Most of the things I write about on this blog have to do with living in Turkey — something curious, or something difficult, or something ridiculous to the point of hilarity. But I struggle with what to write about when I’m completely and utterly blah about living here. When I have no interest in interacting with the culture or its people. When all I want to do is hide out in my comfortable home and work on things that don’t require my brain to stumble through its confusing, and as yet very ill-lit, Turkish pathways…
This is when you see gaps in posting. Because really, I only find culture shock entertaining when I can get a good story out of it. And sometimes when the power goes out yet again, I don‘t find it charming. And, oddly enough, I don’t amass humorous Turkish anecdotes when I refuse to speak it…
This is why it’s always dangerous to verbal process in a public setting — I’ve just realized what’s happening. One time when I was living with a family with small children in California, I sat beside a two-year-old for over an hour as he writhed in agony on the floor, refusing to be comforted, contorting his body and face and howling his righteous wrath.
I’m on the verge of a full-blown tantrum.
I’m sick unto death with Turkish and struggle and miscommunication, and the constant barrage of assaults against my much-abused yet ever-howling pride. I’m exhausted by the daily energy-suck that is walking around surrounded by language I don’t yet understand. I miss my family and my friends and familiar things and “normal.” I miss looking at the ingredients for a recipe and not immediately wondering what I can use as a substitute.
I actually got mad yesterday when we walked past an advertisement I’ve seen hundreds of times, for a neighborhood restaurant with pictures of big juicy hamburgers, because every slab of hamburger meat in this city has an additive that ruins the taste.
Not to mention how I try to make myself invisible when I walk past my çig köfte friend, dying to tell him that it’s nothing personal, but do we have to chat every. single. time. we see each other? Can’t he accept my American differences for one day and let me drive straight into my metaphorical garage and shut the door quickly so I don’t have to see the neighbors, let alone talk to them?
And I’m sick, sick, sick of walking past all the Syrian mothers with their lethargic did-they-drug-them? children in their arms and not having a decent solution to offer. In my country I have resources, I know people, I can send out a call for help on any number of mediums — but here, so far all I can manage to do is look them in the eye and smile and offer a prayer. And they keep coming. God, they just keep coming!
And the hypocrisy — dear God the hypocrisy — of still grumbling about the bad taste of hamburger while you pass the Syrians, a very good chicken alternative in hand, wishing only that they would take a day off of begging for their daily bread so you could walk to your comfortable home in peace. It’s like some kind of cancer, consuming you from the inside out. And oh, how deeply seductive the almost self-defensive urge to off-load the weight of your own hypocrisy by indiscriminately blaming the blithe and comfortably ignorant Americans.
And please don’t remind me that I chose all of this, that I agreed of my own free will to move here — I’m conveniently choosing to ignore that particular fact at this time. Please don’t remind me that I love this country and these people with an emotion that goes so deep it hurts to look at them from across this not-temporary-enough language barrier, as I jump and wave and try to get their attention. Please don’t even open your mouth to tell me that this no-doubt very normal stage of cultural adaptation, too, shall pass.
I know all of this. But frankly, my muscles are fatigued with trying to hold it in and act my age. The two-year-old inside of me refuses to be comforted, cooler heads will not prevail. Injustice and impotence, exhaustion and humiliation, change and loss — steadily, side by side, have quietly boiled together in this cracked pot. There are other, stronger ingredients in there, and I have faith that the dish will be delightful once it’s finished — but at this point in the cooking process it’s producing a cloud of something that looks and smells a lot like two-year-old rage.
As a non-parent, the only positive thing I’ve ever seen come from a tantrum is that it blows out all the negative emotion, leaving only enough strength to crawl into a parents’ lap. And if you don’t even have strength enough for that, you can lay quietly and wait for the Parent to lean over and grasp you into His arms.