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?!

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Övünmek (v.: to brag, to boast, to be proud)

I have a bit of the Olympic fever.  As much of it as one can have when one’s belongings are still held up in Bosnia and/or customs here in Turkey.  The fever is handy however when running on the treadmill in the basement “gym” (this use of quotes implies that the gym in my building is a posting for another time) because now there is always something motivating to watch while I’m panting and desperately attempting to finish my comparatively pathetically measly workout without collapsing.

Okay, so this post isn’t so Turkey-focused.  In fact, if one were to read into this too much it might seem a bit anti-Turkey since they have yet to earn any medals this year…  However, let’s be honest — how awesome is it that of the 114 Olympians representing Turkey, 66 of them are women?  It’s really quite awesome.

But back to my not-bashing Turkey, because it isn’t about that!!!  I promise.  I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone specifically. I’m pointing my fingers at everyone.  I’m actually pointing my index and pinky fingers only this evening.

Like this.

I know this is incredibly snotty and probably silly to even be excited about, but I saw this on Facebook this evening (thanks for sharing it, M!) and had this really odd giddiness come over me.  And so, here I am posting about it on my blog.

UT current and former athletes have more summer gold than your country.  Canada, I’m talking to you — is it because it’s so cold up there?

What can I say?  Every now and then a little bit of bragging is okay.  You know, when it’s because your university rocks (whether you have anything to do about that or not… especially the athletics departments).  Okay, I’m done now.  I’ll return to regular blogging next time.

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