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Falinge Park High School

Opening Doors; Unlocking Potential

Hiya, it’s Halima and it’s my turn to explain our first full day in Istanbul and the Youth Exchange Programme. Well, first of all, we are staying in a little village on the outskirts of Istanbul called Pölenzkoy. A fun fact that we learnt in our Mission Impossible activity about the town, is that it got its name after a Polish prince sought refuge from persecution in his home country after being exiled. The town itself is very pretty and our view is full of forests.

We began the day with breakfast, which was a mixture of traditional Turkish breakfast items and some bizarre choices such as chips – which obviously Tayyab could not resist. My favourite option was the chocolate spread on bread. I still don’t think I am a massive fan of Turkish cuisine. But, what I hated even more, was the pesky cats that joined us whilst we were eating. Now don’t get me wrong, I like animals. Pictures of animals, not the real things and this place is swarming with stray cats and dogs. One even jumped into Miss Malik’s lap and was being petted and stroked. Antonio jokingly named the cat Manchester and we spent pretty much most of the day naming the animals we met.

But the thing is, cats I can tolerate because they are smaller and not as scary looking. Dogs, on the other hand, are an absolute no go for me. So, how do you think I felt when Miss Malik and Mr Ahmed decided to take us on a morning walk to check out the local shop, only to be escorted by a pack of stray dogs who were leading and protecting us on our way there. I was absolutely terrified the entire way. Every time I walked the dog would come and walk beside me. What didn’t help is this dog happened to be named ‘Itchy’ by the group because it was constantly itching. At one point Saba and I changed his name to ‘Nits’ because we were convinced we saw a flea jump out of its fur.

The dogs continued to follow us back to the hotel but I was determined to not let them overpower me and I knew I had to conquer my fears.

Once back at the hotel, we gathered in the meeting room to participate in the Getting to Know You activities to learn everyone’s name. The most important part of this session was actually establishing what we, as a group, feared and what we expected to get out of the project. I wrote that my fear was that I would not be brave enough to socialise and talk to others because I felt very shy. My expectations were that I could build my confidence whilst being on the project.

The activities themselves were very fun and were supposed to help us learn the names of different people, but honestly I still can’t remember everyone’s name! It did help me face my fear a little bit and I got to talk to people from different countries.

After lunch we had to play a game called Mission Impossible. This was where we had to complete a list of 20 tasks as a group of 60 people in just under an hour. It was chaos! We chose the task to find out the history behind the name. Shannon and Isabel had to find out how others were inspired by music and what it had taught them. Tayyab and Antonio helped each of the other groups complete the tasks. When we had finished Mission Impossible, Mehmet made us go round as a group and share our names again but this time we had to give the meaning of our name and told a story about why our parents had chosen it. Sadly I don’t know the meaning behind why my parents called me Halima, but I will ask them when I get home.

We then had a bit of a break before dinner and the girls and I decided to go for a little walk on the grounds. We saw Miss Malik walking towards the hotel’s miniature farm and we asked if we could join her. The other girls were excited but on the inside I felt a little nervous because I knew I would have to see another dog. Despite this, I went anyway and decided I needed to conquer my fears. As we approached the enclosure, I saw a dog that our group had named ‘Hugo’. He was a calm dog but he was quite big. We walked past him and I didn’t even feel that afraid. Saba told me well done for passing that dog and not getting upset, which was a big step for me. We then came to the little enclosure where we saw a chicken coop with roosters crawling outside. The staff were trying to round up a group of ducks who were hissing at them. I had no idea ducks should hiss. There was also a group of goats. We found out that the eggs that the hotel uses were fresh from the coop in this enclosure. I just hope the chicken we had for dinner didn’t come from this same place!

Speaking of dinner, it was delicious. We had chicken and rice which we all enjoyed. The rice was interesting because it had thin noodles mixed into it which I had not had before. There was also chocolate pudding for dessert which I had seen Isabel eat earlier. I decided to try it and it  was so tasty. I’m still not sure if I am the biggest fan of Turkish cuisine though; I would much rather get a burger and chips any day.

Finally, the schedule asked for us to participate in a movie night which in fact was a game of charades. Our group was so tired by this time, we decided instead to stay at the hotel and relax. We got together as a group and had a chat about school, our lives and how we were worried about all the work we had missed by being on the trip. Someone even said they wished they had brought revision! This was my favourite part of the day to be honest, because I got to know people from my own school a bit better and I felt like we bonded a little more.

To sum it up, today has been a day about facing my fears and building my confidence in small steps which is what I wanted to get out of this project. I am really excited to see how fearless I can become by the time we leave!

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