Wednesday, September 8, 2010

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...

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