Thursday, August 16, 2012

[Living in Antalya] Home to roost







Kaleiçi, Antalya (PHOTO Today’s Zaman, Mehmet Demirci)


26 June 2012 / ALISON KENNY , ANTALYA


“Has anyone seen my purse?”“Where did you last see it?”


“Not sure. Maybe when I was out last night.”
“Much in it?”
“No. Not really. Except the pin code for my new SIM card… Oh, well. Shall I go on a boat trip today or not?”

And so it goes on with daughter number one, who has recently returned from her travels around the wilds of India. I can only assume that during those two months, she exerted so much energy in having to be on her guard against the loss of items such as her passport, money, travelers cheques, etc., that she is too exhausted to cope with the pressures of normal life.

“Oh, it’s so good to be home!” were her first words on arriving back in Antalya. After India, she was not fazed by the soaring temperatures and was impressed by the (comparatively) rubbish free roads, the (comparatively) civilized driving and her ability to blend into the background and not attract unwanted attention from locals.

About seven years ago, after my kids had more or less left home, I packed up all my worldly goods, sold the family house and moved 2,000 miles away to set up my new home in Antalya. This was, of course, a far more drastic step than most of my contemporaries were taking in the attempt to make our children into responsible adults. It wasn’t a deliberate attempt to escape the clutches of my brood or to shirk my responsibilities as a parent, but after many years of single parenting it seemed like the right time to make a life change. And in retrospect I would still maintain that it was the right decision. Not that it was without the pangs of guilt at leaving family and friends, as every expat well knows.

Right from the beginning, I encouraged my kids (actually it would be more accurate to say “paid for”) to visit as often as possible. Obviously free holidays abroad are not something that any self-respecting impoverished student is ever likely to turn down. They have made the journey over for exciting times in the winter, skiing and climbing in the Taurus Mountains and swimming and sunbathing during the rest of the year. In all seasons they have availed themselves -- mostly at my expense -- of Antalya’s finest selection of bars, chilled glasses of Efes and the chance to strut their stuff to whatever type of music takes their fancy in the nearby Kaleiçi (Antalya’s old town). In between these arduous activities, they have learnt to appreciate Turkey’s finest cuisine, even learning to cook a few of their favorite mezes. In other words, they have come to appreciate Antalya as much as I have.

So much so that daughter number one spent a four-month stint here prior to her Indian adventures.

She used the time wisely -- learning Turkish, completing a TEFL course, solving the numerous technical problems aged parents like me have with computers, traveling, writing, cooking, drinking, making numerous friends and generally enlivening our lives with her cheery presence around the house. Despite the constant scattering of her belongings -- clothes, phone chargers, netbooks, bags, etc. -- on every available surface, my long-suffering husband found himself, against his better judgment, looking forward to her return.
“Told you she would be moving back here,” he grumbled affectionately, despite my protestations that she would no doubt be moving on to explore another part of the world.
Meanwhile daughter number two has arrived, bringing with her my gorgeous 1-year-old grandson and her partner. So the conversations now sound like this:

“Can you just hold Lewis for a minute?”
“Has anyone seen the baby wipes?”
“What do you think these spots are on his back?”

As far as I am aware they are only here for the fortnight -- in fact, since I bought their tickets, I’m fairly sure of this fact -- and they don’t harbor any long-term plans for relocating to Antalya. But while they are here it’s great to play the role of generous grandmother, buying expensive wooden toys from Tchibo, garish plastic swimming contraptions and, of course, plenty of babysitting shifts.

My one and only son, however, has his own plans. In a month’s time, he and his partner will set off on a round-the-world bicycle trip, optimistically hoping to work along the way to cover their expenses. This adventure is set to take them up to four years, which seemed a long time to me until I discovered that their first port of call is to be Antalya, where with their newly acquired TEFL courses they hope to find some means of earning money. The rumor is that they will be based here for six months or so.

So despite my best endeavors to free myself from my beloved offspring, it seems that they are all coming home to roost. The fact that they view Antalya, which could not be more different from the small, northern town where they spent their childhood, as a desirable place to live is, of course, fantastic news for me. I hoped that they would all want to visit often and the chance to spend quality time with them would outweigh the long periods of time spent apart, but I never expected that any of them would choose to come and live here.

All expats face pangs of guilt at leaving behind family members, parents, siblings or children, but in my experience, my children have all gained a whole new aspect to their lives. Not only do they enjoy all things Turkish, but they have all made attempts to learn the language, to make Turkish friends and to explore independently more remote parts of this hugely diverse country. Despite the growing trend in the UK, brought on by the current economic crisis and lack of jobs, for young people to return to their parents’ homes to live, I doubt very much that any of my kids would have chosen to move back in with me in the cold, damp, dark environment of my former life.

Now, quite what the next generation, namely the lovely baby Lewis, will make of Turkey is another story. Having been abruptly transported from the cool, wet climate of Britain to searing temperatures of 40 degrees and above, probably not very much at the moment -- but there’s plenty of time for him to fall for his granny’s adopted home.


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