Now more than ever, the simple question “What am I doing here?” holds importance not just in my life but in the lives of my wife and daughter as well. When my wife and I began ‘courting’, I certainly knew that our relationship would change my life and my ability to make decisions, what I didn’t know was how much.
For some reason, I was so focused on getting the proper paperwork in place and convincing everyone that I wasn’t making the biggest mistake of my life by getting married to a small town girl from Morocco who had never had the chance to see much more of the world than seeing me – that it never occurred to me that once we managed to tie the knot, we would have other things to think about, other paperwork to consider, and that since I am the older, more experienced, better educated, more world-wise, and male (it matters in Morocco) half of our partnership – that making these decisions would pretty much fall on my shoulders. My wife seems surprised when I try to include her in making plans for our lives and tends to just tell me to make the decision and she will support it. Perhaps that sounds ideal to some, but what it means is that if things don’t work – total responsibility for any failure falls on my shoulders. Yikes!
So, what am I doing here – in Istanbul, in Turkey, in Europe or Asia or Africa where my wife and daughter wait for me to come and tell them what we are doing? I’m trying to figure out the best decision for all of us. It’s not easy.
I”m American, I know what the world has to offer and while Morocco is certainly pretty and offers a lot for tourists on a 2 week visit or rich expats who can afford to buy luxury guest houses – it doesn’t offer much in the way of employment, opportunities for education or creating a business without huge reserves of cash, and it doesn’t offer much in terms of an education or future for my daughter unless we want her to get an inferior education and some surprisingly backwards ideas about life, relationships, and the way the world works. My wife, however, is Moroccan and so what Morocco does offer is the support of her family and friends (personal not financial), the comfort of the culture she grew up in, and a culture that she knows how to navigate (even if I often pull out my hair in frustration over how it has to be navigated).
Hard, important life decision #1: We can’t stay in Morocco. It’s not a great place for me to improve our financial situation, it’s not a great place for our daughter to grow up, and despite the helpfulness of my in-laws – we simply can’t stay there.
So, what do we do? Easy, right? Go to my country, the good old USA. Go back to Hawaii and live the good life. – Oh, wait. Not so fast. My wife is Moroccan. It’s not so easy. I have to prove that I earn 300% of the minimum income and since I”m a self employed freelancer – I can’t really do that yet. Plus, the visa is a long complex process, plus getting the airfare, renting a house and finding a job in the current economy aren’t exactly easy. My wife says “Yes, take me to America.” But the truth is, the timing isn’t right and I”m not even sure that I can. Hard decision #2 – We ain’t going to the USA – yet.
So, where do we go? Well. We came to Turkey in 2010 and despite some culture shock and a bad experience working for a Turkish school (where they used my wife as leverage against me – long story) we like Turkey a lot. Turkey is prosperous. It’s modern. It’s got huge opportunities. It’s close enough and cheap enough that we can get between Morocco and Turkey without too much problem. Great. Decision made, tickets purchased – I’m bringing my wife and daughter to Turkey. Now, I need to find us a place to live.
Crap. Istanbul is about the same cost as major US and European cities for rent. A small studio apartment costs a minimum of $600 a month plus the utilities. I like Istanbul, but I’m not sure it’s where we should live. But I have friends here, I have a bit of freelance work here, it offers all the modernity we (I) need and our friend has offered her apartment to us for a month when we land here in March while we find a place to live – still, I should look for a place for us- but it makes no sense to rent it for a month while we aren’t here – unless it’s some sort of a killer deal. Okay, I won’t rent a place unless it’s the right place until we all get here.
Crap. We have an apartment filled with things in Morocco. Oh well, that’s easy. My wife says to move everything into her mom’s house, but since the rent is only about $150 a month, I prefer to just keep it for 3 months as a backup plan in case things go wrong in Turkey (again) – but I’m crossing my fingers they won’t. One thing for sure, I won’t ever work in the same school or company as my wife again. Anyway, Turkey seems to fit the bill for now – I hope…okay, it has to. The tickets are bought. At least there is no visa problem for my wife like there was when we tried to go to France last fall…no visa problem like the USA. My daughter has a nice American passport so she gets a $20 visa on arrival like me and we should be able to get a residence permit.
Work. This is a huge one. A hard one. I earn enough to support us with my own business ventures – but the problem with being self supporting is that there is no social safety net, no fringe benefits, no health care, no guarantee of future paychecks. This week, I’m freaking out about $1500 that is past due from a client and wondering if I did all that work for nothing. I hate that insecurity and sometimes I think I should take a job – but the truth is, I probably earn more on my own than anyone will pay me. And when I have a job, I can’t do my own work…
As a writer, I keep getting rejected. I hate it. I guess all writers do. Those walls of shame of rejection letters only start to feel good after you get accepted. Despite my books selling well on their own – I sure would like to have the validation of some agent or publisher saying “We love the way you write and want to represent you” but so far they all say nice things followed by “…we’ll have to pass for now.” Reminds me of when I used to get up the nerve to ask some cheerleader out in college…yeah, it hurts. At the moment, I just can’t ask anymore because it makes me angry and hateful towards everything and everyone.
So, those are the big life decisions, right? Where do we live? How do I support us? What do I do for a living? I’m sure there are more important decisions I’m making – but man – no wonder travel has become something I no longer enjoy – the days of irresponsibility are long gone for me. Everything now has to be considered not for me but for my wife and my daughter. I certainly miss being able to not care what happened to me, but these days, what happens to me affects them and so even though I’m in Istanbul, one of the most cigarette filled cities in the world and I always enjoyed smoking – I’m a non-smoker and won’t be starting any time. Damn responsibility!