I was warned before I contacted Linda that she might be hard to get hold of, that she was one of those people who “does stuff.” I found out later that “stuff” includes two walking groups, Turkish classes, an art club, Stitch ‘n’ Bitch (all the explanation you need is in the name,) that she volunteers for the Calis Children’s Charity and is on the committee organising Fethiye’s first ever Race For Life. In actual fact she wasn’t hard to get hold of. I think perhaps busy people are more efficient, she agreed to be interviewed and within three days I was back in Eyna, drinking coffee and enjoying hearing her tell me about her life in Turkey.
Discovering Turkey: not quite as foreign as expected.
“I first came to Turkey in 1994, I didn’t know anything about it – I thought I was coming to a desert, I went to the doctor and had all my injections done! While I was here I went to Kaya Koy and as soon as I got there I just knew this was somewhere I’d want to stay. I came back for holidays once or twice a year with my children and we always stayed at the same place in Kaya. In 2011 I moved over with my partner John and we got married here last April. We decided to live in Calis – there were just so many things we wanted to be involved in and the cost of petrol going back and forth from Kaya would’ve been a fortune.
“In England I was a manager for a company providing domiciliary care for people with learning disabilities. It was a lovely job, it was a non-profit organisation so it was never about making money just about the quality of the care. Then Social Service’s budgets started getting cut and cut and I didn’t want to be in charge of something that just wasn’t a good service any more. So I started working all the hours I could, overpaying my mortgage where I could, until we could afford to come here.”
A different way of life.
“It’s so beautiful here, and the people are so lovely. I really love how close families are, how there’s still respect for your elders. They still have a lot of values here that are missing in England.
“Things aren’t the same once you’re here though, just little things but we have ways of doing stuff in England that aren’t the same here – we’re very overly polite, we stand in queues. And the driving I just hate it, someone drove into me last week. I don’t enjoy driving, but I don’t like being a passenger either. It’s just a cultural thing – we’re very inclined to wait whether it’s in a supermarket or a car but people here aren’t – it’s not personal they do it to everyone.
“At the same time people are so generous. When we do the school visits with the 3C’s, the people really have nothing, but they won’t let us leave empty handed. And my neighbour, when I had a cough recently she went all round to load of different pharmacies and kept bringing me different potions to try. It just wouldn’t happen back home.”
Finding a way to fit in.
“I definitely feel part of the community. My main worry coming here was being bored. I really checked out what was happening before we came and I had a good idea what I wanted to join. The 3C’s is really nice to be a part of. Everywhere I go I find English and Turkish people know me. It was so easy to make friends. I try and return the favour now and invite newcomers along to whatever is happening.
“Most of my community is expat. Most of the groups only have expats going to them. I guess most younger Turkish people are at work. It’s hard getting involved in the Turkish community here – they seem to like different things to us. They seem to be mostly at home. I don’t know if that’s because as expats we want the security of knowing other people of if they just don’t like doing these things. Maybe Turkish people don’t know about these groups? I don’t know, in the summer they work so much, maybe they just want to chill in winter.”
Bridging the culture gap with Race for Life.
“With Race for Life, we really don’t want it to be just an expat thing. In fact the committee is nearly half Turkish which is just great. George came up with the idea and it’s really gathering speed. We’ve set the date now for April 12th 2015 and I’ve been put in charge of marketing and advertising. I’ve got two Turkish ladies helping me who are really excited to be involved. We’re hoping to get sponsorship from local businesses so we’ll go to them together.
“We want it to be a real community thing. Race for Life is usually only women but men will be able to do it too here. We’re going to raise money for equipment for the Devlet hospital. The cancer care in the area is really poor. People often have to make a three hour trip to Antalya to go to the hospital there if they need anything done, and we’d like to provide something that will help stop people having to do that so much.”
Deflecting the expat back-biters.
“Hopefully Race for Life will turn into an annual thing. We’ll be doing it all under the FETAV banner. It has to be done really transparently, because there’s always someone who’ll see the money you’re making and try and knock what you’re doing. And you get some in the expat community who are sort of ‘who do they think they are…’ I really didn’t expect how nasty some expats are to each other. I think you get people like that in all the expat communities in all the countries and it troubles me.
“In England you get in your car, go to work, and come home. It’s not like that here. It’s an artificial lifestyle in a way and little niggley things that wouldn’t usually be taken any further get blown up.
“The Fethiye Expat Zone has it a lot, people really verbally attacking each other. I try to make a note who these people are so I can try not to meet them in real life. I don’t like bullying I hate it. It’s really surprised me though how many people just don’t seem to have anything to do all day. The just care about the price of beer. I’m surprised how few people seem to care about what really matters.”
Support from the Turkish community.
“We never get that attitude from the Turkish community. Charity as we know it isn’t really a thing here. I think all the expats involved in the different charities have brought something special here. At first people didn’t understand why or what we did, but as soon as they did understand they really wanted to get involved, like with the fundraising for the Soma Mining disaster.
“You don’t want to inflict you culture on other people, we have to respect people may not want things changed, we’re guests in someone else’s country. But sometimes you can do something and bring something which is really nice.”
What the future holds.
“It’s really nice to be able to give something back here. I hope we’ll still be here in five years time but I don’t know, if either of the children needed us, or our parents got sick we might need to change our plans. For now it’s beautiful, and we’re here, and we’ll see.”
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