Monday, October 3, 2011

Final Post

I have been back in the US for 4 months now and my time here has been interesting so far. I am happy to be back and familiar with everything, but I really miss Turkey and Samsun.

The last few weeks I was in Turkey were very hectic and the first few weeks when I got back were the same which is why I didn't post anything. My last days in Samsun were filled with end of school events, celebrations, host family commitments and trying to say goodbye to friends. The last week I was in Turkey I travelled around with the other Americans and our AFS leader. There were sleepless nights where we travelled and every day was filled with touring and excursions. To sum it up we went to Izmir, Ephesus, Aphrodesias, Kuşadası, Pammukale, and our last day was spent in Istanbul. It was a great decision that we toured the last week because it was a week where we were in limbo; we finished up our year and got all of our last thoughts sorted out before we came home. It was filled with excitement and emotions to say the least.

Now that I have started college and have been here for a while, I can truly compare and contrast my experiences. There are some aspects of my life that I really appreciate about being in the US and in college, but there are others that I really miss about being in Turkey. Since this post is about Turkey and Samsun I am only going to focus on the parts that I miss.

One of the most obvious differences is çay and everything surrounding it. I drank it at least twice every day, if not more and I definitely had caffeine withdrawals when I got back. I went to a Turkish restaurant last week and when I had to pay for çay after my meal I was a somewhat surprised and little disappointed. 

I also miss the sound of the ezan or call to prayer going off. Since I never heard it in the morning and it didn't wake me up it, it never bothered me in the morning. Hearing the ezan always reminded me that I was in Turkey and here it is so quiet. I met up with a Turkish guy last week and it was interesting how we contrasted the call to prayer to the church bells on Sunday.

In Turkey, when ordering ice cream at a stand off the street, you say the price you want to pay and the scooper gives you a certain amount of ice cream based on the price. I miss ordering like that because sometimes I just want a little ice cream for not that much money, but I end up paying more and getting more than I want.

Some other things that I love are the fact that guys dance. Since they are brought up dancing at parties and events, many people not only have rhythm, but they can really move. They don’t just jump up and down, fist pump, or wiggle awkwardly as many males do here. Obviously this is not true for all Americans or all Turks, or even a majority, but just a cultural generalization from what I can see.

I miss the big breakfasts I had with my host family on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Sometimes we would go to a friend’s house or have friends over, but we always had something special to eat on the weekends. I also miss visiting relatives and neighbors in the evenings. Although I did not get much sleep and often just wanted to stay home, it was a big cultural difference for me and I miss visiting in the evenings. I see friends all the time now that I am living in a dorm again, but it isn’t the same.

I miss seeing all elementary, middle, and high school students walking around in uniforms during the day. All public schools, and private for that matter, have uniforms that are unique to each school. During the school day students are seen all around town in their uniforms and it is something unique to Turkey that I definitely got used to.

One last comment now. Talking about differences, there is one tiny difference which was actually somewhat difficult for me to get used to. The light switch for the bathroom in Turkey is outside the bathroom on the wall. This does not seem like a big thing, but I constantly forgot to shut off the light when exiting the bathroom in the US and I would hit the wall outside the door expecting the switch to be there. Good times haha

I have been wanting to post this last post for a while, but as you can imagine, life has been crazy lately. I finally sat down and made myself finish the last post. I learned a lot about the Turkish language, culture, people, music and every other aspect of life, as well as a lot about myself. This year has shaped me in more ways than I realize; I discover that every day. I hope to go back to Turkey soon and keep studying the language and also visit my host family and friends because I miss them dearly. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it :).

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Two weekends ago I went on my school trip to Izmir with most of my classmates, and a lot of friends from other classes. It was a fun-filled weekend with very little sleep.

On Thursday May 12th, I boarded a bus from my school with 48 other AALers and 5 teachers, for a 16 hour bus ride through the night to Izmir. All week, while I was complaining about how the bus ride was going to be terrible after about 5 hours, my friends told me differently and said that the bus was going to be the best part! I can say that the first 5-7 hours were really fun, but after that we all got tired and had troubles sleeping. I sat with my friend who ended up being a great pillow, and from past experiences this year with busses, I slept pretty well compared to everyone else. We made lots of stops to go to the restroom, no worries there.
on the bus with some of my girls :)
In the morning we got out at a restaurant to have breakfast and then continued on to Izmir. We toured the city on the bus and took pictures out the windows. We stopped and had free time to go shopping a little and eat lunch. I know that most of you will be surprised, as I was, to hear that I ate at KFC for lunch. As there is no KFC in Samsun, my classmates wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity, and while I refuse to eat American fast food while in Turkey, I made an exception to stay with my friends.
in Izmir
KFC lunch :P
After lunch we got back on the bus and rode about an hour and a half to Kuşadası, a touristy town where we would be staying. We got some time to rest, take showers and relax before we walked to a castle down town. Dinner at the hotel followed and then free time around town. During free time of the trip I spent time mostly with 7 of my girl friends as we all liked to go shopping and walk around. Therefore that evening was spent with my girls walking around and singing karaoke. If you ask almost any student that went on the trip, the best part was back at the hotel after check-in when we hung out in the rooms with our friends. The teachers made no restrictions so girls and guys hung out in the same room until they went to bed.
walking around :)
The next morning we went to the House of Virgin Mary. We walked through, lit candles and prayed, drank holy water, and made wishes with paper :).
most of the group :)
After that we went to Efes (Ephesus) which was amazing! It is an area of old ruins. The only bad part was that it was really hot and I got a little sunburnt :/.
a library
my classmates who went on the trip... 11E <3 
After a great buffet lunch we went to Saint John’s Aniti and an old mosque. Then we drove back to Kuşadası, the town where our hotel was, and went on a boat ride around the Aegean Sea.
We went back to our hotel to have dinner and rest. Then we went our to tour the town again, sang more karaoke, and visited starbucks! After checking in that night I watched Eurovision with a large group of my friends.
The next morning, after checking out of the hotel and driving about an hour, we had almost 4 hours of shopping time at a very large shopping center. I got some new clothes and took advantage of the sales :). Around 3:30 we got back on the bus and started our drive to Samsun. That night I actually slept a good amount compared to a lot of other people. I got off the bus at 5:30am, walked home, fell asleep in the clothes I was wearing, and slept until TÖMER.

It was a fantastic weekend, and I had a blast spending time with my friends. It turns out that the 16 hour bus ride wasn’t as bad as I expected. I slept more than anyone else on the trip. How fortunate for me! I had never been on a school trip before and this was a great first one!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summary of April

April was probably my host hectic month in Samsun so far. There was so much going on that I had no time to update my blog. Therefore please accept my apologies
On the night of April 1st I took the night bus to Ankara with my American Samsunites. We spent the morning of my 19th birthday planning trees wth the US Embassy in Ankara. We met the ambassador and got to do community service. It was great giving back to the earth on my birthday. In the afternoon we walked around a little before dinner. As I am here in Turkey on a scholarship from the US State Department, we have some special requirements as well as many benefits, one of them being having diplomat mentors to talk to about working in the foreign service. The woman who is in charge of us while we are in Turkey, Stefanie, invited us to her house for a potluck of American food to meet all of our mentors. It was great having foods that we have been longing for so long such as chilli, lasagna, garlic bread, cucpakes, girl scout thin mint ice cream, and root beer. It truly felt as if we had traveled back to the US for the evening, which was very culturally confusing, but very enjoyable. All 4 of us realized to a small extent what we will go through when we return back to the US in June. The next day walked around the city, went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch (which made me realize that I will never have Chinese food in Turkey again :P) and then returned back to Samsun later that evening.
cupcakes for my 19th birthday!
Lena and Cemre planting trees!

With the Abassador

On Friday April 15th my family came to visit me from the US over my brother’s April vacation. It was amazing to see them after so long, especially in Samsun. We spent our time in Samsun wakling around, touring, meeting my friends and family, and spending time together. We also went to Ankara for 2 days and they went to Capadoccia for 2 days, without me as I had school, to tour and see the sites. I took my brother to school one day with me and then we had lunch with my class, which was great. All of my classmates wanted to meet my family so it was great to finally introduce them.
My class with Greg

One of the best experiences was dinner at my house one Saturday night. It was a confusing at first since my family doesn’t know Turkish and my host family doesn’t know English, but as time went on things got more relaxed. It was truly enjoyable because my family got to experience traditional Turkish culture and see what I encounter all the time while being with people that are so special to me.

Family and Host Family
Family, Host Family, Sam's Host family and relatives
In the month of April all scattered around I also went to neighbor’s and relatives’ houses multiple times a week. My host mom wants to introduce me to her friends since she talks about me too them, so I went along with her and my host sisters quite often. I also rolled a lot of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) which you can see pictures below

I participated in a TÖMER knowledge competition against other non-Turks. And went on a picnic with the language school.

The last weekend of April I went to another SamsunSpor soccer game
All of us at the game :)
Sam's host sister

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Exam season part 2

Note: I wrote this post early last week, but they unblocked so i could post it myself now :)

First, I want to say that Turkey has blocked When I first got here in September YouTube was blocked becuase of anti-Atatürk videos and I think that the same is true now for Blogger. Therefore I have been unable to post for a while. Now, I email my posts to my parents in the US and they log on a post it for me.

Second, I have gotten very used to life in Turkey that I don`t really know what to post about anymore. It is all ritual to me and I don`t think of anything different anymore. If there is anything that you think I should post about please let me know :).

Exam season for the second semester has started. I know that I wrote about this before, but I wıll remind you of what this means now. I call it exam season because exams last from now until the end of the year. Some weeks students have multiple tests and some weekes they have none. These tests make up their final grade, becuase there are no regular tests and quizzes throughout the semester. They have at least 2 and up to 4 exams per class, depending on how important the class is. Also, this means that they cover material in a shorter amount of time. The other morning, my math teacher announced that we had covered all of the material we needed to until may so now they can just study, although then he did teach a little more in the following days.

The days of exams, the students beg the teachers to study for the tests rather than have class in the subjects they should having class for. You would never get away with this is int he US! For example, last week for the first exam of the semester, we had a geography test seventh, and last period, but first period they asked to study, and this continued all day. The teachers don't even bother planning to teach class since most won't be able to.

Unfortunately for me, although it is April, I am still unable to follow along in class. My Turkish is very good, but there is still so much vocabulary that I don't know, so I am unable to participate in most classes. The one class that I was hoping to follow along in before coming to Samsun is Math, and it is way beyond what I know and is impossible for me. Basically, I just dont know enough math and the type of math that they do here to be able to to participate in class.

I get really frustrated with school because it is pointless to go. It is basically our social lives, but it isn't all fun because during class we just sit there. AFS requires us to go to school, which I completely understand, but even one of our AFS liasons told us that we go to be social. The breaks between classes and free periods are fun, classes are not. There are teachers that let me study Turkish, read, or do something else in class, but then there are teachers that make me sit there and listen, even there is a lot that I don't understand. Turkish Literature class for example. We are studying old Turkish poetry... enough said. It is just hard... bahhhh! I like going to school, but it is pointless at times and frustrating.

It is okay though because I only have 3 months left. But that is really bad too because I only have 3 months left.I dont' want to leave Samsun, but I also really want to go to back to the US. It is going to be really difficult, I know, but it will be great! I know I will go through culture shock in reverse, but I am ready for it :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Typical Day

I have read other exchange students’ blogs and I realized that many of them describe what a typical weekday is like. I know that this is very late in my stay to do this, but I have had a change in schedule as of this week. Therefore, it seemed like an appropriate time to write a post about it :)

7:30-8:15 – I wake up and get ready for school. Luckily I have a uniform so it is pretty easy to pick out what I want to wear that day. The only choices I have are skirt or pants, or what sweater do I want to wear?

8:16-8:22ish – Walk to school… it is pretty close as you can see

8:30-12:05 – Classes at Atatürk Anadolu Lisesi. I have 4 classes in the morning before lunch with breaks in between.

12:05-1:00 –  Eat lunch with my class. After this I used to return to class, but now I don’t because our schedule changed

2:00-5:00 – TÖMER (my Turkish language classes). We used to go from 4-7pm which was really hard because it was after a full day of classes at school and we would be exhausted. We changed it so that it was earlier and this would be like our school.

5:00-6:00 – Relax at home with my host sisters before my host mom comes home

6:00-7:00 – My host mom comes home, prepares dinner and we eat

7:00-10:00 – Watch the TV show that is on that night, always a soap opera with my family. Multiple times a week relatives or neighbors come over to visit, or we go to their houses.

10:00-11:00 – I try to be in bed at 10, but sometimes I watch the end of the TV shows or read in bed before falling asleep. Most of the time I am asleep by 11, which is good.

Now, with our TÖMER classes being earlier in the day, we will get to rest more in the evenings. Also, I will be able to go running outside when the weather gets warmer. We were all looking forward to be able to working out more since we have noticeably gained weight now. It isn’t truly a bad thing, but we would rather work out more. Before, there was just no time to do anything, but now luckily we will have a few more hours to do things before it gets dark out, including hang out with our Turkish classmates sometimes, which we were never able to do before. Unfortunately, we won’t be in class with our Turkish friends in the afternoons, but this schedule just makes us happier :).

Another update in my life is that I have started an Ebru course with the other Americans. Ebru is a type of traditional Turkish art. Using utensils, oil-based paints are sprinkled on a water tank leaving the water looking almost marbled. A piece of paper is put onto the water and when taken off the oil paints stick to the paper. For more information look here: . We haven’t actually started Ebru yet, but we have been painting and learning more about colors before we start making Ebru. We weren’t expecting this, but it is a good experience. The class is on Saturday evenings, so it is a good reason to get out of the house on the weekends. We get bored on the weekends sometimes because most Turkish teenagers go to dersane so we can’t hang out with them during the day, which is the time we are allowed to be out of the house. It is good to relax and rest though.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beliefs/Ideas/Common Practices/Unsaid Rules of Samsun

I decided to put together a list of some beliefs/ideas/common practices/unsaid rules of Turkey, especially Samsun. I have been putting together this list for a while and I decided that it was long enough to post. Enjoy!

  • You can get sick from not wearing your slippers
  • Not wearing your slippers will make you infertile
  • You can get sick from the wind outside
  • You can get sick from going out with your hair slightly wet, even in the summer
  • You can get sick from sitting on the ground 
  • You can get sick by sitting against a bare wall without leaning on a pillow
  • You can get sick by not using an umbrella, even though you have on a raincoat with a hood
  • If you sit in somebody’s seat after they get up and it is still warm from them, their microbes might be transferred to you which in turn may make you sick
-From this you can see that many things that I do can make me sick, so it is a little difficult to explain that I actually get sick from things called germs that are passed through people or a virus going around

  • Ketchup and mayo on every food makes it 100 times better, or by piling yogurt on it 
  • Writing on your desk at school with pencil is completely normal because you can just erase it after
  • People that are apaçi (apache) think they are really cool but nobody else likes them
  • It is completely normal to "like" all pictures on FaceBook and friend the American even though you have only met once and didn't even catch their name
  • Going to dersane (school outside of regular school) is not only normal but necessary if you want to pass the college entrance exams because school doesn't prepare you enough
  • School is the youth’s social life, especially for girls because they can never go out in the evenings
  • Significant others should be kept secret, maybe you can tell your mom but you would NEVER under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE tell your father
  • Driving like a maniac is accepted everywhere, and any sane person would never drive here
  • Parking illegally isn't that much of a big deal, and stuffing 8 people into a car that regularly holds 5 is always accepted
  • Not having 10 min breaks between each class is unheard of... The teachers need their smoking break
  • You don't go into the boys bathroom during the breaks because it is where all the boys smoke
  • Eating a cup of yogurt a day will completely contradict smoking so you will be fine
  • You take your shoes off before you walk in the house. Basically you slide your feet out of the shoes without stepping on the ground and then take a big step into the house, you can’t even wear them in the entryway in smaller cities like Samsun. In larger cities such as Ankara, you can step into the entryway of the house and then take your shoes off, but never in Samsun
  • Young Turkish females do not go out of the house without spending hours on their hair and makeup beforehand, even if it just going to a good friend’s house. You always have to look your best!
  • Turkish women are masters of conserving space! Beds and couches have built-in compartments to hold clothes, books, extra blankets, or anything else you need to store
  • Once women marry and have kids, especially some of the older generations, it is completely normal for them to be a little overwight
  • Neighbors and family members are always over each others houses, especially for çay in the evenings and often come over without any notice
Note: This list was put together with the help of Lena Bichell, so we need to give her credit too :)

Also, in Turkey “çay” is a big part of the culture. Çay (pronounced chai) is tea, but it is black tea that is drunken everywhere, all the time. I have to say that since moving to my new host family I have become addicted. I have it every morning for breakfast, almost every evening while watching TV and often one more time during the day. At cafes you drink çay while playing cards or board games, or while just sitting and chatting with your friends, when you go to anybody’s house to visit çay is a necessity, and everyone needs çay to start their day. Now, in the evenings I need my çay otherwise I fall asleep. Çay is made in a çaydanlık, or a tea maker, which has two parts; the top holds the strong tea while the bottom holds just boiling water. This way you can make it as strong as you want and everyone can drink it the way they want. I also want to reiterate the point of drinking it steaming hot. Turkish people are used to drinking it steeping hot, but for me, I have to let it sit for at least 5 minutes and normally longer for it to cool to a temperature that won’t burn my mouth. 


Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Beş Tatil

I just finished February vacation, which in Turkey is also my winter vacation, and the only vacation I have for the rest of the year. I don’t even think I have any long weekends before the end of the school year, but I will survive. People in Samsun tend to call it “on beş tatil” which means fifteen holiday, for the 15 days that we don’t have school. AFS knew that we were going to have this break so they also gave us a break from TÖMER. Therefore, I have had a great break from all school.
During this break I relaxed a lot, stayed up late and woke up late, met a lot of relatives, visited with family members, saw school classmates, and only saw the Americans a lot. Some of the highlights of the break though were going to a Samsun Spor soccer game, attending a traditional Turkish engagement party, having a slumber party with lots of girls, and realizing the new potential of my Turkish language skills.
The Samsun Spor soccer game was a really fun, new experience. In the US men attend sporting events, but women do as well. That is not the case in Turkey as it is 95% men. I went with my host sisters, my American friend Sam, her host sisters, and her host dad. He goes to almost all of the games and sits with the same group of men, therefore we were protected when we attended. There was a lot of screaming, cheering, and jumping around involved. Before the game all of us girls got all decked out in Samsun Spor attire, which made the game even better!
before the Samsun Spor soccer game :)
My host cousin who lives downstairs got engaged over the break. We spend evenings at his house with him and my host aunt all the time, so he isn’t a stranger to me anymore. This happens for almost all marriages in Turkey. The engagement happens at the bride’s house while the marriage happens at the groom’s, so last Thursday night we all piled into cars to go to her house. All of the women went into one apartment while the men went to the apartment above it. The reason for this festivity is for the bride and groom to meet all of the relatives. Basically think about inviting every single relative you have and all of their relatives and piling everyone into one room. It is quite overwhelming. There is a lot of kissing and hugging that goes on the whole evening. After a while the groom comes into the women’s room accompanied by his father and the bride’s father for the exchanging of rings. The rings are tied together with a red ribbon and after they say that they will get engaged the ribbon is cut. Then, both the bride and groom have an engagement ring that they wear until they get married. After that, we all got cake and cookies to eat accompanied by juice boxes. Comment: Juice boxes in the US are normally considered for children, but in Turkey people of all ages drink juice boxes all the time. My host cousin has to complete his year in the military before he turns 30 by Turkish law, and since he is 29 he will be starting in a few months. Therefore the wedding will be next fall and unfortunately I won’t be in Samsun for it.
my host family with the soon to be bride and groom
lots of pictures!

pasta = cake!!

all of the shoes outside the apartment as you can't wear them in the house :P

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Host Family :)

It has been about 5 weeks since I switched host families, but I have had troubles connecting to the internet and not much time to write, which is why it has taken me so long to write a post. I now have a host mom and 2 host sisters, Cansu (16) and Ceren (13). They are very warm and welcoming, and love to hug and kiss me all the time. I feel very loved here and already a part of the family even though it has been only a few weeks. We live on the second floor in our apartment building. Directly below us live my host aunt and cousin, and across from her is my host grandmother. Another host aunt and her husband are staying with the grandmother while they sell their house in another city and buy an apartment in Samsun. We are always with family here and they make me feel right at home.
There seems to be a curse on the men that marry into my host family because my host mother’s ex-husband, her father, and her brother-in-law have all passed away (I can’t think of another way to explain it). Therefore, I am always with females. The cousin that lives downstairs is a man, but he doesn’t always come up to our house to drink tea in the evenings. It is a completely different experience only living with women because everything is more open. I was a little shocked about how open things in my family were at first, but now I am completely used to the openness. The other side of not having a male figure in the household is that many things are more conservative out of the house. Girls are not allowed to go out at night a lot anyway, but if there is a father or an older brother he can go pick up the girl at night. In my case, the 2 times I went out in the evening after dinner, I had a male classmate walk me home so that my host mom felt I was protected.
my host family and women relatives
My house is in the center of the city very close to my school and TÖMER. It is much more easily accessible and I get to spend more time at home with my family.  It takes me about 5 minutes to walk to my school and about 5 minutes to walk home after language class. The location is partially because of the fact that we don’t have a car as my host mom does not have her license; she doesn’t need one. It is great that I have to walk everywhere because it is the only exercise I am getting these days.

my host sisters :) 
Right now I am on winter vacation from school for 2 weeks. The first semester ended, and since we don’t get days off for Christmas/New Years, we have a break now. I have been seeing classmates, my American friends, hanging out with my family and relatives, and relaxing a lot. It is really good to get a break from school, and TÖMER as well.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Christmas/New Years!

For Christmas, the 4 of us (SALL - Samantha, Abigail, Lena, Lucas) did not want to stay in Samsun. We wanted to go to the AFS Christmas party in Ankara to celebrate it with other people that celebrate this holiday, in a country where very few people celebrate it. We finally got the okay to go and we boarded the typical midnight train to Ankara on the Thursday before Christmas. Our weekend in Ankara ended up being much more eventful than we expected, which was very exciting. We visited my host mom and brother from the 6 weeks I spent in Ankara last summer, went to the AFS Christmas party, walked all around the center, and visited a friend of Lena’s family. It was really good to see our friends, and we had a great time just relaxing in Ankara. Even though we just sat in cafes and talked, it was much more exciting and relaxing than being in Samsun. I ended opening up my Christmas presents the morning of the 26th because I wasn’t at home on the 25th, but that was fine with me. Thank you so much to everyone who made my Christmas enjoyable. It was definitely very different not being at home with my immediate family, but I was with my Samsun family of this year which is what really counts.
Our Christmas Tree for 2010!

Christmas picture with our AFS volunteer friend!
My New Year’s celebration was very relaxed as well. I went to Lena’s house to celebrate it with her, her host sisters, some cousins, and some friends. It was great to just relax with the girls. The holiday’s here are not as big as they are in the US, but it is great to celebrate them differently, especially since I will celebrate them the American way for many years to come!