Ay (n.: month, moon)

With less than one month until my 30th birthday, I realize I will not be accomplishing my 30 in 30 by the time I turn 30.  When I started this list, it was to give me something fun to keep me busy with and blogging about.  It seems that neither has really been the case.  Not to say I have not been busy, but I’ve not necessarily been busy with the things I listed in my “to do” list and I’ve been less than stellar about keeping up with this blog.

I recently got back from a short trip to the States.  It was exactly what I needed in so many ways: friends, comfortable small talk (read: in English with strangers), baby spinach, yoga classes that I wasn’t teaching, etc.  I’m so very glad I went and at the same time a little more homesick now that I’m back.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy to be back with Mr. Awesome and puppy girl, but I am also quite ready to be back in the US on a more permanent basis.  I know we have another two years (at least) here in Ankara and I’m still thankful for that time, but I am now most definitely also looking forward to going back.

While I was in the States, I realized I need to give being here a better chance.  I need to let go of what I wish it were like and who I wish were here with me and instead embrace what it is.  I need to do better making new friends and accept the people in my life as they are.  I need to be as confident at trying new things alone here as I am in the States.  I need to accept that Mr. Awesome will be stuck working obscene hours for ridiculous (and not-so-ridiculous) issues.  And I need to give myself a break when I can’t accept and do all these things all the time.  I hope to add these and many others to my list of ongoing things to do/see/accomplish.

Being less than a month away from my 30th birthday, I realize that much like New Year’s Resolutions, accomplishing a list of things before a certain date is sort of silly.  It should be a continuous process.  I started the list as a way of coping with a big birthday… turning 30 is scary, right?  It’s the first major milestone birthday that isn’t associated with getting new privileges and therefore is going over and down the proverbial hill, right?  Yet somehow looking down the barrel at 30 I strangely feel… nothing.  Yet.

Amerikalıyım (I am American)

My goal when overseas has always been to blend.  I never wanted to stand out in a crowd and more than anything I never wanted to be an obvious American.  Partly because, well we Americans aren’t loved everywhere in the world, and mostly because Americans tend to have a reputation toward the obnoxious while traveling.  There are so many good arguments for blending in: less likely to be targeted for theft, more likely to be left alone, etc. which is why I was always so thankful that I can pass as Turkish.  Actually, thanks to my genetic make up I can pass as just about anything save far east Asian, sub-Saharan African, and Scandinavian.  Often people realized I was a tourist, but the first guess at my nationality was almost never American.

I think now is a good time to interject and assure you all that I am very proud to be an American.  I love my country for all it’s great accomplishments and it’s flaws.  I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am to be American by birth when there are people all over the world who work very hard to naturalize and become Americans.  I am also keenly aware that many people — all over the world — love America and Americans for a multitude of reasons.  So please don’t send me mean emails about how I’m not a good patriot or how I am stereotyping and making it seem like the world hates Americans.  That said, I also truly subscribe to George McGovern’s theory that “The highest form of patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher plane.” so I tend to shy away from the blind (dare I say uninformed?) patriotism of, let’s say, Toby Keith… which is too bad because I LOVED this song when I was little (and the hair, oh my!).  And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking there aren’t people — large groups of them — out there that dislike America and Americans.  I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t.  To each his own.  I’m also not going to even address the embassy protests of last month, but suffice it to say it was a friendly (if you call fire, destruction, and death friendly) reminder that sometimes it is best to lay low.

However, I have decided fairly recently that I will no longer attempt to blend.  I will wave my Americaness around proudly (and no, I have never claimed to be Canadian or worn a Canadian flag to disguise my American citizenship).  I have lived outside of the US for a little over three years now and up until now I have held the theory that it is far better to just blend in then to make a point to stand out.  That’s right.  Up until now.

Some of you may have heard my theory that a little Turkish is better than a lot of Turkish because people think you’re sweet for trying to learn and that it’s cute when you mess up or don’t understand.  They tend to be more patient with you and try harder to understand and listen to what you’re saying.  Where as with a fair grasp of the language, a pretty acceptable accent, and a little bit too much Mediterranean in your blood people get frustrated and annoyed or even angry when you don’t have a quick and perfect response.  They are also more likely to call you on any faux pas you might commit.

Wear a skirt with tall riding boots but no tights? Don’t worry, some helpful abla will let you know that in her day that wasn’t what proper girls did and every amca on the bus will be staring.  Go outside with wet hair to walk the dog? You’ll be told to get back inside before you catch death or just stared at like you’re on a psychopathic rampage.  Try to go for a run in the great outdoors/along the sidewalks of Ankara? People will think there’s an emergency and that’s why you’re running.  Bring a dog with you?  See my post about that.

But.  And this is a big but.  If you were to say, put on a baseball cap while doing any of the above (preferably Red Sox or Texas Longhorns, but no one’s perfect): your sins are forgiven and suddenly it’s a cool cultural experience for everyone.

Abla: Look!  I told you Americans were strange.  It’s as though she likes to run.

Amca: You were right!  And who knew that they took their filthy pets with them for those things!  Is her hair wet?  She’ll catch death… Surely we should tell her.

Abla: Nah, she’s American.  They don’t die that way.  They die from eating too much McDonald’s and living wild  and crazy lives.

Seriously though.  The past few days I’ve stopped trying to blend.  I’ve worn my baseball cap for my morning runs (originally to keep my bangs out of my face, but now to be American), I’ve had long and obvious conversations in public in English, I’ve even started answering my phone with the American “hello?” and not the Turkish “alo?” or “affendim?”.  And you know what?  People are nicer again.  People think it’s so great that I’ve learned so much Turkish and that I like Turkey and are all too happy to help me find whatever it is I’m looking for.  They’re even nicer to my dog.

I’m crediting this to my decision to embrace the fact that even if I can blend, I don’t want to.  I’m happy to be American and happy to know that I get to go home to America in a few short years.  Of course the fact that it’s Bayram is probably more of an influence on everyone’s general mood than anything else, but I’m going to keep pretending it’s not.  If for no other reason than I don’t really feel like doing my hair and I have some errands to run… where’s that baseball cap?!

The Great Catch Up (how would one translate that? “Büyük Yetişmek” mi?)

Arkadaşlar (friends),

It’s quite presumptuous of me to assume you’re still reading and/or following my little blog here given my incredibly long absence and slightly flaky posting schedule the past month (or two).  I apologize for not keeping up with this and will try to do better — it is one of my 30 in 30 after all — in the coming weeks and months.

While there is no good excuse, I think mine could be worse… You see, I’ve been out-of-town.  I was on holiday back to the United States and loved every minute of it.  Okay, almost every minute.  I saw family I hadn’t seen in years, I got to lay in the sun in Miami for a few brief days, I spent lots of time with my immediate family, I didn’t cook a single meal(!), I ate BACON, I went shopping, I drove a lot!

It was heavenly.  But in all of that I completely slacked on updating the ole’ blog of mine.  I could say it was because I didn’t have internet (but I did) or that I didn’t bring my computer (but I did) or that I didn’t have time (oh, I did) or that it was because I didn’t think it’d be interesting to hear about my adventures in America (which is probably true, but when has that stopped me?), but the truth is that I was just lazy.  I would guiltily log on to WordPress to read some of my favorite blogs and check out what friends (in real life and from the blogosphere) were up to while avoiding looking at my own un-updated blog.

I’m back in Ankara now and ready to start fresh.  I’m calling this “The Great Catch Up” because I intend to do just that.  I’ll be catching you up on how my 30 in 30 is going (check out my sweater post!) and how life in Ankara is treating us over the next few days.

So I’m dedicating these new few posts to you, dear friends (okay, at this point it’s probably just my sister and Mom reading… hi, guys.)  Feel free to stay mad and not read the posts, but hopefully you’ll find my wit and intellect so irresistible that you can’t.  Admit it.  I’m charming.  In a way.

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