Monday, August 4, 2014

What we've been up to

Herkese merhaba!!

So it has very unfortunately come to the point where, in a week, we will be leaving Turkey. :(
I definitely plan on writing a big post about my feelings in regards to that, but for now, since it's been quite a while since I updated you all on what we've actually been doing, I think I'll focus on that for now. The feels can wait a day or two. xD

Üçüncü hafta (the third week):
Generally, the third week was much more relaxed and not as busy as the second. We started it off on July 14 by heading to a musical center at Merinos, one metro stop away from our school, to start off our dance and music lesssons! The Municipality of Bursa organized these lessons for us, and we started off learning a traditional dance from one teacher, and an old Turkish song from the choir director. We will be performing the dance as well as the group song at our farewell party later this week. I will post video footage if I can/if everything turns out well. xD
Anyway, on the 16th, we headed to the Children's Shelter as a volunteer activity. After given a brief tour of the premises, we spent most of our time teaching the children typical American games from our childhoods, such as kırmızı ışık, yeşil ışık (red light, green light) and ördek, ördek, kaz (duck, duck, goose). Overall, it was a pretty good day, and the children seemed interested and enjoyed playing the games we taught them, which was nice. :)
The 17th is the day which I would tentatively label as the most productive, at least for my class specifically. I don't know, we just all were quite on top of things for the most part, learned a lot, and got stuff done, which felt quite satisfying. :) After class, I headed over to Kent Meydanı for some refreshing cold drinks and frozen yogurt in a cafe with Salma, Gianna, Maddy, and Ruth, which was great fun. :)
On the 19th, we had an (optional) group outing to a lovely little village in the mountains near Bursa called Misi Köyü, which was a little gem - a tiny, quaint little mountain village perched in the mountains. We arrived and were greeted by a wonderfully refreshing shower of rain, which was a welcome change from the suffocating heat which we've been dealing with for a while now. After getting something to eat at a cafe in the main square of the village, we were essentially given freedom to explore by ourselves. I spent most of the time with Maddy - we made our way past some quaint little houses and farmer's plots up to a hill with some breathtaking views of the village and the lush mountain forests surrounding it. It's reassuring that such beautiful nature exists so close to the urban hustle and bustle of Bursa. As we wandered back into town, we also got a look at a really pretty and mysterious looking old Ottoman home that has since been converted into a museum. We ended our day by settling down in a cafe right next to a beautiful little stream, which was beautiful and relaxing in the extreme. I sat at a table with Gianna, Salma, Maddy, Şeyma, Salma's host sister, and Cat, sipping çay, talking endlessly about everything and anything, and sharing some laughs. :) Overall, I'm super glad we got to see Misi Köyü - I feel like we're all in on a little-known secret, having been there. 'Twas a good day. ^^
That's really all there was to the third week. Much more relaxed and less chaotic than the weeks prior.

Dördüncü hafta (the fourth week): 
The fourth week was a little busier than the third, but still no match for the second. On the 21st, we started our fourth week off with a real treat: a whirling dervish ceremony! After iftar (the daily breaking of the fast at sundown during Ramadan), we headed to the Karabaş-i Veli Cultural Center in a distant and maze-like neighborhood in the center of the city, to witness this quintessential and typical Turkish experience. The ceremony itself was absolutely breathtaking - watching the way that they moved as the relaxing music typical of these ceremonies was played in the background was soothing and hypnotizing (which I guess showed, since several of my friends later remarked on my apparently quite mesmerized facial expression xD), and it made me feel happy and peaceful inside in a way I haven't in a long time. It reminded me of a time that I was lucky enough to attend an event several years ago at which the Dalai Lama was speaking, and I felt like my head was swimming in positive energy. I think those words describe how I felt this time around quite accurately as well. What else can I say? It was beautiful, incredible, a highlight of my time in Turkey for sure. :) After the ceremony, a guide gave us a quick tour of the Mevlevi Dervish Lodge where the ceremony was performed, and gave us a brief but informative rundown of the Mevlevi traditions and history, how the dervishes are trained, and the significance behind various things that are a part of the ceremonies in and of themselves.
On the 23rd, we were able to visit another little gem of a mountain village, Cumalıkızık, where we had a chance to wander through some fantastically preserved Ottoman architecture (it's a UNESCO World Heritage sight to boot!) and cobblestone streats. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed since it was Ramadan, but we did have a chance to peruse a couple of stands and buy some much-desired, fresh grown, mouthwateringly delicious fresh fruit (peaches, strawberries, etc.) from kind old ladies selling them in the town square. Rose and I even managed to befriend a friendly cat that followed our group for a little while. :D Another great village, another great day.
We came to the general consensus 24th was a bit of a weird day, in a bit of a weird week. Everyone felt a bit off for some reason, and tempers flared a bit. We also seemed to agree that we couldn't particularly nail down just why it was weird. We thought it might have have something to do with the weird timing during the program - we were at a point where the novelty of being in a new country had largely worn off, but going home was also a while off. There was also something of a torrential downpour that day, so I waited inside the TÖMER Center with Gianna, Salma, and Maddy, and we chatted as we waited for the rain to stop, managing to cheer each other up quite effectively (they're good at that kind of thing  - I love you guys! :) <3). After the rain stopped, we also made a quick stop before going home, grabbing a bite out with Cat at a restaurant on the way to the Osmangazi metro stop, where we had some pretty fantastic conversations and laughs.
The next day, the 25th, we finished up our last week with an unusually long dance and music practice, where we not only made significant headway on the dance and group song we're learning, but some groups were set up for solo and duet performances, one comprising Brendan and Sophia, the other Salma, Gianna (who later had to back out due to a severely sore throat, but has since recovered :)), and myself. We will be performing these duets in addition to the dance and group song at our farewell party later this week! Towards the end of the practice, we even had an impromptu visit from the mayor of Bursa, who got to hear Brendan and Sophia practice their solo. After that, we all went our separate ways for the several days of vacation we had for Bayram, the feast marking the end of Ramadan, ready for a well deserved few days of rest and relaxation.

Beşinci hafta (the fifth week):
This week was pretty relaxing, and not many specific things happened that are worth going into detail about. I originally was supposed to go to Ankara with my host family, since that's where most of their extended family lives, but since my host family recently sold their car, we were unfortunately not able to go. As disappointed as I was not to experience a typical Turkish Bayram celebration with tons of extended family, and that I didn't get to see Ankara, it was a very relaxing few days. I got lots of conversational Turkish practice by talking to my host parents, and I achieved my coveted "oh my God, I can speak and NOT sound incompetent!" moment when I managed to brokenly communicate to my host parents that I am applying to college this coming year, and how the American college selection process differs from the Turkish one. :D I also swam a lot with my host dad in the pool we have in our apartment complex. So as un-noteworthy as it may have been, I had a good Bayram. It was just the break I needed, and I headed back to class on July 31st refreshed and ready to learn. We only had two days of class in the fifth week, and they were not especially noteworthy in any significant way either, just...normal. But a good normal. :) It was super nice to see all mah NSLI-Yers (I missed them!), and be together again.
Finally, on August 2nd, a small group of us (me, my host brother Erinç, Maddy, Emily, her host sister Defne, and Brendan) headed to Kozahan (the Silk Bazaar) and some of the surrounding bazaars for some heavy-duty souvenir shopping. I managed to get most of my shopping done, and we even had a crazy chance encounter with a girl from New York state who is here with the AFS summer program! She heard us speaking English and came up to say hi. xD It turns out that the AFS-NSLI-Y kids, including Krista, are in Ankara, but there are also a number of "core kids" who are traveling on the AFS Turkey summer program without a scholarship, many of whom are scattered in different cities with no other exchange students nearby. This AFSer we met was the only one in Bursa, and also learned all of her Turkish through pure immersion, without the cushion of language classes. Very admirable (and rather similar to my Egyptian experience in many respects, particularly in the second semester when I was the only AFSer in my chapter xD). But it any case, it was a crazy chance encounter which made me very happy. :D
So that's the uneventful fifth week in a nutshell.

Bu hafta - altıncı ve SON hafta :'(
This week has started off quite nicely today for the most part. We had music practice, where we made significant progress, and then Maddy, Salma, Sam, and I went back to Kozahan together, where we wandered for a while, making a few additional purchases here and there, and then sat down for a quick çay at a cafe, having some fantastic, open-ended philosophical conversations and bonding time. It was just a great outing and a great day, one which I'm quite sure I'll never forget. :) Obviously there's not much to say about this week at this point, since it's just started.

Phew! So that's the rundown of what we've been up to in the past few weeks.
Hope you all enjoyed it!
Get ready for the onslaught of pictures.

Pretty great view.

I liked the colors of this house.

Inside the old Ottoman home.

The cafe by the stream.

Inside the Cultural Center where the whirling dervish ceremony was performed.

The musicians who accompanied the ceremony. 

I can still see it in my mind, still feel how mesmerized I was. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

Village dos. 

A cat I photographed because she looked just like my Ginsberg back home! :') (Sidenote: I miss my kitty!)

The friendly cat that Rose and I befriended. :)

Just a pretty sunset. 
Thanks for bearing with me, my lovely readers. :) I hope this at is at least somewhat interesting, as I've procrastinated quite a bit on tonight's homework to finish it (what else is new? :P).
I'll be back later this week to update you on the exciting activities we have planned, as well as some pre-departure jitters and reflections I've been wanting to get out.
Be back soon! 
Thanks as always for reading,
Nico ^^

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