Rant session

Bae is still in Abu Dhabi trying to sort out his visa. Which means I have been very bored and lonely here in Northern Cyprus. It is zero percent a good place to meet new people. Everyone was either born here or has family here or summered here, and thus has a life already established. Abu Dhabi was a wonderful place to meet new people because it was a constant revolving door of expats. Could not imagine a better place to start the expat life. Northern Cyprus would probably be the worst place for that.

It’s also a terrible place for non-Turkish speakers. Some people speak English (and there are a ton of British people here), but knowing Turkish is expected. The bus system (if you can call it that) is these vans that go along the main roads and stop to pick up people who just stand along the road and hail them where-ever. And then once the passengers are traveling along, they just holler up to the driver and he pulls over and drops them when they want to get off. The problem is that you’re supposed to holler in Turkish. And sometimes you’re the only person on the van-bus and the driver will ask you where you want to stop. And he will ask you in Turkish. And sometimes he will not know any English when you make it clear to him that you speak zero Turkish. And if you’re lucky you’ll name some landmark that you both know to identify the place where you’re going. (One of our apartment’s landmarks is a Gloria Jeans, which I find hilarious. There are very few chains in Cyprus (There’s no McDonalds. Can you even imagine such a country?) so the fact that we live near one is fantastic to me.)

Getting paperwork done here is a huge pain in the ass. One thing I had to do was get a residence paper for the bank. I guess that it proves that I live in an area of the country? Which it doesn’t, actually. I brought in the lease for the apartment, which clearly has bae’s name on it and nowhere does it list mine. But whatever, so I brought the lease and my passport to the muhdar. (Which means village chief, I shit you not.) The muhdar for my area is located in a car rental office. Nowhere is that information found online, so you have to just ask around until you figure it out. And the guy at my school’s HR department called a friend and told me that my area’s muhdar was by the park and that I should ask someone at a coffee shop in the park about its exact location. And while he was right that it was near the park, getting paperwork done should not be a fucking scavenger hunt. (Also, I don’t want to talk to random people at a coffee shop, come on! I asked bae and he told me, thankfully.)

The bank was also awful. Zero English. Still not entirely sure that I have a bank account and no idea how to access it.

The blood test process was the actual worst. So bad that it’s getting its own entry…

And the other day my landlord came to remind everyone in the building that we shouldn’t be flushing our toilet paper. There’s a problem with the pipe (of course) at the moment, so she just wanted to remind us all about that. And I was like “yes, sure, of course.” But ew. And I understand that it’s not totally uncommon of a thing for plumbing systems not to handle toilet paper, but having grown up in a town where it would be the height of impropriety not to flush toilet paper, tampons, etc., I find it very difficult to wrap my head around this new way of doing things.

The plumbing in general is a real piece of garbage. Here’s how the system works. When you need water, you have to go into town and put money onto your water card at this kiosk in the middle of a parking lot. (Not a building. A kiosk. That has no identifying names or signage, like the brand name or anything helpful.) And then you have to put the card next to the water meter outside the apartment and push a button. It beeps and some numbers will flash, but they don’t tell you anything helpful like how much is left on your card or how much you put on the meter. (Apparently it doesn’t take everything from the card though, because last time I went to fill my card at the kiosk, she told me not to fill it because there was still money on it…. good thing I went all the way into town to find that out!) Then, fingers crossed, water will fill your apartment’s water tank. But that’s not the only water tank. Because then inside your building, you have to turn on a switch for a water pump that pumps the water from that water tank into a tank on the roof. There’s also possibly a hot water tank? I’m not sure. And there are no indicators when tanks are full or low on water. I’m meant to manually open and check the tank downstairs to see when I need to put more money on my water meter…. which I didn’t know, so it got empty. But I didn’t know it was empty, so I kept trying to use the water pump and being confused why it didn’t work. And then the water pump burned out. Which is apparently my fault. (It’s not my fault actually because there was still a lot of water on my water meter. We’re still unclear about whose fault it was, but I refuse to take the blame. After the man fixed the pump, I had water for another two weeks without refilling it, so explain that, landlord lady who’s trying to make me pay for the new pump!)

So you know, overall, things are pretty stupid here. I cannot wait to leave, honestly. (In two years? Ugh.) Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great place to visit and I’m sure that once bae is here, it will be less of a headache. But it’s just such a fucking huge headache….

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Ok time to be real

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….

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Filling in Some Gaps

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.

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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.)

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I Thought They Were Exaggerating

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.

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