“How many more times can I possibly do this?” was the question that went through my head as I left my grandmother’s house in Gaziantep, Turkey at 5 o’clock of a pitch black morning. The question in my head would eventually become “how many more times can I move my life across massive distances before I lose all sense of home?” as the taxi drove me through empty streets before the lights of Gaziantep Oğuzeli Airport appeared in the horizon. Security checks, a cup of tea along with something airports call “food” and several announcements later, I am in the air going to London – the identical routine I went through before I left for Sydney, Toronto, Frankfurt or The Hague.
Despite the loud humming of the jet engines I think back to the first time I tried to answer the very same question. Overlooking the hills of Ankara that time I had said that being a nomad wasn’t as easy as buying a plane ticket and then arriving at the airport. Now I realise though the moving part is really not at all difficult. Leaving things behind is.
How many of us ever wondered what “homesickness” actually is? Some would say it is simply to miss friends and family back home. But could it be that what makes homesickness difficult to deal with is the pace at which things change in our lives? One moment I was enjoying Turkish food, fast forward a few hours later and I’m lying in an unfamiliar bed with fish and chips next to me and no one to talk to.
In a matter of three hours my life had moved from one place to another. It’s reason enough to feel lost.
Although my family has British links, I am relatively new to London – having only visited before, but never stayed. It comes as no surprise therefore, my views on the city are those of a fresh immigrant. It only took me about an hour to realise that underneath all the hustle and bustle of the city centre and the never-ending night life, the city is based on some weird order. In what could best be described as a series of lemmings roaming around, people quietly, efficiently and in a speedy manner go from one place to the next, avoiding humanly contact as much as possible. It is a very big change for me, having lived recently in Sydney where the sunshine seems to make people want to spend the effort to make conversations with others standing at a pedestrian crossing.
In an overwhelming reflection of its skies, Londoners seem to stand the middle ground between black and white: not too friendly, not too hostile. This is somewhat sad though – most of us here don’t realise that striking up the smallest of conversations at random can put a smile on the face of the person we are talking to. We all like to feel that someone cares about us, so why not make that known by asking the simplest of questions “how are you?”
London, while proud to be one the pinnacles of business in the world, is clearly at risk of losing some of its human qualities. It should be the duty of all of us to stop, listen and take notice of others around us instead of whizzing past – rushing from work to work for what should ultimately be less important than humanly interaction.
Şeref İşler is a broadcast journalist at the BBC World Service’s Turkish section.