Tag Archives: musing

Feeling Like a Foreigner

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When you travel – even within the same country, for instance from the North East of America to the Deep South or the West of Turkey to the East – it is only natural to at times be self-consciously overwhelmed by feeling like a foreigner. Traveling to a different country, where the language and culture is different, only compounds this feeling. During my first stay in Turkey, a two month intensive language program in Ankara, I suffered a lot from culture shock. I think it was only to be expected.

Luckily, my stay so far in Malatya has really been free of any problems; however, I have noticed something about living abroad that I would never had thought of otherwise. Namely, the difference between being a foreigner and feeling like a foreigner.

For instance, I am a foreigner here in Turkey. The way I hold myself, dress, speak and react are all different enough from the locals for people to realize that I am not from around here and there is very little I can do about that – at least immediately. Turks, by and large though, absolutely love foreigners and try their best to be as hospitable and helpful as possible. I have had random men who I’ve asked for directions go out of their way to ensure that I arrive safely at my destination. Speaking a little bit of Turkish does help to grease the wheels, but people are generally overjoyed to help.

In this way, being a foreigner in Turkey really has very few problems associated with it; people truly strive and welcoming as possible. I am actively encouraged to think of this new country as my new home. Although I am a foreigner here, I am not made to feel like one – the country is incredibly inclusive, at least in my experience. For example, while on my way to Harput last week another passenger on the mini-bus realized I was a foreigner and insisted on sharing his snacks with me. He then went on to lecture me about how I had to visit Izmir, smiling the whole time.

Feeling like a foreigner, on the other hand, can happen anywhere – even if your own country or hometown. This feeling isn’t linked to you nearly as much as it is linked to your circumstances. For example, I am sure everyone has had that one experience of being at a party or a meeting in which you felt unwelcome and excluded; you did not belong, and you felt like a foreigner. Obviously being in a different country, where the language and culture is different, can easily lead to the feeling of being a foreigner.

For the three months that I have been in Turkey so far, I can think of maybe one or two examples at most of when I truly felt I did not belong. The first was in Istanbul, where at a restaurant I was charged five times the normal amount for a cup of tea – the foreigner price – that I begrudgingly had to pay. The second example was when I was having a conversation with a few Turks. When they asked me a question, and I stumbled to respond, they turned to each other and said “Oh, he doesn’t understand!” and then laughed about it.

Overall, though, these are two minor occurrences that I truly had to rack my head about to think of. I am truly lucky to be in a country where, although I an undoubtedly a foreigner, I am almost never made to feel that way. Turkey has, at least for the year that I am here, truly become my new home; as it is Thanksgiving in America as I post this, I can say that I am truly grateful for that.

The Start of Something

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This is the start of something new, I can feel it. Usually I say things like this a lot, and then completely forget about my goals and aspirations. I mean, it has taken almost a month since creating this blog to even write this first post. That is a little sad…a little pathetic. Well, no more! I will actually start to write, and I will try my best to update this blog two-three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We’ll see how well that works out.

I have big plans for this. Just as the name implies, BendedBrains, this blog will track the horrible mass of electrical charges people generously call thoughts of mine…as well as random occurances, music and movie reviews, chance encounters, terribly animated unicorn pictures… Basically, the wonders of a brain bent out of shape.

For example, a couple of days ago I was walking along the wonderfully scenic roads of New Brunswick with a few friends (unfortunately I can’t remember who was there or really said what, so this will be a little vague). The day was beautiful and inspiring and the start of spring. People were out and about, smiling and laughing in small groups as everyone eagerly sought to drink up the sunshine like an alcoholic drinking every last drop of an O’Doul’s, hoping that it would do something… Our conversation matched the lightness of the air and the warmth of the season.

“Imagine if people were like starfish,” one said, “and we could regrow limbs.”

“It would be crazy,” we agreed. “The whole human experience would be so different. Our concepts of pain, everything, would change.”

“Yeah! But imagine if we could only regrow body parts if we ate them,” I chimed in, “So, like, you could chop off your finger and regrow it…but only if you ate it first. Think of the bar bets!”

I don’t really know what is worse – the fact that I nonchalantly threw this idea out, or that it was so readily accepted and the conversation continued on without missing a beat.

“Of course, it would be difficult to eat larger things, though. Like, it could take a while to work your way through a leg or something.”

“Yeah, but it could get rotten during that time,” it was pointed out.

“Mhmm, very true…I guess you would have to keep it in a freezer or something, if you couldn’t finish it off all at once,” I agreed. “I guess, in the end, it just honestly makes the whole regeneration thing much harder than if we were just starfish…”

“Agreed.”

Although, having typed this out, I can’t help but wonder now – what would happen, hypothetically, if someone else ate one of your detached limbs? Would it still grow back? Or would that person then suddenly have, say, three legs? *Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more*

Anyway, this will be the type of thing you can expect to find here. I hope you enjoy your stay, don’t become too horrified, and hey! You may even end up learning something; however, just remember, I never told you this would be worthwhile.