Phillip Cardona
2006-07 Outbound to Turkey 

Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
School: Bartram Trail High School
Sponsor: Bartram Trail Rotary Club
Host: Galata Rotary Club
District 2420, Turkey  

Phillip's Bio

 I'm Phillip, I'm a senior in high school, I'm 18 years and I have a profound love of music. Whether it be collecting, playing, or listening, I can find solace in music. I was born in Miami, Florida on January 13, 1988 at South Miami Hospital. I grew up in a suburb of Miami called Kendall, it's about five minutes from the everglades. Before actually settling into our quite dwelling in Miami, my parents moved me around Europe and Colombia. I lived in Barcelona, Spain and Bogotá, Colombia for about two years collectively before going back home to the states. Growing up was was like a roller coaster ride, it had its uncertain moments; eventually though things would turn out to be fine.

My childhood was fine, I had a big group of middle school friends. The more positive bunch would ironically enter my life as the summer of 9th grade approached; I recall 6th and 7th grade being tough years for me. I suppose I had a lack of direction, I didn't have any real dominant male figure around who could put his "foot down". It was not until my mom remarried and my step-dad came into the picture when I slowly, but surely got my act together. It's also when we moved to Orlando, Florida. I was now in 10th grade and ready to make new friends, and have fun in my new city. I started discovering new bands, I even started playing in a couple of bands that would eventually implode. The experience of making music and bonding with new friends was memorable even today.

I now write this biography on my computer in Fruit Cove, Florida. We moved to Fruit Cove at the end of sophomore year. At first the transition was a drag, for lack of better words. No friends, no car, no band, no fun. Everything a teenager in eleventh grade would describe as essential for having a good time I didn't have for those brief months. I'm now at the end of my senior year and I couldn't be happier with my life. I have a steady working class job that gives me income to save up for anything my heart desires, I have a band that I feel is my best musical project to date, and a small but loyal group of friends. Most importantly though, I believe I'm more mature about my actions and the way I conduct my life.

September 27 Journal

 Istanbul, Turkey has taken me in like one of their own. And I say Istanbul, Turkey because yes my host family has taken me in and treated me with more kindness then I have ever received from people I've just met. But Turkey has treated me like their son. From the mini-bus drivers who take me around the city, to the staff at businesses that always greet me with a Hoþ geldiniz every time I frequent a cafe, restaurant or any other place of business and to finally my loving family. Whom upon meeting and dining with them, I knew was going to make their home my home away from home.

I was picked up at the airport by my brother and my host uncle. We drove around the city. My brother told me we were taking the long way because they wanted me to see the city. That was fine by me. As we drive by I was witnessing first hand two continents looking at me! Asia on the other side of the bridge and my side, Europe. We made it home and I took the first advantage to hit the ol dust trail (nap). When I wake up hours later, my brother asked if I was hungry? I said "yes" and he took me upstairs where a meal of every Turkish tradition was waiting for me. After the meal was over, or so I thought my host mom Sibel brought me a cake with writing in it that said "Welcome!". That's when I felt that I made the right decision the to be here, and how lucky I was to have a great family. Time flew by, and before I knew it was the Rotary camp and the following week for two weeks we had language camp. It was enjoyable. Thanks for reading journal!

Gule Gule!

November 24 Journal

 Hello, Readers, future Rotary exchange students, my friends all over this world, my family and Al of course. Well, it's been a significant amount of time since I last updated my journal. Quality over quantity I say.

Since I last wrote in my journal, I was still feeling Turkey out. Really getting to know it you know? Last month my host family went to Spain for vacation, we had a week off of school for Bayram (Muslim holiday). Remember, Turkey is a Muslim country. Secular, but Muslim nevertheless. American Rotary students aren’t able to leave the country while on their exchange, so a friend from my school who was going home for the holiday (my school is a boarding school) offered me a place to stay for a week. At this point, I had to accept not knowing where he lives? what his family would say? were they nice? do they like Americans?

The holiday and the family turned out an amazing experience. During Bayram like most holidays you visit your family and wish them a happy holiday and which is the custom in Bayram the host of the house offers you candy, but before eating it you clean your hands with a type of hand cleaning oil. I did this about 100 times during the vacation and went to neighborhoods I thought I would never set foot in (traditional Muslim neighborhoods). My friend's family took me in as one of their own.

A fond memory I will always have will be walking through a field at sunrise next to my friend’s uncle listening to my Ipod. He point to the Ipod and says "Bu ne?" Turkish for What’s this? At the time I was listening to "Cokertme" (I’ve also grown quite fond of Turkish music). If you don’t know, "Cokertme" is one of Turkey’s most popular songs, the Turks are known for their bombastic music styles and I’m loving it. My friend’s uncle puts his arm around me and in the middle of the field we start singing "Cokertme", I think I might have earned his respect when he saw I knew some of the words (I listen to the song at least 5 times a day). So at this point an 18 year old American boy from Florida is in the middle of a traditional Muslim neighborhood with a 40 year old Turkish man singing "Cokertme" and doing a Turkish dance (trying to do the Turkish traditional dance).

After we made it to the bus station, we said goodbye. My friend, his mom, and I had to catch another bus back home. A couple days later school started again, my family came back from Spain and my life with my friend and his family ended. I’m glad to be back with my host family and the comfort of the environment of my Turkish home. I’ll always remember those days with my friend and his family.

In this day and age, it seems the world regards humans not as who they are, but what religious beliefs they hold, their economic power and what political party they might vote for. Well, since I’ve had this experience (being abroad) I’ve been able to be with people that have covered all borders of the political and religious spectrum and I can try to accept people better now. I’m glad Turkey chose me, life can take you anywhere and Rotary has been a great a medium for this. I would like to thank Rotary and all the work they put in this. And my family and my mom whose words of wisdom and prayers are always with me.

Lots of love from Istanbul, Turkey.

February 15 Journal

 Well, where to begin? Its been about a almost two weeks since I've been back in Istanbul. The hustle and bustle of the big city once again. I was on my tour, the Turkish tour of the western coast of Turkey. I can now say I've been to the Black, Aegean and the Mediterranean sea. Not only have I been to these seas, but I even swam in all three. Although, I might add it was a tad cold.

It was a great experience. Some more notable parts of history which I was given the pleasure of seeing and visiting were the Virgins Mary's home, very spiritual experience I must say. St. Nicholas cathedrals, aka Santa Claus' home. The highlight for sure was Troy. Yes, you read correctly! Troy as in the great movie which was made after it! Although everything we saw was great. More ruins the I could count, lots of amphitheaters and enough beaches to last a lifetime.

My favorite part of the tour was meeting the "authentic" working Turkish people. Sometimes in the big city you forget you're living in a country that's so close to the east but yet so far and out of touch with it. And that you only have trouble a couple hundred miles in any direction and the eastern culture that you've never known is right in front of you and you love it. I remember this restaurant we stopped at in a town I don't quite remember, anyways we approached the restaurant and we all crouched around our table and ate on the floor which is still common in Turkey with the exception of Istanbul and other big cities, and all around us were hammocks and the little river which gave this particular restaurant its character. Another interesting fact I noticed is how the owners let the dogs roam around and eat our meal with us.

Anyways, It was a great time. I'm thankful for Rotary for constantly providing me this chance of a lifetime. Hope everyone is doing great. Allah emant ol.

May 22 Journal

 Hello fellow outbounds, Rotary, and anyone else who reads these journals.

Since I last wrote in my journal I have been lucky enough to visit eastern Turkey. If you aren't aware, the first church in the world along with the first known civilization is located in Turkey. I've also been lucky enough to visit Urfa, a Turkish city located just miles from the Syrian border. I saw a camel for the first time out in the open just walking around, men sipping tea in their mud huts while wearing turbans on their heads. It was surreal in many ways that in a country like Turkey, where you see girls in tight pants and short skirts right here in Istanbul, there's also another life people live, with far different ways of living and ways of thinking. Either way it was a positive experience because I've seen the west and the east in one country, which is what makes Turkey unique.

My time in Turkey is winding down quickly and I'm sad to see it pass by me. I've met so many new people and have established a solid friend group, both Turkish and American and even a Syrian. Turkey has gone pretty smoothly, I must say, and for the entire experience I would like to thank Rotary and all the individuals who have made my exchange great, and thanks a lot to Al.

Well, I think this will be my final journal. I hope everyone's year has gone as great as mine and I hope to see everyone at the welcome home party.