It was almost exactly two years ago that I left Turkey for the United States, never to move back again. Friends would ask me when I was planning to return to Turkey. “Next year, inshallah,” I’d say each time. “But not to live—only to visit.”
A few colleagues had asked me this question, too—an event organizer here, an artists’ manager there—to them, I’d say I had no intention of returning to Turkey for work, unless it was for a really good job.
But there were no really good dance jobs in Turkey. Business at the venue in Alanya where I’d loved performing had dwindled, and the second summer after I’d worked there, it closed permanently. I’d outgrown working the summer hotel circuit in the coastal areas. While it was fun for a few months, it became intolerable as the season wore on. Besides, with the current exchange rate being so unfavorable for the Turkish lira against the US dollar, I couldn’t see any job being worth the move to Turkey, and the stress and frustration that would indubitably accompany it.
Then, I got a call from an old Istanbul coworker. He was working as a manager at a new venue, and he asked if I’d be interested in joining him there. My first answer was no, for all the reasons mentioned above. However when he mentioned the salary, the conditions, the fact that the airline ticket would be provided by the employer, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. Because I’ve been down this road before, I made sure to get a round-trip flight. If things weren’t as delightful as I’d been told, I’d be back in the States on the first thing smoking.
When I got to my new place of employment, I learned that my former coworker, the manager, had exaggerated my salary, so on my second night, I got a 25% pay decrease. He’d also retracted what he’d said about housing being provided by the employer. The manager, who’d brought me into the place, was soon fired for lying. Not to me, just in general.
The stretching of the truth didn’t matter much, though. The boss is fair and generous, my coworkers and work environment are pleasant, and the money is rather enough. I perform every evening in a Turkish-owned Arabic restaurant/nightclub. The customers are mostly Iraqi, but also Syrian, Saudi, Moroccan, and Egyptian, and my tips often exceed my nightly pay.
I’ve been performing at Şehzade for 17 consecutive days, and as with any job, it comes with its highs and lows, but for the most part, I’m quite pleased with the job.