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.

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