2015 – a year in photos.

A year ago, when Big Ben chimed for midnight, I was dreading 2015 and the inevitable things that came along with it. I had just moved back to the UK, I was trying to find a job, Berkay was heading off to the army and everything was very uncertain. Now, fast forward a year and things are looking quite different! I’m looking forward to the year ahead, but also reflecting back on 2015 and how far we’ve come so far, with the help of some photos!

January
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January was mostly spent worrying about February. Berkay had 4 weeks before he was due to enter the army and we made the most of the time speaking on skype as much as possible. At the end of the month he sent me a package of goodies from Turkey, with some of my favourite Turkish treats and two pairs of baggy village pants. His little note ‘I love you honey, going to army but coming soon, wait me’ is now sitting framed on top of my two countdown jars.

February
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February marked the moment that I’d been dreading for YEARS. The inevitable military service that Berkay had been putting off for years finally began. I can still remember this as if it were yesterday, sitting at home with my little sister watching Peter Pan after our last ‘goodbye’ skype with Berkay from outside the entry gate to the Izmir base camp. It was horrible. A lot of tears flowed that day! He didn’t know when he’d be able to contact me again so when I saw an Izmir phone number pop up on my phone later that day it was a huge relief! “We’re just waiting to check in” he said from the base camp phone, making it sound like he was just off on a little holiday! Those first few weeks were the toughest.

March
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In the middle of March, 6 weeks after his start date, Berkay had his passing out parade to mark the end of his first stage of training in Izmir. His mum, brother, uncle and cousin went to watch and got to spend a couple of hours with him. His brother sent me photos as soon as he could and it was the first time I’d seen Berkay in his uniform! He looked very proud. He even managed to skype me from his brothers phone, and it was the first time I’d seen him since 4th February, I love this photo his uncle took of Berkay and his stepmum waving to me on skype, look at those smiles!

April
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 April was probably the most exciting month of the year. Berkay took 10 days leave in between training and starting at his new base in Kayseri. He went back to Fethiye for the week and I got a flight out to see him… It was the first time I’d seen him in person since December so it felt like a long time. We stayed in an apartment in Calis and had a lovely week together, I also got to spend my birthday there with him. Of course we were both reunited with Boncuk too, and she was very excited to see us! We picked her up from our friends house where she was staying, and rented a car so we were able to take her everywhere with us, to BBQ picnics, to the beach, to Oludeniz, and at the end of the week we packed up all her things and took her 4-5 hours away to Berkay’s familys village where her new home was. Spending a couple of days in Berkay’s village was hard, I don’t think I will ever get used to that place, but it was different for sure, and leaving Boncuk there was difficult! While we were there it snowed, so driving back to Fethiye through snowy roads and then 4 hours later ending up in the sunny, warm, Fethiye climate was very odd too!

May
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After spending time with Berkay in April, adjusting back to the UK was hard, even after just a week away. But he kept sending me photo updates by sneaking me some photos from his friends phone. I’ve heard people say that their Turkish partners sent them photos of their names in bullets, Berkay sent me a photo of my name in flowers instead! I thought it was really funny, big, hard soldiers in camoflague picking and arranging flowers! Bless.

June
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June was a big month. Finally, after 6 months of looking, I got my first full time, long-ish term job through an agency. Initially on a 3 month contract. The job was at Canary wharf, on the 33rd floor of the tallest building there! It was surreal at first, and very overwhelming. The first week or two I was there it was horrible, going out at lunchtime was a real struggle as there were thousands and thousands of people all outside going in all directions at the same time, a real culture shock compared to the relatively quiet areas of Turkey I’d been used to. It didn’t take long to adjust though, and I fell in love with the job. I love the view from our staff room window where we can see the whole London skyline. It’s so beautiful, and made me find a whole new appreciation for London!

July/August/September
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Apparently, these months were really boring because I don’t appear to have many photos! I was getting used to full time work again, and adjusting to that. August was a big milestone because it meant we had hit the 6 month’s to go mark! Berkay had been in the army for 6 months and only had 6 more to go. Every day I put a marble in my ‘days down’ jar and seeing equal numbers in each jar felt like a real achievement!

October
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October saw the arrival of autumn here and marked another month off the calendar. Berkay’s brother kept his promise of regular Boncuk updates by sending me the cutest photos of her. I remember sitting on the train home from work when he sent the photos and just smiling, look at her little face!

November
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November was one of the toughest months of the year. Turkey held an election and emotions in the country were increasingly tense. The expectation of trouble in certain areas meant Berkay was transferred to one of the more dangerous zones in the South Eastern part of Turkey – Diyarbakir. This is an area known for terrorist activity and not a good one to be doing your army service in. I was very worried, and despite what he says, I know Berkay was too. He ended up spending about 5-6 weeks in Diyarbakir and he actually liked it more than his base in Kayseri, we got to speak a bit more on skype through his smuggled in phone, too! Oops.

The best part of the month for me was being told I definitely had my job until the end of the year at least, because by this point I loved it and knew I really wanted to be kept on. The earlier evenings meant I got to see the London skyline at night through our staff room window and it looked even more magical all lit up!

December
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December was THE best month. I had to interview for my position at the company I work for and I was successful. I got the permanent job! This was more than just a job to me. It meant I could prove people wrong, people who were so judgmental in the past. Most importantly, it meant I earn well over the income requirement needed for Berkay’s visa to live in England. This is what I’d been waiting for and it seemed like it was never going to happen! After my manager told me I had to sneak off to the toilets for a little dance around (entirely true!). It was a huge weight lifted and another big obstacle out of the way. Such a relief.

Of course December also meant Christmas, and I had a lovely few days with my family, made even better by the knowledge that my job meant 2016 wouldn’t be quite so uncertain and unsettled (hopefully). The marble jars looked even better, with less than 40 days to go, and when Big ben chimed at midnight on 1st January 2016, I was filled with excitement about what the new year would bring, instead of being filled with dread.

It was a very emotional year, in one way or another, and definitely my most testing! Army life has not been easy for Berkay, or for me, and it’s certainly tested our relationship. After living together for 3 years, not seeing him for 8 months hasn’t been easy. By the time I see him again it will likely have been 9-10 months, but at last the end is in sight. Who knows what this year will bring, but I’m sure it will throw a few surprises our way, I’m just glad everyone I know and love made it through 2015, safe, happy and healthy.

I hope 2016 is kind to all of you, and us!
P.S less than 28 days to go!!

A few Turkish treats!

Do you ever get that feeling when you’re in a supermarket abroad and you see a British brand you know and get excited and drawn to buy it, even if its something that never usually makes it in to your shopping basket at home? No? Maybe that’s just me…

When I saw a shop selling Turkish food on a different route home from work last Friday, I went in to have a look and ended up buying a few things. I got cheetos, even though they weren’t actually Turkish ones (the shop sold a lot of foods from all sorts of places), one of my favourite chocolate bars, ezogelin soup and a packet of extra salted sunflower seeds (which I’m actually munching on right now!). That same day I also took a trip to Waitrose to buy some Baklava, I figured since it was Şeker Bayramı it would be rude not to do my part and join in with the celebrations, 50p a piece too, bargain.
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That wasn’t the only Turkish-treat-shopping spree I’ve been on recently. Earlier on this week I went on a walk around Canary Wharf during my lunch break to find a Turkish restaurant/cafe/deli that someone had recommended to me. Walking past it and seeing all the diners outside eating some of my favourite Turkish dishes and smelling all the delicious food made me want to order some for myself, but I resisted and instead just went to the deli where they had a few shelves full of goodies along with a counter full of fresh snacks and mezes. They had different teas, jams, sauces, drinks, Raki (yes!), wine, biscuits, cakes (POP KEK!), chocolate and a chiller full of ayran, cheese, yogurt, sucuk and sausages. All of it looked yummy, apart from the cans of ‘Sosis’ – Boncuk sausages! I don’t quite think I could bring myself to eat canned meat with my dog’s name on, but it really did make me smile.
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I had a lot of fun browsing, but only ended up buying a very pretty jar of tomato salça, and an equally well presented bar of olive oil soap – I admit it I’m a sucker and only bought them because they looked so good with the Turkish eyes on, in the 3 years I lived there I never once bought a bar of olive soap.
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I definitely want to go back to the deli restaurant soon for a proper meal, or maybe just to sample some of the pastries, mezes and baklava they had. It’s dangerous having this place so close to my office, I can almost hear it calling my name when I’m sat with my boring old sandwiches at lunchtime.

If anyone is in the area and wants to visit – it’s called Hazev and is directly across the wobbly bridge at Heron Quays at Canary Wharf. All the staff were speaking Turkish, and I had a chuckle when I understood what they were saying. ‘Ne Kadar?….. Bu?’ Obviously people don’t often buy the goods on the shelves as they had no idea how much to charge me for either item, oops. I think they have a new regular customer now, though!

After seeing tinned Boncuk sausages on the shelves, I had to message Berkay’s brother for a photo update on our dog, just to check… She’s as happy, cute and playful as ever! My little sausage. ❤
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New job for me, farm life for Boncuk & the army countdown continues..

I haven’t posted here for over 6 weeks now, I have a lot I want to post and write about but I just haven’t had time.

The main reason for that is that I FINALLY found a full time job! I started 3 weeks ago and I’m enjoying it. I’d been looking for work since December but had no luck, other than a few days for an agency. I had applied for hundreds of jobs and kept getting knocked back, even after going for interviews etc. Finally my luck changed and an agency put me forward for a 3 month placement for a really interesting company who are based inside Canary Wharf – I went for the interview and got the job. It was overwhelming at first, I’m not a ‘people’, so the first few days of travelling to Canary Wharf in rush hour was a bit of a shock, but not quite as overwhelming as the chaos that is lunchtime inside, and around One Canada Square and Canary Wharf. Thousands of people queuing up, buying, sitting and eating their lunch all at the same time – it was really horrible at first. I’ve found ‘my’ spot now where I sit everyday for lunch and read my book (oh, hello Mr Grey 😉 ) , and even though it’s still busy and overwhelming, the initial shock has worn off! This is the view I face everyday whilst eating my sandwich – isn’t it pretty? I work inside that middle building, on the 30 something floor – eeek. I’m actually enjoying the role and it’s such a relief to be back into a routine and earning money – the last 3 weeks have gone very quickly so keeping busy at work certainly makes the days tick by faster.
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Berkay is also being kept busy in the army. He’s finding it a lot harder than he anticipated and he can’t wait to get out and have some freedom. He’s still based in Kayseri, although there was a scary moment where he faced the prospect of being moved to a more dangerous area – thankfully he didn’t have to go. He gets a few hours off most weekends so he can go outside and speak to me on skype and he’s made two good friends there who get the same hours off as him so he wanders around the nearby shopping centres with them for hours. He says they are all the ‘oldies’ and people refer to them as such, because they’re mid twenties and most people doing their national service are a lot younger than that. I’m glad he’s made friends. He’s been in there for 5 months this week – another 7 to go, and he’s counting every single day.
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I’m still moving the marbles from my ‘days to go’ jar into my ‘days down’ one, and it’s a relief seeing nearly equal amounts in each! Berkay has a little list of days in the shape of ‘365’ that he’s ticking off one by one – bless him.

One of the things I was most worried about when Berkay went in the army was Boncuk, where she’d go and how safe she’d be. Initially she stayed with our friends for the first 2 months – and when I was there in April we took her to Berkay’s family’s village instead. Berkay’s brother promised me he’d look after her, but I was still worried because although they have farm animals and care for them, a dog is different. Turkish people don’t really like dogs like we do. They have their own dog, used to guard the sheep – they don’t feed it proper food, just bread and the occasional sheep/goat hoof when slaughtering time comes around. Needless to say, when we turned up with Boncuk, her bags of food and asked Berkay’s dad to save her a bit of fish from his dinner plate so that we could get her to take her worming pill, they thought we were nuts. Thankfully, Berkay’s brother is lovely and has been looking after her nicely, sending me photo updates and answering all my ‘Boncuk nasil?’ messages! He says she loves him and jumps up him wagging her tail whenever she sees him. He even takes her for walks, which is unheard of in the village, people look at you like you’ve got two heads if you’ve got a dog on a lead but think nothing of someone walking along with a flock of sheep instead. Last week Berkay’s cousin was visiting the village and sent me some photos – I was sat on the train coming home from work when I got them and it made my whole day, Boncuk just looks so happy doesn’t she? Such a relief.
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149 days down, 219 days to go!

P.S I’m off camping this weekend, but I hope to have another post up sometime next week – I still have a lot of lovely photos of Fethiye to share. If you’re interested in more photos, join our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/TurkishDreams where me and 3 of my friends post daily photo challenges among other Turkey related things! (: