March 1, 2005
Dearest Friends, Family, and Rotarians,
As I turn my calendar to March 2005, I realize that it is a great time as ever to write to you about my January and February.
In summation of this time, I have had the time to relax and reflect about where I have been and where I am going. Burak and I are, most likely, moving to Durham, North Carolina in August 2005 for two years because Burak was accepted to Duke’s Fuqua School of Business MBA. Now that just means, ‘what I am going to do for two years?’ I have been exploring other career possibilities in case I don’t get into Duke or UNC Law. Additionally, I am organizing an Americans for Informed Democracy in Barcelona in June and a fundraiser for the Martinez Foundation later this spring. My second semester officially started two weeks ago, and I am settling into my new school schedule. For more details and photos, continue below, and check out my website at:
The Full Update:
Early January was spent relaxing near Verviers, Belgium with my host family of my exchange year from four years ago. Burak and I celebrated Three Kings Day searching for the ceramic toy in the cake with the finder becoming the ‘king.’ I required much sleep to keep my French, Spanish, and English all in line. I was asked by a local bartender while out with my family, after learning I could speak all those languages, whether I wanted to be a translator. I really think it is funny how most people think the only thing you can do with speaking many languages is be a translator. I told him no, and he seemed a little disappointed.
Burak and I ate dinner with my first host family before we left Belgium. They presented us with a generous wedding gift. I was so surprised. I hadn’t expected anything at all. It struck me once more how I have come to know and care for such wonderful people all over the world and how they have grown to care for me.
Our last weekend in Belgium, we stayed with an old friend of mine I had met nearly 7 years to the day of our visit in San Antonio, Texas. He was a Rotary Exchange student from Belgium living in Gonzalez, Texas, but we had met in RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Award) when I was 16. We had kept in touch over the years when he was in Texas, I was in Belgium, and now when I lived in Spain. Hopefully, he and his fiancée will visit us in Barcelona.
The rest of January was comfortably uneventful unlike what you read about in my December update about December. I worked out to burn off the Belgian food and continued teaching my adult class and my little kids (4- and 5-year olds). I was adopted by the Rotary Club Barcelona Millennium to be their first Rotary Scholar ever and soon had a new Rotary counselor, Mark. Mark gives me rides to meetings and during the rides we get to catch up on the last week. He is a great counselor, and I am happy that I can create a relationship with my new club. I had switched clubs because the first one I was given was 50 km away from me. Attending the regular Monday meetings, I am quickly becoming a familiar face to the members.
In February, as the temperature continued to drop and my house continued not to have central heating, Burak got really sick. He had a mix between everything like cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, etc. We really weren’t sure what he had, but just kept pumping him up with medicine that I had to fight to get from a stubborn pharmacist (another story for those interested), freshly squeezed orange juice, and movies and meals in bed. He bounced back after a week and a half in bed with lots of sleep and my care. I took the role as doctor, nurse, wife, cleaning lady, cook, etc. I even found myself cooking steak for him, which slightly disgusted me as a vegetarian for 10.5 years. I just had to hold my breath as the blood oozed out of the meat. It gives me chills just thinking and writing about it.
Because Burak was sick, I was recruited to teach his high school ‘Study Skills’ class. I was slightly frightened when he asked me. I hadn’t walked into a Freshman HS class for more than 9 years, when I myself was one. I didn’t teach any material to his class, but just had to keep them under control as I held a study hall. The week before at the same international school, I had the last-minute chance to substitute for the kindergarten class. As the language of instruction is English, it wasn’t too hard to control them besides their age’s being a factor. The 5- and 6-year olds impressed me when they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in English, Spanish, and Dutch for their Dutch classmate. Darn, these kids are sharp! I had fun being a kid again, and the school even paid me.
The second week of February was a vacation week at Burak’s school. He spent most of the week in bed, but we had plans for that weekend to spend it in Paris for Valentine’s Day weekend. At the very last minute, he decided that he could go with me despite his sickness. We stayed at an AIESEC Austin friend’s posh apartment where we slept on a better bed than ours and ate the wonderful French food. We even later learned he had cable TV and enjoyed all the luxuries that brings. Oh, yeah, we were in Paris, right? Well, we got to the top of the Eiffel Tower, took a 2-hour tour on a bus, and went out with friends almost every night. Other than that, we slept in, and Burak was still fighting off this sickness. I didn’t mind since it was my 4th time in Paris, but I had to run away from Burak for a couple of hours to see the Musee d’Orsay. I had never seen it before. In the end, it really didn’t impress me after seeing the Louvre (Paris), the Van Gogh Museum(Amsterdam), and the Prado(Madrid). Sorry if I offended anyone with that statement.
On one particular night in Paris, we accumulated most of our friends that we have met in different places in our lives, who all live in Paris now. The friend we were staying with whom we met in AIESEC in Austin, Luis, a fellow officer and friend from Rotex DC that I had attended an exchange student conference in PA the year before, Julianne, and a French friend from UT that I had taken down to my family’s ranch in Mexico to expose him to a new country, Ben. The next night, Emily, a French, former exchange student to El Paso who had lived with the same family Burak had lived with on exchange, visited where we were staying. It was really weird to all get together and know so many people living in the same European capital. That moment made me realize we surely live in an internationally connected world and getting together and staying in touch would not have been feasible without email and mobile phones.
Sometime in early February, I was approached to organize a conference for Americans for Informed Democracy (www.aidemocracy.org) in Barcelona. I was a group leader and speaker at an AID conference in Berlin in December and they were hoping to hold several similar mini-conferences in major European cities this spring. AID has very similar goals in line with my scholarship, including creating better world understanding, and that was the main reason I agreed to organize it.
With the organization’s seed money, I have booked a huge hostel that is actually a mansion in the hills of Barcelona. The conference will be held this June 3-5, 2005 for 50-70 Americans studying abroad to talk about international issues to help create better global understanding and return that knowledge back to the States. The theme of the conference will be ‘The New Worldwide Community: Globalization in the Postmodern age’ or something similar. I am currently securing speakers on a range of topics while AID will advertise the conference to study abroad Americans and filter through the applications.
I am really excited about the opportunity to use my organizational, people, and Spanish skills, and connections (Rotary, UAB, friends, etc.) to create a learning atmosphere that will help meet both Rotary and AID’s goals on many different levels. I am also thrilled to give people an excuse to come to Barcelona since it is such a great city. Furthermore, I am a Senior Political Analyst for the same organization; you can see my bio at:
On a somber note, Burak’s father, Naci, died on February 17th, 2005. Burak knew that his father was in his last days and had secured tickets and leave from work for ten days in Turkey. My father-in-law was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in November 2004. Burak had the opportunity to fly to Turkey to visit in December for a few days. He flew out the day of his dad’s passing away and was there for the funeral and his family. His mother will stay with her parents for a while before moving back to her beach house and possibly live with a cousin there. Burak’s sister, Burcu, has returned to Australia to continue her studies.
I want to say thank you to all for your kind notes, comments, and cards. Burak returned Sunday and appears to be at peace with all the events. I am so thankful we lived with his parents last summer (2004) for two months and that we live in Spain this year. We are only 3 hours from Istanbul, and Burak has visited his family 2 times since we left in August. I am grateful I shared many good moments with my father-in-law at my wedding and last summer.
I will remember my father-in-law as a very giving and funny teddy bear. I remember the moment he wore Burak’s cowboy hat while playing backgammon on the terrace of their beach house talking about how he was the best at the game while Burak was beating him. Or the time when he loved Missouri at first sight, place of my wedding, and just wanted to lie on a blanket under the stars because it reminded him of home, the small village where he grew up. Truly, my receiving this scholarship a year after I wanted it ended up being a good thing in the end for the chance to live in Turkey and the proximity of Spain to Turkey.
On a more positive note, I also held a Wine and Cheese Party in February. I had so much fun buying nuts, cheeses, bread, dried and fresh fruits, and linen-lined bread baskets that I couldn’t wait for the party to begin! I created a beautiful display of foods spiced with lit-candles for my guests to see when they walked through the front door. I took more pictures of the food than my guests (oops)! The majority of the guests were Spanish-speakers with only 4 non-Spanish at one time. It impressed me with how I had really gotten into the culture when my party’s guests and language was that of the country I was living in. The party also gave me an idea of a Rotary fundraiser that I could attempt to cater since I love to throw theme parties.
And now where am I going from here? I haven’t received law school application results except that of an acceptance to American University’s Washington College of Law and a rejection from Stanford Law. I am waiting for Duke's response. I am also considering UNC Chapel Hill, but I think I might just wait the 2 years (retake the LSAT and reapply for UT or Georgetown as my favorites).
If I don’t get into Duke, I plan to do real estate, teach, work for the government, work at an NGO, or something like along those lines. Do you know of anyone in those areas in or near North Carolina I could contact?
And to the subject of my studies at my university: As the first week of any semester is about searching out good classes, I also had to weed out the Catalan classes, because I only want Spanish-taught ones. I have come to a list of four, non-conflicting, interesting, Spanish-taught courses: International Relations of the Mediterranean, Spanish Foreign Policy, Panorama of Contemporaneous Asia, and Cultural Studies (this is a discussion class taught in English). I have one course on Mondays and Wednesday and then three back to back on Tuesday and Thursdays from the afternoon till the evening.
And to add a little Catalan/Spanish cultural observation: I joined a local, government-operated gym in November. “Government-operated” denotes that it is cheap enough for the average family, and, hence, there are a lot of members. Since January, I have been going more regularly and have made a few observations. I love going in the middle of the day when Spaniards are eating because there are very few people. If there are any, they are people of my grandparents’ ages and a few select weight-lifting fanatics there at that time, so I have free reign to my machines. Furthermore, a gym, to Catalans/Spaniards is a social club. You often see 3 or 4 of them huddled around one person occupying a machine pretending to work out while they are actually chatting. They will stay there and rotate the person pretending until you have lost your patience and figure it is not your day to use that machine. This is the main reason that I avoid the gym at all times except 2-5 p.m.
Note on language: Talking about Mexican Spanish (which is what I learned in Texas and Mexico), Saturday night at my party I said 'nieve' referring to ice cream. I was chuckled at by my Catalan/Spanish friends because that means 'snow' over here. Then I thought for a second. I remember learning that was the word for ice cream in Mexico. So, one morning when I couldn't sleep I realized I was right but the word 'nieve' is used for sherbet in Mexico. But, I think 'nieve' was used on the street for ice cream and sherbet like there was no difference( from what I remember). Funny how I have to keep relearning Spanish from the Mexican to the Spanish version.
Rotary Duties/Projects: With my four months (ouch, so little?) I have left in Spain, I plan to start a serious speaking program to Barcelona Rotary clubs and to complete a fundraiser for the Martinez Foundation, (www.martinezfoundation.org). Doctor Martinez is one of kind. She is a one-woman show that is probably the only one in the world who can help patients with a rare disease. Her patients fly into Barcelona from all over the world just to see her. She needs a research team, secured funds, and time to write and spread the word about her research. I am going to try to help her get money and recognition to help her continue her work.
And for this coming weekend, I am off to Rome to visit a friend and hopefully meet up with a Texan friend who will fly into Rome the same day. Next weekend, I will be running a “hostel” with 8 people staying with us over the course of the week (of course not all at the same time!).
In late March, Burak has Semana Santa (the Holy week before Easter) off from work, and we plan to travel possibly to Morocco and stay with friends in Seville for the festivities of Holy Week.
As I sit here with all the layers of clothing I possess, realizing I have lived in Spain for six months this week, I can’t tell you where the time went. Well, maybe I can if you read my updates, but seriously I am in shock that I am basically 2/3 over with my scholarship year. I am extremely grateful to Rotary for this opportunity, and I am already actively planning on applying for the Rotary World Peace Scholarship sometime down the road. That will give me a two-year scholarship to obtain a Masters probably in England or Australia. (Sounds okay, Burak? )
Hope all is well – Take care of yourself – and Keep in touch,
Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar 2004-2005
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain