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.
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.
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.

Best things about living in Turkey..

I may complain a lot, but I do love living in Turkey too, and going back to the UK soon has made me realise just how much I do love it. I thought I’d share a list of the best things about living in Turkey, in my opinion. Don’t worry, I’m not wearing rose tinted glasses.. I’ll be posting the worst things about living in Turkey soon.

This is actually on both my best and worst lists.. The good is the constant, guaranteed sunshine for 4-5 months of the year, sunny days cheer everyone up, and when the rain and storms do come in the winter, we welcome them with open arms.

Nobody can deny the views and scenery in Turkey are amazing. I am so lucky to live near the sea, something that I really take for granted, the sunsets are amazing over the sea in winter. The natural beauty of the beaches and the mountains, the contrast between the holiday resorts on the turquoise coast, the fancy hotels and office buildings and landmarks in big cities like Istanbul and Izmir, and the typical Turkish villages in the rural countryside, they are all beautiful in their own way.

Public transport
I can’t comment about other cities, but the public transport in Fethiye is brilliant, especially the dolmuses between Calis and Fethiye, they run every few minutes and are reliable, cheap, and there’s hardly ever any traffic. There are bus links to and from all the main cities in the country via main bus/coach stations, and with car and petrol prices so high, these buses are very popular. The coaches go all over the country and are relatively cheap, often a lot cheaper than flying domestically (people think nothing of hopping on a coach for 12-24 hours to visit somewhere, rather than flying). In other main cities they have trains and trams, but I haven’t experienced either so cannot comment.

Turkish pride.
Anyone who has visited Turkey will know how proud of their history and background Turkish people are, as a whole. They are very patriotic, and you’ll find paintings, posters, monuments and statues in every town commemorating the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Many people have his signature tattooed on their arms, others have stickers of him in their cars, jewellery with his name on, posters in their homes. In Fethiye there is a giant neon light up in the mountain of the shape of Atatürk’s head (It is surprisingly much less cheesy than it sounds). The Turkish flag is also very highly respected, you will see it everywhere, I very much doubt you’ll find any home, village, town or city without a flag somewhere around. It isn’t something that appears once a year (lets face it, the only time you really see English flags is when they’re playing in the world cup or it’s St Georges day) it’s a permanent thing, a permanent reminder of how proud Turks are. If you ever say bad word about Atatürk, Turkey or deface a Turkish flag, it is a great insult and you’ll know about it.

Turkish food is delicious, and often homemade and fresh. It is very difficult to find ready meals in shops, even the big supermarkets, it is becoming more common though- I found fish fingers in the frozen section and nearly peed myself with excitement (small things amuse small minds..) Another thing I love is how cheap fresh fruit and vegetables are, at least here in Fethiye (You all know how much I love market day), in fact that is the only thing I do find cheap here (in comparison to wages) but that will be discussed in another post.

Way of life.
We live a very simple life. We don’t have a lot of luxuries but we enjoy this simple life. We basically live on a farm, surrounded by cows, camels, goats, chickens and sheep, fruit trees and vegetables growing in the garden. I love it. We don’t go out to bars or restaurants, we don’t go to shopping centres or the cinema, we don’t drive, we don’t even have a TV, we really don’t do a lot of things that require money, but we don’t need those things to have fun. From my experience, a lot of people living here are the same, they love nothing better than going for a family picnic on a Sunday, taking a long walk or having the whole family gather for tea. We go for a walk every day with our dog, it’s honestly the highlight of my day, I love just walking in the hills with Berkay and Boncuk, I love being outside (never thought i’d say that..) and taking photos of our surroundings. Sometimes, it really is the small things and when my family visit they really struggle to see how we live such a simple life but still manage to enjoy ourselves and be happy. When you have no choice, you realise you don’t need money to have fun, sometimes just going for walks outside, a little picnic on the beach  or dinner and a game on the balcony is enough to make you smile.

I’m sure some people will disagree with me, but a lot of Turkish people are very friendly and will do anything to help you when in trouble. Of course there are bad everywhere, and some people want nothing more than your money, but on the whole, I have found people very kind. Everyone says ‘günaydın’ and ‘Iyi akşamlar’ to each other, we often go to the corner shop and come out with a bag full of food on a ‘pay later’ promise, when on the bus Berkay always stands up to let the older people sit down (in London on the tube last April, he stood up to let an older lady sit down, her face was priceless – pure shock), people really respect and look after their elders, everyone knows everyone (Berkay can’t walk down the street without stopping to say hi to at least 5’s something that is alien to me and is really quite frustrating actually). Last winter Berkay and I were struggling for money to pay bills and buy food, his boss didnt pay him for 2 months and someone that we’d known for less than a year helped us out, our landlord also lets us pay rent late if need be. A lot of things are very relaxed and people are laid back with a ‘no panic’ attitude.

I know, of course these traits aren’t limited to Turkish people, there are friendly people all over the world, but all you ever hear about nowadays are the bad. These are just things I have noticed from living here.

I live in Fethiye, I am commenting on my own experiences and not suggesting it is the same everywhere, I would love to hear your own experiences in different towns and cities. Turkey is a huge country, I know not everywhere and everyone is the same. Wouldn’t that be boring? (:

What is the best thing about living in Turkey for you?