“Let Us Love – Let Us Be Loved”

Today is an important day in Turkey and in the Muslim community in general. It is Ramazan Bayramı, or Şeker Bayramı, or Eid al-Fitr (I can only pronounce 2 out of the 3). Today marks the end of Ramazan (Ramadan), or the Islamic holy month of fasting. I have yet to be in Turkey during Ramazan, and I honestly can’t describe what today’s celebrations must have looked, sounded, tasted or smelled like. Maybe next year. 

Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul. The banner says,"Let Us Love" and "Let Us Be Loved".

Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul. The banner says,”Let Us Love” and “Let Us Be Loved”.

Over the last few days, I’ve had a heavy heart because of how much misery and conflict is surrounding my loved ones in that part of the world. Turkey has had a whole lot to say (and excuse me, but a lot of what I’ve read is shameful, embarrassing, and not even factual. Come on guys) about the newest chapter of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I am slightly concerned about what will happen to me personally upon my return, because I know that in addition to rising anti-Semitism, people have taken to lashing out on places like the American consulate near my home. It feels like the news gets more and more grim with each passing day, with no hope for peace or a resolution of any kind. 

I know my opinions and my experiences are as significant as a speck of dust when compared to people who are *actually* struggling over there, but I can’t help feeling frustrated and confused by the hatred that seems to be spewing like an oil spill. 

I’m from New York, which I really do consider to be the capital of the world (sorry, Istanbul). I have friends of pretty much every shape, size, color and creed. If you looked at my Facebook news feed and saw only what my friends share and not what I share, you would have no idea where I stood politically, socially, economically, whatever. I have friends who are very conservative and share Glenn Beck articles — unironically. I have friends who are super duper liberal and probably think I’m backwards and out of touch for believing in Jesus and choosing to change my last name to my fiance’s. I have friends who have shared countless pro-Israel things, and I have friends who have shared heartbreaking news from Palestine. We disagree, sometimes on a lot of things. But we always agree to show each other love and respect. No matter what. Period. 

At the risk of sounding naive and self-involved, why the heck can’t the rest of the world do this too? 

Fear and ignorance have far too much control over us. I took my niece to get her hair blown out the other day (she’s only 3 but I feel it is my duty to spoil and pamper her, however unnecessary the activity may be). Three women at the salon managed to offend me. One woman was raised by an Egyptian woman and a Lebanese man. Her fiance served 8 years in Iraq as a soldier. Naturally, that makes her an expert on Middle Eastern politics, with an emphasis on whatever the heck is going on in Turkey. When it was already too late for me to run out of the salon, she cornered me to lecture me on how Egypt, Iraq and Turkey are pretty much the same and I actually *should* be covering my head with a scarf out of “respect” for the culture.

The woman who washed my hair was of Egyptian descent, and upon seeing my engagement ring said,”Yeah, Turkish men LOVE to marry women who don’t know anything about Turkish culture. They can take advantage. Is your fiance a MUSLIM?!” So I said,”Well, I’ve lived there for two years and my Turkish is at a conversational level. I held my own for a year without his help, despite a helluva lot of adversity. I think I know a bit about the culture.” (I didn’t answer the religion question because my fiance’s faith is between him and God.)

The other idiot told me I had green hair. Do you have a clear idea of the caliber of individuals I was dealing with? 

This is why people need to travel. I know it isn’t always possible, but I believe it is critical to understanding what is happening in the world around us. Before I moved to Turkey, I honestly thought I’d get death threats or something for not being Muslim. I was concerned about having to cover my head. I look back on that and roll my eyes, because I know how silly it is now. If I hadn’t taken the chance and actually EXPERIENCED a different culture and lifestyle, I would probably still be as ignorant as the broad who said my hair was green (just kidding. I couldn’t be that dumb).
 travelsame

If we don’t take the time to experience that which frightens us, we are destined to always fear and hate the “other” at their expense and our own. I wear a crescent and a star pendant around my neck because Turkey is literally and figuratively close to my heart. I will defend Muslims when I hear people making ignorant, hateful generalizations about them. I will defend Jews when I hear people making ignorant, hateful generalizations about them. I have had people question my faith because I show too much “sympathy” towards Muslims. Frankly, that pisses me off. 

If people could stop being so ignorant and fearful, they would see that our similarities greatly outnumber our differences. How about joining forces to create positive change, for once? 

Let us love. Let us be loved. 

#EndRant

Advertisements

The Fireball, the Twitch, and the Persistent Widow

I have been in the States for about 26 days now.

My left eye is twitching and I have had a neck cramp for the last 5 days. It’s to the point that I can no longer turn my head fully in either direction.

The reason I am back in the States for 56 days is to complete grad school, which means completing 100 hours of an internship. You would not believe how difficult it is to complete 100 hours over the course of 56 days (even less weekdays). My university wanted me to do 50 this summer and 50 next summer. I have been fighting their requirement since January, “persistent widow” style*, and only last Friday did they finally decide to let me do it my way. Incidentally, my neck cramp began last Thursday.

My body and my brain are either too connected, or not connected enough. I feel a decent amount of stress, but my brain has suppressed its instincts to be overcome with anxiety, or to randomly cry at inappropriate times. It’s gone into Beast Mode, as though it knows we only have 30 days left and we need to just suck it up and get ‘er done.

But my body has not gotten the memo.
stress eating
I’ve started a new diet, which is actually going very well, but the problem is I am not stress eating like I used to. I mean, it’s great that I’m not stress eating, but my body is like,”HEY! You’re upset/stressed/frustrated/sad. You should totally be eating something salty and maybe oily right now.” But my brain, with its new dedication to healthy choices, says,”NO WAY. Do you know how much money I’ve invested in this new diet plan? Do you not realize we have a wedding coming up?!”

stress

Since I neglected to give my body a healthy way to release the stress, it decided to manifest itself in a throbbing, fiery ball between my neck and my right shoulder. Now that ice, heating pads, Aleve, Advil, Tylenol and Bengay have failed me, I’ve decided to try acupuncture. I am counting down the hours. I have to endure two more work days before I can have someone prick me with needles and holistically nurse me back to good health. I have a LOT to do in these last 30 days, and it can’t get done with my head cocked to the left side (looking normal and attractive is included in my list of “a LOT to do”).

Things coming up:
– Finish internship. Finally show grad school who’s boss.
– Sara Bareilles concert (yaaaassssss!)
– A childhood friend’s wedding (I’m a bridesmaid).
– A friend’s vow renewal (I’m just a happy guest).
– Selecting and ordering wedding favors for the January 2015 Turkey wedding and further planning for the July 2015 US reception.
– Bracing myself to begin the paperwork process for getting hitched in Turkey. Canim and I have a few tricks up our sleeves.

Just looking at this list reminds me of how very expensive the next month will be. Ohhh, I think I just felt my neck-shoulder fireball tighten.

Breathe in, breathe out. Goosfraba. Only 30 days until I am back in Canim’s arms.

*The “persistent widow” is a reference to a parable Jesus used to teach His disciples the importance of being persistent in prayer and never losing hope. When I’m frustrated with the system and I feel like plopping down on the ground, banging my fists and pouting like a toddler, I try to remember this parable. 

Missing Things: Why I Wept in FedEx

I’ve been back in the States for almost 2 weeks now. Canim’s birthday is next week, and I am feeling like a lousy fiance for being away from him for the second birthday in a row, especially because he made my birthday so special this year and last year.

To be fair, I had given him a pretty awesome early birthday present in May, but that’s not the same as opening a present on your real birthday. Of course, birthdays don’t seem to be a big deal in Turkey, or at least not as big as they are here. But his birthday is a big deal to me.

So, I have experience shipping things to Turkey via FedEx. Each time, they told me it would take 3 days to arrive. Today, the FedEx employee told me it would take 3 days for Canim’s gift to arrive. Perfect! It would arrive early, even factoring in tomorrow’s holiday (Independence Day).

After it took me about ten minutes to figure out the freaking zip code for Canim’s office (I feel like the Turkish postal service delivers more efficiently to businesses than homes), I finally filled out the form and prepared to pay through the nose for shipping.

FedEx Man: “Okay the total comes to [one arm, one leg, and your firstborn child], and it is all set to arrive on Thursday, July 10th.”

Me: [cue the screechy “Psycho” sound in the background] “THURSDAY? No no. It must get there by Wednesday afternoon, the absolute latest. And Wednesday afternoon THEIR time. How much is it to expedite it?”

FedEx Man: “Sorry. That’s as fast as we can send it. The only other option is to go to JFK airport and try to get it to the FedEx terminal…”

Me: [no words. Just lots and lots of tears, sniffling, maybe even some whimpering] “But his birthday is on Wednesday and I thought it would only take 3 days…”

FedEx Man: “Umm…oh wait! Maybe I can get it there on Tues– nope. Sorry. Just Thursday.”

I don’t even remember paying or signing the receipt. I left with my face in my hands and I stood outside sobbing (did I really need to do that?) and I immediately messaged Canim to spoil the birthday surprise and let him know that I am a crappy fiance who can’t even reciprocate thoughtfulness and careful planning.

Of course, he was gracious and didn’t even understand why I bought him more presents. He cheered me up, but I still cried on the way home.

So why am I telling you this? Because if you’re following my blog, you have some kind of interest in the details of international relationships, and this is an aspect of it that is so unromantic and sucky.

To maintain an “international relationship”, you have to forfeit a lot of things that other people get to enjoy regularly. You miss things. Birthdays, holidays, milestones. If you’re not missing your spouse’s events, you’re missing your niece’s first day of preschool, her triumph over potty training, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving…you’ll always be missing something, somewhere. But that is a choice that we all have to make.

Ultimately, when my heart breaks into a million pieces, as it does from time to time when I have to miss things, I ask myself,”Would I trade my relationship with Canim in exchange for not missing these things?” The answer is always,”No, I wouldn’t. And stop asking yourself that stupid question!”

“International relationships” (can we think of a better term??) are romantic and adventurous, but when we choose to take them on, we also choose to take on hardship. The key is to figure out (sooner rather than later) if you’d be willing to exchange that hardship for a life without the other person.

When the relationship is right, the answer ought to be a resounding “no”.

fedex

“The World On Time…or the day after!”