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!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Turkish Lessons


On Sunday, we started our government-mandated Turkish lessons. It was held in one of the AFS offices in the European side of the city (I am not sure where, exactly). I had a hard time getting there, most likely because I was told many different routes by different people that I just had no clue where to go. Eventually, my host father drove me to Kadıköy where I met up with Eren, an AFS volunteer, and some of the AFSers. We took the ferry to Beşiktaş, on the European side and waited for the remaining students to arrive.

The Turkish lessons were nice, but I knew everything that was discussed except for the word yellow (sarı). We did things like simple conversations and were given homework to do.

As it turns out, I actually did not meet all of the AFS students in Istanbul at the survival camp – there were about four kids that were late arrivals. I started talking to a Russian girl, and oddly enough, she was an exchange student in the US for one year in my home state, Maine!

On Monday, I was walking around school with my friend Romina when I discovered that there was a tour group consisting of Australian teenagers that visited my school. I was allowed to skip class and hang out with them, which was nice.

On Tuesday, the exchange students and I had to pick up our residence permits. I, however, was confused about where we would meet up so I was walking around the wrong continent looking for the volunteers (which wasn’t too bad, they were giving out free ice cream near the docks). When I finally got my permit, it turns out that they had the wrong address and I needed a new one.

Not much has happened since then, so I guess that is the end of this post :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

First Day of School

So last week I started school. However, it is bit of a confusing story.

On Monday, I went to school with my host aunt. I was late, and only after freaking out for an hour about being late for school while my host aunt was talking with some of the school’s staff about what they should do about me (they apparently were not ready for me yet, even though I had already been there with my counselor Ece to give them a heads up), I learned that I didn’t even have to go to school that day. So my aunt and I went home.

On Tuesday, I woke up and got ready for my first day of school, yet again. As I was about to leave the apartment, my aunt and uncle (who were at home with me while my family was on vacation) came downstairs and told me that I didn’t have school that day. So, I went back to sleep. This happened on Wednesday, too.

So, Thursday was finally my first day of school. I arrived to school a bit late after I got lost trying to find the school and waited once again with some school staff for them to tell me where to go.  After thirty minutes or so, I went to my classroom and turns out I had missed the first class. That class was English, which I actually would have understood. The rest of the day, we had classes that I could tell were boring even for the kids that knew what was happening. The last two classes were math, which I was able to follow because, as luck would have it, math is pretty much universal. On my way home, I took the wrong bus and ended up in some neighborhood that was completely unknown to me. This wouldn’t have been a problem if my phone wasn’t broken. After taking several more bus rides, I finally got to the right part of the city, still with no clue what to do next, and found someone to lend me their phone to call my counselor.

That is pretty much the story about my first day of school. Since then, my school days have pretty much been the same, but without the getting lost thing. Oh, and I found out that 8:45 actually isn’t when school starts; it starts at 8:00. So today was my first day of being on-time to school.

Saturday, September 15, 2012



This time, it is hello from Istanbul! I landed a few days ago and so far it has been really nice :) My flight was 10 hours long, which I didn’t care too much for. However, I got to know the other kids heading to Turkey (we had a camp in NYC before we left) so I had something to do. Me and some of the other students even got up from our seats and took walks around the plane.

The first day in Turkey was VERY tiring. I couldn’t fall asleep on the plane, so I was tired the whole day. We arrived in the morning and I was ready to fall asleep. When we got to our rooms, we were allowed to rest for a bit, so I slept on the room’s porch (it was so great outside). Our camp was a “Turkey Survival Camp”, where we learned things about Turkish culture, got to know each other, and learned some Turkish.

A few days after we landed, the students were sent off to their corresponding cities. The other Istanbul student (and some other students) and I took a one hour bus ride to the AFS offices in Istanbul to meet up with our families. The bus ride was great because we got to see a lot of the city :)

When I arrived at the AFS offices, my host family was right there :) After some greetings and introductions, we drove back to their apartment. There, I met my grandmother, uncle, and aunt and we had lunch.

On Wednesday, my counselor Ece and I visited my school and it was nice, but I didn’t see much of it. Apparently, my school did not know that I was going there this year, so we didn’t get much done. On the way back to my house, we got lost and finally got back a couple hours later.

Finally on Friday, the other AFS students in Istanbul and I went to pass in some paperwork for our residence permits. I however, forgot the paperwork and the money, so we had to make new copies and photos and I have to pay back the AFS volunteers 200 TL.

Overall, it has been a nice stay so far. I have been enjoying my family, the culture, and most other things. I am also excited for school to start on Monday and see what that is like :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Host Family!

Great news! I received my host family information! They live in Istanbul (not in the suburbs, actually IN Istanbul) on the Asian side a short distance away from the Bosphorus! They like TV, music, and travel, which are all things I like to do. They also like playing sports and doing other athletic activities, which I don’t usually do but I would love to start doing. I started emailing my host father, and he seems nice. He also knows English, which is useful when I don’t know what I am talking about in Turkish J

I also sent out my visa information and what I am pretty sure is the last of my paperwork. It took a while to complete because my family can be very disoriented and we all work at different paces, but we finally got it done!

My Turkish has been improving, too. I have been using a program that helps me learn Turkish vocabulary, and with this program I have learned over 300 words (I do not remember all of them, but I know them better than I did before).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back from DC

And I’m back!

I got back from my trip to DC a few days ago :) It was quite a good trip and my friend Maria tagged along (it was the furthest south she’s ever been and her first time on a commercial airplane). We toured George Washington University and American University and visited a few others, but GWU and AU were my favorites :) We also visited a few museums and the National Zoo, which were both nice.

For my trip to Turkey, I’ve sent in the rest of the money for my tuition! My donation jar has raised over $200 so far, and I have all of the spare spending money I am going to need for my trip. It is definitely a good feeling knowing that my financial situation for my exchange is all settled :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Making Some Progress

¡Hola! (I know that’s not the right language, but I’m going to say it anyways)

The other day, I received my travel itinerary from AFS! It gives me information regarding everything about my departure. It says that I will be leaving on September 6th. I originally thought I would be leaving on the 2nd, which would have been bad because that is the same day that my sister goes off to college.

I am still studying Turkish, working on refining my knowledge on the spelling rules and verb conjugations. Recently, I discovered that a site that I have been ignoring for a while has some useful exercises for pretty much every aspect of Turkish grammar. I realized a couple weeks ago that even though I knew a lot of Turkish grammar, I had hardly any vocabulary. So, I decided to learn some. It is definitely difficult to learn; there seem to be hardly any similarities between English and Turkish vocabulary. Here are just some examples using some words I’ve learned:
Fast - Hızlı
April - Nisan
Car - Araba
Fifty - Elli
To wait - Beklemek
To answer - Yanıtlamak

This summer, there seems to be an unusual amount of Turkish people in my county. There are some working at an amusement park a couple towns over and there are some at the place my step-mom works. I learned recently that my mom’s friend has a Turkish roommate that will work at the bakery that both my mom and sister work. So, it seems that I will be meeting a few Turkish people before I go on exchange.

I have been taking English 101 over the past eight weeks in order to graduate on time. It has been a bit tough, especially considering I don’t usually do too well in English class K . It’s time has come to an end, however, and that means that all that’s left before going to Turkey is finishing my online health class :p

In other news, my birthday is coming up J ! I will be 17 (finally) and I am not getting much, except for a laptop and some money for when I am abroad. Another thing that has happened since last post is the arrival of my unicycle (it came the day after that post), and I have to say that it is great! It is the proper size, so I can actually go long distances, and I have been riding it around town.

These are some pictures of me on my unicycle :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Summer So Far

Hello again!

I haven’t updated my blog in a while. I was at theater camp last week, which was a great time. I made a few new friends and saw my friends from last year. In my camp, we learned about acting, dancing, and improv (my favorite J ). I have also spent some of my summer learning to unicycle. I am now quite good at it, and my new unicycle, the one that is actually my size, will arrive soon J

I have also been busying myself with learning Turkish! My notebook already has fifteen pages in it (I am making a notebook with a compilation of Turkish language things) and I am still working on it. I have learned a lot about verb conjugations and I feel that I am starting to get the hang of vowel harmony and some noun cases.

If you have never been to Maine before, this is what it part of it looks like. Although most of Maine does not look like this, this is one of my favorite places in the town, the Blueberry Plains.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Last Day of American School

It is time to say goodbye to Kennebunk High School… It was my last day of school before I go to Turkey. I will be leaving in about two and a half months, which is still hard to believe. I can’t wait to experience a new culture, language, and family.

So far, my last summer in America seems great. The weather in Maine is great during the summer, so I plan on going to the beach often. I already have many things that I want to do, along with learning Turkish (of course). I recently bought a new unicycle to learn with and I found out that I am actually not that bad at golf, so there are two activities that I will be doing. I am still hoping to get a job, too!

I also have a few vacations lined up. I am going to D.C. in August, which I am really excited for. I am also going to theater camp later this month for a week, which was great last year. This year, I am going with more friends, so hopefully it will be even better this year J . My dad is planning a trip to see his family in Pennsylvania, and I will most likely tag along.

For my AFS trip, I bought another Turkish language book, this time it is a vocabulary book (my other one is more grammar-focused). I have also begun to raise money by putting donation jars in some stores across town. I thought it would be a good idea because my town has a lot of tourism, and it seems to be working just fine; I checked my earnings from the past few weeks and I already had at least $45! It might not seem like that much, but it is way more than I expected.

So anyways, not much has happened except for school, which has been difficult with all of my exams. I am excited for my summer and my foreign exchange, and I will continue to update throughout the summer J

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

AFS Events


So far, AFS has been really great. I have been to two AFS events this year: a trip to Augusta, the capital of Maine; and a Pre-Departure Orientation in Poland Springs.

In early April, I attended an AFS event in Augusta, the capital of the state of Maine. It is not that big of a city, but it is nice enough. I was excited for this trip because I went with one of my friends from Kennebunk (she was a hopeful student, she will do it next year). I was also extremely looking forward to watching the political process because I wish to do politics in college J . Coincidently, it was ‘Turkish Cultural Day’ in Augusta and there was a expo-like event in the Capitol Building about Turkish culture. On top of that, I got to meet the governor! J

Last month, I attended my Pre-Departure Orientation for AFS. The orientation was made to answer questions about exchange and to allow us to meet returnees and exchange students in the area. It was fun - we stayed overnight at Aggasiz Village (a camp resort on the lake, it was a really nice place). While I was there, I became friends with several people (mostly current exchange students), and I was able to meet a Turkish student that answered my questions about Turkey. I was also surprised by the amount of American students. There were no more than ten, and I thought there would be more. Also, I am the only one going to Asia (well, sort of).

Anyways, I really enjoy AFS so far. When I was choosing which organization to go with, I had many options and I am happy that I chose AFS J

I am standing next to Governor LePage :)

This is the Governor's signature coin - a tradition for Maine governors (and I got one!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Learning Turkish


I have started to teach myself Turkish in preparation for my trip. So far, it has been a little tough to learn. Turkish is a language in the Turkic language group, so it isn’t related to English at all. Also, it has a few letters that many English speakers might not recognize: ı, ö, ü, ç, ş, and ğ.

Here is a list of some common Turkish words and phrases that I have learned:

Merhaba - Hello

Nasılsın? - How are you?

İyiyim - I am fine.

Yorgunum - I am tired.

Teşekkürler - Thanks

Güle güle - Goodbye

I have mainly been learning Turkish online, but I have a book (Elementary Turkish by Lewis V. Thomas) and I am planning on buying more. Some of the sites that I have been using allow me to chat with native speakers of Turkish. I plan on doing some intense language study this summer because I can tell that I will need it!

P.S. Don’t forget to donate to my trip, I would very much appreciate it J

Friday, May 18, 2012


Hello, I am Alec Buchina and I am a junior at Kennebunk High School in Kennebunk Maine. For my senior year, I will study abroad in Turkey through the American Field Service (AFS) Intercultural Program. This past year, I have been taking online classes and this summer I will take a class at the local community college so I can graduate next year.

I want to go on foreign exchange because I have a passion for world culture, language, and politics. I am very interested in Muslim, European, and Asian cultures and Turkey has all three of those. Many US citizens, especially in Maine, seem to have little understanding of Muslim culture and I wish to teach people in my community about the culture when I return to the states. I hope that this will lead to my community having a better understanding of the Muslim culture, relieving some of the tension between the US and the Middle East. I also hope that going on this trip will make me more mature and independent, allowing me to succeed in this world. While on my trip, I intend to teach my Turkish community about life in the United States. I think that knowledge of Muslim culture and a foreign language will prove useful in the future, especially if I want to major in politics and linguistics in college.

I need help with financing my exchange because my family does not make much money. Also, because I live in Maine, a relatively under populated state, it is hard to find enough people in my community to donate money. I need to raise a total of $12,500 in order to go on this trip. I am going to apply for a financial aid scholarship to pay for a portion of the cost. I also plan on doing other things to fund my trip. I have been applying to jobs in my town and I am planning to have a yard sale, place donation jars in local stores, and send letters to a few businesses asking for money. Also, my mother and I will be making food to sell at our local market. To sponsor my AFS program now, please click the ChipIn button on my blog. Thank you!