March 22, 2015

March snow...

There are six inches of fresh snow on the ground this morning, and it's still coming down.

It's the punctuation to a week that left me and most of my colleagues worn-down and weary. In addition to the usual workload, many of us picked up extra hours subbing for colleagues who were attending weddings or conferences out of town. We also spent a morning proctoring the oral interview quiz, which largely amounted to two hours of listening to and assessing some half-baked answers to questions like "Would you like to live as a cowboy?" or "What are some ways in which you could conserve water?" The same day, some of us were asked to proctor an additional two-hour written exam. Add to that a few miscellaneous meetings with students, and my usual planning day was gone before I even had a chance to look at it.

I trudged (while spontaneously lesson-planning in the moment) through Thursday and Friday during which I teach every available class period. By Friday evening, I had a headache, a stomach ache, and no patience left.

Alan and I were both exhausted, and we had a fight almost immediately when we came home on Friday (which we later discussed on a more even keel and came to a resolution). Thankfully, we went to a friend's house for some board games and beer. That took the edge off nicely!

Ironically, yesterday I spent the day shopping for lightweight blouses and coral-colored nail polish because my winter sweaters and black nails seemed too heavy for March. Looking out the window now, my coral nails feel comically premature.

I'm baking the cookie mix that my mom sent for us. They smell delicious! I already ate a few spoonfuls of the dough, so I'll wait a few more minutes to have a cookie, but I'm always appreciative for something from the States.

In the previous sentence I had to choose "the States" or "home." It's hard to say where my home is at this point. I've been in Turkey for nine months now. I own a car and rent an apartment here. I work here. Is this my home? Before I get too lost in the questions haunting my life as an adult, let's change the subject.

I read an article in the New York Times this morning about a young man from Minnesota who decided to join ISIS in Syria. Although I live in Turkey, a neighboring country to Syria and Iraq, and the main entryway for people wanting to join ISIS, I am very sheltered from what's going on. The NYT story caught my attention because a "regular" guy from Minnesota decided that his best life choice was to go to a war-ravaged country and pick up a machine gun.

I've made some crazy decisions in my life (Cambodia, anyone?), but I can't even imagine deciding to go to Syria. There's got to be another way to find fulfilment in your life.

Turkey is situated in the middle of the madness. Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Gaza...

I try not to think about the craziness too much. I have students from Iraq and Afghanistan in my classes. I want to ask them so many questions about their families and their situations, but I don't know how. I think about one of my Iraqi students a lot. She's from Baghdad and she has super long black hair that she styles fashionably in a ponytail with her bangs coiffed in a bump. She lines her eyes heavily with kohl and she always has a cute smile on. She wears skinny jeans and high-top sneakers. When we did our pen pal assignment, she wrote enthusiastic messages and I was so happy that at least one American was getting to see this awesome person from a country that doesn't usually stand a chance in American rhetoric. Meeting and befriending people from other countries is one of the best ways to get past prejudice.

I have been so fortunate to have close friends from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey, and to have formed bonds with students from Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and other parts of the world. I love my job because I get to meet people who have different orientations to the world. I get to push my own boundaries and challenge my own stereotypes. I get to have really awkward moments, like discussing "conspiracy theories" about September 11th (thanks much to my textbook) with an Afghani student in my classroom. I get to have amazing moments where students from Turkey and students from Senegal realize that they practice the same traditions during Muslim holidays. I like to think of my job as a foundation for diplomacy and conversation between nations.

It's still snowing. The cookies are out of the oven. Alan's awake.

It's time for breakfast. Thanks for reading.