As we drove away from the mountain plateau I hadn’t yet realised that my life had almost stood still for a month, I’d often thought of everyone back home but I was in a different world, I was a different person.
I’d left in the middle of the night without knowing my destination and hadn’t been able to get through to anyone before my phone and western luxuries were taken away from me. When we managed to hit the main road I managed to get signal on my phone. I rang my flatmate and the first thing I’d heard was that Michael Jackson had died, then that Katie Price and Peter Andre had broken up. I felt a million miles away. We stopped at a service station and I was very aware I was still wearing my tribal clothes. I had a suitcase full of my own unworn clothes but I’d chosen not to put them on. Maybe my transformation to Yoruk girl was sticking.
We arrived at the hotel after the long drive. The crew were talking about going shopping in the local market to buy souvenirs to take home, when I told them I wanted to come too they said I should stay back in my hotel room to sleep. Why couldn’t I go, after all I was gagging to do something ‘normal’ even if it was in another country? Pissed off I retired to my room. When the door shut behind me I suddenly felt really alone but at the same time utterly claustrophobic. Nausea hit me hard in my chest and I made my way over to the bed and lay down to steady myself. I was out for the count.
The next thing I know I’m awoken by the team checking if I was ok hours later. I felt a lot better and a bit foolish for not realising I needed a break before gallivanting around the town. I took a shower for the first time in a month. It felt too hot and alien, it took me 4 goes to get the dust and dirt off me, I remember looking at myself naked in the bathroom mirror for a long time finding it hilarious that I’d got such a brown face and arms but the rest of my body was still very white. I’d put on weight, but I didn’t care much.
The next day the production team got a day in Istanbul before flying back to the UK, this was great. We went to the bizarre where I brought my mum some apple tea and Turkish delight, visited the Blue Mosque and got to eat some absolutely delicious food. It felt good to be a tourist and I remember sitting in a café by Mosque and singing along to Shakira that had come on the radio. I wanted to say here forever, its vibrance and colours were an exciting contrast to the mountains and to see Istanbul with all its conformity’s and traditions really made the Yoruk lifestyle seem old fashioned and romantic.
When I returned home my whole life was upside down, I had no money, I was living back with my mum and desperately needed a job. I’d also decided I didn’t need to wash every day, a hangover from tribal living. Freelancing in television is tough, especially when you’re right at the beginning of your career. I’d given up a good opportunity for a well-paid full time job to go away, as I thought this once in a lifetime opportunity had to come first but now I was picking up the pieces. This next year was time to get my head down, I found a job and worked as hard as I could to begin paying off my debts and finally begin my adult life proper.
Before my show aired I was allowed to see a rough cut. I was nervous as it had been nearly a whole year since I returned back to the UK. I’d behaved like a spoilt brat at times and cried in front of the cameras but you know what as I watched it I realised I couldn’t do anything about it. After all it was the truth. The truth of what happened whilst I was there, warts and all. The night it was due to air I made sure I wasn’t near a TV. I’d planned my drive home so I was on the M25 whilst it was going out. I had spoken about a lot of things whilst I was with the tribe and felt absolutely terrified that I might have embarrassed everyone or spoken about something I shouldn’t. I’m an over sharer at the best of times but I’d really gone to town whilst I was away.
But it all aired and my family didn’t disown me, the papers did some nice reviews and I got lots of lovely emails from people I didn’t know before. A guy at my local pub told me I looked ‘well rough’ on TV but that’s ok. I know I’m braver and tougher than I was before I went, I also know I can sleep in a tent with 9 people for a month without washing. I’d skinned a goat and herded camels. Seeing the sun rise over the mountains as I’d collected firewood for the morning is something I’ll never forget. Sitting with Sedat whilst watching over the goats and trying to teach him to sing Greenday still remains one of the funniest afternoons of my life. My documentary is a just a high quality holiday video and I get to keep it forever.
So here I am, a girl that went to a tribe a few years back. The other day I mentioned an email I’d gotten from someone in Turkey to a friend and they said ‘Still living off that are you?’ Well, yes, I guess I am.