Saturday, August 4, 2012


You know what? Gin tonic is a surprisingly inspirational drink.

You know what else? Tequila shots invite a surprising variety of activities...

Which I'm not gonna elaborate on. Hah!

Hell yeah.
You know what else? Now that I'm home I don't have to drink gin tonic anymore, yerli or otherwise, because the beer is good enough to drink in the middle of the day and the wine is mis gibi, not to mention all the other good stuff to drink. Like Manhattans.

No matter. I'm back home. And for the first time in all of these trips home, I keep saying "home" and I'm not always talking about here.

Except sometimes, I am talking about here. It's very confusing.

In the 10 years I've lived abroad, coming home has been the major event of the year. It's been the thing that the rest of the year has revolved around. About three months before the actual flight, I've started getting restless and cranky and very much in need of the recharge of normal that coming home is all about. I have all these dreams about air travel, some unrealistically good and some unpleasantly realistically bad, like getting to the airport and realizing I've forgotten the passports.

Remember this song?

Except this year coming home wasn't the major event. Which isn't to say I wasn't looking forward to it. All year, there are these moments when I imagine the comforting goodness of sitting in my parents' house, awaiting whatever delicious foods are coming, and just being my goddamn worthless self because I'm the blessed sort of person who can be myself with my mom and dad, the cool parts and the shit parts and we all get along somehow.

But this year, I don't know. Maybe it was because my school cut the travel allowance in our contracts from "a round trip ticket to your country of origin" to "1,500 TRY, which will land many of you in the middle of the Atlantic, if you're lucky," and we had to wait six weeks for dear Rektör Bey to grant us his exalted approval to get what we'd always been entitled to. I hate feeling entitled to anything, so the fact that he eventually approved it was a surprise. In that 6 weeks, I started thinking about what it would be like to spend a whole summer in Istanbul, which I've never done. I imagined maybe growing some vegetables and interesting flowers on the balcony. I considered how cheap it would be to go visit our dear friends in Bodrum over Ramazan.

But then, after the price for LE's ticket had gone up about $300 from when I originally went to Human Resources to plead our case, in Turkish no less goddammit, Rektör Bey signed the thingy with his precious golden pen. I actually balked even after that, telling my folks that even though my ticket was paid for, there was no way I could afford LE's. And my folks came through for me because what the hell else could they do? So now I owe them 2 months' salary for the divorce lawyer and another 2 months' salary for the kid's plane ticket.

And I really hope to pay them back someday. The good thing about owing your parents money, though, is that most parents won't break your kneecaps if you don't pay them back.

But perhaps there's something else about this year. I don't know what. Maybe it's because I now deal with Everything. Okay, I failed at getting the kid registered for school but that's not entirely my fault. But I go out and get our food and other crap and haul it home and survive scary trips to scary places. I make phone calls and they go okay. I go to work and manage everything there mostly and then come home and I know which minibus drivers make LE motion carsick. I deal with neighbors and all the incomprehensibilities therein, few of them language related. My kid speaks more Turkish than English much of the time, and both of us say "fuck" all we want. When something really strange happens, I almost always have a good guess as to what that was all about.

Somehow, I got sucked into my life. Goodness knows how that happened.

So when it came time to go home, my head just wasn't in it like it usually is. I was dreading the plane trip way more than usual, though I needn't have because the kid was a heartbreaking champ the whole way. He's been bugging me for months about when are we going to go to America? I absolutely couldn't get my head around the idea of being at home. Of course, there was the usual pre-going-home meltdown, and of course I missed my folks and my brothers, but I just couldn't get my head around what was coming. I was barely thinking about it, to be honest. No long lists of stuff to take home, and no more or less checking out of life for 2 or 3 months to become completely consumed with the idea of going home.

Slowly turning...
I'll be honest. I still haven't gotten my head around it. I've been eating like a pig and drinking more than usual if you can believe that, and smoking way less because it's damn hard to smoke here. I'm happy to be home, but I also feel homesick. It's obvious my headspace needed a big kick in the ass, but the headspace thing just isn't quite cooperating. I heard it rained in Istanbul after we left and I was sorry I missed it. I keep being afraid I left something wrong with the house or with my job or whatever. I don't really have friends here anymore. And let's be honest-- normal people don't just leave everything there is for a month and expect it all to be cool. My phone doesn't even work here, except for wi-fi. It's freaking me out, even though there's nothing to freak out about.
Which one is it?

It occurs to me that maybe all these years, I've been thinking of life in Istanbul as Not Real Life, like it was just something I was doing until I came back here to get on with Real Life.

And somehow that has switched, and I feel like I'm on a big huge freaking long vacation from Real Life, which is carrying on without me and I'm going to have a hell of a lot of catching up to do when I get back.

It's weird. Or nice. Or something. Honestly, I can't tell.

Whatever. It's beef jerky time.

It should always be beef jerky time.


matborda said...

really interesting, for me too now that you made me think about it, i also perceived my years in ankara as not real life, as something more "superficial" than real life. is it due to some kind of difficulty to be integrated? or is it that we give up too easily?...

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way. Sometimes I don't feel like this is my life; it's not necessarily a Cartesian problem. I'm not pondering the notion of reality, substance, or mental events. It's these little moments where I feel like a stranger in my own apartment. I look around and it doesn't seem like it's mine or that I live here or that my life is real. Do you think it's Istanbul or being an expat in general? btw, eline saglik!

Stranger said...


I've only ever been an expat in Istanbul so it's hard to say. I suspect Istanbul has special reality-skewing abilities, though.

I just got back here last nigh. My head is in that floaty home-not-home place...