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Colin Guest, Kemer

My name is Colin Guest; I am originally from England but now live in Turkey. In 1988, I accepted a contract to work in Turkey, on a hotel complex down on the Mediterranean coast at a place named Kemer. Until moving to Turkey, I had no knowledge of what life was like living there. I was pleased to find that Kemer was in a beautiful location being right on the edge of the Mediterranean, backed by the pine forested Taurus Mountains. The hotel complex was just outside of Kemer and set around several coves next to a long sandy beach, overall it was perfect. As my contract was married status my wife Jenny joined me a month after I arrived here. During the first month of my wife being in Kemer, the company put us into a hotel until they found a suitable apartment. We later moved into a furnished apartment above a Turkish carpet shop in the main street.Before going to Turkey, Jenny and I were thinking of moving to Spain to live. Therefore, I was very surprised that after only being in Turkey for five weeks, Jenny said, “After you finish your contract, why don’t we buy a plot of land and have a house built.” I said, “I thought that we were going to live in Spain.” “No I love it here, “she replied, “Turkey is much better than Spain.”

After mentioning this to a colleague at work he said, “A Turkish friend of mine is looking to find a piece of land to build a house on, why don’t you and he buy a plot of land between you.” He later introduced Jenny and me to Amhed his Turkish friend, who along with his two brothers owned their own construction company. A few weeks after agreeing to buy a plot of land between us, Amhed took us to see some land in a village approx 9 km out from Kemer. As we drove out in the country down narrow unmade lanes lined with orange, lemon and pomegranate trees, I thought that Jenny who was a town girl would not be interested in this land. When we finally stopped and got out of the car, we had to jump across a stream before walking into a field with a number of orange trees growing in it. The land was approx 2,500sm with beautiful mountain views. Amhed asked Jenny what she thought, I was both amazed and very happy when she replied, “This is perfect, and it’s really beautiful.” We bought the plot of land, with Amheds company then designing and building four 3-bedroom houses. That was over twenty years ago and I still live in the same house.

On completion of the house, we arranged for an international transport company to send various items from our house in England over to Turkey. The company promised delivery within two weeks of our goods leaving the UK. In fact, it took nearly three months before our goods finally cleared customs in Istanbul and arrived at our house. It is strange that while some foreigners have trouble shipping personal goods into Turkey, others do not.

Shortly after moving into our new house, we decided that we would bring our dog over from England. At the time, we were paying a family to look for him, who had had him since we first moved to Turkey. Jenny, who later returned to England for a visit, arranged that our dog would come out to Turkey on the same plane as her. He would travel as excess luggage, as this was the cheapest way for him to travel. After meeting my wife at the airport, we were waiting for her luggage to arrive when we heard a sudden commotion. On looking around, we could see that everyone was staring and pointing towards the luggage conveyor belt, on which was a large crate, with a man walking along each side of it. Our first reaction was one of puzzlement, then, we suddenly realised that the crate must contain our dog. At the time he arrived, there were very few dogs in our village, due to him being a large rough collie; he attracted a lot of attention wherever he went. When I took him out for a walk one day, I found a Turkish woman sitting outside our gate, with a camera waiting to take a photo of my dog.

During the first two years of living in Kemer, I worked on the hotel project that on completion became the best hotel in the area. Kemer at that time was a small village in the process of development, with only a few people who could speak English. Many of the shopkeepers and workers could speak German, which was necessary, because 98% of tourists visiting Kemer were German. At first, it was difficult when shopping, but we soon managed to be understood using pigeon Turkish and pointing at what we wanted to buy. Although at the time there were only a handful of English people living in Kemer, we had a very good social life, in the process of which, we made several very good Turkish friends.

Over the years, Kemer has become a very popular resort town with a large number of Norwegians, plus a number of English buying holiday homes both in town and in the surrounding villages. In my village, there is a complex of 40 villas, owned mainly by Norwegians. Many of them have become good friends, with my being a guest at a one friend’s house in Norway.

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Ex President Ozal described the area where I live as being the Monte Carlo of Turkey. Once you have visited here, you will know why he said that. This region known as the “Turkish Riviera” is the country’s tourism capital. What with sun, sea, stunning scenery, inexpensive living costs, no pollution and the warm hospitality of the Turkish people it is like living in paradise. I know that when I draw back the curtains in the morning and look out at the scenic view of the mountains, including a view of the top of one of the longest and highest cable car rides in the world, it makes me feel good to be alive. With over 300 days of sunshine a year and a relaxing atmosphere, it is certainly very different from living in the UK.

Public transport is inexpensive with frequent services of modern air-conditioned buses to all the villages, as well as to Antalya. The bus fare from my house to Kemer, which is approx 9km costs 1TL, with the fare to Antalya, a distance of approx 50 km costing only six TL (€2).

When driving In Turkey you have to be very observant, as there are more deaths on the roads in Turkey than in any country in Europe. This situation is generally due to drivers, driving at too high a speed (both in and out of town) in dry and rainy conditions. Double and single lines normally mean no overtaking, unfortunately that does not seem to apply here. Even when the traffic lights are on green, you have to check before pulling out as some drivers will go straight through them if they think they can get away with it.

As there is very little crime in this area, it is quite safe to walk around without worrying about mugging. You are more likely to find yourself invited into either a shop or a village house for a glass of çay (tea). Turkish people are very friendly and hospitable; you are sure of a warm greeting and made to feel welcome wherever you go. I have found that while shopping, if I accidentally give too much money to a shopkeeper, he has informed me and handed back the difference. Unfortunately, like in all countries you trust some people as you think they are your friends, but it can turn out that they are just after your money. I lost all my money after trusting what I mistakenly thought was my best Turkish friend. While helping him at his restaurant, he told everyone that I was his father, as I helped him more than his own father did; I in return called him my son. However, it turned out that he was just a big conman who has cheated not only his friends but also his wife and her family.

Over the years, I made a number of Turkish friends, ranging from shop boys to successful business people. Any time I have a problem, a simple phone call usually supplies an answer. This is very helpful for me, as although I have lived here for many years I do not speak much Turkish. I put this down to the fact that my wife could speak and understand Turkish very well. I unfortunately took advantage of this and did not bother to persevere when trying to learn to speak Turkish while she was alive.

During the twenty + years that I have lived here, I have traveled to work on a variety of interior finishing contracts in over 12 countries. This enabled my wife who died of cancer in 2007, and I to have a very good life without the necessity of my having to work in Turkey. I have also worked as a volunteer at wild animal rescue centres in South Africa and Thailand, which I enjoyed very much.

For retired people like me, who like a quite peaceful life, living here is very good. However, if you need to work to support yourself, then that is a different story, as you require a work permit, which is not easy to obtain.

On the social side, as there is very little to do in Kemer, I spend more time with my friends, especially with my German neighbours. However, during July and August, when the temperature can be in the 50s, most friends either go on holiday, or do not visit here. For social activities, I find it best to travel over to Antalya, which is the fifth largest city in Turkey.

Although the cost of living here has risen over the past few years, due to very low taxes it is still far cheaper when compared with the UK. With mainly sunny days, plus having solar electric hot water, my electricity bills are quite reasonable. In this area, the gas supply is by means of gas bottles, used mainly for cooking. A standard refill bottle costs approx 60TL and normally lasts me for between two-three months. One of the most expensive items here is petrol, which costs more than in the UK. Cars also are more expensive here, with the price of second hand cars very expensive compared to those in the UK.

Since living here apart from when I had double pneumonia, which I caught while on a visit to the UK, my general health has been very good. I put this down to plenty of sunshine, a Mediterranean diet and daily exercise of taking my dog out for a walk before breakfast and again before dinner.

I find that there is very little to dislike here, but I must admit that the road to my house needs improving. It is full of potholes, and during the winter can be flooded to such an extent that it is impossible to drive out. In general, I am quite happy living here and have no plans at present to move elsewhere, as it would be hard to find somewhere equal or better than where I presently live.

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