Happy International Women’s Day

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Gift from the art teacher, as per tradition.

This day always sneaks up on me and it sparks so many feelings all once.

Like my sophomore year of high school, when the guy they had hired to train the light technicians for drama club (I was one of two) would only teach the boy (meanwhile asking me to do menial tasks like hold ladders or grab lightbulbs), despite the fact that I had more experience. When I told the drama teacher about it, he simply said he was in no position to turn down free help and that I would just have to deal with it. I quit the next day.

Or my freshman year of college, when my Spanish professor would constantly ask where the female students were if not in class, would virtually ignore make students, and often made inappropriate remarks about clothing. I quit that too.

Or every time I’ve walked home alone ever…special shout out to the creep who followed me home while admitting he’d been watching me for awhile because he liked the way I dressed.

I also think of the good things. Like when I walked into my grandpa’s house and saw the sign that read “A woman’s place is in the House…and the Senate.” Or the time my little brother watched my sister get catcalled…and said how sorry he was that women were treated that way and vowed not to do the same.

I was pleasantly surprised today when I was wished a Happy Women’s Day by several colleagues, students, and pazar salesmen. I also had a good talk with my mentor students about the day; what it means, why we have it, where we go from here.

At times – when I hear sexist remarks, see sexist comments on the internet, or all of the horrible ilk that seems to be all of politics at the moment- I feel discouraged.  But then I see millions of women all over the world coming together to march in solidarity, people standing up and calling others out on their misogyny, and strong, powerful women breaking barriers every day and I feel hopeful again.  The world is far from perfect; we still need a day to remind humanity that it is shutting half of itself out.  It’s a work in progress, but at least we are moving.

Expat Whispers

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I sure do miss those college days sometimes

I got my first taste of expat whispers when I started working for the international student office at my university.  That job launched me into a whole new world, one that I desperately craved as someone who wanted so badly to see the world outside of small town Kansas.  I wasn’t exactly in the position to do so at the time, so I was incredibly  fortunate to meet many wonderful people who were able to bring a little taste of the world to me.

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American style pancakes at KEV, with butter and maple syrup

Having never experienced anything outside of American life (save for a short trip to France and Spain with my high school), I really didn’t understand what it was like to be so far removed from one’s own culture.  It really started to dawn on me how brave all of these people were to leave everything they’d ever known and spend four years in a totally different world.

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At a Mexican restaurant in Istanbul

I distinctly remember sitting at my desk when one of my friends from Japan exclaimed that they’d received a care package full of their favorite snacks.  She had paid a pretty hefty price for the shipping, but assured me that the taste of home was totally worth it.  Another friend invited me to come along with her to an authentic Indian restaurant she had discovered about an hour outside of our town.  She had a brace on her wrist from an injury, but she still removed it for the  meal, not about to let it prevent her from eating with her hands, as is the custom in a lot of South Asian countries.  I could sense the power in these small comforts, though I couldn’t fully understand them until I, too, became an expat.

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Our very first care package!

I had no idea what to expect my first year here, and as such, was completely unprepared.  One minute, I felt the need to try to hoard anything that reminded me of home and hold onto it for dear life (FYI…trying to make a bag of Reese’s last for a year in a freezer is a terrible idea…they taste like crap) and the next minute, I would feel like it was impossible and pointless and resigned myself to thinking I would have to change every aspect of my life.  The truth, of course, lies somewhere between the extremes.

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After I survived the worst of the culture shock, I realized there was already a huge, vibrant expat community right at my fingertips, ready to share any exciting discoveries through the grapevine.  This grapevine, this network of whispers, has totally revolutionized my life here in Turkey and made me feel like I’m not so out of my element after all.

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Aeropostale jeans…my fave

I always laugh to myself now when I gasp with excitement when a friend tells me about a new sushi place they discovered, or a store that sells blueberries and sweet potatoes.  I laugh because I totally get where my college friends were coming from.  I also feel a responsibility to do for others what they did for me by sharing a little bit of my world with my Turkish students and friends, to widen their windows.  They don’t quite yet understand the value of a package from home with a fresh jar of Jiff, but they can sense that it has value.

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I am now halfway through  my second school year here and it’s amazing how much my perspective has changed.  Though at first this constant grasping and digging for the slightest taste of home felt frustrating and futile, I now feel so lucky to be part of such a special community.  Yes, it is difficult sometimes, but it is also rewarding.  There’s a certain thrill in the chase.

Who knows where the whispers will carry me next.

2016

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January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

What an incredible year I’ve had!  Looking back at each month made me realize how unbelievable it’s all been.  It also made me realize how quickly time is going by.  How has it already been another year?  How?

Here’s to hoping for an amazing 2017 for us all!

Choosing Love

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I keep trying to remind myself of how important unity is at a time like this, even though just thinking about the potential fate of my country makes me want to vomit in my mouth.  The past couple of days have gone by in a sort of confused haze.  I’m sad, heartbroken, angry, confused, and scared all at once.  It seems like the whole world is divided and falling apart.

But that’s enough about that…because quite frankly, I think we’ve all had enough.  Between all of the craziness in Turkey, Brexit, and now a Trump presidency on the horizon, the political chaos of 2016 has been exhausting for everyone and there are plenty of other people who have already expressed these feelings all over the internet.  That is not to say that I intend to be complacent in this matter – I fully intend to use my platform as a teacher and a person of privilege to keep inspiring future generations of young people to be better than the kind of leadership we are seeing right now – but I need to focus on celebrating the glimmers of light in my life rather than cursing all the darkness.

In spite of everything, I have a lot to be grateful for.

***I have an amazing husband who makes me smile and always knows how to bring me back to equilibrium when I feel like everything is gloom and doom.

***I have incredible friends and family.

***I am lucky enough to be able to do what I love and travel.

***I teach incredible students who are on their way to becoming beacons of hope for their generation.

***I have been working on writing more and recently published my first fiction story here!

***I am safe and healthy.

***I successfully completed my first term of the year and will head to Scotland with friends next week for a much-needed vacation.

***I still believe people are basically good

***I will never stop standing up for those who are oppressed or discriminated against, no matter what.

What are you thankful for right now?  Let’s all be good to ourselves and one another.  The world needs it.

 

One Year

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A year ago today, I was

cramming as much as I could into hand-me-down suitcases

dreading the goodbyes

tasting the last few bites of America

trying to imagine my new life before

stepping on the plane for the 40 hour journey and

hoping everything would be alright

Outtakes from a Fabulous American Summer

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Now that I’m back in Turkey (and back to work), this summer feels like it was a total blur! It really is amazing how much we crammed into just two months.  I’ve been going through the photos and reminiscing and realized I left out a few things because I was too busy visiting with family and stuffing my face.  Anyway, before stuff gets crazy busy, I wanted to leave my last ode to Summer 2016, in no particular order.  May there be many more like it to come!

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Perdido Beach, FL

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Kansas City Plaza

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KC Battery Tour

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Welcome to  Kansas

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum

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The lovely Flint Hills

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A very American farewell

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I’m so thankful for all of our friends and family who made our summer awesome!