Two years ago on this date my Turkish Airlines flight cruised into the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul and though in quite a groggy state after over 17 hours of transit, my heart was pumping with the excitement of finally being back in Turkiye and starting my life with Ev. In these last few years I've experienced a little bit of everything, from treatment at a Turkish state hospital to my first dive off the coast of Marmaris. I took the language up, speedily got the basics, and then put it down in frustration, only to come back to it and slowly plug away, this time without putting so much pressure on myself. I've been on the good and bad side of my mother-in-law. I quickly learned to love and then just as quickly lost Ev's grandmother. I got to have my family over to see my life in Turkiye and to witness my marriage. I've been through three jobs and also experienced a period of joblessness. I've tried and loved a wide variety of Turkish dishes (except for the liver). I can even stomach the stomach. I received perfect vision from laser surgery in Istanbul after going my whole life with goggly glasses or annoying contacts. I've lived in three different flats, 2 in Bursa and our current in Istanbul. I've witnessed Islamic ritual sacrifice and the pulsing drums at 4am on Ramadan mornings. I've watched my life flash before my eyes on Istanbul freeways. I've learned the tricks of public transport. I've hurled myself down Uludag slopes on a snowboard for the first time and landed on my ass more than a dozen, ready to get up and do it all over again.
It's been a wild ride and I can only wonder what's next. Thank you, my dear Ev, for taking this journey with me; your love and laughter have gotten me through the toughest days and made the blissful days even brighter.
This past Saturday Evren and I headed to the engagement ceremony/dinner for my friends/co-workers James and Rumeysa (hailing from Cali and Istanbul, respectively). They met last year here at Zaman -- where else, we pretty much all live at work. Anyways, when we got there none of the rest of the paper crew had shown up yet and as I scanned the room I quickly realized that I was the only adult woman without a headscarf and in a sleeveless gown. Funny how this doesn't really phase me anymore. I've become so used to being the odd-one-out in pretty much every situation that the oddness has become my normal. Finally the Zamanites showed up and we found a table together. Evren was visibly bored since he was seated across from one of our less talkative columnists and he's more used to somewhat livelier events. I started studying the many scarf styles to entertain myself, my eyes drawn toward one that looked like watercolor paint splashes in one corner and another that looked like a really intricate tattoo in another. Then I moved on to observing the tulip patterned ceiling and walls. This was my first engagement ceremony here in Turkey, although I've been to many weddings. J and R exchanged rings and R's father kissed her hand at one point. There was a full dinner and afterward a multi-tiered cake, appearing very much like a wedding cake.
I pledged to myself at the end of last year that I would finally make time to go see my first niece, Adilynn, who turned 1 this past Christmas Eve and whom I, sadly, have never met. This month I will have been in Turkey for two years, and in that time I've never traveled back to the States. I booked my ticket recently (and was rather pissed that the ticket went up 100 bucks in a week and kicking myself for not booking the previous week) for March.
When I think about visiting, I feel rather apprehensive. I remember how it was returning after more than two years living in The Gambia. I felt like a complete stranger in California. I'd lived without electricity, running water and pretty much all the other trappings of the Western world for that period and I found out that I was okay without those things. Of course, this is not quite the same. I have all the modern amenities here in Turkey; yet, I've also become quite accustomed to the way of life here. I feel very much anchored here and I know more about the PKK and Ergenekon than how the US presidential primaries are going.
It seems likely that by the time I start to get my bearings over there, I'll be heading for the headache that is LAX and on my way back here.
I'm a Southern California girl whose wanderlust emerged at age 3 on my first trip to the Philippines. If I'm not on a trip, you can be sure that I'm planning one. Life is a journey, challenging us to live in the only thing we have, this moment.