When we decided to move to Istanbul, we worked hard over several months with the hopes of saving up between $15,000 to $20,000 so that we would have cushion in case it was difficult to get work or if any surprise costs arose such as new types of permits, visas, deposits or doctor visits. Although we worked hard, in the end we were only able to save about $8000 and after plane tickets and an airbnb apartment in a good neighborhood for our first 20 days we were already down to much less, but it wasn’t frightening. More than anything it pushed us to get out of our jetlag/nocturnal life quicker and get on top of finding work, finding our own place and grounding ourselves here in this new country for us. Have there been moments when we wondered “how is this going to work”?, yes. For sure. Have there been feelings of desperation? Certainly. But instead of getting overwhelmed by being less prepared than we hoped, we pushed harder for what we needed. The truth is, for Americans, jobs are practically spoon-fed to you here. To be a “native” American English speaker is admired and desired, and so easily acquired.
Because I am new to the schools I’m eager to impress my employers and teaching is somewhat new to me, so it’s a learning experience in itself… although I think that remains true for all teachers, no matter how long they have been doing it. Structuring classes, choosing exercises, re-learning grammar rules, fulfilling requirements and remaining captivating is my new work world. I know that over time it will improve, but for now I’m sticking close to the book and trying to soak up as much as possible from my classes to be better prepared for future classes! Sometimes it makes me miss being a student… maybe one day I’ll go back to school. I hope so. I should be taking some Turkish language classes since we have decided to move here. Unfortunately, it’s not the most beautiful language, and isn’t a very intriguing one to learn. I would much rather reacquaint myself with Persian or Arabic or even French which I am more attracted to.
What does make me want to learn Turkish is my inability to communicate with everyone around me, I feel really foolish sometimes… like the other morning after we had a party at our house, someone rang our doorbell and I opened it to find a woman holding a mop and there was water all over the stairs and on the landing in front of our door. She started talking to me in Turkish and all I had to work with was her expression which, to me, seemed stressed and worried. That plus all the water and all I could assume was that there was a flood upstairs and she was telling me something about it. I woke up our friend who had slept over after the party and asked him to translate. The actuality was that she cleans the entry and stairs of our apartment building twice a month and we pay her 20 Lira, which she was asking me to pay her. I felt like such an idiot. So, learning Turkish is a PRIORITY, to save face if nothing else!
Another interesting thing I have been feeling and thinking about since we moved here is my lack or loss of the consumer mindset. I think that I, like many Americans, receive comfort in the act of shopping.
You have extra money!
You keep up with the latest fashions!
You can get just what you want right when you want it!
You have multiple bottles of perfume for different occasions or emotional states!
I have no extra money, I wear essentially the same thing every day and it’s functional instead of fashionable, I don’t need anything else and I use lotion or body oil with scent but don’t enjoy using perfume because I personally feel accosted or attacked by the smell of others’ perfumes at times and would not want to cause that for other people. I find it rude, sometimes, how much perfume someone will put on themselves. Of course there are times that I catch the scent of someone and think that they smell incredible! But, more often than not, I feel like I can taste the “designer perfume” and get mad about it.
Anyway, back to my point. I am not currently someone who just shops aside from groceries or necessary household needs like dish soap and laundry detergent. When we first got our apartment we spent far too much money at this one store about 10 minutes away that is like an underground IKEA, but way better and much more colorful. That was the last time I felt like I was shopping and that’s only because I was getting more than I needed.
So, I am no longer a consumer and it really changes things! It’s quite liberating actually. It isn’t that I don’t see things that I’d like to wear or own. Believe me, Istanbul is FULL of things I want: antiques, cute jeans, gorgeous rugs, vintage Anatolian vests and Afghan coats… I want it all, but I don’t even consider buying anything when I see it. I’ve replaced “considering purchasing” an item with photographing it. I am treating all these things with the respect of documentation. Part of me thinks, “maybe one day…” but I never get attached. I think there’s only one thing that my old consumer brain clings onto and that’s treats. I buy cookies and nutella and ice cream and pastries on the regular. I get excited about it like someone else might get excited about a new outfit or new shoes. I go leave the house thinking, “Which Turkish treat will become mine on this outing!?”
There is another aspect of my relationship with money which has to do with being part of a family unit. What is “mine” is no longer just mine. As a partner and parent I can’t be frivolous and spontaneous with money. Simply put: it isn’t an option. I still think about things to purchase but because there is no option to buy it right now I think about it in more detail. Instead of considering things I see right in front of me, I think about what would be really, truly perfect to make our home and life more beautiful. For instance, today I saw Szabina admiring the windows of a restaurant that had been decorated with large butterfly and flower stickers. I started thinking about her play area and what would make it feel more beautiful and personalized. Perhaps a low table for her to sit at while she draws. Maybe a few fairy posters or a small bookshelf. Or when I was walking through the mall in the Trump Towers today there were festive lights hung all over the building, inside and outside. It made me think about finding some soft lights to hang in the living room to create a magical feeling and an alternative to bright or completely dark.
All of it makes me think about the homes that have made me feel in awe. One of those homes belongs to our family friends Beth Ann and John. This really applies to to their whole property but most of all their main house. When you walk in it’s like you’ve been invited into their soul. Nothing is generic; everything is personal. Everything has a story and is perfectly placed. Their house emotionally embraces anyone who enters it with the comforting thought that is is possible to create an environment that is truly yours. Just like how animals have environments to suit their needs, we can do that to. While it may be a long time before we get to create ours from the ground up, we can do our best in the places we rent. So now, when I consider something for our home, I remember the feeling of entering their home, their environment, and literally knowing them better.
I want my home to feel like our family: full of laughter, smiles and play while living with a constant and continuously growing respect for our arts and passions.