A World of Refugees: Davut from Turkey

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Davut and I posed in an old-time photo in Turkey

I wrote about my dear Turkish friend Davut before.  I met him 8 years ago when I escaped from frozen Russia to spring-like Turkey.  He was a special Turkish Army Officer improving his English at my second language school.  I was fired from the first language school in the first week–for sharing about Russian Easter traditions.  Some Muslim students complained.  I protested being fired for being a Christian when Turkey’s Constitution grants freedom of religion, and I may have got my job back, but I walked around the corner of Izmit, Kocaeli (near Istanbul) and found a better language school that paid more and gave me more teaching hours.

I still did not have a good place to live.  Some female teachers from the first language school had offered me a bed, but I must have offended them, too, for I was told to leave.  I was sitting on the steps in front of their apartment building with my luggage stacked around me.  I looked and felt like a refugee.  Indeed, I did not have much to return to in America:  no home, no job, no husband.  My young adult children had their own lives, and I was not important in them.

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Davut (right) when I first met him 8 years ago in Turkey

Davut and his friends found me there, and he immediately offered me a place to stay in the spare room of his apartment.  I stayed there for months.  He did not even ask me to pay him, but I paid a little that I could afford.  He knew I was lonely, and he invited me to hang out with him and his friends.  We walked through the cobbled streets of old Izmit, stepped into ancient stone churches and tiled mosques hung with tiny lights, drank tea and played backgammon in cafes by the Marmara Sea, strolled through parks lined with multi-colored tulips (“lale” is the Turkish name of the tulip flower which the Dutch imported from Turkey).

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Davut and his friends are on the far right in my Turkish wedding photo

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What I Learned in Prison

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I have been living in the California desert for awhile now, renting a room in a family’s home.  My almost seven-year marriage to a Turkish man broke up, and he is living somewhere on the streets of Los Angeles, stuck in his paranoid delusions that everyone is after him.  He leaves voice messages on my smartphone, though I had to get a restraining order against him, and he should not contact me.  I hope he goes home to Istanbul for medical help.  I feel alone, as the desert wind howls across rocks and sand, and autumn sun cools beneath clouds.  Better to be alone than yelled at, used . . .

Who would have thought that I, a free-spirited writer who has traveled much across this globe, would land in a regular job, from 07:30 to 16:00 Mondays through Fridays, 40 hours a week–teaching inmates in a prison?  I got the job after a 5-week background check (I had to list everywhere I lived since I was 16), a physical exam, and drug tests.  I drive to work across a desert Apocalypse landscape.  It is littered with rock queries, railroad tracks, and old industrial warehouses with broken windows and metal pipes.  Homeless people scarcely populate it, pushing metal carts or baby carriages without a baby.  I lost my three-level, wood-carved home in the mountain forest near a lake.  My children are young adults now, and I don’t see them much.

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My 2 oldest children have completely shut me out of their lives (and my grandchildren’s lives).  An enemy has much to do with this (an ex-husband who once laid me on a bed and strangled me, which I wrote about in my book “Fire and Ice”).  I don’t know what he’s said or why they listen and refuse to meet so that I may answer charges laid against me . . .  My few friends call me “Sweetie.”  I am not a serial killer or assaulter, some crazy grandma gone wild.  I can not understand how my own daughter, my firstborn, could take away my little remaining family . . . I lost my father at age 4 and my mother and only brother (that I knew about) not long after.  I never had a sister.

So . . . the best part of my life is the “Special Needs Yard” prison where I teach male inmates their high school GED course.  We cover mostly English reading, writing, social studies, and science (my inmate clerk helps with the math).  Most of the inmates are sex offenders who could not be in the general population; some are ex-gang members or ex-cops.  My classroom is the last one on the left, near the moving white-barred gate and blue door that leads to the desert yard.  I must have my special ID and my keys on a chain to enter the prison.  If I lose my ID or keys, the whole prison would be locked down until we found them.  I must wear professional clothes (like black slacks and a collared shirt, sensible shoes, my hair clipped back, with no identifying jewelry showing).  I walk through a metal detector, surrender my clear plastic bag for inspection, and pass through 9 gates.  A young guard in his khaki uniform with silver badge says, “Morning, ma’am,” as he holds the heavy door for me at Central Control’s Sally Gate.  I peer into the dim room filled with camera surveillance screens and many keys.

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The Liberal and the Immigrant

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It’s easy to say, “Let all immigrants come to America.”  It’s harder living with one.  I have been living with my Armenian/Turkish husband “Jack” for 5 years and 3 months.  We survived Turkey and then China and are now attempting America.  Because of language, cultural, and belief differences, our marriage has been difficult.  He can’t drive a car in the U.S., and a Green Card costs about $2000 plus proof of bank savings, home, job, etc.  We haven’t been able to afford one yet, especially since we used up all our savings when my Mazda 5 minivan was totaled in Houston, and I ended up in Texas Medical Center ICU with a subdural hematoma (bleeding in my brain from slamming into metal, no airbag deployed, seat belt bruising my ribs and pushing the air out of me).  Texas sheriffs blamed me for the accident, though I was the one hit by a speeding Houston driver.

We went back to California after that, in an American car with a high-interest loan, high payments, and increased driving insurance.  We slept in that car in the desert, then headed back toward the mountains where I lived before jumping overseas.  Jack got 3 manual labor jobs in a small town.  He quit one and was fired from the other 2, though his English now is pretty good.  After 5 years of teaching English and Journalism for universities, high schools, and private language schools in Russia, Turkey, and China, I have not been able to find a good job in America.  Nobody really needs an older, experienced English teacher in a country where the first language is English.

I found a job driving delivery for Uber Eats in Los Angeles, but with the one-hour commute from the truck stop where we live in the Inland Valley, I make no profits after gas and bill-paying (and my husband’s share, of course).  Uber pays drivers too little, though we wear out our cars, pay auto insurance, and risk our lives on steep, dark roads in the rain.

Turks love to talk, yell, fight.  Centuries of this aggression genetically infuse my husband.  My American friends don’t understand how much of a cultural difference this is and simply don’t like Jack for yelling too much.  Or maybe they question the high rate of abuse to women that Turkey records each year.

Then we lived with a Liberal couple in our small mountain town about 2.5 hours’ drive from Los Angeles. Continue reading

Lonna Sells Her Books

Watch Lonna Lisa Williams sell her books in the California mountains, at Big Bear Lake’s Copper Q Cafe, 2 summers in a row (2014 and 2015).  She should be there again this August, so come meet her and get your signed copy!  In the meantime, please buy her Kindle eBooks for just $2.99.  You can download a free Kindle reader to any smartphone, tablet, or computer.  If you like traditional style, Lonna’s paperbacks are about $10.  Enjoy!

You can buy Lonna’s books here:  http://www.amazon.com/Lonna-Lisa-Williams/e/B006ZISIFU