Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas in Turkey

To start off:


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.


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


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:

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


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


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. :)