Homecoming

I did not expect to be this emotionally conflicted about whether or not I was satisfied coming back to America. But, unfortunately, leaving is not the easiest deal.

The last week with my host family and my friends seemed sort of unreal. On tuesday’ I said  my goodbyes to everyone at the Huzur evi. All of the teyze’s came at Iftar (the evening meal after fasting during the day for Ramazan) and I was waiting for them helping prepare with the workers’ setting the table and watching Sepil teyze make kizartma from eggplant from the garden. I had to eat Iftar with my family, so the good-byes were quick, but not quick enough for them to not be able to force me to promise to come back and see them again. I told them not to move, and they re-assured me they would stay right here.

Turkey is like a second home, I have a life there; family, friends, school, volunteering, and it was harder to leave this life then leaving my first when I came here from America.

T-1

I have about one month left in Turkey, and I feel a little bad writing this because in the most important time I have spent here (the past few months), I have written nothing. Now out of panic that there is only one month left to remember of this trip I am trying to record more.

Yesterday was the big election day. As I watched the news showing the vote counts, I was not surprised. Actually no one was surprised that Akparti was dominating the polls.  Because of the party’s associations with the Muslim brotherhood, it was obvious AKP’s president (Ahmet Davutoğlu) and his speech aroused a lot of religous hype from the crowd. As Davutoğlu went on about the ‘holy country’ and its operative ‘democracy,’ the crowds chants of ‘Allah’u Akbar!’ (‘god is the greatest’) were so loud, he himself had to stop intermittingly until the zeal subsided. I have never seen such close and explicit attachment between religion and politics.

My city, Aydın, had the highest amount of CHP (Cumhurriyet Halk Partisi) voters along with other cities in the Ege region like Muğla and Izmir. In the eastern cities like Diyarbakır and Van, the votes were 70-80 percent HDP’li (Halkların Demokratik Partisi). Because of the demographics in Turkey and where certain ethnic groups have moved, the parties’ representations seemed to be grouped in sections of the country, except, I suppose,  the AKP.

On a different note, school ending has brought more excitement than the Seçimler. School actually has not ended yet, but no one comes to school. At most, two people will sit in my class playing cards all day because they can not miss anymore days of school or they will get held back. I like to come because I do not have much time left studying there, and there is usually a group to hang out with or play basketball with, but I have also taken this time to relax and travel around Aydın. There is a city close-by I like to go to with friends which has really nice beaches. Going there to swim is honestly the best vacation students can get. A day trip to Kuşadası, where the bus is only 18 tl both ways, and you can spend the day swimming and laying on the beach. A very economical and beautiful place.

The thing I have appreciated the most this past month, though, is definitely my host family. I moved late May to a new house, very close to my school. I love being at home at the dinner table with my host family, or playing Xbox or finishing bags and bags of sunflower seeds together. The first night at home we went to my host grandparents and I met all of my cousins and aunts and uncles there, it was one of the best nights of my whole year. I felt immediately at home, when the whole family was just as excited to meet me as I was to meet them. That night I learned about the family, and that good feeling you have when you match with people brightened my view of Turkey and the rest of the time I will be here.

We have also, since that night, met with my moms side of the family who are equally as lively and welcoming. I feel so lucky to have met them and they also wanted to host student. Still learning new things all the time here; new fruits, new idioms, and new faces, and I think that continuous learning is something to celebrate.

 

-Priya

İstanbul

The recent, well-anticipated trip to Istanbul!

In May, I went on a school trip to the biggest, brightest city in Turkey, population 13 million, shared between Europe and Asia. Many of the people that live in Istanbul do not recommend following in their footsteps. The traffic and crowd is always present and because of the size, it is hard to travel around quickly or cheaply. But going to experience the history and beauty of the city was such a different, culturally over-flowing experience that I am definitely thinking of going again in the last month.IMG_2002 IMG_2006 IMG_2007 IMG_2015 IMG_2018 IMG_2020 IMG_2024 IMG_2030 IMG_2035 IMG_2041 IMG_2047 IMG_2063 IMG_2064 IMG_2065 IMG_2081 IMG_2093 IMG_2106 IMG_2112 IMG_2128 IMG_2139 IMG_2143 IMG_2144 IMG_2145 IMG_2147 IMG_2151 IMG_2153 IMG_2156 IMG_2158 IMG_2164 IMG_2167 IMG_2170 IMG_2173 IMG_2175 IMG_2177 IMG_2178 IMG_2184 IMG_2185 IMG_2187 IMG_2189 IMG_2193 IMG_2198 IMG_2200 IMG_2201 IMG_2203 IMG_2207 IMG_2210 IMG_2217 IMG_2218 IMG_2219 IMG_2221 IMG_2223 IMG_2224 IMG_2225 IMG_2230 IMG_2231 IMG_2237

A loss in the family

Thursday I came home from school. It was a normal school day, we are in test period so to study for geography the next day we all went right home. But as Ezgi, my host sister, and I were settling down on the sofa to relax a bit I got a text from my friend in America asking how I was doing. I was only half engaged, laying down and watching TV, but then she said ‘I’m sorry about your grandpa.’

I sat up a bit because there was only one implication I got from ‘I’m sorry about your grandpa,’ which she confirmed after a second. My grandfather, who I call ‘Dadaji,’ in Hindi, had passed away. I could not physically move for about ten minutes. Then I put my legs on the ground and went upstairs to my room where I shamelessly cried, squeezing my face with all the sudden energy that had rushed to my hands. My friend Leah came over and we condolled in my room eating ice cream. As I got over the crying, I just started getting angry and tried to curse all the metaphysical elements that brough ton this sudden, deep loss. I tried to tell Leah what it was like, but I couldn’t make sense of anything coming out of my mouth, so she probably could not either. Then, my parents called and when my mom said ‘Hi honey how are you doing?’ my breath caught again and the same feeling of all my bones and muscles being pressed into my heart started again. I  just started silently crying and choking again. For some reason it felt humiliating not being able to control my emotions after hearing my parents voices on the phone.

After talking to them, there was nothing to do but hug Leah because though she does not know Dadaji, she is the closest family I have here. We left immediately to get food and try to talk about some positive things to heal a bit. Kyle joined us and the three exchange students went to the center to get Döner and eat away some feelings. It was fun and talking to them makes me enjoy life again, but there was still that feeling, I think a lot of people feel when they have lost someone, where something is pushing down on your shoulders, making them tired and bent over into a ‘cansız’ (like torpid) slouch.

We ate sunflower seeds and walked around the city until my host dad, who got the news about my grandpa, wanted to pick me up. We went to get Ezgi dinner (since I had eaten already) and my host dad said ‘başınız sağolsun’ which is the Turkish ‘sorry for your loss.’ He asked how I was doing and a little bit about my grandpa. He told me about when he lost his grandpa. But, when concluding the topic he said that his career as a surgeon made it hard for him to feel the same way and be able to condol and understand how I feel. Then he started talking about Çannakale war during WW1 and I just kind of switched my mind off and though about Dadajı and İndia.

School on friday was rough. I had told my best friend Sena about what happened and she was very supportive and understanding. She gave me a hug and just in general makes me feel better. I also told my friend who I was sitting with what happened because he was asking me why I didn’t study for the geography test. He also gave me a hug and said başınız sağolsun but then he told everyone who came up and greeted me after that. When other people in my class found out there were very mixed, uncomefortable reactions, actually. One girl just laughed and was like ‘are you serious?’ and then still laughing said ‘oh başınız sağolsun’ and turned around. One kid just showed me a video of an old lady pooping on the floor of a hospital after my friend told him. Anyway, everything at school was so annoying so after lunch with Sena I just left. Turkish class also came off as annoying.

When I went to my Turkish grandparents house after class, my host grandpa welcomed me in and was saying all this ‘I am happy now that I see you’ and my host grandma kept asking ‘nasılsın iyisin dimi?’ Grandparents are so special and I’ll tell you why Dadaji was so to me.

People in Indian culture have the biggest hypothetical wingspan to hug everyone with. They are close to eachother, and HONESTLY care about one another. My grandpa and grandma there are my closest family who is a part of that culture (except my dad). Going to India to see them and spend time with them were some of the most special trips I have taken and I think I will ever take. Last november was the last time I saw him and I remember his face while he was resting in the rocking chair in the living room so clearly. When he was resting like that I would see the resemblence between him and my dad.  I remember us going to the Taj Mahal together but making a slow trip because he could only walk with these sweet little steps while holding on to Dadiji’s (grandma) arm. During the trip before I remember sitting on his lap while he helped me do my math homework and him taking me and my brother out to Pizza Hut to hang out. When he heard on the phone that I had gotten this scholarship, his excitement made this experience seem way more worth it at the time when I was still debating whether or not to go. When I called my grandma today she was crying a lot but I could hear her say ‘he was so happy for you.’

That kind of happiness was so abundantly shared whenever I talked to or saw my grandparents in India. That is why Dadaji, you will be missed. Tomorrow his ashes will be spread on the River Ganges. Thinking of my family during this time, with love,

Priya

 

If you are not watching…

200 days can fly right by. And fly can’t even describe what life in Turkey has been like, flying seems like an almost vapid way to describe how Turkey has been so far. Not every day has been a wild experience, but between getting out of bed in the morning and falling back into it at night, it seems like there is always something new to laugh at or learn here. At school, the energy mode throughout the day keeps increasing and climaxes at lunch, the ‘best class’ of course. My classroom is always active on the breaks, but like school in america, during class, sleep is always right around the corner. Especially with sleepers, the interaction between some of my teachers and classmates is so casual, it’s really funny. They come into class and after the usual greeting exchange, the teachers take time to settle everyone and start. Some teachers will sit and wait for the class to get quiet on its own, but that takes a long time and most just hit the table, raise their voice, or use other methods for silence. As opposed to this, there only seems to be about one actual teaching template, which is lecturing. No doubt, I have learned a lot in those lectures and also reviewed a lot from biology and chemistry which I have studied before, but the same feeling of being able to touch the science or watch it happen is not there, so the information seems more unreachable or abstract. Also, of course I wasn’t able to follow classes for a long time so now that I am understanding, studying on and figuring concepts from class out on my own is the new goal.

This month the nation college entrance exam for Turkish 12th graders (LYS) opened the results, and it was cause for a lot of excitement. One of the 12th graders at our school was ranked 32 in all of Turkey and out of the 2 million high schoolers that took the tests, a couple others were in the top 100s. But aside the success stories, there were the many other frustrated students that instead of celebrating, were crying on the day the scores came out. The emotional reaction from the test also spread to teachers. Many of our teachers took their class period to talk about the tests (LYS and also YGS which is taken in June) and enforce the importance of studying NOW to do well on them. There is such an expectation from early on to be focused on these tests, it seems the moment you enter high school your only goal is to score as high as possible on a test 4 years away

The 22nd of march was also the Persian/Kurdish new year; Nervuz. We celebrated the holiday at school by skipping the last couple of classes to go outside. Even the teachers took a break and spent some time with students in the Garden. There were many festivities including sack-racing, tug of rope, and a yoghurt-eating contest.

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Our turkish classes that were normally 3 times a week after school are finishing soon. These have helped so much in all of our speaking skills and gave us a chance to ask questions about the language to each other and the teacher. Although most of the grammar topics we studied I had already learned on my own or in america, it was still really helpful to review and be able to ask my friends questions and share what we had learned.The past few classes have mostly conversational and trying to explain more advanced topics to our teacher like politicians or different coutries’ military policies in Turkish. Though we have progressed a lot in our turkish, there are still very frustrating times where on a very nuanced topic, we can only give basic, bold answer that is not our exact opinion. When we are together, we can help each other get through those mis-understandings and practice.

There have been a lot of times where I’ve wanted to write about more individually interesting/special moments, but it has been busy and I dont think it will be getting any less busy for the next three months, so I’ll just have to keep them in my mind for any reflection blogs.

Thanks for reading!

$tability

This month I have established a few things: I have begun volunteering at a nursing home, joined a fitness program, and, as usual, made progress in my understanding of Turkish culture.

We started volunteering at a ‘huzur evi,’ or nursing home, but with a Turkish twist. A huzur evi is a house where every day of the week a different group of elderly people meets for the whole day, socialize and eat together. Our job is to serve them food and tea and coffee or anything else they like, and in between we can talk with them. When we first met the group, it was a little intense because we were walking into a room of people who had a lot more life experience than us, and spoke a language we still didn’t have the full hang of. When we walked in they were all sitting in a circle, so we walked to the middle of their circle and stood there and started introducing ourselves. I introduced myself first, and, as always, trying to learn my name was an effective icebreaker. They could not pronounce my name ‘Priya’, so after a couple tries they decided to just give me the Turkish name, ‘Perihan.’ After they were finished laughing about my new name, the very popular question came up: “Do you like Turkey?” Leah, Kathryn, Kyle and I were all nodding and expressing our agreement about loving it, and I think that genuine affection for the culture helped us get close wıth our new group of grandparents (they told us that we are family now and can call them ‘ninem’ and ‘dedem,’ or ‘my grandmother/father’ in English). In the times I have volunteered since we started, I have learned so much about the older side of the culture that I don’t get to see at school or otherwise in my daily routine. I am so happy for this opportunity to listen and learn about their lives, especially since it was one of my goals to get to know how Turkey’s culture has changed over time.

One of my favorite memories from the huzur evi was from last Tuesday when I went to volunteer. The meeting was really lively. I met a woman who was really sweet so we started talking, and at one point she asked me what I wanted to be. I said I wanted to be a doctor. Many of the men and women I had met before had not passed third grade, and most of the women had been house-wives their whole lives but this woman was different—she was happy to hear I am an aspiring medical student and was very encouraging and enthusiastic. She told about her experience as a nurse for 20 years, and it turns out that she had the most education out of everyone I had met there. This woman who had lived many years by herself told me about the feeling she had holding a newborn baby; rejoicing over new life! Hearing the fondness in her voice about being a nurse made me want to be a doctor even more, and although I haven’t decided yet, I couldn’t help but long for that same satisfaction this woman had from her life and work.

Another person I met was pretty special as well—the imam at the mosque near my house! All of the people there are very religious, but even before I knew he was an imam, I could see his absolute belief in Islam. He sang one of the call to prayers (most of the time they pray after eating or sometimes pray because they feel like singing a song about Allah, just because they are feeling grateful) and the whole time his eyes were closed and his head bowed. He asked what my religion was, and since I didn’t want to offend these peoples’ deep-rooted belief in God, I said I am Christian. The imam was very calm and started a conversation amongst the group about how all gods are the same and that it is something personal you feel in your heart. I couldn’t understand all of what he said, but I could tell that he was just a really holy person, and his strength in his faith was one of the most important things about him. There was a disagreement between two of the older people and he calmed things down, he encouraged my understanding of Islam and explained a lot of things about the religion (which I, unfortunately, could not follow entirely). It was another humbling and enlightening moment that I could not have experienced anywhere except where I am now.

In other, less important news, I joined a gym. I have to work off all this delicious food I have been eating every day. Elinize sağlık to my family. I also have to work off the three different cakes I ate at my birthday. I had a party with my Turkish classmates, my Turkish family, and my American friends. They were all super fun—it was an amazing week of party and I want to thank everyone for that. I also got to talk to my friends who were getting ready for a school dance last night and that was like another gift. They were all together, and it gets a little crazy, but I miss that party :).

Also the more places I go, the more I can learn about other parts of the culture that are not part of the modern, progressive Turkey; like Aydın. I went on a school trip to Bursa and Uludağ for a couple days with my class and I got to see a lot of Ottoman historical landmarks in Bursa. We saw the tombs of many Ottoman kings and also visited many Ottoman villages. We learned about the history of those kings and their prosperity. It was apparent how rich that time period was by the size and embellishment on their tombs and stories of their legacies. We learned about Orhan Gazi who conquered Bursa during his reign and learned about his father who was the first Ottoman king. In addition to learning some history, we also went to Uludağ where we got to hang out in the snow! I realized how much I miss snow! We had a snowball fight and were falling all over the place trying to walk through the deep parts, and everyone was really excited because it never snows in Aydın! This was the first time I had seen snow all year and it was all nice and powdery. I was also able to hike up to the top of a mountain nearby. The view was amazing up there—we could see a lot of other mountains and they all seemed covered in this blue mist. I just stood and looked at the mountains for a while before the cold hit us and we hiked slowly down, watching the mist paint over this picturesque winter wonderland.

January, and the New Year, has brought on a lot of great things already, and I can’t wait for what is to come.


My friend Elsa, living in Samsun, just made a video covering our time here from September to January. I recommend checking it out!

https://agrandbazaaryear.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/140-day-dream/

A question

Very recently I was asked by a friend in the US, “What is the point of being in Turkey?” After giving a very basic description of the Kennedy-Lugar scholarship’s mission of making connections across cultures, I was reprimanded for my “text-book answer.”

But, let’s think about it.

I do believe that becoming part of a Turkish family and making new Turkish friends is critical to experience how cultures operate. Living in Turkey gives me a more nuanced knowledge and a closer perspective on the culture than I could have gotten reading textbooks or watching TV. Speaking of watching TV, there is this TV show here, Maceracı,  that I watch with my family in the mornings while we eat breakfast. Each program goes to a different place in Turkey, and the host of the show walks around the city showing us some of the everyday cultural practices in these places. This is one way to learn about a culture, but there is a downside: Food has a very special place in the Turkish culture, and the host of this TV show uses this “food-as-culture” idea to showcase the different places he goes. The host is always trying new foods, and tasting different specialties; thus, the focus on Turkey’s different delicacies is shown as the center-piece of culture. Because he is always talking out the food, the time to talk about other important aspects of the cities of Köy’s (village’s) culture that are probably more important, is limited. So we remain ignorant about the place’s daily reailty, except for the interesting foods one can find there. This is satisfying if you are just watching TV in the morning, not trying to digest any real information (only food), but in Turkey I am trying to take in everything around me. What I mentioned about Turkish TV-show, unfortunately, is the state of TV-shows all around the world. In the States, CNN (or worse, Fox) presents a rather skewed perspective on the Muslim culture, which the ‘haters’ of difference can take to extremes. This is why I want to be aware of this culture in all my senses: listening, feeling, learning what the Muslim culture is really like. I live here with the same purpose as an anthropologist does, but one who is also presenting to the local folks here the culture of the US–a cross-cultural communication–so that learning can go both ways.

But, I was shocked I couldn’t convince my friend of this “mission.” I see what I have really accomplished in the last four months in Turkey. Every day has not always been a significant learning experience, but I have slowly acculturated into my Aydın community. It is a struggle sometimes to focus on learning the new language, historical and cultural influences, and standards of social behavior, which, you could say, is the purpose of exchange. And observation is only part of what it takes to effectively immerse, it also takes willpower to “do as the Romans do;” be a part of the culture as much as you possibly can.

It is most difficult when when your previous culture is fingertips away on social media. Maybe activity on social media has kept me too connected with american culture, but it also helps me connect with my host culture because I get to formulate and share my experience in Turkey with friends and family in America. Social media like whatsapp and instagram are also helpful to communicate with my turkish friends, so İve decided to stay on social media because of that tradeoff.

Other than blogging and social media interactions with individuals in America, I havent been actively  trying to research or academically portray  my life in Turkey yet.  But now,  I can challenge myself to a more find a palpable way to present Turkish culture. I have not been thinking about my capstone project (the overarching output from YES exchanges), but I am going to start especıally after I have been doubted on my purpose here after 4 month.

How have I been familiarizing?

Though I wish I was a Türk already, it takes time to immerse. The time can be frustrating but generally I am happy in my small city and precious Aydın family. If you haven’t heard much about my life here from other medias, here is an overview on the best parts about my exchange so far (mostly family and food).

My grandparents are my favorite people because their immediate hospitality and accepting of me was more than I could ask for when I first came and was feeling alone. They have always shared their food, house and love and I cannot explain how nice it feels to visit them. Though my conversations with them are not extensive, their presence is enjoyable and we can just sit and watch TV together as a family. My host mom also teaches me about Turkish culture; she taught me how to make tea and took me to the Pazar. My host dad actually told me tonight I was addicted to tea, or in turkish, “çay tiryakisi”.

My host family’s friends who come over often are also like famıly to me; I call them Teyze and Amca (like aunt and uncle). One of the first nights we had dinner with them I was squıshed with my Teyze, sister and host mom but my Teyze just put her arm around me,  pulled me close and said “naber annecım” like “whats up, honey.” Then I asked about  her work at the hospital and we talked about daughter in İzmir, who I can tell she really loves. Now, everytime they come over, I go downstairs to visit with them even though I cannot contrıbute much to the conversation.

One of my best friends at school still asks me if İ can live with herfor a weekend or so. I met her dad when we went out to lunch all together for Pide and with the usual Turkish hospitality happily agreed to host me! Honestly, some of the best times at school were laughing and talking with my friends at school while sitting on the classroom heater to warm ourselves up. And after school when we have to go to the city center for turkish classes, there is a couple cafes/Döner restaurants we can go to where they know the “yabancılar” (foreıgners) who frequent their place. They even gave us a “Merry Christmas!” when we bought Döner the day after christmas.

There are times (as every exchange student can relate to) that I feel like part of the culture and sometimes I feel like a foreıgner still. But, I think the hardest part about beıng a değistir öğrenci is when you feel neıther part of your host cuture or part of your home culture anymore. You can take as much control of making your exchange worthwhile, but that lonely feeling is hard to escape. But when you feel in transition or not fully in any culture it is confusing at easy to lose focus of your goal. I know in the past few months when I have felt not-adjusted-anywhere it has  been regressive because instead of motivating me to learn more Turkish culture, I just get tired, complacent. It doesnt happen often but that has definitely been the hardest struggle of exchange that I think people should understand. Yes, I have been trying hard to aquaint and it has payed off, but don’t get the wrong idea that all my time is spent having a perfect time.

So, Why am I in Turkey? The answer varies at different situations when I have different goals. If I am with my friends going out, my goals are to enjoy what my host city has to offer. When I am in school, I am mostly trying to understand what’s going on in class (Which has gotten easier!!) Outside of school I try to participate in the normal activities and errands with my family or learn more turkish. Generally, experience the Turksh reality  like it is my own to promote never-ending learning of all cultures. Every day I live through and understand more basic cultural differences and every day Turkey becomes more like a second home.

-Priya Bhatt

Also happy early bırthday to my dad (dec. 30), mom (dec.31) and 2015 (Jan. 1)!!!!! Peace

Acculturation

The title of this blog is basically the word I would use to sum up the month. Life has been  simple; school, turkish lessons and the occasional meeting with friends.  I still love  “gezmek”-ing around the city, although it is not always an adventure like when we first arrived. Also, the dynamic at school has changed from everyone introducing themselves to the new foreigner to me being another student with an established friend group.

My friends say Aydın has little to offer and they recommend going to Izmir if I want to see a beautiful, happening city. But I really like hanging out at the very casual cafe’s that are all around the city. The city center (called the Bulvar) has many cafe’s and at night you can sit outside and watch the fountain show. My friends are bitter about not having the big-city big-parties atmosphere in Aydın but they find other ways to go out, like shopping or playing music with friends.

School tests were earlier this month and Ionly took about half of them (there were 12 or 13).  The two weeks they lasted were stressful for my class, and during regular classes they were tired from studying.  There was also a lot of classes where students just convinced teachers to let the have the period to study. And they wouldn’t. But they are very hardworking students and that showed when tests results came back last week and there was celebration when the test scores were read out loud to the class.  There used to be the same attitude at my school where people would be so stressed out and convinced they bombed tests, and get straight A’s.

The break periods between classes are my favorite time because we get to walk around the garden and  mess around with friends. (But actually because) those are the times I can understand the conversation. I can understand the topics in class but mostly my mind wanders to irrelevant topics until the teacher calls on me and I have to make up some “falan filan” on the spot. But school does help progress my language skills the most, as it is turkish  exposure for seven and a half hours. Too bad as my turkish gets better, my english vocab is becoming more basic.

As I am getting more used to this life the more I am looking for something new and exciting about Turkey. Though I am enjoying life in Aydın, I often want to explore more parts of Turkey that are different. In America, culture varies so much even by city and I am finding the same in Turkey. Sometimes since Aydın is a more liberal, western city I feel confined as a student trying to learn another culture. But I know there is still more aspects of society I haven’t experienced in Aydın yet, like the younger generation’s kindergartens and elementary schools and the older generations’ work days. I think at this point my goal for the rest of the time here is to explore how life varies in Aydın from generation to generation, because I don’t want to get caught up only learning about life as a high school student in a small town.

I would also like to shoutout to my American family right now. Two of my beloved uncles died and although I couldn’t say goodbye at the funerals I know my family gave them a proper send-off.

Happy late Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

nuh’s ark?

Yesterday, November 1, my family started the month by making and eating the Aşure together, a Muslim celebration in November. The dish has simple ingredients, just a mix of fruits and vegetables cooked in sugar water, but has a pretty cool cultural significance. Many different family members explained to me the story behind Aşure which you are probably familiar with. A transposition from the different versions I was told:

The prophet Nuh built a ship according to God’s command and loaded many animals and his family on board to avoid the coming  flood. After many months of sailing Nuhs family put all the food that was left on the boat together, and that is Aşure. So in this month, Muslims eat Aşure in honor of the prophet Nuh.

Ingredients:

Wheat, Chickpeas, Beans (broad beans), sesame, dry figs, dry apricots, peanuts

After cooking, add nuts, pomegranites and cinnamon

The whole day we were with family, eating Aşure and talking, or walking around the city center, shopping, watching TV. I get to spend a lot of time with my grandparents and aunts/uncles at holidays, luckily, and get to learn about their seperate lives and work. My little cousins were so cute running around the house bumping into people and furniture while racing their cars. It also helps that I can understand the conversations more now so it is not uncomefortable to make jokes or be involved in the conversation.

We spent a lot of time with family on Bayram (4-7 Oct.) as well, visiting my (impressively) great-grandma and grandfather. As soon as we came in my grandfather introduced me to my great-grandparents and they were very welcoming and sweet repeating the turkish blessing “maşallah, maşallah.” They seemed healthy and very energetic with their family around.  That was the first time we visited all the family including cousins in Izmir and family friends in a town closeby. Bayram is a very important feast and holiday in Muslim culture and there are many websites to read descriptions about it, but I recommend this one written by my friend living in Samsun. On the last day of Bayram, my family went to Parmukkale, which was also the first sightseeing I have done in Turkey, but not the first time this country has taken my breath away.

 

Last wednesday, was the Cumhurriyet Bayram (Republic day) and a parade in the city center. We got a holiday off school, but some of my friends were marching in the parade, representing our school, including my sister! Every school in Aydın had a band playing drums and trumpets all wearing different school uniforms walking in lines down the Bulvar. My sister played the drums which is a big deal to represent your school in the Turkish pride parade. Other groups were also represented like Turkish soldiers and local clubs like the bike club. What was most pronounced in all the celebrations, though, of course, was the beloved Atatürk. There was a huge mural of him on the shining, golden government building and pictures of him hanging in between the apartment buiding and on the flags. Everywhere.

 

My friends in school are shocked that we never learned about Atatürk in history class. İn history classes here 11th grade is dedicated to learning about Atatürk’s life. But I won’t have those so people have been catching me up. Our history exam was on tuesday, the start of the exam season. So far we have taken History, Mathematics and Astronomy this week and my class has been so stressed out. There are no quizzes or homeworks that also affect your grade here so although the tests are short and take only one test period, my friends study for days and extra hours at Dershane to prepare for them.  Also, found out there is a religion test on my birthday- lol’d.

Two weeks ago, I went to Anakara and Cappadocia for an AFS camp with the other Americans. What a difference in two cities not that far from each other. Ankara was crowded and a bustling party at night and we visited many important during the day. We went to Atatürk’s mausoleum (all my friends asked if we went there when I got back- because how could we not have gone??) and a great relic museum in the morning. Turkish history was all over Anakara which we experienced in the museum and an  old castle that had an excellent view of the city.  In the afternoon we went to a security briefing and learned  most importantly more ways to handle talking about terrorist threats in everyday conversations. Then we took a bus ride to Cappadocia where all you could see out of the bus window was fairy chimneys and rock formations made out of-what we learned- was called soft ‘Toofah.’ The places we went were overwhelmingly beautiful. I could not describe the magnitude of beauty the landscape was. It’s just something you can feel. We went up a rock castle and had a 360 view of rocks that looked like white waves in the sea against the buldings of a city in the way background. İt was a magnificent trip an I had a lot of fun seeing my american friends and sharing our lives in Turkey so far. It was also pretty fun partying with other people in your american culture for that short amount of time. American culture is definitely freer in social ways, but I hope the Turkish culture never changes it’s ways of subtleness and respect that are less present in American culture. Thanks for reading,

-Priya