Monday, November 4, 2013

What Does the Fox Say?

Cumhuriyet Bayrami Kutlu Olsun! is Happy Independence Day!  This year was the 90th anniversary of Turkey's "Cumhuriyet."  Last Saturday we all had our first official Turkish class. It was a bit of a downer for me because I basically already knew everything we learned in our first lesson.  It's still good to review, but I'm looking forward to the next classes in which I know I'll learn more.  However, we have to wait a while, because the next weekend we had a conference, the weekend after that (this weekend!) we're going to Istanbul, and the weekend after that, we're going to Bodrum, and then we'll have our next Turkish lesson.

Afterwards, all of us went to a random cafe, and I had what was definitely the worst milkshake of my entire life.  Some of us then went with Quinn and met some of her friends, and went to this little diner.  I split what was Quinn's first waffle with her, and it was quite the delight.  I'm sure when I measure my exchange weight gain, half of it will be in Turkish waffles.  

On Monday, the day before Independence Day, we had a half day at school that was full of celebrations and ceremonies (and one English test), but after the test we went to the Amphitheater where there was a professional band playing many traditional Turkish songs.  Everybody was singing at the top of their lungs, clapping, waving flags, and hitting balloons.  Even though I didn't know any of the songs, I still had a blast clapping along and trying to catch on to what I could. 

I met back up with Quinn and her friends after school and we went to Forum Bornova (a shopping center nearby).  Quinn and I have long been on the quest to find a purse, because we're both quite sick of looking like the obvious tourist walking around with the bulky backpack.  However, I think because I don't like wearing purses, I have a predisposition to not like any of them, which is not good.

The next day was Independence Day.  All of the exchange students in the near area joined a parade in Alsancak where we walked, waved our flags, dressed full out, and randomly sang the Turkish national anthem (just the melody, of course).  It felt like one of the most "exchange" days to me yet. 
After the parade was over I walked around with some friends, and then at 4 p.m. we met back up with the other exchange students.  We went to the center of Alsancak where thousands of people were meeting and saying a pledge that was banned years ago to make a point against the current government.  In general, most people are not a fan of the current government (at least in the western area) and those who don't like the current government love Ataturk.  Ataturk is adored by everyone here.  You cannot walk five minutes without seeing some poster or statue of him, and I don't think we have any equivalent to that in the U.S.  Ataturk was the man who helped westernize Turkey and separate it's religion from state. 
Zoe and I

This dog was following the soldiers around all day

We stuck around with the other exchange students for a while and took selfies with strangers kind of mocking the fact of how many random people had been taking pictures of us all day.  Everybody took it well and humorously.  

Afterwards we took the ferry back home and Elizabeth, Zoe and I ate at Deniz Park and had what I thought was one of the best pieces of chocolate cake I've ever had.

Wednesday was another half day for me because many student were taking the PSAT during the afternoon.  Because of this I was able to attend a Rotary meeting right after school was over.  After the meeting, I went with Elizabeth to the Bostanli Pazaar (she needed some fruit) and we then met up with Zoe to get some ice cream.  After this Zoe and I walked home (we live very close to each other).  The walk was about a half hour which was very relaxing.  She also had to buy a newspaper because one of the random pictures taken of her on Independence Day was actually in the paper, which we all found quite hilarious.

The next day was Halloween!  It was quite odd not seeing a ton of little children in town dressed up and begging for candy, but some of the girls nearby threw our own little Halloween night where we watched "Hocus Pocus" and ate lots of candy.  We tried taking a country test together as well to see how many countries in the world we could write in 10 minutes and it is a lot harder than you'd expect!  I was so surprised by how little of the African countries we could come up with especially.

On Saturday we finally had our conference in Kusadasi!  It's always so fun when we're able to get together with all of the exchange students.  We first went over all the rules again, nothing much changed there, and then about 6 or 7 of us went swimming.  The water was definitely chilly (yes, even for a Wisconsinite) but that's what made it fun.  We stayed out in the water for a while and then went in to have our "Halloween Dance" I dressed up as "Sarah Bond" a very creative costume in which I did nothing but put on a black coat and sunglasses that I was wearing that day anyway.  The only difference was when people asked who I was I responded "That's classified" (credit to Emily Reid).

The next day we were able to go to Ephesus and The House of the Virgin Mary.  This was our first major trip and I think it was a great way to start off.  We first went to The House of the Virgin Mary, which was quite incredible.  After you exit the house, you're allowed to exit the house and make a prayer with the candle, light it, and put it with all the other candles there have been prayers made upon.  You then proceed to this huge wall of wishes/prayers.  Supposedly when they burn down the papers on the wall all of those wishes/prayers come true.

After this we went to Ephesus.  I think the pictures can be explanation enough.

Because back then it was normal for men to socialize while taking a crap

This was definitely the funnest weekend of my exchange so far.  I'm so excited for the future trips to come!  Here's some more pictures from the weekend for your entertainment. (and for reference if I'm ever listing names it's from left to right)
The Mexicans! Daniela, Pedro A. and Fernanda

My roomates! Mallory (from Canada) and Emily (from U.S.)
Lee! from South Korea

The Americans! Maddie (Missouri), Emily (New York), and Elizabeth (Oregon)
The Brazilians! (top row then bottom) Junior, Mavi, Camille, Bruno, Pedro P., Heloisa, Julia, and Nicolas
The French Man Benjamin!

The whole group!

Quinn showing off her Mexican side

We all decided that this boy is going to become a model