Saying goodbye to Turkey and hello to England..

On Sunday I packed up my life into a suitcase once again, boarded the plane alone and arrived back in the UK, this time for longer.

I’d been putting it off for weeks, but a month ago I booked my flight and tried to make the most of everyday I had left there in Turkey. Each day was marred by the constant thought of ‘this is the last time I’ll do this’ or ‘this is the last time I’ll eat this’, ‘this is the last time I’ll go here’. Those thoughts filled my head and everything just felt different, I could no longer enjoy my time there, once I’d booked my flight the countdown began and it was awful.

While everyone else was excitedly opening their advent calendars and counting down the days til Christmas, I was wishing time to go slower, hoping that by some miracle the 14th December would never arrive. Inevitably it did, of course.

Berkay had been able to get the day off work so we could spend the day together, we done a lot of our favourite things, had a lovely Turkish breakfast outside on the balcony, played backgammon with a cup of coffee, walked Boncuk along the seafront and had a gorgeous BBQ outside. The hours ticked by and once I was all packed and ready we went to the beach to watch one ‘last’ sunset. (See what I mean? Always ‘lasts’ on my mind!) It reached 5.30 pm, I took my case and walked out of my front door for the ‘last’ time (again…). “Bye house”.

We went and waited in the hotel garden for Berkay’s friend to arrive, he was taking us to the airport in his car. I played with Boncuk and explained to her what was going on, although of course she’s clueless and is probably still waiting for me to go back and play ball with her and wondering where I am now. We saw our friends car drive around the corner and then it hit me, it was time to go.

Berkay took my suitcase to the car and I sat on the steps cuddling Boncuk, telling her to be good and that I’d see her again soon. I gave her a little treat and she ran off with it, bouncing around all happy and none-the-wiser. She was so happy with her little treat that when I climbed over the fence and walked away she didn’t even come to say bye. She usually stands with her paws up on the fence, crying or howling as we walk away, but not this time. At least one of us wasn’t!

A 45 minute minute car journey later and we were in Dalaman. Our friend hadn’t had dinner so we stopped at a Çiğ köfte place to kill some time and eat and then carried on to the airport.

My flight was the only one flying out that evening so the airport wasn’t very busy but the queues to check in were very long as the flight was one of the last ones direct from Dalaman before Christmas and it was full of expats flying back to the UK for the holidays. We queued for around an hour, but I didn’t mind as that meant delaying the ‘goodbye’ further. Eventually the inevitable happened, I got to the front of the queue and after trying to reduce the weight of my case from 25kg down to just 20, I was all checked in and ready to go.

After a tearful goodbye and a cuddle, I walked through security and passport control where they stamped my passport with an exit date stamp, that was it, the point of no return. I looked back and waved at Berkay and he blew me a kiss, cheesy! Then that was that, I walked around the corner and found my gate, which was full of people already waiting. I spotted a Facebook friend who had previously told me she was on the same flight with her husband and daughter, she too has a Turkish husband and has faced the same teary goodbyes. I went over to her and she asked if I was ok and gave me a big hug, at which point I burst into tears. Poor woman! Still, I felt better after that and I didn’t have to wait very long until we started boarding the plane. The plane was full of young children and before take off there were alot of screaming babies, they looked exactly how I felt on the inside!

On take off I said ‘bye Turkey, bye Berkay, bye Boncuk’ and had one last look out of the window, I even gave a little wave.

Before I knew it, the plane was landing back in Gatwick. “Welcome home” the pilot said. Not really home for me though. I got through passport control quickly and retrieved my baggage. I saw my friend again and apologised for crying on her, “it’s ok I know how it feels” she said, which was reassuring.  Then I walked out through the doors and saw my mum and dad waiting for me with more hugs, along with a cheddar cheese and HP sauce sandwich and packets of pickled onion monster munch, yum!

I can’t tell you how strange it is to be back here. The moment I walked into my room again it just hit me, but it was like nothing at all had changed. My calendar is still stuck on the page of June, the month I left. Everything is the same here, yet different. It really does feel like I’ve never been away, like the past 6 months were all just a dream, like I wasn’t really there. I have to keep looking at photos of our house to remind myself that it wasn’t all a dream.

It upsets me that I’ll probably never step foot in my house again, a week ago I was there, sleeping next to Berkay, waking up next to him, eating breakfast together on the balcony, making dinner in the kitchen, watching films in the living room… now all traces of us are removed from that house, and someone else is living there.

Berkay is now living under the hotel (which is still closed for the winter) in a concrete room which is used for staff accomodation during the summer. Boncuk is staying there with him for now and will go somewhere else once he’s in the army, we’ll get her back again once he’s finished in February 2016, which seems like a lifetime away.

Forget about the arrival of 2015 in 2 weeks time, roll on 2016 when we can finally settle and live together without the worry of these goodbyes again, that’s what I say!

See you soon, Fethiye. ❤

Calis from the hillside!

Two days ago we went for a long walk up to the furthest point of Calış beach and back again.
We walked from our house all the way to Koca Çalış and up a hill at the far end of the beach – the views were lovely and I saw Calış/Fethiye from a whole new angle!

The walk from our house to the end of the beach was around 2.6  km, so we walked over 5 km together – not easy in the 40oc heat! We waited til 6pm to leave because we’d melt into a puddle on the floor otherwise. I’d never been so far into Koca Çalış before, the furthest we’d really been was Sunset Beach Club/Surf Cafe. I definitely wouldn’t want to live there as it’s too far from anything else. We came across some pretty multi-coloured holiday apartments though which looked lovely, it’d certainly be more peaceful there!
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We took Boncuk too, we love taking her on long walks. The downside to taking her with us is that a lot of stray dogs approached us. At one point we walked past a restaurant with a dog roaming loose and it spotted Boncuk and started growling and barking at her, setting off a chorus of at least 4 other dogs – it’s quite scary, although most of the animals are harmless, you never know (we had a bad experience when she was a puppy, and I’ve been bitten by a street dog myself which meant I had to have rabies injections – not fun!) Having so many dogs roaming free is something that puts me off walking her on my own most of the time and we always have to plan our routes so as to avoid places where we know there are a lot of strays.

The Koca Çalış end of the beach appeared to be very popular with local people – there were lots of people swimming and having BBQ picnics which smelt amazing! When we reached the end of the beach we found a track leading up the hill and decided to climb it. It wasn’t too steep or difficult to climb, although there were a lot of sharp thorns and bushes which scratched our legs quite badly, but the view at the top was worth it. We let Boncuk off her lead while climbing up the hill and she loved it.
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The sun was just starting to go down as it was around 7.30 by this time, so it was fairly cool (by cool I mean around 35oc!!) but we were dripping with sweat from the walk – we tried to take a ‘selfie’ together with the view in the background but we just looked ridiculous!
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I think it would be lovely to come and sit up there with a drink and a snack to watch the sunset, or even to just sit down and watch the stars at night – quite romantic! Berkay was also eyeing it up as a potential fishing spot!
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We couldn’t stay and admire the view for too long as Berkay had to get back for work, but it was nice to see Calış from an alternative view point,  and lovely views across to the mountains too. Such beautiful scenery.

Goodbye all over again..

When I woke up yesterday morning I knew it was going to be a long, hard day.
The atmosphere for the past 3-4 days was different, reality set in for both of us that Berkay would be going back to Turkey soon – and everything just felt strange.
Berkay packing his suitcase
My alarm went off at 0930, and when I realised what day it was I just wanted to bury my head in my pillow and go back to sleep. We got up,  got ready, had some toast, finished packing his suitcase and were out of the house and on the way to the airport by 11.30. Dad drove us and my brother and little sister came too.
saying bye to my sister… 😦
After getting a bit lost, we arrived at Luton at 13.15 and went straight to check-in. Seeing all the excited people going  on their holidays just makes it all the more depressing. He checked in, dropped his bag off and then we all went and had Burger King…

Then it was time to say goodbye. We all walked up the stairs to departures, my dad, brother and little sister gave Berkay a hug, then went downstairs and left me and Berkay to hug it out… we both shed a little tear, said bye, and then he went through the departures door and the point of no return…

The goodbyes NEVER get easier. Nothing will compare to the goodbye I faced when leaving my house, dog and Berkay behind when moving back to the UK, that was the worst day of my life – but everytime we say goodbye it’s the same feelings all over again. Not knowing when I’ll see him again makes it worse – there’s nothing to look forward to or countdown to.

Having my little sister there this time made it a little better – she’s a good distraction. She kept saying ‘Bye Berkay…come on Dan come downstairs, you’re not going back to Turkey as well are you? I want you to stay here and play with me!’  – cute. Berkay isn’t planning on coming back to the UK for a few years – so the next time he sees her she’ll be a lot older 😦

The blog post I wrote about saying goodbye last time he went in January sums up my feelings again exactly. There is nothing more to add really. It’s just not fair.

I suppose the only good thing to come out of long distance relationships is that you do cherish every moment – you have to.

I do have some good posts about our last few days together which will all be posted over this Easter weekend.

Happy Easter everybody. ❤

31 days, 1 hour and 18 minutes..

Last week was probably the hardest week I’ve had since I came back to England, and I’m not entirely sure why.

I found myself spending more time crying in the office toilets, than actually sat at my desk doing work for the first half of the week,  and I’m not even exaggerating.

It would be easier if there was one thing bothering me, but there’s a whole list.   New job that I’m not enjoying, not getting along with people, missing Berkay, wondering when I’ll next see him after April, wondering how I’ll afford it and be able to take time off, worrying about where Boncuk is going to stay in summer… The list is endless, but I can’t go into much detail because my blog is public and there are eyes I don’t want reading it.

It’s painfully obvious I’m not happy here anyway.

On the plus side, only 4.5 weeks until Berkay is back here. To be precise, it’s exactly 31 days, 1 hour and 18 mintues til he arrives 😉

Adapting to life back in the UK- Reverse culture shock.

I recently read a quote somewhere saying ‘the hardest thing about living abroad is returning home’. There have never been words more true.

I may have been back ‘home’ for over 7 weeks now, but adapting to life back in the UK is not easy. After researching, I found out that what I am experiencing is not just me being silly, it’s something that is real, something that others experience too. Reverse culture shock.

We’ve all heard of culture shock, I sure experienced that too when I first moved to Turkey. Moving thousands of miles away and being thrown in at the deep end, oceans away from all my family and friends and the life I had known for 19 years. No more ready meals, no wearing shoes inside, the fact it’s not uncommon to meet someone in the bus stop, instantly learn where he’s from, how old he is, and be invited to some random family occassion they’re holding soon. Adapting to ‘Turkish time’ and accepting that nothing will ever be done quickly. Learning to sleep through the call to prayer at 5am. The infamous Turkish toilets, and not being able to put paper down the normal toilets. Haggling in every shop you come across. Not being able to walk down the street without being called over by everyone you might have met once upon a time. Not hearing any English conversations… none of these are bad things, just very different. I adapted quickly and ended up living  99% like a local minus the village baggy flowery trousers. 

Culture shock, you expect. But reverse culture shock is different. On return to your ‘home country’ you don’t expect to feel like a foreigner, which is exactly how I still feel. The two and a half years I lived in Turkey I lost my connections to ‘home’, I felt less and less like an English girl, whilst obviously not being Turkish either. It’s a strange feeling, one that I can’t explain. It hits me at the most random times, sat on a bus and hearing English conversations all around, seeing English sign posts, seeing all the food in the English supermarket, it’s all quite overwhelming.

I suppose one of the main things which is difficult to adapt to is the fact that the lives of the people I love and care about at ‘home’ have moved on. Family and friends have new lives, some have attended and graduated university, others are married and have children, my mum has found a boyfriend and is engaged and my little sister who was a 3 week old baby when I left, is now over two and a half years old. Whilst I was not naive enough to expect everything to remain the same, it’s still hard to cope with things being so different to when I left them. Everyone else has moved on, and I’m back starting from the beginning, having to find a new job, adapting to life back with my family, and trying to find time to see friends who are all busy with their own lives. I don’t feel as close to my friends or family anymore, I left my own ‘family’ back in Turkey. I do feel like a foreigner in my own ‘home’. 

Living back with my family is hard, after living alone with Berkay for two years. I miss the peace. Quiet evenings without a moody teenager and excitable toddler running around. Selfishly, I miss not having to worry about anyone else and just doing my own thing, washing up when I want, eating when I want, having control of the tv 😉  I feel less independent. I love my family but it’s still such an odd feeling being back, I feel like I’m intruding, this is their home, and not mine.

Another thing hard to adjust and adapt to is the whole ‘want it-get it’ attitude that is common here (I’m not saying every English person lives this way, please no nasty comments!) If someone wants something, they go out and buy it. Food, clothes, a phone.. whatever. While in Turkey I lived on the bare necessities, I had no luxuries. My dad has been bugging me for weeks to go out and buy a coat, or a pair of tights without a hole in the toe. He took out a new phone contract for me last week, despite me telling him I was happy with my ancient LG phone with a black and white screen and no internet capability that belongs in the stone ages. To me, that’s not the normal thing to do, If I were back in Turkey I’d just deal with it and carry on, make do and focus on the more important things like paying bills. I find that people’s priorities here are so backwards.  I am starting to fall into that trap now too, especially where food is concerned!

I’m much more judgmental of the UK now I have lived somewhere else, perhaps wrongly, perhaps not. I have seen a different side of life that some have not, people assume I lived like a tourist, had what I wanted when I wanted it and had a life of luxury and a two year holiday. That’s so wrong.

People can’t understand what’s so difficult about returning to their own culture, customs, and language, they say ‘just move on get over it’. It’s really not that easy. The ‘just move on’ attitude doesn’t help, it only makes me feel more isolated, more like I don’t fit in. People not understanding has led to arguments. I was reluctant to do this post as I know any family reading will still be annoyed and upset about the things I say. Having read fellow ex-expat’s blogs about this subject, I decided to post it anyway, it’s important to know these feelings are real and if just one person reads and feels less alone and isolated, then it’s done it’s job.

Why am I moving back to England?

Lot of people have commented and messaged me asking why I’m going back to England, so I thought I’d explain.

The main reason is money. We live off one pretty poor Turkish  wage. I cant find work here legally, I don’t have any qualifications or experience in teaching or in the travel/holiday rep area, I can’t speak Turkish and I bring nothing to the country that they don’t already have, businesses generally are not allowed to employ an English person to do a job a Turkish person could do. Living off Berkay’s wage is not so bad in the summer, but in the winter it’s nearly impossible. Each winter we get into debt and spend the summer paying it back, meaning we cant save for the following winter, its a vicious cycle. Coming back to the UK means we can both work and save for the future, albeit in different countries.

If we want to settle together in the UK one day, I need to be settled there with a good job earning £18.600 a year before we even apply for a visa for Berkay. Despite what everyone thinks, the UK makes it very difficult for non-European citizens to come to the UK, the new income requirement is a major set back, it has made things a lot more difficult for us. I’m not sure how many 21 year old’s earn 18.6k a year, but all people keep telling me is if I do not come back to the UK now, I will never earn enough as I will have been out of work for too long.

Berkay also hasn’t done his national service yet. All Turkish men are required by law to serve in the military at some point, Berkay is 22 and has not done it yet as he is studying at university. He hopes by completing his uni he will be able to find a better job later. If we can’t live together in the UK, I will be able to come back here with any money I have saved and live here so long as Berkay has a better job. I don’t know when he will go to the army, should he go now and get it out of the way, or should he wait, finish school and improve his chances of getting a better job later on?

Another question people ask is what is going to happen to our dog? Berkay is keeping her here in Turkey and will look after her, of course we wouldn’t just abandon her. I’m hoping one day to get her to the UK, if that is where we decide to and are able to settle, but it won’t be easy, none of my family want a dog so I will need to be living on my own first, then there is the fee to fly her to England and all the paperwork involved. I cannot see me ever earning enough for Berkay’s visa, saving enough for a place of my own and saving the £700+ to bring her to the UK. But that is all in the future, at least a year or two away, for now Berkay and Boncuk are staying together in Turkey and I’m returning to the UK alone, for how long I have no idea.

Perhaps I will be in England for 2 years saving money and then return to Turkey, perhaps I will find a job earning the required amount to get Berkay a visa and we shall live in the UK, perhaps we shall look into the European route and save to move to Ireland together. Friends and family ask our plans and pull nasty faces when we cannot answer, we do not have a crystal ball, hell I wish we did. There is no solid plan, I can’t say what is going to happen or what we hope to do, it is just impossible to plan ahead when visas are involved, the whole process is very long, very expensive and very uncertain. 

All I am sure of right now, is that in less than 24 hours I shall be landing back in the UK. Alone. All I can think is how am I going to walk out of my front door for the last time and not look back knowing I will never step foot inside again? How am I going to say goodbye to my dog not knowing when I’ll see her again? How am I going to walk through security and leave Berkay behind at the airport? How am I going to get on that plane and leave my home, my dog and my boyfriend behind, sit on that plane and watch as I soar 30,000 feet in the air, leaving the past 2.5 years of my life and everything I’ve known down on the ground? How am I going to sit in a room full of people back in the UK, friends and family who are excited to see me, and all the time feel guilty for wishing I was somewhere else? It’s not that I don’t miss them, or that i’m not grateful that I have their support, it’s just that really, England is not my home anymore, it hasn’t been for 2.5 years, that’s a long time for someone who is only 21.

That plane is taking me away from my home tomorrow, not back to it.