Gunaydin! A warm and humid morning here in suburban Melbourne. Just realised that last week I passed my 6 month anniversary since “evacuation” from an empty Istanbul airport in those early days of Covid drama. Today I decided to swing an old picnic table and chair onto the communal front lawn of my shared apartment block. It’s almost on the sidewalk, but the pull of fresh air finally outweighed the embarrassment of sitting out here in public view.
It’s so strange to back in this city in which I grew up and yet to feel so culturally divided. Let me give an example. A few minutes a young masked (of course) couple passed me by on their morning stroll. She sneezed and I instinctively said out loud “Cok yasa”. In a flash I was back in Turkey watching a cute cartoon on TRT Cocuk TV about a little girl called “Hapshu”, which I think in Turkey is the equivalent of our “Ah-choo” sneeze sound. Smiled as I recalled straining to pick up a few words of Turkish from these kids cartoons, a strategy I’d always pushed with my own students in London. It’s Spring now here in Melbourne.
This communal lawn is decorated by a hedge of pastel-toned azalaeas in full bloom. As I cast a glance at a hovering bee buzzing worryingly close to me left ear, once I again I slip back to my other life. Caliskan ari. . That’s what my Esenyaka-born mate used to call me as she saw me sweating over my Masters research assignments back in London. I miss her. I know I annoyed the hell out of her with my naïve and romanticised view of life in Turkey. Still, she’d occasionally humour me with stories of being raised in a tiny, tiny village in central Sivas, home of the legendary Kangal dog. She taught me how to brew real Turkish tea with my caydanlik. I wonder what happened to my caydanlik. I had to leave it behind in Turkey, along with my Ataturk coffee cup and 75% of my personal possessions as I made that final curfew-breaching dash for Ataturk airport all those months ago.
One thought path leads to yet another as I wonder how my Aussie plant seeds fared in Turkish soil. Looking into these azaleas by my side I wonder with a chuckle if there might now be Aussie “kangaroo paws” flourishing in the gardens of Sivas.
I wonder what I’m supposed to do now with the entire Turkish chapter of my life. As yet another local Aussie couple wander by, nod their heads and mutter G’day, I wonder once again….where do I belong? Melbourne? London? Turkey? Sometimes I think the answer is nowhere, other times I think it’s everywhere.