End of Term

I’ve been very stressed out this past week. It’s because it’s the end of the term here. Which means reports. And since I’m a classroom teacher here, it’s a considerable headache. I had to grade exams in all of the subjects. And they were not easy to grade. And then I found out they hand-write the comments on the reports here… and have no electronic grading system to calculate final grades… and I’m sitting here with a blister on my pinkie, looking at my not-as-neat-as-it-should-be handwriting scribbled all over these reports, wondering why I had to waste four hours doing that and what exact number I should be putting down for the grade…

It’s not even done yet. But tomorrow it will be. And Tuesday we hand out the reports. And Wednesday I fly out of this freezing country occupied territory to visit the warm islands of Seychelles. Alhamdulillah.

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It’s been awhile

Sometimes I fall off the face of the Internet. I get tied up in my own life. We went back to Abu Dhabi for winter break about a month ago. None of my closest friends were in town, using their breaks to travel to other countries, but we still got to be in Abu Dhabi. And we decided that we’re moving back ASAP.

The reason we’re in North Cyprus is solely on the basis of bae having a scholarship to a school here. (They give out scholarships to basically anyone, it’s not an impressive thing.) But the loneliness of living here is not good for us. People here are tied up in their lives and their cliques and it’s hard to break into their circles. Plus if I’m completely honest, I don’t care to break in. I find it far more relaxing to stick to my routines and fall back into being introverted than to really stretch my extroversion to reach out to strangers. I’m relatively ok at becoming friends with friends of friends, but I just don’t have the outgoing nature to reach out to silent strangers across the room.

Plus this country is awful and inconvenient. Plus the weather has been disgustingly cold and rainy. Plus bae’s school is a total scam, really. Plus my salary is a total scam, really. So… back to Abu Dhabi seems like it will make us happiest.

To be honest, there’s a million problems with the plan to move back to Abu Dhabi. Not literally a million, but enough. But it’s the best option.

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My mom voted for Trump

If you looked at my Facebook newsfeed on election day, it seemed impossible that Trump would win. All the people I knew from my high school in Illinois and college in New York and post-grad program and years in New York and the Americans I met in Abu Dhabi… all of them were full of #imwithher. Of course, in hindsight, I have very left-leaning Facebook friends, who do not represent the majority of America. (And the right-leaning ones are posh enough to silence their tendencies. #secretballot)

(Full disclosure, I am a Republican-leaning person on many issues and have a general disdain for the Democratic party. And I never vote. I can’t pretend every vote counts and I abstain in protest. Plus, I’m registered in Illinois where the Democratic mafia has a stronghold forever. Vote early, vote often, as they say. My not voting and being Republican tends to invalidate my opinions to many people, so if that’s your position, assume it.)

When Trump won, I was shocked. Jaw dropped, knock me over with a feather. Even though I had once verbally predicted that Hillary would lose. I had been suckered into a political conversation with an American teacher who was new to Abu Dhabi and raving about Hillary being the next president. (Even though I literally said “don’t get me started on politics.” I hate talking politics. Especially with people who think every vote counts and wear buttons that say it. She was that kind of person.) This was maybe six months before anyone was announcing their presidency, but Hillary was obviously going to run all the same. And I had (probably very rudely) scoffed at the teacher’s enthusiasm for Hillary. I straight up told her that America was so not ready for a woman president. I told her that the Republicans would run a white-looking Hispanic man and totally crush her.

I’d then gone home and researched possible contenders and decided that it was going to be Marco Rubio.

When Rubio dropped out and Cruz was winning, I was shocked. He was Hispanic, sure, but he wasn’t even born in America. What the fuck was the Republican party doing? And then, somehow, he dropped out too. And somehow, an orange clown won. And I was flabbergasted. This was not the politics I knew…. Who would vote for such a creature?

My mom, that’s who.

When she told me she planned to vote for him and I asked her how she could be so dumb as to vote for Trump, she said that she had looked at his healthcare plan (She works as a medical transcriber for a hospital, so I suppose that’s something she has some knowledge about and feels invested in.) and it seemed legit. She said that her boss had met one of Trump’s health advisers at some event and liked him and found him knowledgeable.

She then said, “Plus I don’t trust Hillary.”

I was furious at her. Literally furious at her. She has brought up her vote for Trump twice with me, and both times I couldn’t even pretend to talk about anything else. I just kept berating her for her idiocy, unable to change the topic or let her do the same. It was just so unfathomable. I’m still angry about it. Even though her vote had no effect on the blue state she votes in, her vote had an effect on my feelings towards her. This morning she asked if bae and I could come visit this winter and I responded with all sorts of bitterness over the impossibility of him getting a visa. And then sarcastically ended the email with: “Trump will fix it though, I’m sure.”

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this new reality, to be honest. That the majority really doesn’t see a problem with someone like Trump. Someone at work asked me how I felt about it and it was small talk, so I gave a vague answer of, “We’ll see how it goes, I guess….” Because I have no clue what’s coming next. Probably nothing of significance. Surely not the doom that many are prophesying. But it’s not going to be fun to watch. It’s going to be uncomfortable and make me nauseous and make me #expatforlife even harder than before. And I already hashtag that pretty hard…

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The hospital debacle

The blood test nonsense really was the worst.

Apparently, I had to get a blood test and TB test for my work visa. To be honest, I procrastinated it for as long as possible, knowing how annoying doing things was in this country. But eventually the HR department started bothering the secretary at my school and I had to go. So one day I went to the hospital after work and I asked a security guard where I should go. He probably didn’t speak English and said nothing, just motioned for me to talk to these two doctors. But they were talking to some man sitting on a gurney, so I awkwardly stood there while they finished. Then I asked where I should go to get my blood test. She told me I had to come back at 8am the next day. (It was like 4pm and the hospital looked like it was closed, except for the emergency room with these two chatting ladies who ignored me for five minutes.)

So I went back at 8am the next day and the place was packed with people. All the signs are in Turkish, so I asked a man in a glass box (who’s not a secretary or receptionist; they have none of those. He’s a cashier, I think? Really not sure.) where to go and he told me vaguely to walk down a hall and go right at the end. I followed his directions, but ended up at the wrong counter. The lady at the counter told me “other side.” So I went to something on another side, took a number and waited for a counter that said “Laboratory.” That was the wrong counter too and the lady at that counter told me to go to this other counter and gave me enough direction that I thought I knew which counter she was talking about… But I was confused, because that counter was closed, and had been closed since I first went to the wrong counter at 8am. But there were a ton of people around that counter, so I asked someone who didn’t speak English if that’s where I should be for the blood test. That person, like I said, didn’t speak English, so it was not a fruitful conversation. But luckily some lady overheard and assured me that it was the right counter. And she told me to write my name on a paper that appeared to have been taken from someone’s purse. (Probably hers.)

I wrote my name on the paper and just sort of stood around with this mob of people, waiting for the counter to open, whenever that would be. Eventually it happened, and the lady behind the counter started calling out names from the list. Except there was a huge crowd of people clustered around her counter . And also a plexiglass between her and the crowd. So her voice did not carry at all. As such, I never heard her call my name. I thought I heard it at one point, but some lady rushed forward, so either she stole my spot (which is ridiculous because you hand the lady behind the counter your passport, so the lady behind the counter should have figured that one out) or they never called my name. So after straining to hear my name, I realized she was done calling names and now it was just a line. But there were actually two lines (I don’t know why; there was one counter) and Turkish people do not know how to queue, so they were a mess. I did my best finding the end of the line, but it was very confusing where the line went. And I waited and waited and waited.

Eventually I made it to the counter and I followed everyone’s lead of handing the woman the paper that my HR department had given me and my passport. Then I moved to the window next to her and paid money. Then that lady handed me back my passport and my small paper and a map. I assume this was part two of the scavenger hunt that is everything in Northern Cyprus. But I wanted to be sure before I left the hospital, which seems like a pretty good place for a blood test… So I tried to ask the lady if I should go there now. She didn’t speak English. (But of course. Why would someone in a job related to giving work visas to foreigners speak any language besides Turkish?) So I just grumbled my disdain and went off to this second magical location.

At the second location, they took my blood. But before they did that, I had to stand around for roughly forty minute, squished in a tiny room with other people waiting. There wasn’t really enough space for a line, so you just hand to know who you’d come in after. While waiting around, for our entertainment we could watch the person who had made it to the front and was getting their blood drawn. That person was in a chair on a raised platform in front, being tended to by the one nurse in the entire place. So we watched as one by one, people had their blood taken. I don’t know why we had to watch, or why we had to stand while we watched, but that’s how it was. The lack of line or number system here almost came to a heated point when one lady tried to cut the line. The two women from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan in front of me promptly chided her in Turkish. The potential cutter didn’t seem apologetic about it, and kind of just glared at them though.

After the nurse took my blood for the crowd that had dwindled to only about five people (I have no idea why I went in early. Everything would have been easier and less crowded if I had started the whole ordeal an hour or two later. And I probably would have finished around the same time. But everyone had insisted that I should go early…) she stuck me a second time. (TB test, I gathered.) Then she told me that I should come back on Saturday, but that they close at one. Her English was middling to bad, so I tried to clarify by asking, “So come earlier than one?” She replied, “Yes, early.”

So I walked a mile to come back on Saturday (not having a car is awful here.) And she glanced at my arm where she’d put the TB test. And told me to go to the hospital on Friday for the results.

On Friday morning, instead of going to work, I went to the hospital for my results, but had no idea where the hell to go, yet again. I waited at the laboratory for a little while again. (Because they have a number system and it’s the only counter I feel comfortable asking questions at.) But that was taking forever because Turkish people don’t understand the number system, so they kept just pushing in whenever. So I went back to the counter where I’d paid the last time and asked her. She directed me downstairs. But the man downstairs told me that the results from that second magical location weren’t in yet. He said the doctor was signing them. To come back at one or two. I asked what time they closed and he told me three.

Which meant that I had to go to work. Then come back before work ended. And then go back to work. It takes me roughly an hour to get to my work from the hospital due to the fact that I have to walk most of the distance. So I spent more time traveling to and from the hospital than I did working. Which is especially painful when that travel time is largely walking. And it was hot and sunny by the time I was doing the second round.

And of course, as a cherry of incompetence on the sundae of ineptitude, when I finally had the damn results and went to my HR department to drop it off, there was nobody in the office. So I went to the secretary’s office next door and she told me to go back to the office and wait for them… like she couldn’t hand it to them, I needed to do it myself? What kind of secretary is she, exactly? So I sat there waiting for a few minutes, until a woman came in. I had also been told by my vice principal that I needed to pay some fee, but this woman had no clue what the hell I was talking about when I mentioned that. I will not be mentioning it again, obviously. But of course, somewhere down the line something will fuck up and it will be my fault for not insisting that I pay a fee, of an amount I’m not sure of, to someone who didn’t seem to know anything about it.

And the whole time I was waiting in lines or watching people get blood taken, I was fondly reminiscing about my work visa in Abu Dhabi. The school had picked us up and driven us to do it and gently shuffled us through the process and then dropped us back home at the end. And all of it had happened in one location. And all the doctors and nurses had spoken English. And there had been a number system that everyone followed and everyone had waited patiently in a sea of chairs laid out specifically for waiting people. And procedures like blood taking were done in private rooms. And the whole thing had taken roughly half an hour. And the school had collected and processed the results when they were ready. And it was a beautifully easy time, it really was….

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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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