The End of Eleven and the Start of Twelve
I hope you all enjoyed the poem from my last entry. It was difficult to word so you could follow my days accurately, but fun to make, so hopefully I succeeded in telling you about my Christmas adventures. This entry will be conducted in the normal format; I can only rhyme so many words before I start repeating myself. But this time, I’ll be telling you about my New Years celebration, as well as a few things that happened at the tail end of 2011 that I want to share.
Probably the most exciting thing that has happened to me at my school started on Dec. 28th. Michelle, me, and three other girls from our school, Istem, Ezgi, and Busra, made up the girls soccer team from class 11-A. Now, if you know anything about me and sports, you’ll know that I don’t mix well with them. I’ve never been one to excel in any sport really, so when the girls came up to me and asked me to be on their team, I warned them not to expect David Beckham on that field. They said they didn’t mind, so on the 28th, we had our first game. I was the goalie for every game we played, which turned out to be a great idea; I’m better at being a goalie than I ever knew I was!! We won the first game 2-0. Then, a week later, we won our second game, also 2-0. Our third match was cancelled due to a leak in the roof of the gymnasium (it was raining pretty hard) so our third match then became the final match of the entire tournament. It was over faster than I thought it would be; no one even bothered to tell Michelle and I that it was the final championship game until half time. Ah well. Anyways! Not one of the teams we played ever managed to get a ball past me, which I guess is a good sign! We ended up winning that game 3-0. Meanwhile, Michelle ended up scoring more goals than the other girls on the team, making her worthy of the title “Goal King” for which she received an extra medal. We received our medals this past Friday in front of the entire school.
Another event that occurred right before the turn of the year had to do with the first Christmas tree (or New Year’s tree as they call it here) that Michelle and I decorated a few weeks before. There were little paper hearts tied onto the branches with names of children in a hospital who have leukemia, along with a few things that they wanted for New Year. People brought in the requested gifts, and on the 29th, Michelle and I went with a group of kids, a few from each grade, to the hospital with bags filled with presents. We also brought some drinks and snacks for the kids and the little kids made what looked like New Year’s valentines that we passed out. It was a sad place, and didn’t feel much like a children’s hospital. We handed out loads of presents and food and some of the 7th graders even sang some songs, but the children didn’t seem to be cheered up all that much. I had never seen anything quite like that before, so it was another new experience for me, but not exactly one I’ll be happy to look back on.
The days before New Years were quite fun. People were exchanging presents right and left, and I got some very sweet gifts from some of my teachers and some of the staff in the cafeteria. Our class did a Secret Santa kind of thing so I gave a boy in the class a Packers t-shirt and some other American things. The girl who had me gave me a beautiful figurine of the famous clock tower here in Izmir; a very nice thing to take home with me! Later on Thursday night, I went with my host mom to a cocktail party for her company to celebrate New Year’s, which is the first cocktail party I’ve ever attended... and until I know more than a handful of people, it will be my last. It wasn't exactly exciting for me, but as is life I suppose! Friday, I joined some of the other exchange students in going to what I can best explain as a huge craft of souvenir fair. Anything you could think to buy for someone you could find there. So I bought a few things for people back home, but I didn’t go too crazy.
This brings me to the last day of 2011. I spent the night with my host mom, her mother, and her boss’ family. We went to a nice restaurant for the night’s festivities, which is apparently very common here. The meal was brought out tiny bits at a time over a 4 hour span... which was a little frustrating for me seeing as I hadn’t eaten lunch to save room for that night. My host grandmother gave me a necklace and bracelet, my host mom's boss gave me a bracelet, and my host mother gave me some money so I could buy something I knew I'd use and like. I gave my host mom a box of fancy chocolates. Later that month, a package from home came full of goodies that were all made in Wisconsin (or most, anyway). Counting down the new year was strange though, seeing as my first instinct was to yell out “Ten! Nine! Eight!...” instead of the Turkish numbers “On! Dokuz! Sekiz!...” It was hard counting backwards in Turkish; I’d never done it before then. But there was a band adding music to the party, people standing to dance every once in a while, and the waiters even handed out cheap party hats and noisemakers prior to midnight. When 2012 came, everyone gave kisses on the cheek to the other people in their group and said, “Mutlu Yillar,” which literally means “Happy Years.” We didn’t end up getting home until almost 2 am. It wasn’t the craziest New Year’s I’ve ever had, but it was definitely interesting to see how people here in Turkey celebrate it. On the night of the 1st, I got to chat with my folks over Skype, which was nice. My grandparents were also there, so they got to talk with me too.
A few days later, on the 4th, Michelle and I joined the rest of the high schoolers and middle schoolers in climbing onto buses and going to the theater. We didn’t know exactly what we were going to see (but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for exchange students) but we had nothing better to do! In short, it was not exactly the most interesting hour and 15 minutes I've ever experienced in my life. The fact that it was all in Turkish wasn’t the only thing that made it hard to pay attention to. The play was apparently about a very famous Turkish poet who died at 36-years old. I’ve been told he’s the most famous poet in Turkish history. So basically, the play was a compilation of several of his poems. Thing is, there was only one guy on the stage the ENTIRE performance. The set and lights were very cool and surprisingly intriguing to me (maybe because it was the only thing that I could find sufficient interest in) but the same general emotion was kept in every poem, making it hard for even some of our teachers to stay alert. But despite all that, it was another piece of Turkish culture that I was fortunate enough to take part of. As they say in Portuguese, "Tudo faz parte," which means that every thing that happens, whether good or bad, is a part of the big picture and makes life what it is.
A small something that occurred at school is something that I decided to do for the sanity of my fellow classmates.. and to have some fun of my own at the same time. I was listening to 90’s music during lunch in the classroom and remembered that there was a speaker system in the room. So I fiddled with the cords and plugs for a few minutes and before I knew it, my classmates were dancing and having their very own mini-fiesta in school. It wasn’t anything big, but I could tell just by their reactions that they don’t get to escape from the droning school days very often. It was very refreshing to see them all let loose a little and relax.
Ah yes, the shoe fair. That’s what happened on the first weekend of the new year for a group of exchange students. It had been raining all week, and the weekend was no exception. But on that Saturday after our Turkish lessons, we heard there was a shoe fair in a sort of convention center that was ending that day. We imagined that “shoe fair” meant “tons of different kinds of shoes on sale” so of course, being the penniless foreigners we are, me and about 6 or 7 others decided we’d go. We got soaked on the walk there, with or without umbrellas, so we weren’t in the greatest spirits. Then, when we walked into the giant room, we saw dozens of smaller cubicles that were like shoe stores one right next to another. But, much to our dismay, this “shoe fair” was focusing on summer styles only... in January... while it was raining. All we found was row after row of crazy, colorful, suicidal high heels and sandals and things like that... not at ALL what we expected. Oh, and the prices weren’t anything special either, unless you consider $600 for a pair of pumps “special.” But I decided to make something of the experience with a little help of my friends and my camera. There is a song that was internet-famous several years ago called “Shoes.” It’s a ridiculous song with ridiculous lyrics and ridiculous music, and lest we forget the ridiculous music video that you can find on YouTube if you want. (The artist’s name is Kelly.) This song came to my mind as we passed “store” after “store” full of shoes and I decided to film my friends saying parts of the song. When I got home that night, I spent no less than 5 hours creating our version of the song. Here’s the link to the video if you’d like to watch it. Be advised that there is a little explicit language at the end. (It’s part of the recorded song, no one actually said anything during filming.)