Monday, March 26, 2012

Bored İn School

Summer has come to Antalya, Turkıye. İ was waıtıng for Sprıng, but apparently Sprıng ıs hardly ever part of mother nature's plan over here. Wınter and Summer are the two seasons. The wınter over here was wonderful. Not as much raın as İ had hoped for, but plenty for one season. At the begınnıng of last week İ wasn't able to wear my jacket because ıt was so hot. The hottest day last week was 31 degrees Celcıus (you'll have to convert ıt for yourselves). My Englısh teacher told me that there ıs a sayıng about "the longer and colder the Wınter, the shorter and hotter the Summer." Luckıly for me, I won't be here for the hottest part of Summer.
İt has been really wonderful beıng back ın my country and resumıng a semı-normal schedule. İ attended school for almost a full week last week. The fırst tıme ın awhıle. İ recall tellıng my sıster, "İ was such a nerd thıs week! İ went to school almost the whole week! Luckıly İ skıpped Wednesday though, so İ was able to salve my reputatıon."
Thıngs ın my exchange are goıng really well rıght now. School ıs wonderful, of course. Made better by all the wonderful people İ have the prıvılege to call my frıends. İ am takıng Turkısh lessons that İ absolutely love. My teacher pıcked up rıght where İ have been strugglıng. İt has been two weeks, lots of homework, and somewhat ımproved speakıng skılls. One of my best frıend exchangers ıs comıng from Ankara thıs weekend. He has been travelıng wıth hıs famıly from Amerıca. And my bırthday ıs thıs weekend...yay!! My classmates just remembered today and threatened me ıf İ don't come to school on Frıday. One of the best thıngs though ıs my host famıly. At fırst İ wasn't sure about my host mom. She was so nıce, and then she would say thıngs that made me feel so hurt and guılty ınsıde. But, sınce comıng back from Amerıca, we have a wonderful relatıonshıp. İ wıll be movıng back to my fırst host famıly soon, but wıll be goıng back to my current host famıly's house ın a month or two.
İ am stıll not sure whıch famıly has been my favorıte so far. İ am currently ın my 4th famıly. And they are close to the top ın just about everythıng. They don't have any chıldren that are at home at the moment, whıch ıs nıce because İ am not used to havıng my sıblıngs around all the tıme. They have an adorable Beagle named Buddy. Theır house ıs ın the mıddle of my favorıte part of Antalya. But the bıggest thıng ıs our ınteractıons. We have dınner together every nıght at the table. İ am allowed to help set the table and clean up afterwards. Yesterday was one of the best days of my exchange. I went to Turkısh lessons, and when İ came home İ was by myself whıch was nıce. 15 mınutes later my host dad and one of hıs dıvıng buddıes walks ın the house. They were both soppıng wet and stıll ın all of theır dıvıng gear except for the flıppers. My host dad walked though the whole house soakıng wet and leavıng footprınts EVERYWHERE. İ thought İ was goıng to dıe of laughter. İ just kept ımagınıng over and over what my host mom would say ıf she was home. He asked me to take pıctures so İ complıed. Then my host dad started strıppıng out of hıs wet suıt. İ non-chalantly turned around and started walkıng away. Next thıng İ know, "Hey Abıgaıl, wıll you take some more pıctures of us please?" İ went back and soon enough İ was takıng pıctures of two old men strıpped bare except for there wet suıt underwear. Now that İ look back on ıt, ıt really wasn't that awkward. Just funny as all get out.
Later that day the three of us went for a hıke ın some forest. İ found two baby turtles tryıng to push theır momma out of a lıttle rut. İt was the last thıng İ was expectıng to fınd ın the mıddle of the forest. Completely adorable. That nıght my host mom made dınner and we had really good conversatıon over our meal. My host dad trıed to make me feel bad about beıng a vegetarıan, or as they call them, "A veggıe".
Needless to say, ıt was a wonderful nıght and İ hope to have many more lıke ıt.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Home or "Home"?

I know going back to America to see my grandfather was one of the best choices I have ever made. Like I told my parents, "I would rather see him alive than come home for his funeral." And I still hold true to that statement. I think my grandpa is also happy I came home to see him. But as I sat on the plane getting ready to go from Istanbul to Antalya, I couldn't stop thinking that going home to Antalya was the worst decision I had ever made. And I still think it was a bad decision. But I believe more in the fact that I would never forgive myself if I hadn't come back. Coming back to my life here was hard. It would have been so easy to stay home, but it would have only been easy until I actually got home and realized what I had done to the rest of my year. When my grandma dropped me off at the airport she started crying. It broke my heart and it was all I could do to not get back in the car with her and leave. I gave her another hug and she said,"I'm just gonna go home and cry."
As I think about it now, it brings tears to my eyes. Maybe it's just because i'm jet lagged or because i'm listening to moody music, but a little part of my still wishes that I had stayed in America and I don't think that will ever go away.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Brief Trip Back Home

Sooooooo I am back in America for a bit. I have been here for a week and am leaving on the 13th.
A week after I got back from my 13 day tour around Turkey my grandfather had a stroke. He has been battling prostate cancer for about 12 years. And this last year it has gotten really bad. Stage 4. He has been doing chemo and getting worse and worse and a couple of days after I got back, he had the stroke. My parents tried many times to get a hold of me over Facebook and email but the internet at my house wasn't working very well so I wasn't on my computer all that often.
When I finally was on my computer I saw the messages from my mom and dad saying, "I need to talk to you..." and "We've been trying to get a hold of you, we need to talk."
Immediately I knew something was wrong with my grandfather. I got a hold of them, thankfully the internet held up. We talked about me coming home and I told them that I would rather see my grandpa alive than come to his funeral, so when we hung up, my mom started making some calls. It was the weekend so we didn't get very far. Needless to say, it was a long weekend. I switched families Sunday night and still didn't hear anything about when I would be leaving. At this point I knew I would be leaving because my parents had checked with Rotary Insurance and found that they would cover my round trip ticket.
I also started telling some people that new what was going on with my grandpa. Of course the 4 exchangers I told were so supportive. It is more than I could have ever hoped for. One even offered to try and come down to Antalya until I left because she felt I shouldn't be alone. The amount of support and care was and still is amazing.
Monday after school I went out with some friends four a couple of hours. And an hour after I got home I called my mom and she finalized the ticket for me to leave the next morning at 3 a.m. I told my family I was leaving and they said their goodbyes before they went to bed. And, at 3 a.m. the next morning, I was on my way to America. The flights were better than I expected and I never got to bored. It still hadn't set in that I was actually going home until I was about to land in Chicago. It was all I could do to not burst into tears. I was literally staring out the window trying to calm my breathing so I wouldn't stop crying. I don't know what brought on the mini panic attack, I think it was the stress of everything that had happened, plus the lack of sufficient sleep, as I had been up for 36 hours straight.
The culture shock started setting in as I was finding my way around the Chicago airport. I was waiting to get on the tram to go to my gate, when an airport helper asked me what all the pins on my jacket were for. I told him I was an exchange student. He asked where and I said Turkey. He then said, "Bet you regret that one eh?"....I was speechless. I pasted on a smile and made my way onto the tram. When I arrived at the different terminal I had to go through security. I walked up and started to go through the metal detector when security stopped me and told me to take off my shoes. I was about to ask why when I realized, "HAH. Not in Turkey anymore."
As we were all standing in line to get on the plane, the ticket checker kept calling out zones. I COULD NOT figure out what they were talking about. I looked at my ticket 10 different times and could not find a zone on it. So I decided to just stand in line. When it was my turn I told the guy that I wasn't sure when to go because my ticket didn't have a zone number on it. Luckily he didn't care and let me go through.
The flight was wonderful. Before I even sat down, one of my seat mates looked at my jacket and asked me if I was a foreign exchange student. We talked almost the whole trip.

-She said that her daughter had been a Rotary exchange student a while back and had gone to Sweden. She told me about when they visited her daughter and all the different experiences her daughter had. One prominent story was that one of her daughters families had a meat grinder and would be out in their shed at 3 a.m. grinding meat. We both found that a bit odd. Then she told me that her daughter went to China for a year and learned 3 different dialects of the Chinese language. I was amazed. We then talked about Turkey and my experiences. She then asked me why I was coming back and I told her about my grandfather. She told me that she was on her way home from seeing her mother who had Esophogial cancer. I got to hear the story of how her dad was diagnosed with the cancer and died a few weeks later. Her mom was diagnosed a week after her dad was and had gotten an operation where her Esophagus was taken out and her stomach pulled up into her chest. She told me that her mom said if she had known how painful the surgery was and how long recovery was going to take (she was on a feeding tube for years) that she would have just died with her husband.
It was a sad story for both of us but we were able to bond in a weird strangers brought together by a blazer sort of way. The power of having a blazer covered with pins never ceases to amaze me.-

When I arrived in Phoenix, the reunion between me, my cousin, and my mom was a joyful one. It was really good seeing their faces again. As we were driving home I stared out the window in awe. The roads were so big. And the signs were so organized. I was amazed. We got home and my grandpa had stayed awake just to see me. My mom told me in the car to be prepared, then my dad called me and told me the same thing. When I saw my grandfather, I saw an old man who weighs about 145 pounds fighting for his life. The amount of deterioration in 6 months was and still is, astounding to me. This man is the strongest person I have ever met. He just keeps fighting and fighting. Never says no to another treatment.
It has been interesting, helping him stand up when he wants to go to the bathroom, bedroom, or outside to smoke his marijuana. (Don't worry, it's legal.)
He eats baby amounts of food, sometimes even less. His skin is papery thin, whats left of his hair is rough, and his legs are probably as big as my arms. It put a smile on my face when he took a liking to the Turkish candy I brought back with me.

I have met most of his doctors and both of his physical therapists. They truly are doing everything they can to make him comfortable for the last months of his life. I couldn't be more thankful.
Being "home" has been weird. My American friends didn't even know I was coming home or was home until I texted them. I haven't really been craving anything, Turkish or American food. Every time we go to a grocery store I am amazed by the varieties of food offered. There are so many different brands of the same kind of food. It is still baffling to me.
Anyway, the days are being passed playing cards and spending time with family. It is hotter in Phoenix than Antalya most of the time. We are also doing an early birthday party for me with some senior citizen friends(: there will be Turkish food, American food, and a triple chocolate cake.

That's all for now,
Until next time,
Your Exchange Student.

Host Families

It is amazing how eclectic families are. I know every family is different, but getting to be a part of 3 different ones in the span of a year is incredible. You may fall in love with the family and never want to leave, or you and the family may be so different that immediate removal is necessary. An exchange student never knows, but that is part of this amazing experience.

My first host family was/is wonderful. I absolutely love them. My first weekend in Turkey they took me rafting, bought me Ben & Jerrys and made me feel right at home. After the jet lag wore off and I stopped my late night eating binges/movie watching/being depressed days, I started realizing how alone I really was. My host brother was home all the time of course because school hadn't started yet, but my host parents were scarcely seen. Partially my fault, and partially theirs. Granted, I was a hermit for the first 2 weeks, but because I still had no idea what I was doing, there weren't many options.
My host mom works ALL the time. She leaves in the morning at about 9 and gets home about 10. During the six months I was there my host dad did most of the taking care of the exchange student. But even he had to work. I never really figured my host brother out. He LOVES computer games but what 13 year old boys don't? Of course there was anger at how reclusive he was and how rude he seemed to his parents but now as an outsider looking in on the family (and understanding the language) I see that he really isn't that rude. That he actually is a pretty cool kid. I'm just sad it took me so long to realize it.
Anyway, my home atmosphere was kind of like living in a hotel. I would leave when I wanted, come back when I wanted, eat when and where I wanted. I loved the freedom but after awhile I started longing for a family atmosphere that didn't start after my bed time. I never really adapted to my family's going to bed at 12 or 1 a.m. then waking up at 7 for school/work lifestyle. It just didn't take. So, I would come home from school about 5 o'clock, sit in my room if I wasn't out with friends, eat dinner with whoever was home, then go to bed. I usually made it until 10 o'clock. Then my host mom would get home and everyone would sit around the T.V. drinking tea.
I have a whole load of emotions (good and bad) towards this family, but I don't want to give the impression that they weren't incredibly helpful for me.
Two of my younger cousins, Yaprak and Nurten, were and still are 2 of the most amazing people I have ever met. Even though they are only 14, they took care of me in the first months of my exchange and on occasion still take care of me. We have created a bond of friendship/sisterhood that will be hard to break.
After my big trip around Turkey I switched families.

Even though I was only with my second family for a week, they instantly became my favorite family. I had two younger host siblings, one was 14 and the other 8. I spoke and learned more Turkish in that one week than I had for the last 2 months. I camped out on a mattress on the floor of the 14 year olds room. And my 8 year old sister camped out in her sister's room with us for the week. (: It was a week of fun and late nights. We made new Facebook pages, new friends,and I even got a few new stickers on my laptop. (=
My host mom called me her daughter numerous times and when introducing me to other people, she would say, "These are my daughters, Ece, Melisa, and Abbie." And when her husband was taking me to my new house he said, "Abbie you are like third daughter to us. Everytime. Whenever you want to visit just come over. You are welcome at our house anytime, everytime." Needless to say, they were incredible and helped me a lot.

My third host family is an eclectic group of people. My host mom is German, my host dad Turkish. My host sister lives in Spain and my host brother is at boarding school in Germany. My host dad is the nicest person. My host mom on the other hand... I haven't really figured her out. She is a wonderful person but I haven't decided if she is genuinely happy i'm there or if she is just acting happy. I'm hoping it is the first one, but either way it's a challenge. And I love challenges. I was with them for one night before I left for a brief trip back home to America (more about that in the next post).

So far So good.