Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas in Turkey

To start off:

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!

I spent this Christmas in a Muslim country, so as you can probably imagine, it was a lot different than an American Christmas.  On the 23rd of December, I packed my bags and took a bus to Izmir! I met up with my friends in the evening, and we all gathered at one of the houses to just hang out and eat pizza.  It was my first real pizza in four months.  It wasn't my brother's homemade grilled pizza good, but it was better than nothing.  After hanging out with my friends all night, I returned to my host family's house for the weekend, and SLEPT. (I made myself stay up really late the night before so I could sleep on the bus, but then I didn't sleep on the bus, whoops. So I was really tired.)

I spent much of the morning and early afternoon of Christmas Eve out with one of my friends shopping.  The night before all of the girls kept saying, "agh, we spent the whole day shopping for the Christmas party" and I was like, "Why...?" and they said, "Because apparently we have to look nice for the party and wear a dress."   All of my nice clothes were 6 hours away in Bursa, so I had to go buy something new, and so I bought a nice new dress and shoes. The shoes were especially fun to buy because the man at the store didn't know any English and my friend and I had very limited Turkish, but we got them and everything was good!

I spent the afternoon and evening with more of my friends, just hanging out at home.  We talked about our families' Christmas traditions and about Turkey and how we're getting fat (hehe).  We also mixed up some sugar cookie dough, and it was absolutely delectable!!! After hanging out for a few hours, we got ready for the party and were off!

So, as I said before, I had to buy new nice clothes for this party. I'm an exchange student, so money is kind of limited, so I had to buy clothes I would actually wear again. Red dress and black patent leather heels.  So, I was walking down the street, we had to walk maybe a quarter or half a mile to get to the restaurant  and my friend says to me "Annie, what's wrong with your foot...?" And my shoes gave me blisters that completely broke the skin and my foot was bleeding!  I was like "Oh my god, what do we do?" and I took off my shoes, and I was (stupidly) walking around barefoot looking for a store that sold Band Aids and tights.  Thankfully one of my friends took off his shoes, gave me his socks, then wore his shoes sockless so I could wear socks rather than walking around on the nasty sidewalk with cigarettes all over the place barefoot.

Two of the girls went off to find Band Aids while Max and I went into a store looking for tights because I needed something between my feet and my shoes.  I found a store with tights, bought my size, then asked the cashier if there was a bathroom or somewhere I could change.  There wasn't.  And there wasn't in the next like five cafes we passed on the way to the restaurant.  Two of us just eventually just went into a store and into their dressing room, hoping they wouldn't notice I was leaving with extra clothes or accuse me of stealing their tights.  They didn't do either, so once I got my Band Aids and tights on, I was good to go to dinner!

We met more exchange students and Rotarians at the dinner, and had a wonderful night of just talking about the Christmas spirit.  I didn't miss my family too much, I was happy to be with my friends.  At Thanksgiving I was pretty homesick, but this didn't happen at Christmas, it was actually surprising that I wasn't homesick or missing Christmas.  We sang songs and just hung out together, while eating a "Christmas dinner" of salad, turkey, rice and some fruity Turkish dessert.  Although the food wasn't nearly as good as any Christmas dinner my mom has put together, I was happy I could be with my second family, and I had a really, really great time.  After the dinner we all went our own ways to get some rest before Christmas day!

I woke up on Christmas morning alone at home because all of my host family was at school or work, but to my surprise, they left me a present for Christmas next to the breakfast things! It was SOOO nice.  I've stayed with them for a total of three or four days, and they really didn't need to get me anything, but it was so thoughtful, so thank you guys.  I ate my breakfast, then I headed to Starbucks to meet with the other exchange students.

At Starbucks, we continued exchanging Secret Santa gifts, we'd been exchanging throughout the weekend, and then we had a little White Elephant (an exchange of bad/strange gifts) and I got some insanely creepy cat toy.  My friend said believed it was like a demon cat, so now I'm playing jokes on him and I think he actually believes the cat is possessed  (I hope he doesn't read my blog) by saying I had the cat in my lap, but then it disappeared, but in actuality I put it in his bag while he went to get hot chocolate, then by lying to him when he told me to check if it was in his bag, then by letting him find it while we were at a restaurant eating lunch.  No big deal.  I gave Play Doh as my gift, the girl who got it really liked it.

After our gift exchange, we had lunch, I got Turkish pasta, then we returned to one of the homes so we could just be together for Christmas.  We baked our sugar cookies, then we tried to make a gingerbread house, but it just fell through (haha, puns), so we just broke the house up and ate it for fun.  After hanging out for awhile, I had to go back to Bursa because there was school in the morning.  Once I was home I Skyped my family, and it was actually really nice.  I wasn't homesick.  I was happy they were all happy and I was happy I had a wonderful little Christmas here in Turkey.  I know it wasn't the best Christmas I've ever had, but it was a very memorable one nonetheless.  The Turks celebrate New Years similarly to the way we celebrate Christmas, so now I'm looking forward to that and being able to see the way they celebrate their holidays.  I'll try to take lots of pictures and keep you posted about that.  Happy holidays everyone :)

Me buying tights because of my little incident with my shoes.

FAMILY CHRISTMAS PHOTO :)

My friend and I were twins and we didn't even plan it! 

I love you guys!

My friend got a scary Santa mask and a water gun at the White Elephant exchange.  We got a lot of strange looks while he was walking around like this. 

I know I couldn't be with you guys this year for Christmas, but  I love you and I couldn't have asked for a better set of parents or siblings to be supporting me this year and throughout my life. You guys really are the best.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Found Christmas in Turkey!

So Thursday, December 20, I woke up to SNOW!


Then on Friday, December 21, I found this in the mall:

And later at the mall I had this:

It's hot coco and it was delicious! Yummm :)

It definitely got me into the Christmas spirit. Thanks, Turkey!





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Istanbul Trip

I went to Istanbul this weekend! I was up bright and early, like, before the first call to prayer early (the first call to prayer is at sunrise).  I took a ferry from Bursa to Istanbul with Riad and his host family, and then after driving around for like half an hour, we finally found our hotel and were able to meet up with the other exchange students!  Ahh, I love my exchange buddies :)

So, on Saturday we went to the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and a few other museums within the Historical Peninsula of Istanbul, then we went to the Grand Bazaar.  The mosques were so beautiful, and being with my friends was so great.  Like, I was in ISTANBUL, but I was more excited about seeing all of my friends.  At the Topkapi Palace, I met an American couple who is also living abroad, and they said they were going home for the holidays, and then we talked about how much we miss Chipotle and Five Guys, and all of the other delicious foods I haven't had for four months (it's been too long...).  They were so nice.  I love finding other Americans. :)   After going to the Grand Bazaar, my friends and I found a Starbucks, so we went there to get some drinks.  I seriously felt like I was in America standing in Starbucks. It was REALLY strange, but once I left what looked exactly like an American Starbucks, I remembered where I was. 

Saturday night all of the exchange students stayed up talking, but I was crazy tired because of my really long day with little sleep, so I went to my room and just hung out with one of the girls from Brazil.  After a wonderful night's sleep, on Sunday we went to the Spice Bazaar, then we took a tour of the Bosporus. It was my third Bosporus Tour, so nothing was really new.  After that we had free time to walk around shopping then go to a cafe for hot chocolate.  In the evening my friends had to leave to catch their bus to the airport to go back to Izmir, so Riad and I just sat around the hotel lobby until his host family was able to meet us at a bazaar.  We shopped around for a bit, then we headed to the ferry back to Bursa.  We just waited in the parking lot for about an hour, but I was able to sleep during that hour.  I was a very tired girl after a fun filled weekend in Istanbul!  

I had such a great time with all my friends, and I realized that even though I only get to see most of them once or twice a month, I'm really close to them, and we're like a big old exchange family.  I'll attach pictures below, and hopefully get more up on Flickr soon!



Blue Mosque

Spice Bazaar

Turkish Delight in the Spice Bazaar

Hagia Sophia

Inside the Blue Mosque

Me and my friend inside Hagia Sophia

My friends and me inside of a tree. The nice American couple took this picture.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Little Update

IT'S FINALLY FRIDAY!!!!

Yay :)

This week during school I went to various English classes and gave a presentation about the USA and myself.  It was neat to be able to play teacher for a little while, but dang, did my legs hurt after two lessons. JEEZ.  Also, some of the kids in my school have really good English.  I think people who know multiple languages are cool. HATS OFF TO YA'LL.  Andddd.... I also learned there's a girl from Canada going to my school and a boy who lived in the states for six years.  Crazy, right?

During my presentations, I always had time for questions at the end of the period, and literally every single class a girl would raise her hand and ask if I like Vampire Diaries.  I'm not even 100% sure of what that is, but it's apparently a big deal here, but I'm like "No, sorry?" and she would be kind of sad.  Also, every class a boy would raise his hand and ask me what my favorite football (soccer) team is, so I'd say "Galatasaray and Bursaspor."  I would then get a bunch of laughter and applause, and I don't even know anything about soccer.  On the inside I was all like, "GO BUCKS!!"

Moving on from my presentations, today one of my friends was in a really happy mood, and was being silly and said to me, "Annie! I think I'm in love! ...or maybe I'm just hungry..." It is my quote of the day. Thanks Elcin for making me laugh. :)

Okay, next, I'm going to Istanbul (not Constantinople) tomorrow with my exchange friends! I haven't seen them in about three weeks, so I am ecstatic I don't think words can explain.  I feel something like this:

I'M GOING TO ISTANBUL!! AKLDNIEMLG
So, tomorrow I'm getting up bright and early to hit the road at 6:30AM, and then meeting up with my friends to have a fun filled weekend exploring Istanbul.  We'll be visiting The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, doing a Bosporus tour, going to the Grand Bazaar, and a bunch more cool things.  I'll be sure to take lots of photos!

Due to my early rising tomorrow morning, I need to hit the hay soon.  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and I'll be posting about Istanbul soon! TTFN

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quotes....

Vincent Van Gogh once said, "I am not an adventurer by choice, but by fate." I found this about a month or so ago, but I really like it because I always feel like this whole "exchange" thing presented itself to me.  It started with an email from my school's principal looking for a host family, which turned into my family hosting Sana, to me doing a short term exchange, to me deciding "hey, I kinda like this," and now, here I am, in Turkey, on a long term exchange.  I really cannot imagine what my life would be like now if my family never hosted Sana because she is my best friend and really encouraged me to become an exchange student.  I like to think there's a reason I became an exchange student, and that there's a reason I came to Turkey, but right now I don't know that reason and like I said in my earlier post, I've just got to wait and be ready for just about anything, because who knows what this adventure will present to me next.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

100 Days in Turkey

Today marked the 100th day of my exchange, and it's 12/12/12, cool, right?

This was me 101 days ago before I left my exchange. Notice my "I'm scared to death and have no idea what I'm getting into and I'm going to go get on a plane in half an hour and go thousands of miles away from my friends and family and I'm super scared, but also excited at the same time... GAAH!" face:


Alright, and this is me Day 1 of my exchange, when I first arrived in the airport and met my host family:


And this is me today with my host dad at the Rotary meeting. Notice the extra what seems like gazillion pounds (tehehe):


So, in my opinion, I don't think I look much different, but I'm noticing subtle changes in myself.  Not anything crazy, but I'm definitely more open minded and more flexible then I was before.  I know a bit of Turkish and I'm getting used to Turkish culture.  In my 100 days here, I've been to Istanbul and Izmir on multiple occasions, I've visited a ton of ancient sites, including Ephesus and Mother Mary's house, I've seen Capadoccia, rode in a hot air balloon, and met tons of people who have helped me learn more about myself and the world around me.  It definitely has not been the easiest 100 days of my life, and I've had some of the hardest, but also some of the best days of my life here.  I'm still curious as to what the end product will be, but I guess all I can do about that now is to continue doing what I'm doing, and just kind of hope for the best, and make the best of the 200 some days I have left. :)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Language Lessons

So, I've been attending language lessons with the other exchange student in Bursa, Riad, twice a week for about 5 weeks now, and I absolutely love them! My teacher is really funny, and we have a good time learning Turkish and speaking Turkish.  I've seen my Turkish improve a lot since these courses have started, so I'm really happy we're getting these lessons.

We usually play this game where one of us thinks of a word, then we play something like 20 Questions to find out what the person is thinking of, but we're not very good at the game, so we ask is many questions until we get the right answer.  Today we played a different game!  On a piece of paper, the teacher made spaces for "who," "with whom," "where" and "doing what," so we took turns writing each section on the paper, and covering all the answers, then once all of the blanks were full, someone read the entire sentence aloud.

Based on the sentences we came up with, you'd probably guess that we were a bunch of delinquent kids getting in a bunch of trouble, but that is not the case, we were just having a good time coming up with funny situations.

Here is our paper:

As most of you don't know Turkish, I'll let you know what everything says...

1.  Annie's mom and Justin Bieber are in the toilet smoking cigarettes  (Sorry mom, we learned the possessive today, so "Annie's mom" just made sense)
2.  Britney Spears and her boyfriend are eating dessert in a dark street.
3.  Kobe Bryant and Riad are drinking beer in Cincinnati.
4.  Messi and Edward (from Twilight) are at school drinking vodka.  

Maybe you had to be there, or maybe you have to be as easily entertained as I am, but I thought this game was absolutely hilarious!  Some of them are inside jokes, so whatever.  We think they're fun! And, you can clearly see I'm learning really nice Turkish. Tehehe.  

Anyways, we have very interesting lessons.  For some reason Riad knows just about every slang word in Turkish, so we laugh learning those, and we also get to practice our listening and speaking, so it's always really nice. I feel like at school, people are like "SPEAK TURKISH" and I don't know what to say right on the spot, so I say really simple unimportant things, but in my lessons conversation comes much more naturally and I feel much more confident with my Turkish. 

Well, that's basically what I do every Tuesday and Thursday night... and I love it! Maybe I'll share some more stories about my Turkish course later because I have lots of 'em! 

Turkey Tid Bit #3

GUYS!!!! LOOK WHAT MY HOST DAD FOUND AT THE STORE AND BOUGHT FOR ME:


Yay for American candy! He actually bought it a week ago, I'm surprised I've let it last an entire week.  I've been busy eating Turkish candy, I'm saving my American candy for later :)

I am a happy "little" exchange student!

Turkey Tid Bit #2

Hello everyone, so a few days ago I was walking to school, and nobody stops at the stops signs in Turkey, so there was a little traffic jam outside the school.  The little traffic jam included two pick up trucks and then a normal sedan.  I NEVER SEE PICK UP TRUCKS! I felt like I was back home in little Brown Township where every other car that passes is a pick up truck.  It made me smile :)  I also saw a mini van for the first time in three months last week.  It looked so out of place next to all of the little tiny cars, so I laughed. So, yeah, it's been quite the week for seeing cars that I thought only existed in America... I just thought I'd share. :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving

I was able to travel to Izmir for Thanksgiving dinner with my fellow exchange students during the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We spent the majority of the afternoon and evening making food, making a mess of one of the host family's home, and having wonderful exchange student bonding time.  It was so brave of one of the host families to let a group of 10 teenagers take over their kitchen for a day, but it was an absolutely beautiful home and they had a huge kitchen for us to cook in, so it was perfect.  We had a turkey IN TURKEY along with a bunch of other traditional Thanksgiving foods, accompanied by tacos and Brazilian food prepared by our Mexican and Brazilian exchange students.  Everything was absolutely wonderful and delicious.  I'm so thankful to have been able to go to Izmir and share this day with my friends because it will be a Thanksgiving I will always remember and I got to share it with some of the best exchange students I know.  So, I guess to answer the question that I got way to many times when I announced to people I would be going to Turkey... Yes, I suppose we do (under special circumstances) celebrate Thanksgiving in Turkey.

Cooking away!
Monica and I made a delicious pie!
This is Torvald.  I really don't know how to caption this picture...

WE FOUND BEN AND JERRY'S ICE CREAM 

Digging in! Yummmmy!

Nearly everyone is in this picture.  I could not have asked for a better group of students to share my exchange with, I love you guys!

Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm Back :)


Alrighty, so my last blog got a virus, so I'm now here at being-annie.blogspot.com. Beingannie.com should just redirect to here at some point, I'm not sure if it does yet or not, so I'm giving the new site just in case. I've done a lot since I last blogged, so I've been posting random pictures and telling you about all of my adventures I've had over the past three or four weeks! See below for my new stories :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tenth November


10th November is the day that the Turks mourn the death and remember the life if Atatürk, their national hero. I was up early to go with the other exchange student, Riad, and his host mom, Gülçin, to a service at a city center in Bursa to remember Atatürk. The ceremony was really quick and consisted of a few words about Atatürk, some banners and plaques being presented in his honor, torches being lit, a moment of silence and the national anthem. It's actually a really big deal. All of the schools have their own ceremonies and even traffic is stopped for the moment of silence. I don't really know whether to call it a moment of silence or not because there were really loud sirens going off for the entire minute. I don't know why, it has to do with Atatürk because I heard the same sound on TV later in the evening.

After the ceremony I went out to breakfast with Riad, Gülçin and a group of her friends. Riad and I got to practice our Turkish which was really funny. We just find things and say that they're really nice, or not nice. It's really simple, but because our levels are about the same, we have a good time trying to make Turkish conversation with each other. Later in the morning we went to a Sultan's tomb and to the Green Mosque. We found a group of people from Malaysia at the mosque, so we followed them and their English-speaking tour guide around while in the mosque. It was my first time in a mosque, so I was really excited and Riad was able to explain what everything was to me. I love learning!

The rest of the morning and afternoon we walked around Bursa together, going into different shops and walking though the silk bazaar. It was raining all afternoon, and as we were walking down the street, a car splashed water all over my legs. It was so cold, but so funny at the same time. It wasn't so bad. I felt like I was in a movie, I didn't think cars actually did that in real life. For lunch we had ISKENDER which is a traditional Turkish dish with meat, pita bread, tomato sauce and yogurt, it sounds a little weird, but it's absolutely delicious, especially because they pour melted butter all over it. I looked at Gülçin and said, “So many kilos!!!” I've started to really like Turkish food. I wasn't really a fan at first, but I really like the really rich and fattening Turkish foods we get at the restaurants. I'm not a huge fan of everything, but there are certain foods that I really like, such as iskender. After lunch I returned home and spent the rest of my evening at home. I really enjoy Riad and his host family, so I'm really glad I was able to go out with them today. I got to practice my Turkish, which was so nice. Thanks so much for the awesome day guys! Çok teşekkür ederim. 


There was a huge crowd for the ceremony!
We got to get a picture with two of the bandies. It felt like home :) 

Riad and I in front of the tomb.

This man was reciting the Quran I believe.


Here is a statue of Ataturk with the plaques and torches burning.  I counted like 20 Turkish flags when I was standing next to that statue.



Riad and I in a store. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween


Happy Halloween! Except, Halloween has no importance here. BOO! (See what I did there? Yaa, it's a good thing I can easily make myself laugh, I'd be so bored if I couldn't) :)

Thousands of miles away in America, the bad weather caused the hay ride that goes down my street to get canceled (we're country folk and our houses are too far apart to walk door to door to) and everyone had to trick or treat the traditional way, so I was able to Skype with my family and a few of my favorite neighbors this evening! It was so great to see the little kids I babysit. I haven't seen them since August, and they were so cute in their costumes. Zachary, my seven year old neighbor, had a lot of questions about Turkey and asked how to say certain words, I was happy he had an interest in what I was doing. He's such a curious kid, it's great! Jessa on the other hand was so excited that she could see me and show me her Cinderella dress, which she looked absolutely adorable in, but she's three and looks absolutely adorable in everything. Apparently she asked her mom, “Mom, when will Annie be home from Chicken?” That seriously made my week, maybe even month; I thought that was so hilarious, and I couldn't stop laughing.

After my neighbors left I talked to my parents for a bit, and it was really strange because usually when I talk to them they're sitting against a wall, but this time I could see the whole room because the children were running around showing me things on Skype. It was bittersweet to see my house for the first time in two months. It was such a weird feeling for me actually. I didn't really realize until recently that I'm really attached to my house; I grew up there and have so many wonderful memories in that house, and it's been really weird not being “home.” I believe my house is the quintessential house; it's like family, and food and love and warm fuzzy feelings all bunched up into house form. Gah! I love it. I love the way it smells and the way that the fireplace is constantly running during the winter.  I could go on and on, but I won't.  Seeing my house gave me a bit of that warm fuzzy feeling that I didn't even realize I was missing.  I just felt so weird because I knew the way I would be feeling with my family around me at that moment, but because I wasn't "there," I didn't feel that way.  So weird! 

Sooooo....... I love love loooooovvveeedddddd seeing the Ehle family for the first time in over two months today because I crazy miss them and love them. They're my second family and I miss them so much!! Thanks for Skyping with me guys. :)

LOOK HOW SMILEY I AM :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Istanbul


My host sister works as a flight attendant in Istanbul, so we spent the weekend of Bayram in Istanbul with her because she wasn't able to come to Bursa due to work. It's only about a two or three hour drive to her house, so we arrived in Istanbul late Friday night. On Saturday we had brunch as a family and then in the afternoon we drove into Istanbul and took a tour of the Bosporus. It was a really nice tour and I got many nice photos. After our tour we found a little kiosk that let my host mom, sister and I dress up as Ottoman princesses and they took our pictures! It was so silly, but we were able to dress up and laugh a lot about that. We then had dinner as a family and returned to my host sister's apartment for the night. The next day my host dad wasn't feeling well, so my host mom and I just went to a shopping center and walked around for a few hours then had dinner there. We just went to Sabarro (seriously half the restaurants in the food court were American restaurants) and there was an American couple walking around and I heard him say, “Why the heck do they put corn on the pizza? That's so weird!” I didn't say anything, but I was laughing to myself, and thinking, “yuuuup....” We then returned home for the night and the next day we just hung out at home and returned to Bursa in the evening. It was a very casual visit to Istanbul, but it was still all very nice.

These are a few of my pictures from the Bosporus tour, and you can see more of my pictures on Facebook, or here, on my Flickr account.
   
This is called the Maiden's Tower, and it's located in the Bosporus.  There's actually a really cliche, tragic story behind it.  Apparently the princess fell in love with a boy and wanted to marry him, but the king or sultan or whatever didn't want her to marry him so he locked her up in this tower so she couldn't be with him.  Because the tower was surrounded by water, the snakes from the sea were able to get into the tower and kill her.  The end. I know, it's a pretty bad story, but I thought I'd share anyways. 

The left side of this photo is Europe and the right side it Asia! Crazyyyy

This is European Istanbul, and the bridge connects Europe and Asia. 



Sunset over the Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet mosques in Istanbul!

Turkey Tid Bit: 29th October


29th October is Turkish Republic Day, which is basically their equivalent of the 4th of July in America. They aren't exactly the same meaning, but the same type of patriotic holiday. Ataturk was the man who led Turkey through their independence war, and then established the Republic of Turkey. He is a national hero and his picture and speeches are up in every classroom in Turkey and I think every household has a picture of him somewhere. This was a very important day for the Turks, but because I was in Istanbul and in the car all day, I wasn't able to go to any of the celebrations in the city, but I got to hear about them from one of my teachers at school and then we had a little presentation at school about it, so I did get to learn a bit about it.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

İyi Bayramlar


A couple of weeks ago was the Islamic holiday of sacrifices. The story that I read on Facebook about Bayram (the holiday's name) was that Abraham wanted to have a child with his wife but couldn't so, he prayed to God asking to be able to have a child with her, and that if they could have a child, he would later sacrifice the child to show his obedience to God. Later, he miraculously had a child with his wife and after the child grew older, God told Abraham that he had to sacrifice the child, because he promised he would. When Abraham was about to sacrifice the child, an angel came down to him with a ram and said that Abraham had clearly shown his obedience and been faithful to God because he was about to sacrifice the child, so he could just sacrifice the ram instead and he gave the meat to the poor people. I read all of this after the holiday itself, so I had absolutely no idea why we were sacrificing a sheep or whatever we ended up sacrificing (a lot of things go and stay unknown when there is a language barrier), but now I understand why the Muslims sacrifice animals and then donate half of their sacrifices to the poor and hungry people.

So, all of this Bayram talk started a couple of Wednesdays ago when I was at dinner with my host family and they were trying to explain to me what Bayram was, and all I understood was “Grandpa” and “sacrifice” so, I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, we can't sacrifice grandpa! I miss my sheltered Midwest lifestyle...” but, it turns out they were just telling we were going to go to grandpa's house and butcher a sheep. So, not as graphic as I was afraid. In the past people would sacrifice the sheep or animal themselves, but now people just do the butchering themselves.

The next day my host family and I all went to my host mom's parents' house and celebrated Bayram! My host mom's brother, his wife and son all came as well. We had breakfast as a family, ate some baklava, then the men all went and butchered the meat. At one point I went to see what they were doing, and coming from a home that was vegetarian for nearly a year before I left, I was a little bit shocked that the men were all actually sitting around butchering a lamb (or something). I wasn't disturbed or anything by the situation, but I definitely didn't feel like I was still in Ohio. My host dad learned the word “butcher,” so he kept telling me “I am butcher!” it was so funny. They were just taking the ax to the meat like it was just an average Thursday. No big deal.

In the evening we were able to go through the garden (in the end of October...) and pick some fruits and vegetables. We then went to visit Sevgi (my host mom)'s aunt and uncle who lived in the same village as her parents, so it wasn't a long drive. They live in a house that's hundreds of years old, and was around during the Ottoman Empire, so I thought that was interesting. We had coffee and baklava with them. I just had baklava because coffee gives me terrible head aches and stomach aches. I don't think it's actually healthy, but I just avoid coffee whenever possible.

After visiting with Sevgi's aunt and uncle, we returned to her parents' house where we had dinner as a family. Everything was very good, it was so much food, and then we had MORE baklava (yummy!). After dinner my host family and I returned to our home. It was a really good day, and I was happy to be able to see a Muslim holiday because I've grown up in a house that only celebrates Christian holidays! It was really different for me, but I like really different, so it was really great. İyi Bayramlar! (Happy Holidays!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Capadoccia


On October 18th, I took the bus to Izmir in order to meet up with the other exchange students and go on our first trip together to Capadoccia! It was the first time I rode the bus to alone, and everything went pretty well, so I was very happy about that. Once I made it to Izmir, I went to the Rotary Long Term Inbound Chair's house and had dinner. It was so good! She made a salad; I really miss salads. I then just hung out at her house until about 10:45, when I went to go meet up with the other exchange students and start our trip!

It was really nice to see all of the other students. Because I live in Bursa with only one other exchange student, we don't get to see the Izmir kids nearly as much as they see each other. For the first hour or two of the bus ride (it was about a 10 hour drive, so we drove it mostly all through the night) we were all loud and noisy, but then we were able to settle down and all go to sleep after that. We actually stopped at a random bus stop in the middle of the highway (we don't really have these in the United States, it's more than just a rest stop because there are usually restrooms, a small shop and a cafeteria-style restaurant) and found a group of like 10 other AFS exchange students staying in Turkey; it was 12:30AM. Told ya it's a small world.

We arrived in Capadoccia around nine or ten the next morning, and it was unlike anything I've ever seen before. We all joked that we felt like we were in a Star Wars movie, and then we actually saw a sign that part of Star Wars was filmed there! Our first stop was the Ihlara Valley. It was so beautiful. There were trees, and a river. We felt like we were in a fairy tale and we all decided that millions of years ago unicorns and nice dinosaurs inhabited the area. In this museum we were able to visit an early church. The church was filled with frescoes (a style of painting). It was painted by a monk over 1,500 years ago when Christianity was still being developed and the monks had to stay in hiding because of persecution. We got a nice history lesson from the travel guide, I can fill you in on some of it as I write.

After the Ihlara Valley we got back on to our little bus and traveled to two different underground cities. These cities were carved out of the rocks by people and as many as 20,000 people lived in one of the underground cities about 1,700 years ago. It was really crazy to think people actually lived there. The ceilings were so short and we had to squat down to walk through the little tunnels between the rooms. Also, there was no electricity or sewage system. (That's a deal breaker.) I'm glad I didn't experience those aspects. Eeeekkk!

In one of the museums we found a pitch black tunnel with a sign that said “Grave” next to it, so what does a group of 11 foreign kids do? We say “COOL!” and we push one person in first and all follow. The 30 seconds in that tunnel were some of the scariest 30 seconds in my life. It was terrifying. We were all screaming, and the person in front of me wouldn't “run” fast enough(we were awkwardly making ourselves three feet tall and trying to go as quickly as possible)! The grave room was lit, and one person did lay in the grave and two others tried to go through another dark tunnel where they put all of the dead bodies. It was quite an adventure.

Additionally, at the entrance to one of the museums, there was a group of Americans speaking with insanely southern accents, and my friend looks at me and says, “Five bucks they're from Texas.” And I, being a friendly person who wants five bucks, said to one of the men in the group, “Hi! Where are you from?!” “We're from Amurica.” I was like, “Yeah... Where in America?” And he said.... “Mississippi!” I looked through the corner of my eye at my friend and the disappointment on his face. I told the nice man it was nice to meet him and that I'm an exchange student from Ohio. I had to hurry though because the rest of the exchange students were entering the underground city and I was just talking to some man for the purpose of getting a few lira. I'm sorry man from Mississippi, I talked to you out of greed.

After all of the museums, we arrived to our hotel and hung out for a couple hours then went to dinner as a group. After dinner, we all washed up and then nearly everyone gathered in one of the rooms, where we talked and made stupid jokes until about midnight. It was such a good day!

On Saturday we were up early to visit the Open Air Museum. This museum was filled with old churches from over 1500 years ago. We were able to visit a few of the churches and other rooms in the caves AND meet a couple groups of Americans. (YAY AMERICANS!) The Frescoes in this museum were preserved really well, and in many of the churches, the eyes of all of the angels and disciples were scratched out because people tried to destroy them when they were first found. None of the people in the paintings had smiles on their faces because it was a really hard, sad time for early Christians. All of the information from our tour guide was actually quite interesting.

We spent a lot of time on the bus on Saturday, driving across Capadoccia to our different stops and making various photo stops along the way. We even encountered a Rotarian from the states at one of our photo stops! It was so cool! We also went to the ruins of a castle on top of a mountain, where we saw some of the best views of Capadoccia. We were able to see a turkey (IN TURKEY!) and many more beautiful Capadoccian scenes. I'll post a lot of pictures, there aren't many stories about them, I have background stories on my Flickr photos though as the captions. My camera died at this point in the night, so I have a lot fewer pictures, but I'll steal a few from my friends so you can see how everything went.

In the evening we went to a Capadoccian pottery store and workshop. They told us they get all of the red clay from Capadoccia itself, then they showed us how they use the wheel to throw the clay into bowls and vases and whatnot. The wheel wasn't electric like all of the wheels I have used, but you had to kick the bottom of it with your foot to make it start spinning and continue spinning as it slowed down. Max, a student from Mexico, was able to throw a vase on the wheel. It was really fun, he was so excited. The man at the store gave us half off everything in the store, which was really nice, but everything was over priced so we would have bought (as what I see as) the same same product for the half off price in Bursa or basically anywhere else with a Bazaar.

After our stop at the pottery store, we stopped at a random touristic city because we needed to kill half an hour before dinner. We were walking around, and we came upon this huge bridge, so all eleven of us and our tour guide were walking along the bridge, laughing and learning Brazilian games in Portuguese. After the bridge became empty and we were over the part of the bridge over the land (I still don't know why a third of the bridge was over land), we were having a lot of fun singing and jumping around and some angry Turkish man comes up to us and yells at us. Our tour guide thought he was being ridiculous and assured us we didn't actually do anything wrong. I think the man was just angry because he wasn't having nearly as much fun as we were. :P

After this little incident, we were off to dinner and a show! The restaurant was part of the cave-like atmosphere, and we got a traditional Turkish meal, with many appetizers and bread, and then (I don't remember, but there must have been soup in here somewhere, there's always soup) we had lamb and rice for dinner. It was all pretty good. All of the tables were surrounding a circular stage for the dancers and we were all finished eating when the show began. There were many traditional Turkish dances, and they even let all of the people in the restaurant dance while the dancers took a break. The night ended with belly dancers, and then we returned to our hotel for a much needed rest and time to just hang out with our friends. Two exchange students, from Mexico and Brazil, came into the room Bess (from Chicago) and I were sharing and we ended up staying awake until about 2am, laughing and being silly, it was a lot of fun.

We were up bright and early on Sunday! I don't really know if I can call it “bright” because we were up at 5am, about an hour and a half before the sunrise. It was too early. TOO EARLY. Anyways, only 5 of us got up this early because we went to take a hot air balloon ride though Capadoccia! It was so beautiful. The hot air balloon itself was absolutely HUGE and the basket fit 20 people. In pictures it looks really small, but it's actually not! I took like 200-300 pictures within the hour, and there wasn't much of a story with this, it was just really pretty. I have a bunch of photos on Flickr, and a few of them do have little stories as the captions, so you can check those out! There was one point in the flight that we were about 5 feet from a rock and the man in charge jokingly said “I like to call my balloon Titanic.” He wasn't able to “direct” the balloon, it just went wherever the wind wanted it to go, he just controlled the basket by spinning it so we could all get a good view and he controlled the amount of fire that went into the balloon, causing it to either rise or fall.

After the balloon trip, we returned to the hotel and were off to Izmir around 8:30 or 9. We stopped in Konya in the early afternoon to visit a museum and have lunch. It was a really good lunch. It was 3 huge courses plus bread, all for about 8 USD. I love Turkey and it's cheap food. I'm getting fat because of it, but that's okay. The bus ride was pretty fun, we didn't sleep but we played games. We found a machine that you can stand on, then it vigorously vibrated your feet for a minute. It was so strange, but a group of about five us of found it extremely amusing. Anyways, after 10 long hours in the car, we arrived back to Izmir and I got to return to the Rotarian's house and SLEEP.

I took the morning bus back to Bursa on Monday and returned to Bursa in the early evening. The Rotarians keep my bus tickets for record I guess, so I was on the bus, and the man was asking me in Turkish for my ticket, and I was like “uhhmmmm.....” I don't really have the ability to say, “I'm an exchange student and the lady in charge of me kept my ticket.” So I was upset when the man started to speak English to me, because I did understand what he said. Whatever. I got off the bus, and was waiting for my host mom when I realized I left my jacket on the bus. I was like “OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH.” And I then frantically ran through the bus station looking for my bus, and hoping it didn't leave. Thankfully it didn't and I was able to tell the man, “My, my, my jacket!!!” in Turkish and point on the bus to show that my jacket was still on the bus. I got my jacket and returned to finding my host mom, and at that point I realized that I know how to say “My jacket is on the bus,” but during Annie Freak Out Time, I can't really get any of my feelings out, even in English.

Anyways, I found my host mom and we walked though Ikea for awhile then we returned home. I got Wifi for the first time in 4 or 5 days, and had like 15 messages from two of my friends, oh, the world barely was able to cope with me gone for half a week... sigh... :P It was so nice to spend a few days with the other exchange students and see another beautiful part of Turkey. One of the exchange students who came about 9 months ago said that you would never guess from all of the places we go to on our exchange that it'll all be the same country, and I definitely believe that! I'm not sure when our next trip will be, but I'm looking forward to it, whatever it is. :)

Ihlara Valley 
Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley

Random Photo Stop

All of the exchange students on the top of the castle/mountain

Hot air balloon trip!

Konya lunch

Konya

Hot air balloon trip



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kuşadası Rotary Weekend


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 when, 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 everyone's 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!

Food Day at School


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. :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

For My Mom...


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 :