If life post-kids moves at a speed we don’t see, so too does a life creating a new one in a new country. So often life here has felt trancelike, as though it’s a virtual world that we’re floating by in, waiting for the real one to ground us. Somehow it’s five and a half years since M was born, almost a decade since I first came to Turkey and somehow over a year since we moved back from the UK. It seems just yesterday we were trying cloth nappies on my old dolls and now, somehow, that babe for whom the nappies were intended sits opposite me sipping tea, intently doing maths lessons. From Istanbul to Iznik and the house on the hill; from Turkey to Wales and back again. In some ways these past few years have flown past, in some ways they’re almost a dream.
Baby-fog plays a part in that dreamlike state of time, and so too does depression and anxiety. Identity plays a large role in both. On our dresser sits two pictures. One is of G and I on our wedding day – or my princess dress picture as T calls it; another is of the two of us young and kid-free grinning overlooking the black sea. Never did I imagine that we’d be planning to live close to that photo spot with two gorgeous kids alongside us! Nor did I imagine what it would take to get here or the changes the journey would entail.
The boys and I were looking at videos of life on space stations earlier. While they were entranced with water’s properties in space, my mind wandered to the concept of connection: If you had a six month stint in a world outside this earth would you want to be connected or disengage? I’m not sure I’ve ever figured out how to get that balance right – staying inside life and relationships at ‘home’ while building up a new home right here. In many ways my life here is very much 1950’s housewife and I love every second of it; in others, it’s a disconnect from motherhood as I imagined and I have a hard time letting go of some of that. These two opposing feelings has made life here often feel trancelike, as though it’s a virtual world that we’re floating by in, waiting for the real one to ground us.
Shalwar wearing tomato paste making days and stocking the pantry with seasonal foods; using the word “pantry” as an everyday phrase in our life and tomato paste in almost every meal. Dreams of a chest freezer to hold a years worth of produce and bones to be boiled to broth. Plans for a future where we inshallah (literally) build our own house, and buying a bus as the first stage of that. Driving on the right, tying pashminas into turbans and teaching our sons in two languages…. The funny thing is that while I was waiting, life created it’s own world around us.
The keyboard I’m typing on is the style I grew up with and the keys move smoothly under my fingers. As M learns to type, he’s using the other keyboard – the one with the extra funny letters that still feel foreign to my touch. When we listen to them speak these kids make us smile and chuckle inside. The accents they’re developing and experimenting with are familiar to neither G nor I at once. In English there’s a slight American twang, complete with the cutely (slightly) annoying phrase of “Mom”, whilst in Turkish their syllables are slightly too pronounced, a sure sign English is a mother tongue too. As parents it’s surreal to have to ask your kid what they mean when they throw out a word you’ve never heard, or sing a song you’re still deciphering lyrics to. As kids it must be just as surreal to translate for your parents your mother tongue!
Iznik, though it’s nothing like I thought it would be has grown on me and blessed our lives in many ways. The way village life and town life ebb and flow seamlessly, the historical beauty that’s just everyday buildings; 100 year old yeast rising bread next to Quark breakfast pots and olive oil making those two seem natural friends. Yoghurt that’s homemade, passed along from one neighbour to the other; cute slip-on pumps for a nominal price in the market. Mostly though, it’s Iznik’s ceramics that have made this place alive in my mind and as we’ve lived here it’s almost like the ceramics have moved along matching our pace.
Ceramics in Turkey have a long and treasured past. Iconic, ancient buildings are tiled with Ottoman tiles and every visitor falls in love with the designs. Iznik, when it was Nicaea, is where pottery art really began and as we drive to the weekly market, excavations lie our route as archaeologists unearth more and more ancient examples. When we first moved here, examples of the ceramics could be found in numerous shops throughout the town. Tucked away in cute courtyards surrounded by little shops, the ceramics were (on the whole) ever so slightly modernised takes on traditional styles and products. Visually stunning and gorgeously unique, a wander to these shops conjured up imagines of stairs edged with individual tiles and kitchen counters featuring turquoise fruit bowls. I couldn’t though quite place Iznik ceramics (excepting trinket bowls and candle holders) in a modern style western home. Today, I’m left green with lust as I drag myself out of these shops. Slight alterations to traditional shapes, varied use of colour and alternate takes on original designs..the art being produced in the workshop-come-shops is stunning and I’d love to buy it all.
The boys don’t appreciate much of what I see in the town, but they love this little place all the same. To four and five year old boys the walls are parkour obstacles and the artists, cartoon drawing big sisters. Village days are a chance to run amok without getting into trouble and the produce is simply food – although after seeing M’s face as he crunched his breakfast cucumber, I’m not 100% certain about the latter; it’s likely they do get the blessings of our food. The world to them is a different space entirely to the planet we inhabit together. Even today, as we watched astronauts on the international space shuttle, while they gazed open mouthed at water’s properties in space, my mind was stuck on being in limbo up in space for many months. But that’s the thing really..these “cosmologists” as M prefers to call them, they’re not really “stuck” anywhere. They chose and worked towards getting onto that space ship, and they’re making the most of every minute. I may not have worked towards this, and certainly didn’t plan for it to happen, but this life that’s evolved over the past thousands of days is one I’m learning to enjoy just the same.