Friday, June 8, 2012

Dinner tonight was quieter than usual.

We ate on the porch, mostly ignoring the mosquitoes buzzing around us and ate the green beans, rice, and stuffed peppers in the growing darkness. Sometimes my host Dad tried to break the silence with something encouraging.

"It will be hotter tomorrow" he said "but your going by the sea, Kyla, that will be nice."

I agreed, but my heart wasn't in it.  A few hours before I had learned I was going to be moving to a little town six hours away I hadn't heard of. "Balikeser" it was called

With a record breaking total of 13 hours notice, I was told that a family vacationing in Balikeser wanted to host me.  Ocean, Beaches, historical sites. It sounds nice, but it almost feels like a whole different exchange.  I will leave the wonderful support network I have created for myself here and make another life far away from my rotary club, friends, and past host families. Luckily, some things will still be the same.  I've been told the culture is a bit different, but I will be familiar with the basics, especially the language.  Not to mention I already have one contact: A friend of a friend who is an English teacher there.

In a way I feel happy that I feel sad. To me, that means I have made a real, meaningful life for myself in Edirne and I have something substantial to miss:  The park I did my homework sometimes, the walk from school past my old host families house to my new one, and the little shops where the shopkeepers know my name, and speak a little more slowly so I will understand; these things will always be a part of who I am.  Hopefully in two short months Balikeser can also become a part of this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My legs were already begining to ache when we decided not to go to the bazaar. My friend Hung Yu and I had decided to explore Konya in out free time, but I was becoming nervous from the narrow winding city roads that threatened to swallow us up, never to return to the hotel.

"Maybe we chould go back" one of us suggested, but the thought of spending the rest of the day at the hotel wasn't appealing to either of us, so Hung Yu checked her guide book and suggested we check out a little church a half hour a way by bus.

Of course, this plan had draw backs of it's own. We were unfamiliar with the bus system, and we were worried the busses might even stop before we got back, but it turned out using the busses was very easy. There was a prominitely posted bus schedule and we were easily able to buy a two-use bus card at a nearby kiosk. So we waited for bus 64 to Sille

Once we had all made it on, the bus winded through the city until we had left the crowded sprawl of small shops behind and had entered an expanse of dusty grass spotted with a few resiliant shrubs and the occasional tree.

"How will we know when our stop is?" I asked Hung Yu

"It's the last one" she replied

Finally I saw a minaret in the distance and a small village came into view.  Our bus pulled up the the covered bus stop, the most modern looking thing in sight.

The church was visible from the bus stop, but as it turns out it was under restoration, so we climbed up to a small castle nearby, passing an old graveyard from Ottoman times on our way.
We still had some time until the bus came back, so Hung Yu suggested we walk through the village, towards some caves we had seen in the nearby hills.

The village was peaceful. A few children chased each other and two women in colorful headscarves made there way slowly down the main road.

We turned right at the mosque, and climbed a little ways to find the caves, but it was definately worth it.  Although, at the time we didn't know any details about their history, it was clear the natural rock had been modified for use by humans.  Some caves were seperated into small rooms, and there were recesses in the rock I imagined could have been used for storage or as a fire pit.
While exploring, we ran into two local boys , Ahmet and Mehmet, who gave us their highly imaginative version of what had gone down in the caves, which included lots of torture and a lion.

They were disappointed when, ultimately we refused to pay them for it.

We left Sille after that, but the mystery of the caves continued to haunt me. After dinner, I tried to find information about them online, but there was very little information about Sille, and even less about the caves.

Despite this setback, I was determined to learn the history of the caves, so the next day I approached our tour guide and showed her the pictures I had taken.

As it turns out, people have been living in those caves for eight thousand years! The first peoples settled in around six thousand BCE and since then those caves have been used as housing, storage, and even a monastary! Stone from the caves was used to to make some of the buildings we were to tour later that day.

The city also had an interesting history , it had been home to Greek and Turkish Christians up until the population exchanges of nineteen tweny two.  Before that, the population had been protected by the poet Mevlana Rumi, and the people for many years were charged with maintaining his tomb.  The village was also a stop along the  silk road.

Needless to say, I think our detour turned out very well. Just goes to show, you never know how what you will find until you try a detour!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

First thing first.... It's my birthday! As I say every year, I am officially old! (well... I think I said that last year, anyways). It's still early , but so far to celebrate I have confirmed the date of my skype interview for the pre-college program I hope to enroll in next year and looked up some interview tips.  Also, homemade lemonade for breakfast. yum. My seventeenth year is off to a great start!

I get the distinct impression I will be going out with my host sister Cemre to celebrate.  It sounds like she's inviting some people from school along, so we'll see how this goes.  Knowing me, I would just as soon be curled up with a good book, but I'm sure I'll have a good time either way.

I laughed today looking at the Facebook greetings I'm getting.  It seems like Turks have very specific greeting for everything. In English, there are a whole variety of things you say when welcoming someone  to your home: "Welcome, come in, nice to see you";  when you give someone a meal: "enjoy your meal, Bon appetite"; and when someone is ill... well you get my drift.  In Turkish, there is a single thing you say for each of these situations: Hos Geldin, Afiyet Olsun, and Gecmis olsun respecively. There are many more examples of this. However, for birthdays this is quite the opposite.  In English we are pretty much limited to "Happy Birthday" and in Turkish there is no set greeting! This explains the "Happy New Years" the president of my rotary club posted (in English). In Turkish, one of the things you might say for birthdays is Mutlu yillar, which translates to Happy New Year! It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

--- On a side note ---

I am entering a contest to try and win a senior photo session from the fabulous Becky Birch-Gutierrez.  If you could click and vote I would appreciate it :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reflecting on my tour last week, one of the most interesting things, I think, was the diference between visiting these places with my Turkish classmates as apposed to the other exchange students I went with my first time. There were a few differences, but the one I found the most interesting was how the vendors interacted with us. I made this to contrast the two situations:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In my opinion, no one can ever go too often to Antalya. Maybe I'm prejudiced, having only been there twice, but there is something about the looking over the Mediterranean from a castle with the sun beating down on you, and some sand still between your toes from the beach that morning that makes you want to keep coming back.  As my Turkish Literature teacher put it:

My teacher: "Kyla, cennet nedemek" (what does cennet mean in English?)
Me:"bilmiyorum" (I don't know)
My teacher: "paradise"
Cennet (pronounced Jen-et)

Anyways, at the moment I'm trying not to fall asleep.  after the way-too-long-so-I'm-not-even-counting-the hours bus trip, I would like to join my host sister in a long nap, however I don't want to mess up my sleep schedule when school starts tomorrow. I'm resisting.  MUST STAY AWAKE. In the meantime I'd like to share a little something I wrote about food a while back:

Baklava for Breakfast

When thinking of great global cuisine one usually thinks o Italian, French, or maybe Greek.  Those with more "exotic" tastes might consider Mexican, Thai, or Indian food the best; but I believe Turkish beats them all.

What do Turkish people eat? The best answer is: "a lot". Even if they don't usually indulge themselves, they are sure to give guest the opportunity to do so.  If the food itself isn't enough to get the guests to stuf themselves, the laws of hospitality will. A Turkish host is more or less required to insist their guest to take serving after serving.  Completely clearing your plate is taken to mean you are still hungry, and leaving food won't stop your host from adding more to your plate.

Most of the time, the meal centers around bread.  A good Turkish host will offer it with every meal, and it can be eaten with anything. Traditionally, whole wheat bread was considered unsuitbale for anyone who could afford white, and that idea still persists in the mind of may, however more and more people are embracing the benefits of whole wheat.

As I mentioned before, just about anything can be put on bread, and breakfast is a perfect example of this.  An average Turkish breakast will include jam, olives, cheese, and eggs (all on bread); However, this is very basic.  Your average Turkish breakfast experience will include two or more varieties of all the aformentioned items along with sausage, cucumbers, tomatoes, honey. A fancier breakfast might also include french fries, traditional halva, baklava, and the recent yet popular addition: nutella. Turks have long realised breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and display this in their elaborate breakfasts. 

After breakfast, it may seem that lunch and dinner might be a let down, but I assure you they are not. It is impossible to sum up the vast range of Turkish cuinine here, especially since they vary so much regionally, but usually luch and dinner will be heavy on meats, salt, cheese, and oil. However, my personal favorite is eggplant! check out this recipe

Monday, April 2, 2012

Language Progress

So, I keep telling myself my next blog post is going to be about food. Well, guess what? This one isn't. it's an update about learning Turkish.

First of all, the bad news: I made a complete fool of myself today.  After insisting I would be fine walking myself home, I made it all the way to the door only to remember I can't use a key.  This disability is as of yet diagnosed, but I'm pretty sure it's real.  Anyways, I spent a good ten minutes fiddling with the key before taking a seat outside the door and seriously considering ringing the neighbors doorbell to ask for help.  

Luckily, it didn't get to that point because someone else living in the complex came by to use the elevator

"Yardim edebilirmiyim?' I asked, which means "Can I help?"  In case you're wondering, this makes no sense.  Luckily,  he didn't say anything about it. He opened the door in approximately one and a half seconds and told me not to forget the key in the lock.  

Now that that's out of the way... on to the good news.  I've been trying for months now to get a residency permit.  A while ago I asked the principal for my residency permit so I could see the day it expires. He said I don't have one. several months, phone calls and facebook messages later I still don't have one. So I decided to call the president of my rotary club. 

I didn't really want to do this because for about a month I've been talking to him in pretty much just Turkish. Before I called I accepted there was no way I could explain this in Turkish and it was painful to press the call button... I really didn't want to have to go backwards in my progress.  But I called anyways.

We started out in English and I explained the situation- twice. He couldn't understand.  "Kyla, can you explain in, Turkish?" He asked.

I was fairly certain this was impossible. However the first few words came to me right away and soon I had explained the whole thing.

"I understand" he said. I felt like dancing around the room.

There you have it, probably my proudest learning-turkish-moment to date. As they say in Turkish  "adım adım" step by step

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What 5th Graders Wonder

Yesterday I was asked by one of the MUN coordinators to visit his fifth grade class.  I was happy to oblige. The kids weren't afraid to ask me a lot of questions. I thought some of them were pretty funny, others suprised me by showing how SMART these kids are. They seemed to know a thing or two about Alaska before I even got there - maybe more than some Americans! I mostly just put the funny ones here, though.

Q: Is it cold in Alaska?
A: Yes but only in the Winter. In the summer all the snow melts and we can wear t-shirts.

Q: Have you ever seen a killer whale?
A: yes (This made everyone very excited)

Q: Are there a lot of beautiful girls in Alaska?
A: I think so

Q: Have you ever felt an earthquake?
A: yes

Q: How big was it?
A: I honestly don't know

Q: Do you have a boyfriend?
A: No

Q: Did you ever eat an octopus?
A: Yes (kalamari anyone?)

Q: Did you ever eat a blue whale (someone knows their whale species)
A: No

Q: Did you ever eat any whale?
A: No (They found this very disappointing)

Q: Where else have you traveled?
A:  Mexico, China, France, Scotland, Canada, Switzerland

Q: Are there a lot of beautiful girls in Switzerland?
A: I think so

Q: Do you drink a lot?
A: Of course not
Commentary from the boy who asked: I think she does

Q: Have you ever been attacked by a bear?
A: Nope

Q: What's the difference between Turkish and American education systems? (okay, the teacher asked that one)
A: In America we get to choose all of our classes, unlike the Turkish system where the whole class goes from class to class together. Also, American students aren't focused on preparing for one big test like in Turkey and we get individual grades in each class which consider factors such as behavior, tests, and homework

Q: Is your hair natural? (asked by a very blonde little girl)
A: yes
Commentary: See guys? I told you! You can have naturally blonde hair! Her hair in natural like mine!

Q: Do you wear color contacts?
A: nope

Q: Do you like math?
A: no
Commentary: Good, me neither

My kind of girl.