Met in November in Istanbul, at the start of their journey in Turkey, Émilie and Davy Sanchis are currently continuing their journey for inclusion through sport for people with Down syndrome in Azerbaijan. Lepetitjournal.com Istanbul wanted to take stock of their Turkish chapter…
We decided to stay there, we felt so good there
Lepetitjournal.com Istanbul: When we met in Istanbul in November, you were planning to stay 3 months in Turkey (the time for the visa). You finally decided to extend, why more in this country than elsewhere?
Emily and Davy: We stayed 5 months in Turkey for several reasons. First, we had to wait for some borders to reopen due to COVID. And we wanted to do it in a beautiful country where we felt good, and like Turkey, a real crossroads of civilizations, conceals historical riches, sublime and very varied landscapes (sea, mountain…), and above all offers incredible hospitality, we decided to stay there, we felt so good there. It was really a crush very quickly! How many times have we been offered tea, always asked how we could be helped, without any “merchant side” or other ulterior motive, of course…
Also, we also wanted to spend the winter without being too cold… But in fact we still got tons of snow in Bitlis because this year, bad luck for us, it snowed a lot at the end of the season.
We always had help in case of problems
We often present the procedure to obtain theikamet (residence permit necessary to stay more than 3 months legally in Turkey) such as the “obstacle course”. Were you able to get it easily?
We managed to get it without too much difficulty (in Mersin), the site is very well done in English, and we found the Turkish administration to be modern. And with all the acquaintances we made in Turkey, we always had help in case of problems (when we were sent from the 3rd floor to the 1st then to the 3rd then to the 1st for example at the office to pay the taxes because nobody didn’t speak English!).
Diversity is the wealth of the world
Can you come back to the highlights of your trip to Turkey?
It’s hard to choose because there are so many :-). Let’s go in chronological order and with different themes!
A moment that meant a lot was our meeting with a Franco-Turkish couple in Istanbul (France and Sinan) who became real friends, and we are in contact all the time, it was really love at first sight 🙂 . They took Emilie in for 3 weeks when she twisted her ankle.
Another memorable moment… The storm on December 30 in Antalya… We only had about 20 km to travel to get to our accommodation, and there was a red weather alert (and we didn’t know it!). There was a big stone that had fallen from the mountain we were coming down from, a road sign torn off, it was raining heavily and it was very windy, sometimes we had to push the bikes because we couldn’t stand on it (great scare for Émilie who wondered if we would be alive for the passage in 2022)! It was impossible to take shelter, there was nothing on the road…
Another highlight of the trip: the discovery of very snowy Cappadocia at the end of January, with incredible landscapes. We often hear about American natural parks, but the grandeur of Cappadocia amazed us!
Very nice memory also of the night spent in a family not far from Diyarbakir, in the countryside near Savur, where after having discussed with a gentleman around a “çay”, he tells us that his brother’s daughter has Down’s syndrome. 21. A nice coincidence, given that our project focuses on the mental handicap for which we have chosen Trisomy 21 as a symbol. The Gunes family, in the village of Tepecik, 350 souls, welcomed us with such a big heart and we were able to enjoy beautiful moments with Melek, 11 years old, carrier of Trisomy 21.
And the snow in Bitlis in mid-March… We understood why Bitlis was called the capital of snow! Then from Bitlis to Tatvan, only 28km, but our bikes froze with the humidity of the snow and the negative temperatures, impossible to shift gears…
The day walking along Mount Ararat at the end of March was incredible, we thought we were in South America, it was so beautiful, it really was for us the most beautiful day of the trip in terms of landscape and we had the chance to have a great blue sky!
And then without chronology of course, all the incredible moments, filled with emotions, spent around the project: at the Tebessum café in Üsküdar during the reception with traditional songs, in Izmir by participating in regional dances, in Silifke or Gaziantep by sharing activities with children, we all learn so much together, diversity is the richness of the world!
Turkey has great examples around inclusion
What conclusions would you draw from the actions carried out around trisomy 21 in Turkey?
Turkey has fine examples around inclusion, both in terms of the desire to highlight the subject in the media so as not to stigmatize, but also by acting with modern, recent and innovative structures, such as in the center for people in disability in Gaziantep, the largest in Turkey.
It is the municipalities and the government that really take over the management of the handicap, they no longer want to entrust it to the private sector because of abuses linked to profit (this is not without reminding us of the current subject in France concerning people elderly…). What governance for disability management and inclusion is a real subject for debate. We had seen many private initiatives so far, and even if there are also some in Turkey, the vast majority are public initiatives (in particular inclusive cafes employing people with Down syndrome or other disabilities, there are many in the country).
For the first time in our lives, we told ourselves that we could live in a country different from France.
All these experiences in Turkey have therefore filled you with enthusiasm…
Yes. Turkey is our favourite, we really fell in love with it. For the first time in our lives, we told ourselves that we could live in a country different from France.
Of course, we had to adapt to a different mode of organization: here our appointments weren’t fixed long in advance like in Europe, we often had “inşallah” as an answer, and we had to a Turkish interlocutor to succeed in getting in touch with the organisations. And we were sometimes called at 11 p.m.! But that’s also what traveling is, it’s adapting with pleasure to the culture of the country without complaining :-). Because if the examples cited above may suggest that it is difficult to organize something, it is quite the opposite: the Turks are impressively adaptable to all situations, we were very impressed! Our Bike up and Down project knows this, because in a few days they can bring together associations, town hall, press and put us on national TV!
After Georgia, we are now delighted to be in Azerbaijan: the land borders are still closed but we have succeeded with our project in obtaining special authorization from the government. The country has very strong ties with Turkey: the two states have described each other as “one nation, two states” (in Turkish: bir millet, iki devlet and in Azerbaijani: bir millət, iki dövlət). The languages are quite similar (and since after 5 months we mastered a number of Turkish words, communication is easier for us here :-). And hospitality too: we find with pleasure the calls to “çay” on the roads!
In a world which today often depicts Islam as a religion that can be “dangerous”, we wish to affirm loud and clear that the Muslim culture of hospitality which takes into account the otherness of the host without seeking to impose convictions really touches us, and is at the antipodes of fundamentalisms.
We’ll adapt, like from the start
What’s next for the trip? Do you still plan to arrive in Noumea in early 2023?
Ha ha! So INŞALLAH! After Azerbaijan, we will head as planned to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan (3,000 kilometers by bike) and after… we will adapt, as from the beginning! China, which was to be the next country, is still closed and according to our sources, a reopening this summer does not appear on the program. We are just afraid of being forced to take the plane once to fly over China… (one of the objectives of our project was not to take it, for ecological reasons) so it will be our joker! In any case, we will make a sign to the Petit Journal to give our news to readers :-).