Falinge Park High School

Opening Doors; Unlocking Potential

Morning everyone, it’s Tayyab. I want to share with you my experience of the penultimate day of our Erasmus Exchange. Today was the day we performed our Dance and Music Show at the Cultural Centre for the local children, students and the councillors of Istanbul.

But first I needed a big and hearty breakfast to set me up for the day. I have found the breakfasts at this hotel to be culturally diverse as there is a wide variety of choices on offer to suit each nation’s taste. I sometimes feel as if I have all the world on one plate.

We got back into our dance and music groups to do a final rehearsal of our performances and to show our leader Mehmet how we have improved. I was in the singing group which I enjoyed being part of very much. It was our job to learn five songs in five separate languages I’ve the space of two days!

The songs we were singing in were Turkish, English, Macedonian and Lithuanian. When I first joined the singing group I was very reluctant to get involved. I did consider myself a great singer but as with anything in life- the more you practise the better you can get at anything. The English songs were ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘Cup Song’ which were obviously easier for me to remember. The Lithuanian songs were by far the hardest to learn as it had a complex range of sounds. The other pressure we had to memorise and make the performance engaging as well as ensuring the tone was correct.

The group I was in was good to work with because we were calm and collected. We had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve and supported each other with language barriers we encountered. Mehmet had told me yesterday that during the rehearsals I ‘sounded like a robot’ and I had to show ‘more enthusiasm.’ Taking this on board, I decided in today’s rehearsal I was going to be more energetic by moving more on the stage and practising the songs so I didn’t need the words in front of me. I also wanted to feel like I was just having fun to show that I was genuinely enjoying myself and not just because I was being forced to do this.

When we had the final rehearsal, Mehmet was satisfied with our performance which really gave me a boost in confidence. I finally felt like I could present my hard work to the world without feeling embarrassed and I couldn’t wait to show my new talent off to the people of Istanbul.

After our rehearsal we were given a period of break in which we had lunch and time to get ready for the journey to the Cultural Centre. It was during our lunch break that Miss Malik, Antonio and I challenged each other to a game of Black Jack. Now, if you’ve been reading previous posts you will know that Miss Malik and Antonio have had an ongoing rivalry between themselves to establish who is the winner. No one knows where this came from or even when it will end, but so far Antonio is in the lead with 6 wins whilst Miss Malik has had only 4.

So we sat to play cards with one another and Miss Malik’s beginners luck kicked her into the lead. But what is even better is that when we, as a UK team sit together and play, other nations always come up to us and want to join in our game. I find this heartwarming as it allows us to share our culture unknowingly through a game, making our bond stronger. For example, today our Turkish friend Farat and a German couple Davide and Mia were curious at how we played blackjack with one another. They called our version UNO and it began a debate of who was right. In the end we taught them how to play our version and Farat taught us how to play a game called 21 which was frustrating for me because I kept losing to Miss Malik and the others.

The time to set off for the Cultural Centre had approached and we were ready to get it done. We took two coaches down as a group and the journey there was beautiful. The weather had suddenly perked up and the sun was shining which I took as a good sign for the day. When we got to the centre, we were taken to the auditorium where our performance was to take place. But we discovered a small setback as the stage was considerably smaller than the space we had been rehearsing on. Now this created mixed emotions for me as I was concerned that our performance may not be as successful as it had been in our rehearsal. Suddenly, my leadership skills kicked in and I decided to reassure and comfort my group. We decided to embrace the challenge of the smaller space and just got on with the performance as we were the first group up. The children and locals filled the seats and the lights went down to signal our entrance. It was showtime.

During my performance I was surprised to find that I was not nervous because we had rehearsed our performance so thoroughly that I knew the words really well. My favourite song to perform was the Macedonian song as it was gentle and soothing. Upon reflection, I actually think that the smaller stage improved our performance as it allowed our voices to connect more with the audience.

Our performance was a hit with the locals and we got such a positive response from the audience. Once our event was over, we were taken to the shopping mall. As you can imagine: eight teenagers, hundreds of liras and no adults to watch over us. Heaven. Antonio and I went to McDonalds twice and ate two Big Mac meals, chicken nuggets and a McFlurry. I mean it’s not everyday you come across a halal McDonald’s, so why not? And in terms of the shops, they were the same as the stores you could get in the Trafford Centre. The best bit about the mall was that Miss Malik and Mr Ahmed weren’t lurking around to follow us – thank god!

After spending time at the mall it was time to head back and for some reason the journey home felt longer than the time it took to get there in the first place. When we got back to the hotel we had dinner and took a break before the final cultural night event took place. In our break, we decided to learn a card game from Davide and Mia, who showed us how to play a popular card game in Germany. Antonio couldn’t handle the change to what he knew and after getting frustrated decided to leave. I too stopped playing but stayed to watch them teach Mr Ahmed and Miss Malik how it works. Unsurprisingly again, Miss Malik lost for the tenth time this week.

We were then called down to the final cultural event hosted by Lithuania and Turkey. I liked how Lithuania had recreated an aircraft setting and pretended to transport us to their country. Midway through their presentation, the plane was ‘hijacked’ and they forced us to answer general knowledge questions or we would be ‘killed’ by a water gun. I really enjoyed their creativity and unique way of presenting their homeland. It still didn’t quite match up to the cultural night that we hosted, but there’s a reason we are called Great Britain. The Turkish group also shared breathtaking  footage of their country and taught us some common gestures you can use without words. They had also laid out a range of tasty food for us to try which was such a hit with the group. My personal favourite item was the Turkish candy floss. It was a really warm and exciting event but bittersweet because it was the last one. It has been really interesting to see how different but also similar our countries and cultures are. Each night we have become more and more united, and my own confidence has grown as the days have passed.

And what a better way to have ended the final cultural night with the sky opening up and treating us to some snow. Yes, that’s right. As I sit here to write up this blog, it is currently snowing! So I will take that as a sign to end things here. I am so sad that this exchange programme is over as I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and met so many interesting and wonderful people. Most importantly I have really bonded with our own UK team, who have become like a little dysfunctional family.

Anyway, see you all in Rochdale very soon!

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