish book.
After about an hour of Turkish, we began to get tired and we started laughing at everything. The book starts very basic with translations of “cup” then “a cup” then “the cup” then “five cups” and other repetitive things like that. The name Ahmet is used a lot in my Turkish book, so we were making up scenarios with Ahmet, Ahenk’s brother, and laughing at all the crazy things we were making him do. At about 2am Ahmet was still not home, so we wrote a script for me to say when he walked in the door; it was all very simple silly Turkish. My Turkish book even taught me how to say “I am not a child. I’m American.” (Çocuk değilim. Amerikalıyım.) They were both random examples of when not to use an indefinite article that were randomly placed next to each other, so it’s my new catch phrase. We even got crazy and watched a YouTube video teaching slang words. It was really funny. We were up a little past 3am learning Turkish and laughing, and we then decided it was time for bed. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that much with anyone I’d known for less than 12 hours. I don’t even remember the last time I laughed that much, it was so funny. But everything is funny after 2am.
The next day Ahenk and I went to the mall and laughed at all the inappropriate shirts in English that the majority of Turks cannot read and therefore understand and we tried on many crazy, outrageous dresses. I had on a sparkly party dress with like 5” sparkly heels. It was insane. The Turks really love high heels. Also, the mannequins in Turkey look unnaturally real. They’re like the mannequins at Macy’s because they have faces with makeup and fake hair. Anyways, We eventually got yelled at for taking pictures in the store, I wanted to just pretend like neither of us knew Turkish, but Ahenk responded. There are many fur coats in Turkey, and I think those are so strange, so I got pictures with those too. I have pictures with lots of clothes. I marched around the stores saying “Çocuk değilim. Amerikalıyım.” We then returned home for lunch and then we napped for hours on end. It was so nice to have a nap, I’d been tired for the past two days, but being an exchange student, I cannot sleep this year away! That’s what the past 17 years were for.
After my nap I met my host mom at the bus stop and we headed to Karaburun, the city her summer house is in. We’ve been here since Sunday, and we will be here until this Sunday and I will start school on Monday! I haven’t been to school since May. I need to go to school and do something productive, but I’m afraid I will not feel productive when I just sit in class all day bored to death. We will see! I don’t know which classes I’m signed up for, and if I’m in science classes I’ll definitely be bored, even when I’ll be able to understand the language, but I hope I’m in language classes. The Rotary suggested exchange students be put in language classes, but I let the principle sign me up for whatever classes she thought fit before I talked to the Rotary… so it will be a surprise on Monday! Tomorrow we’re finally off to the seaside, it’s not really a beach, just a bunch of rocks and shells, so it’s like a rocky beach. Nevertheless, it’s seaside. I’ll try to post this as soon as possible!
Today I went to a Turkish Wedding! It was different from the American weddings I’ve been to, but I also haven’t been to a wedding in like 10 years, so I can barely even remember what an American wedding is like. First, the bride and groom walked down the isle together and they sat down in front of everyone (we were outside, it was set up how an American wedding reception would be set up) and the mayor (I think… ) was sitting with them, and took two minutes tops talking and then asked them a question (which I didn’t understand) and the bride said “evet!” (yes) and fireworks went off! The same thing happened when the groom said yes. I was totally not expecting fireworks. And, that was it for the ceremony. It was very quick, I guess the Turkish weddings are just about the parties!
While the DJ started to play Turkish wedding music (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding) the bride and groom walked around and everyone gave them gifts of gold; they gave bracelets to the bride and pinned coins on the groom. I read about this before, and that they’ll just turn all the gold back in for cash then go buy the things like vacuums and toasters that Americans give to newlyweds. So, the music was starting and the Turks like to dance, and as anyone who saw me sitting up in the balcony at prom for an hour knows, I’m not a dancer. But! I still gave it a go. I am still not a dancer. :) I had fun watching my host parents and their family members dance, but I just don’t know how to get into that. We American teens are not taught how to “dance.” Anways… It was interesting to see the way the Turks do their weddings. It was basically like an American wedding reception, and it was really nice! Tomorrow my friend and I are off to Izmir for Rotary Youth Exchange Orientation on Saturday, so I am really excited for that Good night!