Wednesday, July 26, 2006

New Orleans

We have just recently driven from Texas to Virginia. We drove through Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Six states in 3 days. It was really interesting to see so many different sights along the way. We drove on interstate 10 through New Orleans and were really shocked at the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. Whole neighborhoods empty. I had seen pictures of the really poor neighborhoods on the news, but what surprised me was the amount of what seemed to be middle class homes destroyed. It seemed like the media had really highlighted the poorer areas and overlooked other neighborhoods. Maybe it was because these folks made it out of the area before Katrina hit. Maybe it was because there weren't any deaths in these areas. Maybe these people didn't lose everything and were able to start over somewhere else with relative ease. Maybe living overseas I had just missed these pictures. Looking out at subdivisions with every house having broken or boarded up windows really was indescribable. All of the fences surrounding the houses had disappeared in the flooding so we could see straight into some of the homes. We could see two or three temporary mobile campers set up in front yards where some families were staying. Other than those few campers the area was like a ghost town. Nobody was home. As I thought about all of the displaced people and then contemplated the few who chose to stay in a small camper close to their damaged home I couldn't imagine what they must feel like. If my home was damaged as badly as these homes were what would I do? I don't think I would choose to stay. In a neighborhood of 100 homes I have to wonder how do you start the process of cleaning up and starting over. If one family decides to work on getting their home in livable condition but no other family on that street chooses to do the same thing what is the value of the one repaired home? I can't imagine being the first one to make repairs hoping that others will follow in my footsteps. I would imagine at this point that many banks own these homes, but even then, how do you start to clean up? I think it would be a much easier process if only one or two neighborhoods needed repair. The thousands of damaged or destroyed homes that we saw seemed like a overwhelming task. I know those devastated by the storm probably feel that way.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reflections or simple answers made complicated!

So, I have been thinking lately. Not a shocking thing if you know me. I often go into reflection mode when I am asked a good question by someone. I can give a simple answer at the time of the question asking, but then I think about it for a long while and my answer ends up being way more complicated and indepth than the question asker ever wanted to hear. Then I usually reflect out loud or by email to Brian, Abby, Mentanna, or a few other friends, and we work through the thought together. I thought that this time I would open up my thoughts to my blog readers...not sure how many of the people that know I have a blog actually read it so that could still just be Abby and Mentanna. Brian doesn't even read it!

Here goes...
Since we have been back we have been asked how we are getting along here, if we are settling in okay, how the kids are adjusting, and other similar questions. My first answers have been something like fine, yes, pretty well, and we are having fun. After deeper questions...usually from the friends I've mentioned above...I have really thought hard about how we are really doing and what we are really thinking. My initial thoughts on the issue usually have something to do with how much easier it is to live in America and how simple life is here. I have said this to a few people and I don't think they liked it much. The more I think about it the more I think that it sounds somewhat offensive...like I think everyone has such an easy life and that my life in Turkey is so much harder than anyone else's. That isn't what I am meaning. I don't want to offend. How can I answer the question without offending people? Here is what I mean by life here in America is easier.

1. In Turkey life outside our house takes place in Turkish. I know some Turkish, but I am in no way even close to being fluent in it nor can I conduct the majority of my life in Turkish. When I go to the grocery store, the post office, the doctor's office, or anywhere outside of my house I have to be able to speak at least enough Turkish to be understood. That means I have to have a plan. I have to think about what I am doing or what I might want to say to someone ahead of time. Now those places I have mentioned are pretty easy for me. I do them often so I have memorized the script. Hopefully the Turks I come across know the script and don't ask me something that I'm not expecting. Because I am so used to thinking about what I want to say before I say it I start planning my words as soon as I know that I might need them. I will never forget the first time we came back to the states for a visit. I was taking Erica to the eye doctor, and I remember driving to his office and thinking about what I wanted to tell him and how I should say it. About halfway there I realized that I didn't have to worry about it. He speaks English. I know English! The same thing happened when I came back to the states by myself. I learned on the airplane that my flight from Chicago to Houston had been canceled so I was going to have to get another flight. I started to panic because I hadn't memorized the script about needing a new flight when mine had been canceled. A few mintutes later I realized that they speak English in Chicago. I should be fine. So, for me, life is automatically more complicated in Turkey because of the language barrier and the amount of planning normal living takes. I don't usually stress about it or avoid going places where I might need words that I don't know. I just plan my thoughts ahead of time or trudge through if I am unprepared. It works...most of the time!

2. The culture in Turkey is completely different from our culture in America. If you go for a visit you might not notice a huge difference. In our city people seem to be fairly westernized. But, under that western facade is a culture that has deep roots in Islam and superstitions. People may look similar to us or to western Europeans but they don't think the same way. Turks are a very passionate people. We tend to be go with the flow type people. We don't get worked up too much over things. Things are big deals to them. One of my American friends said that everything is either a drama or a trauma in Turk's lives. I felt like we lived from one crisis to the next while we were there. I love the passion though. Because things are a big deal to Turks, people are also a big deal to them. I think they live life deeper than we do. That can be a good thing, but it is tiring when you aren't used to it. They invest in people. The problem with that is that when people make mistakes or let them down they get deeply offended. They have a hard time with forgiveness. That makes for more drama and trauma! Just getting off the phone with a Turk is an adventure. We say something like "talk to you later, bye". They say "it was good talking to you, talk to you later, take care of yourself, tell everyone I say hi, kisses, bye". Even saying goodbye can be tiring because it takes so long!

I have a lot more floating around in my head, but I don't want this blog to be too long. I will add some more reasons later so just chew on this for a while. What do you think?

Just Pictures

This blog is mainly for the enjoyment of my Turkey friends. I thought it would be easier to post pictures of where we live on here instead of emailing them to everyone for them to download themselves. You don't have to be a Turkey to look at these pictures so feel free to look and comment if you are interested.

This is the front and back view of our house. Our front door is in the middle of the house. You have to walk up some stairs to get to it and when you get inside you are on the landing between floors. The upstairs floor has the main living area, kitchen, and kids bedrooms on it. The downstairs has another living area and our bedroom. It seems a little strange to go upstairs to get to the kitchen and carrying the groceries up can be a pain, but I can't complain. I only have to go up one floor...not 3! Brian is enjoying mowing the yard! He has also gone out and weeded the flower beds. Anna Grace commented that she thought our backyard wasn't very big. I told her it is bigger than her personal backyard in Turkey! The sliding door you see under the balcony goes into our bedroom

Here is our kitchen. I wish our kitchen in Turkey was this big! It seems huge!

This is the upstairs living room. There is a small table over to the right of the living area so we have called it the salon just to keep things simple.

Downstairs living room. Brian decided to call it the den to make it easier. Our computer is over in the back corner. Our bedroom is also downstairs off to the left of this picture.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

You're not from around here, are you?

We are having fun in America! The other day we stopped at an Exxon to get gas in the car. Brian asked if I would run into the convenience store and buy him a cup of coffee while he pumped the gas. He used to love to get coffee at the gas station so I was excited that he could have some. They don't have coffee in gas stations in Turkey so it was a treat. I thought to ask him what kind of coffee he wanted since I expected a couple of different choices. He said he just wanted the regular kind. I walked into the store and just stopped. They had a complete coffee bar! There were about 10 different flavors of coffee...house blend, dark magic, special roast, mountain berry, caramel vanilla, irish creme, and several other flavors. And then the creamers...probably 15 different choices there. Then, of course, I had to decide which size cup Brian would want from the 5 choices. I wasn't sure what to do. I finally chose the dark magic since it sounded like dark roasted coffee and decided on a medium large cup. I went out where Brian was paying at the pump for the gas (something we can't do in Turkey) and told him that next time he wanted coffee from the gas station he had to go get it himself. It was too overwhelming for me!

Yesterday, we spent some time at my parents' house visiting with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Erica and two of my cousins were making brownies in the kitchen. My mom reminded them to grease the pan and asked if they wanted to use Pam or shortening to grease it. I looked at Erica and I could tell she was confused. I asked her if she knew what Pam was. She said no. I asked her if she knew what shortening was. Again, she said no. I started laughing! We use oil or margarine in Turkey because they don't have Pam or shortening there! New vocabulary!

Anna Grace has also learned some new vocabulary since she has been here. One of her new words is pantry. She had no idea what that was! When I asked her to get something out of the pantry she just looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. In Turkey we have some food in the normal kitchen cabinets and some food in another cabinet unit that we refer to as a dolap (dole-ahp) which is the Turkish word for cabinet. If I had asked her to get something out of the dolap she would have known exactly what I meant. Also, Walmart is a new word for her. We left Anna Grace at my parents' one evening while we ran to Walmart to pick up a few things. My uncle asked her where we went, and he said she just tapped her head and said, "what was the name of that place again". He said any kid raised in America would have had no problem coming up with Walmart. He could tell she wasn't from around here.

I'm sure there will be more things to share with you as we live the adventure here in the states. Thanks for reading!