7 years together today!

Berkay & I have been together 7 years today! It feels like a lifetime, as we’ve been together basically my whole adult life, since I was 18!

I’ve written about how we met and our ‘cheesy love story’ before, so I won’t bore you all with that again, but you can click HERE to read it, if you’re curious!

From ‘holiday romance’ and ‘long distance’ love, to 3 years living in Turkey together, 12 months of the army service apart, to getting married last year and being separated just 4 days later, to applying for his visa last October, and him joining me here in the UK last November, and now buying a flat and settling in to that together, it’s been a busy 7 years full of adventure, happiness, sad airport goodbyes, visa stress and plenty of sad & happy tears. I expect the future holds more of the same, although hopefully more of the happy!

Here are some ‘Danni & Berkay through the years’ photos – I think it’s clear we don’t age well, 7 years, about 7 stone extra weight between us, 70% less hair on Berkay’s head… but still cute together, right? The first photo was taken 9/7/2010, the last photo just last week 3/7/2017.



Whenever we’re back in Turkey, we like to go back and visit the hotel we met in. If my Dad had never chosen this hotel for me and my friend to stay in, we would never have met each other! Back in May the hotel was all closed up for winter still, but we jumped over the fence and wandered around anyway, don’t worry, Berkay is still close to the boss, having worked there 10 years, we weren’t just trespassing! The hotel has not changed at all in 7 years, apart from maybe a fresh lick of paint outside and freshly grouted pool tiles, but everything else remains the same, including a lot of the staff, minus Berkay now of course. Even the famous rose bush Berkay used to pick the roses off for me and place on my sun lounger those days 7 years ago, is still there growing strong.

 
Whilst looking back at some old photos I’d taken during that holiday back in July 2010, I smiled at the innocent snaps I’d taken of places and things that would later be such important places in our lives. Not only the photos of the hotel we met in, or of the promenade along Calis we’d spend so many years walking along, the beach we’d spend so many evenings enjoying the sunset on, but also this one. This is a photo of the apartment we stayed in for 10 days when we got married last year, I’d just taken a photo of it during that week long holiday in 2010 not knowing or ever imagining in my wildest dreams that we’d be staying in one of those sea-view apartments on the left during our wedding week, taking photos on the balcony with my little bridesmaid sister, or where my dad first saw me in my wedding dress and cried, or where we’d spend our first night as husband as wife. It sounds silly really, but just seeing the photo really made me smile. Especially as my Dad actually booked that apartment for us last year, and one for him & family attending the wedding too, by accident, thinking it was a different apartment block further along the beach – it seems like fate, always meant to be! ūüôā

We won’t be celebrating today, since Berkay has been at work since 12.45 until 23.30 tonight and won’t be home til 1am, ever the hard worker! But we are off together tomorrow so plan to do something silly together, like go and watch the new Despicable Me movie at the cinema. I was telling my friend this and she looked me like I was mental ‘what, you’re going to go and see that kids film at the cinema with your husband and not take a kid with you?’ – ‘yep’ – ‘oh, bet it was hard getting him to agree to that!’ – ‘nope, he loves it too, we’re like big kids’ – ‘ahh, I see, a match made in heaven then’
Exactly, my friend, Exactly!

 

Our new house!

This time last year, if you had told me that we’d be married, Berkay would have been living in the UK nearly 5 months and we’d have just bought our own place, I would have laughed in your face… In fact even 3 months ago if you’d have told me we’d be living in our own place by April I’d have thought you were crazy too… ¬†alas, that is exactly what happened!

In the middle of March, after a stressful few weeks of dealing with solicitors, banks, and all those other ‘grown up’ things, we exchanged contracts and completed. We got the keys on 17th March and moved in within a few days, between working and Berkay having a horrible toothache!¬†You might be wondering how on earth we managed to buy property in South East London, and so soon after Berkay had moved here, but don’t worry, we didn’t rob a bank! The answer is it’s a shared ownership property – we own a 40%¬†share, and a housing association owns the rest. Renting a one bedroom flat around here would be around ¬£1000 a month, but it actually works out a lot cheaper for us to have a mortgage on 40% and pay rent and service charge on the remaining 60%, so we are much better off going down this route.

I love our little flat and since we’ve moved out and have our own place, Berkay is a lot more settled. He’s settled more in this past 3 weeks than he has in the last 4.5 months. Previously, we lived with family, which we were very grateful for, but it’s just not the same as having your own place, especially as we already lived together for 3 years, so moving back home was like taking a step back for a while. It also means more space for the two of us so we’re not cramped up in one room and annoying each other 24/7!

When we lived in Turkey together we never really had anything of our own, no furniture, no personal touches, no real belongings or house decor, the longest we lived in one apartment was 2.5 years but we didn’t make it our own and it was always very clear that we were living in someone else’s house, it never felt like ours, so buying things and planning for this flat was really exciting.

 
Our flat is only one bedroom, but it’s a really good sized room, and Berkay has already mentioned to everyone he speaks to that one day he could split the room into two and make space for a nursery ( I think he knows something I don’t! ha ha). It has a bathroom with a bath, something we also never had in Turkey, along with hot water without relying on solar panels, another luxury…but the best room in the whole place is the livingroom/kitchen area. It has huge, floor length, wall to wall windows which provide stunning views across the area, although fitting the blinds to the windows was a nightmare, I have a new-found respect for people who have blinds, now I know how long they take to perfect. I absolutely love the windows and having a balcony is something I’ve always wanted too, as that reminds me of our Turkey days! The only thing that is missing is the BBQ outside! My other favourite thing in the house, and the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, apart from the flat itself, is our corner sofa, it’s massive with plenty of space for us both to lay out end to end and not even touch each other! ūüėČ You may also notice I have a giant teddy in the corner, he’s over 6ft tall and bigger than me, I’m such a big kid! I guess I have to balance the grown-upness of mortgages, solicitors and bills, with my inner-child somehow!

 
 
There are a few little references to Turkey in our house, including wedding photos all over the place, a family shot of us and our lovely dog Boncuk, some word art given to us as a wedding present by our friend, a glittery map of Turkey and of course a couple of Turkish eyes.
   
    
It still doesn’t feel real that we have our own little place and it’s so cosy and homely already, I actually think I’m going to miss it and get a bit homesick when we’re out in Turkey in a few weeks time!

If any of my readers are in the position we were in this time last year, when we were just about to get married and then be forced apart after just 3 days of married life, to go through the whole struggle of visas and all of the uncertainty,¬†I urge you to please not give up, it will all work out, although I know the patience is hard to find. ‚̧

Recipe – Menemen – Turkish eggs, tomato & pepper

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A friend of mine posted a photo of her menemen for breakfast at the weekend, and I showed Berkay – he licked his lips and said how much he missed¬†it, so he cooked it for our dinner Saturday night.¬†Turkish menemen¬†is the easiest dish to make¬†ever, and a good way to use up whatever you have left in the fridge, especially squishy tomatoes! It’s so simple but so tasty, and you’ll have to trust me when I say it tastes much better than it looks in my photos.

Ingredients (for 2-3 people)
Р2 tablespoons of olive oil or a knob of butter
– 3-4 eggs
-one chopped onion
– 2 chopped green peppers (the long, thin kind you find in international food stores – not a normal bell pepper, although you could try that!)
Р3-4 tomatoes diced up (or tinned tomatoes for a richer flavour)
– salt & pepper to taste

Optional extras 
– chilli flakes, spinach, anything else you fancy, I’ve even seen some people¬†crumble some feta cheese on top.

¬†First, heat¬†the oil/butter in a pan and add the chopped onion and pepper. Berkay didn’t actually use pepper this time as we didn’t have any – they don’t usually sell the long, thin peppers in supermarkets but you can get them from international food shops. We walked past an Asian greengrocer stall and saw lots on there but didn’t think to get any – we’ll have to visit the local Turkish food store and stock up. You could try and use a normal bell pepper but I’m not sure how well it would work.

Next, add the tomatoes. Usually, we peel the tomatoes and chop them but you don’t have to. Berkay left the skins on this time, chopped them small and made sure all the juices were in the pan. For a bit more flavour, you could use a tin of chopped tomatoes and they’d be much juicier. Berkay says the tomatoes here are just not the same as Turkey and I agree with him – another thing to stock up on at the local Turkish food store next time!

We added spinach at this point just because I really like it, but it’s not usually a key ingredient of menemen!

Let the pan simmer for a couple of minutes, you want all the onion, pepper and tomatoes to be soft and plenty of juices to be in the pan.

Then, make little pockets in the mixture and crack your eggs into them. You can leave them whole, or mix them in so it’s more like scrambled eggs – it definitely looks more appetising when you leave them whole, but they cook more evenly when you scramble them in. Once you’ve added the eggs, add your salt, pepper and/or chilli flakes and cover the pan with a lid. Leave it to simmer for another 1-2 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs to be.

Usually, menmen is served in a special silver pan, along with some fresh, crusty bread or a seedy simit. Delicious, simple, filling and cheap!

Special thanks goes to Maxine for posting the¬†photo of her food that inspired us to make it. Poor Berkay really struggles with the food here and adjusting to the different portion sizes and more convenience style food, he especially finds it hard not eating a whole loaf of bread with his dinner like back in Turkey, so he’s always excited when he sees photos of Turkish food and I often find him salivating staring at the photos on his phone!

Please, trust me when I say it tastes better than it looks!

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Our Traditional Turkish Village wedding – the evening.

“Just take a deep breath” – those words were running through my head as I stepped out of the car.¬†A few days prior to the big Turkish wedding party I had been discussing how worried I was and my stepmum’s very useful words of wisdom were ‘take deep¬†breaths’ – I must have thought about that conversation and replayed those few words in my head 100 times that day!

There was already music playing, which they stopped when Berkay’s brother gave us the signal to start walking towards the empty space in the middle of the floor. There was a make shift aisle between rows of chairs, and when the DJ introduced us, hundreds of heads turned to face me. My instinct was to burst into tears and it took all my effort not to do so! The photographer captured this moment perfectly – lips tightly together, dread in my eyes… ¬†
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As soon as we entered the middle of the make-shift dancefloor and started our slow dance (after¬†Berkay’s cousin taught us how to during the day….) Berkay’s brothers laid out some giant sparkler fireworks around us in a circle and fired some confetti at us, which looked great for the photos but made me jump at the time! Slowly, other couples and family members joined in the slow dancing – including Berkays dad, much to the amusement of his family who had never seen him dance before despite attending hundreds of weddings!
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Berkay’s dad wasnt the only family member joining in the fun – Berkay’s uncle grabbed one of the traditional giant drums that always take pride of place at a village wedding, and started bashing it – apparently he had never played one before but one glass of raki later and he was playing it so confidently you’d think he was an expert! To accompany the very, very loud drum, the DJ was playing a keyboard and singing. I can’t even explain how loud it was!
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After the slow dance, it was time for the real madness to begin – the traditional, loud, Turkish music that reminds me of a swarm of angry bees buzzing – if you’ve heard this kind of music you’ll know exactly what I mean. I don’t do dancing, so I was dreading this, especially because as the bride, all eyes were on me. I’d only ever done Turkish dancing once before and that was on our actual wedding day back in April, and only for a couple of minutes – I should definitely have practiced more! Basically, it involves standing around in a circle, wriggling your shoulders, clicking your fingers and shuffling to the beat of the massive drum – at least that’s what I tried to do. It was really entertaining watching everyone else dance, a lot of them really got into it and were obviously having great fun. I tried to stay with Berkay as much as possible but he disappeared off a few times and I was left in a circle of women. Bless Berkay’s cousins really tried to look after me and made sure I was dancing in their ‘circle’, but I’ve only met them a few times so I was still nervous. After a while some of our friends from Fethiye joined in the dancing. They are much older than us and are almost like second parents to Berkay when he’s in Fethiye. They said they made the journey all the way to Denizli just so that I had someone I knew there which was so sweet. My face definitely did light up when I saw them dancing amongst¬†the sea of people I’d never met before¬†– I navigated¬†towards them¬†and just standing next to them made me feel so much better, although of course I was still searching for Berkay in the crowd!
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There were so many people from far and wide – everyone really makes an effort to turn up. September-November is wedding season in Turkey and this fairly small village can have up to 10 weddings per week, but apparently everyone was commenting how many people had turned up to our one and how they’d never seen one like that before! Berkay was especially pleased that two of his best friends from his army days made the journey, he keeps in regular contact to them via whatsapp and Facebook and they spent almost 10 months together day and night in the army so it was nice for him that they wanted to come.

After a few dances and a very quick sit down it was time to pin the money. I spoke about this in my blog post about our actual wedding in April, as it was a tradition that I wanted to make sure we did then too. It’s tradition in Turkey to pin money on to the bride and groom, rather than give gifts. In English weddings you end up with toasters, slowcookers and kettles, whereas in Turkey you end up with lots of paper notes, much more useful, and looks great in the wedding photos too. At first, people formed a fairly orderly queue, got a pin from Berkays cousin and then pinned the money to us before shaking our hands and double kissing our cheeks, but the neat queue quickly turned into chaos and I had people grabbing me, kissing my face and rushing at me with money in their hands from all angles – very overwhelming. We had anything between 1 dollar and 100 lira notes pinned to us, along with some small gold coins, another Turkish tradition. These small, gold coins are worth different amounts depending on their weight and are often given at special occasions like weddings, births of babies etc. We got around 12 gold coins pinned to us, but we only got to keep the 7 given to us by family – the others were kept by Berkays family.

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After the money had all been pinned to us, the photographer asked people to come up for photographs with us – notice the outfits, it’s normal for guests to not dress up at all, although a lot of the closer family members did. There is certainly no upstaging the bride so that’s one less thing to worry about, everyone just goes along to join the celebrations and have a boogie which is lovely.

After the photos, the DJ dropped the bombshell that he would be bringing a chair out for us to do a solo dance around. Berkay had the unfortunate job of breaking this news to me and translating and I believe my reaction was ‘I hate you’ – I’m disappointed the photographer didn’t get a photo of my face when he told me because I bet it would have been absolutely hilarious. Berkay apparently didn’t know about this before, it’s a good job I didn’t know because I’d have been worrying all day! It was literally my worst nightmare, actually even worse than I could have imagined, but with hundreds of pairs of eyes watching I had no choice. First of all, I took my seat in the chair, the DJ played music, the drummer played, Berkay’s shoulders started shuffling and he danced around me in a circle. After a couple of minutes, the music stopped, the DJ shouted ‘did you like it?’ I answered ‘yes’ but I couldn’t possibly type what I was actually thinking as it involves many, many swearwords. Now it was my turn, Berkay sat down on the chair and I danced around him in a circle. I have no idea what was going through my head but I know that it felt like the longest few minutes of my life! We caught the whole thing on video and watching it back does really make me laugh, even though I hated it it is definitely something to look back on and smile about.¬†So many people who know me commented¬†how they couldn’t believe I had done it as they’ve known me for a long time and know how shy I am.
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The night carried on and we carried on dancing, my feet were aching, my fingers hurting, and I was very tired after being up since 4am and travelling, but we weren’t allowed to sit down and just had to keep on going. Everyone was enjoying themselves and eventually as the dance floor started to empty a bit, I managed to sneak off and sit down, leaving Berkay, his brothers and their friends dancing around like loons but having lots of fun.
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By the end of the night, I had blisters all over my fingers from all the clicking whilst dancing, I suppose that’s a sign of a good party – injuries from dancing!

Overall, it was a very interesting experience but one I definitely will never, ever be repeating! Clearly, it meant a lot to Berkay and his family and they did go to a lot of effort to organise the whole thing – it’s important to take part in the traditions and embrace the culture on both sides and I’m glad I was brave enough to do it, it’s definitely a story to tell everyone!
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Berkay is coming to England!

On Friday, Berkay’s visa application status changed to ‘decision made’ and the passport was sent back in the post. We had absolutely no idea whether it was a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and anxiously tracked the UPS parcel on its journey to Fethiye. We had hoped that it would be there on Saturday so that we wouldn’t have to spend the whole weekend not knowing, but it wasn’t to be… so, first thing Monday morning Berkay went and waited outside the UPS office until the delivery truck arrived from Istanbul via Mugla. It was early, around 9.45am their time, 7.45am our time, and my alarm had just gone off to wake me up for another day of work..

As I was walking out the front door, Berkay FaceTime’d me – with the parcel in his hand. He opened the envelope while talking to me and we both had the horrible few seconds of searching through the envelope for either a letter of refusal, or a visa stamp in his passport…

‘They gave it!’ he said – and he was right. There it was – a big, shiny, visa sticker in his passport.

WE DID IT. HE GOT THE VISA!
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My family cried, I cried, even strangers I’ve never met but who read my updates on Facebook cried! It was definitely an emotional Monday morning, and I’m so glad that we found out early so that I didn’t have to sit in work and wait all day! It was also well worth paying the ¬£450 extra for priority service, if we hadn’t we probably wouldn’t know until January.

After all the stress, worry and hard work, it finally paid off. The months of gathering paperwork, years of searching for a job earning over the minimum income requirement, months of gathering wage slips and letters, printing photos, Facebook messages, call logs, proving every inch of our relationship and explaining every little detail of our lives over the past 6 years, it was all worth it eventually.

Lots of people were saying they didn’t realise how hard it was so I hope all my annoying visa updates and stress and worry has opened your eyes to just how hard it actually is to get a visa for the UK – it took so much effort, time, money and a lot of hard work! We have to do all this process again in 2.5 years time too, and meet the requirements at every check point, it’s not a permanent visa! Next time you hear someone say “we let everyone in, they all come here for free and get everything” please tell them you know that’s not true and tell them our story, educate them! It’s cost¬†over ¬£2,500, including an NHS fee, and the visa is very clearly stamped “no public funds” which means Berkay is¬†not entitled to any benefits, despite what a lot of people would have you believe!

I still don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet to be honest, and I don’t think it will until he’s here, and even then it will feel like it’s just a holiday for a while! Everything is going to change, not just for us but also for my family since we we will still be living at home with them for a while. I’ve already been flat searching and house hunting but it’s going to be very difficult to find somewhere until Berkay is here and working as we need two people’s wages to be able to afford to move out around here!

Berkay worked his last night shift in the hotel in Calis last night, and it closed for the winter season today.¬†I think it’s bittersweet, because although we really wanted him to get this visa and for us to be able to live in the UK together, until now, it’s always been an uncertainty, and now it’s a reality! He has worked in that hotel for 12+ years, since he was a student doing work experience with his tourism school, and now it’s definitely the end of an era. This morning he packed up his things and got the bus to Denizli, where he currently is staying in the city with his uncle and cousins. Tomorrow, he goes to the village again and will stay there for 3 weeks before going back to Fethiye, saying another goodbye and boarding a plane from Dalaman to London mid-November.

Once he’s here we’ll be very busy, adapting to life here, working, saving, celebrating his birthday and Christmas and very much looking forward to what 2017 holds for us. ¬†This time last year he was in Diyarbakir doing his army service in a dangerous place and we were having 30 second phone calls once a day. It felt like the day would never come when I’d be able to post this ‘BERKAY IS MOVING TO ENGLAND’ post, but here it is… and that definitely feels good to type!

Submitting the visa application…

img_6518-1For those who don’t follow my Facebook page – I have just come back from 8 days in Turkey! Amongst many other things during the very, very busy week (including our big village wedding party…) a major event happened – we applied for Berkay’s visa!

This has been a very, very long time coming. Ever since I came back to the UK in December 2014 this visa has been the end goal, but it has been the main obstacle in our relationship since day one. The whole time Berkay was in the army I was working hard to find a job earning the minimum income requirement, then once I found that 18 months ago, I began slowly ticking the other things off the list of visa requirements.

Since July I have spent every waking moment after work gathering paperwork as evidence and organising it all Рhundreds of pieces of paper, constantly writing letters, perfecting them, making sure everything was explained, printing, reprinting, proof-reading, triple-checking everything, getting paperwork from outside sources to prove everything, collecting wage slips, bank statements and saving enough money to apply. Then, a few weeks ago we finally had everything ready, paid the extortionate total £2500 visa fee and booked our appointment to submit the papers in Antalya on 6th October.

So, while I was there last week (after a couple of late nights on the terrace having a final run through of the paperwork) on Thursday morning we woke up bright and early at 5am and made the 2.5 hour journey to Antalya. Actually finding the visa application centre was a mission in itself – thank goodness we had GPS on Berkay’s phone, although him trying to drive on the massive, extremely busy Antalya city centre roads was rather scary too, nothing like the Fethiye roads we’re used to which are tiny in comparison! There was so much pollution too, the whole city area was all smoggy. We arrived in plenty of time so we stopped for some breakfast – delicious meat borek and a glass of cay.
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We eventually did find the visa application centre, which was in a big multi-purpose community centre with a lot of different rooms and security scanners on the doors. It was very modern looking and had a lovely big water fountain outside. Berkay had to register in a small room and I was allowed to sit in there with him while a man rummaged through the paperwork. Seeing him reorder the paperwork that I had painstakingly ordered and labelled according to my contents page was hard to watch, that paperwork has been my treasured possession for months, I felt like snatching it all back! After the intital registration, we had to wait outside another room – there seemed to be at least 5 other people there with the same appointment time as Berkay, and there was no order to people being called into the room, it just seemed to be whoever managed to make eye contact with the man on the door first! He eventually got seen 30 minutes after his appointment, I wasn’t allowed in so I had to sit outside but I could see him through a section of glass in the door and was trying not to make him laugh when he realised I could see him. They took the paperwork, shoved it all in an envelope, took Berkay’s fingerprints and a photo and then that was that.
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It was a relief that it was all over – I had gone over the paperwork so many times and was happy with it, I was confident that we had done all we could and shown all we could possibly show, but I always ended up second guessing myself and trying to add more, so having it finally sent off and knowing I could do nothing else was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders instantly.

The decision usually takes 12 weeks, but we paid ¬£450 to prioritise the application which means a decision should be made within 3 weeks – a huge difference and well worth the extra money. There is an online tracking system that tells us exactly where in the process the application is currently at – it’s so addictive, we keep logging in to check, even at completely random times of day when we know the office is shut, even at weekends. Berkay wakes up during the day and checks it then goes back to sleep, I check several times a day when I wake up, during work, when I come home… The day when it changes to ‘decision made’ I think our hearts will stop beating for a second!! Unfortunately, the decision won’t be known until they send it back in the post and Berkay opens the envelope and searches through the passport for visa or a refusal letter.

Our whole future is in someone else’s hands at the moment… please keep your fingers crossed for us!

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Next visit to Turkey & Visa Paperwork…

I haven’t posted on here for a month now, this is because every waking moment outside of work I have been preparing visa paperwork!

It’s been over 4 months since I last saw Berkay, after leaving just 3 days after getting married, but I am going back to Turkey in 26 days time on 1st October. While I am there we are planning on doing a little road trip to Antalya to submit his visa application. It has taken me months of planning to get all the paperwork together and we’re still only half way there!

In order to apply for the visa we need to supply evidence of every single detail of our lives and the people in it. The main things are proving that we are in a genuine relationship, proving that I earn above the income requirement, proving that Berkay has a safe place to live in the UK, and proving that he can speak English. We do this via piles and piles of paperwork as evidence. Letters, 18+ page application forms, declarations, passport copies, birth certificates, bank statements, wage slips, a letter from my employer, contract, a house inspection report, land registry documents, mortgage statements, letter from the house owner and other letters of support from my family, proof of address, utility bills, passport details of everyone else in the house, university certificate, army papers, English exam certificate, criminal record check, insurance papers, blog information, marriage photos, wedding cards, engagement cards, photos of us over the whole 6 years of our relationship, visa stamps, evidence of every flight I ever took to Turkey, extracts of Facebook, MSN and Skype conversations and call logs over the 6 years, etc, etc etc. These are just the things I’ve thought of off the top of my head, there are many more that I’ve forgotten.

Gathering all this information is painstakingly time consuming, especially scrolling through the 180,000+ Facebook messages we have had together and picking a few conversations from each year of our relationship to print out and show them – a nearly impossible task! It’s also frustrating trying to gather paperwork we need from other people, like getting blood from a stone! It seems people don’t realise the importance of this application and all the information that goes into it.

With all the documents, application fee, house inspection report fee, NHS surcharge, translation fees, travel to/from Antalya to the application centre and the £450 fee to prioritise the application and get a slightly quicker decision, the total of the application is well over £3000 Рa huge amount of money.

It seems so surreal that in October, when Berkay goes and hands in the paperwork at the application centre, it will be out of our hands, we will be totally out of control of our future. The decision of where we spend the rest of our lives will be in the hands of someone we’ve never met, sat at their desk reading through our pile of paperwork, all we can do is put our blood sweat and tears into that pile of paperwork to make sure it leaves no doubt in their mind that we are a genuine, loving husband and wife just trying to live together and settle down. It’s nerve wracking, and we’ve been working towards it for so long that when the application is submitted I won’t know what to do with myself or my free time – I expect I’ll spend every waking moment tracking the application status online and praying that we get a quick decision!

I’m trying to keep my blog updated in the meantime, but all my effort at the moment is going into work and the visa… In October I’ll hopefully have lots of photos and thoughts to share from my trip. Other than the road trip to Antalya, we’re also planning on going to the village to visit Boncuk too, with a stop-over at Pamukkkale, and the usual BBQ’s, sunsets and breathtaking views of Fethiye of course!

26 days to get everything ready to go! 

6 years together..

Yesterday, 8th July, was our 6 year anniversary. Back on 2nd July 2010 I flew to Turkey with my friend and stayed in a small hotel in Calis, Fethiye. Little did I know that during that week I’d meet Berkay, one of the staff at the hotel, towards the end of the holiday we got speaking, went out one night and the rest is history.

Who would have thought that now, 6 years later, we’d be married? Proof that a ‘holiday romance’ can work out!
We have spoken to each other every day since 8th July 2010, ¬†we lived together in Turkey for 3 years, he visited the UK 6 times, we survived 9 months without seeing each other during his 12 month army service and managed with just a 1 minute phonecall as our only contact everyday for a year. We haven’t seen each other since a few days after we got married back in April, but hopefully we’ll be together permanently before the end of the year and then we can start a whole new chapter!

In order to apply for Berkay’s spouse visa to live in the UK, we have to provide a lot of paperwork and proof of our relationship so I have been going through old photos to show as evidence – since they were handy and saved into a folder on my computer I thought I’d share some here, Danni & Berkay through the years!
 
This was the first photo we had together, and the only one for months! I think it was taken right before I left to go back to Dalaman airport. It’s really funny looking back at this photo as when it was taken I never for 1 second thought we’d end up having wedding photos taken together 6 years later! The 2nd photo was taken in October 2010, when I went back to Turkey for a week alone, to get to know Berkay better. Before that week we’d only spent a couple of hours together, but after talking to each other every day for hours on MSN for 3 months, it felt like we’d known each other forever.
 
In January 2011 I flew back to Turkey for a week and spent more time with Berkay. This photo was taken at aksazlar koyu in Fethiye, the first time I’d ever been there. Today it’s our favourite spot to go to for a BBQ!¬†The 2nd photo was taken on our 1st anniversary in July 2011, by this point I had been living in Turkey for 2 months having only actually spent 2 full weeks with Berkay before moving.¬†
In December 2011, after 2 attempts, Berkay got his visit visa to the UK granted and we went to the UK together for Christmas, followed by another 2 years living in Turkey together..
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In 2013, I made plans to move back to the UK, but not before a little weekend getaway in Bodrum, where we had some fun dressing up as sultans!
 
I moved back to England for 8 months, and Berkay came to visit for Christmas and for my mums wedding – it was during this time I realised how hard it was to be apart and how much I didn’t want to live in the UK without him while we still had the choice, so I moved back to Turkey for 6 months in 2014. The 2nd photo is taken on Berkay’s birthday in December 2014, the day before I moved back to England once again.

2015 was without a doubt the most testing year for us, as Berkay had to do his 12 month national service which I ranted, cried and moaned my way through. In April 2015 we were reunited for a week during his army leave and the rest of the year was very tough with Berkay being sent to Diyarbakir and not being able to take any of the remaining leave. This meant I didn’t see him again until January 2016.
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fter 8 very long months without seeing each other, the longest we’d ever spent apart, I spent 10 days back in Fethiye with Berkay in January. It felt like I’d never been away, and like we’d never been apart. In April 2016, we got married. Unfortunately I had to fly back to the UK just 4 days after… and we haven’t seen each other since.

I’m hoping to go back to visit in September, and then we’ll apply for Berkay’s spouse visa around then. I hope that by the end of this year we will be able to settle, rather than be backwards and forwards between both countries, or having long periods of time apart. The last 6 years certainly haven’t been easy or without obstacles, and it’s so funny looking back on old photos and thinking how different things were back then.

We’re a little older, fatter and bolder, but still just as happy… even though we act like an old married couple most of the time! We have come a long way in 6 years, here’s to the next 60…¬†
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Izmir & the English test..

This morning straight after finishing his night shift at the hotel Berkay headed to Fethiye Otogar and got the bus to Izmir.

The journey takes 5hours and 45minutes, so it’s quite far away and not the usual place he’d spend the day – he only went because that is where he needs to sit his English exam tomorrow morning.

This English exam is really the first step to applying for his visa to join me in the UK. The whole process is very long, very expensive and very time consuming, but as part of the requirements he has to pass the IELTS English life skills A1 test. It has to be taken at specific visa approved test centres in major cities like Izmir, Istanbul, Antalya, Ankara etc, and although Antalya is slightly nearer, Izmir was the only place with a slot available within the next few weeks, so that’s where he had¬†travel to.

He was quite willing to get the nightbus, travel all night and arrive in the early hours of the morning and wait outside for the test centre to open but I convinced him to book into a hotel overnight so he could relax and get a good night’s sleep before the big exam at 9am Friday¬†morning. He has a good knowledge of English, very understandable but not fluent, so he has spent weeks practicing for the exam, watching sample tests on YouTube and downloading English teaching ebooks on his phone to listen to while he sleeps. I’ve tried to help him as much as I can but I think he’s really nervous about it – he FaceTime’d me from his hotel room tonight panicking a bit and had all his pens, pencils, rubber and blank sheets of paper ready just in case, even though it’s a listening exam, bless him.

The exam itself cost us around 820tl / ¬£200, so it’s not cheap. Plus the travel there and back, along with the hotel for the night. By the time we apply for the actual visa, we’ll have paid out around ¬£3000, with no guarantee it will be granted, so it’s an awful lot of money. The exam only lasts for 18-25 minutes, so the 11 hour round trip is an awful long way to go just for that. I’m sure people don’t realise this when they’re complaining about ‘foreigners’ coming to the UK so ‘easily’ and ‘not even being able to speak English’. It’s really frustrating being on the other side, seeing the hoops we have to jump through just to live together and knowing that people are so oblivious and unaware of the effort, time and money it actually takes.

On the plus side, Berkay gets a day away from work, he won’t get another one until summer is over. He had a few hours spare this evening and went for a walk around Izmir – it’s very much a big, built up city, nothing at all like the places Berkay is used to, so it’s all very new and overwhelming to him although he did spend¬†the first few weeks of his army service there last February. Whilst out on his walk he took a little detour and managed to get lost. “I lost myself in Izmir and found myself again” he said. Bless him!
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He’s had quite a busy week, my grandparents are out in Calis at the moment so he’s been meeting up with them most days – it’s probably nice for him to have some company. Straight after his exam tomorrow morning he’ll be making the 5 hour 45 minute journey back to Fethiye again, hopefully in time for dinner with them before they fly home tomorrow night.

We’ll know in a couple of weeks time whether he passes or not, but please wish Berkay luck for his exam tomorrow morning at 9am Turkish time… we really need him to pass to get the ball rolling visa-wise! It’s just the first of many nervous long waits!

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Our Turkish wedding Part 3.

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Our wedding was always going to be a little ‘different’ as we tried to¬†incorporate both cultures. The theme for the whole day was red and white, to signify both the English flag and the Turkish flag. We were conscious that for the Turkish guests this was going to be a slightly more boring wedding than they were used to as traditional village weddings are massive with hundreds, or thousands, of guests and have things such as loud drummers, gun shots and loud Turkish music all night long. One of the most traditional things we done was the pinning on of the money. We didn’t actually plan to do this until a couple of days before the wedding, after we went to collect my flowers and they asked if we needed ribbon for the money to be pinned to, only then I realised I actually really wanted to do it and have photos of something more traditional for our photo album.

So, after we had group photos taken on the beach we asked people to gather around and make a line to pin the money on us. I always thought this was a bit cheeky, but I guess it’s really no different to having guests bring wedding presents, and since we currently live in separate countries, the typical ‘British’ wedding presents like toasters, kettles etc would be pretty pointless. Its tradition that the guests line up in front of the bride and groom, collect a pin and one by one pin lira notes or gold coins onto a sash that is tied around the bride and grooms necks. It’s also usual for the bride to receive gold bracelets or coins from the groom’s family, but I didn’t receive any.¬†With a bit of help from Berkay’s uncle and cousin, our guests greeted us one by one and pinned the money on us, it was really windy at this point and the money was close to blowing away, but it was really fun and I’m so glad we decided to include this part in our day as Berkay’s family loved it. His uncle was posting photos on Facebook all day and when it came to this part he proudly shared photos under the heading ‘Now time for the Turkish part’ which made me smile.
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As part of the table favours, I had ordered personalised cards with our photos on with the words ‘let love sparkle’ and a little sparkler for each guest to light. Obviously I couldn’t travel with¬†the sparklers as fireworks aren’t allowed in the suitcase, so I had to hunt around to find some suitable in Fethiye – we eventually found them in Oludeniz Azda and bought 100 of them! I’d seen lots of photos of other weddings using sparklers as the ‘send off’ idea for the end of the night when the bride and groom leave the venue, but we decided just to use them right in the middle of the evening, just after sunset. 3 men from my family (Dad, brother and step-dad) and 3 from Berkay’s family (his 2 brothers and uncle) lit the sparklers and held them up either side of us and it proved to be a lot more easier said than done as they had trouble lighting all 6 sparklers at the same time in the wind! Along with the sparklers I also made other table favours – a little box filled with Turkish delight and a heart shaped Cadbury chocolate which I’d spent the previous day melting, making and filling, and a small bag containing a pebble which we had picked off Calis beach, written our names and date on, and a small Turkish eye pin. I loved the pebble idea the most and I have my own one sat at home in my bedroom, a little piece of Calis Beach in my house to remind me¬†of that day.
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After the sparklers, I was reluctantly pulled to the dancefloor and persuaded to have a first dance. I’ve never danced before and can’t dance at all, we really should have practiced first! I do love these photos though.
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By this point we were really hungry, and so were the guests, so when the restaurant declared the buffet open we were very excited! Here another part of Turkish tradition popped up, a part I’d never heard of before. Apparently it’s normal that the staff serving the food won’t do so unless the groom tips them. The chef who was responsible for opening the buffet counter refused to lift the food covers until Berkay had tipped him, after the first 50tl note he opened the lid a tiny bit then closed it again, and after a further 10tl he opened it fully – much to the amusement of Berkay and my dad! The food was all made by Guven’s restaurant and it was delicious, an open buffet of chicken and meatballs, rice, salad, mushrooms, potatoes, yogurt, bread and a few other Turkish meze dishes. We also had free sprite, cola and fanta on the tables and it all just cost roughly 40tl per person, which is amazing. They done such a good job.
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After our belly’s and glasses were full my dad made a speech, followed by Berkay. My dad also read out a poem one of my friends had written and given to him which was really¬†sweet:
For Danni and Berkay on this special day,
I wrote this poem, just to say,
We wish you both the very best,

In love and trust and happiness.
You’re meant to be, it’s fair to say,
You suit one another in every way.
You’re married now, man and wife,
and so begins your married life.
Be kind, be patient, honest too,
We really hope the best for you.
The time has come, so it would seem,
To start living your Turkish dream.
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One of the cutest moments of the whole evening was my little sister and Berkay’s little cousin dancing. They’re both 5 years old, although Berkay’s cousin is 7¬†months older than Abbie. I told Abbie to go and dance with her and the two held hands and danced around, despite not being able to communicate a single word with each other. Abbie also made friends with Berkay’s family and friends, many of them picked her up for a cuddle and a dance which was so cute, Abbie was loving all the attention. It just shows that the language barrier and culture difference means nothing to children, so lovely to see. Abbie still talks about Berkay’s little cousin now.

Later in the evening, after complaining that it was far too quiet for his liking, one of Berkay’s friends took control of the music and started blasting out Turkish songs. All the Turkish people suddenly got up on the dance floor, and were giving my family members some Turkish dancing lessons. I refused to take part until very late in the night, where I was persuaded by Berkay, I’d never even done Turkish dancing before. I think my nan and grandad win the award for best effort in the Turkish dancing, their shoulders were rocking and their fingers clicking all over the place!
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By 12.30am we were all danced out and everyone was heading ‘home’. By this point I could not wait to get my wedding dress off as I’d had it on since 11am that morning with only one ‘pee-break’. The corset was done so tight I had blisters from the bones of the dress and I was definitely ready to take it off and breathe out!
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I have to say a huge thanks to Carole and Guven of Guven’s restaurant, it was the first wedding they’d ever held but they made it so special. I know they went to a lot of effort in the days leading up to it, especially Carole and her helpers making all the decorations and designing the drapes, chairs, tables etc. They put it so much effort to make it such a lovely day and I totally recommend them to anyone, it looked beautiful, the food was lovely and they are just such a lovely couple in general. Also very thankful to all of my family and friends for coming and making the day so perfect.

The only sad part was knowing we only had 3 more days of married life together before I headed back to the UK, but we definitely made the most of every moment and have lots of lovely memories and photos to treasure.
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Click here to read part 1 of our wedding, and click here for part 2.