Guest blog by Mahide Uz
You have no idea where life will lead you. You make plans, but they don’t always come to fruition. I had planned to retire as a literature teacher from the school where I had worked for ten years. I got up like most people, made breakfast for my husband, kid, and myself, and then went to school. When I got home in the evening, I would watch the news and feel sad for the individuals who took to the paths and traversed the oceans and deserts to survive, risking everything.
Overnight in 2016, I had the shock of my life and my country turned into hell for me. In 2021, I had to leave my own country. I was in London during Covid. I couldn’t sleep because of being separated from my mother, my father, my beloved husband and my two little children, my past being erased in one day, and the terrible things I experienced in my country. As soon as my quarantine days were over, I started going out every day and walking for hours every day to avoid going crazy in the hotel room. At that time, the money the government gave me was only 8 pounds a week. Even though I wanted to, I couldn’t use the bus much. And most importantly, I couldn’t speak English.
First, I discovered the libraries around me, then I learned that municipalities provide education in English. I was walking everywhere. I was taking photos everywhere I went. I felt lucky if my destination was an hour’s walk. When I was tired, I would sit in a park and take photos of the beautiful landscapes, squirrels, seagulls and swans I saw. I was sending these photos and videos I took to my children.
In September 2021, the Women for Refugee Women group, where I took free online English classes, invited me to drama classes at the Southbank Center in Waterloo. Moreover, they covered my travel money and I attended drama class every Friday. I could go more places now. After class, I would walk for hours and discover new places. I was visiting museums. There isn’t a single place in London that I haven’t visited in two years. I started writing poetry with the encouragement of my teacher Rebecca in drama classes. My poems were very appreciated and I started to be invited to some events and universities. Maybe I even went to places most people don’t go. My life had taken a different shape. I used every money I had to improve my English. My English was improving rapidly.
I stayed in the hotel for 21 months. The desperate woman who entered the hotel 21 months ago was not the same as the woman 21 months later. I could talk about my problems and express my feelings.
Four One Eight
I forgot my name
Really what was my name
Who am I
What am I
What am i waiting for
In a hotel, in a room at the far end of the hotel
My fears, my sorrows and most importantly my longing
Four one eight
Dirty bed, dirty room
And broken psychology
On 25 April 2023 the Government placed me in a share house in Swindon. As you know, we as asyluum sekeer are ‘NO CHOICE’. As soon as I came here, I immediately met The Harbor Project and thanks to them, I met many new people in a short time.
You are ‘no choice’
I shuddered when I first heard it
That’s why I fled my country.
I’m this old and
Still have ‘no choice
I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt my pain.
Why did I tell you these? This is how my Google guides story began. I started sharing photographs 2 years ago in October. With my limited resources, everywhere I went to get rid of depression inspired me with admiration. I took photos of everywhere I went, wrote my comments and shared them on Google Map. I am now my Google guide and the best photographer on Google Maps in the UK. I have over 12 million views and 10s of followers. I didn’t put much effort into this. I wanted to share very beautiful places and very decent workplaces with people. One day
I saw how difficult it was for a mother with a baby to live in an underground street because there was no lift. Another day, a rough workplace. (I was crying all day because they treated me badly because I was a refugee) and I wanted to warn people. The comments I wrote and the photos I took must have been appreciated. My photos are viewed by thousands of people a month.
Being a guide and photographer on Google Map makes me happy to help people. This is completely voluntary. Sometimes someone may ask a question on Google Maps and you can help them. People decide whether going somewhere is suitable for them or not based on your comments. Some businesses respond immediately to my star rating. Also, writing everything in English and trying to write in English has improved my English a lot. Helping others made me very happy.
In a few days, I’ll turn 40. Everything I’ve gone through, good and terrible, has taught me a lot. But I’m not going to get into the specifics of 40 years right now.
During my 27 months as a asylum seeker, I discovered:
- No matter how bad your circumstances are, find something to keep yourself busy and make you feel positive.
- Don’t expect someone to help you while you’re lying in your room. Nobody will come. Take action and find someone, explain yourself.
- You may not know English. Remember, speaking is not the only way to communicate. Speak with your heart first, and after a while your tongue will begin to speak on its own.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t be ashamed. People learn by making mistakes. People will understand you and help you learn.
- Rude people exist everywhere. Accept this. It’s not your problem that the other person is rude, it’s the rude person’s problem, he doesn’t have his share of humanity.
- You wouldn’t want to be an Asyluum sekeer or a refugee, but accept it. Yes, what we experienced was very bad. But now focus on the future, on the good days.
Just because you need help right now doesn’t mean you can’t help someone else. Sometimes a small touch you can make to people’s lives can be very valuable. Just like the people who support us voluntarily touch us.
See Mahide’s photography on Google Maps here 🙂