Contradictions (and a bit of a recap)

I wrote this a little over a week ago but due to some personal issues with my father in law as well as the current tensions in Turkey I felt it more appropriate to not post this at that time.  Turkey is in upheaval, yet again, and although tension is high I feel completely safe here in Mersin although there have been recent protests.  With elections looming all parties are throwing heated comments at each other and with the recent death of 15 year old Berkin Elvan it has become a travesty to bear witness to.

Officially it has been six months since we uprooted our lives and moved to Mersin.  Since I first met The Turk we would fantasise about moving to Turkey, whether it is for one year or forever but that fantasy was always put on the backburner as real life would interfere with our dream.  When my beautiful Dad passed away from that evil bastard that is cancer the dream of moving to Turkey was put back on the table but this time it was Daughter’s idea.  Having just lost her Granddad she wanted to spend as much time as possible with her other grandparents before they were taken from her too.  Her thoughts were, understandably, a little morbid but on reflection perfectly timed and we were all grateful to have had time with her grandmother, my mother in law, before she passed away in January.


As an expat Turkey is a country of contradictions.  We live in a luxurious apartment with every modern convenience (just don’t mention toilet paper to me) but right next door my sister in law and her family make their bread over an open flame. Contradictions.


We shop at Zara and TopShop, we get our coffee from Starbucks and we eat in nice restaurants.  We are surrounded by all our electronics to make life easier too from flat screen televisions, iPods and iPads meanwhile from my balcony I can watch the local women working on the farm across the lane for 30TL a day or witness children begging in the streets.  Contradictions.


I smile at the faces of people around me.  These people are my family now but there are times I want to throw a brick at the shopkeepers who are so unhelpful as I am a yabanci or to the strangers who watch me as I walk by in my western clothes.  Yes I wear jeans and a t-shirt; no I am not a whore.  No I do not wear a head scarf; yes I have the utmost respect for your religion although I wonder do you have any respect for mine?  Before you ask, no I do not want to pay twice as much because I am a yabanci and just for the record I am not your ATM machine.  Contradictions.


Adjustments were made by all of us over the past six months.  I think I have had it the easiest (well if you put aside the fact that I had no Turkish and now six months later I have little Turkish).  I had no expectations.  I know that things will not work the way that they did in Sydney and I was ready to accept this although I do get mighty peeved when the rubbish internet dies.  I think it has been The Turk who has had the most difficulty in adjusting – or should I say re-adjusting – to life in Turkey.  Having had the luxury of living in Sydney with its first world conveniences the littlest molehill can quickly escalate to the largest mountain.  I cannot tell you the number of times The Turk has said he wants to go back “home” to Sydney.  I guarantee before this day is over I will hear it yet again.  Cry me a river mate.


Daughter is very content.  She has made some good friends, she has quickly learnt conversational Turkish (although apparently has a funny accent).  She is getting by at school and although she now has a nemesis she considers this means she is truly accepted by her class mates.  Her adjustments were mostly first world problems too.  Disappointments when things don’t go according to plan and realising just how damn lucky she is compared to so many.  Contradictions.


Last Friday I had to return to the Emniyet yet again but I won’t bore you with that story today.  Anyway, while we were waiting to be interviewed I watched group after group of Syrian refugees lining up to speak to officials, to update their living arrangements or to ask for assistance.  I was shocked by the sheer volume of refugees coming through the door but The Turk has little sympathy for them.  I recently watched on the haber that there have been a few instances of racism against refugees in Turkey with most of Turkish society considering the refugees “temporary” in that they will return to their own country in due course.  There are in fact a few Syrian families that have settled into the village however The Turk does not interact with them in any way.  Recently a Syrian mother came to our door asking for a small donation and The Turk sent her on her way without a kurus.  Why?  What’s a few lira?  “If you give them an inch they will take a mile”.  His behaviour completely floored me firstly because he used one of my mother’s favourite sayings (a saying I have used on Daughter many, many times) and secondly because usually The Turk is the most generous person I know.  Contradictions.


Turkey can be, and should be, extremely confronting, full of contradictions.  I have difficulties in accepting these contradictions at times and I guess this is a good thing.  I should never accept these differences.  I should ensure that Daughter never accepts these differences because once you have acceptance then you will never help change what is to come.

mosque 2


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16 thoughts on “Contradictions (and a bit of a recap)

  1. Excellent post, very insightful stuff. I can see where you are coming from… I have been here for the best part of 10 years and many prolonged visits for 10 years before that, and yes, we have many contradictions. However under the surface things are not always what they seem. Take for instance the ‘open fire’; give them 50,000TL and I bet they would not install a decent kitchen. We earn similar to many farmers here as my wife is a state official, but we built a nice house so we are the ‘rich folk’. And then there is the guy who farms behind us. He has just under 1m TL in the bank apparently and 240,000 m2 of land, but he still wears plastic shoes, has 3 shirts that I know of and no car, just a 45 year old tractor – go figure 🙂


  2. I love your post! Life is full of contradictions wherever you live – but they are definitely more apparent here. As for some of what you said my hubby also had a harder time adjusting when we came here and many, many times I heard “we’re going back!” he definitely put more pressure on himself, after 3 years I don’t here it as much – at one point I did suggest he recorded himself saying it on his phone and then that way all he had to do was play it to save from straining his voice all the time! I am a muslim and I do wear a headscarf but that certainly hasn’t stopped them having a good stare as I walk by – why? because no matter how I look or how I dress I will always be seen as the yabanci and therefore should be treated differently because some of them wouldn’t know respect if it came and bit their backsides!!


      • Respect is something that people don’t seem to be able to teach their children – but then I do think they have a very hands off approach to parenting! But I could probably say the same about parts of England too. But the reason I think I am treated differently is because to most people they can’t understand why a British woman would want to come and live here as most of them want to leave, but the grass is always greener on the other side! I can honestly say that life here is no different to anywhere else. I have never experienced anything bad, yes people look but they are shocked! Batman is a nice place and the people around me are great. However Batman may be portrayed on the TV is certainly not the reality, I enjoy my life here.. when of course the electric and water are working!!


      • Yes I too have been questioned many times “Why are you here?” “Turkey has too many problems, Australia is much better”.

        Sure Australia has many benefits, it is definitely the best place on earth but I worked my ass off there for many years, I was never home. I never saw Daughter. The Turk left for work at 5.30 and wasn’t home before dark. We had no family to support us through good times and bad.

        Life is slower here, financially it is more difficult for us as I am not working and The Turk earns nowhere near what he earned in Australia but he is home when Daughter gets home from school. I bake. Yes really! And the benefits to Daughter being surrounded by her family (although frankly her cousins – the female ones anyway – are a nasty bunch of little b*tches) and she has made some lovely friends. Definitely the benefits outweigh in our case.


  3. I think every country has its own particular contradictions (or ironies) just like it’s own culture, customs, etc. You figure out what you can live with and without, and the balance of rewards and not-so-good things you like.

    We have friends here, American woman who married a Turkish man a decade ago in the US, who moved to Istanbul last summer. We talked to the wife recently. They’re planning to go back to the US and its her “Turk” that wants to go back more than her. He’s actually working much harder and longer (in the hotel industry) here than he did in the US. He never sees kids here. I think they plan to move back in another year. The re-adjustment has been too difficult, despite the benefits of being close to family.


  4. This is a really interesting way of looking at Turkey. There are so many contradictions in our societies where ever they are Why aren’t others open to differences? I always wonder this… 🙂


  5. Thanks for the colorful and articulate tour of Turkey! It sounds as if you’re settling in nicely, and all the contradictions make for sparkling prose. I also appreciate the beautiful photos. (I need to start posting photos on my blog, though I confess I’m not sure how to go about it.) Thanks also for liking my blog post about life in Seoul.


  6. Pingback: 100 posts! | janeyinmersin

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