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.