Monday, October 14, 2013


Over the past three months since returning home from Turkey, my mind has periodically wandered to this blog that I left unfinished.

A fairly seamless return to a beautiful and busy Seattle summer of being out and about made things fade into the past as an experience that used to be the complete definition of my life turned into just one of the many experiences that defines me.

In Gaziantep, some Americans blend in better than others.
I don't mean to say that those ten months are turning into completely dim memories, that I've forgotten to speak Turkish* (although occasionally a vocabulary word will take a little longer than it probably should to call up), or that I'm not still invested in the people I left behind. I absolutely think about my adventures of the past year multiple times a day, but I can feel the distance, and how unsettlingly easy it is to slide back into the comfort of familiarity, avoiding the extreme effort it takes to remain a relationship with separate world and life that is 6,000 miles away. What hurts the most is not knowing when I will be able to return- I could often deal with homesickness by telling myself that it will only be a matter of time; this sort of longing is terribly inconclusive.

*one of the most common questions- Are you fluent? I hesitate to say fluent as I get lost at a certain level of intellectual or complicated conversation, though I can quite easily converse normally, watch movies, and totally rock anything that a tourist would have to do!

The last bits of the year before I left where some of the best- making sure that I made the most of my time and finished all of the things that I wanted to, as well as some the busiest as I was the most comfortable as I had been all year. I traveled to Gaziantep to see the rest of the YES students, where we even got to spend time with Anjali, a YES Abroad student from the year before us, who was back to visit her host family and friends. In late May, the violent protests in Istanbul that spread throughout the country resulted in us exchange students being confined to our homes for three days, and the cancellation of a small trip we were going to make to Istanbul. In June I went on a gorgeous bike ride with a school friend out into the countryside, and went to a music festival with my cousin to see a famous singer. At one point I also attempted to take the bus to Hana's art exhibition without knowing where I was going and relying only on asking people on the street for directions: it took asking at least six people on four different street corners until I finally caught the correct bus, missed the stop, went on a lovely tour of farmland countryside (in which we stopped for cows to cross the road) and arrived to the showing an hour and a half late. On the last day of school my friends brought me small parting gifts, and I hugged and kissed the cheeks of just about everyone I had ever talked to.

Everything felt like it had gone full circle when the weather was nice enough and the days long enough to go out in the evening with my host family to the same tea gardens we had gone to in the fall when I arrived, and the last few weeks are full of many fond memories of late nights.

On the day we left there wasn't a single dry eye at the Kayseri airport, and I was sobbing when Yasemin gave me a hug and said to keep them parts of our lives; they expect updates when we have big news like where we go to college and when we get married.

Ruby and I accidentally stumbled into
what we thought were office hours, but was
actually a breakfast for constituents
with Maria Cantwell.
The adventure didn't quite stop there though; we nearly missed our flight from Istanbul when someone couldn't find their residence permit -an extra document needed alongside the visa- and then our connecting flight from New York to DC was cancelled. After being up for over 24 hours, we got to lug all of our bags to Penn Station and take a late night Amtrak, sleeping just a couple hours before finding out that AFS had arranged for us to meet with our local senators to make them aware of our program and its government funding.
Afterwards we made small presentations to some state department employees, and honored Morgan Lide, who we all hold very dear in our hearts and memories.

And like a dream, it was all over.

In the scheme of things, the posts that I got to make on this blog can't even begin to do a justice to the experiences that really happened in the time that I lived in Kayseri. Quite honestly I am still trying to effectively communicate the things that I did learn while I was there. I'm still working on an answer to the single most frequently asked question of my life thus far So, how was Turkey?  I managed to condense the 40 weeks into a 200 photo album that is a fairly thorough representation, but it can easily turn into a four hour long conversation.

And without dissolving into clichés about the honest and real things to be gained and learned from traveling abroad or just pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (please do these things), I would like to pass the hat to the new 2013-2014 class of YES Abroad.

Look HERE to read about some new amazing high-schoolers who are out there this year. Two of them are even going to the high school I went to in Kayseri!

As always, you can read here about the specific scholarship I was on (with a brand-new website!), or here about AFS, my hosting organization. I really can't give enough thanks to the State Department for providing this program to me for free, AFS and the people who work/volunteer there for taking such good care of us, (shout outs to Samet, Can, Yasemin and Cemre), the Genç family for inviting me to stay in their home (and including me into their family and every aspect of their lives) for ten whole months with my love being their only reimbursement for everything they gave me, everyone who was kind and helpful to me at school, the friends I made there that I plan on keeping forever and am still in touch with, and really everyone in general that helped me in not just the big ways, but little ones too, plus everyone back in the states who made an effort to keep in touch, send me snail mail, love, and be a friendly face/voice when I needed it.

Yolların açık olsun- May your roads be open.