One evening as i sat idly clicking through facebook, a chat window popped up. It was Kenan, one of the Yusufeli police officers who'd invited me back to the station for tea. In the weeks since we had briefly met, he found a European girlfriend and decided to polish up his English. Now he sat bored at five AM, working the swing shift seven time zones away. I typed to him in Turkish, and he replied in English, correcting each other along the way.
When i arrived home i resolved not to lose touch with the components of Turkish culture i enjoyed, at least the ones accessible by some means here in Maine. So dinner with a friend at the local Greek restaurant supplies the taste of halvah. I listen more to the Turkish pop i brought home than to American music, and i've found some music videos on youtube to bring back memories of K-stan (future post). At the gym i crossed paths with a Turk i'd never talked much to; he invited me to play futbol on Tuesday afternoons. I heard that familiar language on the futbol pitch, and made my own offhand comments and epithets in Turkish - which led a fellow American to ask where i was from.
That week in the gym i also made an unexpected new acquaintance, and over burritos at Verve he told me what it's like to be an Iranian expat. Fascination with the Islamic republic blossomed as i heard firsthand about Persian culture and history; how the contributions of Persian society were more or less reattributed to Arabic invention after the Muslim conquest of central-south Asia; about the grueling educational system he'd been taught in until middle school. Odd how life brings across your path people who hold an insight you'd been seeking.
Back to the title of this post. I'd been using it as a sort of mantra - an injunction to hold on to those things until i could again be immersed in foreignity. But what is living the dream? These days i conceive of it more as a mode of thinking: whatever you are doing, wherever you are, you can be living the dream. It's a question of living fully present, and while being a traveler certainly aids in being present, that attitude can be cultivated anywhere.
After his week in Turkiye, my father surprises me. He actually agrees to try Thai food instead of Subway, and with the taste of a spicy curry still lingering, agrees to try the Indian restaurant sometime.
Meanwhile, i keep wondering what to do with this blog. The heady chapter of undergraduate study and first experience abroad is concluded. While i've a few pictures and memories to share in upcoming posts, it's time to find a new central theme. I could make this an exercise in clingy Orientalism, or i could carelessly fill it with quotidian, solipsistic accounts drenched in sesquipedalian language. Or neglect it completely: call it the journal of a chapter ended, and wait, start a new chapter somewhere else.
The best solution, i think, is to mirror the work of daily life: to remain present and observant, to share the things worth sharing, whether those are insights into a distant culture or little-known joys to be found here in New England. The woodchuck's ramblings certainly aren't finished.
Welcome to this seyahatname, this book of travels: rambling reflections of a man passionate about fitting his life into the greater Life. That odd word in the title is the closest i can get to the original Algonquian name for an animal New England gardeners love to hate. A note of introduction...
NEAR ÞINGVELLIR, ICELAND
text and images offered under creative commons licensing
Where Turkish occurs in the blog, the letters are pronounced much the same as English ones - though unlike English in which g can be gelatinous, grand, or silent as the night, Turkish letters have but a single sound. The letters which differ are pronounced as follows:
c is a ginger-flavored j ç should make you "choke" ğ is silent as the night light sight,
lengthening the vowel before it ı sounds like the u in "cranium" ö is the new "ew" ş shimmies and shakes words ü is unique, the cutest of all