It's always exciting, albeit a little strange, and I am expecting another dose of reverse culture shock which, in some ways, is more difficult than the shock of moving to a new country.
You adapt to the rhythm of a place; its pace; its mannerisms; in some way, its language- you begin to merge with the culture. And then suddenly you're home, and the familiarity of it all is strange. Your wild, Mediterranean style gestures and blatant disregard for road (and most other) rules are suddenly out of place. You feel like a foreigner all over again.
And then come the questions. Now, in no way do I expect people to know the ins-and-outs of Turkish culture, politics and history, but there are a few basic questions which I am frequently asked which I thought were worth tackling prior to departure:
- Isn't it Dangerous? Compared with every other nation I have been to, I can honestly say that I feel safest in Turkey. Violent crimes are few and far between and apart from the odd bag snatch, Istanbul is generally a very safe city. That said, of course it's wise to avoid certain areas at certain times.
- What's it like to ride a camel? I wouldn't know. Apart from the rather odd camel wrestling competition on the Aegean coast of Turkey, one would be hard pressed to find one of these fine beasts here.
- Aren't the men creepy? On the whole, no. Just like anywhere else there are some notable creepers, but on the whole I find Turkish men kind, generous, honest and respectful of women.
- Do you have to wear a burqa/headscarf? No. Turkey is a proudly secular state, and only a portion of the female population wears a headscarf, which certainly does not include me, apart from if I'm entering a mosque. And they are banned from most state institutions.
- Aren't you sick of kebabs? Despite what the many 'Turkish' kebab joints all over the world seem to suggest, there is much, MUCH more to Turkish cuisine than kebabs. And it's delicious.
- How are your belly dancing skills coming along? They aren't. Belly dancing didn't originate in Turkey, nor is it really even possible to see- apart from at exorbitantly priced tourist shows.
- How's your Arabic? Non-existent. Turks speak Turkish, a unique language which has its origins in Central Asia and adopted a Latin script following the foundation of the Turkish republic.
- So you've been to the ANZAC Day commemoration at Gallipoli? No, and I don't intend to. Hanging out with a bunch of loud and drunk Commonwealth country backpackers while they trash a stunningly beautiful area of Turkey is not at the top of my list.
- You mean it gets COLD in Turkey? Yes. Istanbul has a Mediterranean climate, which means cold, rainy (and occasionally snowy) winters. And out east, well, that's a much chillier story.
- ? Well, I confess to getting tired after 9. You tell me.