Where to start?…. it feels I have been here forever …but the journey began almost 10 years ago.
I often hear the question “Why are you here?” or “Why did you choose Turkey?” But my answer is always the same: "I didn’t choose, Turkey chose me."
To start from the beginning…I will not tell you the story you often hear from foreign girls living in Turkey. There is no summer romance that brought me here.
What took me to Turkey? ....it was my studies at university and my desire to explore different lands and cultures. In Europe, there is a very popular program called “Erasmus” - an exchange program among university students. To be honest, young people very often go to enjoy this time (not really for studying), partying and to meet other students from all over Europe. Our plan was the same and Turkey at that time sounded like a totally different planet, we didn’t know so much about this country just some myths from TV.
Sometimes I think it was my destiny to choose Turkey for university because we could go anywhere else in Europe but we ended up here and even 10 years later I am still here.
The first experience in Turkey was not somewhere near the beach as we imagined with the sun and a turquoise cost but we ended up near the capital Ankara, in a small village called Kirikkale which is very small and where there is just a gun factory, university and nothing more. Imagine how we felt when we realized where we ended up... No parties, no-one speaking English, even the university students couldn’t speak the English language except a few of them and some teachers. And of course, no-one else chose this university to come for the exchange program just us, so there was no meeting with a lot of new people from all over Europe, it was just us and the Turkish world which was so different. But probably we were actually lucky to see the reality of Turkey. So often people come for holiday and see artificial Turkey, modernized Turkey for tourists.
Mostly I remember that people were always watching us, what we were buying in the shop, what we were wearing, how we were talking, where we were going, who we were spending time with, what we were drinking or eating….we were watched always in the supermarket what we bought, and if we brought beer home, we were called alcoholics and all the university was talking about it. It was so normal for us to drink beer in Lithuania, we never even thought it could be a problem but for our Turkish roommates, the girls didn’t like that. They also were not happy about our cooking or the way we used the Turkish toilet (the hole). Yes, we had a "hole toilet" in our dormitory apartment, and imagine for us it was something like a step back in time with this kind of toilet. We refused to wear the same slippers to the toilet and arguments about it were going and going even when they didn’t speak English, I don’t really remember how we were talking with them, probably google translator helped. Actually now after many years here, I think I understand their point, but at that time we didn’t have a clue why they were moaning. And in general, somehow we could not make Turkish girls our friends. The secret until now I don’t understand. We tried but somehow it didn’t work. Probably they were looking at us as aliens.
Let's get back to the story of why I am still here…again I could say destiny….we started our studies and we became so bored in such a small place that we asked our teacher to let us go travel for a few weeks to refresh our minds and souls. And when we got back we would study double. He let us go and we decided to start our adventures and travel around hitchhiking. We met such nice people all over Turkey. A lot of them didn’t speak English but Turkish hospitality is amazing, we chatted with strangers, drank tea every few kilometers, ate together and even were hosted by some nice people. Two weeks travels became our normality: two weeks studying, two weeks traveling around. We were so lucky to visit a lot of different parts of Turkey and even ended up traveling to Syria and Jordan.
One time we came to Fethiye and spent a few days. Because it was winter we didn’t do too much here, we didn’t even go to Oludeniz, just Fethiye center from what I remember and Sakklikent. After a few days, we were not too impressed by this place, it was nice but that's all. When it was time to hitchhike back, and I am not sure where we were going next but we needed to get out of town to the highway. We sat in the dolmus (minibus) and asked the driver to let us out at the end of the city. He did it, let us out at the last stop at the end of the town but on the wrong side, it was Oludeniz's direction. When we realized, we were so angry why he brought us there and why he didn’t say the bus was going in a different direction but probably now I think he didn’t understand what we said to him and just said "yes", as Turkish people usually do who don’t speak English… But this moment probably was sent from the universe, especially for me...All of us standing in Tasyaka, on the curve and trying to hitchhike to get to the other end of Fethiye. Of course, we were in our heads blaming the driver and no-one was stoping, all the cars driving too fast on the curve. We gave 15 min to wait and try our luck..but almost were taking the bus back ...when a car stopped... a very nice and kind guy gave us a lift to the end of the town and he spoke very good English, we were so surprised, he spoke English so well (we didn't know at that time, its very popular destination for British). He told us he was a manager of one of the hotels in Oludeniz and if we wanted we could get a job there for the summer season. Being honest at that time we didn’t think about working in Turkey we just wanted to enjoy our time and travel as much as we could before we were heading home. We took his card with contact details but after we just forgot about it... Months passed so quickly... exploring new places and such a different culture. Every part of Turkey had something unique and it felt every step you take unknown is waiting.
6 months of a real nomad life…living life with so much joy and curiosity. We learned so much and knowing a different culture better made us fall in love with this country. When the time came to leave after our studies finished, the time came to pack and go home, we really didn’t want to go, it was just too good to be here…then we remembered the man who we met in Fethiye and decided to try to contact him and ask if we could work there. Of course, the answer was yes, our joy was endless. 3 more months were waiting for us and this time near the beach…but was not as easy as we imagined….
We arrived hoping for work but after they realized we need a work visa we were told: “sorry, not possible, but try maybe in the spa..” It was the same story there ….Our hope to stay in Turkey was almost finished and we were thinking to go home…then our “Turkish father” saw us sad and invited us for a beer to cheer us up..guess what?… we ended up working in the place where we went for a beer!... For those who live here or come for a holiday, they definitely know the place, the famous Buzz Bar… Actually, after we heard they needed staff we didn’t believe anymore that someone could hire us because a lot of people said, "of course, you can work", but always with the same ending “ sorry, but you need a work visa”… but finally we found the place which was willing to do all the paperwork and it happened…but that also was not as easy as we thought….it was our Erasmus program internships student working visa, which should have been easy to do because we're supported by the university but what do you think the answer we heard in the visa office was? “We don’t know what Erasmus is and it's not possible to work!!!”...
We were grateful for the kindness of the Buzz Bar owners looking after us without work for a few weeks. We were going again and again to the visa office for a work permit and always the same story (the officer didn’t know English even a little bit) but after some days he already knew us, some years later when I met him in the street he still remembered me... Then a few weeks were gone and our workplace was almost giving up on us and I remember they told us maybe it was time to start thinking about going home... and then again a miracle..or destiny or some magic I don’t know… we decided to go one last time to office and poohhh he says “Okay, a working visa is possible.”(not sure what changed his mind) Endless happiness…. Finally…and the summer began….
One of the best summers of our life. We worked hard and a lot but partied also hard and a lot, sometimes sleeping just a few hours and repeating, work..party… our days off were days when we explored and were being tourists, nights dancing and days working….now I think omg how did we survive but probably youth and being full of energy, wanting everything at the same time…such amazing memories we made. All days were with a smile on the face and doesn’t matter how tired you are, sun and sea, what could be better and a lot of beer. Of course, we also had some dramas too, some tears, and heartbreaks. It is different, working culture here and in Lithuania. It is like night and day. But we survived and adapted. Imagine how we felt when the time came to leave. The heart was in tears, we didn’t want to go back, but we needed to as it was our last year to finish university.
After I came back home I realized my life couldn't be the same as I lived before. I lived a very busy and stressful life. Always running, struggling, trying to push myself to the limit between two universities. Always in a hurry, always worried…after we came back, we were always smiling and relaxed, everything looked like it could be done tomorrow... we really learned from Turkish people about tomorrow. Our friends were thinking we were crazy that we were smiling without reason, but for us it was normal. It was very difficult to come back to this busy stressful world and to be honest, I didn’t want it anymore, I tried but felt that I can’t run in this rat race anymore and not care about myself. Then the decision came that it's time to stop and take a break and that break has been going for almost 10 years.
Sometimes I think I was so burned out inside that the universe sent me to Turkey in the first place. After just spending 9 months here I could see it more clearly and make the right decision. If Turkey did not arrive at that time probably I would be still in the rat race game and living differently. I am so grateful for this country and all the people I met on the way through this decade. I am who I am now because of all these experiences I had and the best part is that I found my path in this life where I feel the best.
Now you see I said, in the beginning, I think Turkey chose me, not I have chosen Turkey...What do you think?... There could be so different story if not for some magic moments...I can't tell some romantic story about how I ended up here but my story is more magical because my Soul found the right place which I can call home and the right path in my life. Of course, there were some magic and heartbreaking love stories too but I will keep that for myself. But I can say through this decade I met the three biggest love of my life here in Turkey. They say that you only really have three loves in your life and I should say Thank you Turkey for that. Each big love experience happens for a reason, the first to teach you about your expectations, the second to teach you about who you really are, and the third to teach you about what it really means to love another person.
I am feeling Gratitude for all of my experiences, for the best teachers of my life, and the best life lessons learned here in Turkey.
Ohhh Turkey so blessed you knocked on my door. All these coincidences feel more like the Universe sent help to live the life it meant to be lived by ME.
Love and Light
"Yoga with Eagle"