Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Sarah probably is, too. We're both in it up to our ears.
With our jobs, with ourselves and with each other. And though I know Sarah and I will make it through this and be fine, I'm not going to downplay how difficult our lives are right now. They are difficult. Like advanced calculus difficult. Like improbable soap opera scenario difficult. Like as difficult as deciding whether to cut the red wire or the blue one knowing that the wrong choice means that the bomb will go off.
I don't want this blog to become a storehouse of anecdotes; a place where we tell you things we think are safe to tell you. My life is not a series of safe stories with humorous punchlines, despite my best efforts. I'm not posting as regularly here because I've come to think of it as place where funny stories and pictures of crazy haircuts go. And I'm short on funny stories and haircuts. Fresh out.
This post is to remind myself about why I wanted to write this blog in the first place and to rededicate myself to my initial motivation; to share my life with you, the people I love who are thousands of miles away. To offer it up to you, to make the details available and plain, to populate your mind with fresh visions. To stay with you even though I didn't.
As always, thanks for giving me the opportunity to try.
No gory details, just the weather of my life at 10pm Turkey time. Forecast distinct opportunities for improvement. Scattered challenges beyond prediction. Unseasonal conflict with heavy bouts of emotional upheaval. Partly-frustrating exchanges leading up to the weekend. Highs in the mid to upper reaches of human patience and lows in the 30 to 40 seemingly unsolvable problems.
Slight chance of intractable stalemate moving into next week and beyond.
Monday, January 26, 2009
I just wanted to post about a new kind of clarity. Whether you love Obama or hate him, I think it will be worth your time to pay close attention to the developments at www.recovery.gov over the next weeks and months.
This is the Obama administration's delivery on one of their key campaign promises: financial transparency. This site will be "routinely updated (by) an oversight board...(for citizens) to see how and where (their) tax dollars are spent."
I think this site will eventually be a popular stop for both Obama lovers and haters, especially since the information here will be used to support arguments on both sides.
And whether this site delivers on the promise of actual financial transparency or not, I still like the initiative and the idea behind it. I will be paying close attention to how and where this kind of information affects my perception of government spending. I'm especially interested in the potential this kind of information holds for developing my own opinions of what kinds of government spending work and which ones don't.
Bottom line: whether you are excited about the next four years or dreading them, this adimistration is attempting to do something that has never been done before; give everyone a convenient front row seat to how our tax dollars are spent. It might be a good idea to pay attention.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" or "If You Take the Wheels off Your Bed" or "Why My Bed is Now Flush With the Floor"
I chalked it up to some leftover jet lag, possibly some vertigo and just plain guys are weird.
The bed was fine when we left, nothing has changed, get over it (I'm so sympathetic).
The other night as we were kissing goodnight and making our way to dreamland, Chris again asked me if I felt like the bed was crooked or sloping. "No, no I do not. But for the love of God and sleep and peace, just look under the bed and see if something is broken." (Again, so sympathetic).
So Chris gets up, turns on the light, checks under the head of the bed and finds that sure enough, one of the wheels has snapped and lodged itself half-way in the box-spring. This of course is causing the bed to slope downwards towards our heads.
Chris being the kind husband that he is, glazes right past the "I told you so's" and begins requesting tools.
I get out of bed to better facilitate whatever handy work Chris is going to begin.
He asks me to go get the green tool (color-coding is the only way I can tell tools apart). I bring it back to him and he uses the green tool to snap the wheel off the bottom of the bed.
So if you snap the wheel off the left side, what do you have to do to the right side? That's right.
And then of course, that leaves the bed sloping about 40 degrees downwards.
So while Chris holds the box-spring up, I yank off the other two pegs at the foot of the bed.
We drop the box-spring back on the ground and find that it now rests evenly on the carpet.
The sheets are now of course everywhere.
Turkey does not make fitted sheets to fit this size bed (why would they?), so you have to buy a large flat sheet and tuck it in everywhere.
So Chris lifts the box-spring back up, as I try to tuck the sheet underneath it.
We are like a couple playing Twister; all pretzel-ed together, nothing working.
Chris suggests just doing the lifting and tucking himself. He lifts, tucks, then drops the box-spring on his toe.
He is now wincing in pain and trying to pretend it didn't hurt that bad.
Meanwhile I'm eye-balling the other side of the bed, wondering if he'll be in too much pain to lift and tuck that side as well (I really should win awards for my sympathy).
We decide that that side will just have to look ugly, and go about putting the mattress back on the bed.
This is when Chris mentions that he doesn't have any of the duvet because the duvet cover is bigger than the duvet and all he has now is duvet cover.
We unbutton the cover and try to figure out a way to attach the duvet to the duvet cover (usually there are little ties, but this is a Turkey duvet cover...and usually the duvet is the same size as the duvet cover, but again...logic is not a concern in a place where Ataturk invented everything 70 years ago and nothing has been improved since).
We take out duct tape, safety pins...anything we can get our hands on that looks like an it could be an anchor.
We decide the safety pins are our best bet and go about safety-pinning the duvet to the duvet cover.
After all the pins are in, we throw the blanket on the bed and set about finally drifting off to sleep.
Once all the lights are out, Chris asks me "Do you think there's a good chance the safety pins will pop open and stab us in the foot or eye?"
"Are they Turkish safety pins?"
Without saying another word we both got out of bed, turned on the lights, and starting taking all the safety pins out of the duvet.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Chance of Rain. High: 39 °F. Chance of precipitation 40%. Windchill: 26 °F.
Chance of Snow. High: 44 °F . Chance of precipitation 40%. Windchill: 26 °F.
Chance of Rain. High: 44 °F . Chance of precipitation 20%. Windchill: 32 °F .
Chance of Snow. High: 46 °F . Chance of precipitation 20%. Windchill: 26 °F .
Chance of Rain. High: 48 °F . Chance of precipitation 20%. Windchill: 28 °F .
Chance of Rain. High: 46 °F . Chance of precipitation 30%. Windchill: 28 °F
We knew what we were getting into when before we got here, but now that it's happening...
The snow is really pretty and I love finally having a reason to wear scarves and gloves and beautiful hats and jackets.
But when they turn the radiators off at school, and we have to sleep with a fan on at home because the radiator there is too hot...
Can't help but think fondly of those temperate Texas winters.
I have resolved to take some pictures of the snow this weekend should it happen.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
As most of you probably know from experience, I only have the ability to correspond in sporadic bursts with those whom are not in the same room. Time after time, I treat correspondence with friends and family the same way I might treat a fad weight-loss diet. I start off optimistic, and enthusiastic, writing three or four messages a week to people I haven't spoken to in years.
But all it takes is one day of not checking in and I'm done for, akin to the tiny bite of chocolate cake that can destroy a diet completely.
The truth is that my last failed attempt at social networking didn't start out that way. I, like many of you, started out on MySpace so that I could look at girls in bikinis who lived in my area. Or at the very least, to look at pictures of girls in bikinis who don't live in my area posted by other guys who were looking for pictures of girls in bikinis who lived in their area.
But MySpace was like a siren song, I couldn't turn my ship to port. I steamed on past all reason and judgement. I spent hours fiddling with my page in HTML, searching the web for just the right personality quiz to include, trying to decide if this garish, novelty font or that garish, novelty font really expressed my personality accurately. Or more honestly, if this or that doo-dad expressed the personality I wanted to have.
And all the while my friend list piled up like the kind of traffic accident that only takes place in icy road conditions, with each car sliding inexorably into the mounting pile of wreckage before it. Until I realized one day that I was supposedly friends with people I never knew and still didn't know, bands whose music I'd never heard, and in one rare (and especially embarrasing) case, with the pet dog of a complete stranger.
Leaving MySpace was easy enough. I just stopped logging on. But ignoring the beast I had created was quite another matter. My email accounts were deluged with messages from strangers, advertisements for organ enlargement (why would I need to enlarge my organs?), invitations to meaningless groups, and items written in such rudimentary language that all meaning was lost.
So I chose the nuclear option and deleted my silly, fake life I had built.
In hindsight, it's pretty easy for me to see the forest for the trees. MySpace was just another social network, albeit one dressed up like some kind of urgent lifestyle accessory. And my history with social networks is a transparent cautionary tale of too much enthusiasm followed swiftly and unerringly with total apathy. I thought that I was finally "getting it" with MySpace, that this time it would be different for me.
But I was only just biding my time until the slick gleam wore off.
Facebook has much less gleam than MySpace. In fact Facebook, by comparison, wears sort of a frumpy frock. This appeals to many of its devotees who want a simple interface and a rigid code of conduct. In large part Republicans. This keeps out most of the kids (read: below college age), at least compared to MySpace. And that's nice.
But it also makes for some pretty stilted, unimaginative, banal chatter. My initial experience with Tweet produced a similar impression. I can't even muster the masochism or self-loathing to stay interested for very long in the activities of celebrities and politicians. Why should I even attempt to care about every mundane occurance in the lives of my friends and associates? "Just put a couple burgers on the grill" was the Tweet I received one Saturday afternoon from a guy at work.
I spent over half an hour staring at the tiny display on my phone wondering, "how can I possibly respond to that? How could anyone? And what would be the purpose of any response at all?!?"
"Good," I finally replied in defeat. It was a bleak crossroads I had come to. I could soldier on in misery, validating pointless chit-chat in the hopes that perhaps one day I would uncover something interesting. Or I could drop Tweet. My record speaks for itself.
Facebook irks me in much the same way (Why is anyone expending the energy to tell me that they just became a fan of this or that? Should I be considering becoming a fan of this or that? Is that why you are telling me? Do you have the slightest interest in whether I come to like the same things that you do? Or are you just bored? And if you are just bored, why don't you go watch reality television like everyone else that is bored, instead of taking the time to elaborately and indirectly tell me you are bored?).
Facebook feels pretty restrictive for somebody migrating from MySpace. I'm used to seeing everbody's underwear immediately on the first click. With Facebook, it seems like every step I take I need approval from somebody, Ineed to flash my badeg or get to the back of the line. Facebook makes it much more difficult to pry in other people's private affairs, or to pry in other people's fictional private affairs. This is a really good feature, and a kind of boring limitation.
Chances are I'm not going to learn anything about you that you don't expressly want me to know with Facebook. All your pics are cleverly arranged and generally give the impression that you are well-adjusted and urbane. The information you have included about yourself in your profile is sparse. Little can be discerned. I know almost nothing of your habits or your personality beyond what I can guess from the comment you wrote on a mutual friend's wall, "ROFL, just another night!" I can only assume that you mean that you do whatever is hapening in the tiny picture above quite often and usually in the evening. And that you have rolled on the floor laughing in realizing this fact. Gotcha. I am nonplussed.
You could say, well, that comment wasn't for me. It was for someone else. I'm not suposed to get anything out of it. You're right. I agree. That's what personal email is for, and it works wonders for one-to-one communication. Why am I being included in your one-to-one communication? What am I supposed to get out of that experience, beyond a vague feeling of distaste for my fellow man?
I keep thinking that if I could just find a social network that didn't eventually bore me into a stupor I might be able to stick with one for the long haul and really integrate it into my life. I think the problem is that the details of almost everyone's lives are comprised of inherently boring trivia, interspersed with rare occurances of eventfulness. And it's just normal people out there on the other end of these things after all, no matter how trumped-up we try to make it, or exclusive we try to make it, or vulgar, or refined, or complicated or simple.
I think I'm going to attempt a regression of form to pen-and-paper and the good old pony express. Is that even feasible in today's world? I don't know. I'm going to sign off now and see if I can figure out the logistics of what it would take for me to maintain handwritten correspondence with my various loved ones.
Probably I'll get started immediately, with a lot of enthusiasm.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Life continues here unabated. I took my first final exam last night, and after writing a four-page handwritten essay my hand felt like a steel claw and I was ready to eat dinner and go to sleep.
I came home to find Sarah preparing chicken soup with one of the soup mixes we picked up in the states. It was very tasty, indeed. Then we started talking about living in Turkey and our individual opinions on it.
As everyone can probably tell from the post I wrote, I am of the opinion that we are both experiencing difficulty right now due largely to the effects of a well-known phase of transition that all expats go through at or around the 6 month mark. My understanding of Sarah's opinion (I'm sure she'll correct me if I get it wrong) is that she doesn't agree that her current opinions are the result of a 'phase.'
The more we talked about it, the clearer our opinions became. And the clearer it became how different our respective opinions are.
We're really getting to the heart issues that we have been grappling with individually for months. How best can we maximize our ability to travel and see the world before we have children? How best can we leverage advantages to maximize long-term savings? How important is my free master's degree? How important is the time we are losing with family and friends while we are here? When do decisions need to be made? Which factors are more important than others? Which factors are our most important priorities in terms of time and money? And so on and so forth.
Sarah and I aren't answering these questions the same. We're not even weighting the importance of the questions in the same way. We are discovering a little more each day that we are two individual people who have sometimes radically divergent identities and motivations. Which we've really known all along, except now, our future depends on how effectively can we find mutually agreeable answers with the clock ticking steadily in the background.
Director Elia Kazan offered, "What's called a difficult decision is a difficult decision because either way you go there are penalties." We face steep opportunity costs with whatever decision we will make. I think Sarah and I both recognize that all we can do is make the very best decision that we can, both for us as individuals and for our marriage.
That's a really simple thing to say but a really difficult thing to make happen.
Especially because our primary modes of decision making are diametrically opposed. Sarah starts by making a grocery list. Then she orders the list by the most efficient path around the store. Then she knocks it out as fast as she can.
I start by asking myself, "Why can't we just go to the grocery store tomorrow?"
Then I decide that we could go to the grocery store tomorrow. Then I completely forget about going to the grocery store alltogether and start wondering about what the grocery store of tomorrow will be like, why current grocery stores are laid out the way they are, why shopping carts are all primarily made of heavy metal and not durable plastics or wood, why all the grocery stores in Turkey don't have baggers, and so on until I've really managed to interest myself in something completely unrelated to me buying groceries.
Then, after a few days, when the cereal is all gone, usually on a whim, I will go to the store and buy groceries. And hand puppets. And some new kind of sauce I've never seen before. And while breezing through the housewares department looking at whatever, I will witness some little kid call another little kid a 'fart head' at the top of his lungs, and I will store that anecdote for later, and that little jewel will make the whole long trip worthwhile.
For further examples please see figure 7, my 7 year undergraduate degree.
When Sarah and I discuss living in Turkey, she typically starts the discussion by declaring that we've got to figure it out soon. And I typically reply that all we've got to 'figure out soon' is what's for dinner because we're out of cereal.
Of course the truth is in the middle somewhere and we're working towards discovering that together. Fortunately, we both have a good sense of humor to fall back on when the thicket gets thickest.
Which reminds me of a good story, but I'll save that for next time.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Yes, I was diagnosed with a parasite named giardia, or "beaver fever" as it's colorfully referred to. It lived in animal poo that accumulates in dammed up beaver ponds, and then when you go camping and decide to take a dip, giardia makes a home in you.
Except I didn't go camping, and I haven't taken any dips. I have taken showers. I have brushed my teeth with the tap water. I don't want to spend too much time thinking about what that means.
I only talked to my parasite out loud once or twice, ad both times I felt a little ridiculous. Fortunately I was alone. But the reality is I've been carrying around this other mouth to feed. A disgusting and unwelcome presence for sure, but still, I think we both did what we could to make the best of our respective situations.
I woke up out of a dead sleep one night after dreaming of pizza with a very strong urge to go into the kitchen and begin eating things. This isn't totally abnormal for me, but I couldn't help wondering if maybe the giardia had noticed my dreams, started to think it was food time, and woken me up somehow.
And it's difficult, given all the tv advertising I grew up watching, not to imagine my parasite building a little house inside my stomach with an easy chair, a tv and a swimming pool outside. It would be a shabby, run-down house and the living room would look dirty and disorganized. My giardia virus would belch loudly and his wife and kids would get on his nerves a with their incessant demands for more food. TV commercials love to anthropomorphize anything they can. Which is everything from flu bugs to spark plugs. I'm sure it's a tactic that helps move units.
But realty is often simpler than television commercials. Giardia is just little one-celled guy, or thousands of guys, who hang out and eat. They don't do much besides eat, divide or sleep in a dormant state. They can live dormant for months in a cool pool of water, so they're pretty laid back. In no hurry. Downright patient by design, you could say.
Now that I'm through taking my course of meds, I wonder if it worked and all the giardia are dead. I certainly feel much better today than I have lately. There's little I can do to check if I'm really better or not. I'll just have to wait and see.
But I'm starting this week with the hope that I'll get to spend a good chunk of my time out of the bathroom.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
There can be no better way to start the year than with friends and family.
Next she thought she would go ahead and find a new pair of socks, the stockings the Wehkamps had hung for Chris and I.
Bauer is still just as cuddly as ever. He'll let most anyone hold him and is happy to have his tummy tickled.
The fun and surprises just kept coming.
Chris got ambushed into holding a baby. Jenica quickly swiped his wine from his hand and replaced it with Ms. Hailey.
She was happy as could be, and Chris, well, he was confused.
I give him big credit, it's the first baby he's ever held. Yes, ever. She really liked it when he started making noises at her. They got along wonderfully. A big thank you goes out to Marissa and Mike for letting us use Hailey as Chris's guinea pig.
Feeling ever so confident, Chris traded in the 6 mo. old for a 3 mo. old!
Caleb and Shea have a beautiful new baby girl that we got to meet for the first time.
At the very end of the night we got more great news ... another baby on the way! Congrats B & A W. We are so very happy for you!!
Saturday we tried to figure out how to get all our Target crap into 2 duffle bags.
You go back to Target and buy a third duffle bag.
And what do you buy when you have unlimited retail bliss at your fingertips?
Qtips, tampons, thermal underwear, pen and pencil holder, taco seasonings, socks, underwear, white envelopes, ("seriously?" you're asking. yes, seriously.)
DVD cleaner, Febreeze, work-out pants, bras, hooks, duct tape, electrical tape, scotch tape, mouse pads, 4 thermos's, a paper towel holder, yoga mat...you can search for other items in the pictures if you want, but that's about as exciting as it gets.
As we headed to our last meal (Chick-Fil-A), we reflected on our time in Texas.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I spent most of it on an airplane going from DFW to London to Istanbul and then to Ankara.
I also spent most of it hopped up on Xanax. So I really don't know what was going on.
I remember some turbulence on the flight from DFW to London, and because I had not started my course of Xanax early enough I started freaking out a bit.
I remember asking a flight attendant if I could go to the cockpit and make sure everything was alright.
He told me they are no longer allowed to let passengers up there, but would I like a glass of wine? I looked to Chris to see if he had any money...we had Euros, Dollars, Turkish Lira, but not enough of any of the three to pay airline wine prices. So, the friendly flight attendant left and came back 1 minute later with a small bottle of wine for me.
I think he knew he was doing himself as much of a favor as he was me.
I remember running through awful Terminal 5 in Heathrow. That terminal may as well be in Beirut. We had to go from it to Terminal 3 and just barely made the Istanbul flight in time.
On this flight we each had our own row to spread out on and slept like babies.
Landed at about 7pm Turkey time, ran all the way across the Istanbul airport and knew immediately when we got to our gate that we were in Turkey because everyone at the gate was blabbering away like at any second they were going to go mute and never be able to speak again.
I have two videos of people blathering away that you can watch if you want, but the funniest video is Chris's blabbering about the blabbering.
Finally arrived in Ankara at about 10pm, waited for our bags to fall down the little baggage claim slide, but nothing came.
Ours bags couldn't keep up with us through all the connections.
So, we bought some Bailey's at the Duty Free, caught a cab, got home about midnight and called it a night.
Phases of culture shock
- Honeymoon Phase - During this period the differences between the old and new culture are seen in a romantic light, wonderful and new. For example, in moving to a new country, an individual might love the new foods, the pace of the life, the people's habits, the buildings and so on.
- Negotiation Phase - After some time (usually weeks), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. One may long for food the way it is prepared in one's native country, may find the pace of life too fast or slow, may find the people's habits annoying, disgusting, and irritating etc. This phase is often marked by mood swings caused by minor issues or without apparent reason. Depression is not uncommon.
- Adjustment Phase - Again, after some time (usually 6 - 12 months), one grows accustomed to the new culture and develops routines. One knows what to expect in most situations and the host country no longer feels all that new. One becomes concerned with basic living again, and things become more "normal".
- Reverse Culture Shock (a.k.a. Re-entry Shock) - Returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above, which an affected person often finds more surprising and difficult to deal with as the original culture shock.
There are three basic outcomes of the Adjustment Phase:
- Some people find it impossible to accept the foreign culture and integrate. They isolate themselves from the host country's environment, which they come to perceive as hostile, withdraw into a ghetto and see return to their own culture as the only way out. These Rejectors also have the greatest problems re-integrating back home after return. Approx. 60% of expatriates behave in this way.
- Some people integrate fully and take on all parts of the host culture while losing their original identity. They normally remain in the host country forever. Approx. 10% of expatriates belong to this group of Adopters.
- Some people manage to adapt the aspects of the host culture they see as positive, while keeping some of their own and creating their unique blend. They have no major problems returning home or relocating elsewhere. Approx. 30% of expatriates are these so-called Cosmopolitans.
Negotiations aren't going well today.
My body can't sleep at night. I ate lunch in the cafeteria and could barely choke down the freezing vegetables and lump of mystery meat. We have a living room piled with American products, items I've longed for, and all I want to do is pack them up and take them home.
For two days the sky has produced a cold, morbid dribble. Another one of our workmates and her husband have quit the school and moved home. This apartment is barely more than a hole in a poorly constructed wall.
The graduate program is good, but pointless. A master's in curriculum and instruction won't improve my career prospects too much. And I've fallen behind in my studies over the holiday. I was too busy enjoying myself.
I don't know what any of these strangers are saying. I can't read the most basic instructions. Meanwhile, all of our friends back home are either reproducing themselves or enjoying their charming pets.
The demands of the school are ridiculous. We aren't saving as much as we wanted to. It's cheaper to fly to Japan from Dallas than it is from here. Everything we buy here breaks.
There is no Mexican food.
Now is the part when I am supposed to pluck the good from the bad, find the silver lining, squeeze the lemons into pulpy goo for you. And for me. And for my wife. But I can't today.
Because, as you will note in the negotiation phase above, I am experiencing mood swings caused by minor issues. And some not-uncommon depression. The knowledge that I am transitioning through a normal phase should probably make me feel better, not worse.
Ah, but that is not the case. Instead I am embarrassed for being such a cookie-cutter stereotype of a person. I thought I got off the assembly line of life when I moved away, but I only climbed on a different one. Knowing that a billion people have felt this way doesn't help one iota.
What the hell is an iota?
Again, from the Oracle of Wiki:
Common English phrase
The word is used in a common English phrase, 'not one iota of difference', to signify a meaningless distinction (lit. "not even a small difference"). The phrase derives from the introduction to the Antithesis of the Law in the Gospel of Matthew (a jot or a tittle), and became common in the theological debate which caused the convening of the First Council of Nicaea, regarding the nature of the Holy Trinity. The argument centered on which of two alternative Greek words, differing only in a single 'iota' letter, should be used in describing Jesus' relationship to the Holy Trinity. One word, 'homoousios', would mean that Jesus was of the same substance as God the Father, and the other 'homoiousios', would mean that Jesus was of similar substance. This distinction separated the Arians, who believed the latter, from the main body of Christianity, and led to their ultimate condemnation as heretics.
You could have given me the rest of my life to try and I never could have guessed that one. At least I managed to introduce the word 'tittle' into the blog.
I'm going to do my best to take what small victories I can until Negotiations conclude successfully.
Today I was much more bright-eyed than yesterday. Had my new rain boots, my new tights, new lunchbox, new jacket. Super.
Here's the bleary walk to school this morning. Cold and rainy.
But I was not to be disheartened. I found this snowman that some kids had made and decided he needed to borrow my scarf.
I really hope someone gives him eyeballs soon. He looks kind of creepy without them.
It took everything in my power not to put two evil eyes on his icy head. And a fez for a hat. And lots of food in his stick hands. I don't think that would have been very culturally sensitive, but it definitely would have given me a laugh.