Reverse Culture Shock? 

I have great news! 

Finally! 

I’ve bought my plane ticket to go home this summer! After two years, I finally will step foot on American soil, and I will tread it for two months (insallah). 

Let’s skip the political drama and go straight to the fear of reverse culture shock. A term for when you’ve been out of your own culture so long, when you return you experience a shock as if it were foreign. 

 I’ve read that culture shock comes in three stages. 

First, the honeymoon stage. Everything is sunshine and rainbows, and butterflies fly out of every crevice you can find. I personally call this the vacation stage. Where all the new things are exciting and you just gobble it up. This is very well documented at the beginning of my “in turkey” posts. 

Second comes the homesickness. The feeling of vacation has worn off because you’ve been away from your country long enough that you must put down your roots here. This is when the every day convenience of knowing- you know- everything, becomes glaringly obvious. You never even realized how something as reactive as checking out in the grocery store line was until you are forced to do it in a country where you barely understand the language and don’t recognize the money. You’re frustrated and angry. This is also pretty well documented on my blog. 

The final stage, much like the stages of grief, is acceptance. You accept your new home for what it is. That some things are good, some things are bad, but you are able to function and generally have a life. It’s gonna take many years to get to the comfort of your own country, but it’s a process. 

I guess that’s where I am? I don’t know. But that brings up the issue of reverse culture shock. 

Now that I’ve basically adjusted to Turkey, will America be the same as I remember it? Or will my Turkish tinted goggles make everything look different? Again not getting too deep into the politics, but will things be harder for me as a hijabi than they were before (side note: it was easier in America when I left than it is now.)?

Since I came to Turkey I’ve become more patriotic. I wave my invisible American flag and recite the national anthem every Friday after school (right after the Turkish one is recited at school).  Every time someone does something ridiculously Turkish I roll my eyes and say “no one would do that in America”.

Maybe I’m a stick in the mud for Turkey, but I am how I am and I prefer my interactions as I prefer them. 

But what if America isn’t the way I remember it? What if I have nowhere to aspire to anymore…

The thought makes my stomach hurt.  

Advertisements

The Obligatory Election Post

As an American blogger (particularly  an expat one) , I’m required to post about the election this week. 

Am I scared? Some. 

Am I angry? A bit. 

Am I disappointed ? Yes. 

Am I surprised? Not really. 

I mean, after the initial shock,  I sighed and shook my head.  America has always had an unfortunate undercurrent of all the -isms . . . Racism, sexism, exceptionalism , and a number of phobias and bigotry.  I’m a big girl and I can acknowledge our downfalls as a nation. 

At first I thought that these election results meant that these horrible things had reached a majority and were socially acceptable now. I was even worried about my own safety when I return home this summer. But then I talked to some people who voted for trump. They didn’t vote for him because they agree with him, they did it because they hate Hillary and the current system.  So instead of being directly terrible, some people just lack empathy and are a bit ignorant to the concerns of the minority. 

It’s better than being hateful. . ? 

So I have hope still that my country won’t fall into total disrepair.  Will there be setbacks? I think so. But hopefully we won’t crash and burn.  

Now it’s up to the rest of us to kick into high gear, write our representatives , and keep up to date on every bit of legislation that comes across the executive desk. Make our voices heard.  We are not a nation of jerks . We are just angry. 

I am American,  hear me roar. 

By April I mean December, and by December I mean July 2017

Even before we boarded the plane last August,  everyone was asking when we would be back.  I didn’t know at the time, and said we would play it by ear.

The following January,  I had thought that I would be starting a job this September. As you all already know, my headscarf kept that from happening.  But before that,  I had told my family that I would plan on visiting in April (with the promise a future income,  I felt comfortable dropping big money).  Unfortunately I had to take that back.

A bit later,  I had anticipated another job… Another job that didn’t work out.  At that moment I had planned on taking a Christmas break and visiting my family in December.  Well,  looks like that won’t be happening either.

And now I’m starting a course in June,  hoping to find work in the coming months.  Mostly I’ve been applying to schools (which,  as you know,  I didn’t intend to do… But so many are hiring!),  which means I won’t be able to go back to the states until NEXT summer.

image

My mom started a new job on a production line,  so she’s been too busy to miss me.  Hah!  But really, having a scheduled job again instead of being her own boss has made planning a return trip home difficult.  Having to line up her vacation days with my (potential) ones is no easy task! Right now we are hoping I will be able to go stateside again next July for independence day (my favorite holiday!). 

Two whole years (ok, 23 months) since I left.  How will it feel?

Will America still be the way I remember it?

Will it be better? Worse?

What about my hometown? It hasn’t even felt like mine since I moved away for college.  But it feels a lot more mine than Izmir does right now.

While I do feel a little broken hearted (a little crack I guess) that I still have a whole year to wait before I face a 10hr plane flight solo, I knew it could have been like this when we left. Things never seem to go according to plan for us.

And it’s been about a year already, dang!

But hopefully this will.  And maybe if I’m lucky,  I’ll be bringing back more than luggage with me!

T-minus 12 hours and 5.5k miles

The time that we have been waiting for over the last five years is finally here…we are about to board the plane to Turkey for more than just a vacation.  We are starting the next, exciting chapter in our lives!  I wanted to take a minute to answer some questions that everyone may have- particularly those who haven’t been part of our adventure until recently.

DSCN1089

  Why are you moving to Turkey?

Well, that isn’t a short story, but I will make it one.. my husband is a citizen of Turkey, and came to the US on a scholar visa (graduate education) in 2008.  Now that he is done with school, his visa is no longer valid- which means it is time to go back to Turkey!

  Can’t he get US citizenship?

Yes and no… because he is married to me he can apply for a green card.  But, because he was on a J-1 visa he is required to spend 2 years back in his home country (Turkey) before any changes can be made to his visa status (read: J-1 to green card).  So even if we wanted to live in the US permanently, two years would have to be spent in Turkey.  Yes, a waiver can be given by Turkey for this home-stay requirement… but his situation basically assures they would not grant this waiver.

  How long will you be there?

That’s a good question, and I don’t have the answer to that… but inshallah, forever!  There are a lot of complicated facets to different time periods that must be met (e.g. 2 years because of the visa, 15 years because of other things…).  Of course, if I am absolutely miserable in Turkey (inshallah not, and I believe that I won’t be) we will explore other options.

  Where will you be living?

I can’t really tell you that, because where we will end up will likely be our home long-term.  So, you know, for security… but I can tell you that we will likely spend a good bit of time in Izmir! We hope that hubby will be assigned to a western town, close-ish to Izmir 🙂

  What are you going to do there?

Another answer that I don’t have… I know for at least a year I will simply be trying to adjust to Turkish life…the language, the culture, etc.  After that year I should be eligible for Turkish citizenship due to the length of our marriage, and once I attain citizenship I will have many more options inshallah.  But who knows, maybe we will start our family shortly- and I would prefer to be a stay at home mom.

 Do you even want to live in Turkey?

Short answer: YES!
Long answer:  Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t do things that I don’t want to do.  If I didn’t want to live in Turkey, I wouldn’t go.  There are many things that I love about Turkey, and as a Muslimah I feel like Turkey is a great country to raise a family (some religion, but not too much).  While going from an American life to a Turkish one will be quite the change, I see many benefits for me personally and for our future family that one can only find in Turkey.

  Will you ever come back to the US?

Of course!  It is my home, after all, and I do have family here.  However, I foresee my trips to the US to be more vacation-like rather than a permanent move in the future.  I don’t plan on relinquishing my US citizenship, so coming back for any length of time shouldn’t be a problem (besides the outlandish cost of a ticket 😡

Well, I think that pretty much sums up the majority of the questions I have been receiving…and now everyone is caught up!  Inshallah I will be able to reveal more about the drama we have been going through since March…but it all really depends on how things unfold.

Oh!  That’s the call for boarding!  I guess I will see you guys tomorrow afternoon, in Turkey 🙂

DSCN1295

An Open Letter to American Christians

Dear American Christians,

Let me start off by saying- I love you.  The Quran teaches Muslims that Christians and Jews are our brothers and sisters in faith, and for that reason I love you and respect your beliefs.  I want to make it clear that I do not hate you, and I do not mean to insult or offend you- but I have to put my foot down.

  You are privileged.

  Particularly white American Christians.

  I’m not angry at you for being privileged, I myself spent the majority of my life under this demographic.  I still enjoy 75% of my white privilege despite my hijab, since I am whiter than mayonnaise.  Your privilege is not because you as an individual made it that way, therefore I cannot be upset with you for that.

  I am upset because you don’t recognize your privilege.

  Not all of you are ignorant of your privilege.  Many of you are very aware of it and are grateful for it every day- using it for good and not to harm others.  So this letter may not be aimed directly at you.

But isn’t that part of your privilege as well?  That you maintain your autonomy from your demographic, while others are painted with the same brush as the worst of us?  For example, when terrorists who call themselves Muslim do something despicable, all Muslims must answer for their actions and vocally condemn it…but when terrorists who call themselves Christian do something horrendous, no one looks at the Christian community with a cloud of anger behind their eyes.  Similarly, I recognize your autonomy from your demographic, and everyone who accepts their privilege is excused from this letter.

But for those of you who are convinced you are victimized, for those of you who believe that the American public at large is out to get you…

you are the American public at large

  Do you not realize that you are in the majority? Do you not know that 83% of Americans identify as Christian?

 I read an article on my Facebook feed this morning that sparked my outrage.   It was about an actor in Jurassic World talking about his faith in an interview…and he was called brave.  Are you kidding me?  How is that brave?  Identifying as the majority demographic is not brave.  I’m not saying that it is bad that he is Christian, no.  Good for him!  I have no problem with his expressing his beliefs in an interview- that is all well and good.  Good. For.  Him.

  But it isn’t brave.

  Furthermore, you are not under attack.  Just stop.  There is no war on Christmas.  There is no attempt to stifle your beliefs.  And don’t view a law to protect the minority as an attack on the majority.

 Making a wedding cake for a gay marriage doesn’t mean you have to marry a gay person yourself.

 Allowing Muslimahs to wear the head scarf doesn’t mean you have to put it on.

 Legalizing abortion doesn’t mean you have to perform one.

  And the fact that you expected a law that gives you a religious exemption from anti-discrimination laws makes me sick.  You have to get along with everyone else.  Christianity does not give you a pass for being a bigot.

And did Jesus not say to love the sinner?

Could you imagine if I opened a shop that had a dress code in order to shop there?  If I had extra scarves and abayas (think baggie maxi dress with sleeves) at the door that women had to put on to come inside?  Can you see the picket lines?  The protests?  The angry news anchors?  The arson?

  No one is out to get you.  No one is out to harm you.  You can wear a cross around your neck without being leered at.  You can leave your house without having to be afraid that someone will attack you physically for your beliefs.  You don’t have to worry that a police officer is going to stop you on the street because of ethnic profiling.  You don’t have to look for wire taps or spies in your church.   You don’t have to wonder if you will wind up in Guantanamo like the other 60% of inmates that were innocent just because of your faith.

And for that you should be grateful.

You are privileged.

Don’t act like you aren’t.

  This post may make me unpopular.  People may unsubscribe and leave angry comments (which I won’t approve- just letting you know right now), but this has to be said.  Someone needed to say it, and it might as well be an American Muslim with 75% of her white privilege remaining.

P.S. there may be some instances of anti-Christian behavior in the US, but those are very small and rare.  I would like to just take a second to recognize that some people may have indeed suffered for their Christian beliefs- but it is not the majority, and that is the point of this letter.

All American Muslim

No, not the TV show (that was canceled)…I just like the picture

On many of the TV shows, youtube videos, movies, etc., that I have seen featuring western converts to Islam, many of them forsake their old identity for a new, Islamic centered one.  Changing their name, their style of dress (not just halal-ifying it), picking up a new language in the hopes of moving to an Islamic country….yes, I’ve seen all of (or many) of these things occur.  Let me just take a moment to remind everyone:

You are still you.

Islam is both a guidebook for living and a religion- but it is not a culture, per se. I think that many of us have identified Islam with the middle east and, when converting to Islam, many people will pick up the culture-ways of the middle east as well.  While I do subscribe to the notion of all muslims being of one ummah (nation)I don’t think that means we should forget who our families raised us as.  While some converts/reverts embrace a new culture because they married into it (like myself- who embraced Turkish culture BEFORE I embraced Islam),  I am troubled by those who seek to isolate themselves from their western identities because they feel Islam is not amenable to their culture.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.– Ch 49, vs 13 of the Holy Quran 

I whole-heartedly believe that Islam can fit into any culture, and therein lies its beauty.  When people seek to release their previous culture in favor of a more Islamically rooted one, they are propagating the sense of “otherness” that many Western societies associate with Islam.  Muslims are “the other”, “the odd ones”, the mysterious eastern people with their strange customs and strange ways…as seen through the eyes of the US and others. But, here’s the thing… Muslims can be American too. Americans can be Muslim.  Please, go to the mall in your hijab, go out for coffee and lunch with your friends. Be SEEN. Interact!  You are no less the person you were born as before accepting Islam as you are after it.  In fact, you are only a BETTER version of yourself. But you are you.  Remaining an active part of your society after converting to Islam can be one of the best acts of dawah (inviting to Islam) you can do!

So, I don’t know about you, but I plan on keeping my name and my identity after my conversion.  I’ll always be that All-American girl next store…with a head scarf!  What about you?

God’s Not Dead: A response.

  When I first saw the trailer for God’s Not Dead I thought to myself, “This could be really good, or really bad.”  I recently took to watching the film and couldn’t finish the last 40 minutes because I was too offended to watch further.  What I had expected, in all my naievety, was a movie where people of different faiths could all join hands and say “God’s NOT dead!” and celebrate the different views people hold of God- but all agreeing that God exists. What I got was a load of anti-everyone-but-christian propoganda that made my cheeks flush with frustration.  Obviously, the part that was most offensive to me was the muslim family.

  In the scene where the girl, Ayisha, was being dropped off by her father I could sense a feeling of discomfort from the girl over her hijab/niqab that she was wearing.  When she removed it hastily upon her fathers leave,  I saw what could have been a great opportunity to explain hijab and its importance in Islam (majority opinion) and how it is an act of worship for a god that is not dead.  When she dawned the hijab again before her father’s return and another student commented how pretty she was and how she wished the girl didn’t have to cover, followed by a comment about “old fashioned” from Ayisha, I knew it was all down hill from there.  This showed a blatant misconception and misunderstanding of hijab in Islam- how it isn’t cultural, but scriptural (again, the majority opinion of scholars. I’m not looking for a debate, just stating my understanding and beliefs).  Additionally, the idea that her father made her wear a head scarf and veil herself is contrary to the “No compulsion in religion” part of Islam.  Even more, the short sleeved shirt she wore didn’t really fit into the additional requirements of hijab.  Well, if you’re going to misrepresent something, you might as well completely screw it up.

  Oh, well, maybe they can still save the movie.

  Then, when Ayisha is caught listening to biblical scripture (ironically, 1 Corinthians, which also states that a believing woman should cover her hair as to not shame her head…but of course that wasn’t included) her father smacks her around and throws her out of the house. Oh yes, how very islamic of him.  I’m not saying this doesn’t happen.  It’s unfortunate, but it is not limited to Islam.  A dear friend of mine, raised in a Christian home, has recently come to words with her mother because she has been studying religions besides Christianity as of late, looking for the truth as she can see it. The Qu’ran says to respect Christians, Jews, and other faiths.  Somehow, I didn’t get a sense of “respect” when a young girl was slapped by her father and physically removed from her home.  A Muslim father is responsible for the safety and well-being of his daughter, whether she is Muslim or not. 

  It was at this point that I turned it off.

  I’m not sure who paid to have this film produced, but it was incredibly unfortunate to take this stand.  Islam isn’t the fastest growing religion (with the largest number of converts being women in the west- according to a discussion I’ve heard previously) because of patriarchal, mysogynistic BS.  While people are free to believe what they want about God and their own faith, they are not free to make up whatever they want about other cultures and peoples faiths.  As if Islamophobia wasn’t already a problem in the US, a film such as this fans the flames.  Muslims are your/our neighbors, teachers, coworkers, family, and friends.  They aren’t going anywhere.  It’s about time someone extended an olive branch of peace and tried to understand Islam instead of demonizing it.

 

A change of opinion

My husband and I have been enjoying the first two days of our vacation (mashallah), sunshine and blue skies!  This has been more than a break for us thusfar, it’s been a chance for us to think about our current situation as far as school is concerned. and where we want to go from here.   Last night we began looking at real estate for this area, just for fun.  How expensive is it to live on an island? Ofcourse, as you  can probably imagne, the prices ranged between 100k-300k, regardless of location on the island.  Well, what about in Turkey?  We then looked up real estate in the small ocean town where the in-laws have built a beach house (a long project that’s been around since before the hubby was born).  The price was still around 100k…turkish lira.  If you aren’t familiar with the conversion factor at this time (April 2014), it’s 2.13 (USD->TL). So that means… about 50K dollars.  WHAT?  yes. An Agean sea view apartment, 2 or 3 bedrooms, 50k dollars.

At this point the hubby shared with me that if we both could work in the US, even for one year, we could make more than twice that much together.  He expressed a desire to work in the US, even if it’s only for a few years.  Surely, he stated, this would give us a huge leg up financially in Turkey.  I nodded my head, smiling, then opened my mouth and said:

“But I wan’t to live in Turkey.”

Hm, since when did THAT happen?  I surprised myself with this candid statement.  He smiled and said that he knew that I would be happy living in Turkey.  But I still can’t help but wonder when my opinion on this matter became so concrete.  Turkey seemed like a cloud on the horizon, perhaps there is a silver lining somewhere- but it was a cloud none the less.  But now,  there is no doubt in my mind that I want to experience life in Turkey!  The food, the culture, the life style…I want it all!  Whether or not I could work in Turkey, I don’t know, but I know I wan’t to try!  Additionally, I miss my in-laws!  Being in University,  I am not close to either my in-laws or my own family.  Indeed, I don’t even hear from my own family as frequently as I hear from my in-laws (once a month/ every two weeks vs every weekend).  I’m not angry or accusing my family of not caring, they are simply busy, working, while my in-laws are retired.  Still, there is no doubt that I love them all, and living further and further away from my own family makes living in Turkey seem less difficult (on a personal front).

So where does that leave us now?  Well, struggling to finish our degrees seems to be the case.  He is still unsure if he can take his PhD at this rate, but I am always the encouraging voice in the background.  Hayirlisi olsun.  Whatever comes next is nasip.

…and nothing else matters

the future?
the future?

Every day things look worse and worse for us here.  I really have no idea what we are going to do…and what will happen.  When you don’t know how it is going to end, it is hard to care about the assignments in front of you.  For instance, I have a paper due (the lit review of my masters thesis proposal) as a class assignment for one of my courses, at the end of this semester…but oh how hard it is to give two cares when I probably won’t see next semester.   At first I was partially excited to return to Turkey, imagining the days spent without any stress or concern, baking and watching TV all day with no end to the relaxation in sight…

But then there’s the money problem.

The stipend for PhD students is minimal at best, if you get any at all.  With uni being free in Turkey, the  stipend side is iffy.  Here, if you get an assistantship to pay tuition, more likely than not you get a stipend as well.  Not so in Turkey.

Also, if he decides, or comes to the point, where he will be working solely from his Master degree, he will receive a monthly pay (thats how they do it, a monthly rate instead of hourly) of approximately as much as the stipend he is receiving now to take his PhD in the US.  Two people living off the measily stipend of a student? Good luck with that.  Yes, Turkey is a much cheaper place to live…because many of the comforts we enjoy in the US are not as common place there.  I am quite certain I cannot work on a resident permit, let alone work without a grasp of Turkish.  This adds to my concerns.  It was hard enough starting over in a new state when we were able to drag everything we owned with us (pots, pans, linens, etc), let alone starting off in a new COUNTRY where all we have is what could fit in 4 suitcases!

This adds to the urgency of finishing up in the US. First, padding our savings with the stipend money that we try very hard to save could benefit us enormously when we move.  Second, the starting salary he would receive from finishing his PhD would be a good 1,000TL higher a MONTH.  Roughly, ofcourse.

We are trying our best to make it work here.  He does NOT want to go back to Turkey empty handed, and neither do I.  Clearly, staying in the US is the best option… if he can get his PhD.  If not, there is no chance of being able to get it after waiting even one year.  With military service looming overhead, he would not be able to finish a PhD in Turkey in time…the long term result being a minimal salary that couldn’t provide the lifestyle (or the family size) we had in mind.

He said already “Raziysan gel” (great song), and I agreed and came with him.  Regardless of our situation, I will be with him in the end.