Other Reminiscings

**This is another scheduled post. At the time it goes live, I will be settling into Abu Dhabi life. This was written two weeks ago.**

As I was writing the last entry, I thought of some things that seemed unique to North Cyprus from other places I had lived. The first that comes to mind was the first issue that arose: money. They use three different currencies. Turkish lira is used in shops and restaurants because it is the Turkish Republic, after all. Our rent was paid in British pound, possibly because our landlord was British Cypriot or possibly as an homage to the former rule. (Most property prices are in pound.) And I was paid my salary in Euro, because I’m American and close enough. Not everyone was paid in Euro though; people with Turkish passports were paid in Turkish lira. (They were also paid quite a bit less, according to the gossip on the streets…)

Another thing that I’ll never forget is how much military presence there was in N. Cyprus. America hides all of its army stuff from the types of places I lived. (Rich suburbs and touristy cities.) And while the UAE shows some uniforms occasionally and I know where one base is, it isn’t like N. Cyprus. In N. Cyprus I lived next to an army base. On my five-minute drive to school, one route passed another army base. I saw camo trucks filled with camo men roughly once a week. Any trip to anywhere would involve passing still more army bases. Military was everywhere.

But most of all I will remember this land for its lack of organization or progress. There were so many things that were illogically arranged (like the visa process, or the bank system, or their hospitals.) And yet nobody seemed to care to fix anything. Everyone complained about it all, quite loudly, but people who had been here for years just kept on going within the broken systems… and probably if I returned in ten years everyone would still be plodding on in their nonsense systems. Perhaps I will return for a visit in ten years to see what has changed. But for now, I am so relieved to be done with that haphazard mess of a territory.

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Unrecognized countries

***This is a scheduled post. At the time it goes live, I will be on a plane on my way back to Abu Dhabi. It was written two weeks ago.***

I’m currently reading Without You, There is No Us, which is a fascinating personal narrative by a woman who taught in North Korea around the end of Kim Jong Il’s reign. While obviously there is no country quite like North Korea, I was surprised to find myself noticing some things in her descriptions that made me feel deja vu. Because there are flickers of similarities to my experiences in North Cyprus. (Obviously I am not saying the two are even close to the same. I’m just talking about how they have the same mountain shape or whatever. I am fully aware that nothing compares to North Korea.)

The first thing that caught my deja vu was when she mentioned that all of the students knew the phrase “brain drain.” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what that meant a year ago, but I’ve heard it mentioned more than once here in N. Cyprus. If you’re also unfamiliar, it’s the idea that the brightest people from a country move away and then there’s nobody left to run things efficiently or make progress or bring anything of significance to the country. Most people who lament the lack of organization in N. Cyprus like to blame it on “brain drain.” They insist that the country will never improve because the best and brightest all leave the moment they’re given the opportunity. (It always amused me that people here who rant about brain drain are so upset with those people who leave. And so sure there is no solution now. As if nobody else could fix the problems of the country except for those brilliant geniuses who’ve selfishly gone away.)

Another thing the author commented on was how North Korea extorted their teachers to try to get any money out of them that they could. She talked about it critically, which I found naive, to be honest. Extortion is second nature here in N. Cyprus and probably in most countries that struggle economically. If someone can convince you to pay for something and they’re used to a system of extortion and they don’t have legitimate means of getting money, obviously they’re going to do it. (People complain about it openly here, constantly, which is of course very different from North Korea.)

And while N. Cyprus is nowhere near as propagandist as North Korea, the way she described some of the speeches and teachings reminded me of some of the ceremonies we had about Ataturk. I didn’t understand them, as they were all in Turkish, but from what one of my co-teachers translated or summarized for me, it was all about the glory of Ataturk. And apparently they used to be required to have his picture displayed in all the classrooms, although that is no longer true. N. Cypriots also refer to the day that the Turks invaded Cyprus as “Operation Peace,” which is a charming name for an invasion. And they very much insinuate that the Greek Cypriots are evil. I suppose it’s natural for a divided land to encourage its citizens to dislike the other side though. (Of course, there are plenty of people on both sides of the island who protest for unification almost every weekend. And nobody stops them from their marches.)

It was truly an interesting time in North Cyprus and perhaps one day I will write a book about my time there. Until then, you can always read about North Korea: Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite

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Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: “For my sake was the world created.”

“But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: “I am but dust and ashes.”

-Rabbi Bunim

Unfortunately, I don’t actually believe the world was created for my sake. Nor do I believe that I am but dust and ashes. (I get the metaphoric meanings, but eh.) So those phrases wouldn’t work for me.

However, I do have a tattoo on my side that reads, “peccavi.” It’s Latin for “I have sinned,” which is my way of reminding myself that I am but dust and ashes. I have a tendency to forget that my entertaining adventures and enjoyments often come at the cost of diminished morality. And my biggest sin is, without a doubt, pride, and I felt, at the wise age of 20, that pride was something that needed to be tempered somehow. So, I got myself a permanent reminder that I am not perfect.

I have always wanted to get “God is love” in Greek on the other side. To balance it out. Because I sometimes feel as if I vacillate only between extreme happiness and extreme sadness. And in my moments of sadness, I need to be reminded that love is all around us, and other such sentimental crap. I also need to be reminded that I have to be that love that I wish to see in the world. Which is the essence of the phrase in Greek, with love translated as “αγάπη.”

Interestingly, I’m not actually a religious person. But I definitely enjoy learning about religions and I must say, they have some very valuable messages hidden up in there. And if their messages work for me, so be it.

Now, please excuse me while I go stare at the tattoo I have managed to procure. Because that’s the one I need right now. *bows and exits*

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Summer holiday

Today was my last day of work for the school year. In about a week, I’m going to Turkey to meet up with one of my friends and her husband for some catch ups and adventuring. After that, I’m coming back here to North Cyprus to pick up another pay check, finalize my packing, and then I’m flying back to my regularly-scheduled life in Abu Dhabi.

My husband flew back to Abu Dhabi earlier this week. Originally the plan was for him to do all the things with me, but… quite frankly, we’re not happy with each other at the moment. This past year has been a real trial. Living here was painful for both of us, individually. There were lots of negative emotions swirling around and around inside of us, growing to tornadoes that were unleashed on each other. That sounds more poetic than it was, actually. Basically we treated each other like shit. Which bred a lot of hatred and resentment, so now we need some serious space from each other to recover from all that. So, let’s put multiple countries between us for a few weeks!

I wish more people wrote candidly about this period of relationships. When you really, really, really hate that person you love. But I can’t do it either, really. I can’t give any identifying details, and it’s not as interesting if I write about it vaguely. If I mention a knife, but don’t give any details. If I try to describe the conflicting mess of feelings without explaining the specific events that triggered each layer of emotion. If I don’t bring in our religions or families or friends or habits or anything that might offend people, should they stumble upon the story that mentions them.

Public blogging is such a farce, isn’t it? Perhaps I should just write everything as allegories. I often make up stories for my husband about monkeys or elephants or boys with pet rocks. And they often end up being allegorical. Perhaps that is where I should devote my blog energies…

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I’ve never really been an avid poetry reader and I am petrified of the idea of writing my own, but every so often I stumble upon a poem that calls to me. In the one poetry class I forced myself to take as part of my English degree, I am still stuck with this one poem by Jane Hirshfield about how she’s many different woman, one when she showers, one when she brushes her hair, etc. It’s fantastic. Here’s another one by her that I stumbled upon today, which I enjoyed. Happy poem in your pocket day! (It’s not that day. That’s in April.)

Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight

Jane Hirshfield, 1953

One ran,
her nose to the ground,
a rusty shadow
neither hunting nor playing.

One stood; sat; lay down; stood again.

One never moved,
except to turn her head a little as we walked.

Finally we drew too close,
and they vanished.
The woods took them back as if they had never been.

I wish I had thought to put my face to the grass.

But we kept walking,
speaking as strangers do when becoming friends.

There is more and more I tell no one,
strangers nor loves.
This slips into the heart
without hurry, as if it had never been.

And yet, among the trees, something has changed.

Something looks back from the trees,
and knows me for who I am.

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