December 25, 2014

Christmas and a Milestone.

Christmas Day in Talas, Turkey. It's sort of like swinging through parallel universes because I know it's Christmas, but there are so few external indications that it's easy to forget. Our office Christmas party created a festive vibe for about 25 minutes, which was great. There aren't Christmas lights or trees, nativity scenes, or presents from Santa. It's just another day.

International instructors were offered the day off, so Alan, some coworkers, and I spent the day on Erciyes mountain, breakfasting and sledding down the snow-packed slopes. Definitely not my usual Christmas.

I'm battling homesickness this week as I see photos from home of familiar events and food. I'm also passing an important milestone in my journeys abroad.

In the past, I've lasted about six months. A semester in Austria, a semester plus some in Cambodia (and Japan).

I'm passing the six month mark here in Turkey, and I'm in for at least another 8. Being here on a contract for work, and being here with my husband has made a huge difference in my "staying power." Traditional study abroad wisdom suggests a U shaped experience that begins high, with the excitement of a new place, goes low with frustration and language barrier, and then climbs again one your start to figure things out.

In the past, I've bailed or at least ended at the bottom, when culture shock hit it's peak.

This time, I feel like I've survived the some of the very low points (for example, locking myself in a bathroom stall at work to cry it all out--good indication of a low point), and come out the other side more prepared to deal with life in Turkey.

My Turkish is getting better. Even though it's still barely there, it's exponentially better than it was three months ago. I feel a huge sense of achievement when small encounters are successful in Turkish. For example, today I helped my American friends order food and sort out a ticket situation. Knowing a little of the language really soothes some parts of culture shock for me. I guess it really comes down to autonomy and feeling like a competent adult, rather than a helpless baby every time someone speaks to you.

So, here's to one foreign Christmas and six months in Turkey down; and to a vibrant 2015 full of the upside of the "U".