September 21, 2008

Elvin, Me and Gözde(left to right) Ersin, me, Nuray (my host mom) and Selin

Ready for more Istanbul Life

Again, sorry for the bad presentation of my last last blog. I put pictures in my word document because they couldn’t load fast enough to my blog (that’s the short story). A lot happened this week- starting with last weekend. Saturday, nothing really happened. But on Sunday, I went with my brother, Ersin, and his two friends- Gözde and Elvin, to the European side, where we saw Galata Tower, which was built by the Genoese in 1348. We saw Taksim Square, the Golden Horn (including all the famous mosques- Suleyman the Magnificent, Saint Sophia and The Blue Mosque , Topkapı Palace and Dolmabahçe Palace, where Atatürk spent his last days.) We only actually went into Galata Tower, the rest we saw from the ferry ride or from Galata Tower. The pictures in my last post are pretty self-explanatory. I probably should have written this post after it happened, because I’m forgetting a lot. School was still very hard last week, especially since my birthday was on Monday, so I got really homesick because I’ve never been away from home on my birthday. But when I saw everybody’s e-mails and facebook messages (39 people told me happy birthday and wanted to know how I was doing) made me feel a lot better. In addition, my family threw a party. We had cake, çay and some other snacks. Gözde and Elvin’s family came over (our families are really close) and I got two Istanbul-related T-shirts and a Galatasaray uniform (one of the three major football teams- Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş being the others), which was funny because Fenerbahçe is my family’s team (everyone here has a team)- I haven’t watched a single match yet, so I don’t know, but ‘ll probably go with my family, so I’m Fenerbahçe I guess! I met some new people at school last week. Besides Mert, who translated for me last week, I met Muge, who is half Japanese, half Turkish and Eda, who helped me and my counselor when we were registering at the school and her friend who used to live in Denmark. On Thursday, I started to understand a few words of class, which was encouraging. I guess it helped that one of my classes was English- which I find to be one of the funniest classes. We were using present simple and present continuous tense (which I didn’t know the difference until I looked at the book, but it was still really funny). We had to re-write a letter with the right tenses: Dear mother and father, life in America is very different, I_______(sit) in the cafeteria, there are girls_________(put) on makeup, which is unacceptable in our culture. If another native English speaker was there, I would’ve started busting out laughing. Wednesday night, there was an Iftar dinner (a celebrationf of the breaking of the fast, which happens every night at 7:30 during Ramazan- Ramadan in Turkish) My language teacher, Merve took me there, because my mother and father couldn’t take me- they worked pretty late that day and Nuray had to cook dinner. I was at the table with mostly AFS volunteers, who were asking me how everything was, if I liked the food (I do, the bread is so so good, and the rice blows away any rice made in America, they put butter in the water and it makes the rice so soft and delicious.) I talked to Nanpon, the Thai kid, a little, but also Morgan and Eric, the Americans from Alaska and North Carolina, respectively. Merve’s family had hosted Slowly, my Turkish is getting better and better. I’ve started saying the greetings and my language classes started yesterday, all we did was the numbers and letter and colors, but it feels good to see all the other AFS students who all have to learn the same amount you do, although some are doing a little better than others, we all have a long road to fluency. Speaking of language class- there were a lot of surprises yesterday, I thought it was on the European side, luckily it was on the Asian side, and Merve took me there along with Merve. After language class, they asked us if we could find our way there next week, because no one was taking us there. We were all shocked, because I don’t think a single one of us remembered the way there. Then we were told we would go to Sultanahmet, the busiest, most tourist-filled area of Istanbul for Iftar- everyone gets together to break their fast, and a bunch of food stalls set up to sell you caramel, bread, soup, full meals, cups of corn, Turkish deserts, dried fruits, drinks (I forget the name- but it was like really fine apple sauce covered with cinnamon and filled with nuts, delicious!) I had to be back in Uskudar, which is about a 45 minute trip from Sultanahmet, by 8:30 for a family friend’s birthday party. (including a ferry trip across the Boshporus, which is black like oil at night, and a mini-bus ride and a walk down a very large hill and then up another not so large hill. I thought the party was at my apartment, so I went there only to find an empty apartment. Maybe it was at the family friend’s house? So I walk there (it’s right next to my school) to find nobody there. I give up and decide if I’m expected to attend this party, I’ll get a call at home. So I walk home, exhausted and feet swelling from walking for about 8, 9 hours at this point. I’m there five minutes, starting to watch the Edge of Heaven (in Turkish, with no subtitles, just like I did with Saw IV), aka Yasamin Kiyisinda in Turkish, when the bell for the front door goes off, and it’s my brother and his friends coming for me to go to the party, which at this point I’m too tired to even go to. They made me go, not before we went on a very long detour just to end up about three blocks from our apartment. At this point, I’m so hungry and tired, I’m almost hallucinating. I came to the party, said hi to everyone and went into the room where the kids were and fell asleep on the bed until the party was over. I was still asleep in the car, even though my eyes were open. I came home and changed into my pajamas and slept for 12 hours before reading in bed two hours this morning. Now I’m refreshed! Ready for more adventures next weekend, this time I’ll bring my camera! More hard lessons at school next week, but I’ll deal with it. I’m having a great time, a little stomach upset, but once that goes away, I’ll be ok. Güle Güle, Gabe p.s. my family is moving soon, so if you plan on sending something soon, do it right away or wait until mid/late- October, I'll keep you updated, with my new adress, etc.