All posts by swetasudhir

Back to the Routine

Wednesday August 12th

Here is a list of a few things I found interesting about Turkey that I never got around to posting.

  • Very hilly terrain
  • Some foods take less time to cook everything here (probably because of the altitude)
  • Eskisehir is beautiful (it is amazing how much of a difference a few trees and flowers can make)
  • Paper towels are seldom used
  • The bread is a home-made wonder (we can’t call the processed wheat we eat at home bread)
  • I love the sour pomegranate sauce they add to salads
  • The word hospitality is taken to a whole new level here
  • Both Turkish toilets (squat toilets) and western toilets can be found most places
  • Clothing is NOT conservative here (this might just be because I am in a college town)
  • White lines on the road do not indicate one way traffic
  • When people finish eating they rest their spoon off the edge of the plate instead of placing it on the plate
  • They make juice out of every fruit here (they have pear juice, cherry juice, apricot juice, peach juice, etc.)

Everything went back to routine today. I went to school at 8 am for cross country practice. Our seven mile run was exhausting but it was refreshing to see so many familiar faces. I spent the night at a bon fire with some friends talking about the things I had missed the past two months over delicious s’mores. I realize how much I appreciate the little things now, from having clean water to my mom making food for me.

I would like to end this final post with a huge thank you. Thank you to the World Food Prize Organization and Ambassador Quinn for giving me the chance to represent our country in Turkey. Thank you to the CIMMYT staff for introducing me to the depth of the issues of food insecurity. Thank you to my lab members and the interns for making me feel so at home and going out of their way to show me Eskisehir. Thank you specifically to Sevil Hanim, Ekrem Abi, and Ümit Bey for making me laugh for two months without any breaks. Thank you to Joe for introducing me to your project and listening to my nonstop talking.  Thank you to Dr. Amer and Dr. Gul for guiding my learning experience the past two months. Thank you to Lisa Fleming for helping me through various airport mishaps and for checking in on me throughout the internship. Thank you to my friends for staying in touch with me though I was thousands of miles away. Thank you to everyone who was reading my blog and following up with me about my safety by sending me emails and calling me throughout my stay.

It has been a wonderful 8 weeks. So long Turkey, I hope to come back soon.

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My Journey Home

Tuesday August 11,

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I began my flight travels today. During my smooth flight from Ankara to Istanbul I talked to the guy sitting next to me and was very surprised he knew where about Iowa. He even told me about Slip Knot which is apparently a band from Iowa and recommended I listen to their music. If any of you care, he was going to Germany to visit his aunt and spoke English well. After landing I rushed to make my connection from domestic to international. A few hours later I realized I had no reason to be in a hurry because the flight left more than an hour after it was supposed to. I was surprised by the number of security checks I had to pass in Istanbul (there was the main security check and then it was like customs at the gate entrance. There was a long line to get into the gate and I was asked several questions about my trip).

On my flight I sat next to a guy from Saudi Arabia who is finishing his senior year of college in Nashville this year. The seats were set up so it was three, three, and three. I sat closest to the aisle. In the last five minutes of the 10 hour 40 minute flight I found out the person at the window seat is going to Cedar Rapids. She will be going to Kirkwood for a degree in nursing. It really is a small world.

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At O’Hare I went through the passport check (the machines make the process so much easier now). At immigration, the lady asked me a few questions about my stay in Turkey. Just as I was thinking it was going well, she told me they needed to take me in for further questioning for ‘number 1’ (I have no idea what that means). I made casual conversation with the immigration officer taking me to the waiting room. I guess she expected me to be scared or nervous because she asked me why I was so happy (I responded saying that is just who I am). The waiting room was completely full and I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice that almost everyone in there was from Asia or the Middle East. When I was questioned, they asked me about my internship, which cities I had been to, where I had stayed, and took down my phone number and email address. After I had provided this information, they had me go back to the waiting room. A 10 minute wait later, they returned my passport to me and sent me on my way.

In the end everything worked out, I made it to my gate with a few minutes to spare, and boarded my flight to Cedar Rapids. My reunion with my parents was great. Driving home though, I can’t say it felt like I had really been away. Over the past two months I have stayed in touch with so many family members and friends that I feel like I wasn’t ever very far.

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I was welcomed by flowers and balloons from friends, a tasty zucchini cream cheese cookie sandwich made by a family friend, a bowl of cherries to remind me of Turkey, and a wonderful home-cooked meal from my mom. After a much needed shower, I gave my parents their gifts from Turkey and was very happy they liked them. We all finally went to bed around midnight.

Bye For Now Eskisehir

Monday August 10, 2015

After sleeping for 3 hours I woke up this morning, filled my parents in on the travel plans, and then went into lab where Joe was working. I got to see cultures of the different species of Fusarium.

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Joe told me to get one last picture of lab before leaving

We went back to the guesthouse for a quick breakfast around 5 am and an hour later Gul Abla came in, ready to take me to the train station. Saying good bye to Joe was definitely sad but I had a strange feeling it wasn’t really bye because I know I will easily be able to stay in touch with him, without worrying about a language barrier. He is getting very close to finishing the DNA extraction process for all 1,300 samples. The qPCR will be done in Australia and he hopes to have finished analyzing the data at the end of the month. I can’t wait to see the findings!

I got on the high speed train after a quick good bye to Gul Abla and a promise to stay in touch. An hour and a half later I found myself in Ankara and was greeted by Dr. Amer at the train station. We went straight to the office where I got to see many individuals I met my first day in Turkey. Suleiman Bey (the man who picked me up from the airport in June) took me for a drive around the city where he pointed out various famous sites. Though I didn’t get a chance to go in, the depth of the history of the city was fascinating.

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A peak inside the high speed train.
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A beautiful silk Turkish carpet.

Dr. Amer took me to a wonderful restaurant for lunch where I had a beans dish with rice and a sweet cheesy dessert. As I have said before, Dr. Amer loves to give advice through stories so I got a chance to understand his life philosophies while hearing more about his childhood. On another note, currently Dr. Amer is planning two huge conferences. Both will be in September: one on statistics and one on nematodes. The nematode conference is a huge milestone because they will be presenting a book with the latest research in the field. It is expected to be a compilation of journal articles totaling 300 pages. Dr. Amer promised to share it with me when it is finished and I am incredibly excited to look through it soon.

After work we went to Dr. Amer’s house and it was great to see Ahmed, Luna, Lareen and Shaymaa Abla again. In just two months Lareen has grown up so much! I spent the night eating delicious food and playing UNO with the family. Seeing the pride and joy in Dr. Amer’s eyes when he talked to his kids reminded me of how much I do miss my parents. If you had asked me a week ago, I would tell you I wasn’t ready to leave the people in Turkey and go home. Now, however, I realize I have to come home eventually and I will be extremely excited to see my family and friends.

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Spending time with Ahmed and Luna!
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Dr. Amer with Lareen. She is definitely daddy’s little angel.

A Weekend of Packing, Fun, and Goodbyes

Sunday August 9th

Much of yesterday and today have been spent packing and cleaning my room. Last night I went to the city with some interns and had a great time walking along the riverside and eating with them. After weeks of no rain, the sky finally opened up and left us drenched. (The pictures below were taken before the rain)

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This morning I decided to make one last batch of cookies for my lab members. I tried a new recipe that had no flour in it. The first batch failed. The cookies pancaked out into thin sheets so I decided to make it more of a brownie cake which luckily worked out! I left it in lab for everyone to eat tomorrow.

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I spent the afternoon shopping with Gul Abla. She took me to all her regular shops so the worker gave us great deals and tons of food. It was wonderful to walk the streets of Eskisehir one last time. Each street was crowded with people, just the way I like it and I took advantage of the little Turkish I know to make conversation with Gul Abla’s friends.

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The minibus!
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Shopping with Gul Abla

After getting back I finished packing and am now sitting in the kitchen thinking about everything that has happened the past two months. In the past two months I have become more independent than I thought I was capable of being, made friends and relations that will last a life time, laughed nonstop, been introduced to a new culture and language, and begun to get a grasp of the enormity of the fight for food security.  In my worries of leaving all my family in Eskisehir, I have thought little about the excitement of coming home.

In a little bit I will have to say goodbye to Umit Bey. Tomorrow morning Around 5 I will say my last goodbyes to Joe and Kubra before leaving for a train to Ankara. I will spend the day in the city and the head office and stay with Dr. Amer and his family for the night. Tuesday morning, I get on a flight home. If all goes well I will be in Cedar Rapids at roughly 8:30 PM local time.

How is it Already my Last Week?!

Friday August 7th

The rest of the week was filled with similar field work. We began developing more efficient methods to quicken the process. We continued to work long days in the field and ate countless more apples. I worked more on my Turkish and Ekrem Abi picked up a few English words. Sevil Hanim continued to sing at random times while we were working in the field, getting everyone to dance and join in on the fun.

I got to ride on various vehicles from tractors to pickup trucks. Ekrem Abi rides a motorbike to work every day and understanding how much I love them, he took me for a ride after lunch one Tuesday. I usually only get to ride on motorbikes once every few years when we visit family in India making it all the more special that I got to in Eskisehir. The strong wind pulled my hair back and both Ekrem Abi and I had the biggest smiles (me happy to be on the motorbike and him happy to see my joy).

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Many conversations ended with discussions about me leaving reminding me how limited my time is here. Sevil Hanim and her daughter Hande got me a shirt as a good bye gift and I got bracelets from Gul Abla and Kubra. Each gift was so thoughtful and kind and I absolutely loved each one.

Today was my last day in lab. I didn’t realize until the last night when I had dinner with Gul Abla, Dr. Amer, and Joe but by lunch the today, it seemed like everyone in the institute knew. Many individuals I have said hi to multiple mornings but don’t know came up to say bye, greeting me with my name. 5 o’clock brought many hugs and tears as I said goodbye.

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Saying bye to some of the interns (I am wearing the shirt Sevil Hanim and Hande gave me)

The hardest part today was saying bye to Sevil Hanim and Ekrem Abi. Though this may sound unreal, Sevil Hanim has become my mom here. She advised me, looked after my safety, protected me from Ekrem Abi and Umit Bey’s friendly banter, and has been that parent figure I have missed the past two months. Ekrem Abi has become an older brother. Not only did he help me learn a lot in the field and lab, but he also joked around with me while protecting me. With my brother being in London all year, it was nice to finally have that comfort and someone to mess around with again.

Some moments the reality that I am leaving doesn’t set in and I find myself laughing with everyone; others it hits me like a train and I find my face covered in tears. Luckily I will be able to stay in touch with everyone through various social media and phones.

Many lab members have told me to go to college in Eskisehir, get a PhD and then become their boss years from now. Though we know that won’t happen, the sentiment behind those words means a lot to me.

A Long Day in the Field

Monday August 3rd,

I delivered a fresh plate of cookies to Kubra this morning and wished her a happy birthday in Turkish. Seeing how much the lab members enjoyed the cookies last week, I brought a plate to lab as well.

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I met Busra Abla at lab and welcomed her back from a week’s vacation on the beach. It was nice to have her back!

Sevil Hanim, Ekrem Abhi, Umit Bay, and I headed to the field right away. There are six main fields. Two each for crown rot, cereal cyst nematodes, and root lesion nematodes. One field is a control and the other is inoculated with the respective soil pathogen. The crown rot fields are complete so we no longer need to protect the stems and roots for the visual rating. Now we are harvesting the other plots and collecting soil samples to get data on yield and resistance respectively,

The heat was unkindly and was beating down on us as we harvested. The forecast says there may be rain in the coming days which means even more work today.

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For the three o’clock break, Gul Abla brought some of my cookies to the field and they were gone in minutes. One thing I have realized is almost every person in Turkey loves chocolate, especially the members of my lab.

Through our conversations I learned that a majority of the lab members I work with haven’t gone to college yet sending their kids to college is top priority. You obviously don’t need a college degree to be hospitable.

Every time I began to look tired from the work, Ekrem Abhi would look over at me or Umit Bay would begin singing and dancing just to get me laughing again. Sevil Hanim found an apple tree near our field and delivered crunchy, juicy, delicious apples later in the afternoon.

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Finally at 9:30 I got back to the guest house. Joe sensed how tired I was after the 13 hour days and made me soup for dinner. After a cold shower and delicious meal, I went straight to bed.

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Girl’s Day Out

Sunday August 2nd, Tomorrow is Kubra’s birthday so we decided to have a girl’s-day-out to celebrate. We took the minibus into town and went for a walk along the riverside.

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This man is considered the beloved joker of Turkey and his statue can be found along the river side

At Es Park we did some serious shopping. Kubra decided to go into a store that I had been to earlier and I saw the international relations major, Ozgun (I met him a few weeks ago when I was shopping and he helped me pick out clothes). We were both surprised to see each other and had a nice chat while Kubra tried on the store’s contents. The shopping went on for a few hours and one of Kubra’s friends joined us. He very kindly offered to help us carry our shopping bags and joined us for lunch.

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Es Park!
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Ozgun and I while Kubra tries on clothes

IMG_3043 After a wonderful time in the city Kubra and I got back around 4. She thinks this is the extent of her birthday fun but after we got back I made chocolate chip cookies and decorated her door with Mickey Mouse balloons. Kubra is turning 22 and still loves Disney (but seriously, who can blame her?). Hopefully this will make up for her having to be away from her family on her birthday! IMG_3051