Unpopular Opinions

So Virginia is happening right now. If you weren’t aware (as I wasn’t until this morning because I do not live in America anymore and the world doesn’t care about them like I do), Charlottesville has been having a lot of white supremacists protesting about the proposed removal of a historic statue. (Robert E. Lee, a general of the the Confederate Army, a convenient symbol of white power.) The protesters have been very rowdy and aggressive towards the counter-protesters. They’re gross and a symbol of everything wrong with America and and doomed to hell and a serious threat to non-white/non-men/non-cis/non-ablebodied/non-whateverIforgot people.

But it is also gross that there are people saying that those men should not be allowed to rally whenever their big rally is supposed to be. People are also trying to identify them. Presumably to harass them. And the jokes are flowing about hurting them. So perhaps they actually want to hurt them when they find them. Because an eye for an eye….

Makes everyone fucking blind.

I think my most unpopular opinion is that those men are misunderstood.

The problem with those men, as I see it, is that they lack any real perception of their place in the world. They honestly do not understand. Like they don’t see it at all. (See also people ironically quoting old Trump tweets about Obama that are now about him.) And nobody knows how to effectively explain it to them, so they try once or twice and then just move right on to hating them.

In my experience, you can’t really be told about your privilege. You need to experience it vicariously. Usually through a loved one. Like your Palestinian husband who lacks your everything, but is far more giving than you could ever be. I literally have more of everything than him, but I cling to it and hide it and protest loudly when he tries to inch a step closer towards any of it. Because I hate adulting and prefer to blame things on him rather than admitting that sometimes life just sucks. Because nobody wants to grow up and the world is a big awful place sometimes. Because I’m scared. Because I don’t know how to succeed without my privileges. Because I’ve never had to do it and the idea is frightening.

Because I am those men too.

So I guess what I’m saying is that all the people who want to stone those men need to get out of their glass houses and marry them.

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Novel likeness

Being back in Abu Dhabi has been everything I wanted and more. I stayed with one of my best friends for the first week, so that felt like coming home, although she was different-from-last-time in that she was 8+ months pregnant. (She just had the boy; he’s very cute and almost seems worth the horrific pain of labor she described.) Now bae and I are somewhat settled in our own place.

I have a social life again, which is fantastic. The first weekend I was back, a group of my old party friends, who I admittedly hadn’t spoken to at all in the past year, met up for a fantastic night out. It was as if no time had passed.

But at the same time, things are different. I’m married now. Most of my friends are also married or in equally committed relationships. There’s that new baby in the mix. I’m not going back to America this summer for my annual catch-up (due to lack of funds), so I’ve been making some effort to have catch-up convos with my people there. And I hadn’t spoken to many of them in 1+ years too. (It really was like I fell off the face of the Earth while I was in Cyprus, haha.) And they’re changing too. But still the same, in those little ways that people never change. And the shared histories and memories. And their quirks and my quirks.

Holding my friend’s baby was surreal because everything is new for him. And everything he does seems radically new, even though we’ve been doing it ourselves for ages. He blinks and we’re all like “Oh my God, did you even see that!” As if he’s just invented the movement or completely revolutionized it somehow. And he has, for himself, and we all feel that. Even though it’s just a blink.

I feel like that epitomizes life at this moment. Everything feels new, even though it’s the same old. Same city, same people mostly, same activities, and yet there’s something brand new about it all. I know it’ll wear off eventually, but it’s a nice feeling for the moment.

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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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