Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Impossibility of Honesty: Coming Home From Istanbul

I hesitate to tell the full story of my Istanbul experiences and it's the fault of some of my closest friends. You see, the full story involves some negatives. Harsh experiences are the difference between a fairytale and an adventure, and I wasn't experiencing anything Cinderella could handle. 

And I want to share everything. I want to be completely honest but how can I do that when the greetings I get from people here at home start with "You're alive! You didn't get blown up! Yay!"?

I just want that to sink in for a moment. The first reaction when meeting someone who just had a four month long experience abroad, who visited ancient Roman ruins, danced and drank with people wholly different than anything they've ever met before, and had their entire world-view shifted is: gosh, I'm sort of surprised you're alive right now. That tells me my friends aren't ready to hear about the negatives that came along with my travels because they'll hear nothing else. They won't focus on how the Blue Mosque made me stop in awe the second I walked in; all they'll see is the night that I was groped in a dance hall or leered at on the tram. The insanity and beauty of an enormous city that still has cobbled streets won't make half as much noise as the bombs that went off during my stay. It's hard for me to even justify trying when I know what their problem is. It's not that they don't understand a different culture, I don't even understand the culture and I was there for months. It's that they're not willing to try. They've got their ideas of what Turkey is like, and that's how it's going to be. So instead of being honest I have to sugarcoat things. I have to gloss over the racism I saw, the misogyny, the terrorist attacks because I can't stand the thought encouraging my friends to lock themselves away from the idea of experiencing something other than what they know.

The trend of the western world is to support people we know and to fear and ignore those we don't. I see it with every attack; people pray for France and Belgium but I have yet to see a single post about Istanbul where almost 50 people are dead. They went to a place that's supposed to signify the start of a journey to somewhere new and exciting and instead they were blown to bits. Killed by people who want to instill the kind of irrational, hate-inducing fear that is already being bred by people I know and love dearly. 

And now, even with western media actually covering this attack unlike previous ones, the western public has yet to catch on and empathize with the loss of real human life. It's a disappointing trend, and one I can only do so much to try and change. So for now, I'll stick to my sugarcoating around friends, and a deep honesty in my writing. 

I hope that those of you who haven't found it in yourselves to think with compassion about these Turkish people who are no longer there to live their lives that you are able to reflect honestly on the reasons for this lack of empathy. The smallest change in perception makes greater shifts than you can imagine. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Working Through the Hurt Feels

I don't like posting about my hurt feelings on social media. The closest I get is putting a sarcastic spin on whatever is happening in my life, but even that sometimes feels too passive-aggressive for my taste. Honestly, I don't even like talking about my hurt feelings. I went to school in a masculine town; feelings are for the weak, and hurt feelings are to be disregarded lest you appear to have some kind of the dreaded feminine qualities that I was taught were inferior. While I now see how bullshit all that is, I still haven't been able to get over the hurdle of talking to men about how they hurt me, so I bottle that shit up until I find one of the three people I actually trust not to judge me about these kinds of things and let it all out.

But that was before I had an anonymous blog to let loose all these feelings! Now I can have all the relief of venting my feelings without being that passive aggressive person who posts something on Facebook hoping the person they're writing about sees it and is affected. Because so and so doesn't know where this blog is and there's no chance of him seeing this. It's a relief. 

Here goes: I've told ya'll about how I don't like sharing my work with people. The only reason I do it here is because you'll never know who I am, and the only reason I gave a poem to my dad is because he's been asking for years and I don't want him to die without reading something of mine. I do not show people my work.

Except I did. A friend of mine asked, and he's shared something with me so I decided to share something with him. You have no idea how terrifying that moment was for me, sending off something that revealed some very personal feelings, but it was all rewarded when he wrote back and told me how much he liked it and wanted to read more--oh wait. No. That's not what happened. You know what did happen? HE FUCKING DISAPPEARED.

Yup, he ghosted on me. I didn't hear from him for over a week. A goddamned week. And you know what he did finally message me about today? The Game of Thrones finale. A fucking TV show. And I didn't realize how upset his silence made me until he broke it. There's no explanation he can give that doesn't hurt. In my mind it was either so bad or he got freaked out so he didn't have anything to say, or he just didn't care enough to acknowledge what I'd done. 

That hurts me. I've been feeling that knot in your chest when you're fighting off tears ever since I saw that message. 

So I wrote a poem about it. About what must have gone through his head and how he failed me. Of course I can't guarantee my point of view is actually what went down. There might be a reasonable explanation, but right now I'm not looking for the reasonable explanation. I'm angry, I'm venting, and I just want to let loose this stupid, stubborn pain I've been sitting on all day. 

I showed him my work and he disappeared.

It was a group of four paragraphs written out,
written again,
Twisted and mangled until I had a work of art.
It was a display of my feelings and my wounds
and the confusion that comes with life
and I was so scared to give it light.
Fresh air,
fresh eyes were the worst of my fears. 
They can only confirm the inadequacy
in my poetic flounders.  

And here they are confirmed.

What other reason is there,
to see a person's soul in their work
and fade into the background?
What other reason but a loss of words and a loss of courage.
I call that cowardice,
and the sting of disappointment quickly follows.
But it is not my work that reached high and failed;
only him.
"Only" rings false for I am failing too.
True courage is putting thoughts into words
that hurl through the air
like the bullets they are.
A brave soul reveals pain,
reveals the slashes made to heart and pride
and lets no injuries let lie
in attempts to hide the truth of hurt feelings. 

I am not a brave soul. 
I am not strong.
I am not what I thought I was.

And neither is he.  


Friday, June 24, 2016

Photo Friday: Spring Break for the Win

I've been a lot of places in the world. It's slightly more than fucking incredible being able to say I've stood in a total of 9 countries outside the US. My life is different from when I started out the year and these countries are partially to thank. I spent a week of my semester doing what everyone should do: going balls to the wall crazy with the drinking and the partying and the sex, and relaxing out on a beach, eating the kind of food you're not supposed to eat in a swimsuit and not giving two fucks. It was a great spring break. And I've decided to show you some beautiful, artsy photos that don't show any of the craziness, and make me look like I had a super snobby time (which I did, don't get me wrong, it's just that I also had a super trashy time too). 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wisdom From a Ginger Abroad

I'm in a giving mood today, and thought I'd share with you some wisdom I've accrued during my Istanbul study abroad experience. I hope you will gather these carefully selected nuggets of knowledge and use them in your own time.

When throwing jellyfish at your friends during your inevitable jellyfish war, always stay upwind. Also don't put too much force in your throw; it'll just tear them apart and then where are you at? Getting hit in the face with a jelly fish while your dreams of victory are blown away in a sticky mess is where.

Don't bother getting mad at someone who's late. In Turkey ten minutes late is actually five minutes early.

Playing country music is the best way to irritate your friends, both American and European.

When walking down the steepest fucking street in all of Istanbul in the pouring rain at 3 in the morning, do your best not to be drunk as fuck. Actually, scratch that. The drunker you are the less it will hurt when you eat shit

To get off and on the metro keep your shoulders low and your head up. Don't want a spinal injury when tackling people to the ground.

Always bring enough booze to share at a house party. Sharing is caring.

When eating always keep an eye out for stray cats hunting for food and snuggles. They'll take both by force if necessary.

Always keep an offline map available. This comes in handy when you get super drunk and decide to walk back to your apartment instead of taking a cab with everyone else, because you're stupid like that.

Slowing down in heavy traffic is for cowards.

There is no such thing as a secret in study abroad. Accept it now so you can gossip later. Just swallow your pride and be part of the problem.

As you can see, my experience in Turkey was truly beautiful, grandiose, and in no way involved any kind of random adventures that would lead one to, for example, throw globby animals at newly found friends. Nope...that definitely didn't happen...


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day

For the longest time my dad has been asking to see some of my work. This is ever since I was in elementary school writing silly stories that were basically a copy of whatever fantasy novel I'd consumed that week. And for the longest time I've said "absolutely not". I don't like people in general reading my creative nonsense, let alone people I know and am close with. That's pretty obvious what with the whole using a fake name on this blog thing. It's how I convince myself to let people into my conscious, even those who know who I really am. Ellie Burns is my safety blanket. 

But this is Father's Day, and I've met a lot of people in the last few years who don't have a dad like mine; someone who is deeply caring, accepting, and generous. My dad will always do the right thing. He once felt guilty for not moving a rock on the highway because it might have caused an accident. He also apologized for not being able to drive 8 hours and see one of my away games in high school. You read that right. 16 total hours of driving and he's apologizing for not being able to make it this time. Because he's done it before and would eventually do it twice more in my high school sports career. He was there for every home game, every choir concert, every academic olympic meet, and is now trying to figure out a way to fly somewhere and see me play rugby when the season starts up again. He and my ma are the most supportive people in my life and it's only been recently that I see how rare that is in a lot of families. I literally don't understand dysfunctional families because I've always had a good one. I just can't comprehend any other reality. 

So today he's getting his wish. I'm giving him a poem I wrote about travelling. But because I'm also the devil I'm gonna give it to ya'll first. Do enjoy. 

I haven't washed my hair in ten days.
I can feel the extra weight
of dead skin clinging to my scalp
like a layer of wax
akin to the plaque on my teeth,
unbrushed since yesterday morning.
This makeup is a day old
and not enough to hide the new lines
under my eyes.
My socks no longer feel like fabric,
but a coarse carpet of dirt and string
in need of a hammer and chisel.
My nose doesn't register smells as it should,
despite all the glory coming
from my armpits.
Speaking of which,
I have discovered the hair 
hiding in the pair of smelly spots
on each side of my chest is in fact,
This morning I shat in a hole
and peed on my boots
for good measure.
I'm incredibly hungry;
surprisingly the half burger from last night
was not enough to hold me over.
I have two bottles of the good stuff
I'm afraid to open
in case the smell alone gets me drunk.
Three hours of sleep
makes a lightweight of us all.
So with my baggy clothes
and smelly breath,
with my dark circles
and limp hair
I wander off to the next adventure,
laughing at the glorious ways

travel has deigned to change me. 

To all the fathers, single mom's, and father figures out there I hope you know how appreciated your hard work is, even when we're spoiled brats and don't let you read our stories for 21 years.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Take a Second and Look at my Dog

For your viewing pleasure I present my newest series of photos: 

Happy Pupper Finds Joy in Wiggles & Grass
LOLOL Look How Cute She is OMG *Squeals*

Thank you for your time. Carry on.


On the Idea of Change

I can't stop staring at the mirror. 

It's not a vanity thing. It's more of a "holy shit, have I actually changed that much?" kind of thing. I'm holding up a picture of myself, my senior picture that my ma took for me and it just looks...weird. Different. I don't know. 

It's not so much that I look different, although i do. The last of the baby fat has melted off (still got cute cheeks though), the amount of makeup plastered on my face has severely diminished (thank you self confidence/not giving a fuck), and I've collected a couple laugh lines that didn't used to be there (the only wrinkles I'll ever be glad to see). But it's not just my looks. I'm not that girl anymore; the girl working through losing her first love, trying to wrap her head around graduating high school, and who had only ever called a single place home her entire life. All of that is still a part of me, but only in the sense that those things slowly, step by step, turned me into the person I am today--just like the things that feel integral to me at this moment will lead me to the person I'll be next. 

It sounds a little schizophrenic when I put it that way; all the different me's lining up in my head. But I think we all have different versions of ourselves running around that come out in different situations and different times. We are constantly changing, because change is impossible to avoid. We all know someone who falls into the group who follow the mantra of "people don't change". I have a theory about them: anyone who believes that people don't change are just bitter that the changes in their own lives haven't been positive. Ha, bet that went down well with some of you *sarcasm*. TV shows and movies and books all tell us that change is for the better. The nerdy girl takes off her glasses and lets her hair down, Queen Latifah learns to live boldly and not be so insecure, that asshole realizes he needs to be nice. Boom. Happy ending. Good changes galore! 

As always, that's not how it works in real life. I think every decision we make alters who we are a little, making us either a better or worse person. All those little decisions add up, and sometimes we don't like what the product we see. We only think of change as big, sweeping gestures of people who hit rock bottom, realize they don't want to live this life, and shift in monumental ways. And don't get me wrong, that happens. It's good to pay attention to these big changes, but more important to focus on the little changes throughout the day. At my age, the little decisions make a hell of a lot more impact than they would if I were older, and they made an even bigger impact when I was a teenager. As fun as it is to think about grades *more sarcasm* that's the best way I can make sense of it: early in the semester every paper you turn in can shift your grade up or down an entire letter. But once all those scores are added up at the end of the year, it's harder for a single score to make a noticeable difference. Key word there: noticeable. Of course these decisions later in life still matter, it's just a little harder to see the difference they make when they're compared with every decision you've made your entire life. 

I hope everyone reading this can be proud of the decisions that make up who they are. And if you don't, I hope you can turn it around today. As my (awesome and slightly snobby) friend James likes to pontificate: I just try to better than who I was yesterday. Boom. Knowledge bomb. Thanks James. 


Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Bit of Creativity

A brief explanation:
I stopped writing a few years ago. I'm not sure when exactly it tapered off, but it was right about when I started college. The idea that I was spending time reading for fun when I should be reading my assigned material, or writing a story when I should be working on an important essay did a great job of killing the joy that came from expressing myself in creative ways. I think it might have been a contributing factor to my feeling down on and off for the last couple years. Writing was such an outlet for me when I was younger, even when I wasn't writing specifically about my own situation it felt good. It's just one more thing I owe to Turkey: meeting people who rekindled the kind of creativity I didn't realize I was missing so terribly. 
Anyways, I've obviously been adjusting to life back home after a semester abroad, and it's been hard. A lot harder than I expected. The fact that it was temporary makes the experience all that more meaningful, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed the ending. So I decided to write about it in a form that I'm not sure what to call, but I guess that doesn't matter. I hope ya'll enjoy my efforts:

I'm adjusting in the best way I know how, which is to say, not at all. This house that was once a sanctuary is now a mere temptation I have every reason to stay in, every reason to be loved and comfortable and content. There the warmth of the red kitchen walls reflect the heat of simmering pots. Here the tiles are smooth and the porcelain touch of the bath cools me even as I submerge myself into the warmth of foam and water. Familiarity. My family is here, living their lives and pushing me to get on with mine while tightening their grip on every facet of my existence. They have no concept of the barbs their words hold, the words that tighten around my heart with gilded flowers on razor wire. Therein lies my unease. I have happiness here, but I am more than the ready smile on my lips.
I live my life in transition, clinging to my idealization with weary feet, shaking arms, and a racing heart of possibility. It pays no mind to the trembling muscles, the spasms of doubt. It does not know, only feels. Feels the wind in my hair as I look to the cynics of my life. They sit in such high towers; a better view to peer down through squinting eyes that long lost their trusting gleam. Contempt is their bread and my failure their butter, but here I taste such rich desire I cannot mind their hunger, only my own. I am the craving of raw pine and wild strawberries, the feel of shifting sand and water beneath my skin, the touch of lips that are not mine. There is a sweetness in my aching bones I had not felt before, and have been feeling since.
I should be so lucky that my wounds will not heal well. I want broad, knotted strokes of scar tissue to twist me up inside and out. Only then will I know that all this was real. This pain, this beauty, those slender moments of ecstasy as I peered across the table and met the ocean in his eyes. I am, more than ever, an extension of reality. More than ever a reason to reach out with wild desperation and feel brief slivers of time slip through outstretched hands. A reason to rejoice in the inherently ephemeral. 
Adjustment is a nightmare only distant friends comprehend. We feel for each other as we feel absence in our lives, and rejoice in the simple, stinging pleasure of it all.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Fridays are for Photos

As if I hadn't already posted enough about Istanbul and Turkey, I will now be shoving actual pictures down your throats rather than my usual words that paint a beautiful painting (cue pretentious hair flip). 

But seriously, I hope ya'll enjoy my point of view with all these things. It's a truly beautiful city with amazing people and I did my best to capture the awe I felt every single day.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

This Woman's Anger: the Stanford Rape Case

I am, at this moment, so angry that I'm close to tears. 

I just read the letter written by the woman who was raped by Brock Turner, and it is truly the most heartbreaking thing. Seeing her experience written in words, directly addressing the man who violated her, evokes an amount of admiration and rage I've yet to feel for a complete stranger before this moment. My anger stems from a variety of sources. It stems from the rape itself, from the use of alcohol as a shield from the real problem, from the father's justification of his son's actions, from the media coverage, and from Judge Aaron Persky's decision to sentence Turner 6 months in a country jail. 

Let's talk about how the media covered this attack. Let's talk about the Washington Post article specifically. This article, written by Michael E. Miller, is an article that merely pretends to be the unbiased journalism I (unreasonably perhaps) expect in this country. Because throughout the post we see Brock Turner's athleticism, youth, and swimming career mentioned. It's tricky, because on the surface these are just mentions of his life, but they have the potential to bias readers against the truth. Take this line, "He was an All-American swimmer in high school in Ohio, so good that he tried out for the U.S. Olympic team before he could vote. Suddenly he was accused of rape." Can you see how fucked up that line is? "Suddenly he was accused of rape" How dare you, Michael E. Miller, mention his stellar athleticism and then jump to the accusation. That line enrages me because it puts this idea in readers' heads that this accusation came out of the blue and not, maybe, from being caught red handed thrusting on top of a blackout drunk woman. Ellie Fialk wrote a moving post on her Facebook page calling out the Washington Post's article. In fact, I give her credit for bringing this entire issue to my eye. She says "Thank you, Washington Post, for this detailed track record of Brock Turner's swimming career, which is so incredibly relevant to the fact that he was just found unanimously guilty of committing an unforgivable act. I'm sorry things were so sudden for you, Brock. That your career was "upended during a night of drinking." Since you know, that's all it was, just a casual night of drinking when you raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster" This is only one of many excellent points she brings up. 

Now some focus on the attempted rapist himself, Brock Turner. Something that makes me sick (in a case as vomit inducing as this one) is his utmost lack of remorse. Or wait, no he definitely has regrets. He regrets his drinking and the promiscuity it induces! Isn't that great everyone? Can't you see he's learned his lesson? It's unbelievable! And by that I mean I literally don't believe it. I don't believe for one second that he thinks he's done something wrong. Throughout the trial his reasoning behind why he was behind that dumpster attacking an unconscious woman was that she liked it. He thinks she liked what he was doing, and that is so disturbing it's giving me a knot in my stomach just writing about it. I can't imagine how twisted a person has to be in order to think a woman would enjoy any part of being assaulted behind a dumpster. Oh, and did I mention she was unconscious during this ordeal? This lack of personal accountability is also chilling because it means he could very well repeat his actions. Without a moral compass to tell him his actions were wrong, disgusting, and violent there is nothing preventing him from doing this again. And that is scary. 

Blaming alcohol is such a cheap move because it completely disregards the real problem. It's a trivialization of an attempted rape and sexual assault. Because here's the thing, I've been drunk before with men who were attracted to me and tried to hookup. Sometimes I've said yes, sometimes I've said no; and every single time I've said no, dodged a kiss, or pushed a man away they realized that it wasn't going to happen and they moved right along because they realized that any further action taken by them would be wrong. It would be a violation. Alcohol is not what made Brock Turner take this blackout drunk woman behind a dumpster and attack her. It's true that alcohol made her susceptible, but it did not turn him into a rapist. He did that. When we teach young women that we shouldn't drink, dress provocatively, or flirt lest we find ourselves the victim of rape, what we're really saying is make sure it's the other girl who gets raped. Let me say that again so you understand how sick that thought it: MAKE SURE IT'S THE OTHER GIRL WHO GETS RAPED. Make sure it's the drunk girl, the one with the short skirt. Make sure the rapist targets someone else. That is the definition of rape culture. We blame everyone and everything except the man himself. 

Culture is what we pass down for generations. This applies to rape culture as well and we see how it was passed down to Brock Turner by reading the letter his father wrote, pleading to the judge to give leniency to his son. Unfortunately, this letter swayed Judge Persky. Do you know how insulting it is to women when you refer to your son's violation of an unconscious person's body as "20 minutes of action"? You can't even say it, can you? You can't even say your son was about to rape her. I not only think the letter he wrote was dismisive, I think it's terrible parenting. The reason, or at least one of the reasons, that Brock Turner thought he could get away with that silly little twenty minute act is because of a lifetime of letters like this. Parents who continually get their children out of trouble and keep them away from the consequences ensure that they can't learn from the hard lessons. All this privilege did nothing to protect the woman he attacked, but it did everything to protect him from the consequences of his actions. 

Which brings me to the part of the system that was supposed to be there for the victim and for all of us in the future who may need it: the law. The law is what sets civilized societies apart from others. It is what I, personally, lean on to ensure that even if my safety is not guaranteed, at least justice is. I spent four months in a country that valued my life less because of my sex and I laugh at the thought of those who warned me against going, who told me to be safe and keep an eye out for danger and rapists; people who don't realize that the problems they judge another country for are the exact same ones we face in the United States today. Strong sentencing has the dual power to comfort a victim and punish those who have committed violent acts against another person. Not only that, it's also what keeps the victims, family, and friends from taking matters into their own hands, because I come from a town that's protective of its people and I wouldn't be shocked to hear about vigilantism in cases like this (not that I would ever condone that. Stooping to the level of criminals does nothing for society). We are supposed to be an example to the world, and yet even when a rapist is found guilty by a jury of his peers, we still can't guarantee he will be punished in full because men in power place more value on a rapist's swimming career than on the indeterminate ways the victim's life is now changed forever.

The judge's decision has told me two things. For one, he's let me know that I and every other woman in the country do not matter. Our ability to rely on the justice system is a farce, because when it comes down to it, a man shouldn't be punished too severely for his first rape. After all, it was just the one time. Only the second, or maybe the third time are actually serious when it's a white, privileged athlete. That leads me to the second point this judge made with his actions; white men aren't punished in the same way a man of color would be. If a black man were caught in the act of raping a white woman (this also highlights how a white woman's life is valued higher than a black woman's in society, but that's another topic for another post) he not only would be sentenced to the maximum number of years, that number would be much higher than 14 years. The idea of a black man being punished for rape isn't the problem, it's the fact that white men are given leniency for the same crimes when they should be serving the same amount of years as their minority counterparts. You see, I thought prison was supposed to be a punishment. A, in Judge Persky's words, "severe impact". Isn't the idea of prison to severely impact the people who are there? As much as it disgusts me, according to Judge Persky the answer is no. 

My only hope in all of this is seeing my own outrage mirrored across the country on Facebook, twitter, news outlets, and other blogs. We can take some comfort in knowing that Brock Turner will be listed as a sex offender for the rest of his life, even though we all want this to be only one part of his punishment. I can only hope this gut wrenching anger lives on and gives us as a society the will to turn a new leaf and start holding those who are guilty accountable for their actions, and until then know that there are women like the victim in this case who are not afraid to stand up to their attackers and challenge them head on. 


Here are the sites I have linked in this post. Take your time to go through them, it's important.

If you are as disgusted by this as I am I highly encourage you to write a letter to Judge Persky. In no way should these letters threaten violence or harm to the judge and his family. Unfortunately they have already received letters of this kind. No, I want his mailbox full of righteous, deeply felt letters explaining why he made a terrible decision and why we hope from now on he will put the victim first and not the rapist. You can find the contact information here.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Scary Parts

I was in the same city as a suicide bomber. I was lying in my bed with my laptop up and running, still in my pajamas and last night's makeup when a man walked down a busy street and blew himself up. I didn't hear anything, didn't know anything had happened, just continued with my lazy morning routine while five people died. 

I want to be very clear about this; my goal is not to take the spotlight off a horrible thing that happened and train it on myself. I just want to explain the event from an outsider's perspective, because as much as many of my fellow students wanted to feel like Istanbul was our home, that isn't the case. We were mere guests in a country with an incredibly fascinating and potentially deadly power struggle taking place right before our eyes. 

Living in Istanbul can only be described as life-changing, but not all changes are the result of positive events. The Istiklal Street bombing is a major example of this. I can't say how it changed many of my friends, and I definitely can't speak of the damage it caused to the families of the dead and the wounded, but I know how it affected me. 

One thought, something I'm not particularly proud of, was on how this would affect me. Would my university make me come home now? And was I in danger? The answer to those questions are no, and yes of course. I live in a city of 15 million people. There are idiot drivers, holes and cliffs with no guard rails, and yes, people who are scared and hateful enough to kill themselves and others in an attempt to spread their message. Of course I was in danger. We're all in danger. It's part of the whole, you know, being alive thing. 

I can't say I immediately felt the weight of the situation we were in. Part of that was because I'd known something was going to happen that day. We'd received an email from the embassy earlier in week telling us to stay away from public transportation and high population areas (right, in Istanbul. Did I mention the city has 15 million people? Avoid high population areas my ass). So somehow the whole situation was predictable, and yet the most horrible, shocking thing. I didn't actually feel the reality until I'd made my way to Salvador that night and saw the faces of my fellow exchange homies. Our conversation went plenty of places that night, but naturally it spent plenty of time on what happened. There was a blankness there that hadn't always been present, and I realized it was in me as well. A disconnect from what was happening as we were enlightened to  what kind of political climate we'd gotten ourselves involved in. That was when I found out about the video, already on Youtube, of the explosion. I don't know what kind of sick curiosity exists in all of us that we watched it at one point or another, but I knew I had to see it. And that's what really brought it home. I won't describe what happened, partly because I'd rather not think about it and partly because that would be an incredibly shitty thing to do, but it hit me right in the sternum. Right in the center of my chest. 

And it made me realize that I wanted to stay.

I could have easily taken one look at this video, this horrible thing that happened in a place that I've walked by every weekend, and run for home. My university would repay my tuition, I'd hop on a plane, and I'd be safe within a couple of days. I could have done that, but I didn't want to. None of my friend group wanted to. We made the decision to stick around, to keep experiencing the good and bad that Istanbul was offering us. 

Looking back now, I'm glad we did.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Stay Soft For Summer

There's a decent possibility that I, who recently ate an entire pizza in one sitting, am not great with the self control. Possibly. 

So imagine my (not even a little bit of) surprise when I hopped on the scale yesterday and found out I now weigh almost 160 lbs...after four months of eating out for every.single.meal. Seriously, I can count on one hand the number of times I cooked for myself. And you know what? There are zero fucks to be given about all this new weight. I could tell three months ago that there was some pudge that didn't used to be there, and there were so many ways to prevent it from getting bigger. I could have eaten better, exercised more, stopped drinking four nights a week. Being healthy is incredibly easy on paper, even in a foreign country.
But here's the thing, doing the exact opposite of all those things is part of what made my semester so amazing. Those beers were shared with some of the best and most interesting people I've ever met. Turkish food is delicious and cheap, I'm not about to trade that for eating spinach and lettuce every meal instead of durum and rice that I'm fairly sure was cooked with a stick of butter in every pot. Seriously, that rice was fucking amazing. I'd go back in a second just to eat some of that rice again. There was lamacun, menemen, dolma made with peppers, and fuck I have to stop; I'm so hungry right now. My point is, there's no way a flat stomach is more important that fully enjoying cuisine, something that makes up a huge part of a country's culture. And as for exercising, I lived at the bottom of a hill and had to make my way up that sucker It was horrifying, but it gave me calves of steel while the rest of me got squishy, and it gave me some modicum of cardio, which is all I wanted. 

Turkey, and the people in it, gave me a confidence in my body I didn't have before (which is saying something because I was pretty damn confident with my body). I think something changed in my brain when I made the conscious decision to be okay with all the weight I was gaining, truly okay with it. I've been so self-assured because I was always either in decent shape or fucking amazing shape. It's another thing entirely now that I can feel confident in myself with my little pudge of a belly and arms that don't have visible muscle tone. And in those moments that all of us have, when insecurity pulls a tricksy little hobbit move and sneaks its way in, I was lucky enough to have a friend by my side who answered my question of "do you mind that I've gained weight?" in the best possible way: he laughed at me. Friends who can laugh at you in your silly moments come highly recommended in my book. 

Eventually I'll start working out again. I'll lift weights, go for long runs, eat healthy meals. I'll lose this belly (and these fantastic boobs that came with it) and tighten up my ass. My thighs, well they'll always be big, but they'll be big with some solid muscle. I'll play rugby and get some hella nice arm definition. And after all that I'll eventually gain the weight back. Either way I know I'm beautiful, and more importantly, I know it makes no impact on how good (or sometimes shitty depending on the day) of a person I am. So suck on that and enjoy this picture of me destroying a durum :)


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

*Nervously starts blogging about Turkey*

I can't say I went abroad to find myself. I've had a pretty solid grasp on who I am as a person for the last year or so, and I didn't need to travel thousands of miles to figure myself out. I leave that kind of thinking to other people. No, I decided to study abroad because I wanted something inherently different from my life back home. And I decided to get that enormous change in Istanbul, Turkey. I definitely got what I wanted, but something else happened that is becoming increasingly mind blowing the more I stay here. I've gone and lost myself.

Somehow, and to be honest I'm not sure why I didn't see this coming, I've changed. All the hokey travel blogs said it would happen and damn them all because it certainly did. I'm not sure who I am anymore, and I don't know whether or not it's a good thing. It can't all be good because all of a sudden I'm feeling regret. Regret that I took a language class instead of something that actually interested me. Regret that I didn't save enough money to travel everywhere that I wanted to. Regret that I don't have the courage to talk about my feelings (something that has never been a problem before). I was never the person to actively regret my decisions. You make your bed and then you lie in it. That's always been my philosophy. Your decisions and mistakes make you who you are, so why regret anything. I think some of the reason might be because I'm unsure of the person I am right now. There are some parts of me that were already there before I spent four months in a foreign country and are now extremely pronounced. But there are things that are here now that weren't at the beginning of the year. I'm angry now. In fact, I'm feeling more than I ever have. I'm feeling something for a person that I haven't felt in years, not since high school. And that's not really something to be ashamed of, but not being able to admit it to that person is definitely not okay. I was always a feminist but now I'm practically militant. I'm much more likely to speak my mind, interestingly enough. I now know (sort of) what it's like to live under an authoritarian regime and that pisses me off to no end. Not all of this is bad, but it's not something I particularly wanted either. 

I think the reason all of this took me by surprise is because I didn't come here to change. We're constantly bombarded by stories and books and movies about people who can't stand where they are in life so they make a huge leap and change everything to go out and explore the world, but that never applied to me. I was happy with who I was, and now that I'm a different person I'm not sure how to react. I know that there are things about me now that I really like. I'm finally writing again. Not blog posts, actual stories and poetry, another thing I haven't done in years. It's like I've made the unconscious decision to de-prioritize school in exchange for prioritizing art. I can't say it will have all good consequences, but I can't make myself care for something when it doesn't matter as much as exploring. Exploring myself and exploring this new place.

And now I'm home. It's going to be a process getting used to this place, but then again I find myself questioning whether I want to be used to it here. Do I want to fit back into the space that I left? I think the answer is no. By going back to who I was I might as well have spent the last four months back in my childhood bedroom with the door closed. Change, even though this time it was (admittedly naively) unexpected, is good for me. The idea of changing into someone I'm not familiar with is infinitely better than going backwards. Fuck that.