Most of the people from other countries immigrate to the US because of the unbearable situations in their countries, such as social or economic problems, wars, unemployment, but many Turkish people have moved here to get higher degrees and are majoring in their education. It is a big opportunity on one side, but, in middle age, it is very hard labor on the other side.
Mrs.Karadag came with her husband from Turkey in 2007, with a seven year old daughter and expecting a son in six months, for a brighter future for Mr.Karadag’s career.
“It was so difficult, I didn’t want to come. In fact, when we first arrived, I didn’t unpack the luggages for a month, hoping that we would go back right away,” Mrs.Karadag replied with a calm voice, when I asked her how difficult it was for her to leave her hometown.
Mrs.Karadag worked in an emergency room at a hospital in Istanbul as a professional nurse for more than ten years. Istanbul is a very busy and crowded city of twelve million people situated in a small area. Roads, markets, hospitals and everywhere are full of people and the emergency rooms are one of the hardest places to work in. When she remembered those days, she sighed and laughed bitterly, “Each incident was unique and many times we had to decide what to do right away. After I worked twenty-four hour in an emergency, I came home exhausted and sometimes emotionally cluttered. I stayed home for seventy-two hours. That was my crazy schedule!” she exclaimed. She left many things behind, parents, relatives, a professional job, house, friends and every special place and items in her memory.
Her husband graduated from the best university and was working as a scientist but Turkey did not provide many opportunities for him. He wanted to major in his field and decided to move to America. “It was our first time abroad. We were foreign to everything. One Turkish idiom is, a fish out of water, we were just like that!” Life was not easy for each of them at the beginning. They first stayed for a couple days in Buffalo at a friend’s house and the friends helped them to get used to the new environment. “We were in such a stressful situation that my husband suffered from arrhythmia and stayed in the hospital for several days.”, she added. Her daughter started first grade. “It was not hard for my daughter to get used to the school,” she said “It was hard for me because I couldn’t help her with homework or talk to her teacher about the problems she had.” For each foreigner, language is a huge barrier to integrate to a new place. “From independence to parasite life. I needed my husband every single step.”, she cried.
I asked her how Americans treated her and how she felt to be inside another culture at the beginning. She answered that their neighbors in Buffalo were amazing. They were so kind to them and loved them dearly, two of her neighbors had cried when she left Buffalo. She said, “I was able to love this place thanks to them,” full of gratitude. On the other hand she had negative experiences as well. “There was a point in time in which my daughter’s bus assistant told me to take off my head cover whenever she dropped my daughter off. Once she approached me in such a determined manner with this subject that I felt uncomfortable and reported her.” In a couple days she was fired, and after that, Mrs.Karadag did not face such an incident as frequently anymore. That incident made Mrs.Karadag love this country more, because her report had not been overlooked and made her trust the justice.
“My husband got used to the USA fast but I am still suffering in many ways.” She said in a quiet voice. She believes she will never be strong and free enough like she was in her hometown. Ten years have passed, in that time they got citizenship and that made her like she belonged. Her two sons were born in Rochester. She smiled, saying, “I see the fact that my kids see themselves more as Americans than Turkish and this helps me bond more with this place.” I asked if she could go back to Turkey right now, would she? She felt deeply upset and said, “About a year ago I strongly wanted, however, Turkey is currently facing a crisis.” She calmly stated, “The unemployment rates are quite high and I do not want to risk going there and having us be unable to find a job.”
Mrs.Karadag was setting the dinner table as usual when I saw her. Waiting for the school bus and setting the table was her daily routine. She missed her job, her family and many things from her background but she is trying to do her best for her family. Middle age is very late to feel like one belongs to a new country and I am quite sure Mrs.Karadag is not the only one.