Friday, September 28, 2012

Fırst day of school! Fırst day of school!

Fırst off, before anyone begıns to questıon theır eyesıght, yes the ı's on thıs post are short and stubby and dotless.  The Turkısh alphabet has two types of ı's, and thıs one ıs easıer to type wıth on the keyboard.  Anyway.  ONWARD.

So.  The fırst day of school.  For an exchange student, thıs day ıs fılled wıth more terror and confusıon than excıtment, but ıt was ınterestıng all the same.  ı came across a bıt of a problem the fırst week.  ı was supposed to start on September 17th, but ı was sıck on that Monday and Tuesday.  So on Wednesday ı slunk ınto the school behınd my host parents, eyes as bıg as dınner plates, and my heart poundıng a mıllıon mıles a mınute.  As soon as we got there, my parents balked.  They began a rapıd conversatıon wıth the headmaster whıle ı twıddled my thumbs ın the backround.  Then wıthout so much as an explaınatıon they turned back around and headed out to the car.  I traıled behınd, stumped.  Turns out the school dıdn't know ı was comıng.  Oops.  So I phutzed around the house the rest of the week.

Fınally, Monday came around.  Once more I marched ınto the buıldıng, and was plopped ınto a slıghtly run down classroom full of rowdy Turkısh teenagers.  As soon as I walked ın, they all froze and gaped at me.  I remember a quıck explaınatıon of "Olıvıa...Amerıka'da" and was ımmedıately swarmed by what seemed lıke an endless number of curıous people.  Questıons were fıred at me ın lıghtnıng fast Turkısh, and ı managed to blubber out broken Englısh and Turkısh.  All whıle tryıng to not start hyperventılatıng.  Fınally class started, and ı stared numbly at what looked lıke Algebra 2 beıng taught.  I never could comprehend math ın Englısh.  Thıs just made ıt ımpossıbly dıffıcult.  Thankfully, my deskmate Yasemın took me under her wıng, and has sınce become one of my best frıends here.  She gracıously helped translate the endless stream of questıons people had, and tugged me around the campus. 

Let me just add here that Amerıcan schools should take note of the Turkısh way of school lunch.  every day there are freshly grılled (rıght ın front of you) kebabs.  For 3 Turkısh lıra.  Whıch ıs probably around 2 dollars or so.  Maybe a lıttle less.  Better than the 5 dollar wılted Panda Express at Herıtage.  Cough.  Cough cough cough.  However, you quıte lıterally have to battle your way to the front of the mob to get food.  I haven't attempted that yet.  My frıends have gracıously done that job for me.

To go along wıth school ıs the school bus.  Before now, ı have never taken the school bus.  ı certaınly wasn't expectıng ıt to bump Amerıcan club musıc on the way to school.  The bus lıterally vıbrates the musıc ıs so loud.  I found ıt dıffıcult not to chuckle the fırst day ı rode ıt.

So now ıt ıs Frıday.  My fırst week of school ıs over.  ı've offıcıally been wıth my host famıly for two weeks, and ın Turkey for three.  ıt feels lıke an ımpossıbly long tıme, but also surprısıngly short.  ı have gone through an ımmense amount of emotıon ın the past weeks, but ı know ı'm learnıng from them.  And really, that's what thıs whole experıence ıs about.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The second week

A little over two weeks ago, I left my cozy home in Colorado. The air was still sweet with summer, and the leaves were just beginning to brown around the edges.  Crickets still played their symphony outside my window as I absorbed the last of the familiar. I reveled in the American food I scarfed down for dinner, and the vibrant crackle of the English language surrounding me. And then, I packed up my life and headed off into the complete unknown.

Now, I am settled in the dusty and lively town of Gaziantep, Turkey. For days, I battled with such immense homesickness I could hardly bear it.  The air was too hot. The language too overwhelming. This apartment seemed as foreign as the land around me. But now, I'm coming to appreciate the unique beauty of this developing city. The woman in a hijab riding sidesaddle on a coughing motorbike. The wind-chime jangle of drying peppers and eggplant hanging from balconies. The call to prayer rolling through the city, twining between the apartment buildings and seeping into everyday life. The people here are sweet. The children love to giggle and stare at me. I'm a shiny new toy. The adults coo, pinch my cheeks, and are surprised when they realize I am not fat. At all. So they stuff me with food, even after many a protest.  I'm not fat now, but I will be when I leave.

More often now, I find myself staring at the rangy street dogs that wander about. Breathe in the smell of the city. Car exhaust and cooking kebap. One moment, I feel at home. The next, so utterly foreign I can barely stand it. Without meaning to, I stand out like a sore thumb. Even I can spot an American from a mile away.  Everything is either in Turkish or Arabic. English is spattered here and there. Cars angrily shove past each other, and give no heed to simple things like lanes or pedestrians. Syrian license plates are common. I recently saw a sign directing cars towards Aleppo, Syria.  It's less than a two hour drive away.

Each day, I find something new to surprise me. The excited giggle of my host family after eating pop rocks, or the ridiculously loud call to prayer which serves as a mildly unwanted wake up call at 5:30 in the morning. There's a strange beauty here. Everything is covered with a fine layer of red dust. Crackling paint and peeling stucko is commonplace. To my Americanized eyes, it seemed grungy and terrifying at first. Far too loud and overwhelming.  But now I'm beggining to see with new eyes. See the things that are unseen in America. Like the woman in a burqa casually reading from an iPad.  Here ancient history meets the quickly growing modernity of the world. If I've learned one thing so far, it's that no matter where you are, people are essentially the same. The sky is the same. The oxygen we breathe is still the same. Really, our location is the only thing that is different.


No song today. I wrote this all on my iPhone (which now serves as an iPod) and don't have very good Internet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Turkiye! Eh, eh?

I'm in Turkey!  I've been here for...oh...I'm already losing track of the days.  6 days I think.  Almost 7.  All of them have been spent in two separate hotels.  The first one we only stayed at for a night, and I spent the majority of it sniveling to myself, and pining about being homesick.  That was mostly due to extreme jet lag and lack of wifi.  I really do like my creature comforts.  Luckily the next hotel (the one I am currently at) has spotty wifi (it's best on the roof) and the rooms are a bit more updated.  However, I am thankful for what we have.  It's really a nice place.  Our surroundings are gorgeous.  We are in the Turkish countryside (we weren't in Istanbul like we thought we would be), and are surrounded by hordes of bunnies, peahens, peacocks, llamas, ducks, sheep, and the omnipresent rooster that likes waking me up at 5 in the morning.  The llamas like to chase me as well.

Things I have noticed about Turkey

-Everyone smokes.  Literally.
-The feral bunnies look like pet rabbits
-Everything is modern fused with old.  Or nearly ancient.
-You only drink from water bottles, and I haven't seen a recycling bin yet.
-Guys like to stare at you.  I'm learning to ignore them.
-The call to prayer is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.  I scramble onto the roof to hear it every night.
-We eat a lot of bread.  I've eaten something like 30 pieces of bread in the past week.
-We eat a lot of cheese.  There's lots of different types of cheese.
-Turkish is incredibly complicated, even after hours and hours of intensive Turkish classes.
-If you even attempt to speak Turkish, people will simply beam at you.
-As it turns out, the showers aren't a tub/shower combination.  Even if you plug the drain with a towel.

I have noticed more things, but we are only in the countryside of Istanbul.  However, we will be with our host families by Friday!  I look forward to that immensely.  It will be a bit difficult to leave my new friends though.  Some of my best YES buddies are in Kayseri, but we'll see each other throughout the year.

Now, it's PICTURE TIME!!!

 Typical breakfast so far
 Peacock in the trees.

View from our hotel roof.

I hope you have all have had a wonderful week, and I love you <3  Yes.  Yes I do.  



The song we learned and sang during our Turkish lessons.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Well haven't I just been a busy little bee who hasn't updated their blog like a bad person.  BAD OLIVIA, BAD!  Okay.  Now that I've adequately scolded myself, moving on.

I leave in THREE DAYS.  AHHHHHHH.  Freaking out a little bit.  Not going to lie.  Honestly, it still doesn't feel real.  I'm sure it will as soon as I get on the plane, but right now it just feels like I'm packing for some cool trip.  Which in a way I guess I am.  I've had my going away party.  Said most of my goodbyes.  Given many hugs and promises for postcards.  Now I just have to savor my last few days in the place I call home.  All too soon it will be ten months before I step foot back inside my house.  Crazy.

A few weeks ago I finally got my HOST FAMILY!!!  Well, welcome family, but same thing.  I will be living in Gaziantep, Turkey which I am thrilled about.  It's where I really wanted to be.  I have two host parents, and two little sisters.  One 8, one 4.  I have exchanged emails with my host mom a few times, and they seem wonderful.  I can't wait to meet them :)

I don't really know how to feel right now.  Excited.  Terrified.  Mystified.  This is something that I have been dreaming of for years, and now it is finally becoming real.  It took a ridiculous amount of work to get here, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I can't even begin to say how grateful I am for this scholarship.  If it wasn't for YES, I wouldn't be going anywhere.  I would be wallowing in a generic american high school, plodding through my day to day classes.  But now, I get to see a wonderful country.  Learn a new language.  Try new foods.  Go face to face with a misunderstood religion.  I know the year ahead is going to be challenging.  I will be homesick.  I will get frustrated.  But at the same time, it will be so incredibly rewarding.  I can't wait to begin my journey.  So with that, I will leave this be.  Most likely, my next post will be from Turkey.  Istanbul probably.  Unless I don't have time that first week with settling in and whatnot.

With love,


I thought this was very fitting.