Sunday, August 28, 2016

I am a...

One sentence I've been struggling to finish lately is "I am a..." The end of that sentence eludes me. I can't complete it. One of the most basic sentences, one that most students learn in their first week of studying English, and it has been lost on me for months now. But I'm having no problem finishing this sentence: "I used to be a..." It's easy. I used to be a teacher. I used to be a student. I used to be a peace corps volunteer. See? Easy. I used to be a baker. I used to be a drama geek. I used to be a geographer. I used to be a foreigner. I used to be an outsider where it made sense to be an outsider because I was a foreigner. Ok, I think I may have found my sentence end. I am an outsider. That didn't take long, just a couple minutes of typing. I am an outsider in a place where it doesn't make sense for me to be an outsider 'cause it's my own country. I think that means I could also say I am a weirdo. More are coming to mind now.... I am a coffee drinker. I am a poor sleeper. I am a walker. I am a messy organizer. I am a mostly healthy eater. I am a slow poke. I am a hardcore, never ending introvert. I am an introverted introvert. That's about all I am these days. Well, sentence completed and problem solved. Time for a walk.    

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Kitchen Window

It rained so much today. More than I think I've ever noticed it rain before. Like, all day. Rain. I did laundry. I worked out. I ate. Showered. Finished a book. Ate some more. Stared out the kitchen window. I wanted to go outside, participate in something beyond these walls. But there it was, all day. So much rain. I'm not sure how long I spent staring out the kitchen window, watching the yard turn into a collection of puddles, but long enough to sense the other me's. It's usually in times when I have nothing but myself to preoccupy that I sense them. The other me's. The ones that I could be if I or the world were just a fraction of a second different. Some of the other me's are what the real me explains away as cheesy. Staring out the kitchen window, sipping coffee, hand-in-hand with someone. A best friend. A comfort. A sense of security the real me does not know. But would like to. Some of the other me's seem sad. Angry. A shuttered kitchen window, a shattered coffee mug, a blood speckled floor. A sense of pain the real me is fortunate to not know. Time passes. The puddles grow. The other me's morph and melt and swirl around into story after story, life after life. It's still raining. And the real me is still just staring.        

Monday, June 13, 2016

Something loved.

Soon I won't live in Turkey anymore. And the things that I do here won't be done by me anymore. Other people might do them here, but I won't. The life I have here will be splintered and divided up and led by other people. Soon different hands will play my piano, different eyes will do my job and stare at my work computer. Different bones will sleep in my bed, different flip flopped feet will slap at all the streets that I love. And different ears, lucky ears will hear my friends' words. Many different people will pick up my life here eventually and make it their own, while I work my way in and pick up the fragments that other people have left behind somewhere else. It's a strange feeling to just constantly continue, and continue and continue, especially when everything feels and looks so different and foreign. But it's all just a continuation of millions of different people, some that have come and gone, others that are still here somewhere. It's hard to keep track of who you are when you've picked up and let go of so many lives. Each one something precious, each one something loved.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I started this post yesterday evening:
I've been thinking about my goals all day today. A podcast I listened to this morning was talking about how important it is to have the right kind of goals and as I listened I thought to myself, what are my goals? And was met with nothingness. I actually felt my eyes widen at the realization. I have no goals right now. Nothing that I'm striving to achieve. Perhaps that's part of why I feel so disjointed and anxious, even apprehensive, about life these days.

In the past, I've always been working towards something that seemed like an obvious and natural next step. The kinds of things that go with growing up and becoming an educated adult - graduating college, getting a job, trying different things like Peace Corps and living abroad and all of the basic goals that go along with that (learning about the language and history and trying to fit in), going to grad school, and getting my current job. All of my past goals are ones that were formed easily and naturally and didn't require much thought on my part. And by filling my life with the complexities that go with living in a foreign country, my conscious goal-setting duties seem to have been deferred. But now that all of those past goals have run their course, I find myself with a blank, vastly open page. One that has probably been patiently waiting for quite a while to be acknowledged. So I acknowledged it a little bit today, at least in my mind. And now on my screen.

Because just about all of my past goals have related to school or work, I'm going to change things up. I'm tired of depending on work or school as my main source of friends and satisfaction. Of course, I want a decent job that I enjoy doing with kind people, but I want it to take more of a background role instead of being in the foreground. Perhaps that's impossible. We'll see.

Ok, so, goals. They're boring, don't feel obliged to read them. I'm documenting them here so I can refer to them whenever I feel lost. And I'll probably add some new ones once in a while. Most of these I won't be able to pursue till I'm back in the US and somewhat settled. But it's nice to think about these things.

Of the long-term type.
Learn a new instrument. Something stringy with a deep sound. I'm thinking cello.
Learn some kind of martial art. One that's not very violent. Thanks to my mom, I tried all kinds of different sports when I was a kid, but none of them really stuck. Mostly because I'm not a bit competitive, especially with sports. I'd rather just let you win than race you, trust me. But I've always liked more individual sports and exercise. And after seeing how supportive and community-oriented some martial arts places can be, it seems like a good fit.
Volunteer somewhere. Probably at a small local theater. It has always brought me so much joy.
Take good care of some other living creature. Probably a dog. Maybe a cat. Maybe some plants.
Learn how to cook or grow food.
Explore the US in more detail. Visit as many national parks and old friends in different places as I can.
Be as healthy as possible without becoming obsessive or alienating myself.
Learn a new language should probably go on this list, but I think I'm going to give that part of my brain a break for a while. The poor guy is all tuckered out and tired of failure.

Of the yearly type (the numbers are an "at least" figure).
Read 10 books, and not all fiction. My reading habits have really taken a nose dive lately. I don't think I've finished a single book yet this year (though I'm working my way through a big one!).
Learn 2 new songs on the piano.
Visit a new state.

Of the monthly type.
Go to a concert, play, or show.
Visit a new city or place.
Make a new recipe.
Discover a new band/artist/author.
Make something to share with other people.

Of the weekly type.
Exercise 3 times.
Hang out with people outside of work.
Write something.
Support a local business.
Take pictures.

I thought about adding some goals related to people, like 'make a new friend' but I don't think I'll do that. It feels somehow wrong to make people goals. They're separate, complex worlds that are out of my control and I want to respect that....besides, by pursuing my other goals, good new friendships will hopefully emerge.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What am I doing?

Well. Today I wrote my resignation letter to AIU and in less than two months, my contract with them will be terminated, as well as my time in Turkey. Turkey time terminated. As usual, I have mixed feelings about it. Mostly, I feel excited to move on to something new and to be back home in the US again for at least the next couple of years. But fairly often, I'll have a moment that rips at my heart in a more visceral way than when I've been preparing to leave other places. It hurts more, like a small smack of failure, and of finality.

Today, for example, when I went to save my resignation letter on my computer. I hit save and navigated to the AIU folder and was confronted with all of the electronic things I've done and saved folders like TurkishLessons, CreativeUseOfEnglishPlans, IntermediateCoordinatingMeetings, TestingFiles, Year2, Year3, and the one that hit me most: AIU_ApplicationandPrepDocs, created way back at the beginning of this current life, before I even got here. And now I'm saving the file that will end it: AIUResignationLetter. It hurts. But despite moments like this, I can't imagine staying. I can't imagine carrying on here for even another month past June.

The past three years, particularly this year, have been odd, like my life has been in limbo. And I don't know what has happened to me. Things seem less funny. The world seems less promising, less bright. I also feel less funny and less promising or bright as a person. Which may have been evident on this here blog. This increasingly depressed and neglected little blog. Fewer opportunities feel like they're waiting out there for me to grab on to. I guess it's partly due to going through an awkward transition from 'hey i'm young i'm carefree i'm a world traveler there's lots to do and i'm never bored' to 'i'm 35 and what, exactly, am i doing?' For now, I'm resigning. From AIU, from teaching, from Turkey, from living abroad. Until further notice.

But I do have a few things lined up for the not too distant future, trusting that I make it that far, enshallah. I'll go home (well, whatever home means anymore) and spend a few weeks with my mom in Henderson and a few weeks in Reno with my sister and dad and little brothers, and hopefully some old friends. I'll go back to New Jersey for six weeks for another internship with ETS. I'll hopefully visit New York City and Princeton and, with luck, reacquaint myself with feeling like I sort of fit in, like I sort of belong somewhere. Hopefully. Also, with luck, I'll get a full time job with ETS and spend the next few years living in one place with one job making a good set of friendships and living a life that I mostly love, a life that expands and grows and continues to learn and experiment. A promising life, a bright life. At least I still have a tiny bit of optimism lurking around in these old bones.

And as for Turkey? I'll miss her at times, no doubt. Her kind people, her beauty, her history, her food. I don't think she'll miss me much, though. And I do worry about her future. My future feels a bit shaky, but her future feels unfathomable and, if anything, dark. As much as I'd like to say that I feel perfectly safe here, as much as I'd like to say that everyone should come visit, I can't. Things don't really feel like they're going to get better any time soon. What might ISIS have in store for this place? What's going to happen to the Kurdish people here and what might they do in return? How are the Syrian refugees going to be treated as more are sent back and as more arrive? Why are protesters treated with such brutality, and what is up with the way journalists just disappear? These questions darken much of Turkey's charm and they are questions that will only be answered over time, in the future. The answers to these questions I'll continue to watch unfold, but from a safer distance, and I have the feeling the answers will sometimes hurt. But hopefully some of the answers will be promising. Hopefully some of the answers will be bright.          


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How can this be?

How can one person, one simple person on earth be in their apartment, cooking dinner, listening to their favorite song, thinking about the work they'll need to do the next day, while at the same time another person on the same earth is putting together the pieces, aligning all of the wires, figuring out the timings of a weapon that will take it all away. Take it all blindly away from anyone within reach the next day. How can this be? How can the one be so innocently oblivious while the other so cruelly powerful?

How can this world be so endlessly interesting, with all of its villages, all of its people and birds and trees and mountains and seas and stories, while at the same time full of such terror that the beauty looks like nothing. The palm trees, the breeze, the chatter of birds, the smiling faces, the laughing babies, the sun soaking it all, everything, all beauty, becomes invisible when all one on shaky legs can imagine finding is an explosion.        

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Call to prayer

Some day, I'll miss the call to prayer. A sound that seamlessly fills the air. A sound that I rarely notice begin or end. It's more of a sudden sense, a sudden realization. People are being called to prayer. Five times a day. Some day, I'll be going about a different life in a different country and I'll hear a song start up from a car or a hum from a passerby and my mind for some reason will hear the call. That's when I'll miss it. That's when my mind will see the palm trees, the way they shine back at the sun and drift through the breeze. And the mountains and how they fall into the sea, each natural space in between filled with orange trees or pomegranate trees or olive trees or ancient cities. And the smiles on my friends' faces, the way each of them talks, the way each of them walks. The stray cats, the stray dogs, their little homes on the streets. Spring and her thick coat of flowers, the air filled with bees, the air filled with prayers.