Friday, September 25, 2009

Turkish wedding and Bayram.

For all of you who dont know, I am currently in İstanbul for a wedding of one of my aunts, and also for Bayram.
Bayram is a 3 day Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of Ramazan. Its kind of like a mix between Halloween and Christmas. In Turkey, respect is very important. When you meet a elderly person, to show great respect you kiss their hand and place it to your forehead. They will LOVE you if you do this. During Bayram though, you kiss everyones hand that is older than you, not just elderly. When you do this, they give you money!! Easiest 50 bucks I have ever made!! haha. Kids also come to your door and trick or treat. During Bayram you visit all your loved ones. Its all about spending time with family and enjoying eachothers company. And eating! Since Ramazan has just ended everyone wants to eat eat eat. We had A TON of baklava!
On the first night of Bayram we also had the pre-wedding party. We had all of the Grooms family over and served them food. Then it was time for traditional dance. I was quickly pulled into a side room and taught the most basic form. Basicly, its 3 steps to the side, kick, 3 steps to the back, kick. While doing this you hold pinkies with the person next to you and sort of shake your hand in a complicated way I couldnt figure out. The end person waves a little scarf, and at what seemed to be random times to me, we hissed. I stumbled my way through this dance, but am now informing you that I will not join the traditional dance club at school as I was intending. As we danced, the lights were turned off, and the bride and groom came out in traditional dress. The bride was wearing a red dress with gold embroidery, and a read veil to match. Behind her was a woman carrying a bowl of henna with candles in it. The bride sat and opened her hands, where large circles of henna were placed on her palms. They then placed gold in the henna, she closed her hands, and they were put inside little red baggies. Later we all got henna circles on one of our palms.
The next day was wedding day. We all went and got our hair done. After my hair was done, Ezgi and I were looking through a bridal hairstyle book. In the back there were bridal turbans too. I never thought about what a Muslim bride wears.
The wedding was very different from an American wedding. No vows or anything. Because Turkey is a secular country, no preist or Muslim religious man (?) is needed. I was wondering- even in non-relgious families in the US usually have a preist for vows. Is that required? As far as sealing the deal, the bride and groom just signed some papers in privite. The wedding was really more of an excuse to have a big dance party. Most of the night was danced away in traditional dances I didnt even dare to try. They, of course, also had a very dramatic enterance (with fireworks and humorous glatatior music) that made us all laugh. For a long time the bride and groom stood up front wearing read scarves that people would come pin gold and money to. This money was to help them begin family.
Last night we went to dinner at a more conservative families home. This may sound weird, but everything in their home seemed to say muslim, right down to the lilac colored walls. My family is not practicing the muslim religion so it was different for me. THey were very kind and enjoyable. Although some of the time we spent there was divided between sexes, it oddly didnt bother me, and it didnt seem to bother anyone else either. They seemed plenty happy with their lifestyle, so who am I to say it is wrong? You kind of just have to leave your judgements at the door.
It been really great being surronded by all my host families family. It is very large- 7 girls and 1 boy.You add in grandpa and all the spouses and children and you get a pretty big party. They are all pretty young, and very turkish- loud, expressive, and extremely friendly. Each night we have one big sleepover, and sometimes even enjoy a meal on the floor. One day we were on the way to a mall when a little boy came to our car window and tried to sell us kleenex. My Amca turned up the music, pulled out the exact same kleenex the boy was selling, and began to crazily dance with it. The little boy sure didnt know what to think, but it really made me smile.
Something right now that I am really struggling with is trying to find a balance between the Ambers. How to be an American here, and be true to my beliefs, while trying to be Turkish and fit in with them, and be open minded about their beliefs is a challenge. Hopefully that is something that will work itself out in time.
Much and best wishes to all of you, Amber

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life is picking up

Life here is quickly and suddenly going to take a turn for the crazy, stressfull, busy life I thrive for. Yay! Already life has begun to pick up. This past week has mostly been a good one. Sunday was probably my favorite day of my exchange so far.
It began when we went for coffee at a friends house. These people are the people who told my host family about YES, and currently have a daughter on exchange. I really enjoy them, and am glad when we get to spend time with them. The mom (I feel silly because I cant remember their names) taught me how to make Turkish coffee! Its known to be an art, and I was learning from the best. They used to own a coffee shop! Following that we went to a local village. I was already in a good mood from the coffee lesson, but driving to the village- through the rolling golden hills of Turkey, above the sea- made me feel so giddy. At the village I was pleased to be welcomed with the double kiss and treated like family! This village had the same feel as the ones in China, only this time I wasnt a unwelcome tourist, but family. They took us to their garden where we picked fruit and visited. One villager even gave me a beautiful flower. After they served us tasty fried cheese things, even though they were fasting. The day continued as we went to pick up Granny and take her to dinner and ice cream. She was the exact image of how a grandmother is depicted on TV!! The poor woman- Sude kept pulling off her headscarf and jumping on her- quite overwhelming for granny. At the little Ice cream place, It was pretty funny because they were playing very obscene English music. Everyone was completely oblivious except me.

The next few days I spent a lot of time just sitting on the hammok, relaxing, trying to enjoy the out doors before we move to the winter house and high paced life begins. Twice Ezgi, 'family' of ours, invited me out with her. Once just her and me, once with her friends. She is only a few years older than me- It was veryyy nice to be around some teenage energy. She showed me all the best cafes and hang outs around the city. She went to the school I will be attending, so she told me all the about the uniform, and how to break it. She also showed me this food called Midye that is sold on the streets of Çanakkale late at night, after the fishermen come in. It is basiclly calm with rice and lemon juice served in the shell. Ohhhh so tasty!!

Culture note- Turks are always weirdly scared of getting cold and always worrying that you may be cold. AFS had mentioned we would see this, and it is proving true with every person I meet here. ' No, Sude, I promise I will not catch a cold if my hair is wet while I watch TV.' Or the importance that I wear a jacket in 70 degree weather, but also zip it all the way up. After all, I may catch a cold ;)

Missing you all lotsss, Amber

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ramazan and Dardanos

Before Ramazan ends, I had to try it one more time- even if I was doing it all by myself. And guess what? It was harder than the first time, but just as rewarding. Have you ever noticed, in our high paced lives, how eating is just something we do? We shove the food in without really tasting it and then move to the next activity of the day. All day, I dreamt of just simple fresh bread dipped in peynir. How have I been eating that every morning and not crying from its incredible flavor?? I made a pact then to never just eat- but to savor my food. We really forget how lucky we are to have it.
Another thing that came to my attention as I broke my fast is we are slaves to this earth. Us, in our foolish ways, think we can out smart our planet with our science and cars and money. But when it comes down to it- We need this earth. I know, duh. But really, We (the human race) think we rule the world, when really, the world rules us. Just something to chew on there.
I would really encourage you all to try fasting for Ramazan. It can be a religious thing if you want, or you can do it like me, just to bring your thoughts down to earth. All you need to do is find the time of sunrise on the internet and make sure you are up a half hour or so before that. Wash your face, then your hands, then serve your food on white table cloth. At sundown you can have your first drink of water, and then continue to eat a very big, tasty dinner. But here is the important part- break your fast with loved ones and savor each flavor. The feeling of gratitude for these people, and the food you have gone without, but now have, will knock you off your feet. I really love this holiday. Flan and I are going to celebrate it back home next year too, If any of you would like to take part.

This week has been a roller coaster. At first I had a really hard time adapting to gender roles in my host family. I came to understand though, that I was looking at it from an outside perspective, but also, I am not here to judge and or 'set things right'. As I entered viewing my host family from a Turkish point of view, I noticed I had misjudged many things as the gender roles the were once bothering me, were hardly there. I can now happily say- 'Its not good, Its not bad, Just different'. I am starting to feel really at home here. Every once in a while a thought roles into my head that says 'hey! I really do love this place.'

Im going to try to give you guys a mental idea of what Dardanos kind of looks like, since I feel it cant really be captured in photos. As you know, We are in the country. In this area there are two little markets, two bars/discos on the beach (which are always completely empty), a mosque, two playgrounds, and houses of course. The houses are all different colored cement. Red, pink, green, yellow, and white pealing paint are the most common. It feels almost like a forest outside- dirt winding roads, big trees, and feilds of plants- Until it opens up onto the beach. Our beach is right on the end of the strait going to the sea of Marama. Turks have a real sense of nationalism so all the little boats, bobbing in the water, have Turkish flags waving on them.
Here, Its pretty empty most of the time. Usually walking around the area, the only company you'll find is older men and women wandering alone and a lot of stray cats.Everyone here grows their own fruit, so not only are there gardens every where, but fresh fruit is always tasty and abundant. But most importantly- there is just something about Dardanos. Time has a rythmn here. Or a lack of one. I cant really explain it, except that it feels like time has paused to take a breath, and wrap this place in it warm embrace.

'hey! I really do love this place.'

xoxoxo- Amber

Oh and- Cultural note:
Last night we had friends (or family?) over for dinner. They explained to me in old Turkish belief, It is said, for every grain of rice you dont eat, you will have that many kids. haha!
I say family? because I am always left unsure who Im actually 'related' to and who Im not. In Turkish culture you should call everyone slightly older than you abla or abi (big sister/big brother). Anyone of maybe 15 years older than you, and above the age of maybe 30, you call Teyze or Amca (aunt/uncle). It is to show respect, which is a HUGE deal here. If they are actually family or not, I am unsure, because everyone I meet is my 'aunt' etc. Its so puzzling. :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Turkish Food!

As I have mentioned before, my anne is a very good cook. The food here is wonderful!! Sooo tasty. Our eating schedule is a little different than most in Turkey, I think though. Since my family does not practice the muslim religion, we eat during sunlight. Usually, we wake up at elevenish. Then anne prepares the food while I take all the food to the porch where we eat. The same goes with dinner,which is eaten at about eightish. I am rarely allowed to help in the cooking or cleaning, although everyday I say multiple times 'Yardim istiyor musun?' (do you want any help?) Breakfast is the most different from America. These are basic rules for a Turkish breakfast-

1. Never cook your boiled egg all the way. Half raw is preferred and actually tastes pretty good, although probably not very safe.

2.Bread. Bread.Bread. would you like another loaf to eat? haha

3. Olives are a very common breakfest food. Yogurt is to only be eaten at dinner.

4. Four glasses of Turkish tea is the average. I probably have about ten glasses of tea per day. Most people have more.

5. Fındıck- a like nutella type stuff, except it is 70 percent hazlenut. 70 percent. They tell me that most days. I dont really get the big deal but...okay. 70 percent. Got it? P.s. Its only found in Turkey.

6.HELVA! This is my favorite breakfast food. probably because it really is more of a desert. I believe it is a soy/sugar compound. mmmmm. Tasty! and yesterday I discovered it comes in flavors! Also, only in Turkey.

7.Grape molasas and sesame paste goop stuff mixed makes a chocolate like dipping sause for your loaf of bread you get every breakfast. It tastes just like chocolate!! And its super healthy too?? Only in Turkey is chocolate sause healthy.

8. A big bowl of fruit including İngirs. This fruit also found only in Turkey looks like a bright colored mini pear. Its not sweet like most fruit here but more salty I guess? Only it doesnt actually taste like salty fruit. I dont know.Its a very different flavor. I wish all of you could try one.

9.Meat is never served for breakfast. NO BACON especially. As far as I know, Pork isnt sold any where around here. Nobody, nobody eats pork.

10. Mom- CHEESE. all the time. Eating just pure cheese is normal for breakfest.

Some other things I have noticed about food etc. here are-

1.No Microwave

2. No one drinks tap water. Its very unhealthy. Water from the hose is a even bigger no no.

3. You dont have anything to drink with dinner. Instead you have tea time about a half hour after dinner.

4. We dont have a trash can or recylcling. If you have trash you put it in a little baggie and it is taken outside shortly.

5. And finally- Baklava. Yummmm. The stuff in the US is nothing compared to this amazing desert. p.s. We never have desert here unless its baklava. Although, There may be some ice cream in the freezer, you get too full from the meals to ever want any.

We usually have some kind of vegetable or bean cooked in olive oil and spices.The flavors are so rich and delicious, but also very healthy. Sometimes meat, but not too much thankfully. Yogurt is mixed in to everything. So far my favorite is salma (or something like that) which we had the first day. It is richly flavored rice with vegetables wrapped and cooked in grape leaves from the garden.

How am I? I am great. So far my week of boredom have been totally bearable. Yesterday I got to go grocery shopping! hahahaha.I have certianly found the humor, because the fact that I looked forward to that all day is extremely funny. Oh! And Sude and I built a real life birds nest. It took seriously an hour but hey...Ive never built a birds nest before! Then we got eggs from the fridge and put them in it with our chickens. hahaha.
I am not extremely homesick thankfully,although Id like to say I love all of you lots. The weather has been rainy but is starting to clear up so I can go to the sea soon, and maybe a bike ride. Dardanous is very rural and peaceful, a bike ride would be wonderful in the cool rainy air. Our pet chicks are getting older and starting to escape their box.

Turkish soaps have also proven to be a good time passer, while helping my Turkish. Currently I am teaching Sude basic household objects names in English. Its fun teaching her English and she learns VERY quickly. After I get out of college,I have been wanting to join the peace corps and teach HIV/AIDS prevention. But now after enjoying teaching Sude English so much, maybe I should look into the English teaching department of the peace corps. Anyways...Now I am just ranting.

Lots of loves always, Amber

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Things are looking upward

Today, my family and I decided we would try to fast for Ramadan. I was looking at it as a cultural experience when I agreed to make a pact not to eat today, but that quickly changed.I prayed to my undefıned god that I may fınd Strength as I make my way through this challenging but rewarding journey. I also prayed that I would end the experience with all my goals completed and to hold the strong relationships I have at home. As far as my understanding goes, which may be wrong, for Ramadan you fast from sun up to sun down for 30 days. This is to help you understand your blessing and show submission to Allah. I really enjoyed this day of fasting. There was not one time I wished to give in and eat, although I felt a lıttle faint and tired because we couldnt even have water in this heat! Anyways, so the morning began at three or so when we all got up to eat. We had to wash our faces and hands. Then we set up a white table cloth on the floor and began eating. Ill cover what we eat here another day. We laughed and even took some photos. Then once the singing man came, we stoped eating and went back to sleep. The singing man is one of my favorite parts of Turkey. Five times a day a man gets on a loud speaker all through town and sings in Arabic. This works as a notifıcation for when it is time to pray and or eat. The day passed and we listened to the singing man knowing each time he came,It was a little closer to food and water. When the time finally came, the food was like heaven. My anne is such a good cook, but tonight the food tasted better than ever. But even more than that, was the feeling that came with the food. I was over come by a rush of gratitude for all my blessings. My life is a lucky one.Not only was I born into a loving wonderful family who was blessed with everything to provıde for me, but now I have recived this experience too. I get to have two amzing families, and two countries to call home. The best part of this night came next. Sitting the porch listeningto the rustle of the night and the waves of the sea, my host mother and I sat and sipped Turkish tea. In broken English, she told me she loved me. Wow. I am so happy to be here. To be invited into such a loving home. They have taught me so much already. About family. I will never take family for granted again. I love both of my families. The end.

What else has been happening? Many great adventures and personal growth. Gizem and I have had lots of fun this week since my last post. I have hardly felt the intense pain of home sickness, but instead fondness for happy memories with loved ones accross the ocean. We went to a Turkish bath, had a fun filled day of swimming, and many late night walks on the beach. Today she went off to school, leaving me to what is probably going to be the hardest ten days of my exchange. I will have nothing to do and no english until we meet her again for the wedding in Istanbul. Other news- We will visit my annes village in Eastern Turkey in February and she has already begun teaching me the dilect over there. School starts on the 24th, of which I am very excited for, but also dreading. Summer time by the sea in the country side of Dardanos has been swell. But city life will bring new adventures also. My turkish improves daily. Oh and today and the market anne bought Sude and I both pet chicks. Some how they are dyed blue and orange! haha Im just really hoping they dont become dinner in a few weeks!!

Some cultural notes- Did you know in Turkey you tube is blocked?? and that there is an intermission for movies at the Cinema??

Thats all for now, xoxoxo from across the ocean, Amber.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ten Months Is a Long Time.

Today has been kind of a rough day. Sude broke her foot (poor thing) so I have just been sitting around the house. I guess I started wıth worrying about a friend back home who is having some hard times. If I were there I could maybe help this friend but over seas I am so useless. This worry and frustration pushed me into the hostility phase I suppose. I started to get really frustrated.I am still frustrated but have calmed down a little. Being away has really made me love some everyday things we have at home, for example anti itch cream or English key boards. Im slowly finding the humor but still every day is such a challenge because I am so out of my comfort zone. I cant even remember what it is like to understand what people around me are saying or to have someone who understands exactly where im coming from. I am an alien alone on a unknown planet. I suppose without these challenges, there wouldnt really be a point to going.
I am also feeling a lot of really uncomfortable anxiety. Im stuck in between two worlds- not quite fitting into the Turkish world, but wanting to, but not wanting to give up and completely forget people back home. Im scared after these ten months the people I love and I will fall apart and break away. That thought kills me.
This same friend made a comment also that I have already changed so much. I didnt see how that was possible but it is, and i am already a whole other person. So you could say my goal of growing as a person has already been met.
So, because i know these goals are possible and worth while and that this experience could only amount to good, i will continue on my treck, standing tall and strong. But let me say this- Ten months is a long time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Turkey so far.

If you have not heard alreay, yes, ı am now ın Turkey. At fırst ı arrıved ın ıstanbul where we had orıentatıon camp. ı was always worrıed ıstanbul would be so western and dıd not want to be placed there because of that.Let me tell you that ıs unture. ıt ıs a very ınterestıng cıty. Probably my favorıte cıty of my all travels. The balance of Asıan,Islam, and European, each pullıng and fıghtıng wıth each other just blowsmy mınd. The orıentatıon ıtself though was kınd of lame. After a few days ı had to say goodbye to my new frıends who madethe journey wıth me. ıt was sad, and ı mıss them so much. Anyways, ı went on my way to Çanakkaleto meet my famıly. I really lıke the famıly.Bırsen, my anne, ıs a very kınd woman and you can tell by lookıng ın her eyes how much love she has ınsıde her. Gızem, my host sıster ıs also very nıce. Its good to have someone around my age who also has such good englısh. She leaves thıs sundayfor school- ı dont know what ı wıll do wıthout her here. And the lıfe of the home ıs my lıttle sıster Sude. She ıs SO SO cute. Everyone here ıs always sıngıng, but especıally Sude. She ıs teachıng me Turkısh, lıkes to hold my hand, drew me a pıcture, and even made a song 'amber abla çok güzel'.That means amber elder (ın the culture she must say that because ı am older) ıs so beautıful. Rıght now she ıs dancıng aroung sıngıng about zombıes. haha. Thepast few days here have been busy and emotıonally crazy. Other than Gızem, they do not speak very much Englısh whıch has been extremely overwhemıng andchallengıng for me. We are ın the summer house rıght now, whıch remınds of what would be ın a lıttle Italıan vıllage by the Med. Sea. They even have a hammok that we all sat and played on for hours last nıght. I have also been swımmıng ın the sea twıce. It ıs just as blue as they say, so goregous.I cant get enough of ıt. Yesterday I trıed to get a ball ın the water for Sude toplay wıth, but when ı touched ıt, ı dıscoved ıt was a jelly fısh!!! I dıdnt get stung thank god, and now ı have an epıc story to tell. Today I went out wıth Gızem and her frıends and although ıt made me mıss my frıends, they were all so nıce, and we had a really good tıme. Although, ıt was challengıng because of the ever always language problem. My Turkısh ıs comıng along pretty quıckly though, thankfully.
Probablymy most major culture shock moment ıs when ı was ın ıstanbul.We were on the way to get on the bus to go to Çanakkale and a lıttle kıd came up to me and dıd thıs fancy hand snappy arm hıt thıng that means F you. I assume thıs was because ı am an Amerıcan, but ı am not sure.

Probably the most ınterestıng thıng ı have learned ıs how the Turkısh flag came to be. Fırst off the call the north star the çobam yıldız.Thıs means the shepard star. When the moon ıs ın cresent and ıt ıs the rıght tıme of the year, the çobam yıldız makes the star moon symbol on the flag. Durıng war tıme ınthe 1900s, there was blood on the ground and the çobam yıldız and the moon reflected ınto the blood. Thıs ıs how the Turkısh flag came to be.
thats all for now.
Güle Güle-Amber (sorry for mısspellıngs etc, I dont know where spell check ıs. haha)