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coming soon

20 Jun

On several occasions during the past few months, I have sat down at my computer to start writing a new post. My most recent attempt was foiled by my laptop’s dying battery, leading me to lose my amazing post and a few pages of my honors thesis, which is currently the general bane of my existence and taking away my desire to write anything that isn’t required.

As of two weeks ago, I’ve wrapped up another wonderful semester at Bogazici, and I am now forever finished with undergraduate coursework. There’s just this thesis standing between me and complete freedom, and for the last few months I’ve been slaving away at various cafés in my neighborhood in Istanbul, in several of which the waiters have my order memorized. Under other circumstances, I would have been proud to reach the level of being able to say “the usual” in a restaurant, but in this case it’s a little depressing. This thesis has effectively taken over my life.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel though. Having broken ninety pages today, my thesis is nearing its end. If I am able to stay strong, I will submit my completed first draft tomorrow, right before I hop on a plane to Sweden for summer school, and all that I will have left is a little editing. In the very near future, this will all be just a painful memory, and I will finally be able to read for FUN, put time and effort into studying Turkish, and blog my little heart out. Until then, I’ll hang out in this café with my tea and 91-page word document.

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skool

14 Feb

I don’t know how to feel.

I’ve known this was coming for a while now… Ever since I left Bogazici last January I’ve been planning my trip back. And I am so excited for the upcoming semester and all the adventures I know I will have. What I didn’t plan, however, was to cry like a baby when it was time to leave Waco, Baylor, and my friends with no idea if/when I’ll be back.

These past few months at college have been some of the best so far, and I realized that I need to write at least one post in praise of Baylor and my time here, regardless of the fact that I have traveled so far away from it so many times. I’m also feeling sentimental at the moment because I am sitting here on my couch in Shreveport, packed and as ready to go as I’ll ever be.

Here are a few reasons why this year was one of the best:

1) Friends. I basically had to start from scratch on the friend-making front after I came back from Turkey last year, since many of my friends from the year before had graduated, transferred, or just moved on. Starting over in junior year of college is a pretty daunting task, and I’m not sure where I would be without the exchange students. Last fall and this spring, I got the chance to meet and become very close with groups of incoming exchange and international students as they came to study at Baylor. These are some of the coolest people I have ever met, and leaving them a month into the semester was surprisingly difficult (I somehow turned into an emotional wreck there at the end).

exchange group pic

2) My job. Working in the study abroad office at Baylor has been one of the best experiences I could have had during college. My boss(es) and coworkers have been awesome, and I consider myself the luckiest college student ever to have been able to spend over a year there. My emotional wrecked-ness stayed with me as I said goodbye to the office and everyone in it.

3) Opportunities. Last semester, although it was so challenging with 18 hours and a part-time job, allowed me to do a few really cool things. One of these was a phone interview with Dr. Greg Anderson, one of the professors from the video in my last post… He’s kind of a big deal. One of my assignments for my interviewing class was an informational interview with someone in a field I wanted to learn more about, so I took a chance and emailed him, and to my surprise he said yes. We set up a half-hour phone interview that turned into a full hour of travel stories and life advice. That conversation with him got me really interested in grad school, and a few months later I was sitting on a plane to Hawaii to visit their program. Sometimes life is cool like that.

I could say so much more about Baylor and the great things that have come from going there, but I’m leaving for the airport in about five hours and I guess it’s probably time to sleep. So to finish up, here’s a link to my traditional pre-trip song. I chose the version of “Space Oddity” from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty because a) that was a beautiful movie, and b) I kind of feel like Major Tom right now, blasting off from home into the great unknown. Although Istanbul isn’t outer space and I already somewhat know what I’m getting into, life as I know it will never be the same.

aloha, aloha (hello, goodbye)

1 Feb

The past few months have been busy ones, and almost all of my time has been filled with work, school, and writing my honors thesis. My days in India last summer seem faraway and dreamlike. As of late, my feet have been less itchy than usual—I’ve been happy to be in Waco these past few weeks, spending time with the delightful new crew of exchange students, working in the office, and making slow but steady progress on my thesis (forty pages down, about forty more to go). I’ve also been continuing research I started last semester on different graduate programs that offer the very specialized degree I wish to pursue, language documentation. What is language documentation, you ask? Watch this trailer for the documentary The Linguists and find out:

Basically it’s the linguistics version of wanting to be an astronaut when you grow up… I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to grow out of my desire to explore the world and see all the colors and learn the languages (although the adventures I would have are significantly less life-threatening than the ones in the documentary). I would be trying to save undocumented languages that are facing extinction by recording them (which often involves travel to remote and awesome places), conducting research on the languages, and working towards their conservation through education of the community and construction of dictionaries and databases. This field of study is still relatively small and is only offered by a few graduate programs in the country. The schools I’m looking into now are the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Oregon, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Oh yeah, and the University of Hawaii. Which is where I just spent the last few days. 

The decision to come to Hawaii was kind of a last minute one. I recently realized that I should start getting serious about my search for graduate programs, starting by visiting as many of the schools as I can. Since the University of Hawaii was the least geographically accessible of the schools I’m considering, I figured that I should take advantage of my ability to fly standby on American Airlines while I can (these benefits will end for me in the not-too-distant future, when I turn 23). The Sunday morning flight from Dallas to Honolulu was green (i.e. not close to being full), as was the Tuesday evening return flight. I emailed about twenty people on Thursday night in the university’s linguistics department and on Friday ended up with many emails addressed “Aloha, Audrey” and enough offers of activities to keep me busy for the two days I could stay there. There was no good reason to say no, so I didn’t. On Saturday, I listed myself for the flight, and on Sunday I drove to Dallas and hopped on an airplane. Nine hours later I found myself on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Although I walked by the ocean for a few minutes one morning, my Hawaiian experience (all forty-eight hours of it) wasn’t all sun and sandcastles, which I guess is probably a good thing since the beach could have clouded my judgment about the school. The weather was bad (for Hawaii) during my entire stay, with on-and-off rain showers, cloudy skies, and strong winds– the Hawaiian winter storm. The temperature was in the 70’s the whole time though, so no complaints from me. The university was beautiful and they have a whole five-story building devoted to language and linguistics—-basically, heaven. I also received two free curry shots (tiny plastic cups of curry) on campus, which was enough to sell me on the school. Just kidding. Kind of. And the people there are so nice… “Texas nice,” even. I got the chance to meet with a few of the grad students there, two of whom are from cities less than an hour away from my hometown, once again demonstrating the smallness of the world. They all call the professors by their first names and have traveled to crazy places to conduct summer research (like East Timor, I’m not even sure where exactly that is) and have the kinds of debates I want to be knowledgeable enough to have in a few years. Plus, they are living and studying in such an incredible, culturally diverse place and have access to all the delicious Asian food one’s heart could desire. And, from what I hear, nice beaches.

Cloudy day at the beach

Cloudy day at the beach


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Part of the UH campus

Part of the UH campus

Art on one of the construction sites on campus

Art on one of the construction sites on campus

Mini-adventure within my mini-adventure: the search for Spam. I didn’t learn this until recently, but apparently Hawaii is a huge consumer of Spam. The idea of Spam has never particularly appealed to me, so I had never tried it before, but one of the grad students I talked to told me that the one thing I had to eat in Hawaii was “Spam musubi” from a 7/11 gas station. “A college diet staple,” she called it. So one morning, I set out from my hostel in search of a 7/11. After about half an hour of walking, I finally laid eyes on my destination in all its gas station-y glory. Inside, where you usually find the random hot dogs or burritos, was the Spam. On top of a little brick of rice was a big piece of Spam, and it was all wrapped up in seaweed, like Spam sushi. I bought one and took it to a bench outside, where I hesitantly took the first bite of what I soon realized was Hawaiian Spam deliciousness. The fact that one of my best stories from my trip is about food from a gas station in Honolulu is kind of pathetic, but while it was happening I felt really cool striking out on this culinary quest. It’s the little things, right?

Breakfast of champions (Spam on the right)

Breakfast of champions (Spam on the right)

I’m now back in Waco, two weeks away from my flight to Istanbul. Many alohas are coming up for me (in the Hawaiian language, “aloha” can be used both as a greeting and farewell). Some of them will be hello alohas, and some goodbye ones. I’m not particularly looking forward to the goodbye ones.

my family

24 Dec

I waited until two days before Christmas to start my Christmas shopping. Not one of the best ideas I’ve ever had, but I was waiting for my paycheck, taking finals and handling other miscellaneous end-of-the-semester problems, so there hadn’t been much time to hit the stores. Yesterday I finally climbed in my car and braved the traffic to World Market, where I planned on buying my sister a scarf I had seen last time I was in town (which I had deluded myself into thinking would still be there) and a set of Turkish coffee cups for my parents to go with the still-unused coffee I brought them last Christmas. Neither of those things were there– the store had basically been picked clean, and after wandering around for about fifteen minutes looking for something meaningful amidst the aisles of decorative statues, throw pillows, and coffee mugs, I realized that I wasn’t going to find “the perfect gift” for anyone in my family. So I decided to go with a modern-day take on the handmade gift and write a post about my family.

First is my dad. Despite the fact that he intimidates every guy I have ever brought to the house, my dad is a major goofball (sorry to blow your cover). He sings all the time, talks in funny voices, and is almost always making jokes, most of them groan-worthy. He taught my sister and I how to shoot guns, starting back from when we were really small and we stood on the porch and shot BBs at coke cans on the playground in our yard. Because of him, I am able to quote The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, and even a little bit of The Waltons (not my favorite). I always feel safe when my dad is around, and we have gotten a lot closer since I left for college. I call him pretty often from school, and we even hang out sometimes, like the other night when we got dinner and went to see the new Hobbit movie. He even has plans to come to India next year, and I am so excited to be able to show him around and introduce him to my friends over there.

Next is my mom. We have very different personalities, which sometimes creates misunderstandings, but I do know that she loves me and I hope she knows that I do love her too. She is one of the most self-sacrificing people I know, with one of the hardest work ethics. She is that person who will help do all the dishes after a meal when she is a guest at someone’s house. She puts a lot of work into cooking and cleaning at our house, which often goes unappreciated. Since I started living on my own, I have started to realize what a superwoman she is… I can barely even manage taking care of myself, but she cooks and cleans for four people in addition to her job as a flight attendant. Her job is another thing I am grateful for, because without it I would have been much less likely to travel to many of the places that have changed my life over the past few years. My mom has recently started flying internationally as well, and it is so cool to see the pictures she puts up from places like Paris, London, Tokyo, Lima, Madrid, and more.

Although there were many times throughout high school, and even sometimes now, that I don’t know how I ended up in this family, and sometimes I was jealous of my other friends who were more spoiled than my sister and me or had more freedom as teenagers, I am glad that this is the family I wound up in. Otherwise I could very well have been a self-entitled little brat with purple hair (I had a phase where I somehow thought that would look really cool). My parents, although they give me a lot of support (both emotionally and financially), have taught my sister and me the value of hard work and neither of us expect to just be able to do anything we want without putting in the effort. We have also gotten support to follow our dreams, and my life could have been very different if they had pushed me in a certain direction instead of letting me go through the trial-and-error process of figuring out what I want to do with my life. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but it’s been an amazing ride and I am really excited about the future. I know I owe all of this to my parents and I am so grateful to them for the opportunities they have allowed me to take advantage of.

Last comes my sister. I actually have a present for her, but it is kind of a big deal, not to mention highly classified, and will not be revealed until we do our present exchange after the candlelight service at church tonight. Anna and I fight more than any other siblings I know. Like epic battles over the remote and the most comfortable chair in the living room. She could tell you the story about how I gave her a black eye when we were kids and put socks on our hands so we could box. I would counter with the time she threw a tape measure at my head (for literally no reason). Most of our fights start out with us snuggling or doing something sisterly, but we quickly bounce to the other end of the spectrum and become mortal enemies. Bottom line though, we love each other, and anyone who messes with my sister better watch themselves… Because she might throw a tape measure at their heads.

Merry Christmas to my crazy family… Even though I may run away to the other side of the world sometimes, I love y’all and I’m glad I get to be here with you this Christmas.

portland(ia)

19 Mar

Two Fridays ago, I woke up, tried to take a shower but found that the hot water was out, went to class/work dirty, came home and took a shower, threw my packed duffel bag into my car, drove four hours from Waco straight to the Shreveport airport, got on a plane to Dallas, then waited a few tense hours for the moment of truth… The flight I was waiting for had an empty seat, which meant that I was going to Portland!

The purpose of my crazy Friday travels: a spring break journey to be reunited with two of my best friends from Istanbul, fellow exchange students who attend Portland State University. Over the next few days, I saw a lot more of Portland than I thought was possible in the time frame I was working with. Some of my favorite things in the city included the Saturday market (hundreds of vendors selling art, food, and hundreds of other things), Voodoo Donuts (where you can order weird desserts like the Bacon Maple Bar), Powell’s (a magical bookstore that takes up an entire city block), and a sushi restaurant where you can take whatever you want from a conveyer belt that runs from table to table.

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Downtown Portland from a bridge

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Some Voodoo Donuts (the bacon maple bar had already been eaten at this point)

Also, one day my friend Kyle’s mom, Kyle’s sister, Kyle’s friend, and I went on a road trip (without Kyle, who was studying for finals) to see some cool nature things. We saw the Columbia River Gorge, several waterfalls, Hood River (the most popular windsurfing destination in the US), and Mount Hood. On Mount Hood (my first time on a snow-covered mountain), we made a pit stop at the Timberline Lodge, which is the outside of the hotel filmed in ‘The Shining’. Seeing all that made me realize why people from Oregon like nature so much. I’d love to go back when it’s less cold and wet and hike around in all that nature.

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The Gorge on a cold, overcast day

 

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Recognize this? It’s the Overlook Hotel from ‘The Shining’

My Portland holiday was a short one, as I only had three full days there. But those three days were jam-packed with exploration and spending time with great friends in an awesome, weird city. I’d love to go back again someday and spend a little more time there, because I know there’s a lot that I missed. In the meantime I’ll just keep on watching Portlandia.

Now time for the life updates.

Portland was my only trip this semester, but as soon as May rolls around and school is out of the way, I will once again be hitting the road (the skies, actually) and heading back to India. I have been trying to figure out how to get back there basically since last February, when I left. And I now have my plan. After I take my finals in Waco, I will return to Shreveport where I will begin a brief stint in the factory (I promised myself I would never work there again, but there’s just no beating that money when you’re a college student). I will be back on the assembly line for about three weeks, and then set off for India! I am so excited to go back. For the month of June, I will be attending a Hindi language school in the foothills of the Himalayas, and then I will return to Delhi for a few weeks to visit friends and teach English. Sometime in late July or early August, I will come back to the states and most likely work in the factory until school starts. I need to save up some money for what I’m about to tell you next.

About two weeks ago, I got some wonderful news in an appointment with my academic advisor. I can satisfy some of my degree requirements (such as defending my thesis) electronically, and therefore I do not need to be on campus for my last semester, which is next spring. Translation: I’m going back to Boğaziçi! I felt that my time there was too short, and I wished I could stay for a whole year. Now I will be able to, as long as there are no unforeseen complications. The only drawback is that I will not be able to walk the stage at Baylor’s graduation in Waco. However, I feel that one quick stroll across a stage is a very small price to pay for the chance to spend another four months in Istanbul.

I feel a little embarrassed writing all this, because I almost feel as though I am getting too many amazing opportunities to see the world. But traveling is my passion. Not a day passes that I don’t daydream about going to unknown and faraway places, experiencing new cultures, and learning new languages. I know that I am blessed to be able to pursue my passions and get so many stamps in my passport while I am still young, and I will continue living this adventurous lifestyle as long as the doors are open for me.

the age of worry

3 Sep

Finally. It’s here. I have awaited this day for so long… Every day at the factory as I was putting thousands of bottles on the conveyer belt, I would pass the time by daydreaming about Turkey. Two months later I sit here at home, a new, self-made thousandaire, with my trip to Istanbul beginning in a matter of hours.

I must admit, I’m having a little anxiety about this trip. The flights themselves don’t worry me, but my course of action once I arrive in Istanbul is somewhat unclear as of right now. I know that I will be moving into an apartment with two other people, one of them being another girl from Baylor. I know that said apartment is located in the neighborhood right next to Bogazici University, where I will be going to school. I also know that it is on the fifth floor. However, my knowledge stops there. I have a feeling that my first encounter with Istanbul will be the same as the first time I went to Delhi, except this time there will be no Amit there to pick me up from the airport and handle everything.

Here is my traditional pre-trip song– I feel like this one is pretty appropriate given my current circumstances.

EDIT (approximately 5.5 hours later): Before anyone has even woken up to read this post and be on the edge of their seats with me, my fears have been relieved. About two hours ago, I woke up to a message from the other Baylor girl giving me some very nice directions from the airport to the apartment and an address (hallelujah). So the time has come for me to zip up my suitcase and jump on over across the Atlantic Ocean. Talk to you then…

factory life

3 Aug

I know I said that I wouldn’t be blogging again until September when I go to Istanbul, but I couldn’t resist. Even though nothing crazy has happened at the factory, I have gained new perspectives and made friends with some really interesting people, some students like me and others whose lives are totally different from mine. We all coexist in a very cool way in the factory though. First of all, spending 8 hours a day together, 5 days a week, in a 100 degree factory is definitely a unique bonding experience. We count down the time together until we get to leave (“just six and a half hours left!”) and we learn a lot about each other as we make conversation to pass the time. My duties so far have consisted of jobs such as folding cardboard boxes, pouring oil out of defective bottles, putting empty bottles on a conveyer belt, putting bottles into the boxes I folded and sending them through the taping machine, and various other things of this nature.

Since I started working at the factory, I have been exposed to what is basically a new culture to me. I have seen so many tattoos in so many unexpected places (necks, the outsides of wrists, the backs of calves, the list goes on). I have respect for all the moms I work with, who go straight home and take care of their kids all day, while as soon as I get home, I collapse in the recliner until the throbbing in my feet finally subsides. To anyone who was wondering how I got started in this particular line of work, the answer is this: a garage sale. My family had a garage sale one Saturday, and the plant manager at the factory happened to show up. We struck up a conversation, it came up that I was looking for a job, and two days later I was folding the first of many cardboard boxes.

Boxes. Lots of them. This is my life.

My Texas road trip was a great success… One of my friends and I drove from Dallas to Austin and back (stopping in Waco for a few hours, which surprisingly made me a little homesick for Baylor), meeting up with a few people along the way. In Austin, my friend’s friend from UT showed us a few cool places where a lot of students hang out, and the next day we went exploring the city. I’m pretty sure my friend Kim got tired of me continuously saying how much I loved Austin and formulating plans to run away there. From the old man in the cowboy hat playing “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band on the side of the road to the hundreds of ethnic restaurants ranging from Indian to Ethiopian to Moroccan, Austin is definitely one of my favorite cities in the world. After wandering around the city, my friend and I met up with our other friend (so many friends!) and we went camping at a place called Pace Bend, which is right on Lake Travis. We successfully set up our tent, built a fire, and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, proving that we are indeed legitimate wilderness experts.

View of Lake Travis from our campsite

The next morning, we woke up pretty early for the long drive back to Dallas so I could catch my flight to Louisiana. The last thing I really wanted to do before leaving was to hit up the Czech Stop. About twenty miles north of Waco is a tiny town called West, Texas, which has an unusually high Czech population. There is one 24-hour gas station in West called the Czech Stop, which serves delicious kolaches at all hours of the day, and late-night kolache runs are pretty common occurrences for me and my friends. The Czech Stop has been frequented by such famous customers as Shakira (random, I know, but there’s an autographed picture of her on the wall that makes me laugh every time). If you are ever driving down I-35, do yourself a favor and make a pit stop in West. But don’t take it from me, take it from Shakira!

Best. Kolaches. Ever.

It is now exactly one month until I leave for Turkey. Excited is an understatement. Although I value the friends and experiences I’ve had at the factory, I am SO ready to walk down that jet bridge and take my seat on the plane that will carry me far, far away to a place where new adventures are waiting.