What is America?

Whenever I tell people that I’m moving to Cyprus to be with my boyfriend and oh yeah, we’re probably going to get married, they want to know what’s next. How long will I be in Cyprus? Where will we go afterwards? Of course my boyfriend and I have vaguely talked about all that. And I know that he wants to move to America when he finishes school because he wants the passport. (But then he wants to move back to a Muslim country after he gets it.) And while I see the value in him having the same passport as I do, I loathe the idea of living in America again.

America has so many negative connotations in my mind. I went into Chicago proper yesterday (my hometown is half an hour from the city and I rarely go to it) and I was truly afraid when my friend and I were out and about. I had searched the restaurant we were meeting at, and as I did so, an article about a shooting in that neighborhood the day before popped up, laying a groundwork for fear. Then at one point when we were walking to go buy liquor, we saw a black woman yelling on her phone trying to give directions and carrying a sign that showed that she had been at the Black Lives Matter rally earlier. And there was an unnecessarily large gathering of police on a corner nearby. And she was angry, and she walked right through the group of cops, and I felt my body tense as she did it, waiting for the worst to happen. Nothing happened of course, but my mind-frame had been formed to feel only anxiety and fear for her.

And then my car got towed this morning because of the difficulty in paying for parking and my unfamiliarity with the city. And I’m so used to Abu Dhabi where they just fine you; they would never be so awful as to tow your car for a few hours unpaid parking. How ridiculous to walk into a parking lot 14 hours after I parked a car and paid for parking, but find the car completely gone. And then I was talking to my brother about a recent DUI and how insane the penalty is. They’re supposed to suspend your license for six months; the suburbs are very reliant on cars and there is no public transportation, so how is that meant to work out? And he was barely over the BAC limit and passed all the roadside tests before the breathalyzer, so how is that fair? And apparently the only way to avoid all that is to not comply with doing the breathalyzer, which is so counter-intuitive. Everything about this country seems so counter-intuitive when you’ve been away for a long time.

The idea of living in it for three years (or more considering bureaucracy) makes me very depressed. I’m flying to New York in two days, and hopefully that will be a more pleasant experience than Chicagoland has been. But I think it’s also something in the topics of conversation. Catching up with people encourages highlights and lowlights, perhaps. Snapshots to fit all that’s happened in a year into a few hours conversation. And it’s exhausting to constantly be empathizing with these extremes, the promotions and the illnesses, the breakups and the marriages &c.

At least I have the amusement of bringing up Pokemon Go. Hearing about that game and finding out who plays it has definitely been a highlight of my trip thus far.

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Yesterday I arrived to the United States of America, home of the free. Or brave? Whatever. The point is that I arrived, after many hours of travel, carrying all of my worldly possessions.

On the plane over, I barely slept and I never slept soundly. There were so many crying babies and chatty children around me. And the child behind me kept kicking my seat or jabbing at the entertainment monitor. (I turned around at one point, handed him the entertainment remote and said “use this.” He didn’t listen and kept jabbing away.) In my half-asleep dazes, I would often find myself thinking, “I’ll just do that when I get home.” And I fully meant my apartment in Abu Dhabi. I would look up the ending of that book or cook that recipe or ask that person about that thing “when I got home.” Except that home does not exist anymore.

I woke up at 4am this morning, wide awake, thanks to jetlag and my inability to stay awake past 8pm last night. And I had to think very hard for a moment about where I was in the pitch-black of my hometown bedroom. I can’t remember where I guessed first, but my hometown bedroom was probably my third attempt at remembering my location.

I have to get used to that feeling. My itinerary is: Chicagoland for 5 days, NYC for 4 days, Philadelphia for 4 days, NYC again for 2 days, Tulum for 5 days, and back to Chicagoland for 3 days. Then it’s time to organize and repack all my worldly possessions to haul to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Oh the nomad life…

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Xenophobia and ethnocentrism

It is very interesting to watch people try to state succinctly what is happening in other parts of the world. Largely because none of us have any idea what happens in other parts of the world. If you ask people here in Abu Dhabi about Brexit, even though we are all abroad and from varied countries and living in a melting pot of nationalities, most likely we can’t tell you much beyond “Britain left the EU.” If we’re well-read, we might add that it’s something to do with racism, maybe?

If you haven’t heard, there was a terrible bombing in Baghdad a couple days ago. It was during Ramadan, which is the holiest month (for both Sunni and Shia), so that’s especially shocking to those of us in countries that celebrate Ramadan. I started to read an article about the bombing, but got quickly annoyed with how it didn’t give me enough background information. It assumed that I understood who Abadi was and all the politics surrounding him, for example. But I don’t know any of that. And while usually I’m likely to delve a little deeper into such things, yesterday I couldn’t be bothered because I am not smart enough to figure it out right now.

Lately I’ve heard a lot of people say things along the lines of “the world is falling apart.” (Usually with more expletives and references to the underworld, maybe a bit of sorcery or portentous religion and definitely a lot of apocalypse speculation.) People seem to have noted trends of the time and decided that it clearly means the end of the world. Or a serious downward trend at the very least. It’s really quite a pessimistic and depressing viewpoint, but everyone nods their head along and agrees that yes, we’re all doomed, so it goes, so it goes.

According to the very wise and complete statistics of Wikipedia, there were 20 more Islamic-related bombings in 2015 than 2016 at this point in the year. I tried looking up the US shootings, but it got too difficult. But that’s sort of my point. It’s the way the information is provided that leads to this mindset. Each bombing is sensationalized and it’s all we think about for like at least half a day. But we truly know so little about all the myriad complexities that led that person to do that disastrous thing. I don’t know why people ever think that they know anywhere near the whole story, let alone how the story continues. They just shout out “oh no, another bombing/shooting/disaster/super hot weather day! The end of the world is coming!”

I guess my real point is that we’re all dumb. As Socrates allegedly said, you have to know that you know nothing to know anything. (He didn’t say it like that. He also might not have even said it at all… which is of course, supremely fitting.)

In 12 hours or so, I’m going to begin my long trip home to the States. I’m currently in the midst of packing up my entire life. It makes me feel overwhelmed and small and insignificant. But also, apparently, contemplative.

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The future excitement

So I’m moving to Cyprus in like a month. Not the Greek side, the Turkish side, as I constantly have to tell people when they start to rave about Greek islands. And the Turkish side is a whole different story. So when I finally got a job there (hurrah!) and I saw the salary, I was not pleased (boo!) I think I was spoiled by the UAE though. Salaries here are muy bueno. And I know the system and how much I can get and which schools pay more and how much more they pay. I have no clue about the range of salaries in Cyprus. So I emailed back asking if it was negotiable. And he pretty much straight up said “Cyprus is poor. We can’t negotiate.” So I guess I’ll just have to be poor. And I’ll fit right in.

I say “so” too much.

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Tying those ends

Change is hard for people to handle. When laws change or processes change, it can be extremely difficult to get used to the new situation. Now, imagine you’re a country 44 years young and you’re still trying to figure things out and compete with the world, etc. Now imagine you’re the people in that country, trying to tie up all the loose ends of life during Ramadan, when everything has odd hours. Then imagine that they announce that Eid break is going to be the full week next week, even though Eid al Fitr isn’t predicted to be until Wednesday, so all public sector work, including any paperwork needed before travelling, will come to a complete halt after Thursday….

Inshallah, I’m done with all the things I needed to get done. With one notable exception: I never sold my car. However, I had to turn in my passport to get my visa cancelled before Thursday. And I won’t get it back until I am driven to the airport by my employer. And I need a passport to transfer my car registration to anyone who could sell it for me after I’m gone….

The day before yesterday, my roommate and I arrived at the place to cancel our Internet at 6pm to find it was closing. It was going to reopen from 9pm until 1am though. But we couldn’t do that, so the next day we went to a different Internet place around 3pm only to find that its hours were totally different and they’d been closed since 2pm, even though it is very much part of the same company….

It has been stressful tying up these loose ends. But I got paid today (they wouldn’t do that until I gave in my passport and ID, which I needed to do things such as cancel my Internet, so I was trying to cling to it as long as feasible) so now I’m more or less stress free.

And looking towards my future with all sorts of excitement. But that is a post for another day…

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