2015 – a year in photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The opening of Erasta Fethiye Alışveriş Merkezi – a new modern side to Fethiye?

Last Friday the new, 80 million lira, ‘shopping & lifestyle’ centre opened in Fethiye. I dragged Berkay along to the opening ceremony to be one of the first inside.
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I’d seen adverts all over the billboards and bus stops in Fethiye and Calis regarding the new shopping centre – Erasta Fethiye Alışveriş Merkezi – and when they announced the opening day and time, I knew I wanted to go and check it out. Berkay came home at 9am and we rushed to get ready and on the bus so that we could be there for the official opening at 10am…like I actually expected it to be on time!
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Most people had taken the sensible option and were waiting under the shade of the building or using the coffee shop seating area – but I wanted to get a good view, so chose to stand under the sun, my poor red shoulders regretted that decision later. There was a separate seated area sectioned off which was for the special guests, they even had an armed policeman guarding it! Once all the guests of honor had arrived, including the designers and the major of Fethiye, the barriers were removed and all us normal folk were allowed to move forward and fill in the remaining seats, I’m certain it was just because they wanted a photo showing a crowd of excited people!
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The speeches began, all in Turkish so I of course had little or no idea of what they were actually saying, but whatever it was seemed to go down well with the crowd as there were a lot of happy faces, loud cheers and clapping hands, especially when the major of Fethiye – Behçet Saatcı – stepped up for his speech. The people of Fethiye clearly adore him, Berkay included, as I’ve never seen him clap so enthusiastically before! After the speeches were over, a ribbon was cut and a plaque presented signifying that the new centre was now open. An Imam was then called up to the stage to say a prayer – I’m assuming as a kind of blessing of the new building. Everyone in the crowd joined in the prayer by cupping their hands, although I did not. I felt a bit guilty, but I’m not a religious person and wouldn’t want to fake anything. My guilt was short lived when the Turkish lady behind me answered her phone and was shouting loudly down it all whilst the prayer was still going on…

After all was said and done, they opened the doors and everyone piled through them. They had metal detectors which everyone, including the armed police, ignored even though they were constantly beeping!

The major went around to each shop, cutting more ribbons and shaking the hands of all the employees – it seems like he is really respected and loved, he seemed genuinely happy and excited about the whole thing which was really lovely to see.

Now onto the actual shopping centre – it’s situated near Fethiye otogar – the main bus station that all the big coaches go into. The building is very impressive looking, it’s really well designed, but it cost 80 MILLION Turkish Lira, which is an awful lot of money, so you’d expect it to look pretty amazing.
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The first things we saw are the huge letters spelling the name of the shopping centre ‘ Erasta’.  There is a huge wooden frame design covering a large garden and seating area with water fountains at the bottom. To the left of that is the main entrance from ground level, which had a huge Turkish flag draped above it- but I’m not sure if that is a permanent fixture – knowing the Turkish pride it may well be!
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There are around 50+ shops inside, although not all are fitted and open yet. There’s a good variety of shops,  some fashion ones such as LC Waikiki, a shoe shop – Deichmann, some swimwear shops, a good sized Migros, and a superdrug type health/beauty shop by the name of ‘Gratis’. Those are just a few of the shops currently open – there are many more.
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There are water fountains all around the centre, both inside and out, which really adds to the modern look. The whole place is air-conditioned too which is a big bonus for hot days! There are escalators to the 2nd floor, which as well as more shops hosts a small cinema, a children’s indoor play area and a food court, all of which were not fully open when we visited. From what I could see of the food court, there were a few kebab restaurants, a Burger King and an Italian, there was a good amount of seating and a large outdoor seating area attached too. Apparently escalators are not a very common thing in Turkey – I remember that Berkay had never been on one until he was at Dalaman on his way to England the first time, which I thought was really bizarre, but it turns out he’s not the only one… While trying to go upstairs we became stuck behind 2 Turkish women who were afraid to step on the escalator and had no idea how they worked.. it was amusing to say the least!
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We had a little walk around the shops and made the most of the freebies on offer – we got given free cakes in Migros which were delicious, and then queued up for free candyfloss outside afterwards, embracing our inner child!
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One of the things I was most excited about was the fact the centre has TWO coffee shops, with almost identical names. We went to Kahve Dunyasi (coffee world), and had a drink. I had the cappucino with icecream, it was yummy, but I’d have preferred a Starbucks! The menu was really expensive, think Starbucks prices, my coffee was 8.5tl. There were all kinds of hot and cold drinks on offer, a huge selection of chocolates and cakes too, but again, these were expensive at 9tl for a piece of cake.  Both of the coffee shops were really busy and I can imagine that they will be very popular even after the inital opening period.
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After our coffee, we went to pay and noticed there were a band and dancers performing inside, so I went out to get some photos. There were women and men on stilts dancing, people dressed as clowns juggling and people playing instruments – it was all quite impressive really and a large crowd gathered quickly!
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I know that when people first heard about this new shopping centre they were afraid that it would take away business from the smaller, family run shops in the surrounding area, personally I don’t think this is the case at all as the new shops are all part of large chains and are more expensive than the small, family run shops you find in Fethiye town. The centre is definitely aimed at certain types of people, in my opinion, and we probably won’t visit much because of how expensive most of these shops are. I don’t think it will be overly popular with tourists, as it’s not in the main resort/town area. However, I love that it adds a modern side to Fethiye and think it will be very popular with university students and expats as a place to meet up. It’s definitely worth a visit for the air-con alone and would be a great meeting point for friends to just walk around, shop and relax. It’s definitely something that Fethiye was lacking. I just hope that the new centre continues to be popular and busy and that Fethiye continues to grow and modernise, whilst still keeping it’s more humble roots in mind.