The Growing Influence of Turkish Culture

The Growing Influence of Turkish Culture

I spent the first week of April in Costa Rica and, as I said in last week’s blog, I was surprised to see Turkish items like nazar boncugu bracelets for sale there. This week I’ll include a few more Turkish sightings in unexpected places. When the group of vacationers I was with headed to beach near Puerto Viejo, friend Corinne took a colorful cloth to use as a towel. I recognized it as…

Return to Costa Rica

Return to Costa Rica

  Latin America had occupied my mind ever since I was an adolescent. Spanish was the first foreign language I studied, beginning at age 11. My first job involved counseling Puerto Ricans. In my mid-twenties I applied for health education jobs overseas, hoping to land in South America. It didn’t happen; instead I was sent to Yemen. It wasn’t until my late thirties—and my husband’s transfer—that I got to live in a Spanish-speaking country,…

All Mixed Up, part one

All Mixed Up, part one

As an ESL teacher—and someone who often finds herself around immigrants— I often encounter situations that baffle me. Some involve students who support people or organizations that go directly against their interests. I call these little ironies, “all mixed up.” VOTING WITH THEIR POCKETBOOKS I taught a young female Saudi student named Aya for several years. Very nice, very helpful in class, well-educated. She was here in Minnesota with her husband, who had a scholarship from…

Elements of Style: How Project Runway Makes Me a Better Writer

Elements of Style: How Project Runway Makes Me a Better Writer

“Seriously, Mom, you should watch Project Runway. I think you’d like it.” This from daughter Angela in 2008. Hmm. A reality show. I’d quickly tired of The Bachelor; an episode of Top Chef had left me hungry; and the thought of Americans setting up Amazing Race competitions in poorer countries made me feel vaguely embarrassed. I sat down with Angela and watched several episodes of this clothing design competition. She…

Those Were The Days

Dear readers: In Turkey I often observed nostalgia, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future, sentiments also common to Americans.  So I thought you might enjoy this story about my family of origin.   I have only a few vivid memories of my quiet, retiring father. But one stands out because it occurred regularly. Every Saturday night in the seventies, he, along my mother and any of his three kids who…

A Question for My Readers

Dear Sue’s Turkish Adventures readers, This is coming to you from a distracted writer living in a distracted country. Like so many here, I am heartbroken about the direction my new president is taking the United States. Like many others, I am protesting and taking action when I can, but so far I can see only limited effectiveness. This week’s post is a question addressed to those of you who,…

Good Land, Bad Land: A Story of my Ancestors

Good Land, Bad Land: A Story of my Ancestors

  Dear readers, I knew little about Turkey when I moved there in 2010. I learned that most Turks came from elsewhere. From the Asian steppes. From Mesopotamia. From Bulgaria and other former Ottoman colonies. I thought about my ancestors, who journeyed from Europe to America, and I realized that immigrants worldwide face similar opportunities and constraints. This is a story of my immigrant ancestors.   There just wasn’t much good land left.…

How Turkey Transformed Me

How Turkey Transformed Me

As a young woman I was adventurous, at one point choosing to live for a year and a half in Yemen. During my time there I struggled with electricity outages, uncertain water, and a lack of support for development work. But the Yemenis went out of their way to be hospitable, their country had majestic scenery and architecture, and I became conversant in Arabic. Overall, the experience was a success. Years…

Making a Marcher

Making a Marcher

  I always need to have a firm purpose for what I’m planning to do. Otherwise, I will talk myself out of it. The January 21st rally’s purpose was initially hard to discern. It was billed as a “women’s march,” and I could list women-related issues I care about. Access to health care. An end to discarding untested rape kits. Subsidized childcare. But how was walking with others going to…

Of Youth and Choice

Of Youth and Choice

  The Muslim world is so diverse that familiarity with one or two groups (for me, Turks and Yemenis) doesn’t guarantee expertise with others. Somalis are a new group for me, and since November I’ve been teaching a majority Somali class. For me, that  brings forth surprises—and varying emotions. Pity was, unfortunately, my first sentiment. My Somali students are vibrant, capable women in their twenties and thirties, but I discovered that…