The flight out of Gatwick had been very pleasant – as they say feeling your way to the airport whilst the rest of the population is fast asleep is not everyone’s cup of tea but back then as is still the case today heading to the sun often requires adjusting your body clock to the most bizarre departure times.
Hence it is ever more important to being welcomed by a polite and professional crew; placed in a comfortable seat and offered a snack that actually tastes like food. But soon one was in for an even better treat – a welcome fit for royals and not an ordinary traveler like myself.
Which allows me to reflect on my initial thoughts regarding Turkey dating from almost exactly sixteen years ago, first face-to-face encounters on the ground do matter indeed – with an immigration officer in nearby Bodrum extending in the most courteous manner the words one shall never forget: ‘welcome to your new country’. Did she perhaps realize that her opposite number would soon decide to stay for good? Or was it just an extraordinary day with someone having made her very happy perhaps with a present? Or could it be that the country your columnist had just set foot in is made up of friendly, charming, efficient, professional and almost always smiling people anyways? Me blushing and at once forgetting the few short Turkish lines previously practiced for my journey replied ‘thank you’ probably not leaving the most cosmopolitan impression the other side of the counter.
As there was some time left before my onward coach connection from the city center it became a possibility to explore Bodrum’s fine town center in what would soon turn out to be my initiation to and of an emotional rollercoaster. In other words – shall I stay or shall I go?
Granted – relocating to a new country or at least being open to the idea of moving permanently to a new place carries along various stages of happiness and frustration alike. In the first one or two weeks everything is tolerated and accepted as we live our lives in the clear knowledge of that ‘when in Rome…’ – but as the future expatriates’ honeymoon with her or his newfound home away from home is about to end at some point and everyday routine replaces excitement a sober summing up of feelings kicks-in.
Bodrum had presented herself from its most beautiful side. It was of course still hot during September and buzzing with locals as well as tourists with all the planet’s languages seemingly spoken in just that one location. There was the splendid yacht harbor right in the middle of town, shop doors open so as to make certain would-be customers walk in and not by and an endless array of bars, cafés and restaurants. What one remembers, too, was the perfect cleanliness of the pavement and pedestrian zones.
But our first fixed abode was neither in Bodrum nor Kusadasi but in the capital Ankara. ‘Our’ refers to my lovely half-Turkish family. In retrospect it was the best decision we had ever made. Originally we had intended to move to the coast straight away but for logistical reasons including the size of the flat and our professions we decided otherwise. It took me one long year to finally come back to the southern Aegean shores. And this is what I wanted to hint at writing about an emotional rollercoaster. Having left London for Turkey and moving to a small seaside resort was no small fry so to speak; after all one of the world’s most fascinating metropolises – Istanbul – was waiting just over an hour away by plane. A tempting alternative to say the least and rest assured raising a child or two in Ankara is a good choice, too. Safe, clean, green and central as we always said.
But two years down the expatriates’ road a final decision had to be made: capital, Istanbul or our Aydin. Then lady luck paid us a visit and an opportunity not to be missed came our way – daddy was soon able to work in both the capital, frequently base himself in Istanbul whilst spending every minute possible between Didim and Kusadasi. Due to extremely long school and other national holidays, respectively plus many weekends both my wife and first daughter opted for the latter whenever feasible, too. A happy Nomad family one might argue.
So what about the topic of frustration quoted earlier on in this article? Frankly speaking and besides me taking far longer than expected to somewhat master everyday Turkish the only real frustration felt until this very day is the total misperception and misconception of modern Turkey so many people have back in Europe including a mostly totally biased anti-Turkey mainstream media.
Most definitely many things differ – families tend to be bigger and when compared to northern Europe still enjoy a rock solid place as the foundation of society. The education system is top-notch but the way teachers support children is more pro-active, more helpful. There is politics of course and it takes time to fully understand the nuances and who debates what on television or amongst neighbors. Turkish cuisine is mouthwatering but again needs some effort to be fully explored and that in turn involves reading and speaking some basic Turkish. All in all, the Pro’s by far outweigh any Con’s.
In a nutshell and with sixteen years of Turkey experience – regardless of whether being married locally or not, living here alone or in whatever (part-) family composition we international residents are made feel at home, made feel as integral part and parcel of the fabric of Turkish society. A fact many European societies should take a close look at and do the reverse move so much better, so much more socially inclusive.
Has Turkey changed in all those years perhaps? Sure it has as everywhere else but from my modest viewpoint only for the better. Think healthcare, roads, airports, hotels, housing, schools, universities, internet and broadband and so on and so forth.
Bodrum sixteen years ago, Kusadasi and environs today – no regrets, only thankfulness for having one day in a mid-September of a very fateful year stepped on board that very early morning plane at Gatwick. Little did I know back then that it would be a life-changer, perhaps the most important life-changer ever… Enjoy your very own month of September here in Kusadasi regardless of whether it is your first, sixth, sixteenth or perhaps already twenty-sixth. Or, alternatively, if you are reading our newspaper from abroad why not make September 2020 your very own first trip heading south? Maybe in the year 2036 it will then be you looking back on that magical moment, too.