It would appear that I can’t help myself from describing things through the medium of slightly altered song lyrics. Sade this time for those of you who haven’t guessed, but as per this isn’t about her.
The other day a friend commented that my blog was an insight to my ‘other life’. I’d never really thought about myself having an ‘other’ life. To me, this is just how it is, it’s just my life, nothing more nothing less, and a pretty dull one at that. Yet it’s got me thinking, is my life split into two parts? I suppose often the idea of an ‘other’ life is something secret, illicit, there’s nothing like that about mine.
I suppose in many respects I do live a sort of dual life, but not for me–I’d be very happy to carry on a more singular existence. It must be what comes of having kids with two parts, in this case Turkish and British/Christian and Islamic. But are the boys experiencing dual lives anymore than any other dual national kids? Perhaps, perhaps not.
M and I are are very committed to bringing the boys up with two cultures not just two passports. Certainly not an easy thing to do, and I have come across many dual passport holders who have a familiarity with their other culture but no great connection to it. OK they speak both languages, but very often few dual nationals I have met really have an equal connection with both of the cultures they are from. I’m not even sure that this is really possible given the constraints that parents face whether financially or legally. In our case flights are expensive as our base here is not in a tourist resort with budget/charter airlines, but more significantly we are restricted by the ever stricter attendance requirements set by the UK government for school age children and the (when compared to Turkey) short summer holidays. We’re also restricted in terms of how we can get the kids to engage in society in the short time they have outside the now dominant culture of the UK.
While in the UK I run around trying to get the kids to see as much of the country as they can, to experience the variety in UK culture. When in Turkey I endeavour to do the same but whittle that they will see it as a place for holidays rather than part of who they are. Frequently I feel a failure because there seem to be no kids for them to make friends with or want to make friends with them–this year we even had a parent tell their child not to play with our boys because they were yanbancis (foreigners, strangers). I battle and say no, speak Turkish, my boys are Turkish.
I wonder if there are couples like us, with children trying to do the same but with Turkey as the dominant culture. Often it’s far more expensive to get to the UK from Turkey than vice versa, and the UK in many respects in more expensive if you earn a Turkish wage, so many of the people I know with dual national kids here can’t afford to spend long periods in the UK during school holidays.
Watching a video, posted by a friend just now, I hear her daughter speaking accented English and imagine that it must be how many hear Smelly’s Turkish. I recall another old friend, both parents Turkish but brought up in London, telling me how on visits to Istanbul family and friends would try to listen out for errors or faults in her accent. She was lucky, they never caught her out, I fear that Smelly will not be so fortunate.
Perhaps I’m over thinking this. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much or try to force a connection. It’s not just me though, M is certainly worried that their not being in Turkey will mean their Turkish identity is less important to them. Coming from a country with such strong dependence on nationalism, where Turkishness is instilled very early on, that would be hard for him to take.
So while I wonder if other parents of mixed nationalities have the same worries, I simultaneously accept that this is the choice we made for ours. Does this mean that we have an ‘other’ life? Perhaps to those left back home when we come here it would seem so, as well as to those in Turkey who view us as the yabanci holidaying couple. But to us, this is just our life. It may seem a bit exotic and different to those who don’t share both parts, though we don’t see it that way–at least I don’t. It has made me wonder though, would I carry on writing this when we go back to everyday life in Blighty, would anyone be as interested in reading it then, what sort of thing would I write if I did decide to do that? Who knows, because I’m still wondering about what this ‘other’ life is.