Something I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say

This entry is a bit of a life story, connecting my high school years to an experience I had in Turkey. It could probably be two separate posts, so if you want just the Turkish part, skip to the middle. 

My parents were always remarkably supportive of my music studies. Each summer, they sent me to a music camp. When I first started to learn clarinet, they sent me to a one-week camp called “Clarinet Camp”. The summers that followed, I attended Interlochen, Blue Lake, Birch Creek, and NHSMI.

I don’t remember the specifics, but when I was a junior in high school (2004-2005), I recall money being tight at home. My dad told me that if I wanted to go back to NHSMI (National High School Music Institute at Northwestern University) the coming summer, I was going to have to pay for it myself.

Just hearing Northwestern University should give you some sense of how expensive this summer program was and how impossible any 16 year-old would find this endeavor. Determined, I found a way to contribute and my parents were able to make up the difference.

  1. I started teaching clarinet lessons. This just made sense. Our district had a large music program and I was plenty qualified to teach the beginners. At $11 per half hour, this was better money than I was going to make at any other typical job for a high school student. It also meant I didn’t have to give up as much time for work as my peers and that I got to do something I love… Huge perk? About halfway through the year during one of those lessons is when I had my light bulb moment that I wanted to go into teaching rather than performing.
  2. While I was in my LDS seminary course each morning before school, my mom would go to McDonald’s for her Large Diet Coke. When she picked us up from church, she would bring my sister and me a hot chocolate for the drive to school (and for a limited time, a pastry from Heidi’s Bakery…those were sinfully delicious…). At this point in time, each hot chocolate cost $1. I asked my mom if I could give up my morning hot chocolate in exchange for that $1 every day.
  3. I started cleaning houses… Well…let me be fair… I didn’t drive yet, so my mom had to come with me… And I didn’t know what I was doing for a long time, so Mom had to teach me how to clean… For a couple months, Mom did most of the work, but I got the money… At some point, I was able to do it alone, but I should probably treat my mom to a few years worth of flowers for the garden to make up for all the work she did back then. 🙂
  4. I went to the principal at my high school and asked if there was any sort of scholarship available. Mr. Kesman, bless his heart, was EXTREMELY supportive of The Arts. He interviewed me and asked me what I was doing to fund this myself. He was able to give me a scholarship, which later became the first annual Frank Kesman Award. The best part? He called me in to meet with him later in the year and said, “I can’t stop thinking about how you gave up hot chocolate…” He loved that part of my financial plan so much that he was able to find more scholarship money to put towards Northwestern.

This was a very important learning experience for me (and one that I never wrote down), but I want to highlight the third point: I started cleaning houses.

One week, my mom and I cleaned Marie Ziegler’s home, a dear friend of ours from church. Marie called me afterwards and said, “I just got home from a long day at work and I just have to thank you. It is so nice to come back to a clean home.”

I thought, “Why are you thanking me? You paid me. I’m doing my job.”


Fast-forward to 2015 in Istanbul, my first year as an expat.

I was told a lot of expat stereotypes when I first arrived. One was that nobody cleans their own apartment. I thought, “Well, I took care of my big house back in The States. I was busy there, too. Why wouldn’t I take care of my own apartment here?”

Not to mention I’m notoriously cheap (Thanks, Dad). Why would I pay someone else to clean my little apartment?

I can, and do, tidy up my home. I scrub down the sinks, toilet, and shower. What I DON’T want is to spend hours cleaning when my free time is limited (yes, less than I had back home). I was starting to feel like I work in Istanbul but I don’t live in Istanbul. I felt like I was never out and about exploring. And if I was, I felt guilty when I came home and felt dirt under my feet.

April 28th, 2015… I threw in the towel and decided to call a housekeeper to do a nice deep clean for me. Housekeepers are not expensive in Turkey and they do great work. I finally decided the money wasn’t worth my time (Thanks again, Dad). Someone else needs that 130 Turkish Lira much more than I do.

Tuesdays are rough because I have no plan time, a staff meeting after school, and then I go straight from the bus to grab dinner from my kebab guy and then to my Turkish class. So, when I opened up my door that night to see (and smell) that everything had been cleaned, I realized the significance of Marie’s call to me all those years ago.

I immediately sent my housekeeper a thank-you message.

As I walked around my clean apartment, I admired all her work. My clothes were perfectly folded, I could see through my windows, my pillows were fluffed, my floors were washed, my kitchen was sparkling, my furniture was rearranged into a more pleasing fashion… I could definitely get on board with this facet of expat living.

2015-04-28 21.24.20 (Hey, Baby!)

And then I started to prepare dinner. I opened up my kitchen cabinets and my pots and pans weren’t where I normally put them. I caught myself saying, “Now where did my housekeeper put my…”

I had to laugh. Never in a million years did I think I would say where did my housekeeper put my anything.

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