Friday, July 6, 2012

Evime Dönüyorum

I never claimed to be very good at keeping up with things- my diaries are almost always left half blank, forgotten on a shelf somewhere; my stories end without barely beginning; my videos remain as choppy clips; and my blog, well, my blog doesn't get updated too frequently.

And now... it's done... And now... I'm going home?

Well, that certainly sounds strange. I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home. Evime dönüyorum? How terrifically odd! I feel like I already am home, it feels like normal, it's what I'm always doing. I sit on my bed and writewritewrite about... well about nothing in particular. This isn't much change from the usual. Except that tomorrow I'll be stepping aboard a plane... to home?

How can I think of 'home' as home? For the past year Turkey has been my home. I've sat up late laughing with my family and watching movies and reading books and it all feels like normal. Except it's been another language, another culture, another country. I am so impressed that life becomes lifelike no matter where I am. A very wise woman told me that the surroundings and the people aren't what make your life your life, it's you that makes it yours. And I'll stick with that wholeheartedly.

I want to thank all the people without whom this year couldn't be possible- my Rotarians in both America and Türkiye, my amazing host families (all four of them!), my amazing exchange student friends (my Rotary family, my lovely YFUers, and the new found AFSers, as well as the summer exchange students I just met), the people from school who took me in and befriended me, my parents who helped me to get started, and my wonderful American friends who supported me when times got tough.

Türkiye'yi çok seviyorum! Herkese çok teşekkürler! Sizi çok özleyeceğim ama gene döneceğim ve buluşacağız! <3

Sunday, May 13, 2012

En Büyük Galatasaray!!!

I am from New England, a place where we take baseball seriously. Where we cheer for the Boston Red Sox... or whoever beats the New York Yankees. Where we sing "Sweet Caroline" -BA BA BA!- and we'll "Take [You] Out to the Ballgame." I am a Sox fan, and proud of it.
I think this might be why I can easily understand the rivalry between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe - the two biggest football (soccer) teams in Turkey.
I support Galatasaray, one of the teams from İstanbul. Their colors are red and gold, and their mascot is a lion. (How could I not support them, it's Gryffindor!) My first host grandmother and my second family are  huge supporters, and their enthusiasm transfered on to me. I've found that no matter where I go, no matter what I do, people will ask what team I support. It helps to find something in common, to find something to talk about, something like football.
Watching Galatasaray supporters march down the street in Kızılay
Yesterday, it was the final match of the season, down to the last two teams - Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. After spending a delightful day in Kızılay with some friends and buying lots of Galatasaray merchandise, I went to the Golf Club with Fernanda and my second host family. We sat in our chairs and ate tavuk şiş, on the edge of our seats, waiting to see who would win the championship. My host sister, Naz, kept coming over and screaming "EN BÜYÜK GALATASARAY!" (Galatasaray is the best!) We couldn't help but to agree with her. Balls were kicked, red cards were given, but no goals were scored. With a tie of zero, the game went into overtime. Because Galatasaray had won the previous game, they were declared the winners! ŞAMPIYON!!!
Going to this game definitely helped me to see a bit into Turkish culture - they LOVE their football! Being able to experience this with my Turkish friends and family really helped me to see how important football is here, how it brings Turks together to support teams and creates an interesting dynamic in society. I can remember how when I was living with my first host mother, the little boys on the servis (schoolbus) would ask me "Hangi takım tutuyorsun?" and I would respond with Galatasaray. While some of the boys would give me high-fives and cheer for "Cim bom bom" others would cluck their tongues and shake their heads. (Girl picked the wrong team, tsktsk).

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience - following the games throughout the season, waiting to see what it all boiled down to - who would win, who would lose. Being a part of it and seeing the final match really helped me to understand how sports are really important and how they can bring people together, no matter where they are from.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Aa, bugün çok iyiydi! Gelecek Cuma günü, arkadaşım Mathe'nin doğum günü olacak (o da bir öğrenci değişım, Brezilya'dan), ama biz bu hafta sonu kutladık. Arkadaşlarımla ben Luna Park'a gittim. Çok eğlendik!

Today was such a fantastic day! Next Friday is my friend Mathe's birthday (he's another exchange student, from Brazil), but we celebrated it today. With my friends, we went to Luna Park. We had so much fun!

Luna Park 
Fernanda waiting for her doom 

Mathe ve ben
This was a really fantastic experience, because I had never been to a Turkish amusement park. It was great! Although there were no intense rollercoasters, we still had a blast on the spinny, make-your-stomach-drop rides! We even made new friends waiting in line- some Turkish soldiers who wanted to hear all about America and Brazil, and of course how much we love Turkey!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Evleri Değistirdim - Changing Families

I'm still bad at keeping up... WHAT HAPPENED? In the beginning I would post once or twice a week, and now I don't even have time to post once every two months. Okay. Let's go.

I'd like to talk about switching families, which is one of the Rotary program ideals. Most people have at least three families so that they can see different aspects of life in another culture. A few weekends ago I switched from my second family to my third, but I never really talked about what it's like moving from my first to my second. So here it goes:

Moving families is stressful. My thought process: Poop! I have to put all the things in the suitcases and somehow get the suitcases from one end of the city to the other, and meanwhile my things have quadrupled in number and nothing fits and- Ohno! I'll have to truck all this stuff back to the States and its like a 22 kilo weight thingy and- Gack! NOTHING FITS.

Fact: I fit in my suitcases, my things do not.

Moving from my first family to my second was a big life change. I had gotten used to (in 3,5 months) to living in a two bedroom apartment very close to the city center, a lot of freedom and responsibility, and living with just anne, my mother.

1st house, in summer
Then, in a flash of light and a swirl of packing, I found me and my luggage in the bedroom of my new home - something equivalent to a Beverly Hills mansion. I had two parents, a dog, and a little sister. And we lived in the "country," which is to say that I have to walk a ways through the streets in order to get from bus to house.

2nd house, in winter
And now, I live with my third family, again in the city. I'm learning to ride the metro with ease and use a combination of transportation to get to my destination (rhyming...). I live in a three bedroom apartment with Anne (my fantastic chef of a host mother), Elif (my amazing host sister who loves all the same things as me), and sometimes Anneanne, my tiny, funny grandmother.

3rd house, in spring
This is one aspect of the Rotary program that I really like- being able to experience different things. I am certainly learning more about Turkey and Turkish families by having different experiences with all three.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Let's Play Catch Up

Oh good god... I've really neglected this haven't I? Two months, my goodness. I've so much to say, and I've started to say it in other blog posts... but I never got around to finishing them... So Instead I will grace you with the loveliness that is this really huge, covers everything, magnificent and crazy blog post. Hadi ya! Let's go!

Kapadokyan Christmas
So for Christmas (I haven't posted since Christmas? Oha...) we went to Kapadokya (Cappadocia). It was beautiful and historical and wonderful and awesome! It was great being able to spend a special time with my exchange family. We took a bus down from Ankara and went to see a pottery-maker, as well as fairy chimneys, 2nd and 3rd century chapels, as well as each other. We had a great time laughing and seeing the sights - it was definitely one of the best Christmasses.

New Years
New Years in Turkey was definitely a different experience from what I'm used to. At home I'll usually go to a friend's house and we'll drink sparkling cider (that's what it's called, right?) and stay up until midnight and later and watch the ball drop and play video games and do silly things. Here it is a family gathering. We had my baba's side of the family over, down to the last little cousin. We put up a 'New Years tree' and had a fantastic dinner. Then, we played bingo until we held hands and watched the countdown 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, and then lots of cheek kissing and Turkish coffee.

My host sister, Naz :)
Never have I ever gotten my hair cut by a man. Never have I ever gotten my hair cut in Türkiye. Never have I ever felt more like a post-pubescent Shirley Temple.
Note on this: My hair is now just a little bit (quite a lot a bit) purple.

Izzy's Book Suggestions:
The Dervish Gate by Ahmet Ümit and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. These books work together in an amazing tandem, bringing forth new ideas about whirling dervishes, Rumi (Mevlana) and the spiritual love that transcends a physical one.

NOTE: I will have another blogpost coming quite soon about the gloriousness that was our giant Turkey tour :D

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Afiyet Olsun, İzzy Style

Contrary to what the title may suggest, this post is not about food. I promise I will write about Turkish cuisine very soon. It is amazing, it is delicious, it is fantastic, but no, this post isn't that post. This post is about books.

If you know me, you probably have known for a long time my love of words. And if you don't know me, you should figure that out fast. I love words. Expression is everything and communication is important. I love books more than I love a lot of things in life. I could survive on books alone for nourishment (maybe supplemented with chocolate and coffee?). I could definitely be the young lawyer in 'The Bet', one of my favorite short stories by Chekhov.

I almost always have a book on me, and if I'm of the inclination (it seems to me that I am always of the inclination) I might pull it out and turn a few pages. It might be philosophical and deep like 'Sophie's World' or 'War and Peace.' It might be lighthearted like the 'Harry Potter' series. It might be one of my dog-eared, war-torn favorites like 'The Book Thief' or 'Life of Pi.' Truth is, when it comes to reading, I get around the library.

Now, why am I talking about this? Books... not really seemingly related to my adventures in Turkey, are they? Ha! Wrong! Books are my everything. Of course they're important. Of course I'm going to talk about them.

Books in Turkey are an interesting thing for me. The art of reading seems to be not as cherished as the use of modern technology. And don't get me wrong, I love technology, but nothing compares to the musty pages of a second hand book or the crisp scent of one right off the press. I would never trade in my paperbacks for a Nook or a Kindle, no matter how much lighter-weight they are and how much more efficient. I like the heft of a book, the feel of the paper between my fingers. I'll always travel with my backback of books, ready to sit down and pull one out anywhere, at any time. And if I'm starving, well, I've got words to eat and if truly necessary, I've got a good source of fiber.

Eating in Turkey is important - you go to someone's house and they'll feed you, whether you're hungry or not. Eating is just as important to me, but I think that words are sufficient snacks, and if you're reading something good, I think you should enjoy.

When I see someone reading, I want to say 'afiyet olsun,' bon appetit, enjoy! Books are amazing, books are wonderful, books are delicious! Books are a good source of sustenance for the imagination. Eat up!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey in Türkiye

Thanksgiving is for sure one of my favorite holidays - I mean really, who doesn't love a holiday based on bloatation? Also that I get to spend time with family and friends is a biggie. But the main purpose of the holiday is to express your thankfulness for what you've got.

I really have a lot to be thankful for.

I'm so happy to be having this experience - it really is more than I could have hoped for.

I have amazing friends both here and at home, who give me all the support I could ever want. They are just amazing. I'm thankful for my friends.

I have a fantastic host mom - she's absolutely wonderful. And she's a fantastic cook and laughs when I do stupid things. I am so thankful for her.

I have an amazing Rotary club both here and at home who are supporting me no matter what. I am so thankful to them for sending me and receiving me and keeping me happy and safe. I am so thankful for my clubs.

And my actual parents... I couldn't be more thankful for them. They are the ones who helped me to become an exchange student, filling out all the paperwork in BLUE INK. They talked me through my college application process and now the scholarship process. They keep me sane and help me to correct my English grammar. They help me make sense of all of the languages in my head. They are amazing. I am SO thankful for them.

Thanksgiving today was absolutely wonderful. We went to the Turkish American Association for Thanksgiving dinner (we being me and my other awesome Ankara exchangers - Samuel, Fernanda, Abby, Gaia, Rio and Paulina). We spent the evening laughing and eating, granted, not to the amount normally served at a Thanksgiving feast, but, you win some, you lose some.

Thank you for such a fantastic evening!