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Thanksgiving holiday a hit with exchange students
Madras High School has four exchange students, who are adjusting to American culture and small town life this year.
The most adjustment was probably made by Esra Alpay, 16, because she comes from Izmir, Turkey, a city of 4 million people.
"Coming to Madras was a shock for me. There is not much to do here, just school things," she said.
She is staying with hosts Joan and Robert Starkel, and their daughter Megan, also 16, who has become a good friend.
Back home, Esra's father Vedat is a pilot, her mother Meral is a housewife, and she has a 21-year-old sister.
She laughed over the misconceptions that American students have about Turkey.
"They think that Turkey is very religious, and that women are not valued, which is not true," she said, noting students are confusing her country with other Middle Eastern countries.
"One teacher told the students that in Turkey if they catch you drinking and driving, they kill you -- which is not true!" she said.
At MHS, she has been very active playing soccer and is now the manager of the wrestling team. She has had fun going to school dances and would like to play tennis in the spring.
In Turkey, she said she hangs out with a group of six boys and seven girls and they watch movies, go bowling, and go out at night for fun. Teenagers can smoke in her country, she noted.
Food is one thing that's really different, she said, noting, "Here, people eat so much sugar. I'm sick of sugar now. In Turkey, we eat lots of vegetables and fruits and kabobs."
In the future, she is interested in a career in the import-export business.
Eriko Akiyama, 16, was surprised to learn Madras had a Sister City in Japan.
"Last Tuesday, Japanese people visited from Madras' Sister City (Tomi City) and I was so surprised. We had dinner with them at Mazatlan Restaurant and they were surprised to see me too. They said in March some Japanese students from their city are going to come to MHS for several days," Eriko said.
She comes from Oyama City in the Tochigi Prefecture of Japan, which has a population of 150,000. Her parents are Akemi and Yoshikazu Akiyama, and she has a brother, Shuichi. Her father works in a department store and her mother works for an insurance company.
In Madras, her host parents are Christy and Skip Abbe, and her host siblings are Holly and Jordan Abbe.
Since Abbe was the lead female character in the recent school musical play, Eriko got involved too and helped paint part of the stage set. She also is enjoying playing the flute in the MHS Jazz Band and got to play in the Homecoming Parade. This spring, she would like to try playing softball.
The thing she's noticed the most about American culture she said was, "Many people here are so friendly."
The food has been different, because in Japan she is used to eating lots of rice every day. While visiting the town of Newport, she said, "We went to a Japanese restaurant and had sushi, but it was not like any sushi I ever had before. The California Roll was different looking," she said of the American creation that features creamed cheese and cucumbers.
Eriko has gotten to do some traveling. Just two days after arriving, her host family whisked her off to Las Vegas. "It was fun!" she said enthusiastically. She's also been to the Oregon Coast, and to visit Warm Springs.
When asked what Japanese teens do for fun, she said, "Most people have cell phones and like to e-mail each other on the phone. We also go to see movies. My favorites are `Bridget Jones' and `Shall We Dance,' which was a Japanese movie before it was made into an American movie."
She had gotten a little preview of Madras before coming here by watching the Japanese TV series "From Oregon With Love," which was filmed in Madras.
"I even had seen MHS before in the TV show, and I've gone to see the From Oregon With Love house since I got here," she said.
Seligenstadt, Germany, a city of 22,000, is the home of 16-year-old Karlotta Rupprecht. Her host family is Sue and Phil Smith, and their daughter Kinzee, who is also age 16.
"I really like my host sister Kinzee. I really have fun with her," Karlotta said.
Her parents are Karl and Ulrike Rupprecht, and she has a 21-year-old sister, Katharina and 19-year-old brother Knut. Her dad owns a business that deals with factory machines, and her mother has worked in the marketing field in the past.
At first she was concerned a small town would be boring, but now finds it really nice, she admitted. She especially enjoys school activities like homecoming, and dances, which schools in Germany don't have.
"I'm excited about graduation because it's totally different," she said of the fact that students dress formally in caps and gowns. In Germany, she attends a private Catholic school and at graduation there is a church service with preaching.
The main cultural difference Karlotta has noticed is that life revolves around school here, and student's friends are all from school.
"In Germany, school is over at 3 p.m., and there are no after school activities or sports," she said. Those who want to play sports have to pay to join sports clubs outside of school.
Karlotta has taken advantage of the sports program here. She was on the JV soccer team in the fall, and is now the manager of the JV basketball team.
The American Thanksgiving holiday was new and fun for her, and her host family went to Idaho for the celebration. "I was not expecting the shopping the day after Thanksgiving. We went to a mall at 5 a.m., and it was totally crowded!" she laughed.
In the future, she would like to attend a university and see more of the world before joining her dad's business.
Jakub "Kuba" Kierzkowski, 18, comes from Wroclaw, Poland, a city of 750,000. As the Rotary International exchange student, he will be staying with three families during his time in Madras.
When he first arrived, Barbara and Tom Manning and their son, Brian, were his host family. Currently he is staying with Pat and Tom Creelman and then will live with John and Brenda Curnutt.
In Poland, he said his parents Maria and Andrzej (Andrew) are both Rotarians, and a sister was an exchange student in Missouri and really enjoyed it, so he wanted to try the program too. His family has also hosted exchange students from Brazil, New York, and this year has one from Grants Pass.
His father is an electronics engineer and his mother is a kindergarten teacher, and his sisters are Sonia, 20, and Weronika, 26.
Every Wednesday, Kuba attends Rotary meetings with the Madras club, and every two months gets together with other Rotary exchange students in the state. So far, meetings have been held in Coos Bay and Crater Lake, and the next one will be in Ashland.
In the big city he is from there are always lots of things going on, and he and friends go to clubs and pubs for fun. Here, students concentrate more on school activities, he has noticed.
"I love going to jazz concerts and art workshops. I'm interested in art, photography and films. We have lots of film festivals in my city," he said, noting his favorite movies were independent films and a Brazilian movie called "City of God."
The ethnic diversity at Madras High School was a pleasant surprise for him. "I didn't know about this. It's very interesting to discover the population here was very mixed. There are lots of Hispanic and Indian people and very interesting personalities," Kuba said.
In school, he got to travel and see much of the state as the cross country team manager and yearbook photographer.
Thanksgiving was one of his favorite experiences. "We don't have this in Poland. I enjoyed spending time with the Mannings and their relatives; they have a very huge family. I was shocked when I saw the huge turkey," he said.
Kuba is even more excited now that winter has finally arrived.
"I love skiing and the Rotary Club sponsored me a season pass for Mt. Bachelor," he said, adding he hopes to talk snowboarder Brian Manning into hitting the slopes with him.