Trips before Barcelona

I’m typing this one-handed, and while I’ll proofread it, I ask that you please excuse any typos.

One of the largest difficulties in moving to Turkey has been the language barrier. This is something I’ve blogged about quite often and while I’ve graduated from “I don’t speak Turkish,” to “I speak a little Turkish,” there are some things that still require a translator–namely the doctor’s office. Talking about your body in a foreign language often requires more than “this doesn’t work” or “this is very difficult,”which brings me to today’s story.

The last month has been quite stressful, so when my friend asked if I wanted to go to Barcelona for Christmas, it was an obvious choice. It’s been a motivator at work and something I’ve been looking forward to for weeks now. So of course, while walking from the bakery to school today, I slipped on a patch of ice and landed quite ungracefully onto my left hand and tailbone. Sitting on the cold ground, confused and short-winded, I looked up to see people looking at me, but not moving to help at all. I tied to push myself up, but my left wrist didn’t want to support my weight. A sharp pain shooting through my wrist and hand brought tears to my eyes and made me sit down again. Still, no one budged to help. “Stupid Turkey,” I murmured to myself as I slowly gathered my things and leaned onto my right hand. I walked to school, cradling my left wrist in my right hand, head down and near tears in pain. I could move my fingers, but moving my wrist was a no-go. After throwing my bag onto my desk, next to my uneaten muffin from the bakery, I went off in search of ice, which is not necessarily an easy thing to find in Europe.

At this point, I was mad at Turkey and Turkish people on the sidewalk and the irony of trying to find ice for my injury and the stupid timing of my injury (I leave for Spain in two days), when I ran into my friend Julide. She could tell I was in pain and immediately took over. She searched the school for ice and walked me to the nurses office. Later, another Turkish coworker volunteered to take me to the hospital to translate for me and even kept me from slipping on another patch of ice on the way there. The wonderful women in HR made sure the hospital knew I was coming ands arranged a taxi for me, even though I didn’t have any cash. Other teachers at school volunteered to take my classes so I could go to the first hospital near school for the x-ray and then later when I decided to go to the American hospital for a second opinion. My Turkish/Canadian friend who is going to Spain withe me also joined me at th American hospital and has been taking great care of me since.

And after the doctor diagnosed my sprain, gave me a brace, a sling, and some pain meds, at least five other people have called to check on me. And the good news is it isn’t broken. So I guess, in all, things aren’t so stupid after all. In fact, they are çok güzel.  Look out Barcelona!

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One of the many reasons I love David Sedaris

Before I moved to Turkey I broke down and bought a Nook. My aversion to E-Readers didn’t outweigh my desire to constantly have books with me and since bringing my library of several hundreds books to Turkey was nixed by my limitation of suitcase space, a Nook seemed the second best option. (I ended up actually only bringing 15 physical books, which is impressive for me.) Of course I picked the simplest, cheapest one I could find and even that one (the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, in case you were wondering) is fancier than I really need it to be. If only they would sell them with that used book smell…

I’m still on my kick of reading 30 books this year, though I’ve only just reached the halfway point nine months in. I’m in love with David Sedaris and one of the books I downloaded to my fancy new digital, black magic library was Me Talk Pretty One Day. Somehow I’d managed to overlook this classic when going through my Sedaris binge a few years ago. But I’m glad of it, because it fits perfectly with my current situation.

The book is essentially a collection of short stories based on various events in Sedaris’ life. Quite a few of the stories are based on his life in Paris and that’s where our situations connect. He moved to Paris with his partner, but knew only two words of French when he first moved there: “bottleneck” and “ashtray.” When I moved to Turkey, I knew maybe eight Turkish words, granted a bit more helpful than “bottleneck” and “ashtray.” But the point is that as he lived there longer, he began to write words on note cards and expand his vocabulary. He went from two to 200 to 600 to 1000. I cannot tell you how many words I know in English or German, but I can literally count up the words and phrases I know in Turkish and as Sedaris says, “It was an odd sensation to hold my entire vocabulary in my hands.” Imagine that your day to day life is based off of less than 30 words!

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Aslan the Aslan

My thesis focused on language and perspective in the Harry Potter series and essentially looked at how neologisms, or made up words, and the way they are used can influence the stories and the reader experience. (This is the Sparknotes version.) So, in short, I am a nerd for words and languages.

The other day I saw a mug with a lion on it and underneath it read, Aslan. I immediately assumed this was a Narnia reference, but as I saw the word again in various situations, I asked my roommate and found out that Aslan in Turkish actually means lion. No way! This may be a small, insignificant fact to most normal people, but I am simply in love with the idea. I’ve unlocked a clever trick to one of my favorite childhood series.

And now I wonder how exactly that can affect the reading of the series. For example, when I think Aslan, I immediately associate it with the very specific lion of Narnia. However, when Turkish kids think Aslanthat could simply be any old lion. And when they are reading the series, do they just read it as Lion? Does that not demote Aslan in some way? 

Just some food for thought.

Where is Batman when you need him?

When I briefly checked my phone this morning and had six messages, I figured something must be up.  I’m never that popular at 8am. The messages mostly asked if I was ok and alive and if I was at “the theatre.” I didn’t go to any Batman showing last night. (It’s harder to go out late when you have to work and do a bunch of boring grown up things the next day) and went to bed by midnight, so I had no idea what they were talking about. Apparently, my friends back East thought I was dead. So, thank you internet, I Googled why and found the horrifying reason.

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Tribute

Sometimes it’s good to have a little whimsy in your life.

10 Ways to live off of $10 a day

Six years ago I was a poor college student. Two years ago I was a poor graduate student. Now I can just be classified as poor. Thanks to student loans, my monthly expenses average $630. (Though at least $50 of those expenses does go towards gas, it does not include food, outings, clothes or general spending money.) My monthly income averages $1200.

Still, if I don’t put anything in savings, that leaves me with about $570 a month, $142 a week, and about $20 a day.  That’s $20 a day for food, toiletries (shampoo isn’t cheap when you have long hair), car expenses, and unexpected emergencies. To some, this might seem an impossible task, but let’s just say it can be done. In fact, let’s save half of that and live off of only $10 a day.  That’s an extra $10 a day, $70 a week, and $280 a month that can go towards savings and unexpected emergencies (which I’ve found that you should actually always expect). In my case, it’s $280 a month that I can put towards a one-way ticket to Turkey.

Ok, so$10 a day. Impossible? No. Hard? Depends on how you’re used to living.  With the way the economy has been lately, it’s not a bad idea to get used to living crafty. But living crafty does not mean that you have to stop living. Below I’ve listed some ways to help you get started on that crafty lifestyle. However, before you read, let me qualify that I am basing this off of a single status. Those will spouses or dependents may want to adjust accordingly (or try out a challenge).

10 Ways to live off of $10 a day (or $70 a week)

1. Reevaluate and consolidate

The first step is to analyze what you spend the most money on, determine what is unnecessary and see if you can limit those costs. For example, instead of having digital cable, get a cord to hook up your computer to your TV. There are many sites, such as tv-links.eu, where you can find shows or movies for free, or services such as Netflix which provide the services for a small fee.

Or maybe you get a coffee five days a week before work. Limit it to just Fridays and you can save around $20 a week. See how many minutes, texts or data you actually use on your cell phone. If you set a limit for yourself and keep an eye on it every month (I know Verizon can let you check your usage online), maybe you can get a smaller plan, or find a friend and share a plan. Put a timer in the bathroom and take no more than 10 minute showers. If you examine your daily habits, you’ll find there are lots of places where you can cut the costs…if you’re willing to make the sacrifices.

2. Leave the cards at home

Today it is more common for most people to carry debit or credit cards rather than cash. It’s more convenient. If you lose a card, you can call the bank before you lose the money, it’s easier to carry, and it’s faster and more convenient to use. However, unless you are fastidious about every penny you are spending, it’s easy to lose track of those pennies each time you swipe that card.

At the beginning of every week, take out $60 (most ATMS will only let you withdraw in increments of 20). This will allow you $10 still on your cardwhich you can choose to use or not use. But for now, leave that card and its $10 at home and carry only the other $60 with you. Being able to physically see the money go away can help you want to hold on to it and not having extra with you via a card will keep you from spending more.

3. Fight the urge

A key factor in spending only $10 a day is knowing the difference between need and want. I may think I need to have that new book I haven’t read because it relates to my research, or the $7 Panera salad because it is quick and “healthy,” or those really cute brown boots because I only have a pair of black boots this winter. But the fact is that I need to have my oil changed, and get new glasses, and fix my driver’s side mirror from when I backed into the trash can. So for now, I have to fight the urge and go to the public library, make my own salad, and rock my black boots.

4. You are what you eat

It may sound a bit cliche, but eating out is not only bad for you, but it is expensive. Unless you’re getting Taco Bell or McDonald’s every meal, you’re going to drop more than $5 on a meal and trust me, you do not want to eat Taco Bell or McDonald’s every day. True, we all have busy schedules and it is much more convenient to run down the street for a quick bite, but it is much more cost friendly to make your own meals.

If you are often cooking for yourself, as I am, it can be difficult to plan meals. But try taking a Saturday or Sunday and making three different meals. Divide those meals into portion sizes and stick a few of those portions in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. You have much healthier, cheaper frozen dinners that way. Or buy ingredients that are quick and easy to put together, such as sandwiches or salads, for those times when you’re in a rush and tired of leftovers.

Believe me, it is worth it in the end–for both your body and your wallet. For more tips on how to eat healthy on $10 a day, click here.

5. Shop around

Do your research. If there is something you truly need or just cannot do without, you don’t have to buy it right away. Look around. For example, when I crushed one of my taillights, I went to at least six automotive stores and repair shops.  They each told me that I wouldn’t be able to find the part I needed for less than $115.The junk yard couldn’t even find it for less than $90. I went on Amazon.com and found the part I needed for $60–including shipping. If I’d listened to the price of the first store, I’d have spent $55 more than I needed.

And don’t underestimate the power of coupon clipping. Though the days of the Sunday paper may be coming to an end, coupons are still readily available. For example, some of us don’t have the luxury of health insurance, but may need glasses. Groupon.com is always sending offers for eye exams and I was able to get a pair of presrciption fitted eyeglasses from 39dollarglasses.com for $60 after adding anti-glare and shipping costs.

According to SmartMoney.com, the top coupon-clipping websites are: Coupons.com, CouponCabin.com, CouponMom.com, RetailMeNot.com, and SmartSource.com.

It may take some time to shop around and do the extra research, but if you’re living off $10 a day, you make it a habit.

6. Lower your expectations

Living off of $10 a day is certainly no easy task if you are used to living off more. I hate to tell you that you are going to have to lower your expectations. You’ll travel more locally, buy less brand names, visit a few second-hand shops, eat out less, and perhaps have to learn to do a few extra things on your own.

However, you’ll also find out some cool things about your region, learn that some in-house brands are just as good (and you’ve been ripped off all these years), encounter some awesome finds, eat healthier, and gain a few extra skills.

7. Recycle, recycle, recycle

This applies to more than just the bottles and cans in your recycling bin. What I’m talking about here is really using your resources. For example, if you use a jar of spaghetti, don’t throw the jar in the bin. Save it, wash it, and use it to store leftovers instead of buying new Tupperware. Plastic isn’t good for you anyway. Or use the jar as a vase, as a toothbrush holder, or, my personal favorite, as a milk jug.

Instead of buying a new outfit, dig out the old dress or shirt you haven’t worn in six months and you’ve basically got a new garment. Look through your movie or book collection and find something you haven’t seen or read in a while. Instead of eating the same baked chicken from last night, turn it into a soup. (Helpful side-not: soups are usually really cheap to make and delicious.) Look around your house or apartment. There should be plenty to recycle.

8. Stay in a couple nights more than you normally would

I love going out as much as the next twenty-something, but sometimes it literally pays to stay in. Instead of going to the movies, stay home with a Redbox rental and some popcorn you’ve popped yourself (from the kernels, not the bags), or maybe some homemade brownies even.

Invite your friends over for a pot luck or a game night. Buying drinks or snacks from the grocery store, especially when you split the cost with friends, is going to be a lot cheaper than buying your own $3 drinks or $7 appetizers at the bar. Plus, it’ll be easier to hear the people you’re with. 🙂

9. Find out what’s cheap or free in your area

For those of us who don’t mind a night or two in, but still love to go out and have adventures, don’t fret. Living on $10 a day doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. Thankfully, we have amazing tools such as Google, where we can search cheap, or free, local events. You’d be surprised what you find. There are festivals, hikes, museums, and other fun things in most areas. If you find yourself going out to a bar or somewhere with friends, order only one drink and eat before you go. Or plan on your $10 for that day to go towards that night instead.

And if you haven’t already, you should join Living Social  immediately. Another way to meet up with people who have similar interests and budgets is to create a Meetup account.

10. When you’ve got the hang of the other nine strategies, try a day where you spend nothing

It’s not impossible, I promise. And if you don’t use your $10 today, that could be $2o for tomorrow.

Confusion caused by judgement

I recently read a Freshly Pressed post entitled “Sometimes My Own Generation Confuses Me.” In the post, the author lists five things about our generation, Generation Y, which confuse her:

  1. Wearing sweatpants or pajamas outside
  2. Dubstep
  3. Modern video games
  4. The beautiful orange skin/bleached hair combination
  5. iPods 24/7

While I could understand some of her points or concerns, there was a condescending tone in her words which I thought unnecessary.  As a representative of the same generation, I see our habits, trends, and idiosyncrasies in a more endearing light than my counterpart.  I’m sure you’re nice, Classic Confusion, and from the sound of your blog, I’m certain you think you’re witty. And since you seem so confused by our generation, I thought I could help shed some light.

Before I continue my retaliation, perhaps I should provide a brief background of Generation Y. We are the generation born between 1980 and 2000. We are commonly children of divorce, we are more technologically inclined, and though many of us are college graduates, we are having a damn hard time finding jobs.

As to the above list:

1. Wearing sweatpants or pajamas outside

I can count on one hand the number of times I have left the house in sweat pants or pajamas. (This does not include family trips when I was younger and was dragged out of bed at 4am so we could get an “early start”.) Yes, I love comfort. Yes, I have left the house in a sweatshirt. Yes, I have worn capri leggings out of my house (though often when going hiking or to the gym).  But I do usually have a hard time walking out in anything less casual than jeans. But it also does not bother me that others choose to do so.

But hey, look at it this way—if you are taking the time to look nice and others are dressing in sweats, that means you look better, right? Or does it?…

2. Dubstep

“You can’t even sing along to this nonsense.” I don’t think the point is to sing along. I think the point is to just enjoy it. Though I haven’t gotten into Dubstep as much as some of my friends have, I have found that it is good for studying or dancing. Just look at this guy, for instance:

Not to mention, I couldn’t mix beats like that. Props.

3. Modern video games

You are 100% right that Nintendo 64 is amazing in every way.  Old school gaming systems are classic for a reason. Just the other day I was playing Lion King on my Super Nintendo.  But if you think there are no noteworthy games out now, you are sadly mistaken.

Obviously you have never played Just Dance.

4. The orange skin/bleached hair combination

I have to point out that this is not a new trend. This one has been around for quite some time now and I have never really been a fan.  However, I don’t feel that I have room to talk. I’ve never tried to turn my skin orange and prefer my hair large and curly. I watched The Nanny growing up, and we all fit a certain stereotype. J

5. iPods 24/7

I also have an iPod, but you have me beat on the iPhone. My phone calls and texts and that makes me happy enough.

Your complaints against the 24/7 iPods are that they listen to their “crappy” music too loud, or that they don’t pay attention to what’s going on. You should be glad that they even have headphones. At least they’re not blasting a boom box on the subway. (PS-Have you ever tried to carry an old school boom box? Those things are ridiculously heavy. )

As for the people not paying attention—those people probably wouldn’t pay attention even if they didn’t have the iPods. Believe me, we tend to space out a bit. Luckily for me, though, I had my iPod with me while writing this so I was able to concentrate enough to respond to your post.

Plus, whenever I listen to my iPod, I like to think I look as ridiculous and awesome as this:

What are your 100 wows?

One of my former Rabbis once lectured that every day is a blessing, but within that day, there are hundreds more blessing to be thankful for. Often, we look for big things and overlook the small. He said that every day, we should be able to come up with at least 100 things that wow us. He challenged us to write a list of 100 wow’s–not just things we are thankful for, but things that really impress us. It is no secret that writers often pay attention to things that normal people tend to ignore, so I took this challenge thinking that I wouldn’t have much trouble. I got to about 25 before I slowed down and got to about 35 before I couldn’t think of any more.

These last couple years have been a spiritual, physical, and emotional journey for me. They haven’t always been good or easy, but they have certainly been educational. (Though don’t get me wrong–they’ve had their fun times, too.) I’m not sure what exactly made me remember this lecture–probably some reflection on recent events. Nonetheless, Rabbi Steve’s words entered my head earlier today and I have not been able to shake them. I want to again attempt his challenge and this time, share it with you. I also challenge you to see if you can do the same.

Below are my wows. Some may seem a bit shallow or wierd, but perhaps that’s why they’re generally overlooked. It’s fun to get excited about the little things. I can’t guarantee that I’ll get to 100 this time, but it’s at least a start…

1. The fact that I get to wake up and experience another day.

2. That I can make it through today’s world without a fancy phone.

3. I get to see the Rockies when I drive to work.

4. When my students outsmart me.

5. There are so many people who would love to go to school, but circumstances prevent it. Somehow, life worked out that I got to go.

6. My family supports the fact that I want to teach and write and travel for the rest of my life.

7. Despite these rough times and risky decisions, I have a roof over my head and I don’t miss a meal.

8. I don’t have health care, but I am young and healthy (so far)

9. I don’t drink and my friends are cool with it

10. Somehow, people think my nerdiness is interesting

11. I get to do what I love every day

12. I got to write my thesis on Harry Potter

13. Despite the odds being against us at times, my family is close

14. My ungranted wishes have turned into disguised blessings

15. I have at least two dollars in change for whatever I want to use it for

16. My car is paid off

17. I can afford car insurance

18. I just moved from a place where I had at least twenty friends I could call at any given hour if I wanted to hang out. I just moved to a place where I have two awesome friends I can call at any given hour if I want to hang out.

19. It snows here

20. No matter how many times I hear them, certain songs always make me sing along (Thank you LMFAO and Mumford and Sons)

21. I knew who the Muppets were before the most recent Muppet movie

22. I got to use Muppet Treasure Island as part of my lesson plan

23. My students think I’m cool

24. My siblings think I’m cool

25. Sometimes I manage to be a little cool

26. I have a bed to sleep in every night and heat to keep me warm

27. I have friends who have known me 10 years

28. My cooking skills are slightly impressive

29. My dogs sometimes outsmart me

30. I have infinite information available to me at the click of a mouse

31. I am able to share my thoughts instantly with millions of people

32. I’ve had Facebook for almost 7 years

33. When people speak German to me, I generally understand what they’re saying

34. My students parents continously bring me Legos

35. I get to teach using Legos Continue reading

MOVE

This video pretty much sums up what I am trying to get out of life. Kudos to this guy, but hopefully soon I can be posting this kind of video of myself:

Move

Food, friends, and latkes

Happy Hanukkah! For those who might not know, today is the first day of Hanukkah. As Adam Sandler has pointed out, there are eight nights in total. It’s not actually a huge holiday for us, but thanks to the timing Christmas, we’ve placed a little more emphasis over the years. The best part about Jewish holidays is that we are huge fans of food, music, and talking. So to help celebrate my first Hanukkah in CO, I decided to give my gentile friends a mini-Hanukkah celebration.

We’re having latkes (potato pancakes), playing dreidel with gelt (chocolate coins), listening to music, drinking Manischewitz, and lighting the menorah. And since this is their first Jewish celebratory experience, I thought I would also give them some challah (bread) and lekach (honey cake), which aren’t typically eaten on Hanukkah (challah might be eaten if it falls on a Sabbath), but they’re still fun to have.

If anyone would like to join in on the fun, here is a recipe for latkes that can be found on jewfaq.org:

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes

1 medium onion

2 eggs

3/4 c. matzah meal

salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil

Shred the potatoes and onion into a large bowl. Press out all excess liquid.  Add eggs and mix well. Add matzah meal gradually while mixing until the batter is doughy, not too dry. (You may not need the whole amount–it depends on how well you drained the veggies.) Add a few dashes of salt and black pepper. Don’t worry if the batter turns a little orange; that will go away when it fries.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil to medium-high heat. Form the batter into thin patties about the size of your palm. Fry batter in oil. Be patient: this takes time, and too much flipping will burn the outside without cooking the inside.  Flip when the bottom is golden brown.

Place the finished latkes on paper towels to drain. Eat hot with sour cream or applesauce (I actually prefer ketchup).