It’s Travel Thursday!
Today’s guest post hails from our girl Rachel Robinson, an HR executive who Swirls and travels the world.
In this post, Rachel gives the back story on her early days of living in Turkey.
Sometimes . . . Life Changes
I was living in Sacramento, CA with my now ex-husband and our two toddler-aged daughters. I remember my husband coming home from work and telling me that he had some bad news. When you’re married to a member of the military you learn rather quickly that those words translate to “your life as you know it is about to change.”
The Bad News . . . Became Good News!
I had only heard every other word as he spoke but when he had finished talking I gathered that “we” were moving to Turkey in 90 days. The thought of moving to a foreign country was exciting. Traveling abroad had always been a childhood dream of mine and that dream was about to come true.
Accompanied with my excitement there was a bit of sadness. It hit me that I would have to say goodbye to friends and family as we set out on a 3-year long assignment.
The next 90 days were very stressful and filled with very detailed tasks each having a specific deadline. The tasks include filling out passport applications, scheduling vaccinations, preparing for household items and the vehicle to be packed and shipped, among other things.
I fulfilled these sudden obligations, all while reading everything I could get my hands on that pertained to Izmir, Turkey. The more I learned about the country the more excited I became. I was ready to experience all Turkey had to offer!
Arriving In Turkey
I remember our flight landing and all of the passengers started applauding and cheering. (I would later learn that this happened on all flights landing in Turkey). Walking through the airport was overwhelming because I couldn’t understand a word that was being spoken and it seemed as if everyone was yelling.
Once we retrieved our luggage we located the driver assigned to drive us to our hotel where we would be staying until we found a place to live.
Although this was a military assignment there was no designated military housing for service members and their families. As a result, we lived among Turkish nationals – which had proved to be challenging for some.
Living In Turkey
Within weeks of arriving in Izmir we moved into an apartment that provided the most amazing view to the Aegean Sea. The view was beautiful! Our neighbor and landlord Seçil was a very friendly woman with the gift of gab, a retired physician who had adult children living in the States.
Seçil spoke English fluently and she was very instrumental in helping me and my family settling in. it was like having our very own tour guide every step of the way.
After we settled into our apartment we hired a nanny to take care of our daughters during the day. My husband reported to his duty assignment and I immediately started my job search.
I soon learned that there weren’t many job opportunities available to military spouses. I enrolled in a Turkish language class and insisted on learning the language. I wanted to be able to do more than just order dinner or say “Good morning” and “My name is.” I had a desire to speak the language fluently and eventually, I did!
During my search for employment, I became friends another African American woman named Marilyn. Her husband was also an active duty military member and their family had recently moved to Turkey from Germany.
I learned a lot from Marilyn. She had been living abroad for 10 years so she was a wealth of knowledge. Marilyn and I were both hired as part time English teachers for an all-boys military school.
Feeling The Love
It didn’t take long for us to realize that Turkish men are very attracted to Black women. And they’re very vocal about it but never disrespectful. When Marilyn and I weren’t working we would venture out into the city during the day while our husbands were working and kids were with nannies and in school.
There was never a dull moment and I relished in every experience anticipating the next. Every day was truly an adventure! We would often catch a ferry to the Greek island of Chios for lunch and shopping.
Follow Me, Please!
One evening Marilyn and I decided to check out the nightlife and we went to a popular club on the Marina. Just like any popular spot in the United States, there was a line to get in.
There we were standing in line talking and laughing when a tall gentleman dressed in all black walked over to us and in English says “Follow me please.”
Marilyn and I exchanged glances with one another and followed him to the entrance of the club. Before the gentleman opened the door he informed us that the owner wanted us to be his special guests for the evening and that he had a table for us.
Totally shocked, we were escorted to a table near the dance floor, where there was a bottle of red wine and two wine glasses waiting for us. After pulling out our chairs, the gentleman opened the bottle of wine and filled our glasses.
At this point, I’m thinking the owner has us confused with someone else. I wanted to speak but Marilyn was giving me this look as to say “Don’t mess this up!” So we made a toast and took a drink.
Not long after that, we were approached by another gentleman who introduced himself as Tarik, the owner of the club. He told us that we had an open invitation to come to his club anytime we wanted.
We did revisit Tarik’s establishment and each visit was better than the last.
This treatment became pretty common but never expected.
Historical Sites . . . And More Travel
Aside from the flattering hospitality I received, I thoroughly enjoyed learning the history of Turkey. We visited historical sites such as the beautiful city of Ephesus where the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the World) is found. We also toured the House of Virgin Mary and visited the hot springs in Pamukkale that are believed to have healing powers as well as the Sardis Synagogue that dates back to the 3rd century A.D.
While living in Turkey, we traveled quite a bit as a family. On our first vacation, we visited Germany for Christmas because our daughters had never seen snow.
We visited Paris in the Spring and London during the Summer months. In addition, there was so much for use to see and do locally without having to venture out too far from our home. In the summer, we would spend weekends at a local resort surrounded by black sand beaches.
Here are some photos of the ruins in Ephesus, one of the 7 churches mentioned in the bible in Revelation. The other photos are of the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus.
Immersed In The Culture
Every weekend I set out to create new memories with my family. We were fully immersed in the Turkish culture; so much, in fact, my 3-year-old daughter refused to speak English and only communicated in Turkish!
Those three years of living abroad was a time in my life that I will always cherish. It reminded me that dreams do come true no matter how old the dream is.
Join in the Fray: When has “bad news” turned into good news – or a blessing in disguise?
She will be featured in an upcoming podcast.
This is Rachel’s second travel blog for The Swirl World – stay tuned for more! To read Rachel’s first post, “I Dream Of Traveling,” click here.
Copyright ©2016 Michelle Matthews Calloway, The Swirl World™, LLC , ASwirlGirl™, The Swirl World™, The Swirl World Podcast™, The Swirl World Inspiration Daily™, Swirl Nation™, All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Rachel Robinson. Used with permission.