David from Van
Photo: WOW Turkey
Thanks to David Walsh for sharing his experience in Turkey with us.
What made you come to Turkey?
I fell in love with someone. I spent 3 months over summer in Istanbul, and that happened to be the year that I had turned 18. So a lot of 'firsts' were lived here in Turkey for me. Since then I haven't looked back.
What do you do in your daily life?
I'm currently writing a book about my experiences in Turkey and the changes the country has seen, from my perspective, over the past few years. I work out at the gym 5 times a week and have so far lost 14kg, which is a huge achievement for someone who skipped so many gym classes at school that they were unable to write a report.
The most important family member in my life is my mother. I miss her dearly but she respects my wishes and we don't have any problem. She recently bought a 2nd home in Alanya.
Can you compare your first days here with today?
I didn't speak any Turkish so many of my friendships were limited. I had read up on Turkish very much before coming so I wasn't in for a total culture shock. However whilst staying in Istanbul I basically lived it up without any responsibilities. Although I had a partner, our social lives were entirely separate. I've gone through 3 phases since moving here. The first was to see everything through rose tinted glasses. The second was a sort of 'rebellion' against assimilation whereby I became more defensive of my own identity and so on. The phase I've just completed is what I'd call 'finding a balance' - learning how to protect your identity whilst integrating into your chosen society (there's no such thing as THE society, especially here)
in a way that's comfortable for you.
Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
Absolutely. I've learned how to cook, I've become more hygienic and I've become a far more sociable person.
Let's talk about the region you are living in?
I am currently living in Van as my partner is a teacher here. It's something people find hard to understand, since living in Van is hardly easy. There are numerous social problems alongside those beautiful tourist attractions. Friends who came from the west of the country to teach here are already considered 'foreigners' in Van, so I don't have a hard time fitting in with them. We have a group of friends and every weekend we have a party where we watch comedy films, listen to Turkish rock and alternative music and then drink more than enough rakı.
Have you traveled in Turkey? Tell us your discoveries
I have lived in İstanbul, Eskişehir, Alanya, and currently in Van. İstanbul is an amazing city full of chaos and culture, no matter where I am in Turkey; I always feel a magnetic pull from it. Eskişehir is really an example for Anatolia, a city where students bring freedom of thought, decent bars and cheap restaurants to town. Apart from that it was great to be able to go to the theatre or watch a classical music concert for peanuts. Alanya basically showed up everything that's wrong with the package holiday industry, can't say I liked the people there. As for Van, well as I said, it's teaching me a lot. Besides those places I have traveled to Bursa, Kütahya, Ankara, Rize, İzmir and some other places. I love Ankara a lot more than most people.
What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?
The fact that they're very generous. It's a cliché, but you can really sit with someone for hours and hours and not feel guilty about wasting their time.
What was the annoying one?
The seemingly absolute lack of responsibility. It starts with people not putting their children to bed and just continues on into every area of life, public and private.
It took me a long time to get used to it, but that's because I'm a very picky eater. These days I have plenty of favourites from standard kebabs and köfte (meatball) to çiğ börek, çiğ köfte, dolma, sarma, içli köfte(stuffed meatball), sulu yemekler (home cooking), pide, lahmacun, some soups, types of simit and bread, various sweets and Maraş ice cream. A couple of years ago I missed the microwaved junk available in the UK, but not anymore.
Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
If you're going to be staying here for a long time, you'd be better off learning Turkish, since it really opens the doors up to the whole experience.
Any suggestion to people planning to visit your region?
Come in summer. A few days would be enough to see the most important places.
Latest comments about this article
By Lisa McComb 21.3.2013
Hello, I am moving to Van in May and it would be really nice to connect with people living there before I go. I have been there once just on holiday but it would be great to chat to any English speakers.
By KanadaKurd 25.2.2010
Hey are you still in van? I lived there from 2007-2009 and will be going back shortly. Anyway you can find me at blogspot under the user name KanadaKurd as for obvious reasons (spammers) I don´t want to leave public information here. I´d link you but if i do it doesn´t seem to let me post.
By KanadaKurd 25.2.2010
I should mention I was also working as a teacher at Bahcesehir for most of that time, and after that at the UNHCR office they have there.
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