A little over two weeks ago, I left my cozy home in Colorado. The air was still sweet with summer, and the leaves were just beginning to brown around the edges. Crickets still played their symphony outside my window as I absorbed the last of the familiar. I reveled in the American food I scarfed down for dinner, and the vibrant crackle of the English language surrounding me. And then, I packed up my life and headed off into the complete unknown.
Now, I am settled in the dusty and lively town of Gaziantep, Turkey. For days, I battled with such immense homesickness I could hardly bear it. The air was too hot. The language too overwhelming. This apartment seemed as foreign as the land around me. But now, I'm coming to appreciate the unique beauty of this developing city. The woman in a hijab riding sidesaddle on a coughing motorbike. The wind-chime jangle of drying peppers and eggplant hanging from balconies. The call to prayer rolling through the city, twining between the apartment buildings and seeping into everyday life. The people here are sweet. The children love to giggle and stare at me. I'm a shiny new toy. The adults coo, pinch my cheeks, and are surprised when they realize I am not fat. At all. So they stuff me with food, even after many a protest. I'm not fat now, but I will be when I leave.
More often now, I find myself staring at the rangy street dogs that wander about. Breathe in the smell of the city. Car exhaust and cooking kebap. One moment, I feel at home. The next, so utterly foreign I can barely stand it. Without meaning to, I stand out like a sore thumb. Even I can spot an American from a mile away. Everything is either in Turkish or Arabic. English is spattered here and there. Cars angrily shove past each other, and give no heed to simple things like lanes or pedestrians. Syrian license plates are common. I recently saw a sign directing cars towards Aleppo, Syria. It's less than a two hour drive away.
Each day, I find something new to surprise me. The excited giggle of my host family after eating pop rocks, or the ridiculously loud call to prayer which serves as a mildly unwanted wake up call at 5:30 in the morning. There's a strange beauty here. Everything is covered with a fine layer of red dust. Crackling paint and peeling stucko is commonplace. To my Americanized eyes, it seemed grungy and terrifying at first. Far too loud and overwhelming. But now I'm beggining to see with new eyes. See the things that are unseen in America. Like the woman in a burqa casually reading from an iPad. Here ancient history meets the quickly growing modernity of the world. If I've learned one thing so far, it's that no matter where you are, people are essentially the same. The sky is the same. The oxygen we breathe is still the same. Really, our location is the only thing that is different.
No song today. I wrote this all on my iPhone (which now serves as an iPod) and don't have very good Internet.