I’ve had a nostalgic week. As my beautiful Turkish summer unfolds, I find myself thinking back fondly on memorable summers past. A year ago this week I was in California, surrounded by my dearest friends, celebrating Tommy and Cynthia’s new life together. I miss it. It’s funny to think how much has happened since then.
I have been talking a lot lately with my friends here in Istanbul about seasons. Most people in Turkey have begun to prepare for Ramazan, the month of fasting and feasting, that begins this Friday. Preposterous amounts of lights are being strung between mosque minarets, buses are bedecked in so many colors they’re almost unrecognizable, and long communal iftar tables are being set out on the waterfront and in public squares for friends, neighbors, travelers, strangers to break their fast together every evening at sunset. I have a great deal of reverence for the rhythm of Islamic life: the seasons they observe corporately, the five daily prayers I have come to love and measure my days by, the age-old tangible rituals of worship all challenge me to remember my own heritage as a follower of Christ. I find myself considering the cyclical nature of the Church year, the rhythm of liturgy, the seasons of fasting and feasting we too have kept throughout the generations more than ever now that I am very much in the midst of a new season of my own.
I’ve often been encouraged by the image of a life lived in seasons, a cyclical experience rather than one long trajectory, since it helps me to make sense of the places I find myself, literally and figuratively. The people I’ve met in Turkey, be they expats, travelers or refugees, seem to know this too: there’s a time to be on the move, and a time to build a home; a time to invest in loved ones and a time to serve others; a time to rest and a time to find meaningful work; and hopefully many many times to experience life abroad! It’s likely that I’ve already passed the halfway mark of my time in Turkey, the thought of which ties my stomach in knots, but God willing/inshallah, this won’t be the last season I spend here.
Which brings me to a very long, and long overdue, update on the seasons within this season: spring and summer and the unique flavor that accompanies each passing month. Let’s begin in April, with tulip season. I promised you this photo months ago.
It was also a rainy season, with plenty of frogs. This one I met in the stunning Belgrade Forest (which, contrary to popular belief, is not in Serbia.)
April showers brought May flowers, enough to knock you out.
Next came my favorite season: the time I got to share my city with my favorite boy. Stephen flew all the way to Turkey to cheer me up during a particularly lonely stretch, and we spent practically our entire two weeks sitting at various street cafes learning to play backgammon–just exactly what my heart needed.
Here he is, enjoying my neighborhood, being even more handsome than I remembered. Backgammon board not pictured.
We did take a brief break from board games to visit the Black Sea, which may be the most spectacular place on earth.
I sure miss you.
Next came a series of wonderfully welcome visits of some really dear friends, notably my childhood best friend Rachel and her awesome boyfriend Dave, whose company was so refreshing, but whom I somehow managed to not take any pictures of. I did however take a picture of the Sriracha they brought me (THANK YOU).
Note the packaging.
June brought with it a whirlwind of activity and new opportunities, as I was able to connect with some really delightful people and begin to volunteer again in the refugee community I love so much. In addition to home visits (one to a brand-new Sri Lankan mama and her perfect three-day-old daughter) and moms & tots lunches a few days a week, I got to participate in prenatal classes, a fantastic week-long VBS for the kids, an international worship night and a summer kick-off picnic that involved homemade Ethiopian food and literally hours of running through sprinklers.
Eyob: Ethiopian/Sudanese, fluent in Turkish and a total heartbreaker.
I’ve spent some good time lately this this unbelievable family. Nuriye and her husband are both double-amputees, but have managed to not only make the move from Iraq, but also to care for their two beautiful children, and to be the most resilient people I’ve ever met.
Baby Amir, who has me completely wrapped around his little tiny finger.
Now it’s July, and the season I find myself in presents a stark contrast to the happy one that just came (temporarily) to a close. With my tutoring jobs on hold for the summer, I had the leisure to volunteer as much as I wanted–but there quickly came a time when the rent was due and the gas bills were accruing, and I had to look out for something, anything to do to earn a little cash. Teaching jobs are hard to come by, but I managed to snag the next-best thing: an au pair position. And it seems I’ve landed in clover.
Meet Shiraz, my beautiful spunky 3-year-old charge, with whom I’ll be lounging poolside for the next few weeks.
I thought their house in Istanbul was the most luxurious thing in the world, until I saw their house on the Aegean.
You heard me. Here is the view from one side of the veranda…
…and from the other.
As strange and unsettling as it is to go from the things I’d been doing in Istanbul to the things I’ll be doing in Bodrum, I know that Shiraz needs just as much care (though in different ways) as the kids I’ve been loving on lately. I’m excited to pour into her these next few weeks… and it doesn’t hurt that THIS is where I get to do it. I’m soaking it all in while I can, since I probably won’t even honeymoon anywhere so nice. What a ride. I have so, so much to be thankful for, and I can only imagine what’s to come in the seasons ahead. (Spoiler alert: August involves a trip to Israel/Palestine. Buckle up!)