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!

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