Footprints

When I asked for volunteers for the story/photo collaborations, I was delighted when Suzanne over at the travelbunny stepped up as I have long been an admirer of her work, particularly her Turkish pictures which remind me of sunshine days and happier times. In fact I have one of her pictures as a screen saver on my laptop to lift my spirits on blue days. I’m grateful that she agreed and I hope you like her pictures as much as I do.

On one of my forays into Didim shopping centre, I decided to browse the Saturday morning market on my own. Not always an easy task, as most of the stallholders spoke little English. This particular morning as I was struggling to understand a wizened old lady selling chillies; an American woman seeing my discomfort translated for me in fluent Turkish. She was a stunning looking mature bohemian lady who exuded style and joy. I’d seen her a few times weaving around the market in her big floppy hat and designer sunglasses, stopping for a chat and smile here and there, or to make a purchase. Her laughter was musical and infectious which matched her sunny disposition.

“Call me Nia” she said “Back home it’s actually Lavinia, but that’s not so lovely is it” she giggled “But then that’s the beauty of being an expat, you get to start over. I’m guessing you’re not a holiday maker judging by your purchases so if you live here I’m guessing………….it must be for a Turkish man.Let’s catch a çay over there in that café and you can tell me all about it. I’m a romance junkie so I’m dying to hear your story”.

Over çay I learned that she had lived on her own on the outskirts of Altinkum for several years tending to her animals and garden. She was an American with a family back home but divorced and to her regret, she said that she’d never had any children but as she had travelled the world so much, she’d never settled down long enough to start a family. She had flown to Turkey after the breakdown of her last marriage, become enchanted by its magic and somehow never left.

 

“Dallas, life isn’t all about playing safe, but of course, you already know that or you wouldn’t be here. It’s about finding what makes you happy and doing it; and if you happen to find someone along the way that you love and loves the same things you do, then you’ve found the secret to happiness. Even if it’s only for a short while but grab it with both hands whilst you can and when it’s over move on with thanks in your heart for the love you’ve received”

I thought then that perhaps that was a maudlin thing to say but didn’t dwell on it too much as Nia soon had me laughing with tales of her Turkish neighbours. She told me that she lived on the outskirts of Maveshir on the sea front and suggested that I visit her.

So a few days later, Ahmed dropped me off at her house on his way to the Cash & Carry. We stopped en route once or twice for directions and when we pulled up, I was amazed to see that she lived in one of the whitewashed beachfront villas that I had so admired. The surrounding gardens were also lovingly cultivated and full of the colourful Mediterranean flora and fauna that I had become accustomed to. As I opened the gate I was greeted by two street dogs that Nia had adopted and as with many a rescue animal, I never failed to be amazed by their trusting natures despite their often poor treatment at the hands of humans.

Nia was gardening and shouted a greeting so I made my way to the front of the villa to where she was tending her plants. The view was breath-taking and I felt that I arrived in a Mediterranean oasis and each time a breeze blew past me, I caught the heady fragrance of the surrounding flowers and citrus trees. I envied Nia her little Turkish paradise and as she finished up weeding her little vegetable and herb plot, her face was aglow with pride and contentment. I could tell that she was completely at ease with her surroundings and had clearly found the secret to her joy.

I followed her inside where she suggested we sit down and indulge in some of her homemade lemonade. The villa was every bit as stunning and stylish as the outside, framed pictures filled the walls of her villa, which was simply but tastefully decorated. She seemed to have had her picture taken with nearly every Head of State over the past twenty years not to mention a few celebrities. One of her ex-husbands had been a diplomat she explained and they had travelled extensively. She laughed when I enquired about ex-husbands and explained she had three but the real loves in her life she had somehow never got round to marrying. She admitted she was a free spirit and had married to keep her old Bostonian family happy but regrettably it hadn’t worked out and neither had any of her other marriages but she remained on good terms with all the men that had been an integral part of her life. She confided in me that she lived here alone but she said that although it had taken her a lifetime she had at last found real peace and didn’t miss her old lifestyle at all.

I saw her frequently over the next year or so; often we’d meet up for a çay and a chat. She had a way of making shopping expeditions so much fun and I was grateful for her continued friendship. As summer rolled into Autumn she cancelled a few of our outings claiming a migraine but the next time I saw her, I knew that it was something far more serious although she laughed it off with her usual charm. I noticed that she tired easily when we did meet up and our days out would be cut short as she excused herself on some pretense or other. As we took leave of each other at the end of another successful shopping trip, she hugged me fiercely and said

“Remember Dallas, we pass this way only once and life is far too brief to spend one moment being bitter or regretful”.

Of course, I didn’t know it at the time but that would be the last time I saw my good friend. A short while after she disappeared from my life as quickly as she had swept in without fuss or ceremony. I heard that her family had come and taken her back to Boston; her phone was disconnected and her villa deserted with the “For Sale” sign hanging forlornly outside. All traces of my vibrant friend were just an echo now and I wondered whether the next owner would cherish it as much as Nia had. Hellos and goodbyes are such an integral part of life in Tinky Town and many friends pass through and touch your lives for such a short time but with such heart which makes them hard to forget along with the lessons which they taught you.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same

― Adlai E. Stevenson II

turkish garden

85 thoughts on “Footprints

  1. Another one of Dallas’s beautiful little stories! It struck a chord with me for various reasons….. diplomatic wife, living here there and everywhere, trying to make friends in the shortest of time (because the next posting is already penciled in) and the sad bit, having to leave, knowing that one will never see certain people again – which can be heartbraking. Carina 🙂

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    • Morning Carina it’s 6.27am here! I found the goodbyes really hard because you become so attached to people and they become so important to you for the short time that they are in your life – thank you as always for your kind words and hope all is well with you and the family

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  2. Beautiful story, Dallas and it truly resonates the meaning of being an expat. How two strangers can become instant friends and bond in a far away place, each with their own unique story and all because they speak the same language.
    And how they can then disappear from your life just as fast as they came into it… It is both happy and sad…

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  3. Suzanne’s pictures are perfect, Dallas! Such a sad ending to your lovely story of Nia (I agree, it’s a fabulous name, and why not choose your own? I’ve been toying with giving mine its’ correct Welsh pronunciation when I go back to Oz.). who reminded me of Katherine in Under a Tuscan Sun. She gave you good advice too – all of us – about enjoying what’s special and knowing when to let go and get on with the next phase of our lives. 🙂

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  4. Some special people may not stay long in our lives but they leave a lasting memory. Lovely to see how the photos have been intertwined with your narrative. I loved going through the pics as it brought back some lovely Turkish memories. 🙂

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  5. Beautiful and poignant Tink…she sounds like a treasure. It was a blessing for you (both) that you met. Suzanne’s photo choices are perfect! Her added layer of the simple beauty of the land and its people brought a calmness to the underlying sorrow of losing such a friend. The tone and tenor of your story with the background music softy playing through Suzanne’s eyes…one can easily believe that Nia lived her own advice…we all could learn from her. Well done, both of you.

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    • Beautifully written Rhonda and thank you as you know I have loved my collaborations with you and very much looking forward to the next challenge. DIY ‘ing this week but hoping if I make enough progress to give myself the weekend off so will then be on it like a car bonnet

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    • I feel that had Nia been around for longer then a true and lasting friendship would have grown between the two. This has really got me thinking about the story behind the story here. Thank you for your comments 🙂

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  6. Is this just a story? Or is Nia for real? She reminds me of a character in a movie I saw once. I can’t remember which movie, but I do remember the mysterious character (with the floppy hat). I really like how the pictures give dept to your story. It makes it very real. Great collaboration again!

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  7. Dallas, What a lovely, touching story that had me smiling … then sighing. It must be every woman’s dream to reach a point in life where’s she’s described as a “stunning looking mature bohemian lady who exuded style and joy” – well at least it’s my dream. You write so beautifully and Suzanne’s gorgeous photos are a wonderful accompaniment to the story. Thank you both for giving me something to ponder. All the best, Terri

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  8. A profound post on the beauty of friendships In the end, we only remember our connections to others..Perhaps if we knew how much we could influence people for the good, we would think differently, more intuitively, more generously.

    Lovely!!!

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    • I’d had all sorts of warnings from fellow expats suggesting that I got to know people a little better before elevating them to friend status but she oozed warmth and sincerity so it was enevitable that we became good friends

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  9. She’s so right. We only pass through this place once and we can’t waste a minute of it. Perhaps it takes the passing of many years to make us realize that. She sounds like a simply lovely person and one I’d like to have known. And the photos are wonderfully evocative of the story.

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  10. I love this story – I have met so many people that have come and gone in my life of travels… I call it “the curse of the expat”. You never would have met such individuals if it wasn’t for a nomadic, transient lifestyle, but as soon as the wind changes or the visas expires everyone scatters and you must start all over again, some place else. Nothing can take away the memories though…

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  11. Beautiful story, Dallas.I know I too would have loved to meet up with Nia, even if only for a short while. Your descriptions of her and the beautiful villa garden, paint a vivid picture, along with Suzanne’s brilliant photos.

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  12. Yes, your life would be less rich without it, Dallas, and look where it’s led you now. I loved this! The people who touch us along the way, expat or otherwise, are what it’s all about.

    I think I still need to go back to the beginning with this, because I’m not sure whether you are telling real life stories (very beautifully) of people you’ve met, or whether they can be pure fabrication. Though of course the characters we build are all based on experience, be it our own or someone elses. Well done to you and Suze- it works brilliantly. Off to find Rhonda now. 🙂

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  13. We should all look out for the ‘Nia’s ‘ in life as they are prepared to share and encourage. Special people who take time to enjoy the beauty in a moment, a chance meeting, a bee, just something we might miss if we don’t stop and just experience a moment.
    I believe all meetings have a meaning and this meeting with Nia has been a meeting shared and enjoyed by many. Congrats and keep your eyes out for another Nia.

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    • I like the idea of all meetings having a meaning for us and I know that I have been incredibly blessed to have met some truly wonderful people on my travels and I hope, God willing, that I will get to meet a few more

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  14. This is my favourite of all your collaborations so far Dallas, possibly because of the element of reality in the story. And of course because I can’t have too much of Turkey or of Suzanne’s wonderful Turkish vignettes 🙂

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