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Letter from Rotary Exchange Student in Turkey

December 13, 2011 by justin

Another successful month.

On the night of the fifth. my family and I went to the neighboring ‘İL’, or Turkey’s equivalent of a state, called Düzce, for Kurban Bayramı (sacrifice feast). there we stayed in my host Mother’s parents’ house until the ninth. The house was really crowded but we had a lot of fun and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much in such a short time. During the day we walked around to a bunch of relatives’ houses and at each one had baklava and rice wrapped in grape leaves called ‘Dolma’. On the 6th my host grandfather did sacrifice a cow. He evenly distributed the meat into 10 quantities and kept half, the rest he gave to the neighbors helping. In the evenings we stayed up late watching movies and one day we watched a couple of soccer games.

School is much better these days. I have relatively no trouble in daily conversation and most classes. It’s still a bit difficult to have the history teacher babble for 15 minutes using alot of proper nouns I’m not familiar with and terms used for wars and international politics that I’m only just starting to learn. But I’m very happy with how it’s going. A lot of how I’m working now is just trying to say it like a Turk would, for example: while on the way to Ankara, I wanted to ask how far we were from our destination. So I asked literally: "What is the distance from here to Ankara?"  Perfectly understandable, but Turks apparently ask: "How much of our road is left?’"

My counselor asked me if I wanted to go to Ankara with the club president so I said yes and wasn't too concerned about the details, but we went and I found out it was a district-wide event and luckily found another one of my exchange friends. We had a great time walking around Anıtkabir (Atatuk's tomb), a number of the older parliamentary buildings, and a couple of museums.

I've started to go to some of the Rotaract meetings. they are a lot of fun, we've been talking about a big project we're going to do next month and continue till the one after that. After the meeting we typically go to one of the local cafes and hang out. We have Turkish coffee and read each other's fortunes and I've been translator for a Puerto Rican and a Russian student that have been attending the meetings and don't know Turkish.
The family is as good as ever, not much has changed on that front: we still have great food and watch a lot of movies and tv shows together, and I’m more and more sure of including some of the turkish foods into my everyday life at home.

Thanksgiving Day is Teachers’ Day in Turkey. At school, most of the younger kids bring candy and cake to school to give to the teachers. In my class one of the kids bought a bouquet of flowers and gave one to each of our teachers. In Turkey, Ataturk taught that kids are the most important thing to a country, they are the foundation upon which the future is built. For that reason it is an important day to recognize those that spend their days laboring to ready, provide and maintain a learning environment for the future of the country. That night my family and I went to a Teachers Day party and after 3 bites of my food I realized that we were having TURKEY for dinner!!!

I joined the German club and folk dance club. there are a number of dances that everyone in Turkey knows that take 15-45 seconds a piece to learn  but we're working on some of the more complex regional ones that people really ‘wow’ at. We are also working on some ballroom dances(tango and salsa). I look forward to my presentations in America to explain to everyone how wonderful and unique Turkey is.

Everything's going well and next month I have my first tour over Christmas(no holiday here but it’s on a Sunday, anyway.) As a Christmas gift we all get to give presentations of our country to the potential outbound Turkish students. It should be great, just like the rest of this amazing experience.

A very big Thank You to all of you for your help and support!

Sincerely,

Branden

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