There is this question that often finds its way into conversations I have. Its rooted from curiosity but greeted consistently with dismay. I’m going to real honest and say this is an odd question to ask, but that will never stop its appearance.
“Do you miss it?”
In short, Yes. I miss Turkey in a way I can’t explain. Some days I physically ache for this place. Deep in my stomach. When I smell cigarettes I feel at home. If I stand next to the ocean, my heart skips a beat. Walking barefoot on gravel, I get nostalgic. I miss it so much, it hurts sometimes. I never get tired of sharing. I have never fully grasped that question. Or maybe I should say i’ve never understood what the asker expects me to say. I spent the first 14 years of my life there. I suppose maybe if it has been tied to a painful childhood or dark memories. I just feel like saying a simple “yes” doesn’t cover it. I want to spill all over them everything I love about the country.It is one of the most wonderful and beautiful country I’ve ever known.
**low quality photographs alert. Memories however are worth the blur and pixels**
The answer has never been no. Everyday I think about how much this place shaped who I am. I’m reminded of my past when I don’t understand pop culture jokes or American idioms. It still feels weird knowing people I meet assume I grew up in Memphis.
We all think about our childhoods more often then we admit. Honestly, I grew up like most American kids in a lot of ways. Running around in the backyard, getting mud on my hands, and building up scars on my knees. We had time outs, played house, and roller bladed around the neighborhood. Freeze tag, winni the pooh, light-up shoes, and refusing to eat brussle sprouts.
My sister and I had quite the imaginations. We would spent hours painting, coloring the sidewalks with chalk, posing for each others crayon masterpieces (pictured below).
I had every intention to become a “ballerina-cooker”. This career choice included both of my passions. Ballet and cooking. I spent a lot of time believing I was a dancing prodigy. This door slammed shut when my teacher shared with my mom “I don’t think ballet is Emily’s thing, maybe sign her up for belly dancing or gymnastics?”
I’m not going to ignore the obvious. My childhood had its own unique properties. I grew accustom to rolling my little carry-on to planes every other year. By the age of 7 my mom had taught us how to pick and choose the toys we would play with for the 20+ hour travel day ahead. As we got older, ipods and book replaced barbies and travel-hangman. My sister and I both learned the art of flushing airplane toilets quickly as we ran back to our seats – petrified of the horror stories other TCKs told us about the suction (all untrue). I remember the first time my dad let me hold my own passport and ticket. This usually lasted for the 3 minutes we stood in line and entered the tunnel to board, but still, it was responsibility.
So back to the question. The answer will always be YES. I miss the Izmir bay with ferry boats. I miss seagulls. I miss the sea breeze sweeping through our home with all the windows open (maybe not the fish smell that came with it….) I miss roller blading with all the neighborhood kids and going to ramps. I miss the bustling streets- the grandmothers and moms calling after me as I ran around barefoot. I miss seeing old men sitting around playing bat-gamin and drinking tea. I miss the buses, as stuffy and smelly as they were. I miss hear the call to prayer. I miss cobbled sidewalks, our house balcony, my room with the massive dolap built in to the wall. I miss how light switches are on the outside of rooms. I miss always taking my shoes off entering into a home. I miss the outrageously loud Brittany Spears and europop blaring from any speaker at any resort or cafe. I miss carpets, carpets, carpets. I miss youth group filled with friends from around the world. I miss buying fresh street food and sitting around, playing guitar by the bay. I miss the buzz when someone let you into their apartment. All the marble! I miss how you could walk to everything. I miss the food. The bakeries. The lifestyle. The becals on every corner. I miss the ice cream. I miss the geverec man screaming on streets. I miss the oprah singer that lived a few buildings over that practiced with her window open. I miss climbing on top of the concrete storage units. I miss crappy turkish band-aids. I miss sprinkling salt on unripe plums. I miss climbing the rocks on the coast.
I miss going to camp off the Mediterranean Sea. I miss sunsets off the coast. I miss sharing plane stories with kids just like me. Starting every camp prayer thanking the Lord for safety and the opportunity to be all together. OH, I miss all the rice!
I miss the highways. I miss the two aqueducts we drove under on the way to youth group. I miss kent cards. I miss being sloshed by the bay water on rough seas. I miss all the colorful buildings on the hills. I miss hearing our neighbors have conversations from across balconies.
I miss, what i realize now, was a simple life. I think it was probably because I was a kid, but still. Everything was so much slower. People walked places, most people were late to events and friends houses. When you went to a store and said hi to the owner, he would stop everything and invite us to have tea. You went to stores designated to specific items. I miss BRAVO icecream that we use to walk to on family birthday dinners. I miss that jult when the ferry hits the dock. I miss hopping off the ferry before the ramp comes fully down. I miss riding the bus and being so use to the stops and turns, I didn’t have to hold on.
I miss that the highlight of my summer was sitting around on carpets singing songs and playing volley ball in clear waters with no fears of sharks!
The day we moved I was numb. My journal entry is mournful but no tear marks grace the page. I was upset, but had no way to process it all. As time has gone on, I’ve learned how much that day changed my life. How much Turkey is in my blood. That I will never be able to separate why my childhood from Izmir. I will never look at the ocean and not think about riding the ferry boat to my best friends house. I will never forget the purest of fellowship I experienced in the Izmir Youth Group. I will never answer no to that question. I miss it. I don’t miss it in a way that makes me discontent in my home now. I do not miss it in a way that harms my heart. I do not miss it in an unhealthy way. I just miss it. Bostanli runs in my veins and through my heart.