Visa renewal time – an unfair system?

It’s been a few months since I posted on my blog, now its 2019 and it’s March already, can you believe it?!

Now that we’re already into the 3rd month of the year, it’s time to start thinking about renewing Berkay’s visa. He arrived at the end of 2016, on the ‘spouse visa’ which enables him to live and work in the UK for just over two and a half years. It cost around £2500 at the time, and when we got it, there was that relief of knowing there were no more visas to worry about for two years! Of course, now those two years have flown by and its time to start gathering all the paperwork, and money, to renew it!

I think visas are one of those things that nobody really understands the process of, until they know someone who has gone through it. I think people assume its easy for people to come to the UK, we’ve all read those newspaper reports about ‘foreigners coming here, getting our benefits’ etc. I probably had those misconceptions before too, to be honest.

Even though me and Berkay have been together for nearly nine years, and he has been living here, working for two and a half years, applying for the extension of his visa is still stressful and full of uncertainty. It’s not just a case of filling out an application form and ticking a few boxes – it’s a lot of work.

When he initially applied for the visa two and a half years ago, Berkay had to pass an English exam. To renew it, he has to pass a higher level exam, which he will actually be sitting this week – that’s not cheap either, £150, so fingers crossed he passes or he will have to keep trying and paying out for it.

Then there’s the cost involved – the application fee is £1033 currently, but this will go up again in April as it does every year. There’s also a NHS surcharge, which has just doubled from £500 to £1000…despite the fact that Berkay earns a fair wage (he found a job within three weeks of arriving in the country..) and pays national insurance like everyone else in the country with a job, he has to pay this £1000 towards the NHS as part of the application, so essentially he’s contributing twice! If any of you reading this have heard people say before ‘foreigners come here to use our NHS for free’ please inform them of this! I can understand if he wasn’t earning and needed to contribute something so that he wasn’t just coming here for the sole purpose of abusing the National Health Service, but when he’s already paying taxes and national insurance every week this seems very unfair!

So, total so far is £2033 + £150 for the English test, assuming he only needs one attempt at passing, but the fee’s don’t end there either… If he applies via the standard service, it can take months and months to get a decision, and they keep his passport all that time, so if there was ever a family emergency in Turkey, or he wanted to travel for whatever reason, he wouldn’t be able to, which leaves the option of paying a further £630 for a priority service, with a faster decision within a few days. So, £2033 + £150 + £630 = £2813, before travel costs to the visa application centre in London, sometimes they charge extra for the appointments where you hand over the documents, also! With the fee going up again in April, we will undoubtedly be paying over £3000 for this visa extension.

Perhaps finding the money to apply is the easy part. We also have to prove our relationship is genuine, with letters of support from friends and family, evidence we live together in the form of letters and bills addressed jointly to us at our address, spread across over the two and a half years he’s been in the country, to show that we have consistently lived together. Luckily, I knew that this was a requirement so I have folders of letters filed under my bed in preparation for this! We also have to prove we have the right to live in the property, with land registry documents, mortgage statements etc, and proof that we meet the £18,600 income requirement, with evidence in the form of payslips, work contracts, a letter from my HR department, etc etc!

Once this visa is granted (fingers crossed!) we will have to go through the same thing again in another two years time, only next time Berkay will have to pass a further test, a ‘life in the UK’ multiple choice exam paper, with general knowledge questions such as ‘when was Hadrians wall built?’, ‘how many members of the Scottish Parliament are there?’ and ‘When did the first Christian communities appear in Britain?’ – questions that seem better fitted for contestants on ‘The Chase’, rather than someone wanting to settle in the UK – I don’t know many Brits that would pass this 24 question test, by getting 75% correct.

As you can see, we have a busy couple of months ahead, getting all this paperwork organised, scanned and written, so that when we are able to apply in May/June, we are ready to do so.  I’m not really complaining about the process, I understand that rules have to be in place, but everyone I explain this process to, unless they know someone who has done it themselves, seems to be shocked when I tell them what it entails. With Brexit bringing out the worst in people recently, I have seen more and more people stating that ‘UK has no control of its borders, no immigration rules, no checks on people entering the country’ – I’m writing this post in the hope that if any of my readers believed this before, or have heard people making these assumptions, please, educate them and tell them you know differently!

It is very frustrating, handing over piles of paperwork to a complete stranger, to judge us based on the evidence they have in front of them, like we are some sort of criminals, and pay them £3000 for the privilege or believing we are genuine, or not.

 

Denizli – The City Centre, the Cable Car & the Cool Cockerel.

Around 1.5-2 hours away from Berkay’s family village Beyagac, is the busy city of Denizli.

Both Beyagac and Denizli City are in the province of Denizli, but Denizli City Centre is the capital of the whole province. The city is very much a working, industrial centre with factories and a lot of textile production. In summer it’s hot, in winter it’s cold, even down to snow, so the climate varies a lot with the seasons!

It has a lot of tourists passing through, but mainly just on their way to Pammukale and Hieropolis, a short distance away from the city centre. The city seems to get more modern every time we visit, with new buildings, shopping centres, and even a cable car being built since our last visit 2.5 year ago.

We were in Denizli  visiting Berkay’s uncle, his wife and their two children. They rent an apartment right in the centre of the city. Berkay doesn’t know his way around, so we met his cousin e-route. While waiting for him, we had some beautiful views across the area, if a little foggy due to weather and pollution! The rest of the family were out, so me, Berkay and his cousin went straight towards the ‘Denizli Telferik’ – the cable car up the side of the mountain with absolutely amazing views. I plan to write about this more in a separate post, because I loved it so much, so I’ll save the further details for then!
  
After coming back down to ground level, we drove to the family home. I really like visiting their home, they’re so welcoming and friendly and after a few days in the village sitting on the floor for every meal, it was nice to see an actual dining room table and chairs again. Berkay’s uncle is a fireman in summer, and goes off to the mountains for days at a time, to wait at look out points and search for first sight of wild fires. In winter, he is a bus driver. His wife is a stay at home mum at the moment, but used to work in local factories making slippers – part of the cities big textile industry. They have a 15 year old son, and a 6 year old daughter, Berkay’s two cousins. It’s funny to me because that’s quite an age gap  and it’s identical to the age gap between my brother and sister, who are the exact same ages. A few years ago, my family came to visit us in Calis, and Berkay’s uncle came from Denizli to spend the day with us – with Berkay’s cousin and my sister the same age, only 1 at the time, we got a cute photo of them sat in a hammock together in Guvens restaurant. 4 years later, in April 2016, they were reunited again at Guven’s restaurant and danced together at our wedding – bless them!

Berkay’s little cousin, Eylul (which means September in Turkish.. guess when her birthday is…), was trying to communicate with me in Turkish, and although I do know some, not enough to hold a conversation. She had a little toy laptop which said the alphabet and words in Turkish and English, so she tried to teach me some using that bless her!
 
We had lunch which Berkay’s aunt had prepared, and just sat relaxing in their home for a few hours. It was nice to eat around a proper dining table whilst sitting on a chair – no pins and needles from sitting cross legged on the floor , although its not without sacrifice – they don’t have a ‘normal’ toilet, only a hole in the floor style, so I tried to limit my wee breaks. I still haven’t entirely mastered the art of the Turkish toilet and have to strip naked on the bottom half of my body to avoid splashes… awkward!

A while after, we walked to their local weekly market, which was really busy, full of people buying their weekly fruit, veg and other goods. It was even bigger than Fethiye market and actually covered two levels, one underground! It had all the usual stuff, food, clothes, shoes, nuts, baggy pants! It was so noisy and a bit overwhelming – the photos I took make it look quiet, but they were taken in a more quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the fruit and veg section which was just chaos.  On the way back we saw a weird rainbow, a kind of upside down very faint small arc – I’d never seen one like that before! 
 

In the evening, Berkays uncle, aunt and youngest cousin, went to a friends ‘going to the army’ party – they asked if we wanted to go but I said no.. I still don’t really understand the mentality behind gatecrashing strangers parties! It’s a bit odd. Instead, Berkay’s older cousin showed us around a part of the the city centre called Çınar, just a short walk from their house.

This is a very modern part of the city, very popular with young people and families, even late at night. We were out around 9pm but it was busy and bustling! There are lot of bright lights, bars, cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, street food stalls, big name brand shops and some quirkier ones. “Googil cafe” and “Woops” just made me giggle. There are also several McDonalds, Burger King’s and even a Starbucks in the city. Whenever I read about such places coming to Fethiye or other areas, it seems to cause arguments as people assume these places are only popping up to appease tourists or expats – it’s just not true. Whilst a lot would prefer their little tea houses, the more modern, younger Turkish people appreciate a big Mac or a Frappucino as much as the rest of us, and you can find these places in most of the big cities in the country, even the least touristy ones possible.

 
Another thing that seems to be increasingly present all over the country is the multi-coloured umbrella. We all know and love photographing the famous ‘umbrella street’ in Fethiye, but I’m not sure which was actually the first in the country, there is now one in a lot of different places, some more impressive than others!

Wherever you go in Denizli, you will see the famous Denizli Rooster everywhere – statues, posters, humorous references etc. It has been the symbol for Denizli City and province for over 900 years. This special breed of chicken is unique to Denizli and is only bred in the area, it has very specific characteristics and is valued highly. I’m no chicken expert, but research has told me that they are unique in their long crowing abilty, colour and weight, and a great lot of effort goes into the conservation of the population of these special chickens.

 
After wandering around for an hour or two, and a quick trip to LC Waikiki, we went back to the families house. I do love how hospitable they are, without a second thought they gave up the children’s beds for us and made sure we had plenty of clean bedding and pillows. It does amaze me though, where exactly they keep their clothes as there’s never any wardrobes etc!  Although I’ve spent some time with Berkay’s other family members, it’s usually us who are the youngest in the room, so the one thing that I really noticed from being around Berkay’s younger cousin, is the respect he showed to me. He’s 15 years old, and has clearly been raised to respect his elders, which sounds weird as I’m only 25 myself! Around Berkay, he acts ‘normal’ as they are cousins and more like brothers, but as soon as I walked into the room he stopped slouching or laying and immediately sat up straight and ‘proper’. He also has a lot of respect for his own parents, there was one point where his mum smashed a tea glass in the kitchen and he jumped up off the sofa, asked her if she was okay and grabbed the hoover to help her clean up – he’s not a stereotypical moody teenager that’s for sure!

The morning after, we had planned to go back to Fethiye after breakfast, but as I’ve already tried to make clear, these particular family members are just so nice it’s hard to say no, so when they suggested we stay for lunch and go with them to a local picnic place, we couldn’t resist. We decided we didn’t have time for a BBQ, so instead took bags full of coke, nuts, sunflower seeds and of course blankets to sit on. The place we went to was called ‘Servergazi Piknik Alani’ and was really nice with big tall trees all over, BBQ facilities, benches and play areas for the kids. It was really pretty, and Berkay’s youngest cousin picked out a whole bucket full of daisies for me, bless her. Despite a lot of begging, we declined their offer of dinner and managed to ‘escape’ back to the car and get on the main road out of Denizli to make the 3.5 hour journey back to Fethiye.
 
 
I really like spending time in the city of Denizli and there’s so much to see that we haven’t even explored. It’s very ‘normal’, not touristy, not villagey, just ‘normal’ life, and I think it would be a nice place to live. Hopefully we’ll go back to visit and can go and see some different places, there’s always something interesting to photograph! 
 
 

Village life – Beyagac, Denizli.

Village life in Turkey is totally different to city life or tourist resort life – there’s nothing quite like it and it’s like marmite, you either love it or you hate it!

Berkay’s family live in Beyağaç, a town in Denizli province, 2 hours away from Denizli city centre. It takes around 3.5 hours by car from Fethiye, and is a fairly straightforward drive.  It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by fields, mountains and forest. Most of the people who live in the village own their own fields and grow their own crops, tobacco plants, or keep farm animals. The views from the family home across the hillside are stunning.
  
Berkay’s family live in a small bungalow house up on a hill, a few minutes drive from the town centre. Their house has a lounge, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, wet room/toilet and outdoor toilet. Three people live in the house at the moment, Berkay’s Dad, Stepmum and half brother.
I’m going to be honest, I really struggle to cope when visiting, the lifestyle just isn’t for me. They just do things so differently. One example I can’t get my head around, is the sleeping situation. They do have one bed, but they mostly sleep on cushions on the floor, in one room together, and there’s no real night-time routine, they just go to bed in the clothes they’ve been in all day, wake up in the morning, put the cushion away and carry on the next day in the same clothes, just like taking a giant nap. I also have no idea where they keep their clothes as nobody seems to own wardrobes, or have any real personal space. The village is very traditional too, with the men going out to work, and spending the evenings playing okey or tavla while the women stay at home, cook and look after the children – I guess like the UK 60 years ago. Women and men seem to be separated a alot, too, with definite ‘no go’ areas for women, which isn’t easy when I try to follow Berkay everywhere, as I can’t understand ‘ village turkish’ to talk to anyone else – the dialect is so different.
  
 
Behind the house, they have sheds built for the animals. They have a lot of sheep, goats, cows, chickens, a guard dog, and of course our dog Boncuk!  They use the animals for their eggs and milk. Berkay’s dad wakes up very early everyday to milk the cows – they even make their own yogurt, butter and cheese from it. They do use their own animals for meat, but only on special occasions, as they get more money for selling the livestock.
 
 
 
The family house is very simple, but it has everything they need, including a soba (wood burner) for heating in winter, cooker, washing machine and the slightly more suprising dishwasher and very nice Samsung fridge. From looking at the house, you would think they don’t have much money, a very simple lifestyle, bare minimum things. But this isn’t the case, they do have money, they just invest it in a lot of land, animals and business. Berkay’s father owns a animal feed business, supplying and delivering hundreds of bags of food and hay to houses every week, which as you can imagine in a farming community is a good business to own. I asked Berkay why they don’t improve their house rather than buy more land, as with the money they have they could really have a totally different lifestyle, but he said that things like that aren’t really important to the people in this village, they have what they need. Although I will never understand their lifestyle, I guess it’s something to admire – how they don’t place importance on such material things! Berkay has inherited that attitude to material things, too. I have to force him to buy clothes, as he’d be happy with 2 tshirts and a pair of jeans to last him years!

One thing you can definitely say, is that the Turkish people are very hospitable! The number of blankets Berkay’s stepmum has in the cupboard really made me smile – she has two cupboards piled up with spare cushions and duvets, so that guests can sleep – very prepared, she must’ve had about 30 different ones! They also will keep feeding you until you’re full enough to burst, and don’t take no for an answer. If you turn down a cup of Turkish tea, you can guarantee that you’ll get one anyway.
 
Dinner time is a little different in the village, instead of being seated around a dining room table on chairs, they eat every meal on the floor around a special ‘table’cloth. People joining them for dinner don’t have their own plates, but instead share from various sized metal dishes, each with a different food inside.  Everyone has their own fork and spoon, but they don’t use knives, which sometimes proves troublesome when it comes to larger pieces! Everyone also drinks from the same water glass. The good thing about eating this way is you can eat as much or as little food as you want, without the pressure of wanting to empty your plate so as not to offend. I do like sitting on the floor to eat, but it does give you terrible pins and needles after a while! I suspect if someone has a cold the sharing thing isn’t so pleasant.

I love the different colours and patterns of the rugs they put on the floor, although it does baffle me why they don’t just buy the same kind. Underneath all these rugs and mats they have wooden floor, but it’s kept covered all winter and summer. I love the different patterns but it would drive someone with OCD crazy for sure.
  
The first day we were in the village, Berkay’s brother asked him to help deliver some hay, as part of the family business. I decided to go with him. Off we went in a big, rickety, dusty truck, to the huge barn where they keep the hay. Berkay and his brother filled up the truck with bales while I sat around the corner wondering what on earth I was doing. 24 hours before this moment, I had been sat in a 5* all inclusive hotel, and now I was sat in a pile of hay, covered in dust and surrounded by the smell of animal poo. What a difference a day  makes! Certainly a tale of two halves, two totally different lifestyles and two totally different sets of people.


Later that evening , having recovered from the inital shock of village life which always hits me like a ton of bricks (or hay bales?), I wandered around the family farm and took a moment to appreciate the scenery. It is beautiful. I love this photo I took of the sun going down, greenhouse to the left, sheep shed to the right, pile of fire wood in the foreground, and bird soaring in the background. 

Dinner time provided entertainment in the form of Boncuk. We all sat outside on the patio to enjoy chicken cooked on the fire, with a special guest peeping her head over the wall behind Berkay’s dad, hoping for some leftovers! Can you spot her? She looked so funny, every now and then her little head would just pop up, until someone threw her a piece. Adorable.
 
The next morning, me and Berkay decided to go for a mini-adventure to a view point across Beyağaç. As we were getting in the car, Boncuk jumped in and joined us, so we took her too.  Everytime we visit the village we come up to this point as it provides lovely panoramic views.  This time there was a new addition to the view – 3 old, falling apart arm chairs. Interesting. I guess fly tipping is a universal problem! It did make a good photo though.
  
Berkay drove along to the next village, Yeniçeşme , to show me the  house he was born in, I took a photo of the building, which is now falling apart but still inhabited, I love the fact you can see Boncuk in the wing mirror! Berkay kept pointing out places he used to go with his friends as a child, fields he used to work in, and things his Grandad built like the village water source. Berkay always speaks highly of his grandparents, they raised him as a baby as his mother and dad abandoned him when he was only 28 days old, he’s still not seen his mother since and knows nothing about her, and although he is on speaking terms with his dad, he definitely had a stronger bond with his grandparents, who have both now passed away, he showed me the cemetery they’re both in too.
 
Back at the family home,  I had a walk around finding interesting things to photograph – you’re never far away from something with a story behind it! These red peppers are picked when they’re in season, and hung out to dry out in the summer, then they’re used in stews and other dishes when not normally readily available. Aside from their main purpose, I think they make great decorations!
 
After dinner, despite being stuffed, plates of walnuts, biscuits, popcorn and tea were bought out.  The funniest thing was Berkay’s stepmum breaking the biscuit in half and dipping it into her glass of cay, its the equivalent of dipping a rich tea in a mug of PG tips, I’d never seen a Turkish person do that before so I giggled to myself – seems like us Brits have a rival for our tea and biscuits!

That night, we visited Berkay’s brother’s girlfriend and her family about an hour away. Upon telling her of my love of baggy village pants, they went to their stash, ironed a pair and gave them to me in a bag as a gift, along with a pair of crocheted slippers they had made – it took so many attempts to find a pair that would fit me, I felt like Cinderella! Another fine example of their hospitality.

The following morning, we said goodbye to the family, and Boncuk, and got ready for the drive to Denizli city centre. The photo below is of us with Berkay’s brother just before we said bye – my eyes were red and blotchy after bawling my eyes out saying bye to Boncuk 10 minutes before hand. I’ve deliberately left her out of this post and will do a whole new post about her, she’s so cute she deserves her own one!
 
Village life in Beyağaç is so different than anything I’m used to. It’s way beyond my comprehension, but it is interesting and always provides me with plenty of funny stories! I could never live there myself, but after the initial shock, it’s not too hard to settle in to the way of life, become a bit more comfortable and embrace it – however, it is always a bit of a relief to leave again at the end of the visit, even with blurry eyes from teary goodbyes.

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! 😉 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. ❤

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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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.

Wedding date and 4 busy days..

I got back on Sunday evening from 4 lovely days in Turkey. We didn’t have much time to relax as we had a million and one things to do to get organised for our wedding in April, and with only 3 working days to do it!

We were running around like headless chickens in Fethiye all day Wednesday getting paperwork, photocopying it, driving backwards and forwards from marriage offices and council offices to doctor’s surgeries (as part of the marriage requirements Berkay needed a blood test to check for diseases that can be passed onto children etc)! I had had 0 hours sleep the night before as I had been flying all night, and landed at 7am, so I was walking around in a tired, half asleep, half awake state. By some miracle we managed to get everything done in one day, apart from the blood test results, and we were able to book a date for our wedding…

27th April 2016! 5 weeks tomorrow!

After booking the date, we managed to order and pick up wedding rings in the space of a couple of hours, book a hairdresser, photographer and venue, order flowers for me and my little flowergirl sister, buy some items to use as wedding favours, speak to a lovely lady about making our cake and get Berkay’s suit ordered, tailored and picked up. All in just 3 working days! After all the plans were put into action, my family have all been able to book flights and accommodation and apart from my wedding dress fitting next weekend, I think everything is sorted and organised!

Fethiye and Calis are still as lovely as ever, and it was great to catch up with our friends there, and of course spend some time with Berkay, even if it was just a few days. It always amazes me how quickly I adapt back into ‘Turkish Danni’ and whenever I land in the country it’s like I’ve never even been away.

I have lots of photos to share from my visit, and also lots to share from my previous visit last month! It’s all a bit crazy at the moment and I feel like a bit of a jet-setter flying back every month! I really need to catch up with my blogging but with wedding plans, and also trying to gather the hundreds (literally..) of documents and paperwork required for Berkay’s visa application, and working 9-5 weekdays, means I have little time to think of anything else.

I love that I can sit and write on my blog and it’s so funny to see how life has changed since I first started writing it 3 years ago, it started out as a blog about living in Turkey, then moved onto the struggles of army life and separation, and now I’m definitely going to bore you all with wedding and visa updates!

For now, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos taken last week.

Back in Turkey & Wedding planning?

It seems like I’ve only just got back from Turkey (5 weeks ago) but tomorrow I’m flying back again! It’s only a quick visit this time, I’m going to the airport straight after work tomorrow evening, flying all night via Istanbul, and then landing in Dalaman at 7am! I fly back to the UK on Sunday morning so it’s just 4 days/nights.

I didn’t think I’d be back there again so soon, and the only reason I’m going is to put some of our wedding plans into action. I have completed the relevant paperwork here, had it signed by a solicitor and certified by the foreign office, but now we need to take our paperwork into the registry office in Fethiye, have some blood tests and book a date!

What started out as a small wedding in the registry office followed by dinner in a restaurant in Fethiye has turned more into a ‘proper’ wedding – I went dress shopping a few weeks ago and despite being adamant I would just have a pretty, basic dress from a high street shop, I ended up walking into a ‘Confetti and Lace’ bridal shop, trying on a beautiful, sparkly white wedding dress and the rest is history!!
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Since then, we’ve been planning the wedding, I have sorted out favors, a cake, a venue, flights and accomodation, and now all we need to book is an actual date for the wedding in April, a photographer, flowers and wedding rings… It’s going to be a very busy, but exciting 4 days!

Online check in is done, my suitcase is packed full of nandos sauce for Berkay, and I’m nearly all ready to go…
See you tomorrow, Turkiye!

Getting Married!

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On Sunday I made a rather important announcement on my Facebook blog page, and just incase some of you don’t have access to Facebook I’ll say it here too…

Berkay and I are getting married soon!

We’re planning to get married in Turkey at the end of April, just a small wedding at the registry office in Fethiye. I am hoping to fly out mid March for a few days to complete some paperwork and book a date for the end of April. My family have already arranged time off work to join us on the big day, and Berkay’s family are also planning to make the journey to Fethiye which will be rather interesting as our families have never met each other. There won’t be any big white dress or big party, just signing of the papers and then dinner in a restaurant… although we’re hoping to have a celebration party with the full works (and probably a big fat village wedding too) later on.

The best part is that Berkay and my family will all be in the same room. They haven’t even been in the same country for 2 years! The not so good part is that just days after we’re married I’ll be returning to England alone and that thought is rather depressing.. I suspect that will be the hardest goodbye of all!

A few days ago myself and family went out for dinner to celebrate, bubbles included..The only thing missing was Berkay, and that seems to be the story of our lives at the moment…
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