Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's Been a While

So I haven’t updated in a while. Things have been complicated and I forgot about the blog. Since the last post, some things have happened.
The biggest thing was my Antalya camp, which was soon after my last post. All of the AFS Turkey students went to Antalya for about five days and stayed in a nice hotel. Antalya is known for its beaches and I was a bit disappointed that our hotel wasn’t even close to the beach. Not much happened at the camp, it was mostly workshops to figure out what to do with the rest of our year. I didn't much care for that part, but it was nice to see all of my friends again.
On the last day of the camp, we got to visit places around the Antalya area. We first went to an ancient Roman (I think) theater, and that was pretty cool. Another cool thing there was that there was a camel festival or something and there were a lot of camels. We didn’t get to ride them or anything, but watching them was fun. After that, we went to Antalya’s old town, where there were a lot of old streets and minarets.
After the camp, I had to change families again because the last one didn’t like me and wanted me to talk more. I changed my family a couple of weeks after the camp. I moved to a family in Beşiktaş, on the European side. In my new family, there is a mother named Ebru, a father named Ali, a son named Arda, and a housekeeper from Russia named Nergiz. They are all very nice, and we often go places together. I feel very confident that this family will be good to the end.
After that, not much has happened. I got a unicycle the Monday after I moved, and a week or so after that I hung out with my friend and we rode it and I got a haircut. I also met up with my counsilor and we made a ‘Support Agreement’ which is a paper with a few tips on how to improve my experience. Next month, a couple of my friends from YES will come to Istanbul, and we will ang out and see the sights. Also, there are only three months left! I don’t think it will be that hard.

Monday, February 4, 2013


The biggest news recently is that I have passed the half-way point for my exchange! It is really strange how long it has been since I have left America. It feels like it has only been a couple of months. It is also weird thinking about how in less than five moths I will be in the US again. Every month I’ve been becoming more attached to Turkey and I feel like when it is time to leave it will be really difficult.

Other than that, not much has been happening recently. I am currently on a school break, since at the end of the first semester we get two weeks off (although I didn’t go to school the week before the break started because there weren’t any classes, so I will have three weeks). And next week I will be off to Antalya for another AFS camp.

I have also been trying to improve my Turkish more, which has been difficult. Turkish is so different from English, and it has been hard trying to learn it. I have mainly been practicing vocabulary online, but I also try to speak it with my friends and family.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Years!

Mutlu yıllar!
Happy New Years!

I figure this time I should write about how the holidays were here in Turkey.
Since Turkey is a Muslim country, most Turks do not celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or really anything but New Years in December and January. I was excited to see how a year without Christmas would be, especially since the American Christmas can be a bit too commercial and in your face sometimes. The Sunday before Christmas, the AFS students from Istanbul and the (relatively) nearby cities of Bursa and Sakarya threw a Christmas party in one of the Istanbul AFS offices. It was really nice seeing my friends from Bursa and Sakarya, especially because I don’t see them often. Our families came to the party and so did many AFS volunteers. Many of the kids made Christmas food from their countries, and it was nice to try the different foods :)
On Christmas, I had to go to school. This was interesting, because in the US we usually have a lot of vacations at this time of year and my last one was back at Bayram. Not much happened at school, which was pretty much what I thought would happen. I found out later that most of my exchange friends stayed home that day, but I didn’t regret going to school. I think when I am back in the US I will appreciate Christmas a lot more :)
New Years was a few days later (obviously) and we still had school on December 31st. I went to school and found out when I got there that what they meant by saying we had school was that it was optional and I was maybe one of 50 kids there. So I slept for a bit and then hung out with friends. That night, I Skyped with my mother and sister when 2013 arrived at Turkey and showed them the “glory” of the New Year. The next day I didn’t have school (finally) and I can’t remember what I did…
Last week, we had two snow days. Two in a row. All because it snowed for two days. In Turkey, it seems like when they have a snow day they have it after the fact. It snowed on Monday, but we had school. The next day was a snow day, which made sense because it was snowing like crazy. Wednesday we had another snow day, but there were only a few inches of snow on the ground and none on the road, so I have no idea why we had one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Family

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. This article will be about why.

The basic story: I changed my host family.

One afternoon a month or so ago, I got a call from my counselor that I would be switching families. This was a bit of a surprise even though I had met with my other counselor the day before and told her about my problems with my current family. I was given instructions to start packing because I was to move out the next day at 4 p.m. So, that is what I did. The next day, I got out of school early and went straight to home, and finished packing from where I left off the night before. I didn’t tell my family I would be leaving because I was told that AFS would do that themselves, and I felt a bit odd leaving the house with only one person there and not saying goodbye to anyone, but I figured that they just didn’t know I was leaving (I found out later that they did in fact know this). I had to bring all of my belongings (which is a lot, by the way) to the bus stop without help, which was a fifteen minute walk uphill (not fun).

I met up in Kadıköy with some AFS volunteers and they brought me to my temporary family. My temporary family was nice, and they all spoke English quite well, which was a nice relief from my last family. I had two host parents and a brother, whose age I never found out. One of my favorite things was that they lived only 20 minutes from my school, and they made breakfast for me in the mornings :) When the time came to move out, which was after about two weeks, they were more than happy to help me. After this, I lived with a volunteer for one week, which I felt was a bit unnecessary. He lived in Europe, and quite a distance from the closest harbor, which I needed to take to school. It took me about one and a half hours to get to school and I was late every day of the week but one.

I moved to my new family after that, one week ago. My new family lives back in Asia, which is very nice, and they also live only 20 minutes or so from my school. I have two host parents, Muzeyyen (mom) and Alaattin (dad), and a host brother one year younger than me that goes to the same school as my friends Sophias (yes, there are too, both German, in the same school) and his name is Deniz (which means sea in Turkish). They are all very nice, and my host father and brother speak English fairly well, while my host mother speaks about as much English as I do Turkish, which I find nice. On Sunday, they took me out, something that my first family never did. We went shopping for a bit at a German Home-Depo-esque store and then to the gym, where I exercised for a bit and then played Squash with my host father. I don’t know how to play it, and it was increasingly difficult learning it in a different language. Last night my host mother made brownies using a recipe that my American mother emailed me, and they were good :)

In school, not much has been happening. This past week has been very odd, with some of my friends talking to me less and also I met a lot of new people. It seems that just now word of an American about has finally reached everyone and people have started seeking me out. Four people have come up to me in the hall this week, introducing themselves by saying, “Hey, you’re the American, right?”

Also, if anyone wants to see pictures of my time here so far, let me know. If you have a FaceBook, many of my photos are on there, but if not, I can email you some or maybe make a blog post with a lot of pictures. Let me know! :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Take on Turkish Food

This post will be about food :)

Now, I am not a food expert, and in fact I am really bad when it comes to eating food, so this post might not be spectacular, but I will try!

So, Turkish food is very interesting. I have never had Turkish food before I cam here, and I didn’t know what to expect except for the obligatory kebab, lamb, and yogurt. Interestingly enough, these stereotypes are at least somewhat true. For anyone that doesn’t know Kebab, it is practically meat on a stick. However, it seems to be that it is most commonly found being cooked on a stick, and not eaten on one, contrary to what I believed. And oddly enough, I have not had lamb yet.

Yogurt is very common and very popular here. This only seems appropriate that like kebab, yogurt is a Turkish word, too (but it is spelled “yoğurt”). The yogurt here is not like it is in the states: it has a very strong taste (quite tart) and it is either quite fluid or a bit jello-like. They also don’t always eat yogurt alone. They love to use it as a dressing on pretty much anything (pasta, salad, sometimes meat) and they also like a drink, called Ayran, which is some sort of yogurt-based drink.

However, I was surprised by the amount of other things this country has to offer. I discovered that Turks also love bread, cheese, and fruit. The cheese is usually quite soft, or quite tasteful, something that many Americans might not be used to (as I found out here, American cheese is quite bland). However, I really do not care for soft cheese, so I rarely eat this. They also love their fruit, with pomegranates being the most popular.

Turkish people are generally found eating dark-colored bread, which is very good. However, my favorite type of bread that I have found here has to be Simit. Simit is a ring of bread, like a bagel, that is usually twisted around and always covered with sesame seeds. It is quite abundant here, often sold on the street for only 1 Lira. This is definitely my favorite food here, and I eat it every day.

Here is a list of some more popular foods:

-Mantı – a meat-filled pasta with yogurt and some orange sauce on top, I am not sure what it is. (It might actually be ketchup… the Turks love to use it on everything and they also cook past in it sometimes, which is something the Italians found upsetting)

-Lahmacun – a pizza-like object. It is a wide, flat piece of bread that is covered with a lot of things, too many for me to recall.

-Pide – a flatbread that is topped with practically anything you want.

-Sucuk – a type of sausage, that is dark red and a bit spicy (it’ really good on pide)

I have some pictures of some of the food I've had:
^This is Simit^

This is a simit stand in Kadıköy, close to where I live 

This is some guy preparing kebab

This is a pudding that my host family made for me that is apparently customary for this specific week

Piranha. I do not know why. But it was not half-bad.

I do not know what this was, but it looked like hair and tasted like chocolate. It was good

This is the table at breakfast. There is bread, butter, honey, cheese, jelly, and Nutella

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Less Than 8 Months!

Hello, once again. It has been a while.

I have not posted recently; there has not been much to post about. After the AFS camp in Izmir, there was a holiday called Bayram which is multiple days long (I am not sure about the details). During Bayram, it is customary to sacrifice a sheep and then make it into food. Luckily, my family did not do this, and neither did any of the other families in Istanbul (some AFS families did it in other cities). My extended host family visited for a couple of days and I hung out with my friends a lot in Europe.

I have been seeing my friends quite often recently. It has been mostly my AFS friends, but I have hung out with my school friends on occasion. I do not have many friends in school yet, but I think I will get more as the year goes on, especially since I am now in the English Theater Club. The first meeting was on Thursday, and we watched Dracula (which is the play we will be doing). Coincidentally, Thursday was Bram Stoker’s (the author of Dracula) birthday. The leader of the club told me that I will get to choose my part since I am American. This has never happened to me before, so I have been having a hard time deciding. I now know how my theater teacher in the US feels!

Today I went to a mall with the AFSers after Turkish lessons. The mall was really huge; I think it was six or seven floors, all of which were the size of the Maine Mall. I believe I even saw a roller coaster there… Tomorrow, the AFS kids have to do a marathon. Not only do I dislike running, but I haven’t even ran in a few months. Thankfully, AFS said we don’t need to do the whole thing.

Soon, I wish to write a post about Turkish food, or about Istanbul. If anyone has ideas on what I should write, please contact me through FaceBook or by using the comment option on the blog!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Izmir Camp

Last week I went to Izmir with other AFSers from around Turkey for a week-long camp :)

The trip there was not that great. We had to go by bus and we left Istanbul at midnight, so we didn’t get to see much of the country (it was dark most of the way there, it was an 8 hour drive). But it was really cool because in order to cross the Bosporus the bus had to go onto a ferry, which was pretty cool. I only slept a couple hours or so because I talked with my friend almost the whole way.

We eventually got to the hotel at about 8 and went to our rooms. Every day we went to breakfast at about 9 am, then to Turkish lessons at about 10:30, lunch at 1 pm, AFS workshops from 3-5 or 6, then after 6 we had dinner and free-time. The food at the hotel was good, and I had simit (which is kind of like a bagel) almost constantly. There was a ping pong table there, so that was the main activity for everyone the whole week. The Turkish lessons were usually really boring because I already knew everything being taught. One of my favorite things about the hotel was that from the beach you could see across the sea and see Greece!

One of the days (I can’t remember which) we had karaoke, which was fun because people from every country chose songs that they knew from their home country. I didn’t really take part in the karaoke, but my Belgian friend taught me how to moonwalk and I practiced my front-handspring. Another day, we went swimming in the sea, and that was nice but the floor of the ocean was a bit weird. It was either very rocky or slimy and I wasn’t used to that :P . On Wednesday, we had a talent show where we had to do a talent about Turkish culture. Everybody but one group did a skit (that group did a parody of Call Me Maybe). My group’s skit parodied Turkish relationships.

On Thursday, we left the camp. Before we went home, we visited a couple of touristy places. The first place we went was to the house of The Virgin Mary (it was said that she lived there at one point). It was a nice place, but we weren’t there for long because the house was very small and there wasn’t much else. After that, we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant where there weren’t normal tables, instead we had to take off our shoes and sit on the floor with a lot of pillows. The food was really good, but my water didn’t arrive for a couple hours (I have no clue why it took this long, I asked for it multiple times). After that we stopped at the Ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus. I love that kind of stuff, so I took a lot of pictures, mostly of the architecture and of the places where there was Ancient Greek written.

After that, we had to go back to our cities, which meant saying goodbye to the kids that are staying for a trimester since we won’t have any more camps until February. This really sucked because I became really close to some Belgian kids that are only here until December. In fact, I hung out almost exclusively with Germans and Belgians and my German friends and I joke that I am practically on exchange in Germany and I will know more German culture than Turkish culture by the end of the year :P

I finally returned in Istanbul at around 5 am and then arrived home at 7 am and slept for the next 10 hours (I didn’t sleep much at camp). And I haven’t done much today besides watching American TV and walking in town.

That is all for now, görüşürüz!