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”.

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“The World On Time…or the day after!”

Wedding Nightmare

I have been back in the States for five days. I’m doing pretty well with my separation from Canim, although it does hurt to think that I have more than 50 days to go until I see him again.

Last night, I had a wedding nightmare for the first time in about 3 months (I’ve been engaged for 5 months). I dreamed that we were at our NY wedding, but I was wearing a hideous blue strapless gown because everyone told me I had to wear it as my “something blue”. The wedding was poorly organized, guests were bored, everyone was more interested in their phones, and Canim hid from sight because he was so uncomfortable. When I found him, we literally ran away. We ran right past the pit bulls (why the HECK were there pit bulls at my wedding???).
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I woke up with an eye twitch, and 12 hours later, it is still twitching. I am under quite a bit of stress right now, and I’m definitely having a whole lot of feelings to deal with. I am not in the mood.

I’ve tried to immerse myself in wedding planning to get myself excited about having two weddings, when in reality, as you already know, I am Anti-Bride and I just can’t get excited about anything other than spending the rest of my life with Canim. Floral arrangements and mason jars do nothing for me. I’ve made an honest effort, but I am just not really Pinterested.

I’ve stumbled upon this little gem, known as the “Bride’s Manifesto”. It really does soothe me to read it, although people may not want me to read it too often, lest I go ahead and break every wedding rule and, you know, stay true to myself and my ideas for a dream wedding. I feel like I am planning a wedding (or two) for other people, when really, I just want the marriage certificate and that’s it. That’s it!

Canim has tried to ease my stress from thousands of miles away, bless his heart. It’s nice to be with someone who truly believes that no matter what, everything will be okay. I already know what I’m going to do after I finish this post. I’m going to watch the Sex and the City movie for no reason other than to see last 5 minutes of the movie. I know it’s not real, and I know I am not Carrie Bradshaw, but man, those last 5 minutes make me SO HAPPY. Whatever it takes, right?

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The Silver Lining, or Her İşte Bir Hayır Vardır

It’s been almost one week since I learned the wedding of my dreams (that is, the wedding I managed to dream after conceding that I will never actually be able to elope) would not be possible. If you don’t feel like scrolling down and learning why we have to reassess the situation, it’s because Venue 1 (a restaurant) has very shady people organizing their events and Canim and I refuse to give them another lira, let alone the extra 2,000 lira their “changes” were going to cost us.

Since that disappointment, we have checked out a 5-star hotel (Venue 2) where Canim’s friend is the accounting manager. Long story short, she is helping us to plan a wedding that will be even more dreamlike than the one I had planned at Venue 1.

I felt relieved after meeting with her, and while Canim was driving me home, he taught me a new Turkish proverb: “Her işte bir hayır vardır.”

Okay, I don’t know what the exact translation is, but in a nutshell, it means every cloud has its silver lining. For every “no”, there is a “yes” nearby. That sort of thing.

The next day, I arrived at work and my co-worker asked me if I planned to attend our company’s summer kick-off party. I told him my department hadn’t received any email from the head boss, so he gave me the details. The party is going to be held next Tuesday, AT VENUE 1!!!!!!!!!! In typical dramatic YabanciBride fashion, I gasped, clutched my chest and said,”Mike – it can’t be THERE! That’s the place where I was going to have my wedding! Now I have to go BACK there? WITH CANIM?!” I won’t lie, it took about an hour for me to stop being so genuinely ticked off. How can my office coordinate an event with those people? And to think of all the MONEY they gave them!!!!

Then it hit me – the silver lining. The “her işte bir hayır vardır“. I have been in the dining room of Venue 1 while weddings were in progress. The decorations are standard for weddings, give or take a candelabra or two. No doubt, the menus are too. So, if I were to have my wedding there, almost half of the guests (my co-workers) would have a “been there, kinda done that” experience. It would be awkward. A little embarrassing, even.

And besides, what is a little restaurant when compared to our Venue 2?

Canim agreed to attend the event with me, but has plans to speak with the manager to let him know how unprofessional his event planners are. Fine by me! Remember that scene in Pretty Woman when the snobby salesgirls wouldn’t help Julia Roberts because she was dressed like a hooker, but then she goes back a few days later dressed like a debutante and she gets the last laugh? That’s me right now.

Big mistake, Venue 1. Big. Huge!
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Anti-Bride and Super Fiancé Face a New Challenge

I’ll cut to the chase: Canim and I are looking for a new wedding venue.

In February, Venue 1 “penciled us in” for our January 2015 wedding. I told Canim – twice, once as recently as last week – that it’s a bad sign that they literally used pencil, meaning no ink, to write the most important day of our lives on their calendar.

I understand that trying to book a wedding more than 6 months in advance is unheard of in Turkey. This is not a planning culture. This is an inşallah culture. I am not mocking God’s will, certainly not, but this culture takes the fatalistic, future’s-already-been-decided thing to a whole notha level.

Still, fate and destiny aside, money trumps most things. We expected them to warmly accept our money when we said,”We are going to make a 1,000 TL deposit today to secure our date.”

Nope. We were given the runaround several times, always being told we needed to talk to someone else, who was always conveniently unavailable. Today, we met with Someone Else’s assistant. I disliked her immediately. She was far too smirky and I could tell her tone was condescending when she spoke to Canim. He made little to no effort to translate, and he later revealed he didn’t translate because he knew I’d get angry.

It seems there have been “some changes” in their system. The menu we wanted? Gone. The DJ? No longer part of the package. We have to use their DJ and pay his price. End of message, no haggling. Photographer? Originally not included in the package, we were free to find our own. Now, we HAVE to use theirs and ditch the one we found. End of message, no haggling.

You may have already realized that in almost every situation, Canim is nicer than I am. That hasn’t changed. I grabbed my purse and showed myself out of the office. I put my sunglasses on and waited for him to emerge from the office with Smirky. I heard him explaining I was little upset because of their [COMPLETELY BOGUS] switcheroo. He exchanged pleasantries and we left. I did my best not to flip tables or the bird, for that matter.

I cried for a few minutes, but Super Fiancé assured me that we have nothing to worry about. He has a connection at a new 5-star hotel that will give us the same services for a better price. We will check it out tomorrow.

After that, we went downtown to shop for gold. My in-laws gave Canim an embarrassing sum to go out and buy gold jewelry of my choice for the wedding. I fell in love with the first set I found, but we looked at about a dozen other stores before coming back and buying the first set. We also bought two gold bangles, because apparently it’s of the utmost importance for the groom’s parents to give the bride gold bangles. I say “embarrassing” because they have already done so much for me and they have given me so much (including their first born), it humbles me that they feel the need to give me more. I’m not gonna knock that part of Turkish culture.

While Canim called his mother to confirm that the gold had been purchased, the store owner gave me some sticky ice cream (which I LURVE) with some kadayif, which were both on point. I sat there and realized how ridiculously blessed I am. Sure, I don’t have a venue for my wedding and there are only 7 months to go. But I’ve got a Super Fiancé (or should I say Süper Fiancé) by my side to make sure that even when things go wrong, everything is still alright.

Here’s a sneak peek of the bling. I am trying to keep the whole set as a surprise for the wedding day, whenever and wherever that may actually be. 🙂

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The In-Laws and the Sunburn

This past weekend was the last of the many long weekends I have enjoyed this year. To kick it off, Canim and I took his mother (and father) out to dinner for Mother’s Day. We celebrated a bit later because they had been visiting her family in the Black Sea region for the last two or three weeks. 

We took them to the restaurant where we will be having our wedding. They liked it, but I could tell they thought the food was overpriced, especially because Anneciğim could obviously prepare an equally if not more delicious meal and we would not even have to pay her in anything other than hugs and kisses. It just so happened there was a wedding reception taking place that night. I asked to stay a bit longer just to see the bride make her entrance. Well, it was after 8 p.m. when we left and she still hadn’t made her entrance. I would have stayed until 9, but everyone else was ready to go. 

Anneciğim and I admired the guests’ outfits as they walked the runway-like bridge (yes, there’s a BRIDGE!) into the reception hall. Canim kept his back to them, and whenever I nudged him to look at the dresses, he would shrug and say,”I don’t see anything. What, is that a woman? A man? An animal? It’s all the same to me. I don’t see anything.” Am I marrying a smart man, or what? 🙂 

It was a nice dinner, and it warmed my heart to treat them to a nice night out, because they both really deserve it and probably wouldn’t treat themselves to something like that if we hadn’t invited them. 

The next day, Canim and I headed out to spend some time being lazy on the beach. Now, I keep a tote bag packed with picnic/beach materials in the event that we decide to be spontaneous and venture outdoors. The tote usually contains bug spray, sunscreen, wipes, and tissues. I add more items to the bag depending on where we are going, but the items I listed are staples. They can’t melt or spoil, so there’s no reason they should ever be removed from the bag. 

And yet, my big (expensive) bottle of Neutrogena sunscreen has gone missing. I was left with two travel-sized tubes of sunscreen, which, let’s face it, are only good for one beach session, if that. I searched and searched, but I couldn’t find the big bottle. So, when we made it to the beach, being the sacrificial woman that I am, I let Canim use the majority of the sunscreen, and I insisted that I wouldn’t need to use much, except for on my shoulders*. For the record, he did argue with me a bit over it, but I “won” and by “won” I mean he gave up and I burned to a crisp. The one thing he absolutely insisted that I do was rub an ice cube on my head. 

That’s right. Rub an ice cube on my head. I’ve never done that before in my life, but we had more ice than sunscreen, so I rubbed it on my head to appease him. I didn’t ask him to cite his scientific sources, but whatever protection it was supposed to provide must have worked, because the only place that isn’t crispy is my scalp. 

The beach was beautiful and quiet, and I swam like a fish. There’s just something so captivating about the Mediterranean. I’ve lived here for over a year, but I hadn’t really had a good swim in the sea since I was in Italy in 2008. Well, I guess I got carried away, and today at work everyone looked at me with a mixture of pity and amusement. More of the latter, but whatever. 

On the way home, I spotted a small field of red poppies, or gelincik flowers. I am *OBSESSED* with those flowers, and I don’t really know why. It could be because their bold, beautiful red color reminds me of the perfect shade of red lipstick. It could be because they always look so warm and cheerful even though they randomly grow among weeds on land that is uncared for. I don’t exactly know what the appeal is, but whenever Canim and I drive near green areas, we always make a point to keep an eye out for the gelincik. I was so happy that he thought nothing of stopping, turning around and driving 2 km in the opposite direction just to loop around AGAIN to stop and take pictures of the flowers. Am I marrying a great man, or what? 🙂 

I’ve been applying Garnier “After Sun” lotion on a regular basis, but I can feel my face starting to get tight, which means I’m going to start peeling soon. Dear Lord. That will be hideous. 

If anyone has any remedies or ways to prevent peeling, I would be glad to try them! 
And please, do NOT say the best way to prevent peeling is to wear sunscreen, because that ship has sailed. 🙂 

*I would like to add that while I did manage to apply sunscreen to my shoulders, the burn is the worst ON MY SHOULDERS. Go figure. 



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Hellboy: this is what Canim says I look like now.

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Gelincik!

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This view would cost a LOT more in Italy. 😉

A Matter of Life and Death

Image The last day and a half has been very interesting here in Turkey. As I have been waiting very impatiently for my friend’s baby to enter the world, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been grieving the loss (or the potential loss) of loved ones in Soma, Manisa. Soma is a mining town, and there was a major explosion in one of the mines there yesterday afternoon. Hundreds of miners were trapped. Many escaped, but so many remained inside and still have yet to emerge. The situation is very grim, and authorities have said that by now, anyone who is still down there will not emerge alive. 

I don’t know why, but this tragedy is affecting me very deeply. Of course, it’s tragic and if a person doesn’t feel some sort of sympathy for the victims, they are heartless individuals. But it has brought me to tears several times today, and I feel sick if I read or hear anything about it in the news. 

So…why am I writing about it? I don’t know, really. Maybe for catharsis? I have been thinking about life and death a lot lately. Perhaps I have been thinking about it because I know a new chapter of my life is about to start, and it’s a really, really big deal. Marriage has always been something I’ve talked about as happening “one day” in the distant future, but now, I know exactly which day it will happen. It’s a major change in my life, and I guess my morbid brain realized that as I mark more milestones, it’s like I’m losing my invincibility and I’m becoming more aware of my mortality. 

The other thing is in recent months, my heart has been doing this weird thing where it has started to love another human being more than it loves myself (that sentence structure was awkward, but I hope you get what I mean). I’m sure it’s just a glimpse of what it’s like to love with a mother’s heart. I care, but I do not worry about my own safety or well-being. However, I find myself getting choked up and teary-eyed when I learn of anyone, even fictional characters, losing a loved one, because I immediately imagine how I would feel if I lost Canim. I should perish the thought, really, but it’s hard sometimes. I sometimes have random thoughts of all the possible dangers that are lurking near him, and I have to force myself to think of other things or else I will become a basket case. 

I know, it’s kind of stupid. He’s perfectly fine, perfectly healthy, and I have nothing to worry about. When I see pictures of the family members waiting outside of the mine, hoping against hope that their men will come out alive, it devastates me. They’re enduring the very thing that I’m too afraid to even imagine for more than a few nervous seconds. They are in my prayers, because it will take an act of God to comfort all of those people in the midst of this tragedy. 

At the height of my emotional reaction to the mine explosion, I learned that my dear friends in Antalya (American) welcomed their first baby into the world this afternoon. If she had taken any longer to arrive, I would have suggested that they name her Glacier (Buzul in Turkish), because homegirl was taking her sweet time to be born. Fortunately for her, she arrived in time to receive the original name her parents had picked for her, and it is a beautiful name. 

ImageAnd this is how it goes, right? We go about life, doing mundane day-to-day tasks, until suddenly, our lives change radically, for better or for worse. We have, we lose, we grieve, but life goes on, and we have to go on too, because eventually we will have again, and those moments of “having” really ought to be cherished to the fullest.

God, I wish I could hug my loved ones tonight and let them know how much they mean to me. 

Anger Management

As you may know, Canim thinks I’m as close to perfect as a human can possibly be. Bless his heart. But, there is one quality of mine that he is not jazzed about.

You see, anger is like a volcano. We all have a little volcano within us. It can be extremely dangerous and cause irreparable damage, but only if it erupts. A volcano can be active, dormant, or extinct. I don’t think anyone can say their anger is extinct, but once upon a time, my anger was largely dormant, as I believe is true for most people; that means it’s not currently erupting, but is likely to in the future. Lately, I’ve been a more active volcano. Not Vesuvius level, but you can definitely see some smoke rising more and more often. Image
What’s the source of my anger? Many things, but they all stem from the same place: stupidity. Okay, fine, that’s not a nice word. Thoughtlessness. Thoughtless behavior. My job requires me to interact with at least 50+ people per day. They are usually the same people with minor variations from time to time. When you interact with so many people so frequently, thoughtless behavior is more common than if you were holed up behind a cubicle for 40 hours a week.

Canim doesn’t love that my volcano has been so active lately. He always finds a gentle, calm, and loving way to tell me to CHILL THE HECK OUT. He says,”Please, darling. Don’t be quickly angry.” It’s really very sweet and I’m amazed by his patience. What he doesn’t understand is that most of the time, I go through a “calming” process in my brain and I try my darndest not to lose my cool. But while I’m trying to think happy thoughts and breathe deeply, the thoughtless person is busy doing more thoughtless things to make smoke come out of my ears. And then I erupt. But to people who are not living in my brain, I look like a hot-head because I go from 0 to 60 in the blink of a thoughtless eye.

The turning point for me was yesterday afternoon. After months of hearing comments from Canim and my work BFF about controlling my anger (which of course only I can do, but um, can people also provoke me a little less??), I finally came to a revelation:

Stupidity makes me angry. People will never stop being stupid, but I can’t always be angry. I can’t change them, but I can change how I respond to their stupidity thoughtlessness.  

Who can I thank for this revelation? Two thoughtless people who provoked the heck out of me yesterday.1) The “company” I work for has many clients. Yesterday, one client had clearly violated my company’s policy. The client had two warnings to stop violating the policy, and the third time the client brazenly disregarded the policy, I took action (and after reviewing the company’s policy, I realized I was actually very lenient and I could have done more, but I didn’t see the need). The client’s head manager then confronted me (read: blindsided me like WHOA), but in Turkish. I understood most of what she was saying (read: shouting), but when I tried to answer her questions and explain why I was correct, she yelled over me,”ANLAMADIM” (“I don’t understand!). Well. If you’re going to yell at me (in front of colleagues and other clients) in your language and you expect me to understand you but I am not allowed to defend myself in my language, then this is an unfair fight, isn’t it? She walked away, I shouted,”SORRY!” louder than I probably should have, and slammed the door (also definitely louder than I should have).

Needless to say, I was shaken and I went home feeling awful. AW-FUL. So, I went to the market to buy some things for dinner, and Thoughtless #2 showed up.

2) I have a neighbor who is really particular about not letting the site gate slam shut. She’s on the ground floor and has a young child, so I get it. It’s annoying. But you know what? It’s an iron gate. It was not designed to shut quietly. Months ago, I introduced myself to her and I was smiling and trying to speak as much Turkish as possible. Not only did she not say hello or introduce herself, but she scowled at me and only said,”Close the gate quietly.” MMMK. I found her to be incredibly rude, but I honored her request.

I honored that request FOR MONTHS. Until yesterday. Picture it: I have an open umbrella, my wallet, and my keys in one hand. I have four shopping bags dangling off of each arm, and I’m trying to get through the gate *quietly* at 4 p.m. Well, I failed, okay? It slammed behind me. I winced and issued an apology to the air. Suddenly I heard someone banging their hands on the window of her apartment. I stopped to check it out, and I only saw a moving curtain. So, I walked up the stairs to enter my building and I heard her door open (she lives in the building across from mine). Wouldn’t you know, she was standing in the doorway with her hand on her hip?!?! I was doing gymnastics trying to open my door without dropping everything in my hands, only to see her standing in that pose. So I opened my door, let all of my things drop to the ground, and I put MY hands on MY hips because GIRRRRRRRL you cannot out-attitude a Puerto Rican. You just simply cannot. She walked away and didn’t say anything. THAT’S RIGHT. 

After several minutes of deep breathing and imagining Canim’s voice saying,”Darling, please don’t be quickly angry,” I had my revelation (stupid people won’t change). Then I thought of my friend in the States who has been dealing with a LOT of hard stuff this year. She told me she had arranged a small corner of her room to be her prayer nook. It’s just a simple space to unwind, center your thoughts, and call on a Higher Power for some guidance. I was inspired to put my own nook together earlier in the week, but hadn’t actually used it. So, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I found tons of things to pray about. Mainly, my anger and the way it doesn’t accomplish much other than taking me away from all that is good. So, I asked Him to forgive me and to help me to be gracious when I want to be explosive. Being gracious (in this sense) means that even when people do something wrong and act like complete idiots, I need to be patient and kind in my reaction (unless it’s a case of righteous anger which is completely different). Why do I have to do that? Because I do stupid things all the time. I do mindless, THOUGHTLESS things that I don’t even realize frustrate and hurt other people. But most of them are gracious to me. And God is gracious to me. So, grace in, grace out. I receive it, so I’d better figure out how to dish it out!
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Here’s my prayer nook. The mat was given to me by some colleagues last year (not the same religion, but we value prayer just the same), a candle, some matches, a Bible, and a book of daily devotions. It’s simple, and I love it. I used it this morning when I happened to wake up just before the call to prayer at 4 am. Again, not the same religion, but the need for frequent prayer is the same.

Proverbs 14:29: Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.