Friday, October 29, 2010

school photos

Here are some picture of my classroom and classmates!

Umut, Erdem, Taha and Selen at lunch this week

Çağla, Cansın, me and Talha at lunch

Our coat hanger in class
Atatürk is in every classroom!
My classroom, it is VERY small because there are only 11 of us!
The teacher's desk in the front of the class. My desk is the one with the pink notebook and pencil case
Classroom in action!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First full week of school!

I had my first real week in my new Turkish life, which I should have been having for a few weeks now, but I had the longest summer ever. I took the school bus to school in the morning, a full day of classes, language classes every afternoon, and did homework, ate dinner, showered, talked with my family and relaxed for a little in the evenings. Most evenings I tried to get to bed as early as possible because I was so exhausted. But it was a very good week overall because I realized that this is what I will be doing for the next 8 months... I've got a long way to go... This week was also the first time when I felt homesick and started to miss my family, friends, and the US itself. Fortunately I have Sam, Lena, and Lucas who are going through this too! 

School was interesting. I absolutely love my classmates, but I am not so fond of some of my teachers. I have three types of teachers: type 1) ones that care that I am there and try and involve me, type 2) the ones that don't seem to quite understand that I have no idea what they are saying and try explain one word every 5-10 min thinking that I will somehow know what is going on if they do that, and type 3) the ones that don’t seem to notice that I am there.

Teacher type 1: Geometry, Math, and German. My geometry teacher is great example of type 1. She really wants me to learn since she knows that her class is one of the few that I can actually pay attention in and really understand what is going on. The other day my classmates were doing a worksheet and going to the board one by one to explain it each problem. She wanted me to do it too and she said that we would do it together; so I did and it wasn't that complicated to solve. Since the pictures in math are almost the same in every language, with a little thinking I figured it out :).
Type 1 teachers can also be bad for me in other classes such Math and German. Let me tell you that the math here is wayyyy more difficult here and it we are definitely doing Calculus in 11th grade. Unfortunately I didn’t get up to that point during my high school career, so having it explained to me in Turkish makes it 100 times more difficult. My math teacher is also my homeroom teacher so he knows my class and me more than other teachers, so he tries to involve me as much as possible. The first few days I tried to copy all of the notes down, but it was really difficult to follow. Also, when I look confused and he tries to explain it to me, he was speaking very fast in Turkish so I just become lost. After a few days I was studying Turkish in class for a little bit while everyone was doing activities in their workbooks. He wanted me to go to the board and explain it, but I kept trying to tell him that I couldn’t because I had no idea where to even begin. Unfortunately this becomes very difficult for me since I don’t know how to say I can/I can’t do something in Turkish yet... (it is a very complex suffix so we will learn it in a few months). Finally I got the point across but he still asked me multiple times to attempt it. It isn’t as if I’m not trying, because I am, I just can’t do it. Luckily, my math teacher sometimes lets me study Turkish or the grammar that I am learning at TÖMER in class when they are doing very advanced math problems. He knows that I am struggling now since I can’t understand his explanation, but that if I study more Turkish I will maybe be able to understand the math in a couple of months.
In German, even though I have told my teacher many, many times that I have never had German before, he still asks me questions in German expecting me to respond in that language! When he does that my class always repeats over and over that I don’t know any German so that he will understand, but he still doesn’t seem to get it. The most difficult part of that class is when my teachers/classmates speak because it is very hard to distinguish when they are speaking Turkish or German. When they speak German they have thick accents and I can never tell which language they are speaking. Also, in my German part of my notebook I have to be thinking in 3 languages. Example: we learned the animals, but of course they were translated from German to Turkish, so then I had to translate them into English because I don’t know all of the animals in Turkish yet. It’s a little complex, but I’ll survive…

Teacher type 2: Turkish Language and Expression, Religion, and History. My Turkish Language and Expression teacher loves that I am there, but he gets a kick out of me and laughs at me a lot. He is a character so I still don’t exactly know how to act in his class. Every 5 or 10 minutes he stops to explain one word or has someone in class explain to me what we are talking about. We don’t have books for this class I’m still not quite sure what we are actually learning in class. Most of the time he just talks to the class, but obviously tells funny stories because everyone laughs the whole time.
In Religion we learn about Islam, and I wish I could understand what is going on because I am interesting in learning about this religion, especially because I don’t know much about it and I am in a country where 98% of the population in Islamic. The teacher doesn’t explain anything to me, but always asks me how I am at the beginning of each class. He wants me to speak about Christianity next class, so obviously had to talk to me about that. Therefore, I started preparing notes in class because I don’t know many of the words I will need to use when talking about Christianity. About 10 minutes later he told me to pay attention to what they were talking about in class, but my class jumped in and told me that I don’t understand anything and that is why I was taking the time to prepare for next week. Luckily he understood.
History is just rough. I really don't understand anything in this call. It is almost like listening to: Turkey… Atatürk… some… one… more… republic… street… 1919… more… day… and so on. As you can see, it makes no sense. Then she tries to explain what they are doing and I don’t get that at all so she has another classmate translate. It is as if she wants to involve me, but the attempt just fails. 

Teacher type 3: Literature, Philosophy, and Traffic and First Aid. These teachers don’t really understand what to do with me in class and just ignore me, but don’t let me study anything else in class even though I have no idea what is going on. In Turkish Literature class, my classmates read from our textbook and then discuss it with our teacher. Apparently it is very old Turkish that they are reading, such as Shakespeare for English, so they don’t understand it either. On Tuesday, this teacher mentioned my name in class, but didn’t look at me so it is as if he is just talking about me even though I am there. Later my classmate told me that he was saying that if the literature is hard for them that it would be really, really hard for me. He had me read a poem this week, which was the most that I have ever done in that class, but then he went back to ignoring me.
In Philosophy my teacher lectures us and writes words on the board that somehow connect together. I try to copy the notes down because from notes I can sometimes figure out what is going on rather than reading the textbook, but his handwriting is impossible to read!
I had my first Traffic and First Aid class this week. I found out that the school director teaches this class and I had met him the week before when we registered me in school so I was excited. He got to class and just started the lessons. I looked through the textbook and we are actually learning about how traffic and public transportation work along with CPR and First Aid towards the end of the year. This is the funniest class that I have seen. It is like health class or life skills, but in a different way. I had my electronic translator/dictionary out and was looking up words so that I could follow along with what was going on. I figured that he didn’t know I was in class because he hadn’t said anything to me, like most other teachers. I know he is very busy so I didn’t think much of it but I kept wondering when he would realized I was there. About ¾ of the way though class the director looked at me and my electronic translator/dictionary and asked me what I was doing. I said sözlük, which means dictionary and he spoke some more. I didn’t understand so my class filled in for me and said I was American. Then he asked what my name was. I was a little shocked and just laughed because he had completely forgotten about me.

English class is a completely different story. In this class I am the star! Sometimes my English teacher's pronunciation is a little off and I want to correct him, but I bite my tongue. When we do activities in our workbooks I am treated like the other students and give the answers to questions when I am called on. When we read in the book though different students read one paragraph 2 or 3 times. Frequently he has me read the paragraph either before or after other students so that they can hear the pronunciation. My classmates hate reading after me because they feel embarrassed, but it is the same as me reading or talking in Turkish. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed because I am in the exact same situation as them.

I have gotten used to not understanding what is being talked about in most of my classes. I have a lot of time to think about the differences in cultures and just life itself. One thing that I found a little weird at first, but am completely used to now, is that students write on their desks all the time. Anything that they need to explain or remember they write down and if they are bored then they doodle… a lot! Therefore, sometimes I doodle too. I have gotten very good at writing my name! And I have started to write with my left hand to see if I can improve that, practice makes perfect! I don’t want you to get the wrong idea and think that I am not paying attention in class or trying because I am, it is just very difficult and boring sometimes when I have absolutely no idea what is going on. I know that in a few months I will be able to pay much more attention but it is just my second week, so there is not much I can do.

In class I am always in one of 2 situations and rarely in the middle. The first is having all of the attention on me because something is being explained to me or my class is asking me questions. The second is me just sitting there while my friends are just talking or having class and I am not involved. I am not at the point yet where I can just listen and understand what is going on. These are the times when I get even more frustrated, but I have accepted it at this point and know that it will only get better with time.

On Saturday night there was a poetry show in Samsun and our Turkish teacher wanted us to go. We met up at school before the show to go eat dinner. Dinner took longer than expected because we went to Dominos. Then we walked to the performance center, but they all walk very slow. It didn’t seem to bother anyone that we were half and hour late to the show. Luckily when we got there it hadn’t started yet, but it was çok çok kalabalık (very crowded)!! We ended up going up to the balcony and sitting on the stairs on the side. Then everyone started getting bored so we left after about 25 min. I was completely indifferent about leaving because although I didn’t understand what was being said, it was interesting to see and I don’t understand what is going on a lot of the time so I am used to it.
Most of my class before the poet... 8 out of the 11
Talha, Taha, and Me
another poet
the poets
Today, Sunday, is spent relaxing. I have realized that Sunday is the day that I can write more to post on my blog so I will try to do this every Sunday. I want to wrote more posts about the culture, fashion, food and other aspects of life that I have noticed about Turkey. With help from my dad, we figured how to make my laptop a WiFi hotspot so now I can write posts on my iPod Touch while on the bus and then post them when I get home because I can send them to myself. It is great!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Atatürk Anadolu Lisesi :)

I finally started school at Samsun Atatürk Anadolu Lisesi! I haven’t actually gone to a full day of school yet, but this week I don’t think I will have any special days. While at lunch at Dominos on Monday I got a call from Sero, our AFS liason, which is the person that we go to with any questions, saying that we would start on Wednesday! Sero would come to Samsun and then each of us would go to our school with Sero at some point during the day so that he could officially register us. Sero comes to Samsun once a month to do regular visits with our families, deal with any issues, pay us back for school lunches, uniforms, bus tickets and other things that our NSLI-Y scholarship includes. First he took Lena and Lucas to their school because they are together, then he took me, and finally Sam. We met up in the morning and went to the Director’s office where we talked for a little bit and Sero gave his information in case the school needed it. While I am in Turkey Sero is my “guardian/parent” if there are any problems. After, we went to the Vice Principal’s office where he officially registered me and Sero filled out papers that he would take to the Police Station so that we would be able to get our residence permits.
My School!

Finally I was taken to my class, 11E/TM! The TM stands for Türkçe Matematık - Turkish and Math. Yes, I am in 11th grade again, but I love it and I absolutely LOVE my class! In Turkey, high school students choose a track to go in and I am in Turkish and Math. At my school most kids choose to be in the Science and Math track so my class is very small compared to most other classes even at other schools, but I really like it. There are 11 of us, 5 girls and 6 boys. In orientation and from observing other students we have learned that in many situations high school boys and girls do not hang out together even as friends, but this is not the case in my class. We are all like one big family and we do not sit separately by gender at all. My class is very excited to have me in class and they really try to explain things that I don’t understand. If I say that I don’t understand something they each try to explain it to me in different ways at once. They all say look at me! and I have to choose one person to explain it, but they truly want me to understand. They also have many questions about the American culture, which I am happy to explain, but it is very different and sometimes I get weird looks. Most questions are about high school, teenagers, boyfriends/girlfriends in the US and other subjects that high school students would be interested in.

I have 16 classes, which is very different than in the US. We stay in one classroom all day and the teachers come to us, which is a little like elementary school except that we have a different teacher for every subject. I have a 10-15 min break between each class, which is really a smoking break for the teachers, but I love it because it is when I get to chat with my classmates and meet more people. Some classes we have more than others such as Turkish literature, Turkish Grammar and Math. On Monday and Tuesday I leave after the 7th period because I have TÖMER language class at 4 and we get out at 4:30, but that is fine with me. It is a little confusing, but my schedule is below: 

1. 8:30-9:15
2. 9:30-10:15
3. 10:25-11:10
4. 11:20-12:05
5. 13:00-13:45
6. 13:55-14:40
7. 14:50-15:35
8. 15:45-16:30

2YDI – 2 Yabancı Dil – Almanca = GERMAN
BED – Beden Eğitimi = GYM CLASS
ÇAĞDAŞ – Çağdaş Türk ve Dunya Tarihi = TURKISH HISTORY
COĞ3 – Coğrafya = HISTORY
DİN – Din Kültürü ve Anlak = RELIGION
GEO3 – Geometri = GEOMETRY
İNG3 – İngilizce = ENGLISH
MAT3 – Matematik = MATH
REH – Rehberlik = GUIDANCE (it is a little like guidance/health class)
SCOĞ – Seçmeli Coğrafya = EXTRA GEOGRAPHY
SMAT – Seçmeli Matematik = EXTRA MATH
TCİT – T.C. Inkılap Tarihi ve Atatürk Çülük = ATATÜRK HISTORY
TRF – Trafik ve İlk Yardım = TRAFFIC AND FIRST AID (we literally learn about traffic on the streets and how cars/busses/taxis operate. and then towards the end of the course we learn CPR and first aid... this should be interesting)

On Wednesday I went late to school, but was very welcomed by my class. For lunch we all went to a restaurant where we got durum and drinks. At the end of the day Sero met up with me again so that we could talk with my “school bus” driver so that I could get picked up in the mornings. The school buses here are vans that hold about 12 people, but carry from 15-20 people. They try and cram as many people as possible into them. They do this on busses and public transportation too. It is as if it doesn’t even phase them to maybe run busses more often or add another school bus that has a different route so that we wouldn’t have to cram many people into the busses. My bus had as many seats as it holds except that now since I am in it we have one extra person.

Thursday I went to school on my school bus in the morning, but left right after lunch and met up with Sero, Sam, Lena, Lucas, and Lucas’s host sister who just got back from a year with AFS in the USA and is now volunteering for AFS, so that we could go to the Police Station and register for residence permits. Since that ended early we went to a café and hung out there before TÖMER. That day in class we all crashed. The last hour was almost painful because we were so dead from class, and we hadn’t even gone to a full day!

Friday was pretty much a normal school day except for the fact that my Geography teacher was traveling so we had math during that period and got out early. Some kids in my class accompanied me to the Police Station because I had to go back and pick up my residence permit. Unfortunately it was 2:30 at the time and it wasn’t going to be ready until 4. We went to a restaurant and got drinks and just hung out. Lena and Lucas had left class early and came and met up with us so they got to meet a couple of my classmates. We talked about the social life of high school students and it is pretty much as if there it is very minimal to nonexistent. They all go to dersane after school and on weekends, which is pretty much like extra school, so regular school is where they hang out with friends. They get almost no homework for school, so their homework is all for dersane. It is very different from the American lifestyle, but here it is the norm. I don’t know any high school student who doesn’t go to dersane

Melis, Me and Almila on my first day!

In our different uniforms!

Wednesday was a little bit of a blur because there were so many new faces and names, which are very hard by the way, and it was very difficult to follow what was going on. So many people looked at me, but since I was in uniform I didn’t stand out as much as I expected. Lena stands out more because she is much taller than most of the girls here, but I am normal height and I'm not blond so even though I look foreign it is not completely obvious. As each day goes on I don’t stand out that much. I went to the bathroom on Thursday by myself and no one even looked at me differently! Lena’s host sister’s cousin who I met previously is in another class so I meet up with her sometimes during breaks. I have met a few of her friends, but I want to meet more. I think people know there is an American at school, but they don’t really come up to me or meet me, so I want to meet more people. Especially since my class is small I don’t know too many people at school. Also, the classes stay together for all 4 years here so the classes become very close. Another thing that I have noticed that is different besides the not getting homework, is that they don't really take notes during class, only for some subjects where it is necessary. I need to take notes because otherwise I don't understand what is going on. If words or pictures are drawn on the board then I can follow along much more than reading the text book. Classes are mostly lectures and in some classes each student is assigned a specific paragraph or page to explain to the class after a few minutes of reading it over. In class there is much more talking and chatter than I expected. Some of the teachers are very strict and no one even whispers, but some of the teachers get so off subject and just talk with the students or let the students talk between themselves while they read a book. During a couple classes we listened to music on the students' cell phones and talked about the differences in cultures. I am interested to see how a regular week will be especially when I am not super new. It is the weekend so I am very glad I get to rest, but I am so excited for school again tomorrow! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another week with no school...

Two weekends ago was when we had our super long language classes! Before class on Saturday we went to TÖMER to go a little sightseeing with our Turkish teachers. We went  to a model of the boat that Atatürk sailed when he landed in Samsun on May 19, 1919. It is a museum inside and it was interesting to learn some of the history that is important to all of Turkey, but especially Samsun. Sunday was Lena's 18th birthday so we went to her house on Saturday night for hers and her sister's combined birthday party. Since it was a girl's party there were only girls there, friends and cousins, and Lucas was the only boy. On Sunday in class we celebrated Lena's birthday with other classes and all had cake. On the weekends is when most of the Turkish kids go to English class because they have free time. Every classroom was filled and everyone wanted to meet us. It was great at first, but then it was extremely overwhelming. The only time Lena, Sam, Lucas and I have to talk to each other is during the breaks and we wanted to just talk a little about our weekends. After a few breaks we had to just shut the door and stay in the classroom because we were so overwhelmed by everyone wanting to be our friends. It was great, but it just came to be too much! This is what it is like wherever we go. Being a foreigner is a novelty, but being an American is even more of a novelty! Even though it is overwhelming I still love it, but I am glad that we go to class during the week and not on the weekends.
our teachers and us sightseeing
Boarding the boat that Atatürk sailed to Samsun
all of the girls and Lucas at Lena and Neşegul's birthday party
Lena's Birthday Celebreation at TÖMER
Last week was another week with no school. Luckily I am starting Wednesday and I am very excited, but last week was a great week even with no school. Since classes hadn’t started and our Turkish teacher didn’t have her classes either, we had language classes earlier in the day so that we could go home earlier to be with our families. I either met up with Sam/Lena/Lucas or walked around before language class. We normally got together to have lunch.

On Thursday though, we had language class at the regular time, 4-7, because I went to school with my host sister Almila. She is in ninth grade so it was a big change for me to be there. Her classmates, especially the boys, look so little. It’s weird to think about how every year they get smaller and smaller! I kept telling her how the boys were so cute, as in younger and little cute, and she kept correcting me to say yakışıklı whıch means handsome. Then I had to explain how everyone seemed very little. I’m pretty sure the whole school knew there was an American there because during break time large groups of students came to our classroom to look in or stare at me while in the hallway. I was definitely stared at a lot that day. Since I don’t have the uniform I tried to dress close to it, but I definitely stuck out. Even if I had the uniform on I would have stuck out. We had Biology, which I understood when the teacher wrote words and drew diagrams on the board, English, which was a piece of cake, Health, which I got nothing of because the teacher lectured us and spoke very fast, and Geometry, which I understood. It was a good day for me to be there because I was able to follow most of what was going on. In English class I stood at the front of the class and the kids asked me basic questions to practice their English. One of the most common questions that comes up everywhere, especially with boys is What is your favorite soccer team? Or What is your favorite basketball team? Then it is Who is your favorite player? For those of you know me, I am not an avid sports fan and don’t know many teams or players. My favorite basketball team is the Celtics, but I have no idea who my favorite player is. Also, when they say soccer team, they want to know which Turkish soccer team is my favorite, and there is a lot of rivalry over this. There are about 3 or 4 major soccer teams and people definitely stand behind them. Since I don’t want to pick any fights I just say Real Madrid and they all agree with me.

Lunch was the best part of the day because I got to see how the Turkish teenagers interact and I got to talk to many of them. The boys in Almila's class were definitely freshman boys. They fought during some breaks and all tried to talk to me as much as possible. During lunch one of them said he wanted to talk to me in English and I said sure. He did this pretend cocky thing and asked me What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from? And that was about it. There were about 15 kids crowded around me and we were all laughing. The girls were all very nice to me and wanted to help me as much as they could. Apparently, one of the girls was jealous because a 10th grader who she like was talking to me and she wanted to talk to him. Also, as soon as every upperclassman boy that came into class to meet me walked out of the room all of the girls turned to me and said He love you. This is a cultural thing because all of the high schoolers believe that they are in love. There is almost no distinction between like and love, and having a crust and like, therefore having a crush and loving someone is ordinary. Us Americans just crack up at it. After 1 day of knowing someone they confess their love for them. It is just the Turkish culture. I have already had many people tell me they love me, and the same goes for the other American Samsuners. Luckily my host sister was there to explain why I was in Turkey because I got that question a lot.

At the beginning of each class, the students stand up when the teacher walks in the class and the same thing happens as the teacher walks out. In many schools the students sit in rows by 2 and girls only sit next to girls and the same goes for boys. It is okay to have boys as friends, but more is off limits with parents. Of course all of the teenagers have secret boyfriends and girlfriends, but its all kept underground. They have to go through a lot of trouble to just talk to their significant other and they almost never see them. It is a a completely different concept. The teenagers aren't allowed to have boyfriends or girlfriends so they create secret facebook accounts, have cell phones that their parents don't know about, say they are going to buy their uniforms and then come back 5 hours later because they met up with friends, and unfortunately aren't able to actually see their boyfriend/girlfriend with their parents or any adult for that matter knowing. Then the students are allowed to sit down when the teacher tells them too. Right after lunch when we had Health, the teacher walked in and 2 of the boys did not have their shirts tucked in so the teacher had them come to the front of the class and hit them on the head with a book. I was shocked. There were many times during the day when things were so different that I had to cover my mouth to keep myself from laughing.

At the end of the day we took a school bus to the center of the city because I had TÖMER and Almila had other classes in the city. That night when we went home we had much to discuss because I now knew the people she was talking about.

The next morning I went to school with my host mom who is a 4th grade teacher. Even though I was much older than the oldest students there who were 13, I thought it would be interesting to see how an elementary school works. My host mom told me that she has 5 kids with mental disabilities in her class that truly impact how they learn and almost prevent them from learning. Also, these students have experienced a lot and so they are not in great shape to learn in that environment. It is difficult for her to teach everyone because of the setbacks she has. The most interesting thing for me was that I got to see what the teacher perspective is. During breaks I sat in the teacher's room. They all drink çay, lots of çay, and chat.

After the breaks, some kids would knock on the door, open it, and peek in just to see me. I was a novelty... again! During class the students kept looking at me. It was a typical 4th grade class but there were about 30 kids in each class on little desks. After the second period, the English teacher took me to her class to introduce me because she had told her classa about me. pretty much the only thing they could say in English was What's your name? and I think that every student asked me that about 5 times each. As breaks began and ended they would crowd around me and ask me questions in Turkish and what my name is in English. When they spoke to me it was very fast and they didn't use words that I understood, and they seemed upset when I told them that I didn't understand. I don't think that they truly understand why I wasn't understanding them. At one point my host mom told them that I would sing them a song in English if they were well behaved, but unfortunately I left while they were in art class because I had to catch a dolmuş (a small bus, something between a bus and a taxi) to get to class on time. Apparently the kids cried when I left because they didn't get their song :(.

The weekend was relaxing and pretty low key. We chilled at home on Saturday and the only time that I left was to get bread across the street. On Sunday we went to downtown Samsun to drop Almila off at classes and then Fulya, Melis, and I went shopping for Melis. After picking up Almila from classes, we went to the swimming pool to see Melis and then go home. The only thing I really had to do was homework which took me a really long time because our teacher gave us a lot! Apparently what we are working on now is the most complicated thing for foreigners to learn and if we understand that then everything else will be easy.

Monday we went to class early to visit the level 12 morning English class. Then we had class really early so that it would fit into our teacher's schedule. After class we decided to go to Dominos because we wanted somewhat American food. It was unlike the Dominos in the US but it was still very good.

Today, Tuesday is my last day before school. I am going into Samsun at 2 to go look for the city library with Sam and then we are going to go to lunch with Lena. Tomorrow is going to be very interesting and I will update with how school is as soon as I can!