Sunday, January 1, 2017

Smell Ya Later, 2016

Okay, I'm a day late, but let's think just a little bit longer about 2016 and how gloriously wonderful it was. I'm copying these questions from my 2014 recap (guess I didn't do one in 2015), which I got from my pal Liz.  

Where did you begin 2016?
In Antalya. I feel like I went to a New Year's Eve party at a friend's place and it involved a lot of semi-deflated balloons. But I might be remembering incorrectly.   

Where were you working?
Teachin' the old English and editing tests at Antalya International University.   

Where did you go on vacation?

I didn't go on many vacations or travel much this year. The biggest "vacation" was probably going to visit my mom in Henderson NV during AIU's big 2 week break at the end of January. It was great to see my mom's new place and spend time with her. It was on that trip, though, that the TSA at San Francisco Airport got to keep my old laptop 'cause it was broken and wouldn't turn on. I was trying to take it home to get it fixed somewhere, and since at the time I was a SSSS security threat to the United States of America for living in Turkey, I got to go through an extra special security screening process where they tested me and all my stuff for traces of explosive material. And lo' and behold, my little laptop and some other random things I had set off their sensors (despite my never ever touching or even thinking about touching explosives in my entire life). And since it wouldn't turn on to prove it was indeed a computer and not something about to explode, TSA got to keep it. I read later that anything confiscated by the TSA gets donated to a charitable cause and that computers often go to schools in need. That made me feel quite a bit better about the whole thing, as frustrating as it was at the time.

Anyways, vacations are supposed to be about FUN, so another trip I took that sticks out in my memory was to the north eastern corner of Turkey, to an area called Rize. They grow a lot of Turkey's most famous tea there and the area's right on the black sea. The most memorable part was probably wandering around in the mountain villages of Ayder, meeting lots of mountain dogs, and eating wonderfully unhealthy food called muhlama (cook cornmeal in butter and then add lots of cheese and presto, muhlama) with my pals Emily and Ty. It was in the spring and was pretty much the last trip that I took in Turkey.        

Did you move anywhere?
Yeah. I moved back to my homeland, to the US of A. Land of the free. I first moved back to Nevada, and then moved to New Jersey when I got hired full time at ETS. Woo. My mom helped me move out here and we spent a week driving across the US with all my stuff. It was actually really great and it's another trip (though I wouldn't really classify it as a vacation) that'll always stick out in my memory. 

What sporting events did you attend?

Ummm...lemme think....  

Weddings?
A couple of friends did get married, but I missed the weddings, as usual. I'm a pretty crappy friend in some ways. Sorry, friends.  

What concerts/shows did you go to?

I went to a few symphonies in Antalya and have turned into a total hermit otherwise. 

Where do you live now?

Right smack in between Philadelphia and New York City in a little town called Lawrenceville. The closest business to me is a Dunkin' Donuts and it's a 30 minute walk from my apartment. I miss my Mediterranean apartment pretty hard some days.    

What's the one thing you thought you would never do but did in 2016?

Hmm. I guess I stopped wanting to live abroad. It happened almost over night. I was nearly through the whole process of becoming an English Language Fellow. I had had the interview and everything and was just waiting to hear from them about which countries had projects that I matched with. In mid March I got an email saying that Tanzania was a possible match and somehow the moment I read that email, I knew I wanted nothing more than to move back to the US and not live in any other country again for a long time. Weird, huh? I do have dreams of retiring and joining the peace corps again some day, though. But for now, I'm done with living all over and just want to be in a place I sort of understand for a while.    

What has/have been your favorite moment(s) of 2016?

This might sound weird, but I've really been digging going to sleep lately. Those few moments between when I turn off the light and settle in under the covers and drift off into sleep. I love those moments. They feel very peaceful and healing somehow. That's probably largely due to the fact that I've been sleeping so much better these days. I used to hate trying to go to sleep. Now I love it.     

What's something you learned about yourself? 

My health is becoming something that I need to pay attention to and I can't just eat cookies and cookie dough and baked treats, even if they're homemade. I also found that once I scratched the surface, I'm really interested in nutrition.    

Any new additions to your family?
No additions, only subtractions.

What was your biggest challenge of 2016? 

This is what I said in 2014: Probably choosing to stay in Turkey a second year. It was a really hard decision. Here's what I'm saying this year: Leaving Turkey. It was actually a very easy decision. There was no way I was going to stay for a fourth year and I knew that I was leaving pretty much since the beginning of the third year. But the actual act of leaving Turkey and saying goodbye to all those people that I'd gotten to know over 3 years, and saying goodbye to such a beautiful, interesting place, especially when the whole area was in such turmoil, was really hard. And all the stuff that happened to Turkey after I left, and continues to happen... my heart hurts each time I think about that place and my friends there. Why's the world gotta be so messed up.

Any regrets?
There are three things I regret not bringing back with me from Turkey, and it bothers me each time I think about them.
1. A mug that my friend Ayse gave me for my birthday. It was ceramic painted brown with big green leaves and had its own little tea strainer inside. I really liked it and it was a good reminder of a sweet friend and I don't know why I didn't pack it. I didn't have much space in my luggage, but I'm sure I could have fit it in. Stupid.
2. A painting my friend Ty made. It looked like a Picasso painting and I love anything that people I know make and I meant to take it off the wall and pack it, but forgot at the last minute. Stupid.
3. Unexpectedly, I regret not bringing my Istanbul apron with me. I bought it for myself so I had no problem leaving it behind, but now that I don't have an apron and probably won't be able to find an Istanbul one here, I miss it and wish I had brought it. Oh well. The weird little things that end up bothering you for a long time afterward.  

Change your hairstyle? 
Not really. I've been keeping it at about chin length. I discovered that my go-to hair cut is called an inverted bob. I'm an inverted bobber through and through.

Start a new hobby?
I don't know if this counts as a hobby, but I've gotten more and more into cooking and nutrition. Cooking actually takes up a big chunk of my free time these days, but it seems worth it and is a good way to get all my podcast listening in, too.

What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?  
Hmm, I don't know about specific dates, but there are a few moments that really stick out.
Going for one last walk with Sergey.
KC's surprise birthday party. We had blown up a bunch of balloons and they were covering the floor of the living room and at one point during the party, this Italian song started playing and we all started madly kicking the balloons all over the place. We all got into this balloon kicking dancing frenzy trance and it just kept going and going and going. For at least an hour. It was really weird and fun and I laughed harder than I had in a really long time. I laughed so hard I cried.
I just realized that happened at the end of 2015. Oh well. I'm sticking with it.
On another day a few months later, I said goodbye to those same friends at the airport in Antalya. It was the end of a long string of difficult goodbyes and I cried then, too.
Waiting at the DMV in Las Vegas for hours with my mom and randomly checking my email and finding an email from ETS that was offering me a job. I knew at that moment that my life was going in a certain direction and it was comforting to have a direction to go in.
Sitting in a little diner in Marshalltown Iowa with my mom, eating some of the best food a little diner has ever served, and wishing the cook a happy birthday.      


What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Well. Hmm. I feel like getting hired by ETS is the most obvious answer. It is a big achievement that I'm proud of. But outside of work, another thing that feels like a bit of an achievement is becoming mostly vegan. It was never my intent and happened slowly over the past year, but I have gradually cut out just about all animal products from my diet. If somebody prepares something or there are no other options, I'll gladly eat whatever's there without complaint, but when I'm cooking for myself or shopping, vegan it is. I still bake cookies and breads and muffins and all that stuff, I've just found ways to do it without butter or eggs or milk. Or flour or refined sugar. Haha, I have a totally different diet than I did a year or two ago and there are many reasons why and I should probably just write a post about it 'cause now that I'm thinking about it, it'll take a long time to explain. And probably isn't that interesting. Yay, achievements!  

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Not really... my back's still a little crooked, but I actually feel healthier than I have in a while. Go achievements!  

What was the best thing you bought?  
A car! I have a car for the first time in 9 years. Yikes! It's a hybrid, though, so I hope that helps. It's so weird to just drive to a grocery store and throw gallons of soda and 93 rolls of toilet paper and sacks of sweet potatoes in the trunk WHENEVER I WANT. Oh, but even better, I also bought a real food processor. DELICIOUS JOY.

Where did most of your money go?
Rent, food, plane tickets, health insurance. Fun stuff.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd done more exploring outdoors. I've been spending a lot of time indoors lately and as much as I love being a hermit, I miss listening to the birds and the trees and the wind moving naturey things around.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Sitting. Every time I read about how bad sitting is for you, I feel a small bit of panic because my job is all about sitting and sitting and sitting and staring at computers. 

Books you read in 2016:
So. I don't read anymore. Not really, not for fun. I read quite a bit for work, so I blame that. But the few books I read and enjoyed in 2016 were... The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, Sweet Promised Land by Robert Laxalt, and Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5 Million Year Obsession with Meat by Marta Zaraska. (um, are you noticing a trend there?)

What was your favorite TV program?
https://www.fitnessblender.com/. Check them out. They're great.

What music will you remember 2016 by?
The two songs below are not pretty or uplifting and for some reason I've associated them with handling the results of the elections.

I can't stop playing Gnossienne No. 1 by Erik Satie (those are not my hands. If only my hands were so light and fluttery.)

Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker. I love Leonard Cohen and I have for just about my entire life. I grew up listening to him. This song is not my favorite song of his, but it's on his last album that was released just before he died and the lyrics, knowing he was so close to the end, are chilling and moving.    

What did you do on your birthday?
I dunno. I don't think I did anything. Maybe went out for dinner? Maybe had friends over for lunch?

Who did you miss?
(copied from 2014 - still rings true) My mom and sister and dad and little brothers. Liz summed up my feelings about friends quite nicely - I have lived all over and have good friends speckled across the world.  While I do not regret my experiences, I often miss having a closer knit group of friends.

What was the best thing you discovered?
Peppermint black bean brownies. Cinnamon chickpea blondies. Pumpkin banana bread.

Favorite quote/song lyric:
Nothing's sticking out... but if I have to choose one, I like this one: There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen. 

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Make sure your computer turns on before going through the TSA security check point.   

GOAL FOR NEXT YEAR:
Don't hide. Reconnect with old friends. Be ok with being whatever I feel like being, as long as it's within the realm of being a good person. If that makes sense.  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's Thanksgiving.

It's my first Thanksgiving in the US in a while. And, oddly enough, it's the first time ever that I've spent Thanksgiving alone. (Not searching for sympathy, just thinking about it and felt like typing.) It seems a little ironic...to go several years in different countries and somehow always manage to find a place to celebrate a very American holiday, and then this year, I'm here, but whoops. But you know me, I'm used to being alone. Being alone is my jam, so I'm doing ok. And it feels different, too, being here. Knowing that inside most of the lit up windows around me, Thanksgiving is happening. Knowing that I'm surrounded by it is comforting, somehow, even though I'm detached from it. Plus, I've gotten pretty good at trying to forget about the holidays. When I was abroad, I always worried that if I thought about the holidays too much or decorated for them too much, it'd make me sadder than if I just ignored them and let them go by unacknowledged. But then somehow, those holidays abroad always ended up being surprisingly great. The other Americans around me took it upon themselves to truly celebrate, and in the end their determination got to me, too. I'd bake up some pumpkiny thing to share and we'd all get together for some sort of extended feast. And we'd share it with our local friends who either knew nothing about the holiday or had only seen some weird Hollywood version of it on TV. It felt like we all worked a little harder to make sure those pieced together holidays were excellent. I wonder why. I'm glad we did, but I wonder why when you're far away from home, you get as creative as possible in order to recreate home and familiarity with people you only kind of know, but people who nonetheless are a connection to home. Maybe that's what makes those holidays stronger, the fact that everyone celebrating with you is also missing something powerful right at that very moment. And so you put in a little extra effort, a little extra laugh to make that missing feeling quiet down for everyone for a while. Plus, missing something together is probably better than missing something alone. Even if being alone is your jam.

Maybe I should mention why I am all alone on this Thanksgiving. Well, I live in New Jersey now. Did I ever tell you that? I don't think I've told you anything in a while. Sorry. I live in New Jersey now. I don't know anyone all that well here and everyone went off to be with their families, as they should, and plane tickets are expensive and time is limited and Nevada is far away (still! I can never get close enough). BUT I already have my plane ticket to go home for Christmas. So, things to look forward to. And I might buy a car tomorrow. On Black Friday. MIGHT. Might buy a car. Tomorrow. But I really don't want to. But I kind of need to. Yuck.



      

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Silver linings.

It's ok, it's ok. It's going to be ok. The world is not ending. We are. One day each and every one of us will be dead and the cockroaches will once again multiply and the poison ivy will once again spread and our time here will be nothing but a distant, unpleasant memory. The world will thrive again without us, and this is just making it happen faster. It's ok, it's ok. We're making the world great again. So it's ok... it's ok.

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.    

Saturday, July 30, 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

GOAL!

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.
CLEAN MY HOME.
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.