I slutet på november förra året blev jag och min engelska väninna intervjuade av Hello Alanya. Ett magasin för utlänningar i Alanya (Side) Hittade nu i klädkammaren ett exemplar av denna tidning och artikel Den finns även på nätet så jag klistrar in artikeln därifrån om nån vill läsa den. En del småfelaktigheter finns i artikeln. Varken jag eller Joanne är gifta med våra turkar men då alla tror det och för enkelhetens skull lät vi det bli så i artikeln Bilderna dom tog på oss alla blev riktigt fina, tyvärr finns dom inte på nätet så dom kunde jag inte lägga in.
Published in Hello alanya&side Magazine, December 2007 |
Joanne Demirtunç and Karina Isaksson-Ataş are two young mothers in Alanya, married to their Turkish holiday loves. As their children play together in Play Land and talk amongst themselves in a mixture of Turkish, English and Swedish, they tell us about what it is like living in another country and bringing their children up under two cultures.
By Cindy van Vliet |
Play Land, Alanya. A small girl is arguing in Turkish with a boy of similar size. From her body language we deduce that he has got the rubber ball that she really wants. It seems they cannot agree as suddenly they both run to the table where two women are sitting chatting.
The boy jumps onto the blonde woman’s lap and starts telling his story in fluent Swedish. The girl does the same with the dark-haired lady, except this time in fluent English. When the kids have had their say they turn to face each other and continue to exchange words in Turkish.
Meet Alex (3) and Senay (3), son and daughter, respectively, of Karina Isaksson-Ataş, who is Swedish, and Joanne Demirtunç, who is English. Last month Karina sent an email to Hello Alanya & Side Magazine saying that there is a very large group of young mothers of various nationalities in Alanya. They know each other through the crèche and get together regularly in the Damlataş Park. She asked if we fancied writing about that, bearing in mind that not all permanent foreign residents of Alanya are retired. So here it is.
Karina: “The number of foreign women in Alanya who are married to Turkish men and have children is steadily increasing. At the crèche we already have an extremely varied group: all the children are half Turkish and half Dutch, English, Norwegian, Swedish or German. These are kids who grow up speaking two or three languages. Alex is growing up with Turkish and Swedish, but I think he can understand English too. The crèche supervisor told me that a new English boy had arrived who didn’t speak a word of Turkish. But that she doesn’t speak any other language. The boy wanted some bread but she couldn’t understand him. Then Alex went and explained to her in Turkish. Senay also occasionally talks to him in English and he replies in Turkish.”
Alex was three in September. Karina and her husband Hasan met in 2001. “I’d already been to Alanya regularly, but in 2001 I met Hasan when he tried to sell me a jeep safari. We became friends and in the years that followed we would meet up every time I was in Alanya, albeit just as friends. Only when I was here for a month in the summer of 2003 was the spark kindled and we fell in love. That was actually bad timing because Hasan was due to start his national service at the end of 2003 and that meant that we would hardly see each other for fifteen months.”
In January 2004, at the end of his basic training, Hasan had a couple of days leave before being despatched to where he would serve the rest of his tour of duty. He spent these days with Karina in Istanbul. “That’s where I became pregnant with Alex. Whilst it wasn’t planned, of course, both of us really wanted a baby. The thing was that Hasan had to return to the army. He was based in the east, on the border with Iraq and we couldn’t see each other. All I could do every so often was phone his brother who would then try and contact him. That was very tedious. In June 2004 Hasan had a brief period of leave and we saw each other for the first time since I became pregnant. I was about 25 weeks pregnant then. ”
Alex was born in Sweden in September 2004 while his father still had a third of his national service to complete. In the first few months he only knew his son from the photos that made it through to him every so often. Only when he was demobbed in March 2005 did he see Alex for the first time. Karina: “That was a very special time, of course.”
It was also when Karina and Hasan got to know each other better. “We did everything in reverse. First a baby, followed by ‘dating’, then living together and getting married. All very un-Turkish!”
In Joanne’s case everything was rather more planned. She met her husband, Ahmet Demirtunç, in June 2003 when he sold her a trip on his boat, the Dilara. One thing led to another, they fell in love and Joanne flew there and back another three times that same year. That winter Ahmet went to England where they got married and Joanne fell pregnant. “Ahmet went back to Turkey for the summer season but returned to England for Senay’s birth. Straight afterwards, however, he had to go back to Alanya to take his boat to Manavgat for the winter.”
Just like Karina, Joanne made her mind up to go and live permanently in Turkey in 2005. It was a logical decision for both of them as it would be much easier for them to adopt new lives in Alanya compared with their husbands doing the opposite. Ahmet and Hasan both have their own businesses here. Ahmet has a large boat for excursions in the summer season and Hasan owns Sherlock Holmes Jeep Safaris. Joanne: “We knew Alanya prior to meeting our husbands, so it wasn’t a new place for us either.”
Despite this the first year of living here permanently was a difficult one for Karina. Building up her own social network was difficult and consequently she became very attached to Hasan. “I stuck to him like glue and, of course, that frightened him a little. I missed having people around me and friends to go and do things with. Obviously I met plenty of people, but sooner or later most of them leave Alanya again. That first year I was rather distraught and frustrated. ”
Only when she used MSN to start up a group for Swedish girls living permanently like her in Alanya, did everything get better. “At one point the group had 27 members and we began organising things. Now that Alex goes to the crèche also I come across lots of women who live here permanently and have similar lives. That’s how I met Joanne.” Joanne: “We clicked immediately. And because there’s only two weeks between Alex and Senay they also got on fine together right from the start. ”
Their families back home reacted in different ways to their decision to emigrate to Turkey. Whilst Karina’s family was hesitant but understanding, Joanne had to endure criticism not only from her family, but also from other people who knew her. “The stupid thing is that the people who think the worst about Turkey have never been there themselves. I was told things like: ‘the men there are only after your money and want to use you as a visa’. My reply was always ‘what money? Listen, Ahmet runs his own business. He doesn’t need a European bride in order to go to England….’ ”
Joanne and Karina no longer work since moving to Turkey. Karina: “In Sweden I used to work fulltime, but it’s difficult here to get a nice job. Besides Alex is still very young and I think it’s important to spend time with him. Lots of kids near us play out on the street and are only called in when its time to eat or go to bed. Hasan was also raised like that: the only times he and his mother ever spoke was at dinner time, as he was getting dressed and at bedtime. Alex and I love to sit down and have a good chat. It also helps him to learn how to listen.”
Boys and Girls
Alex and Senay’s upbringing is primarily driven by the women. They are being brought up aware of the standards, values and traditions of two cultures. Joanne and Karina say that there hardly any difficulties arise because of the parents’ different cultural backgrounds.
Karina: “Outsiders are often of the opinion that cultural differences in mixed relationships lead to problems, especially when children come along. Whilst that may happen in some cases, Hasan and Ahmet are very European in their outlook and culture has never been a problem in our relationships. Arguments usually result from not being able to speak the other’s language fluently and the misunderstandings that occasionally ensue. But you do get through it. As far as upbringing is concerned… we trust one another and know what each other holds dear.”
Joanne: “I also want to teach Senay about the standards from my own culture. For example, I believe it’s important for her to learn that she can’t always have what she wants.” Joanne laughs. “But whenever I say ‘no’ she goes to her father because she knows he will give her anything. Young Turkish children are like princes and princesses who are rather more easily spoilt compared with back in our own countries.”
Karina: “I want Alex to know that a part of him is Swedish. When he is older I will tell him about the history of Sweden. But he’s too young for that now. I also want to tell him about my country’s traditions, like Easter and Christmas. Obviously we also celebrate the Sugar Feast and Kurban Bayram. Not simply because Hasan considers it important: he may be Muslim, but he is hardly an ardent follower. I’m the one who pays attention to Turkish festivities. I also consider discipline very important for children. You dont see so much of that in their upbringing here. It’s why I teach Alex always to say ‘thank you’ if he eats at someone else’s or gets given something.”
Whilst Karina and Joanne do not know what the future holds in terms of staying in Alanya, it looks like they will for now. Karina: “I was initially worried about whether I’d able to find a good school for Alex. The education system in Sweden is basically very good. However, there are currently several prestigious private schools in Alanya. I also can’t say a bad word about the crèche he now goes to.”
Joanne: “And it’s great living here. The sun is always shining so you can always do things outside. In England you have to plan everything round the weather forecast. The pace of life is also more pleasant here.”
Karina: “In Sweden your work and private lives are kept much more separate. Here Hasan can take Alex for a nice day out at his business. That’s really nice.”
Alex and Senay come running back to the table. They are obviously tired from playing and are hungry. Their mothers talk to them, each in their native tongue. As the kids listen they giggle at each other in between, exchanging a private joke in Turkish…