A very hot Izmir afternoon, I came home and found my father dead. After 58 years, which he had spent mostly working, he passed away due to a heart failure—leaving all of his loved ones in a state of shock. I remember that day had started just like another Friday, he had woke up really early, went to work, came home, and had a shower afterwards. My mother found him, and when I came home, the doctor chose to give “the news” to me rather than my mother. The reminder of 2009 passed with other unfortunate events. A friend’s father passed away, a friend had a stroke and almost died, and a schoolmate was killed in a car accident.
Back then, I thought that pain in my life would never cease. My father always missed Istanbul, the city where he spent most of his childhood, and I had to live in “his city” to finish my degree. Things in my life, like inadvertently moving to one of the neighborhoods he had lived or walking everyday by the elementary school he had attended for a year, were keeping his memory alive, with a grave pain accompanying it. Izmir also became a city where I hated spending time. I remember, before moving to Tucson, my visits to my hometown were compact: I would visit my dentist, meet some friends, see some family, and in a day or two, I would be back to Istanbul, where pain had become somehow less evident. 13 months after my father passed away, I moved to Tucson. And, I unexpectedly loved this city. I loved Tucson although it wasn’t, at all, similar to the previous cities I had lived.
Tucson was smaller population-wise but geographically wider. Its weather was dominated by an ardent desert climate with almost no rain. It was very remote to my previous life, which took place in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Paris, and Izmir. And everyone, including me, found my immediate admiration to Tucson inexplicable. But Tucson revealed its meaning in a moment which is very unlike any Tucson moments. It revealed its meaning under the rain.
For the last week, Tucson gets probably more rain than its monsoon season. Last Monday, my roommate and I couldn’t bike to school because of the rain. Last night, we came home from our Saturday dinner by bike, under the rain again. This morning, I am writing this piece in our front yard while rain is unusually watering all our plants, and a couple of drops are splashed onto my computer screen. (By the time I proofread this entry, in the afternoon, it is still raining!) Tucson weather is definitely not acting as it should.My roommate and I make jokes about being in London or Istanbul when we drink coffee in our front yard. And this unusually moist Tucson days made me realize why I love this city that much.
When I was in Istanbul, or in Izmir, landmarks, avenues, streets, a random elementary school at the corner, knickknacks in my mother’s apartment, in less words anything reminded me my father, which is not a bad thing. However, they also reminded me the pain I had to cope with after his sudden death. I could not remember my father’s jokes or wise words, because the shock, and the following sorrow, was constantly with me, dominating everything about him. My father’s memory was by no means stripped from the pain of his death. However, Tucson, with no physical reminiscent of him around, gave me a new life where I was alone with the memory of my father, not the pain. Tucson was the city where I reconciled with that bitter aspect of life, the death of a loved one. It does not mean that I will not miss him when something good happens in my life. I already foresee some hidden tears at an important event, like a graduation or a birth; but this time I will be armed with the cleansing Tucson granted me.
There may not be many art galleries in this city, or the nightlife can be a joke considering other places on earth. Public transportation may be weak, and the rain may be a rarity in our lives. But Tucson will always remain the city that healed me. So, if still, anyone is wondering why I love this city so much, you have just read why.
I came to USA for a reason: I was sick of moving around, and I wanted a home. However, the outcome has been… more moving!
American graduate programs’ undisputable quality was not the sole reason for deciding to live here. I wanted a stable home for the rest of my twenties. It could be far from “home” but I wanted to build up a new life in a city, and basically live there for a long time. I wanted to become a local in another part of the world. Given that the programs here are longer than the European ones, USA seemed a perfect place to do settle down and do graduate work. If you are a graduate student at a US institution, you have to really live wherever your school is. You can’t enjoy that European freedom of pursuing a PhD in France, working in a Turkish university, and taking your vacations in Italy. In USA, you have to be on campus 10 months a year, and summers are really not times to relax. All of your classmates are learning another language or doing some awesome internships around the world, so you just can’t buy your ticket home and do nothing for three months. You have to do something, and that’s what brought more moving to me.
When I moved from Beyoglu to Uskudar in the beginning of my second year at college, I already knew I would be moving out at the end of the year to do exchange in Europe. When I arrived in Paris and entered my room, I remember telling myself this was my home only for 10 months. I came back to Turkey, got an apartment in Kadikoy this time, and said again: “Well, this is a great place to spend only one year since I’ll be heading somewhere else next year.” I did, I came all the way to Tucson, Arizona to make here my home. I did it, but it does not mean that I am no longer moving. In fact, I am moving more. Here is how:
Today, I left my second apartment in Tucson. I had to leave the first one because I was constantly ill due to my roommate’s obsession of 65°F as indoor temperature. I moved in with an awesome Chilean geologist, who was always cool about my messiness or Glee songs. Then I got accepted to a language program in Vermont for the summer, so I had to leave my apartment for a cheaper one, in which I will spend only one month before my language program starts. Today, I am writing this entry in my third home, and I will be packing again in one month, to head up north, and seven weeks later, I will be returning to my new home—somewhere I should find during June before I leave. So, this August, I will be moving into my fifth room in 12 months. Is this how you settle down, or is it just life telling me the harder I try, the worse it gets?
I really don’t know the answer, and I am freaking out if the response to my question will be something like that: “Well, honey, you are already a nomad. Deal with it.” No, I am not that 18 year-old romantic who went to “the New World” but was called back “the fairy tale city”. I don’t buy that kind of stuff anymore.
As a pragmatist academic, all I think now is I should find such a great place to move in this August that I will never want to get out until I am done here with Tucson.
Wish me luck; I will need it so bad when I am trying to stop this four-year long habit.