You’ve heard it before and you will have to hear it again. Or, see it. The Turks are generous. I once admired a student’s earrings and she took them off and gave them to me. Seriously! You’ve got to love people who are so generous. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about.
Last week I traveled to Belgrade, Serbia to visit my dear friend, Kathy from New York. I stayed with her when I got off the Appalachian Trail, so I owe her in ways I can never repay. I really needed to see a friendly face and she made my month! Here are some photos from the first day. Kathy had been on a group tour and Belgrade was her final city, so I was lucky that my school schedule allowed me to join her there.
I so enjoyed my stay. So much history. This is a city I will serious consider living in. I enjoyed trying to figure out the Cyrillic Letters.
Everything happens for a reason.
I cringe every time I hear this phrase. Every. Time. It’s a lie. Some things DON’T make sense. There is no “reason” for some events. If you can pick yourself up after loss, if you can go on after tragedy, congratulations. But don’t tell me it’s good or it’s part of some big cosmic plan. You don’t know that. You don’t know anything.
Last week I watched 50 women in a silent protest, walking up and down a crowded pedestrian mall. The carried pictures of their children. Their teen-aged sons were taken from their homes in the middle of the night by police, just because they were Kurds who protested in a peaceful demonstration. They don’t know what happened to their children, but they were probably beaten to death. Most have never been heard from again. These woman were certainly risking their lives by protesting.
I’m happy to say that as they passed, everyone got out of their way, removed their hats and applauded. That was beautiful, but it isn’t a reason. The applause doesn’t make it OK.
Are you going to look these woman in the eye and say “everything happens for a reason?”
This is the article that prompted this.
I’m developing a new way to choose which countries to live in. It’s the language. Not “can I figure it out” or “will this language be helpful for me in the future.” No, it’s the sound of things. When you live in a country where your home language isn’t spoken, you must listen to countless hours of the native language without knowing what is being said. You’ll be in line at the grocery, post office, airport and overhear conversations. You will be following some chatty old women in the market square or bragging young men on the metro. You will not know for a very long time what is being said. If you are lucky, you can catch a few words, newly acquired. Even when you are studying as hard as your mind will let you, it takes a while to tune your ear to the music of the language. And here’s the catch: It needs to sound like music to you. If it just sounds like clashing, guttural emissions, you are in for a horrible stay. The sound of people talking should not grate on your nerves. Life is difficult enough in a foreign country. You will be lost most of the time. When you think you understand you will often find later that you were totally clueless. You learn the true mending of “ignorance is bliss.” To live in another culture is to live in the dark. I can only liken it to losing one of your senses, but by choice. And if only twice a week you question your sanity, I’d say you’re doing well. Just don’t make it worse by choosing a language you hate the sound of.
Oh, and bacon. I’m not living in another country that doesn’t serve pork. While in Belgrade (honest, I’ll post pictures very soon) last week, I ate pork every meal and my dear friend Kathy brought me three boxes of shelf stable bacon. I’m having a couple pieces every day. Heaven!
Seriously, I’m looking at what to do with my time once my teaching contract is up in February. I don’t want to take another job right away because I plan to hike The Camino in April. Basically, I need a place to stay and I’m willing to work for it. If food is also provided, that’d be a bonus. I’m more likely to go to a country I can’t teach in, such as an EU country and I don’t want to get too far from the start of the Camino in Spain, just because of costs. Possibilities I’m investigating include: house/animal sitting (I’ve signed up with Trusted House Sitters and checking out availability); WWOOFing—world wide opportunities on organic farms (I’d really love to learn to make cheese or work with fruit trees) and Volunteer positions (there’s a potential farm in Bulgaria I’ve contacted). And while I expect I’ll take another teaching job when I get off the Camino, I have applied for a cruise ship job as staff. You never know what I’ll do!
My first day back from Belgrade (photos to follow soon) has been disappointing at best. First, I have a cold. It’s not unusual when I travel to pick up a bug, but it’s inconvenient. It was raining when I landed in Istanbul and the rain continued through today–cool, wet and humid. The laundry I did will never dry. Shortly before I left Belgrade I was sent an email saying I have a new weekend morning class. I find it rude to give less than 48 hours’ notice for a class, but it’s the norm here. So, even though I got in late and I felt badly, I prepared my lesson plan for the next morning. I got up in the dark and walked to class in the rain. I printed my materials and then asked to see the register so I’d know how many copies to make. Except there was no class. It had been canceled. In fact, it had been canceled BEFORE I was even given the class! After a couple email exchanges, it turns out that out of the 5 new classes “scheduled” to begin this week (2 of which were mine), only one will actually begin. Did I mention we have issues? Part of the problem is disorganization. Part is a lack of bi-lingual staff. And part of the problem is a total lack of concern for teachers.
At my afternoon class, I set up my materials, then walked out to get my class register, which took 2 minutes. When I returned, three of my markers were gone. Stolen. I’m pretty sure it was Trudy (the ex-roommate), not that I have any way to prove that. But there were few students here. She’s been rude to my students on breaks and she picked a fight with another teacher last weekend. It feels like I’m back in 3rd grade.
But there were highlights. Before I left, One of my students had brought me a lovely pair of handmade slippers for me to give to my dear friend Kathy in Belgrade. They are beautiful. Her grandmother made them and they fit Kathy’s small feet perfectly. (My humongous feet would have stretched them out!) Kathy, being the considerate soul that she is, naturally wrote them thank you notes on a post card. You can’t imagine how thrilled they were–their first English letter!
Coming home from school today a young man got up and gave me his seat on the MetroBus. It’s been raining all day and the bus was packed, so it was a really nice gesture. At the next stop a man limped on and I realized he could barely stand. I started to get up, but the young man across from me motioned for me to stay put and he gave the man his seat. It was only then that I realized that the man was injured. He had a huge cut on his leg and had lost a lot of blood. It looked like someone had cut a chunk of meat from just below his knee—an open wound three inches wide and no skin to cover it. I gave the man some tissues and a plastic bag for the bloody used tissues, but that was all I had. He kept talking to me. I couldn’t make him understand that I don’t speak Turkish (I can say “I don’t speak Turkish. I speak English.”) Since I didn’t share a language with anyone on the bus, I don’t know what happened to him. He seemed delirious–he was talking to himself, and sometimes to someone out the window, who wasn’t there. He would almost lose consciousness, then perk up. He seemed too clean to be homeless, but I think there was something more wrong with him besides just the injury. My heart went out to him.
In a city this size you see so much sadness. It attracts a lot of refugees. But it really puts my piddly little problems into perspective.