Monday, March 29, 2010

Flowers Steal Oxygen!

I nearly made a bus crash a few days ago. How was I supposed to know that using a cell phone on a bus would make the brakes fail? Luckily, the bus driver was savvier than Sandra Bullock in Speed (or maybe the brakes didn’t really fail) but we made it out just fine. I am also sorry to say that I may have inadvertently caused several businesses to go under while I have been here. I am a pretty good whistler. I like to whistle in public to regale those around me with my whistling prowess. Apparently whistling in public makes people lose money in Central Asia. I apologize for being so inconsiderate.
Here are a few other things to know if you ever visit Central Asia. Knowing these things may help you avoid the chaos that I have rained down on the people since I have been here. Knowledge is power:

Open windows cause illnesses.
If your blanket comes off of you in your sleep you will get kidney stones.
Flowers are not allowed in hospital rooms because they steal the patient’s oxygen.
If you see bread on the ground, you must pick it up and put it on a table.
Air conditioners come with warning stickers that tell people not to lie under them, because they also cause illnesses.
If you compliment something, evil will get jealous and try to destroy it.
Pregnant women cannot use the internet or cell phones.
A woman cannot sit on the ground. She will become infertile because her ovaries will freeze. (This is solved by simply putting paper down and sitting on it.)

Here are some more knowledge bombs that I will lob your way:
Peach, sick or seek, and um are all (very) bad words in Turkish.

Please learn from my mistakes.

Thankfully, we are not plagued by these hardships in America, but before we start getting all ‘hoity-toity’ about how educated we are…
Do you know who the president of Turkey is? All of my Turkish friends know who the U.S president is. Do you know who the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is? My Turkish friends do. Many of my Turkish friends have been to parts of the U.S. that I have never been to.
One of my Turkish friends said that an American college student he met in Holland did not know that Washington D.C. was the capitol of the United States. He also said that most Americans believe him when he tells them that there are no cars in Turkey and that everyone rides camels. (I saw a Ferrari in my neighborhood here a few weeks ago.) It is a bit embarrassing talking with people overseas and finding out how little we Americans know about the rest of the world. (Myself included.)

I met a Turkish guy the other day that believed that all Texans carry six-shooters and ride horses everywhere. He told me that Texas must be a “very bad-a” place. Messing with people is cross-cultural.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Right... Now!

Most days in Istanbul are amazing. There are times when riding through the streets I glance out the bus window and can catch glimpses of the dome of Ayya Sofya or the Blue Mosque’s six minarets (there is an interesting story behind the six minarets of the Blue Mosque) glistening in the sun across the Bosphorus Strait. I walk through the fashionable streets of Moda or stand in places where human civilizations have risen and fallen for thousands of years and am overwhelmed by the opportunity I have been provided. I live in the fifth largest city in the world and am surrounded by wonderful people, fascinating culture, breathtaking cityscapes, and emerald mountain islands glistening not too far off in the Marmara Sea. Still there are moments (mostly just moments mind you) when I get restless.
I think about the sweet taste of Dr. Pepper, about sitting down in a Mexican restaurant with an endless supply of chips and cheese dip, about getting in my Jeep and driving ten minutes out to the woods where I can just be alone, about being able to talk to any person that I see and know that they will be able to understand what I am saying. I think about how great things were at Ouachita, or in Waco, or at War Eagle. I let my imagination wander about how much fun it will be when I get to the UK, later this spring and start traveling more. Here I sit in one of the most fascinating places on the planet doing something I love and sometimes I wish that I was somewhere else just drinking a Dr. Pepper (which, to be honest, is really just an okay drink) or eating chips and cheese dip (which, to be honest, are more often than not stale) or driving my in my Jeep (which, to be honest, never really ran that great.)


I went for a walk to Ozgurluk Park yesterday. Trees and fields make a last stand here in the sprawling metropolis of Istanbul. Walking-trails meander through the park past benches and soccer fields and even a stream flows through it all. In the middle of the park is a little café where I eventually made my way and sat down to some hot chai and kasarli tost. As I sat there (forced to eat a cheese sandwich because I could not remember the word for meat) I thought and I listened.
I remember sitting in my dorm room at Ouachita counting down the days when I would graduate and could ‘start life.’ When I got to Waco and started seminary I remember thinking, ‘Man, things sure were great at OBU and I can’t wait until I am married.’ Then came, ‘Man, I can’t wait to get started traveling overseas.’ And on and on the list goes; one dream replacing another, always either longing for things to come or yearning for days past.
C.S. Lewis says that this present moment is the most like eternity. It is in the present moment that we really live. By longing for the past or for the future we not only rob ourselves of the joy that comes from being alive in Him now, but we also hinder the work that He can do through us in this present moment. Sometimes I think, ‘I can’t wait to really get started doing His work,’ or ‘Man, when I grow up I will really be something special.’ The time to work is now, there may be no tomorrow and if I am not content then that tomorrow will be filled with wishing for the past. How much time have I wasted by wishing I was somewhere else? I have been promised nothing other than this present moment and I intend to make full use of it.
So whether I am standing in the middle of Taksim Square in Istanbul, or playing with kids at Camp War Eagle, or riding bikes with Jake and Josh in Waco, or running around being an idiot with the Beta’s at OBU, I am where I am and nowhere else. By being content I allow myself not only to be happy, but also to be used by Him. So I am going to live life in Istanbul (and drink chai instead of Dr. Pepper), for I am blessed to be here and I wish to be a blessing to those I encounter. Life is life wherever you are, so live it well.

Kofte! Okay I just remembered ‘kofte’ is the word for meat! No more just cheese sandwiches for me!