The other night I attempted to throw out my toilet paper in the trash can. Then I caught myself. “I have a real toilet, I don’t have to do this,” I proclaimed to no one in particular. And I disposed my toilet paper in a more sanitary fashion.
When I run into friends, family, and perfect strangers these days, the first thing I am asked is, “How does it feel to be back in the US?” I kind of hate that question. Everyone expects me to shout, “AWESOME!” Spoiler alert — it’s not all of the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being back Stateside. I’ve gotten to see a lot of my family and a handful of friends. I don’t live in a falling-down hovel masquerading as an apartment. I can have pork products whenever I want and I can buy peanut butter and Multi-Grain Cheerios by the boatload, if I so choose. The United States is my cultural home, and [most of the time] I’m happy to be here.
However, readjustment has been just that. I have found myself second-guessing or flat-out forgetting things that used to come naturally to me, such as where to dispose of the toilet paper. Reacclimating has posed its fair share of challenges…
One of the things that always drove me insane when I went to the pazar in Afyon was that the vendors wouldn’t let me pick out my own produce. So I’d inevitably come home with bruised, worm-eaten apples. it really drove me bonkers that I had to order a kilo of cucumbers rather than five individual cukes. I couldn’t wait to come back to the US, where I could have so much more power over my selections. But after 10 months of grumbling and griping, I was paralyzed at the farmer’s market last week when I could not remember if I was supposed to select my own peaches or not.
Over the course of the year, a lot of Turkish snuck into my vocabulary. So much so that R.O. and I spent our last few months speaking in a pidgin that was probably indecipherable to normal human beings. It’s been hard to purge the Turkish from my vocabulary, especially those turns of phrase that are more encompassing and just plain easier in Turkish. However, it is embarrassing when something slips into my conversations with non-Turkish speakers. People just give me a mildly confused look and we all push on as if nothing has happened.
On the other hand, I am heartbroken to see the ratio of Turkish to English in my everyday vernacular shrinking.
My stubborn attempts to hold onto these small slip-ups and cultural faux pas are symptomatic of the main reason why I’m not 100% thrilled to be on US soil 100% of the time. It pains me to realize that my experiences of the past year are now relegated to the shelf as memories. This year, I learned a lot about myself and the way I want to live my life, and I’m not ready to give up on that. I’m afraid that by removing myself from the context of Turkey, I’ll let go of and lose all of those little life lessons as I settle back into life Stateside.
In the spirit of holding onto the past year, I’ve decided to keep up this blog. I’ve got a backlog of delightful stories from the vault to publish, a whole slew of adventures in the Pacific Northwest to be had, and a bounty of simply weird thoughts to share. So I won’t be on a plane back to Turkey in two weeks (I will be crying about it), I’m going to try to keep Turkey with me.