Week 7: A New Schedule, A Ceremony, and a Halloween Party
On Monday, Michelle and I had a pleasant surprise when we were given a revised weekly schedule for school. The teacher in charge of us pulled a few strings and got us into music and art with the 7th graders and Spanish class with the 9th and 10th graders. The only unfortunate thing we discovered about Spanish class is that the teacher teaches the same lesson to each class, so we get the same lesson 5 times a week. At least we’ll learn a little Spanish this year! We would start trying out our new schedule on Tuesday, so until then, we had a normal, boring day of school. After school, I met with our Inbound Coordinator, Zeynep, in Alsancak (downtown) to help plan details for the Halloween party the students wanted to have the following Sunday (6 days from then.) I don’t know why I was designated as the organizer for the group, but I didn’t mind taking on the responsibility. So we walked to the Ataturk Museum, which is where the party would be held, and met with the director of the museum (as far as I could tell, that’s what his job was anyways). He managed to score us live music, use of the courtyard for the party, caterers (and waiters), and use of some of the costumes from the city’s theater group. We weren’t aware of the catered food and drinks until we arrived the night of the party, but it was a nice surprise!
I missed the bus to school on Tuesday. Luckily, the corner I wait for it at is a taxi stop, so I hopped in one and 9TL later, I was at school. 2nd and 3rd periods were Spanish with the two 9th grade classes... so not only was it the same lesson, it was the same lesson twice in a row. Needless to say, we knew a lot of the answers! But it is proving to be beneficial, because the teacher translates the words from Spanish to Turkish, so as long as I know the word in Spanish, I can learn a new word in Turkish. It’s nice to have at least ONE teacher that I can communicate with though. My Spanish is rusty, but with a little effort, I can still speak it alright. And I’m sure the teacher appreciates that she can speak Spanish to me and have me actually understand her, because I don’t think the students here really pay all that much attention to learning Spanish since they have so many other classes that are bigger priorities for them.. After school, I met Hannah downtown and then we found Alfonso. We walked back to Hannah’s apartment and watched “Bridesmaids” (an extremely funny movie if you haven’t already seen it). As I was about to leave, I realized I didn’t have my bus card, so I had to borrow Hannah’s. It was the usual night routine with my host mom when I got home.
On Wednesday afternoon, I met up with Diana and Hannah and we went to the bazaar to get some things for the Halloween party. The bus ride to Alsancak was one of the most unpleasant I’ve experienced here so far. It was extremely packed the entire time, it didn’t smell very good, and most of the way there, there was a suspicious looking man standing behind me and I was a bit nervous that he was going to take my wallet out of my back pocket... he didn’t. At the bazaar, we bought, plates, cups, and some decorations. We decided to surprise Alfonso at his apartment, which is right on the sea in the middle of downtown (he’s pretty lucky) and we all went to a cafe and played Uno. Hannah and Diana went home before Alfonso and I did, so I had a nice chat with him before I met my host mom and her friends at a different cafe further down the street.
That brings me to Thursday. We joined the 7th graders for art class, where apparently they’re making masks out of modeling clay. I think they were attempting to create their own clay by mixing flour with glue, which was messy and strange, but nevertheless, we participated! Then we had gym class, but of course I forgot and didn't bring any clothes to change into, so I watched for most of the time. The boy in my class that’s part-American, Denizcan, brought a football to gym class and was throwing it back and forth with some of the other guys. It’s funny though, because out of 7 or 8 guys, all of which who were athletic, only ONE could successfully throw a good pass. Not even our gym teacher could! It makes sense why they wouldn’t know how to do it, seeing as they don’t have American football here, but it was strange for me to see an athletic teenage guy who was clueless in the ways of throwing a spiral. Just an observation! After lunch, Michelle and I went to the younger kids’ English Drama club, where we finished watching the movie of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Then the kids took turns reading the first page of lines to see who would be best at which role. I guess that was their version of an audition. It was hard to just sit there when I really wanted to be directing them and helping them become better actors. That’s one thing I definitely want to do someday is direct a children’s production. That just sounds awesome... but that’s beside the point. On Thursday night, the exchange students were supposed to go to a piano concert on the edge of town, which we were pretty excited for, but it was cancelled due to the earthquake. I guess the officials think that if one part of the country was devastated and is suffering, the rest of the country shouldn’t continue with their entertainment-related events. But since Alfonso, Diana, Hannah and I were bummed that we wouldn’t get to dress up and look fancy, we decided to dress up anyways and just meet downtown for dinner instead. It was a fun night anyway, but unfortunate that the concert was cancelled.
Friday, there was a garland ceremony at a small plaza in Alsancak and the exchange students were to be there with our blue Rotary blazers at 12:30. Before the ceremony, we saw busloads of military men and women arriving and unloading and lining up in perfect rows in the plaza. The entire area was fenced off and there were armed men at several different points around the perimeter. There were even armed men on the roofs of buildings surrounding the plaza... it was a bit unnerving to be honest! We couldn’t see (or understand) most of that happened during the ceremony, but we heard the canons fire (20 times I think?) into the sea and trumpets play for the soldiers who had been killed the week before. After the ceremony, the exchange students, paraded down Kordon (the street lining the sea) and went to the party location to try on the costumes Zeynep had selected for us to use. We discussed what everyone would be bringing for food before we left to eat food of our own. We went to a nearby restaurant where I ate a dish called iskender. It’s got a piece of pita bread underneath shredded meat (I think it can be chicken, lamb or beef) and topped with some sort of tomato sauce and butter... YUM.
Our Turkish lessons were cancelled on Saturday due to a parade that was supposed to occur in the city, but it was cancelled due to the earthquake in Van. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’m not the one calling the shots here, so oh well. So instead, my host mom and I slept in, had omelettes for breakfast, and we were watching Iron Man 2 on TV when my host mom got a call from her friend, Canan. Apparently she’d forgotten about the school reunion she had that day that had already started. So we rushed out the door as fast as we could and left for my host mom’s old school. The reunion wasn’t very formal; they mingled for a while, walked around to some of their old rooms and reminisced, took some pictures, then sat down at a cafe across the street for tea. Eventually, we left to go to Kipa (the supermarket) where we bought 3 kilos of baklava for the Halloween party the next day. We also stopped at a small accessory shop and bought earrings and a wig to complete my costume. We stopped at Canan’s to get a pumpkin, then Demet drove me to Alsancak to meet some of the other exchange students for the night. We ended up going to a karaoke joint, which was a first for us in Turkey, and we had a blast! We were there before a lot of Turkish people came, so we were free to sing our English songs and dance crazy, and by the time the place got crowded, it was time for us to leave anyways.
I forced myself not to sleep too late on Sunday because I knew I had a lot to do for the party at night. Who was I going to the party as?? None other than the late Amy Winehouse! Unfortunately, I as unaware that it was Daylight Savings Time here and that we had fallen back an hour. Demet and I walked to a bakery to get something for breakfast where I found DONUTS!! They were far from Dunkin’ Donut quality, but they were good enough! I got the pumpkin from the car and went back home to carve it. I was proud of myself for doing it all alone, and even more proud when I managed to carve it into the face of a cow with only the knives we had at home. My host mom was fairly confused by it all, but she was interested in learning about yet another strange American tradition. Afterwards, Demet went to get her roots touched up at the salon and I said I’d come in an hour for them to do my “hair.” I spent that hour in front of the mirror with my laptop and a permanent marker trying to draw on a few of Amy’s strange tattoos. Drawing with my left hand in a mirror was quite difficult, but it turned out alright. I put on the shirt I planned on wearing, zipped up my sweatshirt to conceal my artwork, and went off to the salon to transform myself further. They did the best they could with the wig, put on the fake nails I had bought a few days earlier, and darkened my eyebrows with eye shadow. I walked home before Demet was done and stopped in a “we have a little of everything here” store where I found some temporary tattoos. I put on a few of them to fill the spaces in my arms when I got home, and proceeded to complete the transformation with Amy’s signature eyeliner. My host mom was quite shocked when she got home and saw the tattoos, hair, and makeup all put together... so was I to be honest. I had to have her help me put on my shoes though... the nails made doing anything nearly impossible! We picked up Emily on our way to Alsancak and ended up being the first ones to arrive at the party. Looking around at the courtyard, we had it made. There were waiters, catered food trays of crazy snacks, a table full of beverages... it was great! The party started off slow, but once people got dressed and music was playing and we got the luminaries lit up and spread out, it felt like a real party. People mostly talked and sang... we danced a little bit (me more than others, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary). We took tons of pictures though, so at least it was well documented. Everyone enjoyed my pumpkin honoring the great Dairy State, so there’s another plus! Eventually the night came to an end, so we all helped clean up and went home. I was beat from the day’s hustle and bustle, and not to mention dancing/walking in heels for several hours, so I slept well that night.
I'm trying to catch myself up with the blog, I know this is a bit overdue!! Bare with me, please! In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! Although I missed the Drozdowicz family Thanksgiving, the exchange students are planning on having our own, more international, version of Thanksgiving here.
Here are some pictures from the Halloween party:
Haley Drozdowicz is a Craig High School student who's visiting Turkey. She's studying there as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Haley is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.