Friday, July 25, 2014

30 ways you know you're an exchange student (more specifically, a NSLI-Yer) in Turkey

Hey guys!
So this post, as you can see, is pretty self-explanatory. Today is our official one-month mark. And what a month it's been, one of the craziest, most amazing, and most incredible in my life so far for sure. I'm working on some other posts, one of other things we've done in the third and fourth weeks, and another of general reflections and observations I want to share with you guys. For now, enjoy (my version of) the 30 ways - one for each day of the month we've been here so far - that you know you're a NSLI-Yer in Turkey! Enjoy. :) 

  1. When going for more than a day or two without eating iskander or doner kebap becomes a stretch. 
  2. When you accidentally mix the other language(s) you know or study into your Turkish, and so too do all your fellow NSLI-Yers. 
  3. When there's no such thing as too much dondurma (Turkish ice cream). 
  4. When you're more excited to hear the ezan (call to prayer) than most of the Turks you know.
  5. When you're constantly fangirling just walking around because there's so much incredible history everywhere. 
  6. When you've taken to calling everyone amca, teyze, abla, or ağabey (respectful terms of endearment meaning "uncle," "aunt," "big sister," and "big brother," used when speaking to strangers older than yourself). 
  7. When you've become unfazed by the idea of slathering all your food with cold yogurt at mealtimes. 
  8. When you like ayran (a refreshing, salty yogurt drink). 
  9. When, if you stay up too late, you're kept up even later by the drummers that wake people up for sahur (the morning meal which people who fast during Ramadan eat before the sun rises to tie them over until they break their fast and eat iftar at sunset). 
  10. When, no matter how much you adore Turkish food, you find yourself constantly craving your favorite food, both typical and foreign cuisines, from back home (I'm seriously missing my mom's cooking, and my favorite Indian and Korean restaurants).
  11. When, on the other hand, you love your host mother's dolma (peppers or tomatoes stuffed with seasoned rice and ground meat, served with yogurt) so much that you've got half a mind to start worshiping it (like seriously - my host mother's dolma is a godsend). 
  12. When seeing a whirling dervish performance is one of the highlights of your entire experience. 
  13. When drinking tea six or seven times a day has become normal.
  14. When the phrase "ben yorgunum" is by far the one you most frequently use (it means "I'm tired).
  15. When you're immensely proud of yourself for being able to communicate anything to anyone in Turkish, no matter how broken it may be. 
  16. When you read the Turkish subtitles to an English movie or TV show super attentively in the hopes of recognizing words.
  17. When you and your fellow NSLI-Yers find yourselves more than occasionally fangirling about Tim Doner.
  18. When the awesome conversations you have with your amazing fellow NSLI-Yers range from the intricacies of Samoan politics to the detailed reasons for which we want to learn all the languages we're interested in (and believe me, there are many).
  19. When you've spent so much time and had so much fun with said fellow NSLI-Yers that there are virtually no boundaries left between you anymore, and you've made friendships you know will last a lifetime. 
  20. When, as a result of #19, you've automatically got 14 places to stay, wherever in the world those people may happen to live. 
  21. When you're already seriously contemplating both the next time you go abroad and ways to return to Turkey in the future. 
  22. When you would give just about anything to see the Hagia Sophia from the inside. 
  23. When you feel like you're in on a number of secrets due to the amount of beautiful, secluded, adorable little mountain villages you've visited.
  24. When you taste fresh, locally grown fruit purchased from benevolent little grandmas in said villages that make you want to drop everything and build temples for the aforementioned fruit. 
  25. When you're looking just as forward to Bayram (the feast at the end of Ramadan; in Egypt and other Arabic speaking countries it's called Eid) as your host family. 
  26. When you'd much rather visit some ancient ruins or a mosque than spend time in a huge mall.
  27. When you've begun to incorporate little Turkish phrases into your everyday vocabulary, even when speaking English (i.e. afiyet olsun = bon appetit, kendine iyi bak = take care, ben de = me too, görüşürüz = see you later, etc.).
  28. When you know, seeing the way the sunrise hits the mountains in the distance from the metro every morning, that you were meant to come here for a reason.
  29. When, in spite of whatever difficulties there are (and they do exist), you've fallen madly in love with this country, and know you will come back.
  30. When you thank the government, the US State Department, American taxpayers, and your higher power every day that you have been awarded the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn such a difficult, beautiful, and fascinating language in the amazing and crazy country where it's spoken, and know that you will cherish the good, the bad, and the everything-in-between of this experience for the rest of your life. 
Thanks for reading, everyone.
Mutlu bayramlar (Happy Bayram)!

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