On gratefulness

We’re almost at the end of Ramazan, and today I decided to fast.  I really admire people who choose to fast for all 30 days of Ramazan, but since I am not Muslim, but wanted to experience a tiny bit of this spiritual journey.

I’ve been so grateful on this journey, and I thought today might be a great day to write about it.

Do you remember several years ago when Oprah came out with the Gratefulness Journal?  I never watched the show, participated, etc., but I think the idea was to write 5 things daily you were grateful for, in order to realize the riches you have in your life.  I think it’s easy to stop being actively grateful when life becomes routine.  Well, have I got a powerful suggestion for you.  It’s a bit scarier, and a bit more expensive, than a daily journal:  become an expat.  Opportunities for gratefulness abound.

My gratefulness started before I arrived in Turkey.  I got incredible, overwhelming support from so many people – some great friends, some merely acquaintances.  People came out of the woodwork with loving words, encouragement, and hugs.  My friend Cheryl connected me with her friend Shane, who rented my townhouse.  Nicole let me use her attic for storage.  My team at work supported my decision to move.  Kim told me I wasn’t crazy to do this, and April gave me some advice that led to me purchase my plane ticket.  My family, even if they didn’t understand this fully, supported me.

Ozen and her family (as well as the hotel family) have been there for me since I arrived.  I stayed with her my first week here.  I’m renting a beautiful apartment from her brother and his wife.  I just had Iftar dinner with them.  And she’s introduced me new friends, and guided me all along the way.  I’ve been amazed at the amount of time and heart she has freely given me.

Five friends from home happened to have trips to Istanbul planned – for pleasure or work, and each took the time to get together with me.  Most visited during my first month here, when I was a bit lonely and still figuring things out, and they bolstered my spirit.  Theresa, Victoria, Anna, John, and Terri – thank you.  I’m so grateful to all of you!

It’s amazing, however, how the little things help.  When you’re essentially alone, don’t know the language, don’t know where you’re going, a smile from a stranger at the right time is amazing.  Or someone who knows a few words of English – or pantomimes really well – when you’re at your most frustrated or confused.  I’ve had two cab drivers go out of their way to help me in the last month.  I know people are kind everywhere, but I don’t expect it from cabbies!  🙂

My downstairs neighbor, and what I think is his wife (remember, language barrier!) have adopted me in the last month.  They watch out for me, help me when I need it, and joke with me.  They didn’t talk to me my first two months here.  I don’t know what changed, but I’m grateful.

David introduced me virtually to Matt, a friend he grew up with in Houston.  Matt has been teaching abroad for 5 years now, and we’ve become fast friends.  He’s introduced me to his circle, and now I’m friends with his girlfriend, Joe & Melody, Daniel, and Sam, who I’m taking my first holiday with next week.  I’m grateful for this group of expats who have shown me the ropes, and made me laugh.

Megan, an American I met my first week here while on a tour with Victoria, mentioned she might have a teaching lead for me.  That led to my new job, and my new boss, Mark, and several co-workers that I adore.  It’s enriching work and in a short time, I’ve met some amazing, interesting, kind people.  I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

Wednesday, I went to the butcher shop for the first time.  The man who runs the store asked me where my dog was.  Then smiled and wrapped up a bone to take home to Clover.  I don’t know him – he’s just seen me walk by with Clover.  I have a group of little girls that say hello to me every day, and want to hear about American stars.  Another little girl is incredibly sweet, and gives me big hugs every time I see her.  When you’re not around your family and good friends, hugs are important.  And wow, I’m grateful for them.

Bayram begins Monday afternoon.  After a month of fasting, people celebrate by bringing loved ones gifts of sugar and sweets.  The stores are now full of boxes of pretty chocolates, candy, and fresh Turkish delight.  I look forward to paying some of my gratefulness forward by making some “sweet” visits to friends.

So, maybe you don’t want to move overseas.  But may I recommend that you do something to break out of your routine?  I guarantee when you do, you’ll find gratefulness.  And kind people.  Even without Turkish hospitality.  And it’ll feel pretty darn good.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Erin
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 09:00:52

    LOVE this post. It made me smile so big & even got me a little teary-eyed (in a good way). I’m so SO happy for you, Jess. You’re inspiring. 🙂


  2. elaine
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 10:22:52

    I agree with Erin – made me a teary eyed myself and yes, I may not have moved overseas but I always try to stay grateful and I do appreciate all I have the opportunity to experience and all the wonderful people and things I have in my life. (hugs)


  3. Sam
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 10:50:56

    What an uplifting commentary! You make those of us who aren’t expats sure want to have similar experiences. But I also believe you went into this move with such an open heart and mind that you were welcomed by everyone so easily. I hope your journey continues to be “5-star” in all respects.


  4. Melanie
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 15:41:33

    That was lovely. I am grateful to have you as a friend. Enjoy your adventure.


  5. sunny bogden (@sunkneelion)
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 01:37:05

    Wow that was an amazing post. I’m grateful that you’re experiencing such kindness and generosity. I have a feeling it’s because people can sense that you are the same way. I thought the bit about the butcher giving Clover was especially sweet.because it was kind to the both of you.


  6. Nancy
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 14:57:48

    How grateful I am to have a daughter with guts, determination, and the selflessness to appreciate the good in others.



  7. khany
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 12:50:00

    Thank you for sharing.


  8. Virginia
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:09:32

    I loved reading this, Jessica. I loved being able to apply everything you said to my own little adventure, albeit not as grand as yours. 🙂 What you’re doing is so wonderful and your courage to do it helped me garner my own to break out of my routine. Keep on posting! I love hearing about what you’re doing.

    Virginia O.


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