As a nation of 80 million people, including many expat foreigners, 2016 has been a terrible year for the country of Turkey. Quoting Queen Elizabeth’s famous phrase, it has been our “Annus Horribilis.”
This is Latin and means “horrible year” but this description is mild.
We have endured a series of devastating attacks in the central cities and in our busiest airport. Babies washed up on our beaches, refugees died in our seas, a war reignited in the south-east, thousands of people were imprisoned, refugee camps are full up, and the list goes on and on.
Then there was the night of July the 15th and a failed coup.
In many ways, I still can’t believe it happened. I thought coups were a thing of the past in Turkey. When news first broke on Facebook and Twitter, I assumed it was a sick hoax.
An hour later, I was convinced that the country was headed for civil war.
When I woke up the next morning, it was all over but in the days, that followed, I read everything and anything about the situation.
I tried to understand what had happened but more importantly, why. I tried to figure out what direction, my beautiful country of Turkey was headed in.
I ended up more confused than ever before.
So, I stopped reading and decided what will be, will be.
This age old saying brings with it, a weird sense of inner peace. As if you are flowing with the tide instead of fighting against it.
It is the only thing you can do, when events and circumstances are out of your control.
My Year in Turkey : Was it Blissful Ignorance?
Despite all the turmoil of 2016 and the repercussions for my adopted homeland, it has for me, been one of my best years. Aside from visiting Cappadocia, Amasya, and Hattusa, I haven’t travelled as much as I previously did.
Instead, I felt an overwhelming desire to be more homely. I learned how to relax by simply doing nothing and don’t feel guilty about it either. I spent a lot of time practising mindfulness and getting to know more about myself as a person. I even fostered a dog, which surprised many people including me.
At some point, I also realised that if I did not read newspapers or follow social media, I wouldn’t know about any of the devastating events that had happened in Turkey including the coup. This mentally helped me to separate my life from what was happening in the rest of the country.
While people in Ankara and Istanbul witnessed military tanks in their streets, and listened to thunderous turbo sounds from low flying jets, many of my friends either slept through the coup or were in a bar blissfully unaware of what was happening.
I know from local media that the coastguard brought in a few refugee boats to our town this year, but I’ve never seen any bodies washing up on the beach. Cities in the south-east have been under curfew, many people are in prison, and countless others have lost their jobs.
Yet I come and go as I please and still have an income.
I gave money to a few Syrian refugees begging in the town, but we don’t have large camps of desperate people who need food, water, clothes, money, and somewhere to sleep. They are thousands of miles away on the other side of the country.
You may accuse me of living in blissful ignorance or denying reality. Some people have also been disturbed by the fact that I still promote travelling in Turkey. One person on Twitter asked if I was playing a cruel joke.
But my days really have been routine and pleasant. I’ve spent them on beaches, sailing on boats, exploring ancient ruins, or socializing in restaurants with good friends.
I am not alone either. Thousands have enjoyed good holidays in the country and Turks have likewise flocked to the beaches and restaurants at the weekends.
If anything, this year in Turkey has been damn good and incredibly kind to me. This is because, at some point, I also became a firm believer in the traditional saying of “There but for the grace of God go I.”
When you practise gratitude, it becomes plainly visible just how lucky you are in life.