Friday, January 2, 2015

Embarrassment: Why I'm Still a Beginner at Turkish


There is no excuse.  I am embarrassed and quite ashamed of myself the more I think about it. 

My Turkish ability is still very limited, and there is no excuse for it except for laziness and indecisiveness.  I am very embarrassed to say that I have studied Turkish in an erratic manner since 2003 when I first came to this country as a wide-eyed tourist.  It's 2015 and I'm still at the beginner level.  


Also I never developed a good strategy to learn the language. I relied too much on one or two books.  But then again the resources to learn Turkish were rather limited in my town. The first book I used was published in the early 60s with the result that some of the vocabulary was out of date. I also did not avail myself of the Internet where there are some rather good resources.  


So here I am, but somehow me and the Turks understand each other even in situations where their English is nil and mine is almost nil.  I know a lot of words, but my aptitude at composing sentences is not good, but now that I plan to try to live in Turkey permanently I know I must place myself in a mindset in which it is imperative that I learn the language.  I do understand how Turkish works and the logic behind it.  I realize that I'm going to need more than the Teach Yourself Series which is relatively good. Much more is required.  Two weeks ago I bought a grammar and dialogue book from D&R bookstore inside the mall up the street from here.  Bookstores went into extinction at the mall in my town some years ago.  Once there was one on both floors and they were my chief reason to hang out at the mall. Amazon more than likely hasten their demise.  It's a good feeling to live very near to a bookstore here which does carry a few books in English and some Turkish language resources.


I also came to realize that I did not spend enough time studying daily.  When I got myself in my last study routine previous to coming back to Turkey I only applied myself to the language about 30 to 45 minutes a day.  I believed that more time would overload my brain and that I would forget everything.  Maybe just studying in snippets daily would help, but I was probably wrong.  Anyway, forgetting is a natural part of language learning. Words will eventually stick over time.  Some are easier to remember than others.  


Also mentally  little demons of doubts encroached telling me, "You just might be a little too old to learn a language.  You probably will be about 60 before you grasp Turkish."  I would try not to think such negative thoughts because I knew they were nonsense. I had read that learning a new language is good for the brain at any age. Also in the last two years starting at age 51 I began to have a few problems with my memory.  It seems to be leveling out now, and I appear to be returning to my old self with a very sharp ability to recall and retain things.  But hitting my 50s brought in an entire landfill of self doubt.  I always had self esteem issues, but it never affected my love and desire to learn.  I have such admiration for people who are bi- or multi-lingual. America discourages people from learning languages. Having the capability to speak another language is almost perceived by some as un-American, treasonous. This is catastrophic ignorance which is really going to hurt and is already hurting Americans in international forums.  I feel one of several signs of an educated and cultured person is the ability to speak more than one language.  


So I have begun to use several books and the internet, and I feel I will eventually be able to communicate well enough in Turkish.  I need persistance which is an important tactic in learning any language.  You will remain at one level if there is fear and a lack of persistance.  


Now my task is to try to stay on track in my studies.  One advantage I have is that I am not afraid to make mistakes.  

Snow in Eskişehir and My Experiences


Happy New Year!  Eskişehir municipality sent up about five minutes of fireworks at midnight New Years. I could see them out of my living room window. I was disappointed they didn't last longer.  By the time I had my camera ready, the color and explosions were over. 

In five days I will have been teaching and living in Eskişehir, Turkey for three months Over the last several months I've had mixed feelings: positive, negative, excitement, fear, anxiety, loneliness.  Sometimes the loneliness is excruciating.  It's not that the Turks are anti-social like so many in the US are, but there is a barrier between me and them, language. Here my race is not a barrier the way it is in the states.  Turks do not seem to expect the worse of me or prejudge me the way some people do back home because of the color of my skin. Some are just delighted to see a black person and would like to get to know me. 

It began to snow here four days ago. The snow started to come down on Tuesday morning. I woke up to it, the flakes quietly falling to the ground most of the day.  I was very very worried about having to go outside and falling. On Tuesdays I don't have a regular class in the evenings, but I do have a private student and conversation club which totals three hours of work.  Tuesday afternoon I discovered that my private student had sent an e-mail overnight saying that he wouldn't be coming to meet me at school.  His car had broke down again and the weather was just too bad he wrote.  I called my boss and told her this, expecting that no one would probably show up for conversation club.  She told me to stay at home, and if anyone came she would phone me.  About an hour before conversation club was scheduled, she phoned me and said one student had already arrived.  I told her OK I was coming, but I would be slow.  

It snows on average every five or six years where I live in northeast Georgia.  However, things have changed a bit in the last few years.  About two or three years ago it showed at Christmas and again the following January.  Even in my parents' lifetimes they'd never experienced snow twice in a short time span.  Here in Eskişehir it's cold and snow is very common.  In fact, some hope for snow because I was told if it doesn't s snow the winter will be painfully cold.  The school lost two American teachers last year because they said Eskişehir's cold weather was too much for them, I hear.  I also hear that Erzurum is the coldest place in Turkey, and I might have ended up there.  A language school in Erzurum wrote to me requesting an interview just one day after I was hired by this school.  I am glad I didn't go to Erzurum.  I might not have survived the low temperatures.  I am surviving here, and I am both surprised and proud of myself.

Tuesday evening when I was told I would have to come to school for my one hour conversation club I was very worried.  Several scenes flashed through my head.  What if I fell?  What I fell and broke my hip or hurt my knees?  I have knee problems, so I was afraid I might be too stiff to walk.  What if my YakTrax (snow grips that I attach to my boots) wouldn't stay on?  My boss' description of YakTrax are very clever.  When I showed them to her, she smiled and said "They are snow tires for the shoes."  All of my anxiety turned out for nought.  Yes, the snow had piled up outside reaching somewhere between my ankles and my knees I discovered when I went outside on my way to school.  One of my neighbors, a young guy was downstairs at the front door waiting for someone, I know because a company car pulled up.  He held the door for me and I went out moving very slow and unsure.  He said something to me which I imagined might have been "Be careful." I took my first steps in all that deep snow, the deepest I'd seen in person in my entire life.  The YakTrax worked perfectly in the narrow path of packed snow that people had made running through the apartment's courtyard out to the street.  Once I got out on the street and walked further along I felt more confident that I wouldn't topple over.  I arrived at the school without any broken bones, and it was the same on the return home.  I was a little afraid of some of the snow that was banked up, but as for slipping on any snow or ice I felt less and less uneasy.  I still took my time and was careful though. I also discovered that my knee problems had disappeared in the snowy air.

On New Years Eve I ventured out again to go to the nearby mall to purchase minutes and messaging for my cellphone (here it's called a mobile phone), buy a newly discovered olive oil soap I just love, and some warmer gloves.  I picked my way along my street in the packed snow and ice.  As I was gingerly nearing the curb leading off my street a young man came up beside me and took my arm. I was not afraid because I realize he saw that I was going so slow as if I was afraid I might fall.  He said something in Turkish and helped me up on to the curb.  I thanked him twice in Turkish and he went on his way.  Nearly always when I go out someone will help me even if I do not ask.  Turks like to help and I've heard this is a characteristic of many people who live in this part of the world whether in Asia, Africa, or parts of Eastern Europe.  I've said on here before that I do not follow femininist idealogy.  I understand that men and women are different and that we compliment each other.  It's not about superiority or inferiority.  So I didn't feel insulted or weak because that guy helped me, in fact I felt honored.  I don't speak for other women, but I happen to appreciate such gallantry.  

When I go into stores and shops, often some of the Turks brighten up with excitement. There are black people around here (Africans) but they are scattered around and I only see some on occasion.  At the pharmacy that I go to near my apartment, an older man works there, perhaps he's the owner.  He also speaks some English.  There are several women who work there too, an older woman who is perhaps his wife, a middle aged woman, and a young woman.  The older man and woman are always extra excited when I come in.  I use a mix of English and Turkish there, and the older man does the same.  Today when I picked my way to the pharmacy they all welcomed me and he told me to sit down and relax before I made my purchase.  Often I think about Walmart and its' greeters back home, most them stand at the store entrance not greeting any of the customers or only the ones they probably know.  Some of them will not greet you if you are black.  This has happened to me a few times.  The people coming behind me who were white, they would greet.  Both the white and black greeters have done this, but I expect this kind of behavior in the US. Here when I enter 98% of the stores I will be told "Hoşgeldiniz"  which is "Welcome" in Turkish and I always answer back with "Hoşbulduk" which is "Glad to be here" or "I'm honored."  There are a number stock phrases the Turks use to show courtesy, concern, or appreciation.  To me this is showing culture. 

Also today on my way to the pharmacy and the market, a middle aged man took my hand and helped me up onto the sidewalk as I was crossing the street through some water and ice.  I am gradually becoming more comfortable out now.  The first time I came to work in Turkey in 2004 a lot of Turks would stare right through me.  I mean almost not blink an eye and just stare.  Some would be in cars, look up and see me on the bus and start smiling and waving.  I have been sitting at the busstop and some on a passing bus would look down and start waving.  I was younger than and just so happy to be in a place where people were not intimidated by my skin color. I felt like a celebrity, but now that time has passed and I'm older I prefer just to be a bit anonymous in the crowd.  

The weather forecast says it will snow off and on over the next week.  Today it has not snowed and the sky seemed as if it would reveal the sun.  Yesterday it snowed a great deal during the afternoon.  The air here feels so pure and healthy the way it does after a snow. I saw a disturbing sight when I was walking along this afternoon on my way to the pharmacy and the market.  A stray cat was lying dead on the sidewalk; I suppose a victim of the cold. Temporary I felt very sad (I like cats), but I walked on by and got my mind back to making sure I kept my footing in the snow and ice.  Today at the pharmacy they marvelled at my YakTrax.  I am beginning to understand Turkish more even though I cannot always respond. The older woman was saying they are like snow tires.  I responded in Turkish telling her yes they are snow shoes.

It is both difficult and wonderful here.  There is such a thing as good stress. And this is it I sometimes believe.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Once Again In Turkey

Two months ago my life was totally different.  I existed in a different world.  Now I am learning to exist again in this new world where I have been several times before.  

I am back in Turkey again.  Close to three months ago I was offered a job by a language school in the city of Eskişehir  on the Anatolian (Asian) side of Turkey.  Eskişehir lies east of Istanbul sort of between that city and the capital city Ankara.  Until I came two months ago, I had never been to this city before.

In early October I took the four hour bus ride to here the next day after arriving in Istanbul, and I was the only foreigner and black person on the bus. I was strangely comfortable and very happy to just be away from America.  I absolutely find the country hideous now, and it's unlivable to me. My homesickness for there only concerns my family, especially my mother, and some minor conveniences such as having a car to put a lot of groceries in the trunk.  I also miss my books.  In Turkey I am too afraid to drive, so outside of having a vehicle to convey my groceries home, I also do not miss having a car with me.  

In August I started to apply to Turkish universities for English instructor positions. Here my masters degree will generally be adequate since I am a native speaker of English.  I knew it was very late in the year, but I send my CV to several schools anyway.  Then I learned from one of my Turkish friends on Twitter that because I'm not a Turkish citizen I would not be considered for a position at a government run Turkish institution of higher learning.  My best hope would be with private universities which Turkey has many.  By that time I had sent off my CV to several state schools, but then I took the detour and started to send them off to some of Turkey's private universities.  Spring would have been the best time to apply, but for the last few years I've been indecisive about going back to Turkey.  I feared international conflict, and Turkey has had its' share of unrest.  I finally made up my mind in the summer because my life was at a terrible stagnant point.  I had thought that maybe I would take the risk and return to teaching in the public schools back home, but the process of getting fully back in the system is nonsensical and highly unfair. The new curriculum implemented by the state and just the general quality of students in America rendered the situation highly undesirable for me.  I also wanted to go to a place where some tradition, history, and respect for teachers were still left.  Being a black person America was suffocating.  I had been told by others to get out, and I also wanted very much to flee and maybe find a sense of purpose somewhere.

I did hear from one of Turkey's better universities, Bilkent University in Ankara. I was told that my application would be kept on file and considered for the school year of 2015.  The woman who received my application materials also told me to feel free to contact her anytime.  This was in late August just before schools and universities would restart in Turkey.  I had worked for three other language schools and was very wary about dealing with anymore of them.  My negative experience had always been housing. After living in a hotel in the Beyoglu district of the Istanbul the first time I worked in the country and having to deal with a psychopathic female roommate in Izmit, I was not optimistic my try this time would be any better.  I loved working with Turkish students, and being a black person in Turkey has its' pluses at times, but Turkish language schools do not have a good reputation in some ESL forums, and my experience with the roof over my head had been negative, until this time.  

I have been in Eskişehir the city of one of Turkey's greatest poets Yunus Emre and Turkish philosopher and humorist Nasreddin Hoca for two months.  Oxford House College is my employer.  The owners are a husband and wife who are both university professors, two people I have a lot of respect for and like a lot. The manager is the niece of the owner (the husband). I like her very much as well. The school is in its' second year and trying to attract more students.  I've been encouraged to give ideas to help in attracting students.  The school is a floor in an upscale office building near the center of the city.  The books are good and the equipment (technology) for the classrooms is modern. I live in a furnished apartment just walking distance from the school. The business is family run, so the atmosphere is like a family.  One of my weekend students said last week when the class did an activity about the best and worst aspects of the city that Oxford House was where the friendliest people in the city are.  But this is Turkey and whereever I go I usually meet Turks who are friendly, courteous, curious, and helpful.  Most Turkish people cannot speak English or know very little, but even the ones who don't will try to communicate.  They want to know what nation you are from.  I never hear anyone call me black here, the Turkish word is "siyah."  I just hear "foreign" (yabancı).  

Getting acclimated to Turkey again has been difficult this time.  I am older now and going through what can be a difficult period for a woman. This year I really was struck hard by the affects of perimenopause.  At times my emotions are like a seesaw, but I try to fight off the doldrums, and I have support both here and back home.  

Before I came to Turkey this time around I heard from schools in Bursa, Erzurum, Konya, all in Turkey, and I also heard from schools in China.  I applied directly to schools, and did not come here under the auspices of any program. I also advertised myself once again on ESL Teachers Board and Dave's ESL Cafe as I've done in the past.  How I connected with my current employer through an advertisement was that posted on ESL Teachers Board saying that they were seeking a native English speaker to teach classes and for anyone who was interested to send an e-mail for information.  I did so in late July or early August, and didn't hear anything until about a month later.  I had almost forgotten that I had answered the advertisement e-mail by that time.  

In less than a month and a half of job of searching I had heard from a few language schools and one university.  There are educated people in the US who have searched for jobs for years and cannot find anything. In fact the news is that many people have given up completely on finding work in the US and that the government tries to hide how bad things really are by not including the ones who ceased looking by not mentioning their numbers in unemployment statistics.  Many people are also so frustrated by the climate on many jobs in the states that they don't want to work.  When my uncle died just before I came to Turkey I was talking to one of my cousins.  She hadn't worked in two years and is college educated. Before her father (my uncle) died of cancer, she had helped her mother to take care of him. My cousin is about 56 years old, and she is not old or in poor health from what I can see, but she told me she doesn't want to work.  She hinted that since she has no family and obligations that she doesn't feel an urge to work. I felt sad for her. She isn't a very old person. Surely there is something she would like to do besides watching TV everyday or being on a computer.  On American jobs there is often the feeling of isolation and competition.  Some people reject this climate, and don't want to work.  Yes, plenty of people are lazy, but some just don't care for the atmosphere on a lot of American jobs. On all the Turkish jobs where I've worked I never noticed this coldness and competition to the extent I've it seen in the US.  The isolation, backstabbing, and just general iciness will wear people down.  Most Americans never grow out of being in very tight cliques that are suspicious or hostile to new comers.  But that is the way it is back home, and why the overall society has drifted so far into abnormality.  Turkey like everywhere has shortcomings, but here humanity still lives unlike in the US where only a tiny minority of people are trying to retain what is sane and good.  

I will end here.  There is so much to tell, and I hope to become more active on this blog now that I have a lot to write about and am eager to share my thoughts and experiences.  Certainly I am in a place where there are little wonders daily, and those little wonders restore my faith in humanity. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

You Are in My Bloodstream

*Sorry again for the white highlights in this post.

How does it happen that someone can get inside another person's bloodstream?   Can it still happen in these times of selfishness and alienation?  Is it still possible to love someone intensely and they will love you back allowing you to climb over and jump into their bloodstream?  

Lately I have been thinking a lot of the beautiful words from the Bible book of Ruth in which Ruth tells her mother-in-law Naomi:

"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."

These words came about after the death of Ruth's husband.  Naomi tells her to turn and go back to her own country and remarry over there.  Today some will say this is strange for a woman to tell another woman unless perhaps there are some homosexual tendencies, all in the ignorance of only being able to see life beyond how it is today especially in the West with its' empty relationships and lack of values.  In my parents' generation there were often life time friendships and marriages.  People were loyal. People did not allow their egos, their personal ideologies to rule and ruin everything.   I am sure it was certainly like that in Ruth's era.  

Today in the country where I live I am the majority, a single person alone.  It got this way because fewer and fewer people would not allow themselves to think and do more like Ruth. Ruth swallowed her pride and loved her mother-in-law I believe in a pure and respectful way, and because she did, followed Naomi to her homeland, and even worked to support herself and Naomi in Boaz's field, and because of this she found a good husband in Boaz. Naomi was in Ruth's bloodstream and it all led to a better future for her.  She did not have too much pride and reject her mother-in-law's advice when she told her to go where Boaz was sleeping, lie at his feet, and then plead her case as a poor widow.  Boaz had heard of Ruth's loyalty and had seen her working in his fields, so he married her after she came to him.  It didn't all end with Ruth's and Boaz's marriage and in their lifetime either. Centuries later Jesus/Issa was born from their lineage.  We have to find the good and lasting things somehow in this life.  We must find the right person's bloodstream to climb into, and if it is the right one he or she will also climb into our bloodstream.  It will not end since true love and loyalty never dies. 

I love Sufi poetry.  The Sufi poets talk almost always about love, a spiritual love that returns back up to Allah.  Allah is the Arabic name for God, and even Middle Eastern Christians call Him Allah, so I have started thinking more often of HIm as Allah.  There is nothing wrong with the name.  But as for love in Sufi poetry, I believe it can also apply to the human, men and women, a higher and joyful love that is rare to come by but is possible to come by. Rumi wrote, 'Dance in your blood.'   Abu Said Abil Khair wrote, 'Love came flowed like blood beneath the skin, through veins emptied me of myself filled me with the Beloved.'  This is divine love and because in this culture and society we rarely find any balance and have any divine love we cannot connect with people the right way.  People have sex first, but they never connect on a psychological and spiritual level.  We cannot find a lasting love with another person because of this.  Love today is attached too much to the material and the self.  No one wants to become transparent and selfless because they have been taught that to become so you are being weak, you are giving someone else power over you, it is far too dangerous to trust anyone. So we end up alone.  

 All this matter about love and being inside someone's bloodstream and they in return, came into my mind this morning after I fell asleep briefly following an asthma attack.  I have been an asthmatic for several years now.  The only time it faded away was when I lived in Turkey, which seemed to have a climate conducive to eradicating it.  But this summer it seems to be fading away even here.  My asthma is also tied to my emotions.  I can get upset or fearful and then an attack will come. Autumn has arrived in the air this week especially at night and in the mornings.  I slept with my window open over night to get some fresh air.  This morning I felt stressed and sad, and I had an attack, so I took my inhaler, prayed, and fell asleep. For some years I had stopped having dreams, but this year I have started to dream again. Often they are nondescript which I cannot remember, but I recalled my dream this morning.  I had lost something I loved. I will not say what.  I was panicking and suffocating in my dream.  It seemed so real, and then I woke up.  I felt so much happiness and relief that the dream was not true.  After I had fully awaken the idea of the bloodstream and love came to mind. 

I have allowed myself to love in this life and be really hurt.  I have witnessed people who do not know how to love and who take their spouses for granted. They are attached while I remained alone too prideful to admit I was lonely.  In the past I allowed someone to get into my bloodstream, but I was not in his, I believe.  Perhaps if I had been more patient and not left he might have matured and climbed into mine into my bloodstream.  He was not an American or a Westerner and was from a culture where many people are not afraid to be close and communicate.  I don't know though.  I blame myself for so much at this point in my life, but I also blame the society I was born into that was ready to place the cuffs on the day I was born.  

Now I do not know if it is a waste of time to hope that someone will ever see me as worthy enough to climb into my bloodstream.  I feel that I can make the climb, but will I be wasting my time and be devastated again? I tend to give so much, put my heart into things. 

I've gotten used to devastation and unfairness.  It does hurt to feel that my life has been cursed because I was born in the wrong place and time.  I just smile and somehow try to live the rest of what's left of my life.  I really hope the river will flow to the sea of love if there is any possibility left in this world.  You are in my bloodstream.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Last of the Mohicans

This post is not about Uncas or Chingachgook or Hawkeye in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, it concerns my uncle's funeral last week and really when it all boils down to it, my father.  

Seems there has been a lot of funerals in my family for the last nine years.  The older generation is dying out, my parent's siblings and one of my grandmothers.  All my grandparents are gone now, may they rest in peace.  Of my uncles and aunts who are left, my father is the last of his brothers and he has only two sisters left; my  mother has one younger brother left and two sisters; mom is the eldest.  In the last nine years I attended some of the funerals and others I could not.  Some relatives died near here and others far away.  My father has lost three brothers and one sister in the last two years.  His eldest brother who was 90 died in January, and week before last another of his brothers died after battling prostate cancer for many years.  He had been scheduled to receive rigorous chemotherapy at Emory in Atlanta because nothing else could be done for him in the hospitals here.  One of my aunts called one evening week before last to tell my father that my uncle was passing way, "waiting on God"  to use her exact words.  He had stopped speaking or doing anything.  We missed her call until later that night at about 1 AM.  I happened to spot the light blinking on the phone for the voice mail and got her message. The next day my uncle died at his home.  

My father did not have a good relationship with his family. Jealousy and malicious gossip destroyed any sense of love.  Dad never tried hard enough to make peace with most of his family.  Being essentially a person who will never admit that he is wrong until it is far far too late, his pride did not allow him to go to some of them and say that he was sometimes wrong as well.  He so much wanted praise from his family for his successes and often did not receive it, even from his own father.  

My father and his family were extremely poor growing up like most black people in the South and all over America.  His mother had fourteen children to survive out of eighteen pregnancies.  My father had a twin that died right after birth.  Under such circumstances and with a father who was cold and could become violent when he drank, many people would have become discouraged and beaten down early in life, but my father did not.  He was highly ambitious.  Many of the black people in his generation were like that unlike today. Poverty and oppression could be smelled in every aspect of their lives, but they were determined, and some did go to college and became successful.  

Dad had to give up his dream of going to Morehouse College and studying to become a physician, but he become a business man instead, first starting an upholstery business in our home and having a job during the day.  He took a correspondence course training himself to be an upholsterer.  After putting up a sign in our front yard, he began to get customers.  He did all of his work in our car garage until he decided it was time to take the plunge, quit his job, and open his business in town.  He always expected his family to praise and be proud of him, but only two brothers and one sister ever really did to his liking.  They had all come out of such poverty that he expected them to be happy for him, but dad does not understand human nature very well and still does not.  He still believes that reality ought to be the way he wants it to be.  That is not real life.  In the past I also felt that if I was good, decent, and kind, happiness and what I wanted would come into my life.  The things I've wanted the most have not, and for many years I gave up and felt that if I could not have what I wanted, there was no need to try very hard.  I am happy that I have finally learned to pretty much accept life as it is.  But for my dad, being 75 and still not willing to accept reality, I never expect any change.  

These days my father has built a shrine on his desk to all of his dead immediate family members.  He has framed photos of them lined up along with the funeral programs of two of his brothers.  Every night at about the same time he  goes to his desk and sits there silently gazing at all of them.  Then he drops his head and stares at the floor a long time.  I really feel sorry for him because he must have a great deal of guilt that he did not get along with most of them.   My mother says that he can deal with them better now that they're mostly all gone.  I don't know about that.  I believe he is experiencing extreme regret that he will have to live with for the rest of his life.  He did not even bother to go to most of their funerals including my grandfather's.  He cannot deal with the idea of death and getting old.  Also at the time he had so much rage against most of them including his own dad.  

Last week mom and I went to my uncles' funeral.  We try to go to the ones we can because we know dad will not.  In the last two years before his eldest brother who lived in Detroit died, they often called each other.  Dad had plenty of respect for his oldest brother because he often encouraged my father and said nice things to him.  This uncle of mine used to come down here on the bus from Detroit and stay with us for several days when I was a little girl. My father respects anyone who is old because he believes that with age comes wisdom. Well, sometimes, and it should, but last week a certain famous old woman died here in America who was an indicator that wisdom does not not always arrive with age. Wisdom is a gift from God, so there are some young people who are old souls who are actually quite wise.  Remember King Solomon in the Bible who asked for and acquired his wisdom through prayer to God?  I've met some older people who aren't very wise because they won't allow themselves to be.  They cling to the past and dream of being young because American society honors youth and ignores or scorns the aged.  

So my uncle was buried last week.  I saw relatives I know and did not know.  One of my social studies teachers from middle school was there and I went up to him and asked if he remembered me.  He told me he remembered my face and that he often recalled his former students faces, but not their names.  It turns out that he and my uncle had been childhood friends and had maintained their friendship throughout their lives. He is a little older than my uncle who was 80.  I think it is very difficult for today's people to hold on to friendships for so long.  Mobility and selfishness often get in the way.  The old people got so much right that we now get so wrong. 

One of dad's old childhood friends called this week.  He hadn't heard about my uncle's death until after the funeral, so he called to express his condolences and to chat a bit.  My father told him that he was "The Last of the Mohicans" because all of his brothers are now deceased.  He tried to attach a little laugh to it, but I am sure he is hurting.  I doubt he will ever admit to his hurt, but when I see him go and sit every night before the shrine he has made of his family I know it must be a terrible feeling to never have the chance again to reconcile with some of those he was biologically the closest to.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Iftar and Hugs

*Please excuse the white highlighting in this post.  I can't remove it.  I think there is a possible glitch in Blogger today. 

Iftar means to break fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  The iftar meal comes in the evening after an entire day of fasting. I am a Christian who gets invited to iftars, and it makes me feel special and a part of something bigger than myself, a community.  I'm a Christian who feels much closer to Muslims than I do to most American Christians.  I have gone to a number of iftars both here at home and in Turkey.  Last year I went to two; one was at a friends' home and the other at the city's mosque.  This year because so many of the Turkish people I know are gone and others I never developed a friendship with because they did not move regularly in the circle I was in, I didn't expect to be invited anywhere. My Turkish friend Ebru never gives up on me.  

Even though we have disagreements, Ebru will always call when I least expect it.  She has one more year here to work on her doctorate in math education and then she will go back to Turkey. In the past she has encouraged me to live in Turkey in what she says is her favorite town, Balıkesir.  She lives in Istanbul, but for some reason she says she just adores Balıkesir and dreams of living there. It so happens that one of her new roommates is from that city.  The other is from Aydın.

So yesterday the telephone rang not long after me and mom had come home from shopping. The shopping never ends it seems. The chief activity of people in this place is shopping.  I believe some of the shabbily dressed couples I see at Walmart even go out on dates down there. Makes sense because it would mesh very well with America's love for tackiness and buying things.  Well, the phone rang and automatically I thought it was the usual annoying recordings or an opinion survey.  The caller ID said private number, so I refused to answer. About an hour later the phone rang and it was private number again.  I thought what the devil and decided to pick up the phone and put this possible pesky telemarketer in his or her place for calling twice in one day.  When I answered it was Ebru, and she gave me an impromptu invitation to come over to break the fast with her and her two roommates.  She said she knew the invitation was at the last minute but she hoped I would agree to come.  I immediately said yes.  I was feeling very dejected, thrown away, and lonely.  My only concern was that I might have a bit of a hard time finding her new apartment.  She tried to give me directions while I was on Google Maps.  Once I could make sense of things, I felt slightly confident that I could locate her home fairly easily because when I left it would still be daylight.  

I found Ebru's house after making one mistake, driving on pass the first road that ultimately leads to the complex where her townhouse is located.  Afraid that I might miss the turn into the complex, she came walking out to the road to meet me.  

I had an enjoyable evening just us four ladies.  I was the eldest, and Ebru's roommates are young. They are presently taking English courses to improve their language skills.  They can speak some English and told me that they could understand me well.  Their need is to become more confident in speaking.  One of them, Hacer (hope I spelled it right)  made to hug and kiss me, but then withdrew shyly, apologetically saying she was so used to hugging and kissing someone because of her culture.  I told her it was okay, and that I always do the Turkish greeting since I've been around Turks for years.  I went up to her and we embraced. I told mom about this today, and she said that black people once hugged each other on greeting, but the more we integrated into white culture, we lost our warmth.  

Ebru's roommates are not letting go of their Turkish accouterments.  They've brought various utensils from Turkey: large tulip shaped tea glasses, the tiny cups for Turkish coffee, and the small pot to make the coffee in called a cezve.  Since iftar started at 8:45 last night we finished our meal and dessert late.  I was offered Turkish coffee, but I regretfully refused because I was afraid the caffeine might keep me awake.  I love Turkish coffee.  

Before I left their home last night I asked if Hacer's name is the same as the name of the prophet Ibrahim's wife. In the Bible Ibrahim is God's friend Abraham.  I was told yes, it is the same.  Then I told them the English name Hagar.  I always love it when there's a piece of history to be found in unexpected places.  Also at their door hung a small wall hanging with quotes from the poet Rumi or as the Turks call him, Mevlana.  The hanging had a picture of the poet and a whirling dervish weaved into it.  The blue and white amulet for the evil eye, the nazar boncuğu,  was attached hanging below.  I was enchanted because I love Rumi's poetry.  I could recognize some words in Turkish, but I could not comprehend a lot of them. Without being asked, Ebru translated them all into English.  

11 PM came too fast for me.  I wanted to stay longer, but I decided to leave since I was concerned I might lose my way back home due to the fact that my friend's apartment complex is far out in the woods.  She says they often see deer and armadillos out there.  Yesterday morning two deer even appeared in my neighborhood.  Mom saw them in the field across the road.  They made as if they would come on this side, but when one of our neighbors drove out they fled.  

Iftar and hugs lifted my spirits somewhat last night.  I hugged Ebru and both of her two roommates in the Turkish manner before I walked out the door last night.  Sometimes it's the little things that provide hope even for someone like me who is often afraid to hope too much.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How Marriage Went Out of Style in the Black Community

I am going to write things here that some are not going to like or want to accept, but it needs to be written.  I feel I am the person who should do it.  This is going to be painful for me to write.  I feel uncomfortable about being this open.  Nevertheless, it is time that I finally do it to lift a terrible weight off me that I have carried for years. 

For the last decade I've spent a great deal of time with Muslim Turks and have developed a love of Islamic culture and history. I converted to Islam last year then quickly became an apostate because I still have many questions.  I consider myself once again a Christian, but one who is in limbo. 

Unlike in Western culture marriage is highly encouraged and expected in Islam. Family is prized. One of the first questions many Muslims will ask me is if I'm married.  When I tell them, feeling shame, no, they ask why.  Why?  Because I am an educated black woman in America, and if you could only imagine... 

It's very easy to get married in Islamic culture if you want to.  Friends can introduce you to someone, you can easily meet your future spouse while attending an institution of higher learning in a Muslim country, you can seek a Muslim spouse online through Islamic dating sites, you can meet someone at work or randomly, and lastly parents and family can even offer a hand in finding someone for you.  A woman can ask a man to marry her in Islam.  I had a student who told me when her mother was a older orphaned teenager she asked her a widowed and middle aged man to marry her.  At first he hesitated because of the age difference, but eventually this girl's future parents wed.  Sometimes in countries like Iran and Nigeria mass weddings are held where couples and single or widowed women who are having a hard time finding a spouse are married. If you do not get married in a Muslim country, it is a personal choice, not because you cannot find anyone.   Some of the above do or used to apply in American culture, but if you are a black woman you have little to zero options of ever finding a husband who is marriage material or anyone who is willing to marry you.  I was born during the final years of the Baby Boom, and things have steadily collapsed since the time my parents were introduced to each other by my father's sister who knew my mother.  My parents have been married fifty-three years.  A rarity in America.

When I was in high school dating came into vogue.  I found it all atrocious.  The white girls would cuddle up in the hallways a month or two with one guy and then be with someone else a month or two later.  Because of lack of culture or real identity many of the blacks started to do the same thing.  We always take on the worst behavior of the whites and then intensify what they do to even more outrageous heights.  The white girls tried to keep their promiscuity secret, but there were many rumors in high school about who had gotten abortions.  By the 10th and 11th grades there was an avalanche of black girls who had gotten pregnant.  My best friend did, and I was shocked and heartbroken.  She was such a sweet person.   Later she told me she had been raped and how she hated her child's father.  My friend was not a loose girl, so I believed her. The father of her child was a guy I knew who had already graduated from high school.  I was totally turned off by the dating scene.  I saw it as a kind of savagery and a total disregard for other people's feelings.  I was not interested in dating when I was a teenager.  I was too idealistic and just too afraid.  

My freshman year I attended an all women's black college.  There were two other neighboring black colleges in vicinity, one of them all male.  In middle and high school I had seen how many of the black boys were crude and sexual in their behavior.  Many showed little respect for girls. They would use profanity and make open sexual advances. Even I was not left out as a target for their sexual harassment. They also developed a hierarchy of which black girls were most  valued.  If you had long hair, light skin, or was loud and lewd you were seen as the most appealing. One or all three would do.  Things did not change much in college.  Studious girls like me were ignored.   Over time I came to dislike most African American men except some of my uncles who were kind and caring.  I met a few black boys who were nice guys, but the majority were not. 

I transferred back home to my town's university where I met a few foreign men, some from Africa. I found them more learned and gentlemanly.  I wondered why so many black American male did not want to work hard, did not value education, be responsible, or treat women well.   Why couldn't they be more like the Africans and some of the other foreigners I met?  I had to go all the way to Turkey before I ever even received flowers from a man.  I almost married a Turkish man, but things fell apart.  I don't blame him fully.  I also blame myself. I still ask almost everyday what is wrong with black men in America?  Some might say forget African American men and suggest marrying a white American man.  I know my history and I'm aware what still goes on today and the attitudes, so no I could never marry one of them.  I'm a Pan-Africanist, and I have my pride.  

As time went on I realized that I might never get  married because there was really no one to marry.  I confess that after all these years I'm traumatized by what I witnessed in high school.  I do not have many happy memories of that time or ever dream of going back to that period like some people do. When many of my black and white schoolmates found me on Facebook and sent friend requests, I was not excited.  I never really liked most of them.  I was not interested in reconnecting with these people from the past.    

One of the many dirty secrets of the black community is that a lot of African American men are intimidated by a woman who is educated.  Read what this nerdy black woman went through on a date with a black male who could not accept that she was not typical: My Black is Not Your Black, and That's Okay.    You must follow an expected pattern, remain in a certain box if you are a black woman.  If you do not many African American men will find you unacceptable or too "white."  

The darker skinned some black men are the more self hatred they  appear to have. Even someone who is reddish brown like me is not light enough for them. Also this is an era when more and more black men openly say they hate black women in social media and show it by their actions.  A number of  black male entertainers and athletes promote this kind of thinking. They do not feel they are anyone unless they have a white woman on their arm.  Today even where I live in  the Deep South, the cradle of some of the worst white racism on the planet, the majority of the interracial couples you see are black men and white women.  

American society is isolated, selfish, and schizophrenic.  What black people have become is a reflection of the society.  America is not exceptional. It is a grotesque anomaly.  African Americans had a choice not to become degraded, but most of us have fallen into a terrible state where I don't see there can ever be a return.  I am very very ashamed to be American or an African American.  I started calling myself African three years ago.  I feel that I am basically a stateless person now.  

Because of so many twisted attitudes in the black community and society at large marriage went out of style in the black community.  The black community is now based on a hedonistic culture of consumerism, sex, violence, thuggery, and whoredom.  Blacks in America are destroyed.  Without black men and women marrying each other there is no family structure and future of there ever being a healthy black community.  Almost 80% of black children are born out wedlock.  Only about 35% of black women will ever marry.  This is not about the legacy of slavery, a lie and misinformation that a lot of young blacks and few so-called black intellectuals are screaming.  Most of the people in my parents' and grandparents' generation got married. This is about the sick attitudes, recklessness, and immorality that started to get out of hand in my generation.  Today we see the final culmination of sin and bastardization of an already bastardized society, a black president married to a black woman who never once has talked about the fact that most black women in the US will never get a husband. Instead he promotes homosexual marriage.  He looks the other way and refuses to promote our well-being.  

The next time a Muslim asks me why I am not married I'm going to tell him or her that my own people ruined my dream of a marriage and family. In their eyes I am too educated and too decent a woman with traditional values for anyone to consider marrying me in this culture. Really it is too late for me.  The world is upside down here.  It is not like your world.  Maintain your world if you know what's good for you.  In the American black community women decided that the best thing to do was to sleep around and have kids with anybody, and the men decided that the only "good" women were the ones with the worst character.  Females are to be  judged solely by they appearance or how good they are in bed.  

Any Muslim who is enamored with anything American, I urge you to flee.  My one comfort is that I did not have to raise children to suffer as I have in this country.  Let America go to hell. 

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