Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Washington Post: As Boomers Shed Stuff, Their Offspring, Millenials, Reject it

 
This article about Boomers downsizing and their children not wanting their stuff made me smile, as I have had this experience when I downsized, and I now actually live in a city with my memories on a blog, just like a Millenial! There's a big box of hard copy photos waiting for me to organize into scrapbooks when I get back home to America though. I guess this article is telling me: don't bother.

Maybe the reason Millenials aren't defining themselves by possessions is they all saw this movie short "The Story of Stuff" growing up: 


Thanks to my friend Hope Gross Mandel for the article. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#TwitterbannedinTurkey creates an opportunity for Turks to create and broadcast more than a single story about their nation

The last time my free speech was censored in Turkey was right before a local election. The entire Google Blogspot domain was shut down. The reason cited for the shutdown of Google Blogspot was someone live-streaming football games over their blog. I was new to Turkey. The fact that this censorship of an entire domain (not just one person's site) happened right before a hotly-contested election struck me as interesting.

Freedom of tweet!
Last week, I was scheduled to give a workshop to Istanbul educators on how to use Twitter. As it happened, my workshop was scheduled for the heart of Taksim Square. That Twitter workshop had to be cancelled due to protests that were so huge they made the New York Times.

The protests were a reaction to the death of a young man named Berkan Elvan who had run to the store for bread in a neighborhood with ongoing protests. On his trip to the store, Berkan was shot in the head with a tear gas canister. Berkan had been 14 at the time he was shot, had lingered in a coma for 269 days, and finally passed away at the age of 15. His death has not been investigated, nor has anyone been held accountable.

Berkan is a member of a religious minority, the Alevis, as are many of the other victims of state violence this year.

How strongly did people in Turkey feel about his death? Take a look at his funeral.

No chirping allowed.
Amazingly, less than a week later, Berkan Elvan's death is no longer in the headlines. The conversation has been completely changed away from police brutality. This week's outrage is that Twitter has been censored. Why? So that stories that would be "insulting" to those in power can not be accessed. An election is less than one week away.



Excessive drama and outrageousness happens every week in Turkey. On the one hand, that's what makes it so fascinating to live here. Yet I don't want to be like one of those Jews in Nazi Germany who were in denial about how bad it could get. They didn't leave when all signs were screaming that they should.

Twitter had a bad night in Turkey!
Faster, little bird, faster!
Hoşgeldiniz! [Welcome]



I hope for his sake he doesn't miss!

The Sultan of Twitter

The Byrds! The Byrds!

The Twitter ban may not be as cinematic as it was in Nazi Germany, but there is no doubt about it, banning Twitter was the equivalent of a book burning. All of the tweets people send are just shorter books. Even the United States State Department agrees it was a book burning.

The first episode of Twitter censorship ended with Turkish citizens breaking all records of Twitter use. As you can see, the memes about it were delightfully creative. The second episode of Twitter was harder to surmount as the government had banned more spots.
The Turkish people were ready.
Power to the people!
The government of the
Turkish Nation
seemed to willingly
trash its "place brand"
as an up-and-coming
secular democracy.
It occurred to me watching Turkish creativity erupt due to Twitter being banned in Turkey, that it was the Turkish people's golden opportunity to create more than a single story about Turkey. "The Single Story" is an idea of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that we often get just one story in our heads about a place and it creates the entire identity of a people.
Oh, he won't fit!
Zipped shut!

Yes, the actions of  their government may have received all of the negative headlines, but the response has been fun [so far] and it continues to be beautiful. Why shouldn't the world hear and have many, many stories about Turkey!
 Sing, Turkish tweeters, sing!

You may be interested in these other posts about censorship in Turkey and elsewhere:






You can follow both my blog in Facebook at EmptyNestExpat, and on Twitter at @EmptyNestExpat.

Update: Berkin Elvan's Funeral March was memorialized in miniature by miniaturist Alina Gallo. You can read about it here.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Five Most Popular Posts From 2012 for the 'Empty Nest Expat' Blog

I didn't get to blog as much as I wanted last year because I devoted many hours of my time to learning Turkish. Still, I increased my number of posts from the year before. Here are the top five most popular posts written in 2013:
"Hürrem," the leading character
 of the show 
 
1. Ready to Try Some Turkish TV? Watch one episode of "The Magnificent Century"
This soap opera is must-watch TV in Turkey and surrounding countries. The Turkish Prime Minister has threatened to ban it for focusing too much on the Sultan's bedroom, and not enough on the Sultan's time on the battlefield. The Prime Minister's threats of censorship, of course, just increase popular interest.
Maiden's Tower on the Bosphorus
 
2. Time Out for Turkish
This post shares my Turkish language journey and some of the internet resources I have used along the way in my early days of learning. The irony is, now that I've finally paid to attend a traditional classroom, my learning is exponentially faster! It turns out you can't beat a real teacher walking you through the grammar.
 
3. Breaking the Silence on Street Harassment in Istanbul
Single women travellers are one of the largest growth segments in travel. I tried to point out the cost to countries and local businesses when women don't feel safe on their streets.
Here we are discussing Murakami
 
4. Discussing Books with the Global Minds Book Club
When I explain the idea behind the Global Minds Book Club as people from around the world discussing books from around the world, everywhere I go, people get excited. They love that idea! And once you've discussed a book with an international group, it can seem a bit tame to only discuss a title with only people from your own country. Challenge your thinking!
Global activist Eve Ensler
She doesn't look away
from the world's worst situations
 
5. VDay 2013: One Billion Women Rising Globally & .... Dancing!
In 2012, I acted in my first play "The Vagina Monologues" to support Eve Ensler and her amazing, amazing work on behalf of ending violence against women. I loved the experience, the time I spent with the women in the cast, and I look forward to doing my part in Eve Ensler's next big project: #1billionrising which happens next month. I hope you'll participate too.

Thanks for reading! 'Empty Nest Expat' is also on Facebook. Sign up today for the latest post.

You might enjoy:

Most popular posts for the 'Empty Nest Expat' blog for 2009

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Empty Nest Expat cited for excellent expat advice and resources by the London Telegraph

A cup of Turkish coffee
is the perfect accompaniment
to blog reading
It's a beautiful snowy day here in Istanbul. It was a joy to come home in the snow, and learn that sharing my expat experience is making a difference.

Today I learned that "Empty Nest Expat" was recognized by the Telegraph for "providing excellent expat advice and resources."  How fun! That's exactly what I try and do: provide advice and resources for expats and empty nesters as I share about my expat journey. I'm especially pleased this esteemed newspaper recognized my work, since I am in a period of low blogging due to taking Turkish lessons three times a week.

 I know how thoroughly the editors there work on behalf of their British expat community. Thank you, Telegraph editors. I'm glad you enjoy hearing about expat life; it's so kind of you to include a Yank!

And if you are a new reader, here's some samples of my advice. British readers, be sure and notice the last link. It isn't advice, just a wonderful celebration of my lifelong hero who was, after all, British. That's especially for you.

On Learning a Language Overseas:

Time Out for Turkish

A Review of Live Mocha : The Internet's Largest Language Learning Website

On Living Without a Car: (starting my 5th year now!):

Starting My Third Year Without a Car

How the Czech Government Delighted Me as a Consumer

On Living Spontaneously and Being Open to New People:

An Evening with the Hari Krishnas

Eating my Way through Sofia, Bulgaria

On Terrific Expat Reads:

A Trip to Provence, Accompanied by Julia Child

Hearing Tales from a Female Nomad In Person: Rita Golden Gelman

Vagabonding

Hello, Great Big Beautiful World! (first-ever blog post)

On Downsizing and getting ready for the Expat Adventure:

"Shed Your Stuff, Change Your Life"

Shedding a House and a Full-Time Role

Shed your Music

Shed your Clothes

Shed your Commitments

Shed at Work

Shed Your Books

Shed Your Furniture

And lastly, especially for my British readers, a post in celebration of a great friend to America who was a wonderful leader of free people, the greatest man of the 20th century:

"An Iron Curtain Has Descended"

Thanks for reading. And keep coming back.


Look for "Empty Nest Expat" on Facebook for more updates.




Friday, December 7, 2012

Thank you ExpatsBlog.com for my Silver Award Winner badge - Turkish expat blog

Expat blogs in Turkey
Yesterday I found out that my blog was recognized by ExpatsBlog.com as their silver award winner for Turkish expat blogs. This particular blogging competition was so fun because awards were based on nominations. It meant so much to see all of the lovely things my friends and readers wrote in support of my nomination.

I don't know why, but my blog doesn't seem to get that many reader comments, even though my readership has never been higher. Reading those contest comments was motivational!

There are many, many lovely Turkish expat blogs out there, but I would like to give a special shout-out to the other bloggers recognized by ExpatsBlog.com. They are:

Gold Award Winner: My Turkish Joys

Bronze Award Winner: Ayak's Turkish Delights

Honorable Mention: Canim Benim

Honorable Mention: Ellen in Turkey

Çok teşekkür ederim! Thank you!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Favorite Way of Learning About Islam

When I first moved to Turkey from the Czech Republic, I noticed the different vibe immediately. America's dominant vibe is commerce and making money. The Czech Republic's dominant vibe is skepticism and lack of belief in religion, politicians, and ideologies. Turkey's dominant vibe is faith. Even though the dominant faith isn't my faith, I do enjoy the cocoon feeling of being surrounded by faith.

Before I came to Turkey, everything I knew about Islam was taught to me by the American media. There was a heavy emphasis on how Islam holds back women's rights and doesn't promote critical thinking.

People must be getting something out of it as a religion though, otherwise why would it have become so popular so quickly in this region of the world and remained so. I wanted to learn more about it from people, rather than media sources.

I needed someone who knew my culture to guide me because I wanted someone who knew where I was coming from and my culture's standards of critical thinking and equality.

Luckily, I came across a blog written by a woman of Egyptian heritage who grew up in the Vancouver, Canada area. She too, had, North American standards. Daliah is a financial and economics reporter for a Western corporation, but she is also on a journey to explore her own faith of Islam and to submit to it deeper.

Learning about Islam makes me a better friend and expat. It also allows me to get more out of my time here. With each year here, I understand the festive feeling of Ramazan better and participate more. When I take the time to learn more about the dominant belief system in this country, I am treating my friends and hosts with respect. Most importantly, I find Islam and Islamic people way less threatening than I used to before I lived in an Islamic country. They are not a monolith.

Here's a sampling of blog posts from Daliah's blogs that I enjoyed.

This is single best description I have ever read on how to honor your father and mother:

The three-letter word that taught me how to respect my parents


Daliah explaining the act of fasting:

Fasting to feed the soul

Daliah explaining how hard it can be to pray five times a day:

Becoming spiritually punctual

This post helped me understand the spirit of Ramazan (Turkish name):

10 Ways to Maintain Ramadan's Spiritual Momentum

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sam's Salad with Cherries, Goat Cheese, and Pistachios

Cherry Season in Istanbul!
I can't get enough of them.
Turkey has such a vibrant and local agricultural industry. Seems like everyone is a locavore here. I can't think of anything that might be flown in other than bananas and processed food. In the springtime, I felt such overwhelming anticipation for the peach and cherry season - the season couldn't start fast enough for me - I was like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Now cherry season is winding down, but just in case there are cherries available where you live, I wanted to share the recipe for this salad. The recipe comes from the beautiful food blog of one of my readers.

Here's my shout out to Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen for her salad of cherries, goat cheese, and pistachios. All three of these ingredients are magnificently produced near Istanbul. As soon as I saw it, I knew I should make it to celebrate the fabulous bounty of Turkish farmers. Go to Sam's blog for the recipe. It was delicious!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Enjoying Hometown Friends in Istanbul


 Brian Smith and me
One of the fun parts about living in Istanbul is so many friends come through town as tourists. This summer it was my  Ames, Iowa high school classmate Brian Smith and his very fun wife Fazia Ali. So many giggles! Brian is so in love with Fazia. It's moving to see. They have been married for 19 years.
Family friend Bahar
and Brian's wife Fazia
Brian is a Pulitzer-prize winning photographer. His first magazine photograph appeared in LIFE Magazine when he was a 20-year-old student at the University of Missouri.  Five years later, Brian won the Pulitzer Prize for his photographs of the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Yes, that's right, at age 25!

Because Brian started achieving so early and for so many years people are always asking him for advice and he is happy to provide it. Here's an example from his blog where he shares Secrets of Sports Photography: his favorite Olympic Moments.  It is great storytelling of jawdropping images we will all remember.

Lately, Brian has specialized in celebrity portrait photography. I love hearing him talk about his book project "Art and Soul: Stars Unite to Celebrate and Support the Arts." The book grew out of the desire of entertainment professionals to share in a deeply personal way how they had been impacted by the arts. Truly, some of the most iconic celebrities are featured. I dare you to look deeply into Ann Hathaway's eyes in Brian's portrait and not want to say "yes" to whatever she asks for! You can thumb through 15 of the portraits on the Amazon site and vote for the ones you like. All of these portraits were also featured at the Library of Congress. The stars hand-carried the book to Congress to advocate for more funding for the arts.


















This fall Brian will have a new book coming out called "Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous." Along with instantly iconic photos like this cover shot of billionaire space entrepreneur Richard Branson, Brian shares the stories behind the photographs and how he connected with his subjects to create such unforgettable images.

I admire my classmate's work and his willingness to mentor so many young photography professionals coming up. Brian gives speeches all across America on photography topics but also on just getting started as a professional. I enjoyed the storytelling in this webinar: "Stop Waiting for Your Big Break." He frequently is invited to share on this and other topics in person.

After coming to Istanbul, Brian and Fazia went on to Athens. I LOVE this photograph he took of her there.
"My Goddess Rocks the Acropolis"

Brian Smith on Twitter: @briansmithphoto
Brian Smith on the web: http://briansmith.com/

















Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yea! I'm the mother of two college graduates!

Me and my girls
This month I had the occasion to go home to the United States to see my youngest daughter graduate magna cum laude from the University of Missouri with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism. Her emphasis was Strategic Communications. I'm proud she graduated with honors and equally proud that she graduated debt-free. She worked really hard at that, at one time holding down two assistantships and a part-time job while going to school full-time. She plotted her classes out carefully so that she graduated in exactly four years.
My daughter "relishes" her new role
as a hotdogger

On June 3rd, she starts her new job as a hotdogger for the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.  It's been fun to learn about that opportunity as over 1,500 people apply every year and exactly 12 young people are hired to drive six different Weinermobiles around America promoting the Oscar Mayer brand of hot dogs. I'd like to think my daughter inherited a bit of my sense of adventure and desire to see parts unknown.
Suzy, the Dancing Pancake
People who have worked as a mascot are frequently hired as a hotdogger for the Oscar Mayer company. Who knew that  my child's time as IHOP's "Suzy the Dancing Pancake" or Papa Murphy's " Pizza Slice" in high school would pay off so well? Maybe, she did. Kelly makes opportunities everywhere she goes.
The Papa Murphy Pizza Slice

Two years was too long a time for me to be gone! I think it's important to probably go home once a year if that's doable. Or if I can't go home, it would be nice if my family could come visit me here. Vacation time is so short and precious in America though, I can't imagine that will be soon.

While I enjoyed my time home in America, and was pleased that every city I went to looked like it was doing great, it did feel like I was coming "home" to Istanbul when I came back after 10 days. I couldn't wait to enjoy the Turkish spring bounty of new cherries. I wondered when the Turkish peaches would hit the shelves. I hoped the climbing roses and the honeysuckle were still fragrantly blooming in my neighborhood and that I would get to enjoy them.


Yea! She finished!
I have confidence in my child's ability to thrive post-college. If she needs me, I'm just a phone call away. Maybe my highly conscious decision to designate this period of my life as my time to be an "Empty Nest Expat" has rubbed off on her highly conscious planning of how to use her most agile years.

Kelly's already set her next life goal as running a race in all 50 states of the nation by the age of 25. I think she's up to seven states now. She did her first marathon the Saturday before graduation. That's another hard part about me being an expat: I wasn't there to cheer her on. Luckily, the people of Cinncinati, where she ran the Flying Pig Marathon, made her feel like an Olympian! "Best day of my life, Mom! The people were fantastic, the neighborhoods were adorable, and they made me feel so proud."

You can read about her adventures at the University of Missouri at her freshman year blog "First Steps of a Freshman" or at her new blog "The Race for All 50 States," or at the official "Hotdogger Blog" where she will be contributing.


You might also enjoy:

Wonderful food eases newly empty nest

Happy Blog Birthday to Me!

Enjoying the Fruits of My Parenting Labors

Hello Great Big Beautiful World! (first ever blog post)


Friday, April 20, 2012

100 Friends

I remember when I hit 50 friends on my blog. I was so excited! I'm just shy of 100 now and I would love to move into triple digits. Could you help me do that by following my blog? I would be ever so grateful. Thank you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Making Expat Friends through Internations Expat Social Network

Friends having fun!
That's how we spell it: Y-M-C-A
How was anyone an expat before the Internet? That was when people really left home and immersed themselves completely in another country. No TV shows from home, no news from home, only snail mail, and a new culture where English was not the global language it is today.  That was expat commitment on a whole other level.
Enjoying new Internations friends in Turkey
Gratefully, these days, the Internet provides us not only the comforts of our familiar media, but also tools to help us make the most of our new overseas city as quickly as possible. Before I left to go overseas, I made my first Prague friends through blogging. I started a blog and connected with expats in Prague that were also already blogging. That seems quite a slow, laborious way to make friends now that I think about it. At the time, in 2008, I thought I was high tech!
The Turkish gesture for sincerity:
A hand over the heart
What do all the people who are too busy or lazy to write a blog do? There are new, quicker ways to make friends before arrival in a new city. I first discovered couchsurfing as a way to meet locals as I travelled, and as a way to experience amazing events with fellow expats.  Couchsurfing participants skew fairly young demographically. What has been a wonderful resource for me in Istanbul is the expatriate professional's social network called Internations. It's designed to connect global minds in over 250 communities worldwide.

To use Internations, you first need an invitation from an expat who is already a member. That's easy enough to secure. They can send you an email invitation and then you too are a basic member. I've enjoyed my free basic membership for a couple of years now. Through that basic membership, I have access to all kinds of relevant information like city and relocation guides and an expat magazine. Those resources are highly valuable if first starting out or daydreaming about "hmmm, where should I go next?" I've occasionally used the forum feature in the Istanbul section of Internations where people post their job openings or 'positions wanted' listings, their moving sales, and their color commentary. I find that valuable. I've mostly used it to source books.
Sampling Turkish wine together
There is also an Internations paid membership, called the Albatross membership, which has a small monthly cost. It allows people to send unlimited messages to others in the network. I could imagine that would be useful to someone who organizes lots of activities or does business with other professionals. The Albatross membership would be useful for anyone who does business with expats because there is an advanced search feature that allows people to search by nationality, organization, or interests. Albatross membership also provides people free entry into the monthly megaparty held in each city. I find those parties to be meat-market-like and skippable even though they are often in beautiful and interesting locations. It's hard to have an in-depth conversation with anyone at one of those events.


The feature on Internations that has been a Godsend to me is the local events section.  Nice people all over the city organize outings and/or actual groups that meet on an ongoing basis. My hike to the Belgrad Forest was an event advertised on Internations by my friend Yasemin. I've also joined two different groups on Internations that have been so fun and so full of terrific, delightful people that I keep coming back to them again and again. I will write about my Internations book group and travel group both in later posts. I also appreciate that the basic Internations membership allows me to organize my connections with new friends in a different place than Facebook. That's useful if I'm not ready to make someone a Facebook friend.
Chilled Out in a Cappadochian Cave
I'm always surprised when sheer visits to a site don't translate into enough traffic to generate revenue. For example, I thought reader's consistent daily visits to the New York Times were enough for them to go out and sell advertising based on high viewership. I thought my consistent return to Internations was too.  Apparently not though, because both organizations have demanded a new monthly fee for a specific level of service beyond the minimum. I hate it when that happens! Aren't my eyeballs enough?
Dinner at Meze by Lemon Tree,
Frequently rated #1 restaurant in Istanbul
on Tripadvisor
Reluctantly, due to the new fees, my groups on Internations have concluded that we will go elsewhere for our organization and communication. My book group had set up an entire alternative communication method as we were limited to only five messages a month each on Internations (imagine how frequently we'd have visited if we could have done all of our communication with each other through the site - that limit made us create backup plans) and my travel group has already migrated to Facebook. Will Internations stay interesting if access becomes so restricted that people move their energy elsewhere?

Have you become a member of Internations? What's been your experience? What have you valued the most?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time Out for Turkish

Maiden's Tower on the Bosphorus

I haven't blogged here for awhile.  It is not because I don't have a million things to say; I do. I have had to choose - between spending time learning Turkish - or blogging. Turkish won. It's not like I have a staff who can help me keep my blog going while I study: gidiyorum, gidiyorsun, gidiyor. The authenticity of my blog is that it is merely me, myself, and I.

I've had so much fun learning Turkish, I've put "learning another language" on my bucket list. Before becoming an "Empty Nest Expat" I was a typical American who could only speak English. I took 7th grade French, but I didn't learn much and never had any opportunity to use it.  These days in America, a child could at least practice his Spanish with a native speaker on a daily basis. Like many in America, I found it hard to justify the time investment of learning another language with only the typical two weeks of vacation each year, usually spent within the continental United States. Take a look at this infographic before embarking on a language journey.

Part of being an "Empty Nest Expat" though is to meet people on their turf and attempt to communicate with them in their language and hear, see and feel their point-of-view. My time in the Czech Republic rid me of the intimidation factor many Americans feel toward learning a foreign language because I met plenty of people who had learned not one, but two, and sometimes three or more foreign languages.  If they could do it, why not me?  This was such a perfect example of the importance of role models in our learning environment. Even though I came from a highly educated environment (my hometown is among the top three American cities for number of Ph.D.'s per capita), I don't often meet Americans who have learned a lot of languages, so it is easy to say and think,"I'll never learn." Nonsense.

America's political climate also encourages America to stay ignorant of the languages and world outside of America.  When I was younger, if a politician made fun of another politician for knowing a foreign language, it wouldn't have occured to me to wonder "why does that politician want to keep Americans afraid of and ignorant of the greater world? Is he afraid we'd all discover that our country is getting outperformed on several metrics?" This downscale English-only attitude may appeal to some aspects of the American public but only furthers to make the nation less competitive globally. Plus, when our citizens don't know other languages, we really do have to rely on our own political leaders for interpretation of events.  It's healthy to have points of interaction with other countries at many levels, including citizen-to-citizen, and not just in our native language.
The first week I was in Turkey, I went to YouTube to look up "10 words of survival Turkish." The two words for "thank you" take six syllables to say. YouTube was censored at the time in Turkey so I found this instead: the 100 most useful words in Turkish. I learned them. My goal was to learn three words a day. Next came this resource, the free part of the website called "Funky Turkish." I've also been using a book called "Turkish in Three Months." I've lived here a year-and-a-half and I'm about halfway through.

The person who has really propelled me forward on my language learning journey is Aaron G. Myers, writer of the Everyday Language Learner blog.  Aaron is a former English language teacher who now is a self-employed language-learning coach. I signed up to take his free 10-week course on self-directed language learning.  I also won an hour of coaching from him through his Facebook page.  These two wonderful educational tools have helped me realize and maintain my own enthusiasm for learning Turkish.

It doesn't hurt that Aaron also lives in Istanbul, and has taken the exact same journey I'm on - learning Turkish! He's created, for example, his own handcrafted audio site for people learning Turkish language to listen to again and again.  It's called the Turkish Listening Library. It would be fun to contribute my own Turkish audio someday.

Aaron Myer's blog and advice are suitable for any language.  He has taught me about fun online language-learning resources that I did not know about. So far, I haven't spent a dime on the Turkish I have learned. I also have invested only the amount of time I would not regret spending on it while living here.

I started with a resource Aaron suggested as part of his 10-week journey: LiveMocha.com. It's the largest language-learning website on the Internet. I first logged on on March 7th, 2011 and finished my final and 51st lesson on January 24, 2012.

Now I am beginning with a second online resource he recommended called LingQ.com which will help me graduate from phrases to conversations. I am still a beginner but I can make myself understood with people who don't know English, even with my rudimentary grammer.

The first year of language learning is the hardest. I watched with interest as Yearlyglot tried to learn Turkish in one year from Italy.  I lived here in Turkey and I wasn't near that fast! At the end of the year, he admitted, "ok, so maybe that wasn't doable." But in watching people learn, I learned too. I also learned not to think of language as something binary: not knowing or flown-blown fluency.  One of my Czech students told me he had a fine vacation in North American on 150 words of English. Getting to that level with online resources is fun and easy.

Did you know, when the creators of Esperanto were looking around the world for a suitable grammar for their newly-created language they chose Turkish grammar as the most logical?  I found that, in itself, motivating!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"You're My Al Bell!"

Recently I reconnected with an old business competitor and dear friend from my hometown of Ames, Iowa named Rich Weiss. He made a comment about my writing from overseas, saying, "You’ve become my personal Al Bell and I find your insights quite interesting."

When I asked, "who is Al Bell?" he replied with this:
 “What do you mean "who is Al Bell?”  Didn't you grow up in Iowa?
Oh!  I get it!  This is your way of pointing out that I am much older than you.
 
Al Bell and his wife traveled around Iowa, visiting elementary schools, giving “assemblies” to the students on trips they had taken to exotic locations around the world.  They would take a new trip each year and then spend three seasons going around, showing native items they had brought home and showing us a film about their trip.  This was big stuff to Richie Weiss in Miss Frederik’s 2nd grade class in 1962.
 
Here are links to items about Al Bell.  I found the first one about 4-years ago when my son was living in Hong Kong and I told my daughter-in-law that she was my Al Bell.  I hadn’t thought of him for 35-years and did a Google search.  The other links here are to an assortment of stories about him from bloggers or area newspapers.  He was a very colorful man who was known by virtually all small-town kids in Iowa in the 1960’s.
Did You Know Al Bell? (The comments are the best part of this one.  We all remembered the same things.  Mine is on page 1)

Al Bell Brought the World to Rural Iowa

Assembly Program comes to Goldfield, Iowa (column 2)

Lecturer Al Bell Bitten by Mad Dog in Alaska (bottom of the page)

Al Bell ~ An Iowa Legend
If you’ve read the links, you now understand why you’ve become Al Bell in my eyes.  Your words take me to all these wondrous, mysterious locations.  You let me see the sights, smell the bread, taste the coffee, meet the people and feel like I’ve been there myself.  Thank you."
Wow, what a compliment to be mentioned in such august company as this distinguished gentleman who shared his travels with rural Iowa farm kids. Just reading the comments on link one, it shows the journey communication has taken in one lifetime. While the ease with which we find out information about points unknown has changed, what hasn't changed, is our own awe and wonder at the diversity of the world and our love of seeing beyond what we know to places unknown.

Readers, did you experience an Al Bell or someone like him? Who made you wonder about parts unknown as a child? Who makes you wonder about parts unknown as an adult?


You might enjoy these other posts about Iowa:

Talking About "My People," Iowans, to the Travel Junkies

Enjoying Hometown Friends in Istanbul

Dvorak Embraced Spillville, Iowa; Spillville, Iowa Embraced Dvorak

UNESCO Names Iowa City, Iowa a 'City of Literature'



 'Empty Nest Expat' is on Facebook. You're invited to "like" my page.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My 7 Links Blog Project

Thanks to Miss Footloose (aka Karen van der Zee) I've been invited to participate in the My 7 Links project organized by Tripbase, the wonderful organization that has recognized both our blogs with Expat Blog of the Year awards.

In this post, I am sharing 7 of my old posts you might not have discovered yet, at the end I list five other bloggers I've nominated to do the same.

My Most Beautiful Post - This is from one spectacular afternoon overlooking the Vltava River in Prague with my friend Sher. If you know nothing about Prague, this will help you understand why people fall in love with it. A Springtime Stroll Around Letna Park

My Most Popular Post - I'm deeply committed to doing what I can as an individual consumer and citizen to prevent climate change.  So I decided to sell my car and live without it.  Then one day I realized I had survived just fine without it for quite awhile. Starting My Third Year Without A Car

My Most Controversial Post -Looking back, I can't say I write very controversial posts. This one might not be the kindest one I've ever written, and I did try to put the behavior I was describing into historical  context. Little Corruptions

My Most Helpful Post - The American lifestyle has a cost structure that feels unsustainable to me. In this post, I try to help Americas imagine a lower cost structure. The Czech Republic is the same size as South Carolina.  Imagine if you were able to travel around a state the size of South Carolina for $400 a year.  How the Czech Government Delighted Me As A Consumer

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me The Most - Who knew a visit to a gift shop would generate such discussion? My post The Swedish Tourist Attraction That Did Not Attract Me ended up featured on the Displaced Nation Blog where ABC News Royal Correspondent Jane Green and I debated the idea of monarchy. 

A Post I feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved - Is it my idea? Or my blog post? What do I need, pictures? I only received two commented on this post, and I still like my idea.  Why not give the opposite of a Nobel Prize to countries that could use, well, an intervention?
Does the World Need the Opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize?

A Post I am Most Proud Of - In 2009, I was struck how my Czech friends felt their opinions were ignored on a proposed American missile system that was slated for installation in their country.  I wrote a blog post asking President Obama to come to the Czech Republic and either sell them on it or announce it would end.

He came, gave an amazing speech, and won the Nobel Prize. And the anti-missile system moved away from the Czech Republic. What a win/win.  All because of my blog post!

I hope you're smiling here. I don't actually believe President Obama came to Prague because of my blog post. But I was contacted by the BBC to provide commentary about his speech (didn't happen due to logistics) because their producers had been reading my blog.

I do feel I showed my Czech friends, feeling their way through their new democracy, that taking action makes you feel better rather than being paralyzed.  They marveled that I felt I could effect positive change.  They didn't (which is exactly what politicians want you to think cause then you'll leave everything to them).
Dear President Obama, Please Come to the Czech Republic

I live for comments so tell me what you think!

Here are the links to five blogs I've nominated to join the project:

Adventures in the Czech Republic

Black Girl in Prague

Blogging Gelle

Ricky Yates

Senior Dogs Abroad

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hanging out the with Expat Harem at the Istanbul Simulcast of the TEDGlobal 2011 Conference

 Me with fellow expats
Catherine Bayar and Anastasia Ashman

This week I attended the Istanbul simulcast of the TEDGlobal conference live from Edinburgh, Scotland. If you're not familiar with TED, I can't recommend it enough. The original organizational idea behind TED was to bring together innovative thinkers to share ideas worth spreading from three worlds: technology, entertainment, and design. There is a yearly TEDGlobal conference, offshoots like TED Women, and local versions organized by locals held globally called TEDx. Every year, one exceptional individual is chosen and awarded $100,000 to make happen "one wish to change the world."

Our simulcast was held in a beautiful facility, complete with a gigantic screen, provided by Turkcel, a local Turkish telecom. The day's events were a wonderful opportunity to meet up with American expats living in Istanbul whose work I have long admired: Anastasia Ashman, internationally bestselling author of The Expat Harem, and Catherine Bayar, a former product line designer for Nike and Adidas, who is currently deeply involved in Turkish handicrafts, especially those made by Turkish women.

Anastasia was profiled just this week in the Istanbul Daily Newspaper, Today's Zaman. She always has some project going.  During our short break for lunch, we headed down the street to the Istanbul Culinary Institute where the students of the Institute test out their cooking creations on the public. While dining over grilled octopus, she told us about the current book she's writing, a forensic memoir.  Sounds intriguing. You can watch her blog for details.

I was especially interested in comparing notes with Catherine about her old blog, Tales from Turkey, on the Google blogspot domain.  I say, old blog, because like mine, her blog was censored by the Republic of Turkey. Since the censorship went on for what seemed like months, Catherine moved her blog to Wordpress, named it Bazaar Bayar, and she is presenting some of the most exquisite photography of Turkish handwork on her site for you to enjoy. The work featured really is breathtaking and it helps local women.

I could tell you all about the talks I heard and how intellectually stimulating it was but I can't do that better than another fabulous blogger whose work I love: Bulgarian Maria Popova. Maria has built a mammoth following with her Brainpickings Blog, and here is her rundown of Day #2 of TED Global, the day of talks I heard through the simulcast.

If I had one criticism of the conference, each presenter could have enhanced their talk by deciding what it is they wanted us to do with the information. What is their "call to action" for the listener? Even if a scientist is sharing her exciting news that she has been able to double the life of an organism, why not tell us who the funding body is and ask us to support continued scientific research? I bet people would be able to see the value of increasing taxes if they knew it helped support research that could double the length of life of living organisms!

You can access all of these talks through the TEDGlobal website as they are loaded. I thought the presenter who did the best job of sharing an idea (and frankly, scaring the heck out of me) was a young scientist from Tasmania named Elizabeth Murchison who is working to prevent the Tasmanian Devil from being the first species on the planet to become extinct through contagious cancer.

The moment that touched me the deepest was Cambodian anti-torture activist Karen Tse, who broke down why torture happens in over 90 countries.  It's not just what we all assume (the presence of evil), and when you hear her talk, torture all of a sudden seems very solvable.

The moment that made me most proud was when the Chinese founder of the "China Lab" and the "India Lab" at MIT, Yasheng Huang, was explaining why China was the Michael Jordan of economic development and India, as a nation, was not quite to superstar quality like China and Michael Jordan.  India, as a nation, was still amazing in terms of economic development, though, because they were still able to "make the NBA" (metaphorically speaking).

"It comes down to literacy. Literacy in China is defined as being able to read 1500 Chinese characters.  Literacy in India is defined as being able to write your own name in whatever language you speak." If you compare the literacy rates of China and India (mid 60s% vs mid 30s%), especially of Chinese women compared to Indian women, it makes the difference."

Literacy rates helped bring about twenty years of double digit growth for a billion people. I am so, so, SO proud of being a librarian. Here then, is my call to action.  Wherever you may live, I'd like to ask you  if your nation is helping school and public librarians help citizens achieve literacy and economic growth? Please support the work of your local libraries and librarians with enthusiasm.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The Post-American World" by Fareed Zakaria

This marks my 400th blog post.  I have to give a shout out to a blogger I read and was inspired by before I became an expat.  Once while reading his blog, he remarked that he had reached 400 posts. I had no way of knowing how easy or hard that was at the time. Now I do and I salute Al Tischler, formerly of Radio Free Europe, for all of his hard work on the blog he wrote while his family was in Prague called Tischlers In Prague.  I loved reading his family's adventures and couldn't wait to get to get to the Czech Republic as I planned from America. Al, it is a pleasure to catch up with you!

Now that I'm an expat, I see things that worry me about the future of America.   A recent book published in the last few years with the title "The Post-American World and the Rise of the Rest" by Fareed Zakaria zeros in on that concern with a title that makes it sound like America zenith has past.  I love watching Fareed Zakaria's show 'Global Public Square' on CNN and wanted to hear what this cerebral immigrant had to say about the American future. 

Fareed Zakaria is well-known now to American television audiences, but it is important to remember what a breakthrough broadcasting success he was when he started his international affairs show. For most of us Americans he was the most prominent Muslim-American we had ever seen on television. Indeed, friends have suggested he could be our first Muslim-American Secretary of State.

I appreciated that his was the first Sunday talk show to consistently, week-after-week, bring an international panel of guests on his show to discuss how issues looked from abroad. Utilizing intellect and charm, he led Americans in considering and valuing viewpoints from non-Americans at a time when America was scared, hunkered down, and lashing out in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat," helped me understand the economic impact of globalization, Zakaria's "The Post-American World and the Rise of the Rest" soothed me as an American and made me comfortable with the political impact of globalization (despite its alarming title). As nations become "more like America" and compete with us using the same level of democracy and capitalistic meritocracy that made America such a success, it could be easy for Americans to fear the future and the world more. Zakaria suggests that if we stay true to democratic values and don't fight the reality of the rise of the rest, America has enough advantages with our superb ability to assimilate immigrants, our unrivaled institutions of higher education, and our storied ability to turn research into actual products to compete just fine against nations with larger populations.

Our role will be to lead politically and economically by example, coordinate nations in a multi-polar world as George H.W. Bush did so well in the first Gulf War, and thrive with our friends not just by ourselves.  A new edition of the book, "The Post-American World 2.0" has been released as of May 2011.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bloggers Unite! Celebrate World No Tobacco Day

I love the idea of Bloggers all around the world uniting around a topic to effect positive change. If I learn new ideas from the countries I visit that I can take home, one of the things I can do is bring ideas from my country that have worked and would be helpful to other people.

Today bloggers are uniting around the idea of "No Tobacco." If you would like to read the entries of other bloggers who are advocating for no tobacco, click on my title.

Since both of the countries I have lived in as an expat LOVE their tobacco, I repost a post from last year that celebrated one thing my country and specifically, my government, did well. The American government began a campaign to teach citizens how life-threatening tobacco is to smokers and the people they love. It began over 40 years ago, and today, America has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world. Here's my post:

I moved to Prague in November of 2008. It was the day after the Presidential election so I left full of hope and excitement for my country's future. The preceding month, however, with the credit crisis and the bank bailouts pretty much drove American belief in the fairness of our system out the window. It would have been so, so easy to give up in cynicism. I was grateful to be in Prague where I would be avoiding the continual depressing drumbeat of economic calamity in American news.

When I came to Prague, I discovered Czechs had their own cynicism about democratic politics. I'm not talking about before 1989, but after. Immediately after the Velvet Revolution, Czechs felt all of the assets of the country were stripped away in a big "grab" by politicians and carpetbaggers.

I don't want to be cynical. It's not my nature and cynicism never advanced the cause of humanity. So as I made my transition to living in a new country, I vowed to celebrate one wonderful thing about my government and the Czech government so that I could keep cynicism at bay. In my next post, I'll talk about one wonderful thing I admire about Czech government, even though there are actually many things (just as there are for America). Today, I'd like to celebrate my own government's actions. It actually ended up saving my life.

A typical sign
that conveys how socially unacceptable
smoking is in America.

I am grateful to the United States government for providing leadership in my country on the elimination of smoking as a socially acceptable practice. This wasn't a grass-roots movement from the people pushing up but a top-down campaign from the Surgeon General of the United States (our top public health official) to the people.

In 1964, the Surgeon General declared that "smoking causes cancer." That took real courage to say back then because 46% of American smoked. They smoked in cars, elevators, planes, offices, and their homes. The 1964 report was issued on a Saturday, so great were the worries about what it would do to the American stock market.

The news that smoking causes cancer finally sank into my brain in 1991 when I was 31 years old. Up until that point, I smoked more than I care to admit (okay, I'll admit it: 3-4 packs a day).

When I came to Prague, I had never seen so many smokers! Not even when I was 17 years old and thought smoking was cool. Just walking down one of Prague's very lovely streets, one has to be careful not to get a cigarette burn in one's coat because people are actively walking and smoking at the same time! I once chatted up a young Czech college student who was smoking and he was astonished by the idea that anyone would want to quit. "It relaxes me." I don't even think he knew it could kill him. And it's not just Czech young people who smoke.

Most educated people in the USA have educated themselves about the danger.  In America, the majority of smokers left have less than a high school education. I've entered salons frequented by Prague intelligentsia where nearly 100% of the people had a PhD. But they are uneducated about the dangers of tobacco. The air was so thick with smoke you could see it move!

I  was mystified by how unlikely it would be that my country led on this and the Czech Republic lagged on this. After all, in a socialist health care system, wouldn't the government want to eliminate preventable chronic disease because it would eliminate expense? Wouldn't Czech people resent their neighbor's smoking if that drove up national health care costs and their taxes? Isn't it in a socialist government's fiscal interest to change this smoking culture?

Maybe the taxes raised on cigarettes more than cover the cost of the increased disease and people who smoke are used for financing public budgets. I don't know. I will occasionally razz, with a joking smile, my smoking friends who are huddled outside for warmth where they've been banished nationwide in America: "hey taxpayer, thanks for paying more than your fair share through your smoking. You make it easier on the rest of us. But you don't have to kill yourself in the process - why not just mail in the money if you're so insistent on paying these extra taxes?" One of my young coworker has taken to calling his smoking breaks "paying everybody's taxes."

Why did my country lead on curtailing smoking culture when we had a giant tobacco industry that was hugely powerful, created tons of jobs, and lots of export income? The government continually, over and over again, did the right thing despite all that. We have all kinds of industries back home that sway the government from doing the exact thing in the best interest of the public as a whole. I would love to understand why the American government was so terrific on this issue when the government didn't even bear the health care costs of increased smoking, insurance companies did. What do you think, Americans? How could this sort of extraordinary leadership on an issue be reproduced? We sure could use an awful lot more of it.

I am so grateful to the Surgeon Generals of the United States for saving my life. Thank you for continually reminding the public that we were killing ourselves. And since all movements have a drum leader, I would like to take a moment to honor the individual human beings who have led this movement in my country. Thank you!

American Surgeon Generals from that period onward:

Leroy Edgar Burney (first federal official to state that smoking causes lung cancer)
Luther L. Terry (commissioned landmark 1964 report on smoking)
William H. Stewart
Jesse L. Steinfeld
Julius B. Richmond
C. Everett Koop (led a campaign to create a smoke-free society by 2000)
Antonio Novello
M. Jocelyn Elders
David Satcher
Richard H. Carmona
Regina M. Benjamin

See, it's not so hard to keep cynicism at bay! Next post I will talk about what I most admire about the Czech government.
 
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