While I sit in the barbershop, surrounded by mirrors, I figure its time for a reflection. My host brother Berkay is getting a haircut, and of course the barber is a close family friend. A lot has happened since I last wrote, and I'm sorry for the delay. I will certainly give a synopsis of my trip so far, but I decided to dedicate this blog to solely my first encounter with my host family.
On Monday afternoon, 15 of my classmates and I took the 3 p.m. ferryboat to Bursa. I get terribly sea sick if the waves are choppy, and I decided sleeping would be the best option to circumvent sea sickness. After a restful two hours, we landed in Bursa. As we exited the ferry, I was equally excited and nervous to meet my host family.
The venue for the first meeting with the family was a small restaurant in center city Bursa, inside a small park. Municipal officials had been invited, and it was a an unexpectedly formal event. The group leaders made us line up single-file behind a wall, adding to the suspense. I felt as if we were lining up in the locker room awaiting the announcer to introduce the team members by name. When my name was called, I nervously stepped forward and shook the hand of the official, then turned suddenly to my right to find my host family standing there in anticipation.
I took two steps and greeted my host father, Hikmet, with the customary handshake and kisses on either cheek. Next my mother, Nilgun, and finally my brother Berkay. (A number of my American friends have informed me that I could fit in perfectly with the family, and even said I look exactly like Berkay.) We approached the table and sat down, and I was introduced to Burhan, a cousin and good friend of Berkay. Most of the conversation was in Turkish, with Berkay translating some of the jargon so that I could understand. I had little idea what was going on, so I laughed when they laughed, smiled when they smiled, and ate when they ate.
After dinner, we departed for Burhan's apartment where I was introduced to my new Uncle, Aunt, and cousin. My new uncle offered me a beer, which I had to decline because of program rules, but I thought it was funny enough to include. We watched "The Incredible Hulk" dubbed in Turkish while I entertained questions about where I live, my father's profession, and some personal hobbies.
Family, it seems, has been and will continue to be a recurring theme. Since meeting Burhan's family, I have met 5 other cousins and their families. I already feel like I am being embraced into this culture of family, and as I learn more and more Turkish I hope to forge a permanent family bond.