11th, 2011: Two weeks into my exchange
The week leading up to my departure was interesting. I hung around my house
and basically did nothing except arrange my departure date. Sunday was the
set date for me to leave, but either Hurricane Irene didnít want me to go,
or she wanted me to leave sooner. I left a day earlier, on Saturday, Chelsea
Holmes with me all the way. It was nice that we were able to arrange to
I thought I wasnít nervous when I got to the airport in Jacksonville, but
apparently I was because I got sick in the garage parking lot. All I could
do was laugh at myself. Saying goodbye to my parents was weird. It didnít
seem like I was leaving them, so since I couldn't think of anything to talk
about, I decided I better just fess up. I told my mom I never walked the dog
that week like I was suppose to and I told my brother I stole his back-up
iPod and that it was packed away in my checked luggage. I ended up going
through security twice because my Rotary club came to say farewell after I
was at the gate with Chelsea. I got some exercise running around the
airport, but I was so happy that my Rotary Club came to say goodbye. Thanks
Our flights went well. I donít have any scary stories to tell. We flew from
Jacksonville to Atlanta to Amsterdam and everything was easy and quick. The
airport in Amsterdam was crazy, and things just got crazier from there.
Chelsea and I went though security again and then realized we couldnít go
back out to go to the bathroom. The 3-hour flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul
was agonizing. I was incredibly nervous. Seeing Turkey for the first time
was definitely one of the most thrilling and exciting moments of my life.
I made a big deal of setting my first foot in Turkey when I took a leap off
the jetway. My first landing on another continent, in another time zone, in
another country (Canada doesnít count :-) ). Chelsea thought I was crazy.
My host brother picked me up from the airport and our private driver took us
home. My first observation: people drive like crazy, but somehow I always
find it thrilling, especially when my host dad drives the Mercedes.
We had about a 20 minute drive home from the airport and I couldnít keep my
eyes away from the car window, as I expected. Everything about Istanbul
amazed me, and it continues to all the time. My host brother showed me the
house. My bedroom is on the fifth floor and from the balcony on the top
floor, you can see our neighborhood and the city.
I wasnít even in Istanbul for 24 hours before I was back on a plane, at 7am
the next morning, for Bodrum, a wonderful little summer vacation town.
There, I met my host parents and they are truly the most wonderful people.
The first thing my host dad told me in his broken English was that I was not
a guest; I was part of their family. Just like that. And not once this whole
time have they treated me like anything else.
My host mother speaks a few words of English. It pains me to not be able to
tell her how thankful I am for the patience she has, day after day, for my
extremely slow learning and understanding. I want to tell my host dad how
much I love being a part of his family. I want to talk about Rotary with him
and tell him how much I love watching basketball too.
I tell my host brother how much he is like my brother in Florida. They are
alike in so many ways. He takes me places and always tries to explain
things. He answers my many questions and he covers for me when we get in
I want so badly for my host family to know that I wish I was born into their
family, I wish I had grown up as the third child, the daughter, one they
love as much as their sons. I know I can have someone who speaks English and
Turkish fluently tell them all this for me, but I know that it has to come
from me alone, at a time when I can I speak the language with ease.
I spent the next 8 days in Bodrum, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea (I
donít think itís possible to drown, itís incredibly easy to float), sitting
by the pool (the water level is level with ground, interestingly to me),
eating out every night except one (something Iím definitely not use to), and
walking around the town (the streets are crowded even at midnight).
I told my parents I would skype them that weekend, but I ended up staying in
Bodrum for three more days with my host parents while my host brother went
back to Istanbul to study for an English exam. I was curious as to how I
would get along without him (he was my lifeline), but itís amazing how much
you can communicate with people even if you donít speak the same language.
It was a concept Rotary taught us that I never quite understood, and now, I
do. I also never realized how much you can communicate just by smiling.
Everyone that I come in contact with, whether they be family friends,
waiters at restaurants, or people on the street, donít know that Iím
American. Even if I just smile all the time at them, they donít realize it
until they hear me speak English or someone tells them that Iím not Turkish.
I happily take this to my advantage, as sooner or later, I will have no
problem telling them myself that I am indeed Turkish.
We left Bodrum on the morning of the 6th and I was anxious to see how my
life would be like in Istanbul. In the mornings, I come downstairs, eat
breakfast with my family, and then I usually just hang around until the
afternoon. I donít mind it. Sometimes I just sit for hours, but somehow Iím
not bored. Then, usually we do something, my brother takes me somewhere, we
visit the city, we visit friends, etc. I never know what goes on until
someone tells me. Iím always out of my comfort zone, everywhere I go. But
like so many people told me before I left, thatís what you have to do to be
an exchange student.
I hear the calls to prayer all the time. Iím interested as to when my first
experience with the religion will take place. School starts in a week.
Everything Iíve eaten is yummy (except I wasnít a big fan of Ayran, salty
milk-ish yogurt). I feel bad when I canít finish my meal. Everyone eats more
than me here. I always have to tell them "doydum!" (Iím full!). My host
family feels the need to buy my food that I usually eat (like porkÖ), but
they need to know that I will eat whatever they have to offer and that I
love to try new things. So far I've eaten octopus, spaguetti with yogurt,
eggplant, lots of balık (fish), and many other Turkish specialties. Magnum
ice cream bars are really common here (a luxury for me in the states). I
absolutely LOVE turkish tea. I have this funny relationship with watermelon,
and itís been a joke in my family for a while. All because I ordered it at a
restaurant one night and that the first word I learned in Turkish wasÖkarpuz
:-) way back in December.
I thought it would be really hard having everyone speak a language all the
time that I donít understand, but itís not. I just sit patiently, listen and
try to catch a few words. And sometimes, I just want to burst out laughing
so badly at things that arenít even funny. Whatís hard is that when people
laugh, I usually donít understand, and it makes me want to cry.
Every time I think something horrible is going to happen like Iíll fall off
the back of my host brotherís ATV, or my host mom will get mad at me for
jumping in the pool with my clothes on (or riding on that ATVÖ), or making a
horrible mistake in front of a bunch of people, it never happens. And
usually, the things I fear the most turn out to be the most fun.
Some things to take note of:
ē Smoking is not discouraged here as much as it is in the USA
ē Pop music = sucky American pop music
ē There are random dogs and cats everywhere
ē When one sees a cat you ďTsss!Ē at it, while in America most people go
ďAww, a kitty.Ē This makes me laugh every time.
ē In my family it is OK to put your elbows on the table and start eating
even if everyone does not have their meal (Iím still getting use to this)
ē The most common car models I see are VW, Fiat, and some model with
rhombus shaped symbol
ē People are amazed that I can drive and I have a car in Florida
ē Turkish television is really dramatic
ē Random people try to sell stuff along the highway
ē People wear everything and anything
ē Everyone is very friendly and people appreciate the effort when a
foreigner tries to speak Turkish
ē Turkey is a beautiful country, no doubt about that
ē Most impressions that Turks have of Americans are true
ē Turkish flags are EVERYWHERE. Every time I see one I smile, if not on
the outside, definitely on the inside.
All the time, I feel myself becoming less and less American and more and
more Turkish. I feel as though I was born here and Iím finally being brought
home. Istanbul amazes me all the time and I would much rather live here than
anywhere else in the United States. Is that a bad thing?
For all you people who think negatively of Turkey, you should be ashamed.
This country is seriously misjudged (and Turks know that Americans are
judgemental) and at the time when I told people that I was going to Turkey
and some of them said ďOhÖTurkey, hmmÖĒ I didnít think much of it. But now,
it makes me so angry that some people would think so negatively of a country
that they donít even know the capital city of. I question being an American,
because here I am, falling in love with a country thatís not mine and
defending it. And Iíve only been here two weeks.
I constantly have to remind myself that this is my exchange. It is my year
and I shouldnít be comparing it to ROTEXs, Rebounds, or current Outbounds
exchanges. Itís like the expression about the elephant (Ms Paulaaaa!)Öone
bite at a time. I might be taking nibbles for the first month. Every
exchange is different and personal, so if it takes me longer to do certain
things than it does for other people, SO BE IT.
To all you Rotarians (Districts 6970 and 2420): Thank you/TeşekkŁr ederim
for giving me this amazing opportunity. Itís a dream that only a few (when
you think about all the teenagers in the world) get to experience. It will
change my life and I will always remember this amazing adventure.
View from the top floor of my house
Dinner in Bodrum, host parents on the righ
top of the world..
house in Istanbul
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
December 13th, 2011 Ė Just over 3 months in Turkey
Exactly one year ago today I learned that I would spend a year in Turkey.
Here I am, living this life, learning this culture, trying to learn this
language that I once thought seemed easy to learn. What a mistake that was.
Iíve made more mistakes, experienced more awkwardness, and cried more times
in these past three months than Iíve ever made, experienced, and cried in my
entire life. But somehow Iím still here, learning little things, exploring
the city and culture little by little, taking small steps everyday, one bite
at a time...
I can easily say that two weeks ago I hit rock bottom. And just like all
of the other times I fell down, I picked myself up, but this time I walked a
little taller. A favorite quote of mine has now become the message I live by
ďGrant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to
change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.Ē
One important thing Iíve learned on this exchange is that there are
things in life that you have no control over. There are some people you will
never be able to change. There are some bad things that you cannot stop from
happening. And once itís in the past, there is no point dwelling over it,
because you definitely cannot change that either.
I now start a new chapter in my life as an exchange student in Turkey.
Soon Iíll say goodbye to the life Iíve been living and hello to a new
family, a new life, and hopefully, a new start.
While the past three months have been the hardest months of my life, here
are the positive moments and adventures. Donít get me wrong, my life isnít
just a walk in the park.
Some of the most exciting, interesting, and memorable moments of my life
in the past three months:
ē The first time I was able to travel alone in the city. IT WAS A BIG STEP
ē When my host dad hit 200km on the highway. Twice. Just because we had to
turn back to get my phone that I left at the house. It was awesome
ē Spending a day exploring the city with my Turkish friends and learning
about Turkish history
ē Visiting Sultan Ahmed Cami (Blue Mosque), Hagia Sofia, Topkapı
Palace, and the Basilica Cistern with the Inbounds
ē Taking the ferry for the first time across the Bosphorus from Asia to
Europe. It never gets old
ē Spending a weekend with the inbounds in Gebze and then performing a talent
show at a Rotary meeting. I played my violin.
ē The first day of school. It was one of my biggest worries about going
abroad. It turned out to be the best first day of school Iíve ever had
thanks to my kind and helpful friends and teachers whoíve made me feel
welcome here in Turkey. Iím so lucky to have all of them. To all you guys:
Áok teşekkŁr ederim
ē My first FenerbahÁe futbol game. Iíll never forget it. TeşekkŁrler
ē My 17th birthday and AtatŁrk Commemoration Day. At 9:05am we paid our
respects to the most loved and honored founder any country has ever had. For
my birthday I received a outfit from my host mother, gifts from my friends,
a cake (called pasta here) from my family, and a singing of the Happy
ē Visiting AtatŁrkís resting place (Anıkabir) in Ankara. It was a long,
cold, and rainy weekend with 500 other Áocuklar (oh those little kids...),
but I had a great time nonetheless.
ē Kurban Bayram. Itís a religious holiday when you sacrifice an animal and
give the meat to the poor. I went with my host dad and brother to watch the
sacrificition of a sheep We ate it for the next week and I believe I took a
bite of the heart and one of the kidneys. Uhhg. There was no school for
three days and we spend the time with family relatives.
ē All the fun class events: going to the kitap fuarı (a HUGE annual
book fair), Group 4 project with a boat ride on the Golden Horn and
experiments in the İstanbul University Biology Dept., and all the
weekend CAS activities
ē Thanksgiving party with Rotary. We had four turkeys (and no, its not
called a turkey here. Its a hindi) and great night of feasting, family, and
Some things to take note of:
ē I canít get over how many malls there are in this city...and theyíre
always building another one somewhere.
ē In Turkey, you greet people with a kiss on both cheeks (men too), even if
youíre just meeting them for the first time. Lets just say it was a little
awkward at the airport when I greeted with a usual hug. Sorry about that one
ē In Turkey, all drinking water comes from a bottle. A water bottle is about
30 cents. Cheap.
ē Nutella is REALLY POPULAR. «ok seviyorum...
ē Youíll always have an adventure in a bazaar Itís a good place to go it
youíre looking for some excitement. You meet all kinds of people there...ALL
ē Along touristy spots, you can find street vendors selling waffles,
freshly-squeezed juices, Turkish bread, mussles, and all kinds of nuts. How
can people in Florida drink that stuff in the carton that they call orange
ē Milk does not taste the same here. Itís whole milk, but even if it says
its not, it still tastes like it. I want my non-whole milk :/
ē Soccer = life. Literally, LIFE. There are people here that will kill each
other over a futbol match. No joke.
ē At school, we stand up when the teacher enters the room and we knock and
ask to come in if class has already started. The teacher-student
relationships at school are much more friendly and casual than in the US
ē Itís cold in Istanbul from October to April, and while I will be huddled
around the fireplace or heater this winter, there will be people swimming in
the ocean in Bodrum. Not fair.
ē I like the Metro. First, itís fast. And second, youíll always find some
interesting people(s) in there. The funny tourists...a bunch of chanting
Galatasaray fans shaking the metro car...a six-person fist fight. That was
ē My classmates love British accents. Scratch that. EMIR loves British
accents. I donít understand this. Stop asking me to speak in one!
I often ask myself what Iíll get out of this exchange. Will I really
learn Turkish? Will I make long-lasting friendships? Will I have a Turkish
family to always come back to? What exactly will I learn from this year? The
futureís pretty foggy for me right now, but once in a while I can catch a
glimpse of whatís beyond those clouds. I notice a small change in the way I
think, of how I perceive things, of how Iíve grown as a person and I remind
myself that there will be a positive outcome in the end.
Thank you Rotary for giving me this chance of a lifetime. Also thank you
to my family and friends for supporting me, but especially to my parents for
giving up their daughter for a year so she can explore the world.
There once was a girl who lived in a bubble. She wanted to see
more of the world, unlike most of the people around her. With some help and
encouragement, she became foreign a exchange student.
Driving back to the town of Bodrum this past January, this is how I felt, as
the beautiful mountains passed by the bus windows.
It hits you at random moments. Oh My God. Iím in Turkey.
Iím living a dream. How in the world did I get here?
I must be the luckiest girl in the world.
I moved to my second host family just before Christmas. The changes: a four
story house to the fifth floor of an apartment building, a gated community
one hour north of the main city to apartment community one hour east of the
main city, living near the Bospherous to living on the coast of the Sea of
My second life appeals more to me than the first. From my window I can see
the five Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara. Life is much more upbeat and
lively (especially with a 6-year-old host brother) than it was before. I now
have two host brothers, ages 15 and 6. In the mornings, my host mother (who
is also my biology teacher at school), my host brothers, and I have a one
hour service bus ride to my school where it took me five minutes to get to
from my last place. Canít say Iím loving that change. In the evenings I help
my host mother with dinner. Then we drink Áay, watch TV, or I spend time
with my host brothers. I have really bonded with my second family, something
that, in the end, didnít happen with my first family. My host mother calls
me her daughter and me and my host brothers treat each other as if weíre
siblings. They have become my second family, thereís really no need for the
On New Yearís Eve I visited my host relatives and learned some of the
Turkish cultural dances. At midnight I was in the perfect place- crossing
the Bospherous Bridge from Europe to Asia. We stopped the car on the bridge
and watched fireworks go off in the Bospherous. Now I can say for my 17th
new year I was in two continents at once.
A funny thing Iíve noticed about the Turkish language: everyone is blunt in
a straight-to-the-point kind of way which would be considered rude it you
were speaking English. Examples: A lot of commands like, ďI donít want
thatĒ, ďGive that to meĒ, ďCome hereĒ, the click of the tongue and raising
of the eyebrows and head meaning no, calling our teachers ďHocamĒ which is
technically the name for the priest in a mosque. But then again Turkish has
many respectful everyday sayings lie Afiyet Olsun (enjoy your meal), Elinize
sağlık (Good health to your hands), and Kolay Gelsin (may your work come
easy). Itís a cultural difference that takes a little getting use to.
At school, we decorated our classroom with Christmas lights, garland, and
snowflake patterns. Thereís no Christmas in Turkey because itís an Muslim
country, but youíll still find Christmas-y decorations. For our Christmas
celebration with Rotary, we were taken out to a touristy restaurant in the
famous Taksim area of İstanbul. There we saw belly dancing along with other
performances including a man who could sing a song from any of the nations
in the restaurant (over 20 different nationalities). I was impressed.
In my first journal I made a comment about feeling proud to be an American.
Iíve done a lot of thinking about this, being an exchange student in a place
where national pride is always displayed, inside and out. In the beginning,
I felt as though I was failing as an ambassador to my county: I wasnít
defending it or even supporting it. My classmates and I questioned whether
there really was a true American. Someone in my class made a comment during
a discussion about how American ruled the world. An American might be proud
of that, but to me it was like a slap in the face. But being an exchange
student has taught me to respect othersí countries, even if I donít agree
with the way their culture works, or how they have acted in history, or how
their government operates. I will always have respect for Turkey, its
people, founder, and religion, but there is now no doubt that I will always
be proud to be an American. Nothing and no one will ever change that.
January 14th my host dad picked me up from a teacherís house that I stayed
the night at. It was 3 degrees C and raining outside as we drove home. He
informed me that a few minutes later the temperature would drop two degrees
and it would be snowing. I couldnít see how it was possible, but we went
under a bridge and when we came out the world was white. It was like a
dream. Snowy Istanbul is better than any snowy place Iíve seen in the US.
Itís a winter wonderland.
Learning a language is hard in so many ways. When youíre in a country where
English is the second language by most people, itís really hard to distance
yourself from it. At times Iím jealous of the exchange students in countries
where English is rarely spoken. Speaking in Turkish has been a struggle for
me since the beginning, but every day Iím speaking more and improving.
Thatís all that matters.
During the semester break in the second half on January, the Istanbul
inbounds went on a tour of Western Anatolia. In nine days we went to
Pamukkale, Antalya, Kaş, Fethiye, Bodrum, Kuşadası, İzmir, and «anakale. I
saw the ancient city of Ephesus, the Trojan horse in Troy, hot springs in
Pamukkale, the Church of St. Nicholas, and the Dead Sea, just to name a few.
I went to a hamam, prayed in the House of the Virgin Mary, and watched some
crazy inbounds go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in 2 degrees C.
Last weekend, I visited my host fatherís parents in their apartment in
İstanbul. I love how simply and easy it is to live in the Turkish lifestyle.
I would rather live in a two-bedroom apartment, eat meals around a small
floor table, and have family visit all the time that the way I live in
Florida. Families are so close in Turkey, Iím so glad that Iíve had the
chance to experience it. After, my family and I went to EyŁp to visit the
EyŁp Sultan Mosque and tomb of the Phrophet Muhammadís close friend. I
prayed in the mosque during the Maghrib (senset prayer of the five daily
prayers) for the first time. It was quite and experience. Four women helped
me with the prayer and as soon as they found out I was recently coverted and
an American, they were ecstatic. They gave me blessings, a purple tespih
(prayer beads), lots of kisses, and took a picture with me before letting me
and my host mother leave. Iíll never forget that experience.
Iím looking forward to the next month here. We will host two German teachers
next week and then my friend, an exchange student from Alaska, will stay
with us the next week. My dad and brother are coming at the end of March and
we will be staying at a hotel next to the Blue Mosque (my favorite place in
Istanbul). Iím enjoying and cherishing every moment here now, I have just
under 150 days left. Thank you Rotary for making me one of the luckiest
teenagers in the world, this is one of the happiest time of my life.
Until next time, gŲrŁşŁrŁz!
and my host brothers in Hagia Sofia
Great view from Bodrum Castle
|At the Blue Mosque (SultanAhmet)
||View from my home
springs in Pamukklae
June 7, 2012
end of March my dad and brother came to visit me for one week. We stayed at
a quaint hotel behind the Blue Mosque and for six days I took them around
the city to see all the things Istanbul has to offer. They met my host
family and we had a typical Turkish dinner together. It was interesting,
living the life of a tourist in Istanbul for a week, but I enjoyed watching
the expressions on bazaar ownersí faceís when they discovered I was an
American who could speak Turkish. I canít say that Iím fluent, but Iím just
glad Iíve made my family proud of what Iíve learned so far.
In the six days that they were there, I got to see many new places I had
never been to. We took a tour in the Bosphorous that goes under the two
bridges that connect Europe and Asia. We went to the top of a tower where
you can view the whole city. We went to another tower by boat that sits in
the Bospherous. One of the coolest places we got to see DolmabahÁe Palace,
the living quarters of the last seven Sultans, the death place of the
founder of Turkey, and the current area for important diplomatic meetings.
The fact that Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of Turkey and Hilary Clinton had
been there just 2 days earlier discussing Syria made the excursion even
cooler :) The interior of the palace was one of the most extravagently
decorated places I have ever seen. Crystal chandeliers (the biggest one
weighed 5 tons!), real elephant tusks and bear hid rugs from Czar Nicholas
II, it was amazing.
In early April, all the exchange students began scheduled days volunteering
at a Rotary academy school for disabled children. We baked, helped in music
and art classes, and assisted with redecoration inside during the two weeks
there. I also got to meet other exchange students from South Korea, Italy,
and the US. It has been one of the few opportunities Iíve had to volunteer
here in Istanbul and I enjoyed it a lot.
In mid-April, I had the opportunity to go with my host family to a Turkish
village. It was great to be able to breath some fresh air and see rolling
hills for once. The village had farms, gravel roads, cows, dogs, one mosque,
and beautiful wild flowers and tulips. And of course people, no more than
200. Everything on the property that my host grandparents lived on was
self-built except the hot water tank on the roof and the furniture in the
house. They had fruit and nut trees in their fields, a bee farm, and
strawberry and pumpkin patches. All over the village were pipes running
fresh water. In the nearby forest I went into a fresh stream up to my ankles
in freezing cold water. They thought I was nuts, but it something you have
to do knowing you might not get the chance to do it again. We roasted meat
over the fire, a Turkish thing, and carved skewers out of nut tree branches.
We went to a lake later, where we decided to run a race along the flat
gravel riverbank. There I fin ally got the concept into my brain that boys
will ALWAYS be faster than girls. I know I wonít be trying to beat a boy in
a race anytime soon because all it earned me was a skinned knee.
The next morning, we all woke up at 4am to drive to the city of Edirne and
hour away. Why were we driving to another city at 4 oíclock in the morning?
In the Muslimís 5 daily prayers, the first is around 5am. In Turkey, if you
donít have the opportunity to pray the morning prayer in the Blue Mosque,
one of the next best is Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. Itís one of the best
places to see if you visit the town of Edirne on Turkeyís European side
border with Greece and Bulgaria. The population is around 140,000, tiny in
comparison to Istanbulís 14 million, but a great place to see none the less.
Edirne has many horses, some even just roam around the side of the roads.
Edirne is also famous for the sport of oil-wrestling, something I have yet
to experience here in Turkey. My host family and I ate bŲrek for breakfast
before walking around the town and then driving to my host dadís sisterís
apartment. April 23rd was a Monday and als o a holiday in Turkey: National
Sovreignty and Childrenís Day. My little host brother had fun with his new
water gun and we watched a Childrenís Day march including over 50 primary
schools at the local stadium. Afterwords, we relaxed in a Turkish tea garden
and I finally found adult-sized swings (there are only baby swings at parks)
and the greenest grass Iíve seen in a long time.
At the end of April, my other exchange student friend from Alaska who lives
in a Edirne came to stay with us in Istanbul for the weekend. We met up with
Anna from Estonia and her mother and showed them some places like the Blue
Mosque and the Archeology Museum.
In mid-May I travelled to Amsterdam to meet my mom who was flying in from
the States. We spent five days in Amsterdam, biking and exploring around. I
fufilled my first real aspiration in life, to visit Anne Frankís House.
Although I couldnít speak any Dutch, I was able to speak Turkish with the
owner of a Turkish market down the road from out place. He informed me that
there are about 70,000 Turks in the Netherlands and after some research I
learned that about 5% of Amsterdamís population is Turkish.
After Amsterdam we came to Istanbul for three days visiting the Blue Mosque,
Spice and Grand Bazaars, my host family, and Hagia Sofia. From there we took
a 12 hours bus ride to the town of GŲreme in Cappadocia in southern Turkey.
Cappadocia is hard to decribe but basically it consists of ancient cities
built on a plateau. Deposits that erupted from ancient volcanoes
approximately 9 to 3 million years ago have eroded into hundreds of
spectacular pillars that litter the landscape. The area is desert-like and
full of history that dates back to the Bronze Age. Itís the most amazing
place Iíve ever been to.
At the end of May all of our Istanbul Inbounds travelled by bus to Antalya
for our district conference. Rotary arranged for us to stay three nights at
a five-star beach club. We introduced ourselves one-by-one in a short speech
in Turkish on the second day. We all have different levels of Turkish, but
everyone did a great job. We were only needed for a few hours that weekend
and after we had two full days at the resort. It was so relaxing, the food
was great, and the pool slides were fun, but it was little sad knowing this
would be the last time we were all together.
Fortunately, almost all of us inbounds were able to have dinner together at
a Rotarianís house last weekend and watch an end of the year video that one
of our Canadians put together. We said our goodbyes and took the memories
home with a copy of the video. I got a taxi home and had a nice conversation
with the driver that night. It was great to hear him keep telling me that my
Turkish was ďÁok gŁzelĒ very nice.
Iíve come to the conclusion that when being a foreign exchange student, itís
a major problem, to associate yourself all the time with people that speak
your language. Although itís more comfortable and seems easier to learn
through a person that knows both languages, youíll never learn the language.
Iíve cursed myself this year for putting myself in this situation for too
long. I feel as though Iíve got myself stuck in a hole, and I just keep
digging downwards instead of pulling myself out.
But instead of looking at it with bottle half-empty, Iíll look at it
half-full. Turkey has claimed a part of my heart that will never go away.
This culture, these wonderful people, and this beautiful land will always be
inside, even when Iím not physically here, waiting for the next time Iíll be
able to add something more to that part of my heart.
Iíll be able to add Turkish in there somehow, someday... :)
and my brother in front of the Blue Mosque
My dad, brother, and me in Hagia Sofia
Standing in a stream in the village
My mom in Cappadocia!
D2420 Inbounds at our District Conference
Sand Sculpture Contest in Antalya