Finishing the army TOMORROW!!

This past week has been quite an eventful one, which ended in me booking flights to visit Turkey in less than 2 weeks time!

Berkay started his national service on 4th February 2015, so we were expecting him to finish around that date this year, but we knew he still had 3 weeks holiday that he hadn’t used so thought he would finish a few weeks early. I’d been asking him for weeks if he knew an actual leaving date yet, but he hadn’t had any news… until last week! They told him his official date was 18th January…. so soon…. TOMORROW!!!

I think he is excited about finishing, although a little nervous too. His plan is to go back to his family’s village for a week and then head back to Fethiye. He’s already been ringing up friends and ex-bosses there trying to find work. He really has nowhere to go, as he always lived in the hotel he worked in, and stayed in the staff accommodation under the hotel in winter even when it was closed. He has no money, and no job to go back to. We’re hoping he has the opportunity to work in the same hotel again in the summer, but he still needs something until then… The problem with doing his army service so late is that because he was so much older, he had more of a life before going in, we had possessions, although not many, a chest of drawers, clothes, plates, cutlery, a mini oven, kettle, heater etc, which we have now just lost because he had nowhere to store them while away… any money he had saved (which wasn’t much) has been used and he has nothing at all, so I think it’s going to take some real adjusting for him to get back into the real world again after a year away. He also says he’s a little sad about leaving the friends he’s made in the base camp, after spending 24/7 with them they’ve got close and they probably won’t meet again because they come from all over the country, but they can all keep in touch via Facebook.

It still doesn’t seem real to me that he’s leaving the army tomorrow, and that that chapter of our lives will be finished. I was reluctant to believe it when he told me, and I still won’t entirely believe it until I get a message on Monday saying that he’s free! Plans are already in place though, so it’s 99.9% certain.. he’s booked his bus ticket to Denizli (a 13 hour journey!) for 6pm Monday evening, so it’s all becoming very real! I will be waiting for that ‘I’m out!’ message tomorrow while I’m at work.

Even more exciting, is the fact that I booked my flights out to see him later this month! There were no direct flights to Dalaman from London so I had settle for flying via Istanbul which I’m a bit nervous about. Lots of people I’ve spoken to have done this before but I’m certain I’ll get lost! Flying alone doesn’t bother me, but finding my way through an airport I’ve never been to and making it in time for my connecting flight is quite scary! I’m flying with Turkish airlines which I’m quite excited about as I’ve never flown with them before, and I hear they are very good. I got a good deal, return flights, 23kg of luggage, seat selection plus food and drink on board all included for £141. Bargain! I have just this minute booked an apartment for us in Calis, and done my travel insurance so it’s all quite exciting… I go for 10nights on 28th January, 11 more sleeps and counting..

Thank you all for putting up with my boring, repetitive ‘army’ posts for the past year, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it will finally all be over!

Just ONE more day…

A new army chapter..

The elections that were held in Turkey last week meant a lot of changes.

Firstly, and bizarrely, Turkey was thrown into some kind of temporary time zone for 2 weeks. When most of us turned our clocks back and enjoyed the extra hour in bed, residents of Turkey woke up in confusion and asked themselves ‘what time is it?’. It had been decided months previously that the clocks in Turkey would not go back on 25th October with everyone else, and instead they’d go back on 8th November, to ensure that voters in the election last week would have as much daylight as possible to make it ‘safe’ to vote. I don’t see the logic in that at all, but that’s just Turkey for you, instead of opening the voting stations an hour earlier they’ll create a temporary time zone for 2 weeks… It led to some confusion when modern technology, smart phones and laptops, automatically updated to change the time, so when people woke up they really had no idea what the ‘real’ time was. Quite Hilarious, and definitely one of those ‘ah, only in Turkey’ moments! The clocks did finally go back today though, so they’re all caught up now!

The election results were pretty predictable, although plenty of people hoped for a miracle… Berkay, however, didn’t even get to vote as people doing their national service have no input at all, which I think is disgusting. I guess the logic behind it is they should be fighting for their country regardless of who is in charge, but I still think it’s really bad that they’re not even allowed to vote.

The elections were predicted to cause hostility, so around a month ago Berkay was told he’d be sent to a different army base. For the past 7 months he’s been in Kayseri, a major city and really quite modern. He’s been allowed days out and wandered around the shopping centres with friends, been to internet cafe’s to talk to me and even smuggled his phone inside base so that we can skype (shh..). So when he was told he’d be going to a city close to the border with a high terrorist presence, it was a bit of a shock.

He was told he’d be sent to Diyarbakir a few days later, which although I hear from people who have friends and family there, is a nice place, at the moment it’s a significantly more dangerous place to be while in the army. It does have a high PKK terrorist presence, a lot of Kurdish/Turkish conflict and there are often reports of attacks and deaths as a result of this. Berkay’s name was put down to go but 3 weeks later he still hadn’t heard anything, and was still in Kayseri. We were both hoping he wouldn’t end up going, but last Monday he rang me and said he was packing his suitcase and getting sent to Diyarbakir on Tuesday. Obviously this hit me like a ton of bricks, and despite Berkay saying he wasn’t worried, I know he was really. “If anything is gonna happen there it can happen here too” he said, which is true.

Tuesday morning at 11 oclock he got on the army plane to Diyarbakir. He text me at the airport and managed to call me when he got to a base and actually had a 7 minute long phonecall which is long by normal standards! He said they went on a cargo plane, and he had to sit with all the luggage in the bottom of the plane, he said it was the worst flight he’s been on, bumpy and so noisy they had to wear ear protectors. They went to a temporary base overnight and woke up at 4am to transfer to the next base, they had to go by bulletproof bus and then in a tank, from what I understood. Berkay’s brother messaged me to tell me he’d spoken to him and that he had arrived OK.

I don’t think I’m allowed to say the name of the place he’s in, other than that it’s in Diyarbakir. He say’s it’s more relaxed and friendlier than his other base. The officers seem more understanding there, as soon as they arrived they were asked if they’d all called their friends and family to let them know they were there safely and he even told them if they had phones they were allowed to use them rather than queuing for the base one, which is a relief because I was unsure whether I’d hear from him as often now, but it seems as if I will. It means he’s been able to use his iPhone there and we get to skype when the internet signal is working. Berkay’s original job in Kayseri was an ambulance driver but now he’s just on guard of the sleeping quarters. He says he feels safe there, there’s a long 10km walk to the entry gate and the outside world, and it’s mainly hills and land, no city or shops close by so he won’t be allowed out at all. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be there for, as always in Turkey it’s very laid back, no plans. He says some of the soliders are going out on an ‘operation’ to find and kill terrorists this week and that after that’s complete he should be going back to Kayseri.  He said there was another operation the night after he arrived and all the soldiers came back in the middle of the night and woke them up to celebrate successfully finding terrorists, although a few of their own men also died. When he tells these stories it really hits home how serious it all is, and as I always say, I don’t understand how anyone can see national service as just a 12 month stint in a training camp, it’s real life, it’s scary and its horrible.

The only good thing is there’s only less than 3 months to go!

Army life – broken foot & time off?

Its not unusual for Berkay to call me and tell me he’s been at the hospital all day, as he’s usually driving the ambulance back and forth between the base and the hospital when people get injured during training etc, but yesterday when he called me he told me he’d been in hospital all day, as a patient, after breaking his foot!

Apparently he was doing sport, as they do everyday, and when facing one of the obstacles on the course – jumping down in and out of a ditch – he jumped in and landed on something hard which shouldn’t have been in there, and broke his foot…

Since then he’s been on bed rest, only allowed to get up (with crutches) to use the phone, having all his food bought to his bed. He says his foot hurts a lot and is like a ‘balloon’ (swollen) and he has a cast on it… I hope he’s milking it for all it’s worth!

I’m actually quite pleased he broke it. The world works in mysterious ways, 2 weeks ago he was saying how he wanted to volunteer to go to the border towns to fight against the PKK after the recent trouble there, so having a dodgy foot has definitely ruled him out of that, for the time being!

I’m not sure what it means for his holiday – he wasn’t sure if he was going to get his 10 days leave in October and we’d decided that I’d not visit anyway so we was going to cancel it and finish 10 days early at the end of his service instead, but now he might be forced to take sick leave because of his foot, not much use as an ambulance driver with a plaster cast… He may get a few weeks holiday but it’s doubtful I’ll be able to visit since it will be too late notice to get time off work, and the fact that he doesn’t really have anywhere to go – his village is around 10 hours away from his army base by car, and Fethiye is around 12 hours away, not a nice distance to travel at the best of times let alone with a painful foot in a cast.

So it looks like I won’t be seeing him til February as planned, but at least he’s safe for now, even if a little pained, and less than 4 and a half months to go! (:

Army life, a sad week and kittens..

If you’ve been in Turkey for the past week or seen the news stories and videos shared around social media, you’ll likely have heard reports about the Turkish soldiers killed in a PKK terrorist attack last week.

Although it was hundreds of miles away on the Turkey-Syria border, it sparked off peaceful (for the most part..) protests across the country and in tourist resorts many bars closed early as a mark of respect during a 3 day period of national mourning. It was lovely to see so many people come together, with even people holidaying joining in the minutes silence and standing in respect of the national anthem which was played in some bars during the week.

One of the soldiers who died was from Fethiye, and on arrival of his body by military plane at Dalaman airport, thousands of Turkish people took to the streets in cars and bikes adorned with Turkish flags to pay their respects. They drove around cities and towns beeping their horns, united in grief and respect for their fallen soldiers. A very patriotic country.

click HERE for a video of the drive by of cars draped in Turkish flags in respect of the soldiers. Credit to the original poster via Facebook.

There was also trouble in some areas due to the age old Turkish-Kurdish conflict, and a lot of Pro-Kurd offices were attacked – which was horrible to see, like everything, the acts of a few terrorists does not define an entire race, religion or population. I wont discuss the political side of the events or conflict further, but the fact that so many young men died was a real eye opener.

Some of the soliders were young men doing their national service, and it could easily have been Berkay. He’s in a ‘safe’ place at the moment, but soldiers are being sent from his base to border towns every week, so the possibility is always there. It upset and angered Berkay and I think it’s been a tough week for all.

It’s an unsettling time, and although there is no danger to tourists and life in resort continues as normal, it is a scary time to be in the army, whether or not you’re in there for a career or doing national service. It’s not a training exercise in a summer camp, it’s real life!

It’s not all bad, a cat somehow snuck its way into the base camp in Kayseri and Berkay has befriended it – there’s something about a bunch of soldiers sat around playing with a tiny kitten that is highly amusing, and given my previous sentence on this post, I realise the irony. Cute, though!
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We’re still unsure whether Berkay will have his 10 day break in October, and it’s looking like I won’t be able to go and visit anyway as it will be too late notice to take a week off from work – so the next time I’ll see him will be February, 10 months since the last time! Boo.

143 days and counting.

Army Life – Half way there!

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This morning I woke up, took a marble from the ‘days to go’ jar, put it in the ‘days down jar’, looked at the calendar and realised that we’d reached the half way point – equal number of marbles in each jar! 4th August, exactly 6 months since Berkay started his national service, which means ‘only’ another 6 to go.

People say it’s gone quick but I’m not so sure, although it is definitely going faster now I’m working and keeping busy. He’s hoping for a 10 day holiday in October so that will break up the time nicely too, although it will be 6 months since I last saw him then, the longest ever!

For now, we make do with our almost-weekly skype sessions and 1 minute daily phonecalls.

At the moment I can’t even imagine life without the dreaded army lingering, even though he’s only been in there for 6 months it was always a worry and a big part of the reasons I moved back to the UK in both 2013 and 2014, so to have it finally out of the way will be a strange, but good feeling. Then it will just be visa issues to tackle instead…

Overall the last 6 months haven’t been too bad… but I still say roll on 2016.

183 days to go.
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