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Falinge Park High School

Opening Doors; Unlocking Potential

What‘s up everyone, it’s Isabel here! As you’re reading this I bet you’re at school whilst I’m living my best life in Turkey. Anyway enough of the gloating. I want to tell you about what the team and I got up to today. As you know, yesterday was crazy; we were so tired this morning from walking all over Istanbul so we were allowed to have a little lie in.

Our day started off with breakfast as usual where I watched two cats fighting over a piece of my sausage that fell from my fork. I don’t mind the animals running around but some of them have already made enemies with me (the chickens never shut up!) After breakfast, I sat in reception with my new international friends. I think out of everyone, I have definitely been the most social and friendly to the European groups. I have made a total of ten new friends who are so lovely and welcoming.

So today was supposed to be spent rehearsing our dances and songs for our performance at the Cultural centre on Friday. I am in the dance group and we practised our dances on Tuesday. I felt confident with the Kurdish dances we were doing but I was not so confident with the Macedonian dance. Although it was a simple dance to do, I kept losing focus really easily and there was no clear direction of where to go. It was very frustrating practising this dance because I  could’ t get it right. I eventually got the steps once I had watched other people do it a few times first.

On the other hand Anastasia, the Lithuanian dance teacher, was so patient and considerate when teaching us her dance. Even though it was fast paced, she slowed it down for me and helped me memorise the steps. This really touched me because she took her time to help me.

So we decided to show our hard work to Mehmet, our leader. Now let me just say I worked so, so, so hard on those dances and what did he say to me? ‘Isabel you need to show more movement!’ I was moving! Everything was moving! I don’t know what wasn’t moving! It was extremely tiring and exhausting but we had to keep practising our dances because we had to be perfect otherwise Mehmet would tell us he was disappointed .

But forget the dancing we had bigger fish to fry. It was the UK team’s turn to host cultural night and Miss Malik and Mr Ahmed were not messing around today! They were so strict with us and made us rehearse even after we had been dancing and singing for three hours non stop! I admit there were times where I was distracted and not graceful with my language, but I knew that I had to push my frustration aside for the sake of the team.

With Mr Ahmed’s help, we drafted our scripts and Miss Malik timed us for our presentation. We then had to go back to our workshops and dance and sing for another two hours! Mehmet returned to watch us again and this time he complimented how great the girls were and that the boys lacked passion and energy.  But even with this compliment I could not rest because we soon had to eat dinner, get dressed and prepare for Cultural Night.

One of the sweet things we do on this exchange programme is called ‘Secret Friend.’ Everyday you are supposed to leave a message or little present for your friend but they don’t know who you are! I usually get a sweet positive message everyday but when I went to check it today, I was even more blown away than usual because my secret friend bought me a very pretty necklace. I never thought such a small gesture would make me feel this happy. I like that the secret friend activity encourages us to do random acts of kindness and  shows how even strangers can get along. I can’t wait to find out the identity of my secret friend on Saturday, even though I think I know who it may be.

Regardless, the time for Cultural Night drew closer and I was busy getting ready. When I walked into the meeting room I could tell Mr Ahmed had done a fantastic job. He organised the seats, arranged tea cups and made sure everything was absolutely perfect. And it really was. Tayyab and Miss Malik laid out  the first course of ‘fish and chips’ crisps and Antonio placed biscuits delicately opposite the tea cups. We then layered out the biscuits and other treats as centrepieces for everyone to snack on.

The scones were perfectly sliced and covered in jam and cream which Miss Malik and Mr Ahmed had prepared (or so they say they because just between us, I know for a fact I saw them talking to the catering staff at lunchtime, and I’m pretty sure I heard them ask the cook to cut and prepare the scones for them!) But anyway, it couldn’t have been possible without our teachers supporting us and making sure we did our country proud.

It was my responsibility to kick off Cultural Night, so I politely asked them to rise for our national anthem. Now I tried really hard not to laugh during this but because I had to stay still with my hand on my heart like the rest of my team, but my friend Eveline’s eyes were on me and she pulled a funny face at me. I couldn’t resist and let out a little giggle but Miss Malik’s glare scared me so much, I quickly became focused again.

Then we gave them some facts about the UK and asked them to guess the different celebrities that were pictured. My favourite activity was the slang challenge, where I made the audience laugh with my infectious personality and extensive knowledge of slang.

We also tested their pronunciation skills by making them repeat tongue twisters and compete against other nations. It was actually Macedonia who won a Cadbury bar for their flawless repetition of ‘red lorry, yellow lorry.’

Before our final performance, we got the entire group to play a game of bingo which they absolutely loved! I was worried they would find it so boring but so many of them were so competitive and wanted to play again. And I never thought I would admit this but I was proud of Antonio sharing his own written rap with the group which he performed solo and ending our presentation by showing his talent. We received a standing ovation for our Cultural Night but I was just happy that  Miss Malik and Mr Ahmed were so relieved and proud of us for getting it done so smoothly. I could finally sleep in peace!

Ok, so that’s me done- I’m off to bed so that I can smash the dance tomorrow and prove Mehmet wrong. I can’t wait to come home but I will really miss all the incredible international friends I have made.

Gule, gule (that’s goodbye in Turkish).

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