top of page

The AFGO Life Lessons and Roller-Coaster Adventures of Ami Ji in Turkey (part two)

A guy and a gal walk into an opera.

No, this is not the beginning of a joke. This is my life. I went with a guy to an Italian opera in Turkey.

What this meant was that I saw live opera sung in Italian with Turkish subtitles scrolling above the stage. Italian or Turkish, it was not about understanding. It was about experiencing the mastery of instruments, voice, and drama.

I believe my jaw was dropped open quite a bit more than my mouth was closed. Yes, it was awesome.

I saw two mini operas classically billed together: Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

There is a song in Pagliacci that I will embed here, sung by Luciano Pavarotti . When you listen to this version, even if you have never listened to opera before, you may very well recognize a very famous section of the song.

Pavarotti did not of course perform live at this Turkish opera. A live performance would have been humanly impossible since Pavarotti left this earthly plane September 2007. Still, if you are going to give the song a listen, you may as well listen to the master.

So, a guy and a gal walked into an opera.

You may be asking, "Ami, who was the guy you went to the opera with?" Well my friend, short and sweet, without beating around the bush, I will tell you. I went to the opera with Mujdat. You remember Mujdat? The guy I parted ways with...

A funny thing happened on the way to the opera. Well, more accurately, a funny thing happened on the way to closure.

After those first "closure" talks I had with Mujdat my heart felt softened and my boundaries felt firm. The combination of the two proved powerful.

Oxana would be leaving to Istanbul and Moscow for work and would be gone for almost a month. I was invited to remain with her family, though she would not be there. I would miss her.

Could I enjoy Mujdat's company while maintaining my boundaries? This will be an experiment I thought. At one point, later, we talked about that. We both seemed to be in the same mindset.

I decided to see Mujdat and learn about myself in a relationship. And so I did. I have. I am.

It has been interesting, moving in and out of a relationship with this man. It feels very much like an opera, very dramatic. Mujdat is not Canio, the maniacal murderous husband in Pagliacci. I am vigilant about making sure he is not that character in my play.

It has been physically easy to move in and out of relationship with Mujdat, because I live in Oxana's home and he lives in his "camper van" (as he calls his home), and we are literally a short walk apart.

We walk and motorcycle to places near and far (not too far).

The first outing we planned was somewhere close by. We took a ride on his motorcycle to Doyran Göleti.

Doyran is a man-made reservoir in the middle of the Taurus mountain range. The day was sunshiny gorgeous. The terrain was rough and Mujdat navigated it well. "I trust you on the motorcycle," I told him. "Thank you," he said.

We saw people hiking with full backpacks and people of all ages gathering sticks to build fires. A travel van was parked in such a way we could not figure out how it got there. All around the lake, Turkish families sat in chairs around tableclothed folding tables, making and eating full meals including Turkish tea. It was glorious.

We rode up to the top of the lake.

Then we rode to the water down below. There was a little waterfall that we hiked to. I was still unsure about this man, so I kept some distance between us.

Walking together more, bumping into each other (as we tend to do while walking), I began to soften. We walked closer. We held hands. I began to remember our intimacy. "I trust you in bed," I said. He said: "That is good because that is the place we are most vulnerable." I liked how we did not need many words to get to the heart of the conversation.

"I do not trust you in other places, though," I said. He laughed with recognition. "I can be difficult," he said. I looked at him and nodded.

Recognition does not mean I am ok with offensive behavior. Recognition does not mean the offensive behavior will stop. I was still cautious. I am still cautious.

Another day we took the bike to Perge. Perge is another ancient city in Turkey. It was huge. There was an entrance gate in stages of reconstruction.

It was rainy when we arrived.

That morning I had joined the exercise class on the beach. After class, getting on the bike, preparing to leave for Perge, I felt warm. It was cloudy and cool. I thought about going home to dress more appropriately for a long bike trip. I felt so warm though, and sleepy. I did not go home. I declined the raincoat offered. I sat on the bike.

Just hearing this, you may be feeling a looming sense of dread. You have good foresight.

Fairly quickly, I regretted my decisions. I wished I had put more layers on. I thought about the long johns laid out on my bed back home. I thought about the thermal undershirt and the gloves and the extra jacket and raincoat.

I got cold. I got so cold I went into a meditative state. I had used this tact during back labor when giving birth to my first baby. It worked (both times). Until we arrived and I got off the bike. I felt cold-to-the-bone and was shivering.

Mujdat felt the need to deliver an angry "I told you so" rant about me not wearing enough and not putting his rain coat on. I guess he did not hear me when I said I regretted my own actions or believe that I would learn from my mistakes.

He has told me a few times, "You are stubborn." Maybe so. He has told me quite a few times, "You don't listen." Maybe so. He told me these things again. Angrily.

I believe this man is genuinely concerned about people, including me. I also believe this man does not realize that his judgment and concern come across as controlling, cruel, and traumatizing.

While he found the loo (as he calls it), I got myself a coffee in the gift shop and warmed up. Space. The final frontier. Such a necessary thing to create in a rocky relationship. We (mostly) got over the cold, finger-pointing hump.

The ancient city of Perge was huge. There were long streets with an abundance of columns.

At one point, we could hear the Call to Prayer in the distance. Turkey. No matter where you go, the Call to Prayer will be there.

There was an intriguing sleeping statue that I had to explore. Mujdat saw how I had climbed up the back of the statue and followed me up. He thought it quite "cheeky" of me. Sometimes, when he says things like "loo" and "cheeky" I remember that he spent years living in London.

At one point, Mujdat told me he could not watch me climbing higher because he felt worried for my safety. He turned around and left. By the time he got to the street below, I was high above the statue. It made for a very cool photo.

Behind the sleeping statue there was a trail going uphill and so, up we hiked. It was a fairly stark hike so when I spotted pretty wildflowers on the ground in shades of white, purple, and red I was tickled pink.

You may have heard Mujdat in the background saying, "Where are you? Don't do that." He did not want me to stop. He did not want me to take a picture. He was looking up the flower on his phone and wanted to teach me about it.

This kind of thing (being told what to do or not to and being taught) happens a lot with this man. Maybe being with an independent thinker (me) is challenging for him.

Being told what to do, think, or feel is challenging for me. It challenges me to maintain my sense of self. It feels like a test. Sometimes I am too tired to take a test. Sometimes I walk away... for days. Sometimes I must let it go. When we are together for the day on a road trip I must let it go.

We continued walking.

It was amazing to see so much from our vantage point: the sea, fields down below with so many greenhouses, remains of the gate that must have surrounded the ancient city...

We walked back through the streets of the ancient city and across the modern road to what was the colosseum and theater.

The colosseum...

The theater...

I have so many pictures from Perge. Amazing pictures. But... my phone and computer do not always communicate well. This happens with technology too I guess.

Another day, we rode to a park in the middle of the city of Antalya called the "Olive Garden." It was not a restaurant chain serving an American version of Italian food. It was a park, with 25,000 trees, including 22,000 olive trees.

This proved nostalgic for Mujdat, whose family grows olive trees. Mujdat ended up talking on the phone with family while I wandered about.

One of my wanderings was to a small shack-style bathroom. Even though the toilet was housed in a tiny room, it still offered a spray of water from the back to the front. I will miss this when I am back in the US of A.

Even though I love this part of Turkish culture - cleanliness in the loo - not all toilet sprayers are created equal. Some of them line up perfectly. Some do not. This one did not. This one sprayed above and through the toilet seat and soaked my pants.

Outside there was a little park area with tables and chairs and... a trampoline. I climbed onto the trampoline and jumped, attempting to air out my pants. I think it worked. That and time, walking through the olive garden paths.

On the way home, we stopped to pick up a new bulb for the motorcycle's headlight. All of our day trips thus far were based on getting home before dark because we had no front light.

Some day trips were very close, like to the outdoor market. I found fresh basil (which is unusual here in Antalya) and made a traditional pesto (with walnuts, not pine nuts). We found tiny avocados and I made a killer heavy-on-the-garlic guacamole. I also picked up fresh turmeric and ginger. I added whole black pepper and cinnamon in Oxana's food processor to make fresh golden milk paste. We picked up coconut and almond milk and honey at the local Migros (grocery store).

I feel badly that Oxana's food processor is now tinged yellow. Mujdat and I thought it was fun that our tongues turned yellow, though.

Another daytrip was to Lower Düden Waterfalls. I had been there once, with the biased tour guide whose car I had left my sparkly hat in. This trip (with Mujdat) was mostly better than that one had been. This trip had a few hitches in it for sure. And a few high points.

I was able to enjoy the Falls more this time. That is a good sign. A sign of what? I am not completely sure. I am attempting to figure out the answer to that on a daily basis.

One amazing thing that happened was this rainbow in the Falls...

One hitch was when, walking through the park, Mujdat said, "You are ugly in your hat." Mujdat has used those same words with every hat I have worn.

I think I am adorable in hats. Adorable or not, I wear hats to protect my head, my skin, my eyes. Sometimes I put my hat on because it is cold. Sometimes I put my hat on because it is sunny. Sometimes I take my hat off. Mujdat prefers when I take my hat off. "That's better," he says, when I remove my hat from my head.

It seems a little thing, taking my hat off or leaving my hat on. Yet, this wearing or not wearing my hat wears me down. When I find myself not wearing my hat (at the expense of my health and comfort) to please the man I am with, it is a sign that I am losing myself.

One day I asked, "Why do you say I am ugly in my hats?" Mujdat explained that I do not look appealing to him in hats. He said he feels attracted to me when he sees my face and head (without a hat). He also said: "Wear your hat," although that margin of compromise was later followed up with an insinuation that I wear my hats because I am stubborn.

This point seemed to be mixed up with another point.

I had told Mujdat that I am not necessarily being stubborn. I explained that I need to assert my autonomy and stand up for how I think and feel. My thoughts and feelings may change, but in the meantime, right now, this is how I think and feel. It feels imperative to me to own my thoughts and feelings. They feel like part of who I am. It feels crucial to make sure someone else does not take away "me." It feels like a loss of self when I let that happen. I explained to him all this.

So, when (after having explained that I wear a hat to protect myself from the weather) I asked, "Why do you think I wear a hat," Mujdat said "Because you want to assert yourself." He kind of missed the part about the cold air and blinding sun. And then he just skipped back to "You are stubborn."

I find it interesting that Mujdat does not say I am ugly in my motorcycle helmet. In fact, he does not like when I do not want to wear the bike helmet.

The bike helmet is too small for me. It squeezes my cheeks and hurts my ears. When I have had too much being pinched and my ears sting, I take it off.

"Why don't you want to wear your helmet," Mujdat had asked me once. "It is too small for me," I had told him. "It can not be too small," he had said. "Ok. You can wear it, then," I had said back to him, "I will wear yours." "It is too small for me," he said, pointing to the helmet he had just said can not be too small.

I wonder things like... Was that mis-communication? Did we get lost in translation between English and Turkish? Was there some cultural nuance I missed in that exchange? Maybe that was a form of humor? If it was humor, it was hard to know since I detected no telltale signs of humor: no giggle, no wink, no sly follow-up.

I wonder things like... Was that conversation an attempt at male dominance? I have certainly experienced that kind of communication before... the kind of communication that feels a lot like gaslighting.

Me wearing hats is a glitchy hitch thing. Dancing is another glitchy hitch thing..

I walk along the boardwalk here a lot. Mujdat and I sometimes walk it together. The boardwalk here is a great place to walk.

One day, walking along the boardwalk, I stopped to listen to street music. They were good. The music was really good. I could feel my body wanting to move. "I am going to dance," I told him. "I am going to leave then," he said, and walked away.

Later, after dancing a couple of tunes, after I had caught up with him, Mujdat explained that he had had a trajectory to walk and wanted to stick with it. I had a feeling it was more than that. I asked, "Do you feel embarrassed?" He looked at me and said, "When you dance, I do not know this person." It felt like a joke. I laughed. I wanted to investigate my hunch a little further. I said: "Some people like watching me dance." In response, he said, "I do not." It was not a joke.

I remembered that, when we were first "courting" in Adrasan, I showed him (or tried to show him) the videos of me dancing at the hotel-by-the-ducks. While the video played, he looked away, mumbling, and became busy with something else. I was curious about his reaction but something in me did not want to pursue it. At that time, I did not want to know.

While waking in the park at the Falls, we passed a booth with recorded music blaring. Before we got to it, Mujdat said, "You will dance now, and I will keep walking." I often dance-walk as I am walking by music. I felt this was one of those times. I did not feel the need to stop. I kept walking with him.

Later, during a different conversation, I asked why he did not want to see me dance. He has said many times to me: "I am not a Turkish man." In this conversation, he contemplated that maybe he was reverting back to how Turkish men want their women to be. "Turkish men seem to love watching women dance," I said, "But not their own woman?" He blushed and nodded.

I am curious and hopeful because there are inconsistencies to his message. A couple of times when I have stopped to dance, Mujdat has stepped back (out of the picture) and did not leave. When we resumed walking, he told me, "I watched how people react to you. You made that woman smile. You made that man happy. You just changed the mood. You did a good thing." For me, inconsistencies leave room for both confusion and growth. I will remain diligent. More shall be revealed.

Another glitchy thing is cats. Mujdat is allergic to cats.

While we were at the Falls, we ate at a restaurant I had remembered had the best Turkish Breakfast. Mujdat and I sat on opposite benches with the table between us. A cat jumped onto his bench and Mujdat shooed it away. The cat jumped up onto my bench and I did not shoo it away. It was a very cute kitty.

I miss cats jumping onto my lap. I miss petting cats. I looked longingly at the very cute kitty. I thought that if I fed and entertained the kitty it would stay on my bench and not go back to Mujdat's bench. I also had a history with the cats at this restaurant. This was the restaurant by the Falls that the biased tour guide had brought me to. Petting and feeding the cats here had been one of the two best parts of that generally horrific day. (The other best part was hiking in the mountain). That was before I lived in the mountain. That was before I met Mujdat.

I thought I could pet this little kitty. I figured I would wash up after touching the cat, before joining my allergic friend on his bench. I looked longingly at Mujdat and said, "I will wash up after." I fed the kitty. I pet the kitty.

After a bit, Mujdat became angry at me. "I do not like your attitude," he said. He said more angry things at me. I felt his wrath boring into me. I got up. "I am going to use the toilet," I said. I used the toilet, washed up, walked around the back of the restaurant, took my time and shook the wrath off... and then made my way back to the table.

I sat down on Mujdat's bench, next to him. "I washed up," I said, and cuddled next to him. After a bit, he said, "I was bad." I snuggled up closer, thinking he was about to apologize. He did not. What he said was: "I ate wheat."

Mujdat has been trying to cut out wheat. He had told me that he wanted to cut out things that made him react badly. "I want to be a nice guy again," he had said. He did not say anything about wanting to be a nice guy at this time though.

I took a breath and remained by his side. What he said was: "This is nice... not like the beginning of the meal with the cat." I shot him a look that said: I am not sure I like where this may lead and I am curious, please explain. He explained.

"I will go out to the store and buy food for the cat. I will feed the cat. I do not want a cat around while I am eating though. That is my time to eat. It is not time for the cat." He talked for a while about cat dander.

I see the logic of his reasoning. I could have shooed the cat away too. He would have preferred that. Now I know he expects that.

I appreciate conversation about such things. I do not appreciate having angry wrath bored into me.

I also do not like that I now avoid cats. I am wondering, is it kind of me to avoid getting cat dander on my clothes in order to protect my allergic friend, or is this one more way that I am losing myself.

This is how it is. We do something together. Mujdat says or does something that sets off a red flag. I step back, take time to myself, and decide if and when I want to do something together again.

At one point, when things between us were smoother, Mujdat and I talked about taking a week-long road trip in the camper van. While trying to work through my reservations about this idea, he got angry with me about talking too much. "You go on and on," he said, "You've been talking all day." He continued. "You focus on the negative. If we haven't learned we'll find that out." He was not actually saying this. He was yelling this, at me, in my face. That is a trigger for me. My dad used to rage in that way.

During the day, I had wanted assurance he would not yell at me again. At the end of the day, I felt assured I would be yelled at again.

The next day I went to a dentist and made plans to get two tooth implants (instead of going on a road trip). It seems I would rather someone drill into my jaw than be in close quarters with an unpredictable man who feels it is his right to downsize me when he is feeling uncomfortable.

Every day, the roller coaster car peaks, hovers at the pinnacle, tips forward, and soars down the track. The ride slows down. The car chugs up. All along the track are red flags.

In this analogy my life is the roller coaster track. I am the roller coaster car on that track. Currently I have invited another person into my car. The up and down ride is the relationship I continue to pursue with Mujdat. The red flags are a combination of the things he says or does in response to me, and my reaction to those words and actions. I need to pay attention to the red flags. Mostly, I need to pay attention to the moments when I become less than my natural Self. I fear that, if I do not pay attention, the car will fly off the track and I will be thrown out of the car to my ghostly demise.

Here is another analogy: I am a Redwood. I am tall and strong and thick and rooted and glorious as I stand in Nature as I am. In a relationship, I notice my reaction to my mate's words and actions (in response to me). I notice when I feel a part of me trimmed or cut down.

Here is another analogy: I am an intricately detailed portrait. Each time I allow my mate to paint even a stroke of his own color over my face, my body, my thoughts, my emotions, wanting or trying to change or dull or erase a detail, the picture (that is me) becomes less its original form, more whitewashed, more vague, less clear.

My inner voice loudly reminds me: "Pay attention to the red flags. Do not become less than you are. Do not compromise yourself out of the picture." I should probably have written that part in caps. My inner voice has a most emphatic tone about this subject.

This paying attention so closely - stopping, stepping back, taking time to decide if and how I want to continue - is new for me.

I am conscious that, in the past, I have allowed myself to be dulled or erased, one small stroke at a time. I need to maintain conscious awareness of each stroke as it is happening. I need to discern if the stroke is highlighting or dulling me. Ultimately, I am responsible for deciding when to allow someone else's stroke to touch me.

I am sitting in the driver's seat with the brake in my hand, making conscious choices on my behalf. Being conscious and in control is not always easy or comfortable. The discomfort points to my boundaries.

It is good to learn and relearn my boundaries. My boundaries are who I am. I may stretch my boundaries but not break out of them.

86 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Dear Ami,

Thank you for sharing your heart. So much comes up for me too - masculinity vs. femininity, Eastern culture vs. Western culture, trauma backgrounds, complexes, etc. I think of all the relationships I've been in with men, starting with my father and brothers, and how I "lost" myself in trying to impress them - to the point of craving invisibility because that was "normal". The very best and the very worst part about relationships is that we learn about our humanity, and that can be wonderful and very painful. All the very best to you.


Nimi Reddy
Nimi Reddy

Dear Ami,

U have a talent to put in writing all your thoughts & feelings and make it such an interesting read!....

Sounds like 2 pieces of a jig-jaw puzzle, which dont align,but U R trying very hard to make it fit!!....different make, different texture, very different shapes.......

Coming from my culture,I dont see it the way U do, bec that is very typical for a man.....CONTROL...dominance..belittling, to prove their superiority...but that may b how they show they care ....bec. they do really care for their loved ones...paradoxical culture......

My experience is I feel very lonely in a foreign country after one week, & hungry for friendship...vulnerable....Just enjoy the romance for now...... .....u hv plenty of time after u get…

Ami Ji Schmid
Ami Ji Schmid

Your words make a lot of sense Nimi. Plus you made me laugh! 🙏🏻❤️


Dear Ami,

That's some roller-coaster ride and I'm glad you are aware of the seemingly numerous "red flags."

Just wondering, how well do boundaries work though when they are built on quicksand?

With Love from Cape Town

Ami Ji Schmid
Ami Ji Schmid

Good point my friend. A quick temper feels like quick sand.

bottom of page