This day last year was a huge one for me. It was the catalyst for a shit-storm of firsts. This day last year, I moved to Turkey.
I hopped off the plane in Dalaman (with a dream and my cardigan), and looked out at my brave new world. It was early in the morning and the airport was scarcely staffed; mostly a steady slew of foreigners passing through. As I stood and waited at the baggage claim carousel, my worst nightmare came to fruition as person after person walked away with their bags and the belt stopped rotating. My suitcase was nowhere. I mentally cursed the self-important and rude guy at the Dhaka airport check-in and kept telling myself to not freak out. Luckily there were a few others in the same position and we were led over to the international terminal. I willfully ignored the lack of solution as we were told, “maybe your bags will be there, or…” When I saw my suitcase, it may have been the most emotional reunion between a person and inanimate object that airport has ever seen.
Moments later, I made my first friend in Turkey. Marina, a Russian woman who helped me find my way back to the domestic terminal and my car. The driver was like an amazing caricature straight out of a sitcom – wildly waving his arms around and running towards me, holding a sign with my name misspelled on it. I coerced him into giving Marina a ride into town with us, and spent the car ride learning about her life, her work, her husband, her sisters back in Russia. From time to time, she and the driver would speak to one another in Turkish, a language I hadn’t yet begun to learn. I looked out the window at the mountain ranges, the bluest water I had ever seen, the clear skies. I let it wash over me that this was my new reality.
I arrived at the guesthouse where I would be staying and was shown around by a girl who was clearly enamoured with this town. She was the one who had interviewed and corresponded with me, and something about her affable persona was just the most comforting thing to my slowly-building sensory overload. Later that afternoon, I sat on the terrace of the guesthouse, and with a view of the marina, started work on the graphics for a travel company. That night, sitting on this same terrace with a small group of the company’s employees, I ate Mexican food in Turkey. We sat at a long table, family-dinner style, and as we passed food back and forth, I suddenly missed my family terribly. I sat pensively, looking out at the quiet street and taking it all in. It was a lovely, balmy evening in Fethiye; I remember thinking to myself, don’t ever forget this ineffable feeling.
Many things happened over the course of my stay in Fethiye. I lived and learned a new culture. I questioned my entire way of thinking, my beliefs, my morality. I felt exhilarated, comforted, content, exhausted. And I felt what it meant to be truly homesick. I began to understand what cultural disparity actually was. I lived in the moment where I realized that I no longer felt so foreign. The point where I let myself sink into a place, and the place, in turn, sank into me. I fell in love; I fell in so much love. With people, with places, with memories, with food. I fell in love with the Mediterranean Sea and the gorgeous sunsets. There are friends I’ve made who I feel I will know forever; our time together, unforgettable. Travel-loves and travel-friends are different; you get to know each other quickly and intensely, and outside of any real context. My friends and I were bonded not only by the hardships of working for this travel company, but also by all of the joys of living in this charming small town.
The highs and lows were all extremes in Fethiye. I felt it all.
When I returned from Turkey, I didn’t know if I would ever be comfortable in my Sydney skin again and felt homesick for Fethiye. Today, one year later, I am on my second day of a new graphics job. For most of the day, I sat in what used to be a cafe (now a temporary office), working alongside just 3 other people. There’s no waterfront views, no humidity or sporting a constant sheen of sweat. No sea breeze or middle-of-the-day naps and catch up sessions with my bestie, followed by watching our daily episode of Dawson’s Creek. There is however, a calm. It’s lovely in its own way. I can no longer stay out all night with someone, talking about our dreams and hopes for the future, sitting by the water and watching the sunrise. Or walk next door and spend hours talking life and love with a friend, late into the nights, early into the mornings. But tonight I saw one of my favourite friends after work; we talked and laughed a million miles a minute. I realised just how much I will miss her when I leave here again. She makes my life brighter.
A year has passed. And I look forward to where I’ll be this time next year. Hopefully celebrating another hefty bundle of lessons and fond memories.