American Summer

20180628_155526Greetings from the U.S. of A.  This is my third summer back in the motherland, and for once, I was able to celebrate the 4th of July in all of its smoky, sparkling, fiery glory.  The first leg of our whirlwind journey took place at my grandma’s house in the country, complete with family, sweltering heat, a DIY frisbee golf course, and way too much food.

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My husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary in the nearby town of Yoder, a tiny but thriving Amish community.  My dad and stepmom surprised us by renting out a chicken-coop-turned-Airbnb for the night and I think it might be the cutest place we’ve ever stayed.

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I visited my sister in Kansas City, where I tried some amazing coffee shops, hung out at a great arcade bar, read books by the pool, and watched some old childhood favorites on Netflix.

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I discovered a board game cafe in Wichita, tried my hand at some marketing for my mom’s boutique in Manhattan, relaxed at my grandpa’s lake house, and circled back to the beginning to pack it all up and say goodbye.

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It was all really great, but something hit me this summer:  I feel more like an outsider in my own culture than I ever have.  Perhaps it’s just the stress of the last year or a symptom of the ever-rising political tension.  As great as it is to be home with friends and family, I’m realizing more and more each year that it feels less like home.  I guess reverse culture shock rears its head at every expat now and again.

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Until next time, America!

Tail End

IMG_3452.jpgHello, world.  It’s been a while.

I guess I decided not to write this summer.  It wasn’t so much a conscious decision as it was the fact that I was too busy living in the moment and  didn’t feel the itch until just now.

Summer is coming to a close.  I’ve got a lot to say, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m back.

An Ode to My First Passport

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A grainy photo of my old passport the day before I moved to Turkey.

Retiring my first passport was like saying goodbye to an old friend. I still remember getting my photo taken at Walgreens, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the prospect of finally seeing the world outside of small-town America.  I always found a certain comfort in turning to the first page and seeing my teenage self smiling back at me, full of dreams of faraway places.

My new passport is empty, and thanks to Turkish passport rules, the photographer refused to allow me to smile in my passport photo (in spite of the fact that said rule does not apply to American passports), so I look a bit more like a displeased psychopath than I do an eager world traveler.  Still, there is a certain thrill in all of the blank pages of possibility that will inevitably fill up with adventure (hopefully sooner rather than later – I am feeling the itch).

At the very least, I still have my old passport as a souvenir.  As I flip through its pages, I like to think that my 16-year-old self would be pleased to know that that passport would carry me to 27 countries, using every last page before it expired.  26-year-old me certainly is.

2017

This year has ended on a really bitter note for me.  To be honest, I’m really ready for it to be over.  That being said, I don’t want to let the bad overshadow all the good that has come of this year.  Here is a look back at my 2017 in pictures:

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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

Here’s to hoping for a brighter 2018.

 

Sun Up, Sun Down

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I might be a little biased, but I honestly think that the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen have been right here in the Kansas prairie.

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Even the cloudy night sky is stunning.

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It’s been good to be home and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit sad to be leaving next week.

 

Perfect Podcasts for Summer Escapes

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Is anyone else out there addicted to podcasts?  I’ve mentioned this before, but ever since I taught Serial last winter, I’ve jumped straight down the rabbit hole and have done a lot of binge-listening.  I love how podcasts – unlike TV shows – allow you to multi-task since you don’t have to keep your eyes on a screen.  I started out just listening to them at home to have a little interesting background noise while I grade or do chores, but lately they’ve also become great travel companions.  Whether I’m on the long flight between Turkey and the U.S. or cruising the highway, I’m bound to be listening to something.  Since they’ve been such a game-changer for me, I thought it might be worth it to share a suggested list of podcast/rip pairings based on my summer listening…kind of like a list of wine/dinner pairings, except without the wine.  Or dinner.  Anyway…

For a trip near the water…

Passage

The Bridge

For the Deep South…

S-Town (my personal favorite of the summer!)

For a classic American road trip…

Alice Isn’t Dead

Behemoth

For a ghost town voyage…

The Tunnels

Return Home

For those who meditate…

Within the Wires

For anyone who doesn’t mind a little gore…

The Box

Darkest Night

For those who wish to transcend our physical world…

Rabbits

Archive 81

The Far Meridian

I’m always looking for new podcasts (because I’m obsessed), so I’m all ears (no pun intended) for any recommendations!!

NYC!

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New York City was a place I had always built up in my mind.  It was the backdrop to nearly all the sitcoms of my childhood, the land of Broadway, and a foodie paradise; I knew I had to make it there eventually.

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One of my best friends since middle school recently moved to a suburb near the city and invited me to visit, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity – it had been two years since we’d seen each other (which was FAR too long!) and we knew we’d have a blast exploring the city together.

 

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After a night of catching up and relaxing after my flight (which had spent 3 hours on the runway), we were up bright and early and ready to explore.  It was a little surreal to walk out of the bus station and right into The New York Times!

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We started out by walking around Times Square and I could not have chosen better weather.  It was cool and overcast, but not rainy or humid at all – a far cry from the smoldering Kansas heat I had left behind.

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We stopped for lunch in Koreatown and I will probably be dreaming of all the wonderful Korean barbecue for the next year now.

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Next up was Central Park, where we spent several hours enjoying the beautiful weather.  I couldn’t believe how HUGE the park was!  I was also surprised at how many newly married couples were walking around nonchalantly getting their pictures taken.  The park is pretty enough in summer, but I imagine it’s stunning in the fall.

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Our last stop for the day was the 9/11 memorial and Tower One, which was sad and beautiful all at once.

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One of the things I was most hoping to do while I was in New York was to see a Broadway show, so I was pretty stoked when we scored some decently priced last-minute tickets to The Book of Mormon.  The humor was not for the faint of heart, but it definitely kept me laughing and the venue, set, and costumes were spectacular.

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After the show, we decided to try to catch happy hour at a nearby rooftop bar, which offered fabulous views of the skyline.  Sipping on watermelon coolers to beat the afternoon heat was just the icing on the cake.

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On Day 3, we did a little double decker cruising (touristy, but fun) and went to see the Statue of Liberty.

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All too soon it was time to disembark and get ready to pack for my early flight back to Kansas.  I could easily have stayed for another week, but I was grateful for the time I had. It’s hard to be so far away from family and friends, and unfortunately, friends can often get pushed aside for the sake of family.  I’m so glad I made time for this adventure and hope to make a return trip next summer!

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