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Being Looked After - Turkish Style

by Lyndie (10/24/2005)

Being Looked After - Turkish Style

I recently spent one week in Ayvalik with the family of the boy we are hoping to sponsor to come to England and I wanted to share my experience of him ‘looking after’ me while I was there. I also spent 4 days with him in the summer. I have put these points in the forums, but someone suggested it would make a good essay, so here goes.

First of all let me say that I am a mature, independent professional from England. I have been married twice, have four children and am normally an efficient, strong, competent person. I look after myself normally, travel alone, drive, stay out late drinking, dancing and socialising with my friends (yes really :) and come home alone!), receive a good salary, manage my own bank account :), supervise serious offenders (criminals) in the community, receive regular self defence classes from the police. Have my own house blah blah blah….But by the end of the week of being ‘looked after’ – I felt like a fumbling idiot who could not be trusted to pay my own bus fare! Let me tell you all about it.

I had gone to Ayvalik to accompany my friend to his Visa interview at the British Embassy in Ankara. Although I couldn’t attend the interview, he is quite a nervous person and I felt my presence was needed to calm and reassure him. It was the second time I had been to stay with him without my husband, but the first time he was working and we didn’t’ spend much time outside together. From the minute he collected me at the airport in Izmir, complete with big bunch of flowers, I couldn’t do a thing by myself or for myself. This certainly had an ‘upside’ because I didn’t really have to worry about anything. I didn’t have to carry a bag or suitcase or shopping. On occasions he would even carry my handbag for me.

BUT

When we went into a shop when I wanted to buy something, he would always do the talking; before we went in he would ask me what I wanted and then buy the item I wanted. I could easily have done this myself, it would have taken longer and I would no doubt have made a few mistakes in my Turkish, but I could have done it. Indeed on a couple of occasions when I managed to ‘escape’ and go out by myself, I DID do my own shopping :).

Mostly he paid for the things I wanted, but when I was paying myself, he would take my money off of me and pay anyway. ‘Always saying, quickly put your money away… quickly’ as though there were a thief standing behind me. (There never was by the way).

I always had to walk beside him. If I wandered too far ahead by myself, he would call me back to his side. If I got too far behind him, he would wait for me and tell me to hurry up to walk with him. He told me that everywhere I went people were ‘looking at me – especially men!’ He said he didn’t know what it was, but always everywhere we went men were looking at me! (He said). If there were lots of men around he would put his arm around my shoulders and keep me close by his side. After a while I started to feel intimidated by the other men and yet we were in the middle of Izmir and I would not have felt intimidated by other men had I been on my own. If we were in a restaurant or café and he would ask me if I wanted to go to the toilet. If I said yes then he would take me and wait outside for me. One time, he was busy and I started walking to the toilet by myself and he called to his brother to take me. Always I didn’t have to pay the money for the toilet because he would pay this also.

Because it was Ramazan, we would eat breakfast at 4am and then go back to bed, the whole family (including me) would get up when we woke up. I would always wake up first and by the afternoon, I would be feeling restless and needing to exercise. I would want to go out. One day everyone was wearing their indoor ‘comfort clothes’ and I got dressed to go out. Everyone was shocked. ‘Where are you going?’ they all wanted to know. I explained that I had to go outside because I was feeling restless. My friend couldn’t understand this. He was now in a shocking dilemma. He was helping his mother prepare our evening meal – because this was ‘Iftar’ (special Ramazan evening ‘break fast’ for those of you who don’t know this) there was a lot of work. He didn’t want me to go alone, but it was difficult for him to go out himself. I didn’t give him a chance to put his ‘outside’ clothes on, I just said I was going and I would be back soon. He was very distressed by this, but what could he do – I went. When I got back he wanted to know everything. Where did I go? What did I do? Who did I talk to? Blah blah blah…He even said that when I left I did not go towards the Centrum I went off in the opposite direction – true, but only because at that time I didn’t know where I was going to go. The point being is that the minute I was outside he was running round the balcony watching where I went.

On another occasion I did the same thing and said I was going up the mountain. I was told that this was very ‘dangerous’ as there were dogs, wolves and ‘bad people’ who had been taking drugs. I asked him how many people had been attacked in the last 5 years by dogs, wolves and drug crazed ‘bad people’ and unsurprisingly he didn’t know. (no one I’d guess!). This time, he watched me from the balcony and after I’d been up the mountain and down again, I met him coming up looking for me.

When we went to Ankara on the bus, he never ever left my side. He bought my food, water, tea, coffee everything.

He held my hand going up and down stairs and when I crossed the road, he never let me go until we were on the other side. Always he was telling me to be careful. He said that I never looked where I was going; always I was looking at the floor. When I pointed out that this was because the roads were so full of holes, rocks and big steps, if I didn’t look at the floor I’d fall over something, he said yes that was true and that I was very clumsy!!! CIK!

By the end of the week, we’d been together virtually every second and I was so completely ‘looked after’ that I began to feel like I couldn’t function at all unless he was there ‘helping’ me.

He served my food and told me how to eat it. He poured my tea and told me to be careful I didn’t burn myself on the glass. He told me what to wear, so no men would look at me (more than they already did!) and even when I took off my shoes at the front door, he would hold my arm (I’m guessing so I wouldn’t fall over while I was doing it!).

Well as I said by the end of the week I felt as helpless as a baby. When he saw me off at the airport and I had to be alone, I felt so disempowered I felt nervous about travelling back to London on my own. Fortunately, I soon became my ‘old’ self and carried my own bags, paid for my own shopping, found my plane all by myself and got back home without falling over, getting robbed, raped or attacked by dogs, wolves, drug addicts, burning myself with my tea or anything else!

So, how did I feel about all this? Well I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. I did. I had never in my whole life felt so cherished and precious. Never before had I felt so loved and cared for.

BUT

I could see two things happening if this treatment continued. Either I would end up like a complete idiot, unable to do a thing for or by myself. OR (more likely) we would end up having many fights about it as I struggled to regain my independence. We did in fact, have a couple of small arguments about it and always I backed down and ended up apologising for making a fuss because he was so distressed at my rebellion. ‘What is wrong with you?’ I am just trying to keep you safe’ – ‘Why don’t you listen to me? It is so dangerous for you’ – ‘You don’t understand what it is like here, you must do as I say for your own safety’ – blah, blah, blah!

I also think that if I were there for any length of time with him, he would totally be in charge of what I wore, when I came home, when I went out, what I ate, drank and did. I’m sure of it, and it would all be for my own good.

He’s going to be in for a shock when he comes to England, because I’ll be the one holding his hand when we cross the road, because he’s had no experience of being in a country where they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. I have travelled all over Europe and am well able to make the changes. Of course I have also driven in other countries on the ‘wrong’ side of the road too, but he forgets this when he holds me on the road so I don’t get run over. Actually, I’ll be the one ‘looking after’ him – and I’m going to enjoy that….

 





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