A Turkish Christmas Story
Alright, so before I get into the Christmas festivities that occurred here, I’m going to cover a few other things that happened so I can put all the Christmas events together. So first, during the third week of December, I went to Zumba for the first time. It’s not very popular here, and explaining what it was to my host mom was quite difficult, but those that know it, love it. There are free classes in a part of the town called Guzelbahçe (translates into “beautiful garden”) given Monday and Tuesday nights. Although it took me a while to get there using the bus system, I managed, and went with Morgan (Kentucky) and Maggie (Oregon) to my very first experience with Zumba. Cristina and Mariana were there too, which was fun. For those of you (women) who haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. The classes offered in the US probably don’t have the Turkish songs mixed in, but I’m sure you’ll still love it. Now, as you can gather from my last entry and this one, I’ve begun to fill my time after school with activity. Mondays and Tuesdays are now Zumba days or running days, Wednesdays are folklore dance classes, Thursdays are still belly dancing classes, and Fridays/weekends are left open for whatever plans happen to pop up. So there’s the first new thing that I wanted to share.
The second thing is a bit more... theatrical. Perhaps you’ll recall in one of my earlier blogs that my host mom’s best friend’s sister is a professional actress. If I haven’t mentioned it and I’m just imagining things... well now you know. Her name is Ceyhan Gölçek, and she invited her sister, my host mom, her friend, and me to go to the theater with her to see a Turkish play.... well I guess I should say a play in Turkish. Before the show started, I went with Ceyhan down to the dressing rooms and got to meet several of the actors. I got to go into the women’s dressing room as well to see what it was like. It was so cool to see a mixture of my two worlds, traveling and theater, come together like this. Plus, most of the actors were semi-famous, so I was also a bit starstruck. I obviously didn’t really understand what was going on 95% of the time during the performance; as excellent as it was, the acting can only explain so much. During intermission, my host mom’s friend attempted to explain the plot to me thus far, but there was still a lot I didn’t understand. But they said it was written by an American playwright, and after seeing 2 boys wearing blue and orange “C’s on their shirts and playing with a football, I had figured that much out for myself. It wasn’t until I went home and googled the playwright that I found out I had just seen the Turkish version of “Death of a Salesman.” But after the show, I went back around to the dressing rooms with Ceyhan and took pictures with some of the actors as they came out. Pretty cool!!
The last non-Christmas related event I’ll share is of a personally artistic nature. In my first few weeks here, I had been asked by my host mom’s hair dresser if I could draw a picture of him and his girlfriend. He never gave me a deadline for it though, nor did he give me a picture to draw, so I set it aside until the week before Christmas when he told my host mom he needed it the next weekend for his girlfriend’s birthday. It was then that he specified which picture he wanted me to draw, so for several days, I worked on this project for him in class. Here’s the final result:
Now that all of that is out of the way, I’d like to tell you that I will not be explaining my Christmas adventures in great detail, nor will they be in paragraph form. Instead, I’ve decided to take a more... poetic... approach. Let me warn you in advance that it strays severely from the original poem after the first few stanzas, but that’s not the point. Anyways! Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to present my version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”:
Twas 8 days before Christmas, and all through the town,
19 exchange students found themselves with not smiles, but frowns.
A stocking was hung in my room here with care
In hopes that somehow, Christmas would find me there.
But, with food in our stomachs, we stood on the street
with red hats on our heads to trap in the heat.
And though all those strangers could not understand,
We spread the sounds of Christmas as they clapped their hands.
Though I’d lost my dear voice, it was worth those few hours
when, just for a while, I felt the holiday power.
But our school was not out yet, as I must sadly say
but a small party we had, on the 23rd (a Friday).
A small tree, some small gifts, with a cup of hot cocoa
was all Michelle and I needed to make us go loco!
and also that day, more green trees laid waiting
for some wholesome assembly and our skills with decorating.
To work we went quickly, untangling and unhooking
and all of the while several teachers sat, looking.
Though humble our trees, we gave it our best
and managed to give our Holiday-itis a rest.
now Twas the morn before Christmas, but we couldn’t sleep much
We had Turkish to learn, like nouns, verbs, and such.
But twas a party that night, so we all hurried home
to prepare for the most Turkish Christmas we’d ever known.
But before we could party, we went to a mass
there were so many people, we could hardly squeeze past
The priest spoke in tongues such as French and Italian
he prayed things in Turkish, and then some in Latin.
So straight from the church, we ran off to get taxis
who drove so fast, I had to say, “Not so fast, please!”
We walked to the restaurant, girls falling in their heels
like a newborn horse learning to walk might feel.
The table stretched so far, I thought it was growing
the dishes were so fancy, the cups were just glowing!
But before I go further, I feel I must say
that my host mom had joined me to share in that day.
The food wasn’t the normal, but who are we to complain!
We were just there to comfort each other’s homesickness and pain.
For to be far from your family, to be far from your home
on a day that’s so special, well, it’s no good being alone.
Now, some weeks before this whole thing came about
We chose Secret Santas, and we picked some gifts out.
So on that cold night when we looked so very dapper
we unveiled who we bought for, and all got a bit happier.
We also bought gifts for all our wonderful leaders,
Our Rotary committee, who made it possible to be here.
Then after, we danced, and then we danced more
to a lady singing with her guitar, she had talent galore!
Around 11 pm, our soirée winded down,
we headed back to our homes spaced out all over town.
But before we could leave, we asked for one more thing
next thing you know, we were standing at the mic, caroling.
Twas the morning of Christmas, and I didn’t feel merry.
I found a picture of my family that all day I’d carry.
I ate brunch with some folks, then one by one we met up
till we got crowded at Starbucks, two tables weren’t enough.
Later that day, we started heading back home
to Skype with our families, or at least call on the phone.
After an hour’s bus ride, more crowded than ever
I spoke with my family, a very sad endeavor.
Happiness to see them, but sadness from distance,
I wanted to cry, but, somehow, I resisted.
All night, I sat pondering, and as I dozed off I thought,
“Merry Christmas to all, whether I’m there or not.”
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.