Today’s weather forecast is … crazy!

Oh my fecking God!  Yes it is a little chilly outside but, please, people, calm the feck down. Let’s not lose our head about this.  What is cold anyway?  To those of you visiting from the UK it is in fact rather pleasant in Mersin at the moment.  Yes there is a chill in the air.  There is a fresh layer of snow on the mountain range behind us and yes it was raining earlier in the week but is it cold?  Ummm, I really don’t think so. 

Right now I am wearing short sleeves although I admit you definitely need a cardigan at night.  Around me though people are dressing as if we were dealing with a polar vortex, discussing whether they need to dissect a Tauntaun (sorry nerdy Star Wars reference) and deciding whether to wait it out in the New York library with Jake Gyllenhaal (well alright if you insist).  Sorry folks it is just cold and it is not really all that cold for that matter.

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You know once the weather changes here Turkish people literally lose their minds.  They verily believe that if it is not 400 degrees then you need to layer.  Actually even if it is 400 degrees you still need to layer but not with the same intensity. Cover your back!  Cover your neck!  Do you need a scarf?  *Sigh*

Flash back - middle of summer and I take Daughter and her cousin to the park.  Daughter is running around in shorts and a singlet and Tatli is wearing  – a singlet.  A t-shirt.  A long sleeve top.  And she is carry a jacket with her.  A jacket!  She must keep her jacket with her at all times.  OMG!  It is literally – literally – 400 degrees in the park and Tatli has a jacket!  Calm the feck down people!  Daughter is drenched in sweat in her singlet and is throwing water on herself at any opportunity yet she’s the crazy one?

Truthfully though right now Daughter is sick.  I am told by my kardeş (sister) that it is my fault because I have allowed Daughter to go outside in 25 degree heat wearing her short sleeve school shirt and without woollen stockings.  Diagnosed with akut bronşit (bronchitis) she has spent the past few days in bed.  Actually that is not accurate.  She has in fact spent the past few days lying around on the couch, surfing the internet and watching old episodes of Pretty Little Liars.  She has been prescribed a butt load of medicine (which she is, of course, taking reluctantly) although the clinic doctor is well aware of how I feel about enjeksiyonlar (injections) so he refrained from prescribing the Turkish equivalent of a headache tablet – the all secretive aşı (vaccine).  This “vaccine” is suggested every single time I go to the clinic.  What is this secret shot?  God only knows but I can assure you I am not pumping Daughter with some unknown aşı by our neighbour whose official title is “village injector”.  Trust me Doc once the antibiyotik kicks in you certainly don’t need the magical aşı pumped into your ass twice a day for a week!

So yes it is a little chilly here. Will Daughter wear a jacket next week?  Probably.  Is there a Snowpocalypse forecast?  No, but if you are coming to Mersin in November, bring a cardigan alright?

Rant over.

My Favourite Things

I came across a blog by an expat recently who talked about bringing enough personal items to your new homeland to make yourself feel really comfortable in your surrounds and it struck me as I looked around my home just how many of my favourite things I was lucky enough to have with me.  I have made these walls mine with photos or paintings purchased throughout the years.  Each room has a little something, a knick-knack that says this is Janey’s or this is The Turk’s or even Daughter’s.  Seriously you should see her room.  It is a plethora of colour, sound and motion.  A little of everything but very much screams her name as soon as you walk through the door.  So what are my favourite things?

“Juicy” by Cel Pallas-Hones.

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I loved this piece of art the first time I laid eyes on it while at a gallery opening in Sydney.  I watched people circle around it knowing that I could not afford it at that time but wishing that it was mine.  When my circumstances changed the one luxury item I allowed myself was this piece of art and it is one of my prized possessions.  It is funny to watch the reaction of Turkish people when they enter my home.  They notice the piece.  It’s hard not to.  The best reaction was by my teyzer (aunt) who examined it closer, tilted her head to the side and turned to me and whispered, “All female parts are sweet like portakal (orange)”.  I nearly fell of my chair!

“Mum and Dad”

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I love this photograph which was given to me by my sister in law a couple of years ago.  I am not sure but I think this is the night that Mum and Dad got engaged or maybe at their engagement party.  Young love.  Happy.  Dreaming.  Ready to start a life together.  Looking at this photograph I do it with a tinge of sadness.  Of course it is because I have lost them both but also because this was before the health issues, before the miscarriages, the news that my mum could not have children and before my mum’s diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy.  This photo shows their pure happiness and I love it.  This photo has always sat on my dressing table in my bedroom and this is where it is today along with a very special photo of my father with Daughter on her first day of school.

“Le Restaurant La Colombe”

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This print was originally owned by my favourite Aunt Joyce.  As a child I would revere in her stories as she travelled the world visiting all its four corners from Paris and New York (where she lived for many years), to Cairo, Russia, the South Pacific and all over Asia.  She had the most romantic and exciting life and I wanted desperately to be just like her.  This print lived on my Aunt’s kitchen wall for many years, and then it moved to my Dad’s kitchen wall.  Now it resides on my kitchen wall where I hope it for many years before being passed onto Daughter to brighten up her kitchen wall and to remind her of her family.

“Buddha”

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I brought this dusty old Buddha when I was backpacking around India in 1999.  I was unbelievably sick in India and all I wanted to do was to go home and die in the comfort of my own home but before I left Varanasi I tramped down to the gnats through some markets and I saw this little Buddha.  Not too big that it was burdensome to a backpacker (even if I was a backpacker who was desperate to go home) he was purchased from a little shop in Varanasi by a man who swears he carved it himself.  I tended to believe him too as he was missing a finger on his left hand.  After some bartering (and discussions about his family, his business and his life) I walked away with my Buddha and he was left with a smile.  No doubt I should have bartered some more.

“My Mum’s Pavlova Plate”

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Who doesn’t love Pavlova?  Well actually Daughter does not love Pavolva but every other true blue, dinky di Aussie in existence loves the famous Pav.  Named after Russian Ballet Dancer Anna Pavolva the Pav was standard fare on Christmas Day in our household.  I know we do not celebrate Christmas over here in Turkey but I made a big ass Pav on Christmas Day for the family to enjoy.  To be honest they didn’t love it.  Perhaps like Vegemite, it is an acquired taste but damn it I love a Pav and I love my Mum’s Pav Plate (and its terribly handy with the instructions on it).

So these five items are only small but each holds a special meaning to me.  Each item reminds me of someone or something, a special time or moment in my life, and without them my home would merely be a house but with them they are my home.

Education Turkey style

The Turkish education system is screwing with me.  Literally!

The village school just decided in all its wisdom to amalgamate the morning and afternoon classes.  This means that all of Year 6 has been allocated an afternoon session which means my entire life has been uprooted.

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The past twelve months have been early morning starts.  I am used to the early morning starts and after 3 months of holidays I had to re-adjust to these early morning starts again.  Up at 6.00, breakfast, dressed and Daughter out the door in time for school to start at 6.50 in the morning.  I will just say that again yes 6.50 ante meridiem.  For me an early morning start meant washing done early, house tidied early, out to do the shopping or run errands – I even had time to blog – while Daughter was at school and, be home by 1 pm when she walks through the door.  I was totally motivated to get things done.  It also gave Daughter lots of time to hang out with friends after school, get her homework done and spent 2 hours a day with her tutor.

Now our carefully made routine has been thrown thoughtlessly out the window by an unthinking school board. I understand why this situation has come about.  In Turkey the Ataturk Reforms put in place that primary school education must be available for all in Turkey and that it is compulsory between the ages of 5-16.  Compulsory it may well be however if there are not enough schools these ridiculous plans are put into effect and, like Daughter, children found themselves either up at 5.45 or (as is the case now) does not get home until after 7 at night when it is pitch black outside thanks to the lack of street lights.

The village school is adequate.  I cannot say much more than that.  We opted to put Daughter in the village school to give her the opportunity to learn the language without the pressure that an özel okul (private school) puts on kids and to make friends with other children in the village.  The teachers worked very closely with Daughter to help her transition into a new learning environment and I cannot fault the assistance that the teachers have given us.  She is currently taught Turkish, maths, science, social studies and foreign language (English) although she spends half of the English lesson teaching English to the teacher!  She also does religious studies (definitely a bone of contention with her and a situation that brought us up to the school more than once).  Oh and did you know that Turkish primary students are not taught about any other country until high school?  I imagine that this is to teach them about national pride (Turkish are very proud countrymen) but to watch Daughter draw a map of the world as home work recently and she had to label “Türkiye” – Turkey, “Avrupa – Europe”, “Aysa” – Asia and “Amerika” – America.  Frankly the lack of detail made me feel a little ill.  I questioned where Australia was but apparently Avustralya didn’t even make it into the equation!   Umm Hello??  I made Daughter go back and draw Australia in and put a big ass arrow on it!  *sigh*

It is clear to me that once The Turk returns from his “holiday” (read that as luckily visiting Australia when he had his heart attack) we will be visiting the private schools to decide which school is best for Daughter and, as a bonus, the private schools have normal school hours albeit longer school hours although I haven’t made that public knowledge just yet.  Yes private school education is definitely on the cards now and, perhaps with the normal school hours (and longer hours) I can take back control of my now out of control life.

Right now the only good thing to come out of this ridiculous change in our routine is Daughter getting a decent breakfast and lunch prior to going to school.  It also means I don’t have to yell at her to get her ready for school.  Today she turned to me at 10 and said, “Well I guess I better start getting ready.”  Um – OK!

Karaduvar Kedi Update No. 2

It has been a while since I have mentioned the stray cats here in the village so I thought today I would give you an update on their welfare.

Last December I had managed to find homes for two of Nanu’s kittens.  Two little girls were lucky to have a home where they will be loved and cherished.  Or so I thought.  While Daughter and I were in Australia the two kittens who were now fully grown cats were abandoned back in our yard.  Not only were they abandoned, they were both pregnant and they were left to try and acclimatise in an environment that was completely foreign to them.  These were two house cats, completely domesticated and they have had a hell of a rough time fitting in with the other Karaduvar Kedi’s.  I was livid.  Both of them have now had their babies although only one has survived from each litter.  Meet Sheldon and Penny.  Daughter and I are fast running out of names for all these kediler.  Sheldon’s mum has disappeared but thankfully Penny’s mum took Sheldon as one of her own and fed him.  These are two of the sweetest little kittens that currently live in my yard and are scheduled be taken to the vet next week for their first round of shots.

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penny

With The Turk now away Evil has wormed her way into our home.  This is a huge bonus for Evil as up until now she has been very welcome to live in our stairwell but entrance to the “promised land” has been off limits to her at The Turk’s insistence.  She is now spayed and has had her shots as well so welcome Evil, make yourself at home.  And she has.

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For those of you who have been wondering how the infamous Stanley has been faring (yes yet another story about Stanley) well he has taken up with the Rottweiler next door.  I assume it is because they both have no tail – kindred spirits and all that.  Regardless they love each other and it means that Stanley no longer craps in our stairwell as he can usually be found giving all his affection and time to Hercules.  My Hurley Dog finds Stanley a little overbearing. A little too much love, too much affection.  I love you.  I need you.  I miss you.  I love you.  If Stanley was human he would definitely be one of those stalker types.  He is just so full on with his affection!

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I continue to feed all the strays and, if possible, capture them for spaying.  It is a slow process.  Nanu has had another set of kittens (I have lost count as to how many kittens she has had over the years) although I am yet to find where this litter is hiding.  Pretty also had babies but I am certain they have all perished.  If I find no sign of her babies in the next few days I am going to grab Pretty and take her for spaying. She is generally a pretty unhealthy cat and I suspect there will be more to her visit to the vet than just spaying and some shots.

It is a never ending battle with these cats but I cannot abandon them.  It takes only a few lira a day out of my pocket to feed them and, although the spaying or vet bills do build up, I always reimburse the vet for his efforts (although sometimes he may have to wait a week or so for payment).  I cannot imagine how these girls (and Stanley being the only male of the group) would go without The Turk and I helping them.  Sadly I cannot help all the strays in Karaduvar and it is not unusual to find the remains of cats and kittens (and dogs for that matter) on the side of the road.

Just a side note about the stray dog situation here in Karaduvar.  There is usually one or two gangs of köpekler (dogs) that roam the streets here although I wonder if the Council have rounded them up as I have not seen any for a few weeks now.  I hope they have all been re-homed but realistically I suspect that this may not have been their outcome.

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Cumhuriyet Bayrami

In Turkey 29 October is known as Cumhuriyet Bayrami (Republic Day).  This day commemorates Mustafa Kemal’s declaration that the Ottoman Empire would forevermore be known as the Republic of Turkey.  With that declaration a vote occurred in the Grand National Assembly and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Father of Turkey) was elected the first President of the Republic of Turkey.

Here are a few photos taken around Mersin today finishing our day with Ispanek Borek in Ataturk Parki.

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29 Ekim 2

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borek

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Sometimes being an Expat Sux!

I can probably count the number of close friends I have had in my life on two hands.  These are the friends that I know will be there for me through thick and thin.  They are the ones with a box of tissues or a bottle of wine and they are the ones that remind me that I can have a dream and turn it into a reality and they will be right beside me to cheer me on.  These friends, these soul mates, these are the people that I miss more than anything living here in Turkey.

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Sure I have The Turk’s family.  They have welcomed me with open arms but they are not my girlfriends, the ones you tell your deepest secrets to (although I think we can all agree my life is a pretty open book – or blog).  Plus that whole pesky issue of not speaking the language makes it tough to form close bonds.

With The Turk away I have become increasingly lonely and with the Daughter at school during the day I find myself mind numbly bored.  I have come to the realisation that I must actually like him (at least a little bit).  His health scare certainly scared the shit out of me and now I am just waiting for him to get the all-clear from his doctor before he can come home.

I am told that an overwhelming sense of emptiness and loneliness is normal for an expat and the waves of loneliness comes and goes leaving you either gutted or living on a high.  Being so far away from home the onset of depression can occur suddenly, the tiniest thing will set me off and when that happens the most I can hope for is to be left alone in my blackness until clarity re-sets.  I think if I lived in a more expat friendly city I would thrive but living here in Mersin it can be an incredibly hard slog.

It is my own fault you know.  Having this blog has opened up a huge window of contacts but I squandered the opportunities that I had and did not go out of my way to cultivate friendships and relationships with people.  I was always too busy and I know how difficult it can be to form friendships.  It can be a hard slog but do you know what else I have realised?  I realised that if I don’t make the effort then nothing in my life will change.  Deep I know.

So this is what I did.  I got off my ass.  I made contact with people.  Plans were made.  Dates were set and I can happily say that I now have a great little group of friends to play with.  I have learned that I am not the only one that suffers from the blues living so far away from home.  We are all missing our family and our friends.  A support system needs to be in place for us expats.  We need to be each other’s family and to step in and be that shoulder to lean on when needed.  Coffee in Carsi?  Sure.  BBQ in Yenikoy?  Definitely.  Drinks in Viransehir?  Of course!  Also I need to be friends with someone who can get me ham and yes there is such a person here in Mersin – hello Danny Boy!

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Like I said it can bloody difficult living here.

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Paradise Found

One of the great things about Mersin (or Icel) is that it is not usually on the international tourism wish list.  I get it.  I really do.  It is an industrial and farming province.  There is no airport and frankly no one speaks English.  It is kind of cosmopolitan and unique but its lack of infrastructure, its occasional domestic issues and now its proximity to unstable borders means that it is not really a draw card for visitors.  After all why come to Mersin when you can go to Marmaris or perhaps Bodrum for your sunfilled vacation?

For those of us living here though it is a godsend that the international tourist passes us by.  Why?  Well if you, the international tourist, go elsewhere it means that the hidden gems found along this magnificent coastline are left for the Turkish tourists which means – Turkish prices!

During Kurban Bayram the family and I travelled to Yaprakli Koy Susanoğlu and I honestly I feel like I have truly found my new favourite spot in IcelSusanoğlu actually is part of the seaside town of Atakent, 65 kilometres west of Mersin and only 15 kilometres east of Silifke.

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Susanoğlu Playa itself is a nice enough beach but there is more to Susanoglu than the main beach.  You don’t want the main beach.  You need to keep looking.  If you blink you will miss it for it is not on the main drag.  It is a secret after all, locals only, and they are not going to give up its location to a yabanci readily.  You are going to have to work for it.  You will need to park your car.  You will need to stalk a Turk (as no doubt they know where to go) but, with perseverance and a little good fortune, you will come across some ancient stone stairs on the side of a cliff (not as daunting as it may sound) leading through a smallish little forest.  Through the pine trees you go until you get a glimpse of that perfect mavi (blue) sea.  Step towards that colour and know that, finally, you have arrived at Yaprakli Koy Susanoğlu, a hidden gem along the coastline surrounded by Turkish beach clubs and restoranlar.DSC00437

This place bay has the feel of a party all day long.  Families gather for picnics, girls sunbath in their itsy-bitsy bikinis while watching the boys prance by showing off their muscles.  Old Turkish men do calisthenics on the rocks before making their way to the nearest lokanta for a glass of raki (medicinal I am sure). The surrounding restaurants sell simple Turkish food, but simple can at times be extraordinary with amazing balik, kofte and tavuk dishes on offer for the low non-touristy price of 10TL.  Even more importantly the drinks too are ridiculously cheap and the Efes’ are ice cold.  The music is blasting and it is always Turkish.

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No one, I repeat, no one speaks English and you will no doubt find yourself, as I did, sitting next to 70 year old Turkish lady who told me her life story.  Sure you may not understand what they are saying but they will still talk to you anyway.

I think I have found my incredibly cheap but now not so secretive paradise.

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Where For Art Thou?

As you can see it has been some time since I have blogged.  I have taken a break from me.  Janeyinmersin has had to take a back seat for the moment with real life taking over.

The Turk remains in Sydney and is still quite sick.  Last week he took another turn and ended up back in hospital.  He is feeling a lot better now – thankfully – but there have been a few sleepless nights in the past week with calls from the hospital and from friends.

I am still fluffing around waiting on either my Residence Visa (applied for in August) or my kimlik (applied for last December!).  After trips to both the Emniyet and Nufus it seems that my visa is still “processing” and my kimlik needs The Turk’s signature on something – so that’s now put off until his doctor gives him the all clear to fly.

My days have been full as well with Kurban Bayram meaning we have had a full social calendar for the past 10 days (yes Kurban Bayram may not last that long but this family do not want to stop the party).  Other than a sneaky expat night out my days has been full and my nights even fuller.  I have said it before and I will say it again – “their ain’t no party like a Turkish party ‘cause a Turkish party don’t stop!”

Back to the blog though.

tarsus mountains

Mersin really does shine during October.  Tarsus Mountains now has a light smattering of snow on their peaks and yet the days are still hot here on the plains and the sun is still shining brightly.  Late in the afternoon Mother Nature likes to throw a little crazy at us and we are hit with some magnificent storms that blow in from the sea and dump a massive amount of badly needed rain on the village.  As happy as the farmers are here in the village, I do not love the downpours quite as much.  Why?  Well firstly we lose our electricity for days on end but also due to the ridiculously bad construction of our home when the heaven’s open I find myself spending hours – literally hours – sweeping, mopping, squeegeeing, sponging and scooping the excessive rain water that as accumulated on my roof terrace towards the measly drains at each end.  I just want to add that we are not talking about a smidge of water either, we are talking about water you could bath in (well it is above my ankles in places).

I don’t really mind, I have got to be burning off some calories as I collect my rainwater and I get up there with my i-pod blasting my playlist aptly called “Sweep and Sing”.

So what is in my “Sweep and Sing” playlist.  MC Hammer told me that “You can’t touch this”, Bonnie Tyler told me to “Hold out for a Hero” and there is even some Scandal in there “The Warrior”.  I’m not some old codger either as thanks to Daughter there is a bit of Iggy Azalea telling me to “work, work, work, work, working on my shitz”.  I had a good old laugh the other day as I was up there blasting out my usual Karaoke tune “Like a Prayer” I did not notice my neighbours sitting on their balcony enjoying the show.  They called for an encore so I found myself singing a bit of “Thriller” which included the dance moves to finish off my show.  To show their appreciation my neighbour’s wife brought me a plate of hummus and home-made chilli paste.

Teşekkür ederim!

I promise my blog posts will be a little more regular over the coming weeks.  Life has returned to some form of Turkish normalcy and I am back to my over-opinionated, now brunette self.  For proof of life I can usually be found sitting on my terrace enjoying the late afternoon rays and a glass of red.

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Turkey Today

Over the past few days I have had no end of calls from worried friends wanting to know how safe it is in Turkey at the moment.  Yes there is anger and frustration in the streets of many cities.  Thousands of Kurdish people are protesting across the country including in its capital Ankara and Istanbul.  They are furious that Turkey seems to be standing by as Islamic State advances on the Syrian town of Kobane.  They say that Turkey’s failure to help the Kurdish fighters there will no doubt lead to the city falling to IS.

I have learned from writing this blog to keep my opinions to myself as I do not have sufficient knowledge or education on the complicated relationship between Turkey and the Kurdish people.  I will only say that Turkey is in an extremely difficult situation.  They are, of course, a powerhouse in the region and they will vigorously protect their land and their citizens (including their Kurdish citizens).  Should Turkey cross the border into Syria they are entering foreign soil and crossing that border would be considered a hostile act by Syria.  Should a Syrian or Kurdish citizen be injured or killed at the hands of a Turkish soldier then I suspect all hell will break loose.  Turkey also has the underlining concern of keeping peace within its Kurdish communities which can prove a difficult task particularly when Erdogan is comparing the PKK to IS.

The Australian Government has today emailed its citizens living or visiting Turkey and have advised against all travel to the towns of Akcakale and Ceylanpinar.  They have also advised against all but essential travel to areas within 50km of Turkey’s border with Syria.  You should remember that each countries give their citizens their own advice with the UK Foreign Office advising against all but essential travels within 10km of Turkey’s border with Syria.

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Friends, where we are in Mersin it is perfectly safe right now.  We are approximately 4-5 hours drive from the Syrian border.  There have been no protests however there is a heavy polis presence in the city.  If I feel in any way that the situation has changed or that Daughter and I are no longer safe here we will make arrangements to leave the city and, if necessary, the country immediately.

Remember if you intend on travelling to Turkey in the coming days I suggest that you check with your own Foreign Office.  If you are travelling to Marmaris or along the western coast of Turkey you are 12 hours – I repeat – 12 hours from the Syrian border.  Of course your personal safety and the safety of your family is paramount but do not let the remote possibility of terrorism by Islamic State (or by any other terrorist organisation) control your lives.

If you are interested in reading more about what is going on – here are a few links that I found interesting.

4 Questions  /  The Prize and Peril of Kirkuk  /  Smart Traveller  /  UK Advice  /  Ankara on Alert

Please share this page to your family members who are concerned about safety while travelling or living in this beautiful country.

Finally I will add that Turkey is one of the most amazing countries in the world with its magnificent beaches, glorious scenery and its surprising history.  The Turkish Government will do everything in its power to control the situation along its borders and to protect its citizens and its visitors – that means you!

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Kurban Bayram

Today marks the eve of Kurban Bayram and its 4.5 day celebration.  All the households are busy with preparation for the celebration.  I am frantically cleaning as I know there will be a constant flow of guests through the door.  Daughter is crazy excited as there is no school until next Wednesday and can currently be found downstairs with her cousins while trying to round up My Hurley Dog who appears to be chasing kittens around the garden.  The Turk’s sister is arriving tomorrow with her family as well which means a very full household for the next week.

All this plus a sneaky expat get together on Saturday night means I will probably not be around for the next few days.  For those of you who are unaware of Kurban Bayram I wrote a piece last year (link below) which sums up my thoughts on this celebration.

To all my readers I say Kurban Bayramin kutlu olsen and I will be back on board next week.kurban bayram

Incidentally I don’t think the sheep are really all that happy about Bayram.  Pretty sure about that actually.

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