Army service has begun & the countdown begins..

Yesterday was the day I’d been dreading for years.

The inevitable finally happened and Berkay made the journey to Izmir to start his 12 month military service. It had been a massive obstacle for a long time, something that had been hanging over us for years, preventing us from really settling anywhere.

Every Turkish male (health permitting) has to do national service, most of them do it when they are younger, aged 18-19, but Berkay deferred it due to his college studies.

He’s 24 now and decided it was time to get it over and done with, so after spending his last week of freedom in his village in Denizli, he got on the bus and headed off back to Fethiye to visit Boncuk and meet his friend who would take him to his training base in Izmir. Its tradition for the males going off to the army to drive around in cars decorated with huge Turkish flags, so Berkay’s brother decorated his car and drove him around, beeping the horn loudly to let everyone know. It’s also common for them to fire gun shots and make as much noise as possible for their big send off, showing everyone how proud they are.
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Berkay spent the night in Izmir city centre in a house belonging to a relative of his friend, and everything started to become very real. It hit me that this would be the last time I got a ‘I’m going to bed, goodnight, love you’ message for a long time, something that we normally said every single night.

A fairly sleepless night later, it was Wednesday 4th February. D-day. A morning of getting last minute things sorted. Berkay went off to the shops to buy a payphone card to contact me with and a bottle of shaving gel. He somehow managed to fit all of his things into one small, black rucksack. Of course the most important thing is the notebook book with my number written down in it and the wallet-sized photographs of me he took with him 😉

We had a few skype calls during the day, during one of which my dad spoke to him to say ‘stay safe and look after yourself’, ‘you too look after Danni’ was Berkays response! Finally, 2 pm came and the dreaded final skype call came ringing through on my iPad. He was standing outside the army base, waiting to go inside and give his phone to his friend for safe keeping. A couple of minutes later and that was it, he was gone – inside the Izmir army base (patriotically decorated with a HUGE flag of Ataturk) where he’ll complete his training before moving onto his main posting for the remainder of the 12 months.
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A few hours later at 5.30 pm our time, he managed to get to a pay phone inside and I got my first ‘army phonecall’, I was so relieved. “I’m waiting to check in, there are so many people. There were 20 people waiting for phone but I wanted call you”…. that one phone call made me feel so much better. Bless him.

It’s so weird to think that after 4 and a half years of speaking to each other every single day, a total of 162,117 Facebook messages back and forth (yes, that is the actual number) and 3 years living together, suddenly our contact will be suddenly dramatically decreased. No more good morning or goodnight messages, no more ‘I’m on the bus going to work’ or ‘im just having a shower’ messages. No more moaning to him when I’m annoyed, no more quickly FaceTiming him to share good news or when I need his face to cheer me up. It’s really hard knowing he’s not just a Facebook message away. He will have no internet access until he gets days off or holidays when he is able to pop to an internet cafe, but neither of us have any idea when that will be. He doesn’t have his phone in there with him, a lot of people try to smuggle them in unnoticed, but if caught they can be punished with days in army-prison and forced to make up the extra days at the end of their service, it’s just not worth the risk. Instead we’ll have to make do with phonecalls, hopefully as regularly as possible. It’s the uncertainty that bothers me, and the not knowing when he’ll call, I’ll have to try and avoid no-signal zones as much as possible! Will I miss a call while I’m stuck on the underground trains? In the cinema, in the local supermarket with no signal, at work? I’m hoping we’ll settle into a routine soon enough though.
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For now, I’ll settle for crossing the days off my calendar and going to bed and waking up with this little reminder staring at me. “Love you honey. Going to army but coming soon. Wait me”. He sent me this little post-it note along with some of my favourite Turkish treats in a package last week, all the way from Turkey. I’ve framed it and have it in my room, I love reading it over and over again!

364 days and counting.

Army start date and a new home for Boncuk…

This week Berkay received his army start date – 4th February. That means there’s no more putting it off, in 11 days time he’ll be starting his 12 month national service. He’s been given Izmir as his training base, he’ll stay there for the first 3 ish weeks working in ‘transportation’ and then where he’s going after that we’re not sure.

He’s going to his family’s village on Saturday and will stay there until 4th Feb. Its tradition for friends, family (and pretty much every single person in the village) to visit the men before they go to the army and give them a small amount of money, they also usually have a ceremony in the town centre for all the men going to do their service as they have 3-4 intakes a year. I went to the ceremony when one of Berkay’s brothers went to the army, it was way out of my comfort zone, all the men on the outside of the square, all the men in the middle saying a prayer and going up and shaking the hands of the men about to join the army.. followed by everyone driving around in cars with huge Turkish flags draped over them and beeping their horns as they drive around the streets. Madness, passionate and very patriotic, I suppose it’s an exciting time for them, going to do their national service is a rite of passage for Turkish men, something everyone has to do.
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Obviously Berkay going in the army means we needed to find a new home for Boncuk for a year, the plan was for her to go to Berkay’s family in the village, but when his dad couldn’t come and pick them up in his truck due to work, it meant we had no way of transporting Boncuk for the 4-5 hour journey – if only the buses allowed dogs on board! I had a last minute panic about where she’d go but luckily Berkay got permission from our friends (and their landlord) to allow her to stay in their garden. They’re our best friends out there, the ones I’ve mentioned previously with the twin babies, and I’m confident she’ll be looked after well. I just hope their own circumstances don’t change, because whilst I’m sure they’ll grow to love her, they won’t ever be as attached to her as we are!IMG_0842 IMG_0840
After one last walk along Calis beach together, Berkay packed up the dog kennel and transported her the 20 minute journey to her new home… seeing her kennel all loaded up made me really sad but Berkay spoke with me on FaceTime afterwards and showed me Boncuk settled in her new home and she seemed happy enough. She had already made friends with the man looking after her as he’d given her a few plates of food and if there’s a sure way to win Boncuk’s heart its through a bowl of food or a game of fetch!
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I feel so sorry for Boncuk, she has no idea that she won’t see Berkay for a long time, and she is probably already wondering where I disappeared to, I hope she doesn’t think we’ve abandoned her, if I could have her here in the UK with me I would! She always looks so happy when she’s with Berkay. I also feel really sad for her that she’s going from having free reign of the hotel all winter, to being tied up in the garden.. but she’ll be safe, fed, watered and have shelter and that’s a lot more than a lot of the dogs out there have. At least we know where she is, and I can contact her new ‘foster family’ on Facebook to check how she’s doing and get photo updates.

Be good Boncuk, wait for us.. 53 weeks and counting… ❤juu