A Smile

Each morning at a little after 7, whether it is rain, or hail, or shine, I watch a little old lady passes by my front door.  I do not know her name, I do not know where she lives, all I know is that our front door forms part of her morning constitutional.

When I see her I always smile and call out, “Gunaydin”.  She has never acknowledged me.  She has never wished me a good morning or even glanced in my direction, she merely makes her way past my front door as part of her usual morning routine.  She walks slowly but with purpose. Some mornings I see she is walking with difficulty but today I noticed she has a new appendage to help her on her constitution – a cane.  She seemed a little more sure of her step this morning but she still did not wish me a good morning when I waved at her from my terrace.

It is difficult to win over the old ladies in the village.  After their initial curiosity of the yabanci amongst them I have generally been ignored.  A few teyzer will say good morning and one or two of them will even ask me to join them for çay but on a whole I am left alone these days.  That suits me fine.  I am happy in my solitude and it gives me more time to write.

I do wonder, however, what I have to do to win this little lady over.  A smile, that is all I am asking for.  Maybe tomorrow.

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To my No. 1 Fan

I think I am a pretty funny (and totally amazing) person.  I like to think that the whinging that I do on my little blog is taken with a grain of salt.  I like to think that you, my loyal readers, are mature enough to discern between my take on living in this crazy little world and understand humor for what it is.  Well maybe not!

no 1 fan

Last night I received this email and when you read it try reading it with the voice of Yoda in your head (my request will make sense in a moment) –

“Janeyinmersin,

I think you are the bitch. if you are unhappy so living in Turkey why do you not just leave.  I am sure that it don’t want you here.  Go back to home in England.  England deserve you.  You are the bitch. Divorce you I am.”

To this person who provided an email address that bounced back (let’s call him “Yoda”), to Yoda I reply –

Dear Yoda,

I have never denied being a bitch (although I wonder are you trying to say “You are the bomb”?  If you are trying to say “you are the bomb” then thank you and big kisses to you).  I appreciate your sentiment but just in case you are in fact calling me a bitch I will say that you are in fact 100% correct.  I am a bitch and I have been called a bitch many times over the years.  I do appreciate your ability to immediately recognise a bitch.  Kudos.

I also appreciate that you obviously spent the time to use Google Translate to write your kind comment to me.  I should use Google Translate to reply to you as well however then my readers won’t get to enjoy my sarcasm and wit which is so obviously lost on you.

It is truly endearing to find a reader who has spent as much time as you obviously have Yoda reading my blog as you obviously know many intimate details about my life.  Firstly I must tell you obviously I use the word “obviously” way too much.  Obviously!  Secondly, I must say that I do love England and I bet England would love me too.  It has so much to offer.  Harry Potter, William and Kate live there, even the Beatles originated from there! But one thing that did not originate from England was, in fact, me! I am not English.  Perhaps we can play a game of Guess my Nationality?

Should I make it a visual game?  Alrighty then.  Below are 3 pictures.  See if you can guess where I am from?photovisi-download

Did you guess it Yoda?  I bet you did because you are obviously smarter than the average Jedi Knight.  I mean look at Luke Skywalker.  He was a bit dumb, he didn’t even realise that Leia was his sister!  Ewwww.  But just in case you did fail your Jedi Knight training the answer is – “I come from the land Down Under, where women glow and men plunder” also known as “Stralya”.

Finally (and just in case this message was from The Turk) – no you cannot divorce me.  You love me WAY too much!

Again thank you for reading my little blog.  Click like below if you enjoyed this reply or even like me on Facebook so you get all my updates.

Yours sincerely

Janey … still in Mersin

 

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What type of wine goes well with Back To School?

In Turkey, as in many parts of the world, it has been summer holidays.  In my mind it shouldn’t be.  Summer is December.  Summer is Christmas Day.  Summer is my birthday.  But as my world is topsy turvy now I have had to contend with the heat in August (it was hot) and freeze on my birthday (which I did).

Now I find myself living in a country where for 13 weeks (yes I will say that again – 13 weeks) I am responsible for my offspring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!  I have never had to do this before.  I always worked during school holidays but now there is me and there is Daughter all the time!

Here in the village it seems I am not only lumbered with Daughter (who contractually I am obliged to love unconditionally) but I am also lumbered with a plethora of etcetera’s.  We are talking cousins, distant cousins, friends, friends of friends and probably an occasional stranger.  Our house is the bomb because:

(a) we have internet;

(b) we have air con; and

(c) we have a parent or adult guardian that cannot speak a word of Turkish and frankly doesn’t care what the hell these kids do.school 2014

But today has arrived.  I knew it was coming.  The last few days have been a flurry of activity in preparation.  Haircut?  Check.  New shoes?  “What do you mean Doc Martens?”  Sigh.  Check.  Nose ring?  What??? Umm, maybe not this year (and thankfully the school tut-tutted on that suggestion).

I attempted to get Daughter into bed early last night.  It was difficult but I achieved a partial victory by getting her into her bedroom by 10 pm.  Of course when I went to bed at midnight I found her texting friends in Australia (after all it is breakfast over there).  Go the feck to sleep!

At 6 am this morning Daughter’s alarm went off.  “Good morning, bah, bah, bah bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, good morning.”  A happy wake up alarm.  I thought it may calm the wild beast with its cheerfulness.  There was some grumbling and I heard “Shut it up!” from my room but honestly not as much as I had anticipated.  During the school holidays I was lucky if Daughter was out of bed by 11 but now the alarm sounding the option to lie in is imponderable.

There was a little moaning and a little bitching but I managed to get her out of the house with 5 minutes to spare.    I called out “I love you” as she walked away.  Without a backward glance she lifted her hand, “Love you too.”  *Sigh*

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And now we dance.

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So what’s my peeve today?

Let me enlighten you.

The Turk has been gone nearly one week.  What have I realised in The Turk’s absence?

The Turk does the cleaning.  I hate cleaning.

The Turk does the vacuuming.  I hate vacuuming.

The Turk really is a sensational chef.  To anyone who knows The Turk personally knows just how good a chef he is.  His pizza is legend – wait for it – ary.  Legendary!  I attempted pizza for Daughter and I last night.  It was not legendary.  It was – adequate.  Daughter called it adequate.  *Sigh*

The Turk also goes to the butcher.  I loathe going to the butcher.  I loathe the smell of the butcher and I loathe looking at the meat hanging on hooks.

I know that we have already established that I am a failure in the Turkish Housewife stakes but I am starting to realise that perhaps The Turk does more around here than I have given him credit for.

And this brings me to my next peeve.

A mountain of garbage that is accumulating outside my home.  I live between what is currently a building site to my right and a 3 level building consisting of 4 apartments on my left.  Each apartment has a family member living in it.  The building site does my head in, always has, always will.  Minus the fact that Vito has built their shop and home abutting our building their builders would have to be the laziest and dirtiest builders I have ever had the non-pleasure of coming across.  Crap everywhere and while I am on that subject “Where do they crap?”  There is no toilet facility built yet and I am curious as to where they go when nature calls.  You know when we were building out balcony my mother in law caught our builder doing a shit in our basement!  Yes seriously!  She went ballistic.  Best thing I ever saw.  She picked up the bok (shit) in her hand and chased him with it before throwing it in his face.  We never saw that particular builder again.  There’s your Turkish word of the day – bok!

Back to my peeve.

garbage monster

To our left we have the three level building with 4 apartments.  While The Turk was here I would often see him carrying bucket after bucket of garbage to the large dumpster down the street.  With him now gone the buckets are overflowing, the stray cats are ecstatic and the smell is all consuming.

This morning I witnessed a family member who shall remain nameless throw a bag of garbage out the window narrowly missing My Hurley Dog and I as we were in the garden.  WTF?  Not only are they too lazy to take the garbage to the bin now it seems they are even too lazy to walk it down the stairs?

My frustration levels are at boiling point.  These people are happy to live in filth but I am not.  They drop garbage where they stand.  The neighbour’s dog poops everywhere and no one cleans it up.  It’s a Rottweiler folks.  That bok is bigger than my foot!  Recycling is non-existent.  This really is getting out of hand.

As I sit here on my balcony enjoying the warm autumn breeze (thankfully not coming in from the east) I honestly wonder whether this mountain of crap is one lightning bolt away from becoming its own entity, with thoughts and feelings.  And if this mountain of crap is only one lightning bolt away from becoming its own entity do I have to feed that too?

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Raise your Glass

Happy Anniversary.  No.  Not my wedding anniversary.  That was back in February which, of course, both The Turk and I forgot.  No this celebration marks the first year of the rest of my life.  My new life.  In Turkey.  To be honest, I didn’t think we would make it, I mean just buying toilet paper can be difficult at times.  But we have survived unscathed to tell the tale.  Mostly.

collage 1 year

Today is also the day that The Turk leaves for Australia.  Yes one year ago today we arrived in Turkey and now one year later The Turk is leaving.  Just for a short time.  We hope.  I think.  He is tying up some loose ends over there but I suspect he will enjoy the First World lifestyle and I will probably have to go and bring him back (or not).

It has been a year of growth, not just for me but for Daughter too.  Immersing herself in a new language, a new school and new friends.  She has grown too.  She is so tall now.  Those long legs will never quit.  She is more beautiful now if that is at all possible.  The Turk wants to keep a cricket bat at the front door to swat at the boys that will no doubt soon come to call.  I had to remind him that it is doubtful that we will even find a cricket bat here in Mersin (or in Turkey for that matter).  And now she can swear in two languages (actually three as she can swear in Italian too – a proud parent am I).

The challenges of living in Mersin have been real and raw and exhausting.  Dealing with homesickness, Turkish bureaucracy (read that as Turkish bullshit), school struggles, family loss, culture shock and everything else that comes along with moving to the other side of the world has brought me closer to the edge of insanity than I thought I would ever reach.  My first trip by myself to the supermarket is a memory best forgotten.  Or a spider bite that resulted in my needing 12 shots to survive (what the??) and my numerous, read that as hundreds, of trips to the Emniyet and Nufus to try and get visa’s, a kimlik and citizenship.  Holy crap!  Turkey will knock you for a six!

I must say I thank goodness for blogging.  I can get my crazy out here, with you, rather than taking it out on others.  You can either read it or, if you are sick of my rant, you simply close the page (after you “like” it of course).  Easy.

Thank you to each of you who have supported us in our journey so far.  I have made some great friends on here in the blogging world, people that I would never had had the opportunity to get to know unless I did write my blog.  I have also found some real friends here in Mersin, expats like myself thrown into the deep end of hell trying to survive each day.

So let’s raise your glass – Şerefe!

 

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Romancing the Kebab

Saturday night.  You’ve been out clubbing until late and you’re hungry.  What do you want?  A kebab!  You race to the nearest kebab shop (and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world there is always a kebab shop) and you order your kebab “with the works”.

Within minutes you are holding your kebab, smothered in chilli sauce (or God forbid BBQ sauce) and you find your mouth filling with saliva in anticipation.  You’re excited.  You know it is going to be the best kebab you have ever had – and it is.

Fast forward to Turkey.  You have arrived in Istanbul, ready for adventure.  There are historical sites, amazing beaches, gorgeous people – and kebabs.  Yes Turkish kebabs.  The real thing.  You make your way to the first lokanta you come across ready to order your first genuine kebab.  With confidence you place your order.  They speak English!  A bonus.  Your table is laden with a basket of bread, a plate of lemon and pickled chilli and a small salad.  Am I going to have to pay for all this stuff?  Um?

Within minutes a plate is placed before you with a smile.  You look at it.  What is it?  It is not a kebab.  It is not what you were expecting.  You try to get the waiter’s attention but he is too busy with customers.

What just happened here?

Heads up folks.  There are a variety of kebabs available to you in Turkey and each one is unique.

sis kebab

You’ve got the Şiş kebab.  This was what I received the first time I ordered a kebab in Turkey.  Large cubes of meat threaded onto a skewer and grilled over charcoal.  Usually served with grilled domates and biber.  Just a warning for you though, keep your wits about you when ordering.  If you are not sure check because instead of siğir eti (beef) or piliç (chicken) you may just end up with offal as your meat of choice and nobody wants that to happen.

iskander kebab

Then there is the iskander kebab.  It’s got the shredded meat (beef or chicken) but the bread is also shredded.  What?  You might get a side dish of rice and a fresh salad but there will also be yogurt involved and a smothering of butter.  Delicious but again … what?

adana kebab

My absolute favourite is an Adana kebab.  I love this kebab because it is hellishly hot.  Minced meat on a skewer and with some crazy hot spices it is also grilled over the charcoal.  Definitely served with pita bread, salad and I suggest a cold glass of ayran to help you digest or you will be a puddle of sweat by the end of the dish.

But we are still trying to find that elusive kebab.  You know the one that you have after a night out at home.

“Help me Janey,” you cry fearful of your next meal.

“Fear not gentle traveller.  Go forth and get yourself a doner kebab.”

doner

Usually beef, lamb or chicken the doner kebab is slow roasted on a vertical rolling spit.  The Turkish doner kebab was invented in Bursa by a cook named Haci in the 19th century.  The man was quite obviously a genius but not so much of a genius that he put a copyright on his invention.  Nope.  He probably died a pauper.

Your doner kebab will consist of shredded pieces of meat wrapped in flat bread.  You will no doubt also find tomato, onion with sumac and a pickled chilli or two.

Just don’t ask them for BBQ sauce.

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Satan called. He wants his weather back!

It is seriously 10,000 degrees here in Mersin at the moment.  I am trapped in hell, sitting in my underwear right in front of my air conditioner which is about to pack it in under the pressure.  It is trying to give me what I want.  I need it.  I want it.  I feel like it is nearly there then – nothing.  It packs it in.  Someone came too soon and it wasn’t me!

hot sun

Loyal followers of this blog (and personal friends) will know that I pretty much spend all my winter months whinging about the damn cold.  I complained like a whingy feck.  “I can’t wait until summer,” I cried.  “I’m going to swim.  I’m going to swim at the beach every damn day”.  Well no I’m fecking not swimming in that cesspool that is Karaduvar beach and no I am not taking 3 buses to get to the first clean beach outside of Mersin.  Feck my life!

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I definitely did not sign up for this kind of heat.  This day in and day out never ending hell that is Karaduvar in the middle of summer.  You can’t go outside.  The sun will turn you into ash.  Armageddon heat.  Fire ants on crack heat.  I am thinking of spraying “Norsca” in my stairwell turning it into a Swedish sauna because that’s what it fecking feels like when I walk out my front door!  Don’t get me wrong.  I do make an effort to get out of the house.  All the time but then I step out into the Swedish sauna that is my stairwell, my brain starts to swell, my shoes start to melt and when I come to I find myself lying on the couch watching an episode of Ellen – the same episode of Ellen.  Very Groundhog Day.  Am I going to be forced to relive this hellfire summer until I do it right, Groundhog style?  I bloody hope not.

Incidentally there are a few shows here in English with Turkish subtitles but can someone tell me why I seem to watch the same show of Ellen every couple of weeks.  It’s got those two extremely obnoxious little English girls “Fatty and Rosie”.  I don’t know their names – wait I lie.  The little blonde girl is named Rosie.  She is the cute one that lip syncs or mimes.  She is the one that won’t need therapy while the other one who I have called Fatty sings, or tries to sing.  When she is older and realises how her parents have exploited her – she will definitely be spending her earnings in therapy.  How is this entertainment?  My mind tends to block it all out but they are on the show with Vince Vaughan who is probably trying to contact his agent to scream, “Why the feck am I on with these two fecking brats?  How low have I fallen down the ladder of Hollywood power?”  He is also probably wondering why he has never won an Oscar.

Back to my story.  Yes the heat.  Its fecked!

Too hot to sleep at night so I find that I have become a night crawler.  I leave the house around 10 pm with My Hurley Dog (aka The Terminator) and we troll the streets, waving to people we know and hoping to not draw attention to myself to those that we do not (after all the heat does bring the crazy out in most people).  It’s too hot for My Hurley Dog to walk throughout the day anyway.  He would rather hold his poop in until November than go outside and poop with the hot sun beating down on him.  I mean it, literally plug his butt than walk outside in this white scalding heat.  He was not designed to live in this relentless, torturous, horrid heat.  He has had yet another terrible haircut which he is totally embarrassed about.  To top it off he was attacked yesterday by two – yes two – mamma cats who ganged up on him when he went over to congratulate them on the birth of their babies.  Those bitches!  The Turk was so angry that he threw a bucket of water on the mamma cats but missed and mostly the water landed on My Hurley Dog.  I don’t think he minded though because it’s too feking hot!

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Speaking of The Turk, he has taken to sleeping on the tiled terrace in his underwear.  Daughter went out there a couple of nights ago to find him stark naked.  She came running in shielding her eyes and squealing, “What has been seen, cannot be unseen!”  Once I convinced her to not gouge out her eyes she returned to her bedroom to sleep.  A new house rule is that the Turk will always wear his underwear now.

The only one of us to doesn’t seem to give a shit about the heat is My Kedi Cat.  He no longer lives with us.  He lives in the front garden or by the front door with Evil, only coming in to eat.  He refuses to eat cat food and so I find myself cutting up pieces of steak or chicken to satisfy this bitch cat that I dragged all the way from Australia who hates my guts!  My Kedi Cat spends his days being primped by Evil (his only love) and attacking other cats who venture too close to our front door.  I sometimes see him when I am on my late night walk a couple of blocks away wandering around looking for something to kill.  He ignores me though.  Hate that cat!

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So that is today’s rant.  I am supposed to go downstairs and help make bread with the ladies.  I don’t want to unless I can go down there in my underwear but The Turk vetoed that idea.  Well if I cannot go down there in my underwear then I want to stay right where I am in front of my poor, groaning air conditioner until either it or I give up for good!

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Turkish Housewife Failure

I had nothing but good intentions when we first moved here.  I was going to amaze with my cracking culinary skills, real food too not all this Turkish stuff day in and day out.  I was going to make lemon meringue pies, electrify the family tastebuds with my beef wellington and delight them with my knockout gnocchi.  I brought at least 10 cook books with me including a Turkish cookbook – how could I go wrong?  I also intended to keep the house spick and span.  I was going to iron my sheets (my mum used to do that).  I was going to dust away the dust bunnies and my home was going to look like it had come out of a Better Homes and Gardens catalogue – after all I did have a lot of free time.

 Housewife 1

Good intentions mean shit when you realise that you can’t cook and you hate cleaning.  I was not designed to be a housewife but even more troubling is I was definitely not designed to be a Turkish Housewife!  They put the super size into every meal and super freak into their cleaning.  Who needs to be like that anyway?

The other morning my teyzer (aunt) arrived as I was making breakfast and she gave me a lesson in boiling eggs.  Truly.  It’s a feking egg for Christ’s sake, “how hard can it be?”  Well it seems I have been doing it wrong for all these years so I sat back and let her boil my eggs (that sounds a lot dirtier than it should).  “Ello darlin’, come here and I’ll boil ya eggs for ya!”  After she boiled my eggs she showed me how to cut up a cucumber.  Yes really.

And it is not just my cooking skill that requires lessons on how to be a better Turkish housewife.  More than once I have had my sister in law turns up uninvited to clean my windows because she could see the hand prints from her home.  Really?  I have also had my neighbour come knocking on my door to show me how to do my laundry as my washing drying in the sunshine did not look clean enough from her garden.  Um, thanks.

Well it seems that I will never make any of the ladies in the village happy with my housewife skills.  Frankly I am surprised that they haven’t taken The Turk aside and given him a speech about how bad of a wife I really am. 

“Maybe they have?” questions my inner demons.

Well maybe I don’t care!

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I have feet issues

Not in a “I have a foot fetish and they get me hot” way more in a “ewww get those nasty things away from me” way.  It’s not a hate.  Hate is a strong word.  I just really don’t like naked feet touching my stuff.  Worse than naked feet touching my stuff is other people’s naked feet touching my stuff. 

feet

In Turkey it is customary that you remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.  I get it, I really do.  There is a lot of dust and germs outside and you want to keep your pristine home as pristine as possible.  When you visit someone’s home you are welcomed with a hearty hoş geldiniz and your host will place a pair of slippers at your feet.  This. Makes. Me. Shudder!  I look at those slippers at my naked feet and I wonder what awaits me.  I mean how many other feet have been in these slippers?  How many other dirty, sweaty, smelly tootsies have been subjected to sharing their dirty, sweaty, smelly selves with my feet.  It’s a foot gang-bang.

Hygienically I am pretty sure you should not share shoes, when I was a kid my mum drilled it into me a hundred times!  “You never know where their foot has been!” was her catchcry.  It’s true though, you do never know where their foot has been.

We have all seen those ads on television, you know the ones with the festy toe and then miraculously the toe (with the help of some wonderous cream) becomes beautiful and no longer something that previously could have been found on Golan’s foot!  They have these ads on all the time here in Turkey, even the advertisers know that you shouldn’t share your slippers.

Daughter had some friends over the other day and in order to escape I took My Hurley Dog for a walk.  Upon my return I went to put my slippers on.  MY slippers.  My slippers do not live in the slipper box.  My slippers are segregated from all other slippers so that they are not violated by unknown feet.  My slippers are not to be passed around like a . . .  well you get my drift.  My slippers are wholesome and untarnished and for my dirty, sweaty, smelly feet alone.  But upon my return from walking with My Hurley Dog my slippers were not in their usual segregated spot.  I stealthy scanned the feet of the tweens in my living room.  Aarrghhhh!  

Someone is wearing my virgin slippers.  I tried to bring it to Daughter’s attention that one of her friends were wearing my slippers but she was oblivious to my plight or perhaps she was ignoring me, well aware of her friend’s infraction.  I looked in my slipper basket at all the other pairs that were available.  Yes we have an abundance of slippers available.  Do I put on a pair?  No.  I can’t do it!  Ewww.  

I am aware that I am sounding slightly unhinged at this point and I know I cannot say anything to the little 12 year old girl sitting on the floor, eating popcorn and singing along to some Turkish pop song with Daughter and her friends.  I did watch her swanning around in my slippers for a long time though.  I probably frightened her a little with my glare.  I am obviously going to have to keep an eye on this one.  I wonder if I could encourage Daughter to un-friend her.  She is obviously devious, I mean after all who goes searching for slippers where there is a box of slippers right in front of her?

Yes she definitely needs to be unfriended.  Pronto!

Cig Köfte 1 – Janey 0

I recently found myself sitting across from my sister in law as she made Köfte.  I have watched her make different varieties of the Köfte many times but this variety was unique and I should have known that right from the start.  Why?  The name – ciğ = raw.  Raw Meatball. 

cig kofte

According to folk lore the Ciğ Köfte originated in Urfa.  The wife of the great Nimrod went to cook a feast and found there was no firewood (as Nimrod had used it for a funeral pyre) so she mixed the meat with many spices and crushed them until the meal was palatable.  It obviously worked for her and the Ciğ Köfte is served in one form or another in most restoranlar or lokanta from here to the border.

The Ciğ Köfte is similar to the Lebanese dish of Kibbe Nayyeh or perhaps the Chee kufta which is an Armenian dish but if we go with the folk lore the Ciğ Köfte is Turkish all the way.

After watching my sister in law make them I can say that there is not a lot of raw meat in the köfte rather it has couscous, a small amount of raw mince and a heap of spices.  Anyone who saw my Köfte recipe from a couple of months back will see that making the Köfte is really simple and to make it a Ciğ Köfte it is merely a matter of adding a butt load of spice and, of course, the raw meat.  The spices are crazy hot too (including isot, cumin and, of course, my mother in law’s red pepper paste) and The Turk tells me that being crazy hot they “cook” the meat and remove any germ.  I am not really sure about that but as usual I am the first to give it a go.

And if you want to make this a vegetarian dish then simply replace the meat with crushed walnuts.  Simple. 

Wrapped in a piece of lettuce, a drizzle of lemon and an ayran (yogurt drink) to combat the spice, they were pretty damn good.  Really tasty but also really spicy.  I suffered afterwards with indigestion and was sweating up a storm lying on the couch clutching my stomach (which is still not quite used to that much spice in a dish) but it was enough for The Turk to declare the Ciğ Köfte the champion!  Finally something that I couldn’t finish!

Post indigestion I finished off the Ciğ Köfte.  Nothing is going to beat me!

If you want to give this recipe a try follow this link.

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