By: Amanda is a partipant in the 2013-2014 Arabic Academic Year program

I think I realized how happy I am a little over a week ago. Last weekend my friends and I went to go walking in the nearby village of Pelitköy. The view was great, the food was even better, but what really made the day amazing was the company, specifically referring to the Turkish people we met throughout the course of a walk. After a pleasant interaction with the bakery woman who was very interested in our program and all too eager to compliment our Turkish, we found ourselves walking up a hill. Because some Turkish people hold a culturally different view of “exercising” from Americans, and often do not exercise for fun, a nice man on a tractor slowed down and offered to take us up the hill since he was also on his way up. It was simply his honest way of helping four tired looking people get to where they were trying to go.

A few hours later, after picnicking and walking around the village a bit, we started to head back home to rest. An elderly couple we had seen earlier came up to us as we were walking by and, taking a break from chopping and hauling wood for their furnace, invited us in for tea. We had a wonderful second lunch. We were shown pictures of their grown and growing grandchildren, had a brief tour around the house, and used our Turkish to hold a pleasant conversation exchanging our stories and histories.

As we were going to leave an hour later, I commented on how nice the woman’s socks were, and she immediately went running into the house to grab four more pairs she had hand-knitted herself and insisted we take them. After extending an invitation for us to come back the following weekend and meet their entire extended family coming up for the winter holiday to have a nice barbecue, we left. Not less than ten minutes later we ran into a man on the hill in front of his house.

He recognized my friend Sam who sometimes goes walking in the area and enthusiastically shook all our hands, ruffled our hair and offered to drive us down to Sam's house if we wanted. At this point I was overcome with the sincere kindness of these people, who expected nothing at all in return. I was so happy to have decided to come, so happy to have met these people, so happy to just be alive! What an amazing thought to have! To give thanks for being alive and be in the presence of such amazing people! I have felt intense joy in America, but never because of the kindness of strangers, and this was a more thankful and humble joy.

I have not seen this kind of openness and kindness towards strangers much at all in the world. It’s amazing to receive it, and I am going to make a real effort to be a distributor back home.