Natalie, outbound to Turkey

Today marks my third week in Turkey, and in these three weeks, I have experienced so much and seen much of Turkey, but I have also experienced the worst luck I have ever had. From losing $1000 dollars on the plane from the U.S., to experiencing bad jet lag, breaking my toenail off, the airport losing my luggage, my brand new Macbook breaking, and losing important paperwork, I've experienced it all. However, I also have gotten to see Istanbul and the amazing history it offers, Izmir, and Cesme.

In Istanbul, my host parents took me on a boat tour of the Bosphorus River, which was used throughout history for trade and a connection to the Black Sea. We also went to the Haggia Sophia and Blue Mosque around one in the morning, so we weren't able to go inside, but we were able to sit and drink cay, outside of the Blue Mosque, which is hard to do during the day because of how crowded it gets. In Istanbul, I also experienced my first "call to prayer". I was standing in the kitchen with my host sister when I heard this man singing in Arabic on a loud speaker for everyone to hear, and I remembered reading about the call to prayer. The head man of the mosque calls everyone five times a day, to stop what they are doing and pray to God. He calls at midnight, five am, lunch time, five in the afternoon, and later at night. My host parents also took me to this very famous street, called Taksim, at night. It has many many shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, the Greek embassy, and many street performers. After Istanbul, my host mom, sister, and I stayed in a beautiful hotel in Cesme for a week. We spent our time swimming in the Aegean Sea, eating lots of Turkish food, laying in the sun, and shopping down popular night streets.

After two weeks of much fun exploring Istanbul and Izmir, I finally was brought to my home in Adana, located in southern Turkey. People told me "Oh Adana is very very, very hot", but coming from St. Augustine, or Florida in general, I figured I would be used to it, no big deal. Well, unfortunately I was wrong. Adana is hot. It's humid, hot, sticky, and there is this hot wind that you hits you while you're walking down the street. Other than that, I'm in love with this city. I live on the sixth floor of an apartment currently, and I have an ice-cream shop and makeup store below me and a Subway and frozen yogurt store across from me. Safe to say, I understand why exchange students gain weight. The street I live on is all shops, traditional restaurants, dessert stores, and apartments.

My city, however,  is also very well known for the Seyhan Dam. It is so huge though, it looks like it could be the ocean, and it is beautiful. Learning Turkish has been a difficult, slow process, but I am learning so much by just talking and listening to my host parents, Rotarians, or friends speak. You can only learn so much on your own, and the best way to learn is to fully immerse yourself in the language in the country. My host family is surprised at how quickly I've learned Turkish, but when all people speak is a different language you don't know very well, you are forced to learn it as quickly as you can.

I love the other exchange students in my district as well. Even though I have only known them for a short time, they have become my best friends. We all share the same ideas and we all want the same things. I love that they are from all over the world, because not only am I learning Turkish culture and language, I'm learning culture from Australia, Tawain, Mexico, New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and many more places. I'm so thankful for Rotary and everything they do to make this life changing experience for us. Well, until next time. Güle Güle, Hoşçakal!

Read more about Natalie and see all her journals HERE