Yesterday was the day I’d been dreading for years.
The inevitable finally happened and Berkay made the journey to Izmir to start his 12 month military service. It had been a massive obstacle for a long time, something that had been hanging over us for years, preventing us from really settling anywhere.
Every Turkish male (health permitting) has to do national service, most of them do it when they are younger, aged 18-19, but Berkay deferred it due to his college studies.
He’s 24 now and decided it was time to get it over and done with, so after spending his last week of freedom in his village in Denizli, he got on the bus and headed off back to Fethiye to visit Boncuk and meet his friend who would take him to his training base in Izmir. Its tradition for the males going off to the army to drive around in cars decorated with huge Turkish flags, so Berkay’s brother decorated his car and drove him around, beeping the horn loudly to let everyone know. It’s also common for them to fire gun shots and make as much noise as possible for their big send off, showing everyone how proud they are.
Berkay spent the night in Izmir city centre in a house belonging to a relative of his friend, and everything started to become very real. It hit me that this would be the last time I got a ‘I’m going to bed, goodnight, love you’ message for a long time, something that we normally said every single night.
A fairly sleepless night later, it was Wednesday 4th February. D-day. A morning of getting last minute things sorted. Berkay went off to the shops to buy a payphone card to contact me with and a bottle of shaving gel. He somehow managed to fit all of his things into one small, black rucksack. Of course the most important thing is the notebook book with my number written down in it and the wallet-sized photographs of me he took with him 😉
We had a few skype calls during the day, during one of which my dad spoke to him to say ‘stay safe and look after yourself’, ‘you too look after Danni’ was Berkays response! Finally, 2 pm came and the dreaded final skype call came ringing through on my iPad. He was standing outside the army base, waiting to go inside and give his phone to his friend for safe keeping. A couple of minutes later and that was it, he was gone – inside the Izmir army base (patriotically decorated with a HUGE flag of Ataturk) where he’ll complete his training before moving onto his main posting for the remainder of the 12 months.
A few hours later at 5.30 pm our time, he managed to get to a pay phone inside and I got my first ‘army phonecall’, I was so relieved. “I’m waiting to check in, there are so many people. There were 20 people waiting for phone but I wanted call you”…. that one phone call made me feel so much better. Bless him.
It’s so weird to think that after 4 and a half years of speaking to each other every single day, a total of 162,117 Facebook messages back and forth (yes, that is the actual number) and 3 years living together, suddenly our contact will be suddenly dramatically decreased. No more good morning or goodnight messages, no more ‘I’m on the bus going to work’ or ‘im just having a shower’ messages. No more moaning to him when I’m annoyed, no more quickly FaceTiming him to share good news or when I need his face to cheer me up. It’s really hard knowing he’s not just a Facebook message away. He will have no internet access until he gets days off or holidays when he is able to pop to an internet cafe, but neither of us have any idea when that will be. He doesn’t have his phone in there with him, a lot of people try to smuggle them in unnoticed, but if caught they can be punished with days in army-prison and forced to make up the extra days at the end of their service, it’s just not worth the risk. Instead we’ll have to make do with phonecalls, hopefully as regularly as possible. It’s the uncertainty that bothers me, and the not knowing when he’ll call, I’ll have to try and avoid no-signal zones as much as possible! Will I miss a call while I’m stuck on the underground trains? In the cinema, in the local supermarket with no signal, at work? I’m hoping we’ll settle into a routine soon enough though.
For now, I’ll settle for crossing the days off my calendar and going to bed and waking up with this little reminder staring at me. “Love you honey. Going to army but coming soon. Wait me”. He sent me this little post-it note along with some of my favourite Turkish treats in a package last week, all the way from Turkey. I’ve framed it and have it in my room, I love reading it over and over again!
364 days and counting.