So last week I officially moved from one host family to another here in Kayseri. After having to choose between several beautiful and wondering families who had offered to host me, I decided to take my çini teacher up on her offer. I definitely felt the most comfortable going to someone whom I’ve known for 4 going on 5 months. And immediately I felt the difference the first night I stepped into her sister in law’s doorstep, the one who I would be actually living with. Whereas my first family was shocking similar to my family in the US in terms of attitude, casualness, family dynamics, and general Westernized features within their apartment, my family now kind of bounced me back into a more traditional Turkish environment that I’d only felt a couple other times while visiting older relatives. Now I have a host grandmother who feeds me to the point of bursting, a host “older sister” who is more like an aunt who has promised to force me to not only speak Turkish but not to speak English, a host brother and older sister who lives below us but come upstairs to hang out and eat dinner all the time, and a gigantic network of extended host family all in Kayseri.
Walking around my new neighborhood, which is directly behind the city center of Kayseri, with my host aunt provided me a more intimate portrait of this city. Whereas my old host family were from Istanbul and were relative outsiders to Kayseri, my current aunt was able to point out in every shop an uncle that they know, a family who knew her father, the history of all three of the surrounding mosques, the family of the corner dukkan, and the downstairs pastry shop whose owner’s 3 sons are all surrogate children of my family and who all insist on giving me all of the free baked goods I can handle.
I’ve also experienced what it’s like to be a little sister in a Turkish family being that my new older sister/cousin has decided to take m under her wing. Being that she works as a radio broadcaster and has her own channel/talk show at a local Kayseri radio station, I’ve already been featured during a segment about life in Kayseri.
After sitting for about an hour in her studio drinking coke and doing Turkish homework she finally wrangled me into a smaller sound room, shoved a pair of headphones on my head, put a mic in front of me, and suddenly I was on air. Albeit painful being that my poorly given Turkish answers were slightly unintelligible and unprepared, I still introduced a lot of people secondhand to what it was like to hear someone who came here to learn about their personal culture put themselves out there and show a little bit of what they’ve learned. I got a lot of proud and excited exclamations as well as sweet but kind of exaggerated compliments on my Turkish.