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…

Some Thoughts on India and Turkey

Some Thoughts on India and Turkey

My Indian sister- and brother-in-law were so impressed they were dumbstruck. It was 2012 and they had just returned to our Istanbul apartment from a ten-day tour of Turkey. Before their visit, they had viewed Turkey as a poor country. Poor and agricultural. But what they found was far from that. The country was squeaky clean, with prosperous homes and swept, orderly streets. People dressed well, they spoke well, they…

This is Islam

This is Islam

I have a new class of English language students. Ten from Somalia, three from Mexico, and two from Togo, all mothers of young children. I like to get some background on my students, and so, on the first day I handed out a brief questionnaire. It asked how long they had studied English and how many years of education they’d received, both in their country and here in the U.S.…

The Same Old Story

The Same Old Story

It’s easy to second-guess other countries’ political situations. Easy and actually kind of fun. When I lived in Turkey, I found local politics a welcome distraction from my own country’s problems. The answers to my adopted country’s dilemmas seemed so clear. From the beginning of our stay, in 2010, the people we knew spoke against Prime Minister Erdoğan. They said he was trying to turn Turkey into Iran. I wasn’t…

This Week in Hate

This Week in Hate

From 2010 to 2013, my husband, Sankar, and I, were immigrants in Turkey. We could barely speak the language of our new country, and we adhered to a religion followed by only a minuscule number of Turkish citizens. Having been in that (admittedly temporary) position, I sympathize with immigrants in my own country. I know what it is like to look different, speak differently, and believe different things. We never…

Leaving Istanbul

Leaving Istanbul

  Sankar’s job was winding down. He had already started working on projects in other parts of the world. It was time to head home. “We’ll be home for Christmas,” I told Angela on the phone. I loved those sentimental words. “No,” she replied. “I want one more Christmas in Istanbul.” Greg agreed. Sankar and I were surprised, but pleased. Even though our kids had visited the past summer, we had…

From Syria to Safety

From Syria to Safety

  Turkey had given Sankar and me an unexpected gift. Living there, we had uncovered a strong mutual interest in history, something that had lain dormant throughout our marriage. After visiting historic sites in nearly all parts of the country, in late summer of 2012, we were heading out to see something very much in the present. The war in Syria was in its eighteenth month. What had begun with…

Living Fast

Living Fast

  In the final months of our Turkish posting, I welcomed the arrival of a new attribute: competence. Competence, which I’d been so lacking only two short years before, which I had longed for and studied for and pressed people to try and achieve. Now it seemed within my grasp. A great deal of pride could be attached to figuring out a foreign city. And that pride was heightened in vast,…

Hidden Worlds of Istanbul

Hidden Worlds of Istanbul

  I stood in the Old City, next to the 18th century baroque Laleli mosque. Admiring its calligraphy-adorned  sultan’s entrance, I looked up past bare winter branches at its minarets, shaped like tulip bulbs. Then, I turned and strolled through the Sahaflar (book exchange) Bazaar, a courtyard market dating to Byzantine times, when it was called the Khartoprateia. I ran my hand over the cool marble of a kiosk where Ottoman do-gooders would dispense tea, water, and…

A Grinch-y Christmas

A Grinch-y Christmas

I called it The Work Caravan to Asia, but by now it was simply a routine drive from our apartment to Özyeğin University and then on to 3M. One car, Ümit driving, Sankar and I sitting together in the back seat. We did cross the Bosphorus, however, Turkey’s watery intercontinental border, and I loved peering down at the elegant Ortaköy mosque on the European shore.   Traffic wasn’t usually a…