Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quick update...

I was supposed to start school on Monday, but unfortunately that did not happen. The Ministry of Education lost our papers, all of us with NSLI-Y and so AFS Turkey had to resend them, but that also delayed things. Also, there were papers that AFS had to contact AFS USA for, such as our transcripts, so that delayed things even more. Right now we are trying to see if we can go for a few days before we get our residence permits, and hopefully we can go next week at the earliest!

I still have language classes even though school hasn’t started yet, and before them I normally get together with Lena, Sam, and Lucas to eat lunch and walk around Samsun. When we walk around we get stared at and are seen like animals in a zoo and people do double-takes when they hear us speaking English. When we are with our families we blend in much more, but especially now that school has started we just get weird looks. We are trying to blend in as much as we can, but when we go to restaurants and try to order it is always a difficult task at this point. Luckily it gets easier every day.
Language Class!

Normally I just have Turkish language class Monday-Friday, but this weekend we have language classes, 5 hrs on Saturday and 4 hrs on Sunday because we missed class for going to Ankara. We were complaining a little because who wants to go to class on weekends? But here it is completely normal. Almost all high schoolers go to extra classes Saturday and Sunday to study more. Also, many go to extra class after normal school in the same way that I am going to language class everyday. I had thought that if that was me I would be upset and frustrated that I had to go to class, but here it is normal. It would be like an SAT prep class, but for every subject every day. I have realized that pretty much only kids in elementary school participate in sports or other activities in the afternoon. High schoolers are too busy studying to do anything else.

At TÖMER (my language school) there is a class of high schoolers that is learning English at the same time that we are learning Turkish, but for 3 days a week. During our breaks we talk to them and we converse in both English and Turkish. There was a group of middle schoolers that we met on the rooftop café (where we hang out during breaks) who are taking English who we realized were following us to hear us speak and maybe speak to us. We introduced ourselves and talked a little. Since they are young they are very patient with us and with our Turkish skills, but they also laugh a lot. We are used to being laughed at at this point because it happens almost daily. A few days later there was another group of girls that came into our class to talk. It seems as though everyone wants to get to know us!

I want school to start so bad! This has been my longest summer ever, and I am ready to start! I never thought I would be this eager to go back to high school, but I also just want something to do during the day! I think it’s a little awkward that we are going a few weeks into school. The classes will have a rhythm and it will be interrupted at least a little by us. We would be the new novelty whenever we started and now I feel as though the teachers may get frustrated since we haven’t been there since the beginning. I know that a few weeks after we start we will all be thinking that we want more vacation, but at this point I want to meet more Turkish teenagers, see what school is like, make friends, and actually have something to do during my day. I love hanging out with the other Americans, but we have all concluded that we want to make Turkish friends too! Hopefully it will start soon!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ankara with the NSLI-Yers!!!

I just got back from a 3 day trip to Ankara with the other NSLI-Yers in Turkey this year/semester. The four of us in Samsun met up with the four students in Trabzon to see the city of Ankara and have a small orientation since we missed it from our super long delays. 

We met at the Samsun bus station at 11:30 on Monday night to get on the midnight bus to Ankara. It was supposed to take 7 hours, but luckily we made it in 6. Unfortunately we only slept a little, and I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks in Turkish. It was pretty entertaining because I could understand a lot of the Turkish and since I had already seen it I didn't have to worry about the plot. Once we got to the Ankara bus station we got on a smaller bus that would drive us around the city for the next 2 days. The kids from Trabzon flew because their bus ride would have been over 10 hours, but their flight didn't get in until a few hours later. We stopped in a parking lot somewhere and all fell asleep until we went to the airport. It was so great to see the kids from Trabzon because they are doing the same program as us but in another city. We had so much to talk about!

After breakfast in Kızılay, we went to Ankara Castle, which is the highest point in Ankara. We were surrounded and were able to see the whole city of Ankara. It is in a part of the city called Ulus. On our way out of Ulus we stopped at the Archeology museum, which is the largest in Turkey. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures, but evyerthing was very interesting to see. Later, we went to the old Turkish National Assembly building, which is now a museum. After that, we went to ANKAMall which is an extremely large mall in Ankara; it is 5 stories, and has every store imaginable. After that we checked into our hotel and got to shower and rest before dinner. For dinner we walked to a close-by restaurant which was very artsy an eclectic.

the whole NSLI-Y Turkey gang!
this man had an interesting pose... and we saw many other men standing the same way later that day...
The next morning we woke up relatively early to go to Anıtkabir, Atatürk's Mausoleum. I had gone there last year, but it was interesting to go again. After, we went to the US Embassy in Turkey for a Security Briefing. We got to meet some of the people in the foreign service and they talked to us about how to be safe in Turkey. Most of it was common sense and was useful to how to be safe anywhere in the world. The best part was that everyone could pronounce our names correctly and we got to see large American cars, which are very different from the cars in Turkey. For security purposes we were not allowed to take pictures. Later, we walked around Tunalı, another part of the city where my Turkish school was last summer. We just walked around and relaxed before going back to the hotel. 

Atatürk's Mausoleum

Atatürk isn't actually burried in there, he is burried about 6 ft underneath the floor.
My last day in Ankara, we went to the New National Assembly in the morning which was fantastic. I truly enjoyed seeing the building and going into the main room where the assembly meets. We were told that it was one of the nicest in Europe and I can believe that. It was very modern, spacious, and clean compared to the Old National Assembly building. That afternoon we went to the AFS office in Turkey, which is on the top floor of the building that I had classes in last summer. It was great to go back and see it. We had a mini orientation and just talked about some cultural things that were specific to Turkey that we missed because of our flight. We also met some previous AFSers that had gone abroad when they were in college!

The Old National Assembly
The Old National Assembly
That evening we flew back to our cities, and it was pretty sad saying goodbye because we had become so close. We became close during our long journey here, but we have come to realize that we can all truly relate to each other and shared so many stories that it is unfortunate that we don't get to see each other too often. Luckily we can keep in touch and will be seeing each other in a month!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Language Classes

Language classes started this past Monday. We have them every day from 4-7 and this will continue for the whole year after school. We have a break every 50 minutes, so it is divided up well, and this works great for me because my bus comes at 7 and I haven't missed it yet :). It only runs every 30 min, so I really hope I make it every day! Classes are a lot of fun because I get to see my fellow NSLI-Yers, and we are together through this struggle. Our teacher's name is Eda and she is very sweet. She is a petite, pretty, fashionable 24-yr old teacher. She addresses us as arkadaşlar or friends, which we find entertaining, but sweet as well. We address her as öğretmenim or my teacher. We always use the formal "2nd person plural" form with her. Although we have only had 4 classes, I can feel as though these classes are going to be enjoyable all year. She moves at a fast pace, but she explains everything in detail and if we have questions they are always cleared up. We have had multiple other teachers sit in our classes for various times and days this week. They are all new teachers and they are observing. The teachers that watch are either English or Turkish teachers. It is good to have the English teachers sometimes because they can explain concepts that we don't understand.

Turkish is phonetic, follows lots of rules, and is pretty much all suffixes. It is like a math problem because you need to look at the words to know what ending to put on to show possession, the person, or anything else you would want. Just like any other language though, it has exceptions, but luckily some of the exceptions follow rules too! Unfortunately, some words you just have to know, and this will come with time. Also, the word structure is the complete opposite of English so that is by far the most difficult part for me, but we haven't gotten that far yet. In fact, we haven't even gotten to verbs!

Right now, it is just a review for me in class, but I am glad that I started at the beginning again because I want to get a good foundation of the language. First, we did greetings, the alphabet, days, months, seasons, numbers, and always with vocab in between. Now we are onto pronouns and endings. We have homework everyday, which is a good review by ourselves and we go over it the next day. I am truly enjoying it, but it is also easy at this point, as easy as it is going to get!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Last Thursday morning, I went to Istanbul with my host family. It was about 8 hours in the car both ways, so we were physically close a lot! On the way there, we planned to stop in Bolu, a place that apparently has a beautiful landscape, to see it, but to also make a stop to not have to go the whole way at once. After a couple hours in the car, my family told me that we were going to stop at Fulya's parent's house in the outskirts of Ankara. Since it was Ramazan Bayrami, the 3 days after Ramadan when it is time to eat, celebrate, and see family, Fulya's whole side of the family was gathered at her parent's house. I met her parents, her 3 siblings and their husbands/wives and children. It was a lot of family for one day! The difficult thing about meeting a Turkish family is that everyone has a different name. There is a different name for my mother's sister, my father's sister, my father's brother's wife, and my mother's brother's wife. Also, there are maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents, but the same people are called both names. It is a bit confusing, but I am getting the hang of it little by little. We ate a lot of food, which was delicious and chatted. One of the aunt's had made baklava and I became excited. I absolutely LOVE baklava and it is my favorite dessert. That being said, I have eaten lots of different kinds of baklava, good and bad, and this was one of the best I have ever had. It was so good that I kept wanting to eat more, but I was so full already! I was already full before the baklava, so I was about to burst!

After passing through Ankara we were headed to Bolu. We stopped a couple times at gas stations without getting out and I assumed the host parents were asking for directions. Turns out I was right because we were lost. We decided that it would be better to just continue on to Istanbul. It would have been great to see, but in my mind I was ready for Istanbul. We spent so much time in the car that at the end we were all going a little crazy. We had already slept a lot so we were wide awake and were singing loudly to the radio, looking outside, taking pictures, and just wanting to get to Istanbul already.

Pide... yummmmmm
When we finally arrived, we got out of the car and headed up to their cousin's apartment. There were stray, skinny cats walking all around the streets, but I guess that is normal. Since it was the holidays, he was at his house in Samsun and we had the 1 bedroom apartment to ourselves. It was around 10 and we hadn't eaten since 2 so we went in search for food. Again we were reminded that it was the holidays because almost everything was closed. After about 45 min of walking around in a circle we finally found a place to eat pide. That night we went right to bed.

The next morning we walked to another cousin's house for a large typical Turkish breakfast. Then we went to a part of the city which is on the European side and parked our car so we could walk around. We walked up and down a main street with many famous high schools and universites. Then we ate Kumpir (a turkish baked potato with everything imaginable on it. After, we went on a boat ride up and down the Bosphorous which was fantastic because we could see Europe and Asia at once. We saw the bridges that connect the two continents, and got to see the old right next to the new. In the late afternoon/evening we drove all around the city. I fell asleep for a while because of all of the traffic and I was exhausted.

on the Bosphorous
Bosphorous with Melis

The next day was my favorite day in Turkey so far. We woke up, had breakfast and went to the European side of the city again, but this time we walked to the ferry where we got on and crossed to the other side. I really wanted to go to a Bazar, and unfortunately they were closed because of the holidays. Luckily, however, we found a series of streets that were basically a street Bazar with everything in them. I just wanted to walk down them and see everything. It was crowded, but very enjoyable. Everything was so cheap, but I didn't buy anything besides food because I didn't see anything I needed. Later that day we went to the Sultan Ahmet and the Hağia Sofia, which were incredible. I had gone to them before when I went to Istanbul on vacation with my family when I was in 8th grade, but I was young then and I had forgotten what they were like. We had walked all day and our feet were killing, but it was definitely worth it.
Sultan Ahmet

Sultan Ahmet
The next day we woke up early, got in the car and rode the whole way home with stopping every once in a while for the bathroom. It was definitely a different experience of traveling because it was unlike traveling with my family, but enjoyable and worth it. I had a lot of fun. :)
Hağia Sofia

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fasting... oruç

     Today was the last day of Ramadan today in the Islamic world. For those of you that don’t know, Ramadan is the month of fasting to Muslims. This means that Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and all sexual relations from dawn to dusk. Also, they pray more than usual and even people who don’t normally practice the religion often go to the mosques and pray. Nowadays, less and less people fast during this month, but my host family does.

To read more about fasting look at this:

     At first I wasn't going to fast, but in the end I decided to do it. Ramadan this year was from August 11 to September 8 and I arrived in Turkey on the 5th. My first few days, Melis and I were the only ones eating during the sunlight hours. She is still young so she doesn't have to fast. Around 3 or 4am each morning we hear drums in the streets waking people up to eat their breakfast before the day begins. They have to eat before the first call to prayer. They also have to brush their teeth because they can't drink water during the day. After, they go back to sleep for a few more hours before their day begins, and are able to eat at 7pm in the evening. My first 2 days I did not fast. I wanted to maybe do it in order to experience what they go through, but I was very tired from traveling and I wanted to eat, haha. My third day I told my family I wanted to fast and they laughed. They didn't know why I wanted to do this and they didn't take it that seriously. That morning when I heard the drums I couldn't even open my eyes because I was so exhausted. I decided that I would fast the next day if I felt up to it. That morning I had breakfast around 9. After a few hours we went into the city and I decided that I wouldn't eat lunch. It would be a half fast. I fasted for 10 hours with the exception of water. The real way to fast is to not drink water, but I felt dehydrated and knew that drinking water was the correct thing to do. I decided that I would fast the next day, as it was the last. 

     This morning Fulya and Melis came into my room to wake me up. I hadn't heard the drums and had apparently slept through them because I was so tired. I wanted to fast though. We had a great breakfast of crepes, tomatos, cucumbers, olives, cheese, honey, and tea. That was the first meal where I didn't have my translator and we actually got by! I went back to sleep after and woke up around 10:30. I already felt hungry! I knew that it was going to be difficult, but I was going to do it. I chose to drink water in the morning even though my family told me that wasn't true fasting, but I always drink a lot of water and especially since it is hot out I didn't want to get dehydrated. Previously I had a headache from not drinking enough water, and feeling sick my first few days here would not be a good choice.

     We stayed in the house most of the day relaxing, watching TV, and talking a lot. Around 2 I started to get really hungry and from then on all I thought about was good. I started to watch the new episode of Top Chef that I missed, but I had to stop because I really wanted to eat. Then Melis ate a snack and I was hungry. The afternoon went by so slow because all I wanted was food. At one point I realized that I wasn't really hungry, it was just that it was so tempting to eat food. I couldn't eat anything, not even a taste.

     Around 5:30 we started to cook and bake for the meal that night. I didn't really understand what we were making, but it was a carrot cake. We had dates, köfte (Turkish meatballs), french fries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bread. I forgot to mention that at 7 o'clock every night, when the Muslim's break their fast, they start by eating a date. I had about 5 tonight haha. They have to wait until after the 5th call to prayer of the day to eat, which is a little after 7 o'clock. We were basically praying that the call to prayer would happen so that we could eat. It was so hard!
making dinner

carrot cake! to celebrate the end of Ramadan

begining the meal with a date
     Today I had a discussion with my host mom and sisters about why people fast. I explained that many people don't have food in this world and it is to understand a little of what they go through. I always have food and I almost never have to wait to eat, so this was a very difficult day for me. In the afternoon, all I wanted was food, but I knew I couldn't eat it. I wanted to fast to have the experience and I wanted to actually acomplish it and not break my fast early. Luckily I succeeded. I was joking with my family that it was the Best Meal Ever! but it was very, very good. My host family didn't actually think I would succeed, but when I did they gave me congratulations! Now, I have so much more empathy for people in starvation.

First 3 days in Samsun!!

     They say that when one goes abroad for a lengthy period of time, at one point it just hits him or her and they think “oh boy! What am I doing?! Why am I going away for this long?! What have I gotten myself into?!” After my family picked me up from the hotel I pretty much went through this moment until I went to sleep that night. I never thought I would experience this, but it is definitely true.
     My family does not wear their seatbelts… none of them! I did, but I think they thought I was weird. Oh well, because I’m the safe one. We got out of the car at their apartment building after they hadn’t said anything to me the ride to their house. We walked to the entrance, up the stairs and into the airport. The lobby of the apartment building was dark and this was when it hit me that I am here for 10 months! The furniture and decoration in the house is very basic. Maybe it is a minimalist look, but I’m not really sure yet. After a few minutes, I went to the bathroom where I just thought They have one bathroom for 5 people! My mom always says Abigail, you have to be able to share the bathroom because I grew up with one bathroom for 9 people. I had never had to go through this, even at boarding school because the communal bathrooms have multiple sinks, toilets and showers. This will be an experience of its own in the morning before school when the girls and I are getting ready for school and the parents are getting ready for work.

the view from our apartment

     I am sharing a bedroom with Almila, my 14 yr old sister and the room has 2 beds and a closet. That’s it. Nothing on the walls, no nightstand even. The closet is divided into 2 parts, one that is 1/3 of the size and the other parts occupies 2/3 of the closet. I have the part that is 2/3 because Almila has drawers in the other room and I’m pretty sure she is sharing the hanging part of Melis’s closet with her. Melis is my 10 yr old sister and I’m not sure where she will be sleeping for the year. Right now she is dragging her mattress into the living room, sleeping there and then in the morning she drags it back to her room for to store it. I’m not really sure what she will do for the year, but Fulya, my host mother, told me that she would not be doing that for the whole year. There are 2 other bedrooms in the house; one for the parent’s and one for Melis, but that is now the ‘study room.’ Right now Melis’s closet is in there with both Almila’s and Melis’s set of drawers and desks. Almila’s desk is hers for the year and I have Melis’s. They have one computer, is a desktop on Almila’s desk and they do not have WiFi. I am going to buy an Ethernet cable this week, which is the one thing I forgot to pack.
     After arriving, I was pretty much in shock. I realized I was entirely out of my comfort zone in a different language that I didn’t speak and my family did not speak English. I showered, and before I took a nap I realized that this year is going to be extremely different; not good, not bad, just different, but that I am going to take full advantage of it. I am going to completely accept everything and live in someplace new. I knew that part of my troubles was that I was extremely tired and I needed to sleep in order to feel better. I slept for about 4 hours, which held me over until that night.
     After my nap we had dinner, which was a big event because 3 of my new family members had been fasting as it is Ramadan. We ate lentil soup, a cucumber and tomato salad, bread, dolmas (stuffed vegetables, usually peppers) and a cucumber yogurt. It was a very good meal for a first dinner with my new family.
     After dinner, Fulya went to the mosque to pray and the rest of the family went to drive around Samsun. We drove past my school and language school and I got to see a lot of the city. The driving is CRAZY!!! The lines to separate the lanes in the road are pretty much ignored. Since the cars are in km/hr I’m not sure how fast my host father was driving, but I know for a fact that it was over the speed limit. The thing is that everyone was driving that fast. While on the main street of the city, people crossed in between cars as if it was no big deal. I’m surprised that people don’t get hit often! It is just so different. One of my favorite things that took me by surprise was that the stop signs say DUR. Dur means stop in Turkish, but I just expected them to say STOP. I love it!
     My electronic translator is my new best friend. I take it EVERYWHERE! I can communicate with my family more than I expected and am pretty proud of myself, but we still run out of words to use. When I don’t understand, I can pretty much get the gist of the sentence by looking up words. At the same time, I look up many words to respond to my family. At this point I only know infinitives and present tense so everything that I say, even in the past and future, is said in the present tense. They don’t seem to mind because we can communicate pretty well; much better than I had ever hoped for the first days. Obviously we can’t have in depth conversations, but we are definitely getting by extremely well. My foundation from last year has helped me tremendously and I can’t wait to start language classes and learn more! Almila and Melis don’t seem to understand the concept of ‘please speak slower’ because they speak to me as though they were speaking to their Turkish friends. As time goes on though they realize that I don’t understand and try to simplify their words.
     I will be taking a bus to school every day, which is public transportation. My school and language school are extremely close; 150m according to my host parents. After language classes, which I have for 3 hrs every day I will be taking the bus home. The unfortunate thing is that my trip to the center of the city is about 45 min. They live on a hill in the outskirts of the city. It is a little neighborhood of apartment buildings called Pelitkoy with a very nice park, a super market, a post office/bank, a few shops, and a restaurant. We stopped and got ice cream on the way back, which was delicious, but had a very interesting texture. I had to bite it in order to get some because it sticks together very well. I didn’t know what all of the flavors were so the man gave me all of them. Even thought I had every flavor in one cone, the portion size was about the size of a small in the US. Portion control is definitely practiced here instead of super-sized everything in the US, which I’m very happy about.
     That night I gave my host family their gifts, which they enjoyed opening. I brought chocolate chips and maple syrup so that I can make pancakes one morning, which they seemed to enjoy the idea of! I still haven’t made them yet, but I’m sure it will be an interesting experience for them. My eyes kept closing so I went to bed after that, but not for as long as I had hoped.
     I woke up around 3am because of drums in the street for Ramadan (I will explain later) and I couldn’t fall asleep after that. Almila came in after a while so that she could sleep. She had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room for a few hours after I had gone to bed in order to not wake me when she woke up to eat. We both kept tossing and turning unable to fall asleep again. After sometime I heard the first call to prayer of the day. At this point I knew I was up. Almila and I turned on the light and tried to rest, but were unsuccessful. We ended up talking on and off for about 4 hours. That morning we didn’t do much except relax. After breakfast we went outside to walk and I ran for a little while. When we came back I showered and tried to take a nap since it was now about 1pm and I had been up since 3am. I was just about to fall asleep when my parents called. It was so good to speak English! It wasn’t the fact that I was speaking English that made me happy, it was the fact that I didn’t have think and speak like a 2 year old when I spoke! haha. My sisters were amazed by how fast I spoke in the same way that I amazed by how they speak! Later, the girls and I went shopping for dinner and things I needed. It took us a very long time in the milk aisle, but we finally figured out which one was skim milk. When I drank it this morning I was happy because we had successfully chosen the correct one! As Fulya was making dinner, Melis and I watched TV and I fell asleep on the couch. I didn’t realize I was that tired. I woke up about 2hrs later and felt exhausted. Almila was going out with her friends that night and she was ready and had eaten dinner. I was supposed to go with her, but I had to turn it down because I was hungry and had no energy. I know that they say that I shouldn’t turn anything down, but this actually turned out to be good. I bonded with Melis and when Siyami came home we watched TV and talked. Next time I will definitely go out with her, especially now that I am rested. That night I went to bed around midnight and fell right asleep.
pictures from around the city of Samsun

My third day in Turkey was by best so far. In the morning I woke up and just relaxed, but in the afternoon we went to downtown Samsun. My host family wanted to take me on the bust to see how to get to school and my language classes. We ended up getting off the bus early because there was so much traffic, but thats just because it is 
Ramadan. The traffic and driving was crazy as normal!! My school is the complete opposite of Governor's, but that was expected. It is one building in a U shape with a couple cement basketball/soccer courts on the sides. It is a typical city school. I also got to see my uniform which I was excited about because I had expected much worse. I have a black skort, a white collared shirt with the school's logo, and a black zip up with the school's logo and no hood for when it gets cold. I will get both a long sleeve shirt and a short sleeve shirt, and I have to wear tights everyday until it becomes hot in the spring. I will be wearing my converse to school. We were also able to go to an electronic store and buy what I needed, but after much confusion and frustration. When we came home I actually had an in-depth conversation with my host mother and sister about goals in life and what is important to them, it was difficult, but well worth the confusion in the end. I also finally got internet on my computer so I was able to skype with my parents! It has been a great few days!! 

Melis, Fulya, Almila, and me
more fun!!!
     Oh, and we took pictures on PhotoBooth on my computer, which was a great discovery! My host sisters had never done this before so we had a lot of fun :). 

     Sorry this post is so long... My next post is going to be all about fasting and will be much shorter...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Journey: An Adventure of Its Own

     My trip to Samsun, was the longest I have ever been on by far. We expected smooth sailing after orientation, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. Finally we arrived to Istanbul, but this was after 60 HOURS OF TRAVELING from the time we left the hotel in New York.
     Orientation was pretty fun; much better than my orientation in NY last summer. We had multiple sessions a day ranging from safety to culture differences to how to learn a language. We all really bonded. I shared a room with Sam, who is doing her Junior year in Samsun with me. Lucas, a Junior and Lena, a gap year student are also in Samsun for the year with NSLI-Y. Danielle, Victor, Sylvan, and Cristina are going to Trabzon for the fall semester with NSLI-Y. Two other senior girls joined us on our second evening of orientation. Marley will be in Ankara and Hayley will be in Istanbul; they are both with AFS. I actually got to lead a session with one of my friends from last year’s summer trip to Ankara, who was asked to speak last minute about the Turkish culture, lifestyle, and ways of life.
     In New York, the 30 min delay for the bus seemed frustrating, especially since we were the last group to leave, but we had no idea what lay ahead. We got to the airport 3 hours in advance and that seemed like a long time. After 2 hours, our flight was delayed. Even though we had a small layover, we still had enough time. Then it was delayed again. At this point we were a little nervous about our connection because it got down to about 15 minutes. We boarded the plane and luckily fit all of our rolly-carry-ons under the seat so that we wouldn’t have to gate check them. We were prepared to run to our gate as soon as we got off the plane, and that is exactly what we did. We sprinted through the hallways, up and down escalators, along moving walkways, went on a train ride to another terminal, and down to the very end of the terminal where our gate was. It was at least a mile, and I’m not exaggerating. As I was on my way, we saw other students ahead drop their bags and they signaled to us that we had just missed our flight by 4 minutes.
     It was 10pm at this time. Luckily we had a chaperone and she got us a very nice hotel in DC with extremely comfortable beds :). It was about 1am when we entered our rooms and since we had been up for so long, we ordered room service. Who knew cereal could be so expensive for such a little amount? I fell asleep around 2am (apparently the boys stayed up until 4… they were a little tired the next morning). Since we had the whole day to kill, we rented a van from the airport and toured Washington D.C. We went to the Lincoln Memorial, the World War 2 Memorial and walked along the Mall. Then we drove by the White House, and were only 2 blocks away from George Washington University!!! That was actually a lot of fun because we had each other and we got to see the nation’s capital before going abroad for the year. The only thing was that we had hoped to be in Istanbul at this time.
     We arrived at the airport just to find out that we had troubles with our boarding passes. They needed to reissue them to us since we had changed our flights. They told us that they would give us new tickets in Frankfurt for our flight to Istanbul. We had dinner, exchanged money, and rested. On the plane I slept, ate dinner, and watched Letters to Juliet. It was an uneventful flight, which felt pretty good since so much else had gone on.
Lincoln Memorial!!
the 10 of us travelers prepared for anything!

     We got off the plane in Frankfurt, went through security and headed straight to the gate to make sure our tickets were correct. Then… we found out that the flight was entirely booked and there was no way we were to get on it. The people in D.C. had issued us tickets for a flight that was already full. The next flight to Istanbul was at 10 that night. So we sat in the airport for 9 hours. At one point we found out that our luggage wasn’t with us in Frankfurt. Fantastic! Luckily it made it to Frankfurt with us and it was on our plane to Istanbul. We were so close, but yet so far!
     I started writing this post while at the Frankfurt airport, partially to get a head start and write this before I arrived with my host family, but also to just kill time. We were just bored! We had already played so many games, watched movies and talked so much just to pass the time that we needed something else to do. Unfortunately we had no internet, but we still had Word. At one point a few of us girls showed each other pictures from proms and graduation.
     That night we flew to Istanbul and got there around 2am. Then we cleared customs, got our luggage and went to meet up with the AFS Turkey staff. I knew some of them from last year, so it was very good to see them again. One of the non- NSLI-Y girls left us there because she was staying in Istanbul for the year. The rest of us walked to the domestic terminal to check our bags and get our new boarding passes. My bag, along with another was overweight, but since our AFS leaders’ bags were underweight, they didn’t make us pay. I knew my bag was heavy from the start and was prepared to pay, so that was another good thing coming our way!
     We waited in the airport… awake… until we had to go to go through security and wait to board the plane. The flight to Trabzon, for the 4 NSLI-Yers there, was at 6:30 and ours to Samsun was at 7:35. Since there was very little time in Istanbul and no point to go to a hotel, we did not have time to shower or get ready before we saw our families after our flights to Trabzon and Samsun. We all changed and got ready in the airport bathroom. We had snagged clothes from our suitcases before checking them because that was the first time we had access to our checked bags since the beginning of the trip. On the plane, we tried to sleep, but it was only about an hour flight so that didn’t really work. That night we got no sleep. As we were about to land, we did a huge loop around the airport and back up and down the coast. That was the best part of the flight because we got to see where we were going to be staying for the year from the air.
     We landed at the Samsun airport. It was so small and none of us had ever been to and public airport with a terminal that small. We had to descend stairs outside and walk to the baggage claim. There are only 2 gates at the airport and 2 tiny baggage claims. Our bags came right away because all the people at the airport were working with our flight! Our bags were by far the largest ones on the plane. After exiting the airport we got onto a bus that dropped us off at a hotel in Samsun; it was where our AFS Turkey chaperone was staying for the night. The view was gorgeous out on the patio and we were about 100 ft from the ocean! Luckily we had time go to the bathroom and eat some Pide (Turkish pizza) before our families came, which was fantastic because we hadn’t eaten for a few hours and were very hungry.
     Our families came and it was fantastic meeting them! My first thoughts were that my family looked extremely kind, warm, and welcoming. The daughters are so cute and pretty! They hadn’t known about our delays/airport adventures because AFS Turkey did not want to worry them. Our AFS Turkey chaperone told them about it so that they understood. We had troubles at first fitting my large checked bag and my rolly-carry-on bag in the back of the car, but luckily we made them fit.

At the hotel before meeting my host family :)

     During the trip AFS told us that there had never been this much delay, problems, and length in a trip before. It was the most painful trip ever and the one thing I learned was to never travel with United! The thing that kept us from getting to Turkey earlier was our scholarships. Since it is issued by the US State Department, we have to stay with American carriers and could not change. Hopefully our trip back home in June will not be as difficult.