Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kurban Bayramı, Thanksgiving, and the 3 month mark!

First, I want to apologize for not writing in so long. I was on a good streak with posting once a week, but actual life kicked in and everything is becoming habitual and normal since I now have a routine. I have been here for 3 months, tomorrow (!!), and that goes both ways. In some ways I think “wow, I have already been here for 3 months! That is so long!” but then I think “yes! I still have 7 months to go, but ugh! because I still have 7 more months to go.” It is a weird feeling, but I am really happy that I still have 7 more months because I am just starting to really understand the culture and the language, becoming closer to my Turkish friends, and really starting feeling like I belong here in Samsun. I realized a few days ago that now when I go into a supermarket or grocery store I know what to expect and I know where things are located. I have been here long enough that I know what I can and can’t buy, which seems insignificant, but in reality it means that I have been here for a good amount of time already! The only reason I think ugh! I have 7 more months to go is because I realize I wont be going home for 7 months, and back to everything that I know and feel really comfortable with.
In these past 3 months I have really come to realize that I shouldn’t take the little things for granted. On a daily basis, we take so many things for granted that all of the sudden disappear when you go to a foreign country when you speak the language. Have you ever thought about understanding signs, knowing what a menu says, being able to order food, ask for help in a store, knowing what to do when you greet someone on the street, or just being able to understand what people are saying around you when they say your name? When you can’t speak the language all of this is suddenly taken away. Now, I am able to have basic conversations and it is really beneficial. The one thing that I can’t understand though and is extremely frustrating is when people say my name in the middle of a sentence and just keep talking, and then tell you it doesn’t matter what they said because they don’t want to translate it. It is almost as if people are gossiping about you and you have no idea what they are saying; it could be good, but it could be bad, and you honestly have no idea what they are saying. Also, in class at my Turkish school I can’t follow along in classes and get really bored. I always try to pay attention, but at some point your brain just shuts off and everything starts going in one ear and out the other. It is really hard to describe if you haven’t experienced this before, but hopefully you can try to imagine what it is like. My Turkish classmates always say that they are bored and I always want to respond, “If you are bored, imagine how bored I must be! You can at least understand what is being said, because I get nothing!” I love life here though. At times I get really frustrated, but it isn’t anger or sadness, it is just frustration because learning a language takes time and I just want to learn it all right now and not wait!
My classmates 11E
my two homes :)
Now I will tell you about my week of vacation from school after I went to Cappadocia. It was Kurban Bayramı, the sacrificing festivals, in the Muslim religion, and since 97% of Turkey is Muslim we had the week off from school. During that week I spent a lot of time with my host family, and  went to a hamam (a Turkish bath), my host family’s village to visit relatives, a Turkish village wedding, and my Turkish classmate’s birthday party. On Tuesday, which is the main day of the holiday, at 7 am every single male old enough goes to the mosque to pray. Siyami went and when he came back we were all awake to have a large breakfast together. It was really cool to see the groups of men leave the mosque that is right by my house. For the next few days we spent time with Siyami’s family because they live in Samsun. When I first got here, I felt like a guest at my own home and wherever we went, which is completely normal. After a little while I started to feel like this is my home and not like a guest anymore, but when we went to a friend’s or family member’s house I still felt like a guest. Since I have gone to my host father’s family member’s houses a few times now and we always gather together I have started to feel like I belong there and that they are my family. During this week when Almila and Melis got little presents from their aunts and uncles, my host parents always said, “where is Abigail’s? There are 3 girls!” It didn’t bother me at all that I didn’t get little presents, but the important thing that I learned from that was that I really do belong here and everyone is happy to have me part of their family. I can’t really communicate with Siyami’s father because he is really old and doesn’t understand that I don’t know what he is saying, but Siyami’s siblings always try and have conversations with me. I really felt comfortable during that week because we were together a lot.
On Thursday, we went to Siyami’s family’s village to visit his mother’s grave, visit numerous relatives, and attend his cousin’s wedding. Cemeteries in Turkey are extremely different from those in the US that I have seen. They obviously aren’t behind churches, but they aren’t next to mosques either. They are just in little patches of fields, with unkempt grass and plants. There also isn’t much order in them and it seems as though they just dig the graves wherever there is space, not in rows or anything. After, we went to house after house of family members. The people in the village live very simple lives, haven’t traveled much even in within Turkey and don’t understand the concept of an exchange student. That day, I was Almila’s friend to everyone, which was fine with me because that was probably the only day that I will see those people. It was great seeing closer family members after and them truly welcoming me just like they would with Almila or Melis. That evening was the village wedding. The wedding ceremony itself takes place in the newlywed’s parents house, so we didn’t see that but we went to the party afterwards. I think there were about 250-300 people there of all ages; babies all the way to the oldest people in the village. The party was held in a big room with many tables. It was a village wedding so it was very relaxed compared to a big city wedding. We got little pieces of cake and juice boxes, while we chatted. We watched people dance and Melis and I finally joined in. This was interesting because they dance very different here compared to the US and my body just does not move in the way that Turkish people’s do. Luckily I didn’t know anyone and I will never see them again, but it was quite the experience.

the 4 of us in the back of the car...
Bride and Groom dancing
Melis and Me with the bride and groom
dancing... :)
Thanksgiving: This year, my Thanksgiving was unlike any other Thanksgiving I have ever had. On the Thursday of Thankgiving, I had school and ate tomato soup for lunch… I also had a test at TÖMER, so it wasn’t really Thanksgiving. I did make hand Turkeys for the other Americans because I felt like I had to do something. That next Saturday we met up at Lucas’ house to really celebrate Thanksgiving. I made mashed potatoes, Sam made a pumpkin and apple dish that was actually supposed to be sweet potato but tasted fantastic, Lena made an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, and Lucas made the bird and a potato and carrot dish. We ended up having chicken because we were only 7 people with some host siblings, and a turkey was going to be a really big task. It ended up being the perfect amount of food and it was a great meal. We all gave thanks (in Turkish!!) for what we are thankful for and ate almost all the food! It was a great meal because we were together, which is what counts, and because we made all of the food ourselves… that always makes it taste better! Of course the foods had a Turkish twist because of the lack of some ingredients, but it still tasted great!
hand turkeys!!!!
Thanksgiving Dinner :)
attempting to cut the chicken... much harder than it looks!!!

Thanksgiving Deserts
For Christmas we are going to celebrate it together again for 2 reasons: we want to be together, and because only a few people in this country celebrate it. It is a really different experience not being in a country where you get the day off or where the holiday is celebrated, and this goes for Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and other holidays that I can’t think of right now. I have never been happier that Christmas is on a Saturday, but if it wasn’t we would have school… therefore, I am really happy that it falls on the weekend, but at the same time I will have school on Christmas eve. It is a great experience though, especially because I get to celebrate all of the holidays I celebrate in the US the same year that I get to celebrate Muslim holidays, such as Ramadan and Kurban Bayramı. I love it!