A few months ago, Lisa Morrow, an experienced travel writer living in Istanbul, contacted me. She had just released a book about Turkish Culture and asked if she could send a copy, for a published review.
I said yes and a week later, received a 162-page book via cargo. Since I am a fast reader, I would easily finish a book of that size within a few days. Her book is not a travel guide but a collection of essays about her experiences as a foreign female living and traveling throughout Turkey. I could identify with every cultural experience she wrote about.
The book about Turkish culture
Lisa’s style of writing is one I greatly admire. Through her words, I was instantly living each chapter, whether it was about Turkish people she met in daily life, or situations such as how the Turks deal with death.
She writes of many things, including the social etiquette of how a woman should behave, a wedding ceremony, the Turkish public health system and the exhausting process of bureaucracy in this country.
However, the opening words of her introduction, provoked emotions that made me wonder if Lisa had a magnifying glass focused on my mind, thoughts and lifestyle.
Living in such a different culture changes a person and not always in ways we may like. It is often confronting and unpleasant. The time comes when the foreigner has a decision to make. Do I immerse myself so completely in my new home that I become a stranger to myself?
Had these words been sent to me by some divine intervention?
If you are a new reader, a quick summary is that last January I was diagnosed with depression and despite making all efforts to overcome it, was left with lasting emotions of doom and gloom. My bucket list to travel to every town, city, and village of Turkey had taken a back seat.
I was constantly searching for a solution, reading any self-help or motivational manual that I could get my hands on but Lisa had provided the answer instantly in a three-sentence paragraph.
I had immersed myself so much into Turkish culture that in turn, I had forgotten about my own personal identity. I was a stranger to myself.
A Cross Cultural Marriage
A seven-year cross-cultural marriage resulted in the loss of my identity. I have always strongly insisted that any marriage, between a Turk and person of another culture should involve comprise by both partners.
Yet, ironically and I am not entirely sure how it happened but slowly over the years, I comprised too much. I changed my religion, adopted a Turkish name, and in adhering to traditional Turkish dress standards for women, had thrown out any piece of clothing that emphasized my bodily shape including my bikini.
My cultural upbringing in the UK had made me a fierce, independent Western woman, with a strong business background, but I changed the way I interacted with men, in order not to upset my husband, or be labelled a loose woman by the neighbours.
I stopped eating pork and participated in ceremonies such as Kurban Bayram, to which Lisa dedicates a whole chapter to. This event involves sacrificing an animal for religious purposes, something in the UK, I would never contemplate doing.
I often read about other travel writers, suffering from reverse culture shock, which is a period of readjustment when returning to their home countries after a lengthy stay in other places. Instead of reverse culture shock, I felt like a cultural f**** up.
But there is another tale….
Lisa’s book is dedicated to her father, Geoffrey James Morrow, who lost a battle with cancer. She states she inherited a love of travel and the need to know from him. This was the second aspect of the book that evoked intense pain and agony for me.
When I announced, many years ago, that I was coming to live in Turkey, my father’s words were inspiring. Everyone else thought I was crazy but he simply said…
Go to Turkey, and do what makes you happy. If it goes wrong, come back and start again
(He also jokingly told me not to marry a Turkish waiter but ironically, four years later, I did just that).
Last year, when I publicly wrote about my depression, I also disclosed that a close member of my family had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Only a few people knew, that the person was my dad and exactly like Lisa’s dad, he too lost his battle with cancer, three months ago.
Exploring Turkish Landscapes
The introduction and main chapters of Lisa’s book forced me to revisit many cultural aspects about my life in Turkey, while the last chapter mirrored a highly painful experience that was out of my control.
However, by the time I had finished her book, I felt a shift in my vibes from negative to positive. I truly believe we create our own reality and for months, I had been moaning about my past cultural choices but then I realised they actually helped me learn indepth about my adopted country, which is what my bucket list was all about, anyway!
I have travelled extensively throughout Turkey and many travel industry professionals and readers have personally emailed me with praise for my work and intricate knowledge of the country. I should be thankful for my past, not filled with regret!
I have a fantastic lifestyle and should not be bitching about events that have prompted me to be creative with my writing and in turn, receive much admiration from readers all over the world!
As for my dad, he may not be here in physical presence but he certainly is in spirit and maybe, it was his doing as to why Lisa sent me her book.
The summary on the back of the book says
“This collection of stories, offers a personal insight into Turkish traditions and beliefs, and also takes us on an emotional journey as one woman rediscovers herself”
Regarding the last words, it is time for me to do exactly that. Rediscover who I am, and be thankful for my glorious life in Turkey, a wonderful country that is my home. It is time to stop being a drama queen!
Who is this book for?
Lisa Morrow is a published author, with extensive knowledge of Turkish life. She is not as famous or well known, as like-minded authors like Orhan Pamuk or Elif Shafak, of whom, both are Turks who have achieved great fame and wealth because of their books about Turkish culture and identities.
However, for me, this book resonated with my life on every level. I have no qualms about recommending it, as one of the best books I have ever read, purely for the emotions it provoked.
People who will personally identify with the content are ex-pats living in Turkey, any woman who is looking to settle into the country and anyone in a cross-cultural relationship with a Kurd or Turk.
Alternatively, if cultural experiences are your main reason for travel, this book will provide a great insight into daily Turkish life and this will enhance your visit to the country.
Find out more about Turkey, by following Lisa on her blog at Inside Out In Istanbul
Read an interview with Lisa by Yabangee