Although my last post was only two weeks ago, my situation has since changed significantly and I feel I should publish yet another update. I have since established and began paid employment, found and began several volunteer opportunities, moved into a new apartment, set up Arabic conversation partners and fallen in love.
Yes, I am in love. My heart flutters as I walk down the street, basking in the now warm sun. The already odd and frequently commented on bounce in my step now itself has bounce, as I…bounce…down the street. I shall lead you on no further; the object of my affection is (as per usual) a setting, complete with a unique culture and way of life. With Cairo I experienced love at first sight, but in Istanbul I have had the distinct pleasure of falling in love. While I was enamored with Istanbul itself upon arrival, it has taken just under a month for me to become fully enthralled in all its charms as well my specific role on such a large and at first intimidating stage. Yes, the colorful buildings, breathtaking mosques, hypnotic calls to prayer, delicious food, and constant flow of life—as well as my now near fully established part to play-- has enraptured me and I am once again filled with passion, purpose and motivation.
This is not to say the past month has been perfect bliss. I have experienced several moments of absolute panic, been frustrated and irritated beyond reason and been tempted to quit before potential failure. However, this is all behind me for the time being, and while I am still being challenged in many ways, I find these challenges to be the pleasurable ones where potential for growth is immediately apparent.
I am extremely blessed to have found employment as an English companion for now two young children. I play with the kids and tutor them in the English language. The timing could not be more perfect. I start in the early evenings most days, which leaves me all morning and afternoon for volunteer work. I should be able to survive off of working a few hours a day with at least one child; and for this I recognize I am extremely fortunate. Not only does my fortune lie in the nature and timing of the work, but also in the children themselves. As much as I love children in general, I have to say I am blessed to be working with two incredible young ones. They are both bright and fun and I share common interests with both; making playing with them second nature. The girl is nearly a replica of me as a child: wild imagination and a lot of expression. We are ballerinas, queens of hearts, mothers running from the tent monster with our little baby dolls, etc. I love being able to act again, as minor as it may seem—and perhaps one day my ability to fake being eaten by a tent will come in handy. With regards to the little boy, I haven’t spent much time with him yet; but I recently made the exciting discovery that he loves Star Wars. His mother expressed concern that he would be shy for a little while, but following my comment on his Darth Vader figurine, I was led to his room where I encountered a Star Wars haven. We sat naming all the action figures and spacecrafts he owned, and I have never before been more thankful for my dorkiness.
Thanks to an exceptionally considerate and helpful fellow BU alum, I am now connected to several refugee organizations here in Istanbul. My week is nearly full of different social services activities with a couple different organizations. I have set aside two days a week for a legal aid organization that I am applying for an internship with. If that doesn’t end up working out, I will delve further into social services and communications work. My volunteer work requires a lot of direct interactions with Arab refugees, which means I need to improve my Arabic skills. I have therefore met several Arabic speakers who have agreed to do a speaking language exchange with me: Arabic for English practice. I think my vocabulary will actually improve more here than it did in Egypt; mostly because I used English in the workplace there whereas here I am using Arabic more in a work context and not just daily interactions which amounted to several memorized schpiels.
Lindsey and I love our new house. Moving in with five other people was rather nerve-racking at first, but after meeting our flatmates we are more excited than anything else. We live with 4 international students: a German, Italian, Czech and Spaniard as well as a Turk. They’re all around our age and a lot of fun. We’re both really excited to get to know them more. Moreover we love our room, view and neighborhood. The location is very central in Istanbul, and our neighborhood is lively but not crowded in a negative way. We have a lot of local restaurants, grocery stores and a weekly farmers’ market.
I don’t think I could be living more in the moment than I am currently (as I have no definitive timeline) and I am confident that I am in the right place at this time in my life. I am so thankful Lindsey Jordan Baker suggested I come here. Despite my previous doubts, fears, panic attacks and foul moods, I know I made the right decision and I have her in great part to thank for it. She may not be “the reason” I came per-se, but she played a huge role in making it possible for me to come and I’m so happy to be living with her again! Love you Linds!!