Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Unlimited Nuance (Poem)

Unlimited Nuance
By: Dustin Sherman

Gently whisping through
Peace entails the

Four chambers hold its’
Beating, flowing, sifting
to strength.

The waves push it from
one shore to another
foreign land.

Pushing away from the
borders walls.
Terrified to embrace new
life with limbs.

Walls hosting deceit,
abstraction, endangerment.
Free spirits advance away from the

Death is imminent, as it is to
Prolong ignorance,
engulfed by knowledge.

Truth is lurking.
Fear less.
Life is honored.
Hope is succeeded.

Gentle words of
will not hinder its

Disguised as innocence,
powered by paranormal,
enlightenment, a
lack thereof.

Ajar windows to
the tallest
It pushes on.

Embraced by itself.
Strength learned.
Opened channels of its spongy matter.
The light piercing from its insides.

Bright self sufficient innerbeauty.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas In Turkey

How do you spend your Christmas? If you're in America, you are most likely going to a church service on Christmas Eve, singing jolly songs and having a family dinner. Then all the children go to sleep as early as they possibly can anticipating Santa to come, if you are on the "good list." The next morning you wake up, eat some fresh cinnamon rolls, and open presents in your PJ's. Families get together, exchange gifts, and maybe even go visit a special friend in the evening. At least this is how I remember Christmas, in America.

What Does Christmas Mean?
I have been and still being asked: "What are your plans for Christmas?" At first I responded with an answer like "nothing" or "sitting at a cafe." However, you see, what they mean is, what are you doing for New Years? While Turkey has a variety of respect for religion, Islam is still the majority, so Christmas, the religious and commercial version, is swept under the carpet. The Turks, in my opinion, consider New Years as Christmas.

What Makes Christmas in Turkey?
You won't see the Salvation Army people ringing their bells nonstop in front of Wal-Mart. You can and will see Christmas light on some trees, and some buildings, but nothing even remotely close to the intensity of America. You will see snowflake decorations in the windows of shops. Many homes buy a "Christmas tree," but for the purpose of New Years! Unlike my own tradition, you have to buy your tree from the store. While you may be able to cut a tree somewhere else in Turkey, I wouldn't know nor have I seen.

Decorating the "Christmas Tree"
My Christmas in Turkey:
Well, I lived life like any other day on Christmas. I did treat myself to a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks as well as some cinnamon rolls and sat in front of Ege Park (A mall). Then went to Bostanli to play some Backgammon until 4AM.

I do remember last year a special friend, Gonca, came over with a card and a bottle of white wine. She was dressed up and made me get ready to go out and celebrate. Such a sweetheart! :D

Christmas AKA New Years:
Turkey has adapted their marketing and commercialization just like that of America. While turkey does not have "Black Friday" (Day after Thanksgiving shopping), they do start to market and promote bargains about the second week of December. While everyone in America buys and shares gifts on Christmas, Turks buy and share gifts on New Years Eve. If you are lucky you get a pair of brand new red underwear!!

Ceyda in her lucky red underwear, hahaha! :D
So I can say I miss my family and friends dearly, especially after missing my second year of Christmas. However I do look forward spending this "Christmas" in Uludag, a ski resort, with a "christmas tree, sharing gifts and laughter!

*I do not own the first Photo*

Saturday, December 17, 2011

TV Culture: Turkey Vs. America

Hadise on the Beyaz Talk Show
We all know that there is a significant culture surrounding the TV with movies, drama, music, reality shows, game shows, talk shows, and more. How has the TV culture rubbed off on Turkey/the world? How is the TV culture different between America and Turkey? What are commercials like in Turkey compared to America? Which are my favorite commercials in Turkey? (*Videos located at the bottom*) How much does a Turk watch a TV compared to an American? While I can't say personally that I watch much TV in American or Turkey, if not at all many times; however, let's see if I can dive into this and write something from my point of view.

According to a recent Business Week article "in 64% of (American) homes, the TV is on during meals." They also mention the relationship between obesity and the hours watching TV; while meals in Turkey are typically spent at the dinner table or restaurant surrounded by family or friends, not the TV.
To be objective with these facts though, I would point out that the average Turkish family has 1 or no car, while typically every American with a license has a car. Turks need and want to walk everywhere and typically spend more of their time outside than in front of the TV. An American does not need to walk, they will drive anywhere even when it's a 5 minute walk, and they will even drive around a parking lot searching for a front space. But this is going off topic.

While Turks do not spend as much time in front of the TV as an American, they still spend a significant amount of time in front of the TV. The main thing you will see on a TV is a football (Soccer), Basketball, or volleyball game. This culture has floated from America. American football and basketball is highly rated, marketed, and watched by Americans, and is being pushed internationally. Turks are quite into NBA, in fact, when I first arrived, I was frequently asked, "What is your favorite basketball team?" While in America you will have a football party at home, Turks will do the same, but typically they will gather in a cafe and chant, holler, and scream for their favorite team. For an American the Superbowl is probably the most important thing in the world, possibly the universe; while for a Turk, anytime Fenerbache and Galatasaray (A HUGE national soccer rival) plays it is as important as the Superbowl is for an American.

There is also a big push for game shows in Turkey the past year, like that of America. Many of the American game shows have been turned into shows here in Turkey. For example:
  • "So you think you can dance" is "Yok Boyle Dans/ Nothing like this dance"
  • Survivor is Survivor
  • America Got Talent is "Yetenik Sizsiniz Turkiye"
  • The Voice is "O Ses Turkiye/ The voice of Turkey"
  • Who wants to be a millionaire is "Kim milyoner olmak ister?"
  • Deal or No deal is "Var misin yok musun?"
  • The weakest Link is "En zayif halka"
  • Wheel of Fortune is "Carkifelek"
  • Are you smarter than a 5th grader? is "5'e gidenden akilli misin?"

This pushing change for these game shows is bringing Turks closer and closer to the TV. While the Turks love their soap operas and drama series, there is something about games and winning. Turks are driven by winning, it runs in their blood. So to watch these sports and game shows, they get excited and almost drawn to watch more and more.

Commercials have a few distinct differences between America and Turkey. If you ask any American, they will instantly tell you they hate commercials, especially during political elections. You will be watching a show for only 5-10 minutes and then there will be 5 minutes of commercials. By the end of your show, you have watched 2 programs, the show and the commercial. In Turkey, the commercials are not nearly as frequent. While the commercials in Turkey can last 5-10 minutes, they occur every 30-40 minutes. Political advertisements are also regulated and not haunting your brain after watching, in Turkey. In Turkey, a company is not legally allowed to compare their products with other companies. In America, for example, a laundry detergent commercial would show 2 or 3 brands and deface the competitor's brands; however, this would never happen in Turkey. Turkish businesses are focused on showing its unique factors. They use a lot of graphic design and computer generated cartoons. While in America, commercials, in my point of view, are trying to strike an emotion and try to relate to its customers on a personal level. On this note, I find Turkish commercials much more innovative and creative. (At the bottom at a few of my favorites).

Hadise, Murat Boz, and Mustafa Sandal on O Ses Turkiye!
Lastly, not to make bad amends with anyone, I would have to add that while Americans will curl up under a blanket eating ice cream, chips, or cookies; a Turk will grab a huge bag of sun flower seeds and munch away at them while enjoying TV and a Turkish coffee. So I will grab my sunflower seeds for now and watch some O Ses Turkiye cheering on my favorite judge, Hadise!

My Favorite Commercials
Finance Bank:

Coca - Cola:

Kitchen Appliances:

*I do not own the rights to these photos*

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Turkish Newspaper Interview - Fresh Off the Press

This week I was asked to prepare a newspaper interview as an international student in Turkey. The link to the article is located at the bottom. Here are the questions and how I responded to them!

1. What country are you from?
I am from Columbus, Ohio, America.

2. Advantages/Disadvantages of being a student in Turkey?
Studying at Yasar University has been a blessing to say the least. The staff is very helpful, nice, and willing to help you with your future as an adult. The class sizes are small with many students that are willing to bridge the language barrier. The education system is different. You attend classes and are tested twice: midterms and final exams. Rarely do I see homework, projects, or presentations, which in America helps supplement your grade. While I understand this may be a European style, it puts more stress during exam time. Studying at Yasar University has helped bring additional perspectives to my learning, forcing me to look outside the box and try new thinking methods and business techniques. It is much cheaper to study in Turkey than in America; however in america it is easier to select any department and change departments as you wish. After travelling to other universities that I could have studied at, I can happily and proudly say that I made a good choice in choosing Yasar University, there is something special that can't be described unless you experience it.

3. How you imagined Turkey before you came here, how it matched with reality?
To be honest, most of Americans have not been abroad, nor are surrounded by the vast majority of countries like that of Europe. As a whole I could say we also tend to focus on national news rather than international news. I imagined Turkey much more conservative, with a quiet attitude. I imagined much more repression, but still developed. With its geographical location I wondered whether it would have a more western or middle eastern style. How I can now describe Turkey is that it is a country full of pride, outspokenness, diversity, and warm people; like a sister country to America.

4. What sort of difficulties have you encountered?
The language barrier between English and Turkish has been my only major difficulty. While at Yasar University, however, I have made it a point to surround myself with Turkish friends to slowly but certainly learn. The students at Yasar University and general society have really been receptive and helpful; I have made many lifelong friendships in Turkey. Another main difficulty has been keeping in contact with my family and friends back in America. There is a 7 hour time difference which speaks for itself. The internet has been a major help to prevent any disconnections.

5. What would you put for a list of what you loved most about Turkey?
If being around the sea and one of the best sunsets in the world isn’t enough, there are plenty more reasons. I can go to the barber for an hour and be treated like a prince for only 10TL. One is always greeted with a smile, kiss on the cheek, and possibly a plate of food; meaning the countries hospitality is like none that I have ever seen. Even strangers treat you like family in Turkey. The bazaar offers many food items, clothing, and odds and ends for a great price. There is never a boundary while travelling in Turkey. The public transportation can be late sometimes, but I can travel as far as from Mavisehir to Alsancak for less than 2TL or from Izmir to Marmaris for 30TL; these are great as a foreigner, there is no need for a car in Turkey. The living style is very modern, staying up to date with the most recent fashion and technology. Turkey also has such a great presence of culture and history that makes it intriguing. I also love Turkish music, with just a few of my favorites being Hadise, Gulsen,  Sila, Athena, Sertab Erener, and Sebnem Ferah.

6. Compared with your country what sort of differences would you list?
America is more organized and structured. The food in Turkey is fresh, always prepared, and not filled with chemicals or hormones. The Turkish family will offer you more food than you can imagine, but you can still stay very healthy here. Electronics are much more expensive in Turkey but travelling and getting around the cities is much cheaper and available. The cafĂ© scene filled with conversation, tavla, and Turkish coffee is much more present in Turkey than in America. It is typical for an American student to work while studying starting in their teens, but in Turkey most students rely on their families to support them. Americans are typically knowledgeable in their own politics and society; however Turks are more aware of the world’s geography and politics. I have really enjoyed learning the differences; it has helped influence my love and respect for Turkey!

**The link to my article as is appears in the newspaper**

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Swirling Dervishes & Mevlana

While sitting in a cafe in Turkey, sipping on Turkish coffee and soda mineral water, possibly playing tavla (backgammon), dama (checkers), or having a conversation you will sometimes be approached by people. I say people in general, because there are so many different kinds. Firstly you have the people asking for a lighter. Then there are the older men selling lottery tickets and scratch-offs (one of my favorites). There are also the young boys trying to sell roses to you for the girl sitting next to you. The men carrying around a tower of balloons, and the ones selling light-up toys. If you are hungry, there are men selling roasted and cold nuts, and the "cig-kofte" a raw meat that is delicious. You will also have beggars and children giving you a fortune card with hopes you will give them money. Lastly there is a group of people that work with organizations asking for money to support health groups, political groups and so on.

A lady from a leukemia support group arrived at our table asking for money. Of course I get out my wallet, especially since I knew she was official. She then gave me a pamphlet on their group and what they did. On it had an "advice" list from a famous philosopher, Mevlana, or better known as Rumi (Listed below). I was then interested to find out more about this philosopher and his influence.

Come to find out, he is the inspiration to the swirling dervishes(name of the people) participating in the dance known as "Sema." If you ever see a commercial or something about Turkish culture, people always seem to recognize the men twirling in a type of white costume. The traditional reasoning is that these 'twirlers' will spin to perfection. It is a journey through the spirit, mind, and love. It is said that after his 'journey' he will come back as a grown, more mature soul/person. He will have left his egos, his hatred, and his lies, coming to love life, and human nature.

Mevlana or Rumi, is well known for his poetry and teachings about love, peace, and harmony. He was a Muslim man, but looked at every religion with respect. He believed that every man should have his or her own faith, and to prosper through it, not to disturb others. Mevlana died in 1273, but left a legacy of teachings and is honored every year on the day of his death with a celebration of his teachings. There is also a museum in Konya where he is also laid to rest.

After reading some of his translated poetry and writings I find even more of a blessing to be here. To be able to walk the same streets as many ancient philosophers did is somehow amazing to me. The history of Turkey is deep and mystical, and each step I walk while in Turkey, I find something new, even as simple as a pamphlet!
Seven advice of Mevlana (Rumi)
1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river
Comertlik ve yardim etmede akarsu gibi ol

2. In compassion and grace be like the sun
Sefkat ve merhamette gunes gibi ol

3. In concealing others faults be like the night
Baskalarinin kusurunu ortmede gece gibi ol

4. In anger and furry be like the dead
Hiddet ve asabiyette olu gibi ol

5. In modesty and humility be like the earth.
Tevazu ve alcak gonullulukte toprak gibi ol

6. In tolerance be like a sea
Hosgorude deniz gibi ol

7. Either exist as you are or be as you look
Ya oldugun gibi gorun ya da gorundugun gibi ol

*Note: I do not own the copyrights of these photos*

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Am An Exchange Student!

After browsing the internet, I came across a quote by a friend. It says everything that needs to be said about an exchange/study abroad experience. May you read and feel the rush and desire to travel the world! :D 

I am an exchange student. How do you know what is a dream if you never accomplished one? How do you know what is an adventure if you never took part in one? How do you know what is anguish if you never said goodbye to your family and friends with your eyes full of tears? How do you know what is diversity if you never lived under the same roof with people from all over the world? How do you know what is tolerance, if you never had to get used to something different even if you didn’t like it. How do you know what is autonomy, if you never had the chance to decide something by yourself? How do you know what it means to grow up, if you never stopped being a child to start a new course? How do you know what is to be helpless, if you never wanted to hug someone and had a computer screen to prevent you from doing it? How do you know what is distance, if you never, looking at a map, said “I am so far away”? How do you know what is a language, if you never had to learn one to make friends? How do you know what is patriotism, if you never shouted “ I love my country” holding a flag in your hands? How do you know what is the true reality, if you never had the chance to see a lot of them to make one. How do you know what is an opportunity, if you never caught one? How do you know what is pride, if you never experienced it for yourself at realizing how much you have accomplished? How do you know what is to seize the day, if you never saw the time running so fast? How do you know what is a friend, if the circumstances never showed you the true ones. How do you know what is a family, if you never had one that supported you unconditionally? How do you know what are borders, if you never crossed yours, to see what there was on the other side? How do you know what is imagination, if you never thought about the moment when you would go back home? How do you know the world, if you have never been an exchange student?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Every Story Has Its Ends!

What does one do when one has 2 weeks left after a year in a foreign country? I have laughed, I have cried, I have spent the best times, I have spent the worst times in Turkey. I have went through my ups and downs to adapt my life in Turkey. I have made Izmir, Turkey, the "city of love," my home!

I have only two emotions about going back to America. I have absolute excitement to see my family. They have been going through possibly the most worst scenarios a family can go through, and I want to be a light of hope for them. I also have complete and distinct fear of leaving Turkey and returning to the many problems that await me.

I feel like everything that I have experienced is coming to an abrupt end! How can this be? How does one cope with this kind of energy? This has been nothing I have experienced before. I know this slightly what I should be going through; however, the extremes that I will be going back to, to be frankly honest, scares the living shit out of me! I would like to know your thoughts, opinions, and advice in the comments section below!

How should I spend my last 2 weeks here? Life is spinning out of control, that I need to grab a hold of something. I will! Dustin means brave and valiant warrior, and I believe our names were given for a reason. I have the strength to fight a million, but I feel like I may fall down to a peasant level, not able to fight anymore. I may need a refresher course to become the warrior I was and am currently.

Like my family, Turkey has been the light of hope for me. It has made part of who I am and appreciate them both soo much! I have learned many things through the eyes of the Turks and I hope to bring that back with me!

I have promised myself to be as strong as possible through this,, but it will be painstakingly hard. I have come here to become the person I am now, and would not trade any split second of a moment, EVER! I will leave with tears water-falling from my eyes and my heart beat at an irregular rhythm, but I would recommend this experience to the world!

I leave every single person that reads this with strength, hope, power, happiness, passion, courageousness, stability, knowledge, compassion, confidence and ultimate love for your near and far future!

Video to watch: Dido - Sand In My Shoes

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Marmaris - My Favorite Place in Turkey

When the water is perfectly waving from the water sports and boat tours, you know its the perfect time to take a dive in the luke warm Mediterranean sea in Marmaris, Turkey.

Yes. Marmaris, Turkey and its surrounding hiding spaces are by far my favorite places in the world, so far. There is something so attractive about it; from its sea, the boats, the sun, the beaches, the many groups of British, the bar street, the ice cream, and even the 10 kilometer seaside walks. Ok I'm rambling.

A secret restaurant about 20 minutes outside of Marmaris. VERY relaxing and peaceful.
So first thing you will notice after the wonderful sun is the amount of British influences on the area. At every street corner and alley way you will either find a British individual or a British themed restaurant. It is amusing at times hearing the rantings and hassling from restaurants where they are trying to convince you their restaurant is the best in Marmaris. They either start in Turkish or English and proceed from there. I have had some interesting conversations, laughs and even bargained down prices with my knowledge of Turkish, just an added bonus! ;) It always surprises me how many languages these workers know. They ask you where you are from and begin speaking in that language, quite fun and very useful in the touristic sector.

Marmaris has something for every person!
The beach is not like that of San Diego or Miami beach. Imagine the the sea being about 20 meters from the sidewalk. In between is a beach filled with indescribable amount of sun beds. Typically the beds cost about 5TL each (3$); however sometimes they are free as long as you buy something from the bar or market that owns those particular beds. You can spend the entire day to your liking. I like the mixture of swimming, sunbathing, reading, and listening to music and/or just hearing the water's waves with the sounds of laughter around me.

Water sports, a MUST!

So you have your day plans: tubing, para sailing, sun-bathing, swimming, dining; but what about at night? Well I have a treat for you. Go enjoy the famous bar street of Marmaris. Now if you look at the name, it doesn't sound all that appealing. Imagine an alley way that stretches the distance of a couple football fields, it is just wide enough to fit a small car. Now imagine you are walking past one small door with their body guards listening to Shakira. It doesn't attract you, maybe its the people, the music, the atmosphere; walk 10 more steps and there is your next potential destination playing a different style of music. They have a variety of music from rock, pop, house, techno, R&B, Turkish, folk, etc. If you want to dance, there are places; if you want to stand and watch live bands, there are places, if you don't know what you want, there will be a place for you. Then there are the popular doner kebab places where people grab a wrap of doner on their way home.

Beach Club.
You can swim at any hour, even 5AM. ;)
To get away from the crowded beaches and hustle and bustle that goes on in the streets you can escape to Beyaz Marti, a private, very small beach. The water is indescribably clear. When you look, you can see the bottom, and after diving in, you cannot reach the bottom, it is that clear. You float there with the salt holding you up, you feel like you are lying in a humongous bath! When you get out, you can grab a nice hammock and/or a carved melon filled with scrumptious ice cream. YUM!

Beyaz Marti
I have managed to go to Marmaris the past 3 consecutive summers, and can I tell you, I hope it continues this way. Marmaris, Turkey brings joy, happiness, laughter, relaxation, sun, tan, and life!

You have to do a boat tour if you go to Marmaris!

Monday, August 8, 2011

See the Beauty That Comes From Foreign Lips!

What kind of person can sit there and trash talk any musician if they cannot even understand a single word?

Shocking right? This post comes after I was watching a variety of non-English speaking singers on YouTube. I just browsed at some comments and I started remembering some of the comments I got after listening to foreign artists, such as Turkish, in my car.

Some of the comments I read and have heard:

"That's not singing that's a bunch of noise hurting my ears"
"That's a bunch of trash."
"Who would listen to something of another language?"
"This is a bunch of jibber-jabber."
"They will never make it" (meaning they cannot make it, because it's not English)
"English is the only way to go."
"If you can't understand it, why listen to it."
"They are trying to be different and cool."
"This is the anthem to terrorism."
... and the list goes on and on.

I would like to share my point of view and how I feel these are all, firstly, very cruel, secondly, very ignorant, and thirdly very close-minded.

Firstly, language is an absolute BEAUTIFUL thing. Since the beginning of time people were separated by language and culture, this I feel is what makes us all beautiful and special in our own way. Language is expressed in different ways. For example, to say your goodbyes to a friend in Turkish is completely different than saying your goodbyes in English. This does not make one better than the other, it makes them special, unique, and culturally adapted.

To say they will never make it, because they don't sing in English or that they are just trying to be different is absurd. If you look outside of the English speaking countries, there are thousands of very famous singers making it big in their own region; in Turkey alone I would need more than 5 hands! To think that if a singer does not make it America, they will not be famous, is a scary thought. Yes, of course coming to America and other English speaking countries is a plus, but to be that self-centered is beyond my belief. There are differences in success and if you want to place your definition of success to America alone, then you are in for a long haul in life. Sorry.

If I can't understand a song, why listen to it? Well for starters, their voice, the music, the beats, the art that is behind each breath a singer takes. If you don't understand what they are saying, ask! Translate, find someone to explain it. It is not hard at all to broaden your mind even a little bit! It scares me to think that we have people out there, that if they don't understand something, that they give up and don't pry for more knowledge, leaving them at square one, insulting something they know nothing about. (This does not just apply to music alone!)

Anthem of terrorism? Do I even need to explain this? There is terrorism in every single culture, every single region of the world, and every single language. If you even think for one second that just because a song is sung in something other than English, that it has terroristic roots, you may want to evaluate the world that you are living in, and find out what terrorism really is!

I understand, plenty of people have their niches, and some prefer certain things. If that's the way you see it, go ahead with it, really. I would not judge you one second. However, if you do not favor something such as the language, the music, the style, DO NOT follow your listening with an ignorant close-minded statement. Move on to something that IS in your comfort zone. Please, be open to the world. If you don't prefer it, then don't, but at least show respect to others culture, music, and region. We are all people and if you live with a self-centered attitude we will never make the progress that is necessary!

"Peace at Home, Peace in the World" ~Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dream Away To Success!

After studying abroad for a year I am faced with many theories. Turkey has brought out many positive things for me, I have been able to adapt, I have grown personally, and I am constantly growing in strength. None of this would be possible if I wouldn't have had a dream and so many people supporting me. My friends and family have been more supportive than I had ever imagined and I thank each and every one of them. My dreams are constantly coming true and I have matured physically and emotionally through my experience.

So I have a question. Why do so many people let their dreams die unrealized? I think in general, the biggest reason is the negative attitudes and energies of other people. They are not solely from our enemies, but also from our friends and sometimes family. Our enemies don't bother us to greatly; we can typically handle them with little trouble. Our friends and family are reassuring at times, but sometimes punch holes in our dreams with their cynical smile and a put down. Or how about all those road bumps you find along the way?

We get that excitement about a possible new home, new education route, new career, or new experience. We see the opportunity of finally making something happen for ourselves, make more money, do more meaningful things in life and rise to a personal challenge. We start feeling our heart pounding steady again, get excited, and the stimulation of success start pumping. Then we tell someone about it, and there is a smirk and a "really?" they then proceed to script out a 10 foot long list of all the problems and obstacles along with 50 reasons why we will never make it and are better off to stay where we are in life.

Before we know it, our excitement has fallen to zero and then begin to second guess ourselves. We begin to think of the reasons why we might not make it, instead of all the reasons why we know we will. We all dream of a better life and more resources to provide for the ones we love. The problem though is that we live in fear, fear of what others might think of us, fear that we might crash followed by a "I told ya so," and fear that we might fail if we step out of our comfort zone.

Consider yourself. Give your dream a chance to happen. Don't let others rob you of your faith, and don't let little mishaps along the way get the best of you. Things are sometimes bound to happen that will postpone or slow the process, but kick through the obstacles. If you have the flame and desire deep down, do something about it and do not let anything take it away.

Remember that successful people do things that average people won't. Successful people are able to handle frustration, remain strong and keep dreaming. Dreams eventually become goals, which soon enough become reality.
Find your inner energy and drive onward! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to Blend in With the Turks!

So as I write this, I am happily awaiting the arrival of my mother and my grandmother (mother's side) to come to Izmir this Wednesday. ONLY 2 FULL DAYS! Yes, That was needed, as I have not seen any of my family for nearly a year! In the midst of their packing, they constantly ask me how to pronounce names of my family and hello, how are you, and other basics. They also ask me about some normal to things to blend in. Although I am not Turkish, I am now at the point of being able to tell who is a tourist, and its very fun and down right cool to now know. I mean we all are tourists somewhere, and after living in a foreign place for nearly a year, I find it so cool to point out what I probably used to look like!

So what I can do is write a few recommendations or notes of how to at least slightly blend in with the Turks; you know, after your outfit, hair and skin color is taken out of the options to change.

  1. Do not rely on maps! As a traveler, everyone has maps, right? Well, if you have a map for Turkey, many times they will be out of date or even completely wrong. You know how a map shows street names, numbers and all of that? Yeh. Don't come to Turkey expecting there to be street signs on every street corner like there are in United States for instance. Finding a road sign is like finding a needle in a hay stack, they are there, but trying to spot them takes up half your travels. My best recommendation is to ask the nearest market owner or people on the street. This is the easiest way to find your way, and also possibly even learn something or get a complimentary treat (Tea, gum, coffee, etc.) Which brings me to my next point.
  2. Do not think that Turkish people do not know or speak English. If you go somewhere playing a game of charades or flipping through your fresh new Turkish-English phrase dictionary, you might get some innocent laughs and be asked to just simply ask in English. Although sometimes there is a huge language barrier, you will be very surprised how even simple English can help you on your travels.
  3. When crossing streets in Turkey, run like there is a huge animal chasing you! Turks are known as very hospitable and polite people; however, something happens like a morphing transformation when they get behind the wheel of a car. It does not matter if the cross light says walk, look left and right before crossing, and while crossing, keep your eyes open for those little moped motorcycles. This and only this may be your only life-sentence while in Turkey, so I repeat, cross streets with speed and caution!
  4. When entering the house of a Turk, take off your shoes. This is just a simple cultural respect. Some families even take their shoes off before even entering the house. Do not be surprised either if you are handed a pair of slippers to wear around the house, they want you to be comfortable. So after entering the house, take off your shoes, and if they say it is not a problem (as sometimes, this is not a problem), then leave them on as you wish.
  5. Never disrespect bar owners, waiters, taxi drivers, or hotel receptionists. In general you should show respect anyways, as it is plain courtesy. However there are those times when something goes wrong: the wrong meal, bad hotel room, the taxi takes you to the wrong place, etc. When these instances come up approach them calmly, and I guarantee they will handle the situation to the best of their ability (Hospitality, AGAIN) and you may even get a free meal, taxi ride, or discounted hotel room. Turks will do ANYTHING to make you feel welcome, happy and relaxed. While talking about respect, never, ever, ever, ever disrespect the name of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Do not even test what will happen, Please!
  6. Be ready to eat when coming to Turkey. Again and again, I write on my blog about the Turkish hospitality, and it is so evident when you get here. When at a meal, they will push food on you over and over again. Sometimes, if you are not used to it, it can be overbearing, but they do not want you going hungry, EVER. It is considered rude if you do not at least try what they offer you, but if you are genuinely full, just put your hand over your chest and say tesekkurler (thank you). Turks are persistent with hospitality and will even give you their own bed if all the beds are taken up.
  7. When getting on a public bus, hold on tight. Turkish transportation offers many options from Dolmus (mini-bus), taxi, taxi dolmus, bus, metro, Vapur (Ferry), and metro-bus (Istanbul). Generally buses come every 15-25 minutes, ferries and metros have a set schedules, and the dolmus comes at random in their designated routes. Just a simple tip, though, when getting on a public bus, hold on tight, because the bus drivers love to drive, turn, and stop with speed. If you are elderly, individuals will give up their seat for you to sit in mild comfort. If you are young or capable of standing, be courteous and let the elderly or disabled have your seat.
  8. Dont assume that you will come here and wear a turban. While some Turks prefer to cover their hair, you are not forced, nor inclined to wear one. Turkey is secular, and you can practice however you wish. If you are on the West, it is very modern and you may not even notice the difference, while the East has more conservative individuals. When touring mosques however it is required to cover your hair out of respect to the people actually practicing that religion.
  9. Be prepared for a Turkish man to say I love you upon the first night of meeting. Turks are very romantic, and also have a different view on love. There is no like or dislike of something, it is always  love or hate. So when a Turk says he loves you upon meeting you, this does not necessarily mean he is in love with you, it just means he has a deep liking for you. Turks are very poetic and romantic, but also very jealous lovers. So be prepared to be swept off your feet, but I wouldnt recommend this in your itinerary.
  10. Share everything. Just as Turks are hospitable to you, do yourself and them a favor and be the same back. For example, after buying a pack of gum, a bottle of water, or cigarettes, offer them some before taking some for yourself! You can also leave an open pack of whatever on the table, for people to have at their desire, dont buy something and stuff it in your pocket or purse for yourself. This thing is so simple, but will prove that you are just as much Turkish as the natives.
These were just a few that I thought of from the top of my head, but if you want to be as Turkish as possible check out some books at the library and listen to some music to feel the heart, soul, and peace of the Turkish individuals.

Everyone enjoy your stay in Turkey and in advance, Turkiye'ye Hosgeldin.
~Welcome to Turkey~

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Evil Eye & Turkish Superstitions

Every country has them, we all joke about them, so I figured I would share them with from a Turkish view. You know what I'm talking about, superstitions. You know, when a black cat crosses your path it brings bad omens, when you walk under a ladder you obtain bad luck, or breaking a mirror will bring 7 years bad luck.

Most of these I have taken note of over my time while in Turkey, and some I actually believe in!

Here we go:
  • Don't cut your nails at night, it will bring Satan. (back in the times with no lights, this would be told to children so that they wouldn't cut themselves)
  • Enter a place with your right foot, brings good luck and good fortune.
  • Never hand scissors, knives, or sharp objects to individuals, if done the individuals will fight. To prevent this, you place it down and the other person will pick it up.
  • Likewise, leaving scissors open in the household will cause much conflict.
  • Don't button your shirt while facing an individual, this will close the relationship.
  • Don't kiss people on the eyes, you may not see that person in the future.
  • When wearing your shoes, put the right shoe on first, this will lead your life in the right direction.
  • While eating, one cannot place one foot over the other, this shows disrespect to the table and a sign of famine.
  • If you see a snake while travelling to some wear you will have luck and good fortune.
  • If shoes are not set upright, your life will turn sideways and bring bad luck. Also some say that a person will die.
  • If a dog barks during the call to prayer (Ezan), someone in the neighbor will die.
  • If your left hand is scratched, you will receive money. If your right hand is scratched you will spend money.
  • Don't sleep in the same room as a cat, if done, the cat is said to steal your soul and shorten your life. (Ever wonder why cats have 9 lives!?) ;)
  • Turning music off in the car while driving by graveyards allows for the dead to rest in peace and is general respect.
  • Clothing or fabric on individuals cannot be sewn.
  • While yawning you must close your mouth, or you are citing the call to prayer (Ezan) to Satan.
  • It is said if you say something, good or bad, 40 times over time, it will come true.
Nazar & The Evil Eye:
This is the most widely known superstition in Turkey regardless of age and background. The Nazar is basically harmful energies or vibes that are given from envious, jealous, and greedy people to another willingly and unwillingly. The Nazar is believed to cause many bad things in your life. Bad things can happen, such as: feeling of fatigue, accidents, problems when trying to perform planned events, even death. The evil eye which is blue, white, yellow and made of glass is said to absorb these negative energies, and if broken, it has absorbed too much bad energy. Even a very dear loved one can give you Nazar because of the strong flow of love.
There are bracelets, necklaces, wall decorations, and even some doorways have them cemented into the ground!
One thing other than wearing an evil eye is to not share your successes or plans for future. Even your closest friends can be happy for you, but still hold their jealousy within. It is better to share little and share plans after they have occurred, such as job interviews, vacations, new relationships, or making an expensive purchase.

So what about YOU? Are there any for Turkey that I am forgetting or haven't heard?! Comment them down below!! :D

Note: I may add more superstitions as people point them out. I also do not own the rights to these photographs!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blowing Out The Candles - A Turkish Birthday

Birthdays are always meant for celebration, family and friends. Birthdays are typically the same everywhere in the world I would guess; however, I noticed a few slight differences in Turkey.

Firstly, on my actual birthday, my host family was gone to another city, so celebration was left to my friends. It was enjoyable and nothing spectacular. Gonca, Erman, and I went to a bar/cafe, Popcorn, on the kordon of Alsancak. There we just mingled around, talking and so forth. I thank them for not letting me be alone on my birthday! :D

The actual celebration came this past weekend when me and my "Turkish mom" celebrated our birthday together. Now typically in America, at least from my experience, the family will prepare your favorite meal, and buy some cake and ice cream. In Turkey, from the birthdays I have seen, the family will set out several different orderves and drinks, like that of a huge luncheon. I guess that is the Turkish culture shining through, never letting you go hungry. For my birthday in particular they made some fajita chicken wraps, which I might add were amazing. Unlike in America, where the family will buy the cake ahead of time, Turks order the cake and is delivered to the door. Side note: you can get almost anything delivered to your door (loaf of bread, McDonald's, water, yogurt). However I havent been to a birthday where they serve ice cream, but trust me, the amounts of icing makes up for it!! ;)

This is even minimum from what I have seen in the past! :)
Ceyda serving our wonderful food! :)

I really love Ceyda sooo much! Such a warm personality!
Everyone sits around with all the lovely food and smiling faces conversing back and forth. Someone then will bring in the cake with sparklers and candles lit singing happy birthday(in Turkish, of course). Just like in America, you make a wish and blow the candles out. But, immediately after blowing the candles out, you must make one cut in the cake from the center for increased luck.

Baris serving the yummy cake with a smile! :P
Blowing out the candles.
Cutting the cake from the center of course! :)
Now the cake alone is magnificent! Every birthday cake I have seen is typically 3 layers and a work of craftsmanship and is so unbelievably delicious! See the pictures below for reference. :D

After the cake we then exchange gifts which is always fun and then begin eating the cake and talking some more.

My second family! :)
All in all you can see that it is pretty much the same, just some slight differences in food and cakes. It was a quite enjoyable birthday celebration, and will miss this experience quite a bit next year I can highly imagine. My love for Turkey even goes down to the birthday celebration, and not just for the cake! ;)