The pandemic has separated families geographically, many international couples are not able to reunite due to visa and financial issues. 7-year-old Elifane from Pamukkale, Turkey, has not seen her mother from Congo in over a year.
Since I relocated, I have always wanted to explore this country more. Due to fear and restrictions, I literally stayed at home for 2 months without leaving. Then, as winter is ending, and news came that restrictions are about to ease, I decided to take a short trip for a much-needed mental break.
A Lovely Village
The reason I chose Pamukkale was that a girl I met in Istanbul was there. She wanted to come to visit me in my city so I decided to go to Pamukkale to pick her up.
She was staying in the village Karahayit, a peaceful hilly village next to Pamukkale. Before I arrived, she had told me all the stories about the lovely hotel owner and his daughter. The room was filled with homemade wine, fresh fruits and balloons. The hotel owner Ilhan was so grateful to have guests staying in his hotel during the hard-hit pandemic.
From Congo To Turkey
Born and raised in Turkey, he moved to Congo for years as a chef in resorts and hotels. He speaks French and fell in love with a Congolese girl there. After having two kids, they wanted to move to Turkey to open their own hotel. As they did, for international couples, sometimes things are not always as easy. Last year, the mother flew back to Congo to visit family and was stuck there since.
Their daughter Elifane is surely a strong character. She is very kind-hearted and would share everything she has with you if she sees you as a friend. But with her experience helping out alongside her father in a hotel, she is not afraid to step up when guests request something unreasonable. Some might even say she compliments her dad at work because Ilhan is just too nice to say no sometimes.
A Motherly Figure
My friend Cia has already been there for 2 weeks before I arrived. She had bonded with the family well. It was not hard to tell that when I came to visit, Elifane saw me somewhat as taking her friend away. After just a short afternoon spent together, she became close to me. She is always asking to hold my hand or come with me everywhere.
At one point, she started calling my friend “mum”. Her father told us she really misses her mother, which is not hard to understand. The pandemic has deterred them from seeing each other. The cost of travelling is too high for regular folks, and the risk too. Like that, the little girl is seeking the motherly love from anyone who steps inside the hotel.
The Lucky Girl
We are going to stay here forever. The day we leave her father will have to find an excuse to send her away, so she doesn’t get upset about us leaving. It may be sad for her to see everyone leaving, but her father believes she is lucky, because she gets the love from around the world.
It’s our last day. He drove us 30 minutes to an underground cave and paid for everything. We wanted to give him the money back, but he refused. The same night, Elifane drew me a painting. I have no idea what she wanted to draw but she said it means we will stay together.
The pandemic has caused millions of families to be away from each other, and countless others to lose their jobs. One day, when the world goes back to normal, the face we all make seeing our loved ones again will be priceless.