One of my very close friends here in Turkey, a young woman named Nicole, is moving back to the United States in July. It’s not that she wants to leave Turkey; on the contrary, she absolutely loves it here and is very sad about leaving. It’s just that she was offered a rare place on a degree course at a very prestigious American university, and felt she would regret it later if she didn’t take the offer. It’s understandable.
Last week I invited Nicole over to my house for coffee, and we sat on the balcony and talked about all the changes that are getting ready to happen in her life, and the things she would be leaving behind in Turkey, her adopted home. One of the first things she mentioned is that she would miss the relaxed pace of life in Antalya. Even during the busiest rush hour in the most crowded areas of the city, you can still feel that there’s not the same sense of urgency as there is in other places. This has its positive and negative effects, of course. Sometimes, to a Western-raised task-minded person, it feels like life is passing you by. Then you open your eyes at the beauty of the place you live, and you realise that this is life, this is what people work their entire lives trying to get. Nicole said she already worries about how busy everyone back in the States is. She no longer finds being constantly busy as fulfilling as she used to before she lived here.
Of course, she said she’d also miss the food, and the ability to get certain Turkish ingredients and products that we take for granted when we live here. Pomegranate sauce for salads. Turkish white cheese. Bakery-fresh bread every single morning, for just a few coins. It’s stuff we’ve gotten used to, stuff that for Nicole will no longer be part of her daily life.
And for those of us on the south coast of Turkey, there’s the option to swim in the Mediterranean every single day. Nicole is a huge fan of the sea, and rides her bike to the cliffs nearly every morning, navigating the narrow staircase down to the warm waters of the Med. It’s her way to meditate, a kind of self-therapy through connecting with the tides. The state she’s moving to in the US is land-locked. No more swimming for her. Eventually we had to change the subject, because leaving Turkey was just too sad to talk about for her. It’s not that there aren’t wonderful places in other countries – of course there are. But those of us who have chosen Turkey as our home have a little Turkish-style routine that we get used to, and as slow and lazy as that routine may seem to outsiders, for us it’s a beautiful, nurturing ritual that we wouldn’t want to trade for anything. I know that Nicole is already making plans to come back here once her degree is finished, and given how appreciative I feel of my own life here, I certainly can’t blame her.