Sunday, September 30, 2012

Çocuk değilim. Amerikalıyım.

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” 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 continued marching around saying, “Çocuk değilim. Amerikalıyım.” It means, “I'm not a child. I'm American.” 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! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First Day of School

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 free 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!

Monday, September 10, 2012

From Istanbul to Bursa

Ahhh, I just started to unpack my things into my room! I arrived in Bursa last night with my host mom and am starting to feel like I'm getting settled in.  I still don't have a daily routine, but once school starts in a week or two I think that will no longer be a problem.  Anyways, since I blogged last, I've been able to do a lot of sightseeing around European Istanbul with my host mom, which has been absolutely beautiful! My host mom and I went shopping one day, and it's really neat that there are old bazaars, markets selling traditional Turkish goods, right next to the modern western shops.  I really enjoyed going through the bazaars and looking at the beautiful jewelry, lamps and tea sets. After doing some window shopping, my host mom and I went to Galata Tower, which is touristy and all, but we got to watch the sunset over all of Istanbul and I got to eavesdrop on other English speakers. (it sounds terrible, but I haven't been able to understand what anyone is saying around me for a week, it's quite nice to have a little bit of familiarity...this is why I need to learn Turkish!) There are many street performers down the roads of Istanbul, and there was even a random Mariachi Band!

The next time I went into Istanbul, my host mom and I spent what seemed like HOURS looking for a parking space so that we could take another boat tour.  We eventually pulled over hand had dinner at a little sea side fish stand,forgetting about the boat tour.  We got to sit outside and enjoy the breeze and view of the sea while we ate dinner, it was very nice.  We later went to see The Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque, but it was dark once we got to them, so I didn't get very good pictures.  I know I'll be back to Istanbul, so hopefully I can go visit those in the daylight again!  (Little tidbit: The Hagia Sophia was originally a church, then a mosque, and is now half mosque, half church! My host mom is giving me quite the history lessons on our little adventures :) ) After visiting the mosques, my host mom and I went to get a bite to eat before we ventured back into the insane Istanbul traffic. The traffic is seriously insane, I know I have friends on exchange who are experiencing more insane traffic, but compared to Hilliard traffic, this stuff is crazy.

Anyways, my host mom and I have since left Istanbul and come to Bursa.  We took a bus from Istanbul to a ferry and then got back on the bus, which then took us all the way to Bursa. The sunset was beautiful from the ferry! It was only a couple hours to get there, and I got caught up on Angry Birds and Temple Run during the ride. When I first arrived last night, my host parents and I went out to dinner, then they showed me my school and we then came home.  My school is less than two blocks away, so I will be able to quickly and easily walk to school each day. Today has been my first full day in Bursa, and I've been able to partially unpack my things and attempt to get organized. This whole idea of having an "organized room" is completely foreign to me.  My American room is an organized disaster, so I will need to be sure to keep my Turkish room properly organized, which will definitely be a challenge.

I've been trying to learn the language as much as possible. I have a book, but as you can see based on the red corrections, Turkish is not the easiest thing for me.  Today my host parents went through the book with me and helped me out.  My host parents and I  talk with our hands a lot and then they give me the Turkish word, and I give them the English word. It's fun. I really appreciate that they use English enough for me to understand what's going on around me so I'm never completely lost, but it's still mesmerizing to think that I'll be able to understand all of their conversations by the end of this year because right now I pretty much just sit there and can only understand when people say numbers or "şey," the Turkish stutter word, during a conversation.  Today was great, I was able to start to settle in and have a mini Turkish lesson with my family, but as you can probably tell by the state of the writing and English of this blog post, I'm completely exhausted and need to hit the hay.  I'll update again soon! iyi geceler!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Şalgam Suyu

As an exchange student, I was taught to say yes to everything; to take advantage of every given opportunity and to try EVERYTHING. Basically, the answer is always yes unless I'm putting myself in danger.

So... my host family took me out for dinner last night (as I said in my earlier post) and when I was asked what I wanted to drink, I answered Pepsi because Pepsi is the same in Turkish as in English, and it was the only thing I confidently recognized. My host family all ordered the same bottle of juice.  I knew it was juice because it said "Şalgam Suyu" on the bottle, and "suyu" was one of the few words of Turkish I came to Turkey with.  After we all ate our dinners, there was some "suyu" left over, so my host mom offered me some of it. And, as a proper exchange student, I agreed to try it, while in the meantime thinking in my head, "It says it's juice, but I don't know what Şalgam is, but it's purple, so maybe grape juice? I don't know, it's kinda too red to be grape juice. I'll just try it. I mean, it's juice, it can't be that bad."  I take a sip of the "suyu" and immediately wore the dreaded "EVERYONE CAN TELL I DO NOT LIKE THE TASTE OF WHAT IS IN MY MOUTH" face that everyone tries oh, so hard to hide.  I can usually stomach just about anything, but the whole salty drink mixture doesn't go down too well with me because we don't have salty drinks in the states. (I've actually been seriously thinking if we have salty drinks, and nothing has come up, so if anyone can think of one, let me know!) Nevertheless, my host sister sees my face and says "Salty, huh? I don't know what the English word is, but it tastes like pickles doesn't it? It's a traditional Turkish drink!"

I turned the bottle around, and luckily there were little tiny English ingredients. The first three listed were "Water, black carrots, turnips," then right above the ingredients read "Fermented Carrot Juice." I drank Fermented Carrot Juice for the first time!

Well, I just wrote a few paragraphs on how I had some salty juice, and it seems pretty silly, but over the past two years of Rotary Weekends where all of the outbound, inbound, and rebound exchange students get together once a month, the outbounds' and rebounds' biggest piece of advice is to try everything, even if that means eating a mystery meat and asking what it is once it's already gone. So, having tried this Fermented Carrot Juice, I know now not to order it for myself again, because if I hadn't tried it, I would have had no idea what I was getting myself into. More importantly (this is quite a stretch, and I may regret saying this later...) I was able to dip my foot outside of my comfort zone and try this mystery juice. As I said earlier, I stayed on the safe side and ordered myself a Pepsi, but having every menu handed to me in Turkish, every class in school in Turkish, and nearly everyone around me speaking Turkish, I know I'll have many misunderstandings, but that's what this year is all about.  I'm not in little Hilliard, Ohio anymore, I'm in Turkey, listening to one of the most foreign languages I've ever heard, and although I no longer see myself as completely safe and sheltered, I think everything around me is awesome.

I'm looking forward to all of the "mystery" experiences I'll run into, because that's how I'll learn the most and make the most out of this year. This little incident seems small, but today I went to the pool and I don't even remember the last time I went to the pool back home, yesterday I tried some purple juice, and on Monday I sat down on a plane that would take me over 5,000 miles from my hometown for a year. Seeing where the past three days have taken me and how I've already tried some things I would have turned down at home, I'm so incredibly anxious to see where I'll be a year from now. :)

Day Two

I posted a few pictures today, and I wanted to add that this evening my host mom took me to a boat tour of the Bosphorus, the body of water that separates European Istanbul from Asian Istanbul.  It was pretty neat, there are tons of stuff still in place from the Ottoman Empire, so it was cool to see all of that. I really liked the tour because they gave out tea and blankets again! I don't think I'll ever have an opportunity to get cold this year! Anyways, I'm off to bed for now, my host mom, sister and I are off to European Istanbul after breakfast tomorrow, so I'll hopefully get some pictures of that posted either tomorrow or soon after, but for now, iyi geceler (goodnight)!

Day One

After saying many goodbyes to my family members and to many Hilliard Rotarians at the airport, I got on my flight from Columbus to New York to start my year as an exchange student.  It was sad to say goodbye to my family, but I know this year will be well worth it and go by very quickly.  Once I got to New York, I walked around aimlessly trying to find a monitor with anything other than American Airlines (I arrived with American, but my next flight was Turkish Airlines). I gave up on this searching thing because my carry on bags were starting to feel like they were a billion pounds and I got out my handy dandy smart phone and went to JFK's website to find out where I needed to be.  I had no idea I'd need to go back though security, I landed in terminal eight and needed to get to terminal one, so I got to terminal one, went through security and I quickly found the gate to my next flight without a problem.

My flight to Istanbul got delayed an hour, so I sat around reading at the gate for about two hours.  I then waited in line for about 30 minutes waiting to board the aircraft, and, luckily for me, the person with the seat next to mine didn't show up, so I only had someone sitting next to me on one side. The flight to Istanbul took about 9 and a half hours, and I was able to watch 3 or 4 movies during that time and also take a little nap.  I learned the hard way that napping during an international flight IS important because it really isn't fun to arrive in a foreign country, with a foreign language, with zero sleep. Anyways, I landed and was able to easily get myself through customs and find all of my luggage and then find my host family eagerly waiting for me with a "Welcome to Turkey" sign.

My host family then took me to breakfast at a little cafe next to the sea.  I flew into the European part of Istanbul, and we had to drive into the Asian side of Istanbul for breakfast, meaning I was in three continents within 12 hours (cool, right?).  For breakfast, we shared bread, an omelet, a meat and cheese plate and a plate of appetizers. I also got some famous Turkish Tea! Everything was very good, and it was neat to be able to sit on the water and watch the boats go by.  After breakfast we drove to my host sister's house in Istanbul (my host parent's main house is in Bursa, about 3 hours away by car) and just hung out there until dinner.  I showed my host family pictures of my American family and then I got a much needed "I just traveled for 15-ish hours and desperately want to shower" shower and then I took a giant nap. It was very nice to have a relaxing, stress free morning.

For dinner, we went to a marina with a plaza next to it and had dinner at a döner restaurant and I got İskender kebab, which was döner kebab with yogurt, pieces of pita bread and vegetables. It was so rich, I couldn't eat all of it, but it was very yummy! After dinner we had more Turkish Tea, which I've learned I really like. The awesome thing about this restaurant, and I guess it's a normal thing in Turkey, is that they hand out blankets when you sit down at your table so you don't get cold! It was so comfy! I thought it was fun. I was actually really confused at first, because the waiter was just kind of holding a blanket up to me, and I was like "What is this for...?" then I noticed my host family using them to keep themselves warm, so I did the same.  Watch and learn... one of the many things an exchange student learns to do.

After dinner, we came back to my host sister's house and watched Turkish TV and drank more tea! I've had five cups of tea today. Five. And I am not complaining! My host sister showed pictures of her exchange, then everyone went off to bed at their own time. I don't know if it's the five teas or the five hour nap that still has me up at 1:30 AM, but I'm up. Anyways, it was a very nice day and tomorrow my host dad and sister have things to do, so my host mom and I will to be hanging out! Everything has been new and exciting and I'm looking forward to tomorrow, but for now, I need to fall asleep as I await my new Turkish adventures.