This past week I had off from work, thanks to Eid al Adha. Two days before the break, I finally realized that “bayram” meant Eid in Turkish, and thus, I’d be getting a week off. People had been repeatedly saying “next week is bayram,” as if that affected our teaching schedules somehow, but they were always vague about it and not even remotely as excited as they should have been knowing it was a week off. I thought it meant like a field trip or whole-school activities that would require me to be here and working.
When I finally connected the dots and realized bayram actually meant a week off, I grinned like a maniac and immediately booked a ticket to Abu Dhabi. Bae is still in AD sorting out his UAE visa, and I have zero friends in this land yet, so it was the obvious choice. Which basically means that I’ve spent as much time leaving Northern Cyprus as I have spent in it. And I spent most of that limited time in Cyprus being on summer vacation, aka hanging out doing a whole lot of nothing that counts as “real life.”
Tomorrow I go back to work. And I have to actually start teaching. And soon bae will come back and start going back to school. And vacation is over. And we will see what exactly this new “real life” is going to be in this new country with this new marriage situation….
After spending a few weeks in Cyprus at the end of my summer travels, bae and I went to Abu Dhabi for a week. I had to see about transferring my car title so it could be sold, plus I wanted to hang with my friends there. And I had to meet his family. And we also decided to get married there. We’d originally wanted to do it in Cyprus, but it had proved too difficult. (Since the north side is not recognized by anyone, we’d have to go to the south side. But bae cannot go to the south side without a Schengen visa, which is not the easiest thing for him to get, being Palestinian and unemployed, etc.) So we brought along our birth certificates and got a blood test and went to the Abu Dhabi court, fully expecting to emerge a married couple.
Bae and me, the “married” couple
But only then and there did we find out that we needed roughly a hundred other pieces of paperwork to even attempt to get married. We had looked up the requirements and talked to a friend who got married in Abu Dhabi, so we thought we had everything. But she married in a church, which is apparently way easier, and we were lacking documents she hadn’t needed. So…. we never got married, legally. But don’t tell anyone. There are two people IRL privy to that detail; everyone else thinks we managed to do it somehow.
People mostly think we’re married because while we were arguing with the court about the impossibility of getting some of the documents they wanted, his family was busy planning a wedding party for us. Neither of us was particular keen to have a wedding party, but they insisted, so it was thrown together in roughly three days. We had a wedding dress made quickly, but everyone (including me) hated it. So I rented a totally different one the day of the wedding. Then bae insisted I needed to wear a tiara. That was also bought the day of the wedding. And then I sat in the salon while she attached hair extensions and did my makeup heavier than it’s ever been before. And voila, a “bride.”
The wedding party turned out to be a lot of fun. And everyone who sees pictures, assumes we’re husband and wife. And while we are husband and wife, more or less… we do still need to find a country to fill in that legal gap.
I am currently sitting alone in an apartment in Northern Cyprus. I’m making lists of things I want to clean or organize or get for the apartment, but I am procrastinating the next steps. Not the cleaning or organizing itself, but the getting of the things I need to use to clean or organize. Where exactly do I find small divider shelves for the kitchen cabinets? Will the store have the specific light bulb we need? How do I carry all of these things by myself, without a car, through the heat? How do I ask questions of the store staff that will inevitably speak limited English?
I’m not cut out for this life.
The saddest part is that it’s not really a hard life. I have air conditioning and running water. There’s even a man who delivers fresh drinking water. But unfortunately I am too anxious to call him because he only speaks Turkish and Arabic. And while I can say “water” in both languages, he will inevitably say something else and I will have no idea what that something else means. So instead I will walk to the grocery store ten minutes away, buy water wordlessly, then carry it home with my shame.
(I don’t really mind all of this when my boyfriend is here. But he is in Abu Dhabi waiting for visa paperwork. This month has been a mess of garbage paperwork for various bureaucratic nonsense. And I don’t foresee it ending any time soon. Paperwork is the worst.)
As I mentioned in my last entry, one thing I learned while I was in America was how systemic and unnoticed-by-most the racism actually was. To be honest, when I’d been reading all of the articles about it from abroad, I thought it was over-hype. Yes, it’s terrible that racist tragedies are happening, but surely they’re just a series of bad luck. Surely it’s not still that pervasive that we have to constantly talk about it….
It’s still that pervasive though.
Since I started dating Arabs five years ago, I started to count the number of Arabs I saw in any given place in America. (Also learned this summer: Philadelphia, very few Arabs.) Segregation is one of the biggest issues I have with American society because my children will be half Arab, most likely, and I want them to have cultural ties of some sort while they’re there. I hate that I have to look up percentages of Arabs when I’m considering dream futures. My mom likes to suggest that I move back to my hometown near Chicago when we move to America. I always laugh and tell her that’s ridiculous because there are zero Arabs, so why would I take my Arab husband and children there to be outcasts. Once, her response was something along the lines of “I’ll take you to the Walmart where the Arabs go!” And she literally does not see the ridiculousness of that statement.
The black/white divide is something I sort of disregarded in New York because when I lived there, I lived in a neighborhood where white was the minority. But that doesn’t actually mean I mixed with my non-white neighbors. This time around, I mentally playing a game with myself where I would count how many times I saw interracial groups or pairs (platonic, not just romantic). I always got really excited about it when I saw them, but I realized that many of them were actually just work friends on lunch together. And there’s this quote from Americanah that sums it up: “In America, blacks and whites work together, but don’t play together.” (A fantastic book, if you haven’t read it.) Obviously there are going to be exceptions, but it was really quite noticeable once I started looking for it.
And since I’ve been out of the country, I watched that video where the police pulls over the black couple, scares the shit out of them and then gives them ice cream. And I smiled when I first watched it because her surprise and relief is so refreshing. But then I recognized how truly fucked up that is, to treat people like that. And how fucked up that it’s meant to be amusing how scared they get. Like….. that’s not funny. It’s a terrible microcosm of the mindset of race in America.
Back in the days of forums, one of my favorite threads was “Today I Learned…” where, obviously, people would fill in the rest of that sentence. I’ve made it to the land of Cyprus, and am no longer privy to the particulars of America (and Mexico, which is really just an extension of America.) So let’s catalogue some of those particulars…
- Americans will put up with a surprising amount of illogic. As an example, my flight from Cancun to Chicago landed early. Which seemed great, until I saw a flash of lightning. Which turned into two hours on the tarmac, waiting to be allowed to go to our gate. When we finally did move to the gate, I realized that the gate had been literally one minute away. I gather that they just couldn’t connect us to the gate during lightning? (Yet we could wait out the lightning storm in a claustrophobic airplane.) Which was the most illogical tarmac wait of my life. And I heard multiple people being like “That’s just how it is. It’s nobody’s fault…” And I was like “…..it’s the FAA’s fault, duh.”
- The FAA/TSA is ridiculous. Taking off my flip flops to walk across dirty American airport floors has to be my least favorite airport experience. I also constantly block out of my mind (and am repeatedly infuriated anew) that when I transfer from normal international flights to flights into America, they’re going to require special (i.e. extraneous) carry-on baggage screenings. Why can’t I bring a tiny sealed habanero sauce without checking my bag? Come on, ya’ll, other countries wouldn’t bat an eyelid at that! I also received an email warning that TSA lines might be long for each of my flights from American airports. I, of course, go to the airport two hours early, as suggested. And then sit at the gate for at least an hour. But why the email? Why raise people’s anxiety when they’re already anxious about travelling?
- Mexico is totally just an extension of the USA. I forgot to bring cash with me when I went and I definitely didn’t change anything to pesos. But I faced zero problems. Even when I tried to use my credit card (which gets reported as fraudulent when I try to purchase from foreign ISPs or websites all the time.) But Mexico, no problemo! Also, I think I saw more white people in Cancun than I did at any of the international airports I frequented within the states.
- The racism really is systemic/unnoticed-by-most. When I told people that I was going to marry my boyfriend when I move to Cyprus, people had no shame asking if I was afraid that he was going to change after we got married. And by “Are you afraid he’ll change?” they really meant “Are you afraid he’ll start to beat you and control your every move?” Can you imagine asking a woman if her white fiance is going to “change” when they get married? It’s just not something normal to ask. But the question was posed to me with zero hesitation or shame or second thoughts of tact. Because I am marrying an Arab Muslim and it’s totally ok to wonder about him. (I have a scheduled post that talks more about the racism because I found it fascinating.)
- Americans read a hell of a lot. I did very much miss the prevalence of books. So many book stores, books easily delivered to my door, people talking about books, people talking about writing. I don’t know why Americans are so into books, or if it’s just the people I happen to know there versus the ones I know abroad, but it was a very noticeable change. And I definitely enjoyed it.