This is Asli. I am from Istanbul, Turkey. I am a mother of a 4-year-old and a wife, living my not-very exciting ex-pat life in the small town of Daruvar. This is how I have been defining myself for so long since I arrived in Daruvar, Croatia more than 4 years ago.
When you are an ex-pat in Croatia, I believe it is a common question that pops up in locals’ minds what and why a foreigner comes to live in Croatia, especially in a small town/village. As my story goes, I met my Croatian husband 11 years ago when I was working as an English teacher right after a career change giving up academic life to teaching English.
Our worlds collided when we shared the same beliefs, values, and dreams of simple living, high thinking, living on and from land, and building our own home in a place where we would belong, with like-minded people. We lived 5 years of our married life as a teaching couple in Istanbul, meanwhile kept dreaming of finding our place and home to fulfill our dreams. We both cared for fulfilling the purpose of life as what it meant to us, and both of us have been working on cultivating a sense of service ultimately aiming for selfless service and genuine relationships.
I always knew that life back home in Istanbul was not going to be forever because our long-term plans did not suit living in a big city such as Istanbul. As much as we dreamed of a life in an English-speaking country where my husband and I could both function normally without language barriers, I dreaded leaving behind my home, comfort zone, family, and friends. I failed a few times to make the move to start life in a different city than Istanbul.
The home was where I had friends and family. We have had opportunities to go abroad and serve in communities with whom we shared similar values
around the globe, in India, Hungary, and Australia. Living a different life which we chose to live for ourselves in a different culture than our own, meeting people from all walks of life and witnessing in practice how like-minded life, and discovering opportunities in different lands have been matchless gifts.
Life as it does not and will not offer what we always expect. I believe, it requires more courage than we might have, and us to let go of our expectations or comforts, perhaps. Eventually, we wanted to expand our family and have our Croatian family in Daruvar, we pursued our dream of building an eco-building in Croatia and made the move. Experiencing life for better or worse, the idea of going back home soon dissipated.
I have always felt at home and welcome whenever I visited Croatia having family and a few friends I have made over the years during our holiday visits. However, language is still a struggle for me, coming from a city such as Istanbul which lives and breathes 24/7 to Daruvar was like traveling back in time.
Being unemployed with a 4-year-old to care for full-time does not give much room for personal or professional improvement. I feel lucky when I meet other mums in the playground but feel sorry that I cannot proceed into longer conversations or build real friendships without the language. When I was expecting our daughter and had already decided to make the move to Daruvar, all the anxiety due to differences in the health system, the language, and bureaucracy struggles have not been an easy start. Our
plans have changed along the way, and our struggles are increasing daily but we just get more used to things.
I still value living in the peaceful life of a small town, having family, and the possibility of building new relationships. I wanted a different life and my life is different than before. I am still not living the life we truly desire and have been dreaming of, but we are trying.
I believe that service is the core essence of relationships. We serve our senses, our family, and our boss. We give and receive service. chance to travel the world far and wide, but as it happened in my experience; when you get to meet people from different lands and cultures, you should be open to building new friendships, and relationships, benefit from each other’s experiences, and offer& receive each other’s services. People can make a difference. Relationships may bring about a change. At the end of the day, a frog in a well never knows how vast the ocean is outside until it makes the jump. It is the leap of faith and courage that may inspire and touch our lives.