December 2009


When I first arrived in Istanbul, I thought I’d be celebrating when it was time to go back home. I was lonely and miserable when I first arrived here. The school system was difficult to get used to, I didn’t speak the language, I missed my friends, and I hated not having plans on the weekends. But then I started to learn my way around. I learned just enough Turkish to get by. I started making friends. I know some good spots to go on Friday or Saturday night. I even met a fab guy (even if it didn’t work out – yes, I am now bitter about it). But most importantly, I finally stopped worrying about all the drama that I left behind in Sacramento.

But now that the time to leave is sneaking up on me, I’m beginning to remember all of the things I left behind and I’m dreading going home. I’ve been entertaining thoughts of staying here, but I know I have to return. I know I have to finish my degree if I want to get a good-paying job overseas. Also, I know that staying here would just be my way of avoiding all of the things (read: people) I don’t want to deal with back home. But, oh, how I don’t want to go home. I keep thinking about it and can’t help feeling like it’s going to be as though I never left at all. I’m going to be back in Sacramento, sleeping in the same bed, going to the same school, hanging out with the same people, visiting the same bars, driving the same streets, living out the monotony that is my life there and within a week or so it will feel to me as though I dreamt this time in Istanbul. I can’t help feeling that when I come back I’ll just be starting the clock again, counting down to the time when I can leave again, and it makes me wonder why I’m even going back at all.

So, I’ve decided to put together a list of positive things about going home to help shrink the major lump of anxiety forming in the pit of my stomach about my approaching departure. So here goes:

1. The Girls: Of course, the number one thing I have to look forward to is seeing my girls again. Gawd, how I’ve missed you.

2. Book Club: Closely related to No. 1, but still included. I cannot wait to have regularly scheduled gossip/wine sessions with the ladies again.

3. Wine: Speaking of book club, I’m going to be so glad to have GOOD, AFFORDABLE wine again. Hm….maybe this isn’t such a plus. I’ve reduced my alcohol intake considerably since coming to Istanbul. I was actually beginning to think that drinking wasn’t that fun, but I’m pretty sure those thoughts will be long forgotten after my first Happy Hour in Sac.

4. Mexican Food: OK, so the food in Istanbul is really, really good. I’ll admit that. Turks for sure know how to cook. But I need me some avocados, hot salsa, tortilla chips, enchiladas, cilantro, limes and burritos STAT.

5. School: Even though it’s going to be a ton of work to finish my master’s, it will be so worth it in the end.

6. English: I’ll be able to speak quick, non-stilted English again and everyone will understand me! (this should def have been higher on the list).

7. Outdoors: Too much city living means I desperately need to get out into the wild. Camping, hiking, rock climbing, surfing – they all need to happen asap.

8. RUNNING: How could I have almost forgotten about this one. My poor running shoes are desperate to be used. They’ve been sitting idly on my bedroom floor for months. Istanbul is definitely not a runner’s paradise. I’m going to train for a marathon next year, so being back in CA is def a huge plus for this.

9. Living Alone: I’m finally going to have my own apartment! I can’t believe I’ve never lived in an apartment by myself before. I’ll get to do all the decorating however I want. I don’t have to worry about roommates leaving their dishes in the sink or taking up the bathroom when I need to get ready for work. Oh my gosh, the thought of no roommates is definitely making my heart smile about coming back to Sac.

10. What else?

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I’ve made some big plans for the next couple of years, all of them basically hinging on me graduating from my MA TESOL program on time. However, because of the awesome (sarcasm) budget crisis in California, the number of classes being offered in my major each semester is quickly shrinking. In fact, I’m only signed up for two courses next semester because there are only two being offered that I need in order to graduate. Unfortunately, I received an email from my advisor last night that one of those two classes may be canceled if the class doesn’t reach registration capacity in the coming weeks.

What this means is I’d be taking out a ton of student loans and wasting a semester’s worth of grant money for one class, which to me just isn’t worth it. IF my class is canceled, I’ll likely take the semester off school which would mean forfeiting my grant money. This means I will either move to Utah with my sister (and my new nephew!) for six months because I will have $0 when I return to the United States. OR I’ll look for a job teaching English in Turkey and just stay here for awhile. The latter is kind of a pipe dream, considering I only have $75 left in my bank account and I’m not exactly sure what it would take to get a work visa here, but I still like to think about it.

Anyway, I figure, if I have to take a semester off, then I’ll get a full-time job and start saving  a) to pay off the enormous student loan debt I’ve accumulated in the past year and  b) to travel around the world (finally). What worries me is that if I take a semester off, I may never decide to go back and finish my masters. I’ve got the travel itch and I don’t know if I can hold it off for another couple of years because my university keeps canceling classes. At the rate of one class per semester it will take me another four years to complete my two-year degree, not to mention the exorbitant amount of money it will cost me.

SO I kind of feel like my life is at a crossroads. I feel like I have a big decision to make. Should I just take a semester off to work? Should I finally join the Peace Corps as a way to wait out the budget crisis…and avoid paying back my student loans for another two years? Should I look for an overseas teaching job? Should I quit my MA TESOL program all-together? Oh how I wish I could look down each of those roads and see where each one will lead me.

Or, maybe all this worrying is for naught and 20 students will suddenly be interested in taking pedagogical grammar (fun!) next semester. Then I’ll get all that cash, my own apartment and a spring filled with hiking and rock climbing in the Sierra-Nevadas. Yeah, let’s keep our fingers crossed for THAT reality.

UPDATE (Dec. 16): Woke up this morning to an email stating that the class IS being canceled. Am now seriously considering not coming home from Istanbul and becoming a vagabond instead.

So, life, hey? Things of course didn’t work out with the boy the way I had hoped (do they ever?). I never even got a chance to talk to him again. I don’t know what happened exactly, he just stopped answering my phone calls. Maybe he saw my blog and got angry. I really don’t know. For once though, I’m not bitter about it. I get where he’s coming from on the whole me leaving soon thing. And, yeah, it sucks, but I’m glad I at least had a little bit of time with him. My life is better because I met him and I was happy for awhile so I’m not going to look back on it with regret. That’s all I really have to say about that (thanks, Forrest Gump, for that quote).

Along with all of the boy drama of weeks past, I have been completely stressed out about school. It’s not that my courses are difficult here – they aren’t. It’s just that they’re designed so differently than the courses I take at home. There’s no practicality involved in the courses that are taught here – and to me this translates to “no value.” I just can’t see the point of the projects and the readings we’re doing. Everything here is anchored in theory and research with absolutely no real-world application, whereas my courses at CSUS always include some sort of practical application. Dana and I have both had a difficult time adjusting to this way of thinking and I’m really beginning to fear that my grades are going to suffer because of it, which of course equals STRESS.

Dana and I have been talking lately about putting together a Turkish exchange student handbook for any future students from our university who decide to study abroad here. Top of the list for suggestions to the next students will be that they only take two masters courses, then to fulfill the rest of the credit requirement with Turkish and something to relieve stress (kickboxing, maybe?). Taking a full load of masters courses that are yawn-tastic with zero practical application is a recipe for disaster when coming from our master’s program back home. Either you spend all of your time imprisoned in your dorm room (Dana), or you freak out about failing from the get-go because you’re determined to enjoy Istanbul while you’re here (me). Not only that, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought about dropping out of the MA TESOL program altogether since I’ve been here. Luckily, I know that it’s only because of the different teaching approaches that I’m ready to jump off a bridge here. I never had these kinds of feelings toward this subject matter when I was studying in the United States. And so it is that I’m really looking forward to going back home despite the fact that I’m going to really, really miss my life here in Istanbul.

Anyway, I’ll try to add some updates about how fab Istanbul is in the next couple of weeks. I know I’ve been rather lax about posting on here (sorry Kristina!). Part of it is that I don’t really know what to write about and part of it is because I’m worried about making overgeneralizations about Turkey. I guess I’ll finally take the leap and write something though. I miss taking the time to write regularly.

Anyway, hope the holiday season is treating you all well at home. I never in a million years thought I’d miss Christmas (bleck!), but I’ve gotta say it’s WAY better than having school ON Christmas Day AND New Year’s Eve. WTF? More on that later.

Best,

Becca

>Hi All,

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written, mostly because books are too expensive for me to buy here. I’ve actually just begun a project to start a “library” for international travelers at one of my local cafes here because I’m so desperate for some new reading material. In the meantime though, I’ve been really enjoying the pieces on the new and improved site of The Nervous Breakdown.

I know I talk about this site a lot. I do so partly because I’m one of the writers for the site, but mostly because there are a ton of great writers over there. If you haven’t checked it out before, I highly recommend you do so. They just revamped the site last month and added a ton of new features, including a FICTION section. It’s a great way to discover new and emerging authors.

Also, if you hate reading long essays online, you can check out the books by The Nervous Breakdown writers here. Some of them look really incredible and I can’t wait to get home so I can order a bunch of them.

You can also read my reviews of a couple of the books: All About Lulu by Jonathan Evison, Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald, Sic by Brin Friesen, Totally Killer by Greg Olear, and Banned For Life by D.R. Haney.

Enjoy!

Before coming to Istanbul, I was warned on several occasions not to fall in love here. I told everyone there was nothing to worry about. I had zero interest in getting into a relationship. I came here feeling broken and bitter about love and I had no intention of putting my still-fragile heart in harm’s way again – and it would certainly be in harm’s way if I met someone wonderful because our relationship would surely end with my departure from Turkey.

In my first few month’s here, I was quite successful in my attempt to remain single. Nobody who approached me was worth my time. I could think of a hundred reasons not to get involved with just about every man who approached me, not least of which was that they were only interested in me because I’m an American, which translates to “easy” in Turkish man-speak. There’s some crazy belief here that if you approach any American girl she’ll bed you in two seconds flat. I actually had a guy flat-out ask me if I’d at least be up for sex when I told him I wasn’t interested in a relationship with him. So tempting … but NO. Ick.

In addition to all of these wonderful propositions I received daily – from the postman, the restaurateur on the corner, carpet store owners, grocers, passersby on the street, married men who stalked me in Starbucks – I was still in contact with my ex, further torturing myself and keeping myself locked in the past. I had come here to forget him, but I was still holding on to him from thousands of miles away.

So I decided to let go. I forced myself not to call or write to him anymore – and he certainly never took the time to call or write to me. A month went by with no word from him, then two. I began to feel free again and I knew I had finally left him in the past where he belonged. While this was a huge step forward for me, it would also be my downfall because it meant that my heart had room for someone else to move in … and move in he did.

I met Murat one month ago and he had me wrapped around his finger in just a few short days. I made a couple of attempts to keep my distance, reminding myself that I’d be leaving soon, that I wasn’t ready for a relationship, that I had promised myself I’d stay single until 2010, but they were all in vain. Murat made my heart happier in the first couple of days we were together than I had been in a year. He made me laugh and made me feel special in a way that no other man I’ve dated this year has done.

He also made me love this city. Before I met him, I thought Istanbul was alright. It was a cool city and I liked it here, but now it’s much more to me. Now I’ve seen Istanbul from a whole new perspective and it’s made me appreciate all the things that make Istanbul unique. I’ve discovered parts of the culture that would have been hidden to me without a Turk pointing it out to me. What I loved most about the places he showed me though was that I felt like he was showing me a part of himself. He took me to see live local music at a place he’s frequented for years. He introduced me to Tavla (backgammon) and a game called Okey. He got me to finally smoke nargile (hookah) and he introduced me to the wonderfulness that is salep. He also got me to try kokoreç, which I would have never known about without him. It’s one of my favorite foods here now (so great when you’re out drinking).

But most of all, he made me feel loved.

Unfortunately, things have been up and down since then, mostly because of cultural differences in dating and communication, but also because of the impending doom of our relationship, which can last two more months at most. Murat said to me the other day that knowing our relationship is going to end is kind of like knowing when you are going to die. It absolutely broke my heart when he said it because I knew he was right. I wanted to keep living in a dream world where one of us moves to the other side of the world to be with the other, but it is hard to argue with the reality of our situation. He has his life here – his job, his friends, his family. And I have to finish my masters program, which will keep me in the U.S. for at least another year. A lot can change in a year.

The thing is though, if I knew when I was going to die, I think I’d make the best of it – and I’d likely try to find some way to make it not happen. I’m not the type of person to just lie down and die because somebody says it has to be so. Fuck that. This is MY life, right? I can make it what I want and what I want right now is to find some way to make this work. I just wonder if he feels the same way…