What a year this has been! Because of Covid, the next phase of my life started when I moved to Turkey to the town of Bodrum. I was supposed to move on March 31st 2020. But, as we now know, plans made before Covid did not work out. So I finally left the UK on July 3rd. Hard to believe this is almost nine months ago. Considering all the upheavals, time passed quickly.
Generations of Turks have grown up while I was living here and there in the world. Their Turkey is very different, open to the world, yet feels closed and abundant with goods from all over the world. IT is embraced by young and old. Within a couple of days of moving into my flat, I had internet, and my new mobile phone was up and running. I find the young people extremely polite and considerate. The older Turks are how I remembered them: Extremely judgemental and in love with gossip. No need to ask for advice; they give it to you anyway. And everyone smokes.
I am used to people following rules and regulations in England. Take driving, for example. Roundabouts can be tricky, but everyone knows what to do. Well, there is no rule in Bodrum; you might be on a roundabout when someone cuts you from the left. One needs several eyes. Funnily enough, it all flows smoothly and no honking like in the old days. So maybe they are amazing drivers and have this innate ability that I don’t. Needless to say, I have not bought a car, and they are costly. Why pay tax to a corrupt system?
Turkey is a beautiful country. The area in Bodrum is hilly; the wonderful Aegean sea surrounds the peninsula. So it is such a shame that building regulations are not respected. While the eye wants to rest on white houses, bougainvillaea of every colour and the blue sea on the horizon, one’s view is often disturbed by building sites and tasteless dwellings. It is like they don’t want to leave an inch of undisturbed land. To me, this is so chaotic and very sad.
Compared to my life in England, Bodrum is a lot more sociable and fun. And this is despite the lockdowns. I love the fact that people pop in and out, and of course, the weather allows literally open doors. Unlike England, it is normal to receive an invitation on the same day. Of course, there are more formal occasions, but Turks are quite impromptu party givers. They love to cook, eat and socialise. Often they bring you a plate with their latest. It is a custom to refill the plate before returning. I don’t always follow this unsaid rule as it is difficult to find a food item each time.
The streets are full of stray cats and dogs. They laze around; people don’t seem to mind them. Various bowls with dry food and water are in every corner. Many take these animals to be castrated, but who knows if their number is decreasing. I had an unpleasant few days with a mouse in the house. Since then, I have started feeding a grey cat who often came onto my balcony. Hopefully, that will put an end to unwanted creatures. A friend named her Ash. She responds quite well.
In addition to supermarkets delivering goods, the corner shops do the same. Tap water is not drinkable there, so I get a big damacana (cooler bottle) of water delivered plus anything else I might need urgently. They don’t even mind delivering just a loaf of bread.
Although there are recycling bins, no one takes any notice. They are not there yet, unfortunately. The big bins are emptied every day, which is great. Often cats fly out of them as you approach to put yours in. Plastic usage is alarming. Everything is put into plastic containers. One is charged a few pennies at the supermarkets but not at the weekly fruit and vegetable markets where the products are fresh and abundant. The locals are very knowledgeable about edible herbs. I am still a novice. The cheese counters have a huge variety of delicious Turkish cheese that I didn’t know existed. I have tasted gruyere and goats cheese from Kars, Eastern Turkey, divine! Kars’s duck is apparently very famous as well. I made a Chinese duck recipe one day, and it turned out to be just perfect.
Certain things are very cheap. For example, I had a big kilim that I took to be cleaned. They washed it, I think. This cost me £3! One of my lampshades had been damaged during the move, so after finally finding a place where they make them, I was asked to pay the grand total of £2.50. ‘What else?’ the lady said when I asked, ‘And?’
Marble is also very cheap in Turkey. They don’t mind if you take leftover pieces for free, so I have many squares that I use as trivets. Food, in general, is expensive and seasonal.
So there are pros and cons of being in Bodrum. In general, life is fun there. In addition to my existing friends already living on the peninsula, I have met many interesting, lovely people. I have managed and hopefully will continue to teach. But I miss an order and calm around me. I miss the familiar streets, shops, settings, smells, church bells…Now I am back in the UK for a few months. I look forward to seeing my son maybe even both of them, friends, going for country walks, driving, my Sunday papers, etc. I have come to the firm conclusion that my birthplace does not define my identity. I am a bit like a chameleon.