Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Easter in Turkey

Living in a Muslim country, the Christian holidays tend to just slip my mind (although I only celebrate two of them).  For example, at Christmas, the whole idea of a "Christmas Spirit" was lacking, so I think that made it a lot easier to not be with my family, because it didn't really feel like I was missing out on anything.  Easter isn't a huge deal at my house anymore.  Growing up I would always dye eggs with my family, and buy a fancy new dress to go to Church in, then later in the day have an Easter Egg Hunt with the cousins after having a huge, delicious meal with my family.  Now that none of my cousins are kids anymore and we're all separated by hundreds of miles, that tradition has pretty much shifted into a huge dinner with the family, and all of the cousins sitting in the basement playing board games.

This year I obviously missed out on Apples to Apples in the basement and the colorful conversation at the dinner table, but I was able to spend my Easter in Izmir with one of my really good friends, Monica, from Washington (state), her host family and Riad.  Monica and I both put on dresses for dinner, to get into the Easter spirit, then we had a fish dinner with her family, and at dinner we told her family that it was Easter.  We told them about the tradition of getting together with your families, and also the tradition of coloring Easter eggs.  Monica's little host sister was intrigued by the idea of coloring eggs, so we put some eggs in a pot to boil, then we finished our dinner and went out for Turkish waffles while the eggs finished cooking.

And I wonder why I've gained so much weight over the past 7 months...
After eating our waffles and walking around a park, we all decorated eggs with markers and watercolors.  It was the first Easter for all of Monica's family, and also for Riad.  Everyone had a good time painting eggs and learning a little bit about American culture.  It was fun teaching other people about a holiday I celebrate at home, and it was also really fun celebrating with a friend who has a more traditional view of the holiday.  I got to learn and teach about Easter!  This Easter wasn't like any Easter I've celebrated in the past, but it was memorable nonetheless.

Getting our eggs ready to paint!

(Left to right) Monica, Riad, me and Monica's sister


Monday, April 15, 2013

Jack Jack!

This is me and my little cousin Jack the summer before I came to Turkey:

Somehow I got stuck at the little kid's table during a birthday party, and Jack was being angry with me, so we took an angry picture... for some reason we didn't also take a nice picture... Oh well, it's Jack and me nonetheless. 

Today when I checked my Facebook, my aunt had posted a picture of a piece of writing Jack did earlier in the year that she saw today for the first time.  

 "I would live to visit my cusin Anne. my cusin live in terkey. she jost want to high school. She is not in college. she did this thing and she had 5 choses to go to a state and she pick terkey so I want to go to terkey. To see my cusin Anne that is why. I want to go there because I want to learn people and how they saw and like...."

Jack's teacher may have been a little confused reading this if she didn't know I was an exchange student, but I thought this piece of writing was the sweetest thing.  It's nice being reminded sometimes that I have such wonderful support back home, even from my seven year old cousin.  I guess the really nice part about reading this was that he hasn't forgotten me and he remembers that I'm in Turkey.  He even would love to visit ME! Of all the places in the world!  This really did make my day and put a great big smile on my face!  Thanks so much Jack!! Love you!


I went to Bodrum with all of the 2440 exchange students a few weeks ago, and I'm just now finally getting around to write about it!  
Bodrum... Greece is in the background!
Okay, so on Friday I took my normal bus ride to Izmir with Riad.  We counted that we've been along that long road stretching between Izmir and Bursa at least twenty times.  We were both staying at a friend's house, so we waited at the bus station for her host mom to come pick us up, then we were off to her house, where we hung out and watched How I Met Your Mother for a couple of hours, then had a nice, big Turkish dinner. We then hung out with her host family, then watched more HIMYM into the early hours of the morning, then we finally went to sleep for a few hours before we had to get up early to catch the bus to Bodrum. 

All of the exchange students took the bus together.  We were on a public bus, and we are eleven foreign teenagers, all speaking in English and laughing, so we were told multiple times to quiet down.  We have problems with indoor voices. Anyways, once we made it to Bodrum a few hours later, we went to a Rotary program called Bodrum Hugs the World (I think I'm remembering it correctly), where people from all over the world came and set up stands selling food from their countries, then all of the money they raised went to the Rotary club in Bodrum for Turkish students to go to university.  We got to meet a bunch of new people, from all over the world, and also eat some really delicious food! It was really nice.  I even got to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  I was really good at it. 

After our eating, all of the exchange students gathered again and went to the Underwater Museum in Bodrum.  We spent a few hours there, exploring the museum and a castle.  It was really beautiful, and I met this little Turkish girl who had a very curious fascination about all of us.  We talked with her for awhile, then we continued on with our tour where we saw a peacock! After the museum, we had free time until we had to meet up with our host families.  We walked around Bodrum for awhile, then we ended up just sitting in a cafe along the water.  It was too cold to swim, but a few kids went anyways.  We had a good time just hanging out together, then we were off to meet our host families for the night.

Riad and I were staying together with a couple who lived in Bodrum.  They took us out for dinner, then we just hung out in their house for the rest of the evening.  Right before bed we took a walk down to the rocky shore (not quite a beach) near their house, and they were shocked with I ripped my shoes off, rolled up my pants and decided to go for a walk in the Mediterranean.  (Okay, this is completely off topic, but I'm really happy that exchange had made it possible for me to be able to spell the word "Mediterranean" correctly on the first try.  Thanks Spain and Turkey!!  I'm proud of myself.)   I then went to bed, and had a really nice sleep (which had a lot to do with the AC in the room that I turned on and allowed me to sleep in the cold for the first time in FOREVER!). 

In the morning everyone gathered with their families and we had breakfast together.  On the drive to breakfast there were cows blocking the street. Anyways, after breakfast we walked around Bodrum some more for a few hours and we went to a boat museum.  After lunch together, we all got back on the bus to Izmir, and we sat on a bus for the next three-ish hours.  My bus buddy and I had a good time, except for the fact that he kept trying to steal my free sandwich. We laughed at the awkward videos taken during Pin the Tail on the Donkey and I got to learn some Spanish tongue twisters.  Tres tristes tigres... tigres tigres tigres tigres tigres tigres! (You got me... I only remember the first three words).

Bodrum was so beautiful, and the trip was so nice!  We met some really nice Rotarians and I was so happy to have some relaxing time with all of the exchange students.  THANK YOU, ROTARY!

Me at the Underwater Museum

Proud to be American


I saw a peacock. It was just walking around the Underwater Museum . No big deal. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Manisa Mesir Festivali

Every year, a city in Turkey called Manisa has a festival celebrating their special candy.  All of the exchange students went to the festival two weekends ago.  On Friday night, I spent the night with one of my friends staying in Izmir, then on Saturday morning, we ended up getting our hair done and getting bubble tea, before we were on our way to Manisa!  It was only about a thirty minute bus ride, and once we were in Manisa, we  had lunch with a few other students, then met up with the whole group.  We all just hung out the rest of the evening, then later in the night we went to a concert.  Apparently the artist was like Turkey's Lady Gaga.  I don't remember her name...

After the concert I went to a friend's house for the night, and we all just stayed up late talking, as we always do.  We even made popcorn.  On the stove! It was quite an adventure.  The next morning we met up with the rest of the exchange students once again, then we walked through a parade, representing Rotary and our home lands.  We sang songs, chanted "Turkiye," then we got stuck in the middle of a mosh pit where people were pushing and fighting over some free candy.  The parade was nice, after the parade wasn't so nice.  It was all made up for by a nice dinner at a Rotarian's cafe, and a chance to hang out and talk some more with my friends.  At the time, I was kind of disappointed with the weekend because it was a bit stressful and disorganized, but now, in hindsight it wasn't too bad.

Everyone in the parade

(Almost) All the American girls


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Denizli Trip

Three weeks ago I went to Denizli with the other exchange students in the 2440 district.  I traveled to Izmir on Friday, then Saturday morning we were all off to Denizli! It was a fairly long bus ride, filled with story telling of the night before, extremely inappropriate and offensive music being listened to and laughed at, and a discussion about who would be eaten first if we got stranded in the middle of Turkey with no help or food around.  Everyone picked me. (It isn't meant to be morbid or disgusting in any way, it's just one of those things that comes up in 2440 RYE students' conversation.)

After a few hours, we made it to our first stop.  We were all tired getting off the bus and none of us were prepared for the cold rain falling down on us.  We went to an ancient Greek city called Aphrodisias.  Over the past few years, I've seen some pretty breathtaking places, but this place was definitely up near the top of my list.  There were rows and rows of ancient Greek statues, and inscriptions were found all over the city.  We ran into a beautiful gateway, and two ancient stadiums; all surrounded by the mountains and bright green fields of grass.  It was so hard to take pictures, because photos could not do justice to what I saw there.  It was so amazing.

A really nicely sculpted sculpture

Monumental gateway

Over this hill was a giant stadium.  It's one of the most well preserved in the Mediterranean region.

A friend of mine singing in one of the theaters
After visiting this city, we continued our journey to have lunch, where we had yet another wonderful Turkish meal, then we advanced to another ancient city.  On the way to the second city, we ran into something a few of the other exchange students had never experienced before. Snow.  Our little bus was overflowing with excitement.  Everyone was either happy to be seeing snow again for the first time in a long time, or happy to be seeing it for the first time.  There were even tears.  It was quite emotional, I was just so glad that my Latino friends were able to see some snow!  It was such an incredible moment.  I made a video.  (I keep avidly taking videos.  It's almost annoying.)

Everyone in the snow!
We had to rush through the second ancient city, Laodicea, because we arrived just ten minutes before the park was going to close.  It took a bit of convincing the officers, but we eventually got ourselves into the park!  We took a few pictures, but didn't really have enough time to look around the city.  Apparently the city is really important because one of the most important seven churches of Christianity is found there.  I don't really have much to say about the city because we were only there for about ten minutes.

The important church

After this city, we headed to our hotel, where we spent the evening relaxing.  We pretty much just hung out in the pool and sauna, then we ate dinner, where the huge group of retired Dutch gave us weird looks for being ornery teenagers. We later talked about our exchanges, then our lives back home and how everything seems to quickly come to an end.  Also, the shower in my hotel room didn't close completely, so I accidentally flooded the bathroom a little bit... oops...

The next morning we were up bright and early to go to Pamukkale! I was looking forward to Pamukkale so much.  The pictures I'd seen on the internet were beautiful, and I was so excited to be seeing it for myself. A few of the boys were late getting to the bus, so we thought it'd be funny to drive off a bit without them, then laugh as they chased the bus with their shoes untied and bags still open. We're sometimes terrible to each other, but it was still really funny.  In our defense, a Rotarian came up with the idea.  We walked through another ancient city, which had a lot to do with death.  I don't remember the story completely (mainly because we were told in Turkish), but I remember that there we just about a gazillion tombs and graves in the city.  People would go there for their death I guess.  There was also a neighboring city for the not dying people.  
Everyone standing around some mausoleums and tombs with our flags
I like to share my freedom.  
After we walked through the city, we were able to go swimming!  I left my swimming things on the bus, as did half of the other students, so we had to walk fifteen minutes each way to and from the bus, then we were able to meet up with the others and swim in the pools lined with ancient ruins, and heated by the thermal plates that heat Pamukkale!  We did get some strange looks because it was 50F (10C) outside, and we were a bunch of kids speaking English going out for a swim. We're always getting strange looks...

Everyone in the pool
After swimming, we were able to go to walk through the thermal pools at Pamukkale!  It was really neat, but also a little slippery.  I didn't fall, but I had a few close calls.
Me and Pamukkale

Everyone standing in one of the pools
After going through the pools at Pamukkale, we headed back to Izmir.  We first had lunch and ice cream (because we're exchange students and always need ice cream), then the rest of our bus ride home was mostly dedicated to catching up on some sleep.  It was a really nice trip, and I was able to witness yet another thing that a year ago I had no idea existed on this planet, and share the time with some of my closest friends.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Long Distance Hugs

About a week ago my mom was able to give me a long distance hug through Skype.  I haven't seen my mom in seven months, and as a young adult, I sometimes need my mom to be around in my life.  It's been hard not having my mom and closest friends around this year, and trying to balance my life over multiple continents has been becoming quite difficult, but my mom was able to sit me down and talk me through everything as best as she could.  I'm glad my mom and a few of my other friends have been able to stay "by my side" this year.  As I've said before, being an exchange student isn't always easy (nor is being a teenage girl), and sometimes it's these long distance hugs that get me through the day.  Thanks for always being around, I love you guys!

This is a negative distance hug.  It's definitely one of the best things ever. 

Challenge Failed

Dear Blog,

I'm sorry I quit doing the Slice of Life Challenge halfway through March.  I made it half way, but then I became really busy with Rotary events and school and was only home about three days a week.  I promise to update you with all of the things I've done over the past two weeks, and post a bunch of pictures as well! Maybe I'll even update Flickr... just maybe.  

I've missed you dearly and I'm sorry I've neglected you.  I will make it up to you by blogging about my Rotary trips!


Your Blogger Who is Bad at Undertaking Challenges