Ypsilanti nights in Turkey

I went to college in Ypsilanti, Michigan. You've probably never heard of it.

Let me paint you a mental picture of what it was like 12 years ago:
Grey skies
Grey buildings
Blue collared workers
An industrial edge of creativity that surged throughout my community of peers.

Here is the most famous monument in Ypsi, the water tower. Can you guess what this icon's nickname is?

My friends from my Ypsi days are still some of the best people that I have ever had the privilege to know. The thing about Ypsilanti from my college years (it's a bit more "souped up" now) was that you needed to make it what you wanted it to be. Some people just took Ypsilanti at face value -- and for all intents and purposes it was a pretty slummy area. But other people had a very different perception. My friends created an Ypsilanti that was a wonderful place to be.

My people cared about music -- both creating and supporting it.
My people cared about politics and having a voice for the masses.
My people cared about the environment and promoting a green lifestyle.
My people cared about community in the most inclusive way -- everyone was always welcome and nurtured and loved.
And my people cared about art. Oh, the art.

College, what a dreamy time in life where everything felt possible and important and beautiful.

Naiveté. As I grew up and moved on in life, some of the virtues that I was so impassioned about from my youth fell away. I started looking at life through the lenses of a "grown up in the real world." While there was still a big piece of my heart that carried around my Ypsi values, I began to forget the feeling of how right everything could be. I became a teacher in a poor district in Appalachia. I had a job where I saw so much sadness in the lives of my students -- sadness that I couldn't fix no matter how much I tried. I worked as hard as I could at a profession that I loved (and then some more at my after work jobs) yet I couldn't get ahead of my bills. I knew I was doing some things right, and I loved many aspects of my social life, but I was tired. And nothing looked like it was going to change. Ever.

Though eventually something did change. I made a choice to move to Turkey. And being here in Turkey, in my new life, makes me feel like I'm my old self. I feel like I'm in college again.

When I say that I feel like I am in college again, I'm not referencing being out of control and capricious -- that's REALLY not the kind of person I am or ever was. I didn't stop being a grown up when I moved away from the United States. I still go to work five days a week, sometimes six. I work from 8 to 5. I direct the lives of 75 children each week on their educational paths. 

No, I'm not saying that I am reclaiming my young 20's and throwing responsibilities into the wind. What I'm referencing is a feeling -- the feeling of life being beautiful again. And things being possible. Anything being possible. My world keeps getting smaller in the best way -- I feel like I can access whatever I need to make the best impact that I can.

I didn't really mean for this to be a reflective blog post at all. I usually save this type of writing for my journal. What spawned all of this was where I found myself last Friday in Izmir. I randomly joined a couple of friends to check out a contemporary art exhibit. And what I found was nothing like what I expected.

While I was taking photos of the art to post later to my blog, I imagined myself writing short and snappy captions about each image and leaving it at that. But the evening ended up creating a much bigger impression on me than I was aware of at the time. I'm certainly not going to get deep with the meaning of each piece that spoke to me within this public forum -- but I've found myself talking about the ideas behind the art that I saw last week a lot in the past few days.

The venue of the show was an old concrete building. The art was a hodgepodge of photography, video, painting, found items, sculpture, textile, and writing - all embedded with a voice of social awareness. The outcome was beautiful and spooky and moving all at once. 

I won't get into the why behind these art displays, just my first impressions. It's more fun that way.

Felted dolls in a web. See what I'm talking about Ypsi people?

Anarchy. And potatoes. Anarchist potatoes.

Found sticks -- this was the only display that had no explanation. But really, the meaning is obvious.
(Just kidding, this shit makes no sense)

An entire series of photos of people who lacked faces.
There was nursery music playing in the background.

This yeti was about 7 feet tall. He was an imposing figure.

Also, I'm pretty sure that every hipster in the entire country was in attendance. Which was kind of hilarious. (In my mind I could hear the hiss of PBR tallboys being cracked open all around me. If you are from the US and have any contact with hipsters whatsoever, you know exactly what I'm talking about.)

Trying to blend with the hipsters. I look like I don't care, right?

Anyway, last weekend I was transported back to a time where this type of environment was my everyday norm. My Ypsi days. I honestly never considered it possible to compare Izmir and Ypsilanti in such a direct way because I always thought that they were eons apart. But they are not. I realize that a place is not simply a physical set of coordinates or anything you might find on a map -- it's more like a feeling that you carry around in your heart.

I am blessed to have so many sweet memories of the places I have traveled to during my limited time on this planet. 

And to Ypsilanti, my first home away from home, I salute you.


Searching for the meaning of life

I've been working on figuring out the meaning of life. Since I don't sleep anymore, I have a lot of time to consider hefty topics --  like what makes life good and what makes life not so good. I like to sit at my kitchen counter in the middle of the night and throw back shots of Ayran while sifting through concepts that may considerably alter the fibers of my life.

SIDENOTE: Ayran is not alcohol, it's a salty yogurt-like beverage with which I am obsessed.

The only drawback to my soul searching is that since I don't sleep anymore, my brain has mostly turned to mush. So my reflections aren't terribly deep.

Here are some of my recent thoughts:

1) The homeless guy I met yesterday seemed pretty happy. He was carrying a dirty, chewed up piece of Styrofoam close to his chest as if it were the holy grail and I'm mostly sure that it had magical powers. I want one.

2) My friend adopted a parakeet on the bus last week. A strange, drunk guy gave the bird to her in a small box. I think she is kind of a hero because she has given this tiny bird a second chance at life. She named him Kuş. That means "bird" in Turkish.
3) I find food like this in the office almost everyday and I eat it. I don't know why I always eat it. But I seem to consistently find a reason.

I not only ate this, I ate it RIGHTEOUSLY while viewing River Dance.
Pretending I was Irish for a moment made it feel OK.
But it wasn't OK.
4) Hypnosis MP3s are addicting! I find that lying in bed and listening to a man talking to my "unconscious mind" is both fascinating and unsettling all at once. The guy that I listen to tries to bully my brain into sleeping, telling is that if it doesn't shut off soon, my body will essentially be destroyed. His methods haven't worked yet (yay me for being resistant to bullying!) --nonetheless, I have purchased hypnosis seshes for "Healthy Relationships", "A Positive Outlook on Life" and "Great Skin." For only $2.99 each, how can I go wrong?
5) I just found out that Tom Cruise has gotten a haircut in Turkey.

Anything can happen in this country. ANYTHING.

I think about other stuff too. Some questions that plague me include:

1) Are my students becoming smarter with my assistance?
2) When will my life resemble that of an adult?
3) How long can I go without coffee?
4) Why does my ear keep bleeding?

I'll keep you updated on my epiphanies.


I stopped sleeping

Insomnia has some benefits.

For instance I painted my entire apartment the other day, I began at 4 AM and was finished before 8 in the morning. That made me feel both productive and insane.

It looks really good.

I don't know why I'm in this bout of sleeplessness. This isn't a first for me -- I've experienced periods of insomnia before. But I can usually pinpoint WHY I can't sleep. It's always because something is stressing me out. The problem with this time around is that I don't know what my problem is.

A friend suggested that maybe I just realized that I live in Turkey.

When you stop sleeping for a month you no longer exist in the same reality that you once did.

First of all, everything is harder. You no longer can complete a task without forgetting what's going on. It kind of feels like your brain is melting.
Second, one constantly must remind themselves that any emotion they are feeling is not actually real -- it's just another blip on the brain scan and will disappear quickly. It's best to not get invested in the emotions that coincide with sleeplessness. I've decided to treat insomnia like a form of mental illness.
Third, don't go out in public. You'll find yourself having a limited ability to contribute anything worthwhile to the social scene so instead of being appropriate you will stop conversations to make everyone listen to you sing Usher Raymond's hit from 1997 "Nice and Slow" but with the letters of YOUR name inserted into the song rather than his. And then you will wait for an applause, but people will just look at you in a concerned kind of way.

Like this. People have been looking at me like this.
So I'm trying to make strides to sleep again.
I'm cutting out caffeine, sugar, screen time past 8 PM and naps. (Although I accidentally fell asleep while sitting up yesterday afternoon.) Basically, my life is TERRIBLE right now. All I want to do is eat the entire box of ice cream bars that my neighbors left in my freezer last week. I could give the box back to them, especially since I slide into their front door Kramer style at least once a day, but like I said before: everything is really hard right now. I can't remember to do anything productive or useful ever. So the ice cream stays to tease me.

Wish me luck in sleeping please.