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. 

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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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The Inquisition

I currently have a two tier problem here in Mersin.  My second problem stems from my first problem not being finalised.

Welcome

When The Turk arrived in Mersin late last year we immediately lodged documentation pertaining to my citizenship application.  There was a lot of trips to various Government offices,  more perilous than trekking across the Sahara Desert or more difficult than reaching the summit of Everest.  There was a lot of paperwork including – current passport (easy), medical certificate (bir şey olmaz – no problem), 4 passport photos (heads up peeps you should always have at least a dozen passport photos on hand – you will go through them like tissues), completed application (done), marriage certificate (translated into Turkish of course), confirmation of residency (hello I am here thus I am a resident) and the doozy – Certificate of ability to speak Turkish (WHAT????).  That last one I thought we had gotten away with as The Turk and I had been called in for an interview at the Emniyet a couple of weeks after lodgment of the documents.  The interviewer asked a few very simple questions and I answered with a yes or no (evet / yok).  I was then fingerprinted, they did a police check (they never did find out about that international jewel heist I was involved with – shush) and they arrived unannounced at our home to ensure that The Turk and I were in a real relationship.  They found me sitting out the front on the road in my pajamas waiting for My Hurley Dog to do a poop.  You don’t get any more real than that folks!

Fast forward to last week and I began hassling The Turk that we should chase up my citizenship before he disappears to Sydney next month.  Good idea!  We arrived at the Emniyet to find that nothing had been done to move my application forward since last December!  WTF???  Which brings me to my next problem – the expiration of my residency visa but I am jumping ahead of myself here.  Bir dakika (one minute).

This morning The Turk got a call from the Polis requiring my immediate attendance at their office in Yumuktepe.  Incidentally I had been to the suburb of Yumuktepe before as there is a ruin mound there and as a lover of history I wanted to get a gander at it.  This mound reveals a Neolithic settlement which continued up to the Middle Ages.  Like the Gözlükule Tumulus in Tarsus this one is located in a park and there really is nota lot to see however it has 23 levels of occupation dating from 6300BC which, for the geek in me, is really interesting!  I know I have gotten off topic but as a history buff this is really interesting stuff!

Anyway The Turk and I jumped and after I directed the taksi driver as he had no clue where to go we made it to the meeting out of breath and sweating.  I assumed that this was the final formality to approve my citizenship.  I did not know what it would be but I bet it was going to be simple.  Nope.  It was THE INTERVIEW.

I think this post should actually be re-named The Interview From Hell because that is what it was.  I was seated in a room underneath the Polis station where I could clearly see straight into the cells.  As I waited for the interviewer to arrive I curiously scoped out the two people in the cells opposite.  There was the buxom blonde with waaayyy too much makeup directly opposite me as well as another man to her left who was babbling loudly in a language that was not Turkish but I could not tell you what language it was or even if it was a language.  The woman, we found out, was Russian and had overstayed her visa.  Gulp!

The Turk was asked to wait outside and the interviewer proceeded to ask me a butt load of questions – in Turkish – and then write copious amounts of notes when I could not answer the question correctly.  Tears!  I was welling up and had never wanted The Turk beside me more than I did at that moment.  For those of you who are going to go through this in the coming months the questions were pretty much the following:

Where do you live?  I don’t know the address but I know how to get there.  I know which dolmus.  I can explain it to a taksi driver but right now, with you staring at me like I should be in a cell next to the Russian I cannot answer you and certainly I cannot answer you in Turkish.

Where do you like to go in Mersin (insert your own city or town here)?  Ummm?  Ne???

How is your mother and father? ölü.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?  If so how many?  Do you like your brother or sister?  Jeeze how would I explain the crazy that is my family?  Is adoption even a word in Turkish?  Regardless I cannot answer with the Russian smiling a gummy smile at me through bright pink lips.  Pass.

Does your husband (or wife) have any brothers or sisters?  If so, how many?  Yes but I truly had no idea what you were saying.  Pass.

How is his mother and father?  Pass.  His father doesn’t like my cooking.  In English.

Do you like living in Mersin?  Evet.

How old are you?  44 (using my hands).

How long have you been married?  On iki yil (that one I had).

Do you have any children?  Evet.  Bir.  (I am acing this part of the interview).

How many bedrooms in your house?  Huh?  Oh yes I know this one – üç.

What is your address in (enter your place of birth or last known residence)?  I wrote this as he shook his head in mirth at my attempted answer.

Each of these questions were mixed up so he would ask me a question about my family and then asked how many bedrooms we had in our house.  My brain was still trying to translate the last answer when the next question was being shot at me.  It was horrendeous.  It was the Inquisition.  In fact that should be the name of this post The Inquisition!

I failed.  Miserably.

The interviewer was basically laughing.  The Russian visa over-stayer with too much makeup was watching me from her cell and she was laughing.  She said something in Turkish (much better than me of course) and the interviewer shushed her.  The other man in the cell opposite was giggling but I feel this was more in reply to the dust bunny in the corner of his cell.

This was a disaster.

The Interviewer called The Turk into the room and said that I would have another interview with the Vali (Governor) in 4 weeks.  Hold on!  The Turk is leaving for Australia in 3 weeks!  Can we have it before he leaves?  No.

Feck My Life!

In the interim my residency visa has now expired and I have a mere 15 days before I have to either renew or leave the country.  This was the second part of my problem.

The residency requirements have changed in the past year.  Most people (including myself) was well aware of the changes but to be honest I did not think I would still be waiting for my citizenship 10 months down the track so did not look into the visa issue.  Now it was pressing and I am swiftly running out of time.  Needed for my residency application was the following – translated copy of passport (jeeze really?), valid health insurance for the length of my residency (1 year approximately 1000TL), five passport photos (told you to keep them handy), proof of address (more difficult than you would think as I do not have any correspondence that gives my address and the Nufus will not include me in their documents until I have a kimlik which of course I cannot get until I get citizenship – the epitome of a vicious circle), copy of your tapu or your residential agreement, bank statement ensuring that you have enough funds to cover your stay and your tax number.  Easy right?  Ummm . . .

I did not even have a Turkish bank account!  So after spending the next 3 days running around and not having a breakdown after the Spanish Inquisition took place today I hope to be applying for a further 12 month residency visa tomorrow.

If they give me any grief there is a small possibility that I will go postal.  Keep an eye out on your local news channel.  If they start talking about an Australian going crazy in Mersin, well, that will be me!

Elektrik ve sürprizler

The good people of Icel are not sharing nicely and now it seems we are running out of electricity.  I am not sure how a city (or in this case a province) runs out of electricity but in order to control the said good people of Icel (and maybe to teach them a lesson in sharing) they have all been put in the naughty corner by the local Electric Company who has decided to switch off the electricity to teach everyone a lesson (although they are calling it maintenance).  

Not only are they switching it off in the middle of summer they are switching it off in the middle of the day so for the next week (with the expected weekly average of 35 degree – that’s 90 degrees for readers in the US – in temperature) the electricity will be turned off for a period of 4 hours each day between the hours of 9 to 5.  You don’t know when.  It will be a surprise. 

elektrik

Speaking of surprises I find that my house is a revolving door.  There is always people coming and going.  Family, friends, neighbours.  It can get on your last nerve when you hear the door bell (which is an annoying tune of Greensleeves) constantly blasting.  Last night we had Kemal’s aunt visit and then a cousin.  Then his sister in law, brother and their two kids showed up.  His elder brother popped up to give me some paperwork (for my fiasco of a residency visa application) and finally . . . it was quiet.  When suddenly that damn doorbell rang again!  Enough!

“Kim o?” (“Who is it?) 

Again.  “Kim o?”

Nothing.  I have had enough.  I put on my shoes and stomp down the stairs to give the visitor the death stare when . . . sürpriz!  A friend and her family visiting from the UK.  Wow!  They are staying in the village with her husband’s family for the next two weeks!  I can honestly say I have never been so happy to see someone.  Not only does it mean I am not the only yabanci in the village it also means there is someone with possibly even less Turkish in the village than me!  Win, win!

They are coming for a BBQ tonight which will be amazing of course but I warned her “Don’t ring the door bell.  Knock on the door!”

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A 60 Second Political Update by Janey

As expected Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now the President-elect of this great country of Turkey picking up 52% of the vote.  Incidentally he had a crushing defeat the area that I live in Mersin.  But the battle for Erdogan has only just started with him now wanting to change the constitution that has stood in place since Ataturk was named Turkey’s first President on 30 May 1920.

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So what does that mean? 

Simply put the role of President in Turkey is seen as more of a ceremonial post but Erdogan now wants to change that role to make it a more executive decision-maker as seen in the US. 

How would he affect the change?

For Erdogan to change the Constitution he is going to need two-thirds of the vote in Parliament and right now I cannot see him getting that many votes although I guess only time will tell.

Accepting his win he spoke about “old” Turkey no doubt putting in first seeds in people’s minds about the need to change the Constitution:

“Today is the day that we initiate a social reconciliation process.  Please leave aside the old discussions, old disputes, old tensions in the old Turkey. “

A nice speech but let’s remember this was the man who attempted (and for a period achieved his intention) of banning Twitter and Youtube (and for some strange reason the website Funny or Die is still blocked damn it!) as well as the recent corruption scandals and anti-Government protests.  Turkey’s economic growth has now peaked and to be honest I think the Government is going to have its work cut out for it over the coming years.

Conservative or Secular?

With Erdogan becoming President and wanting to make executive decisions I see a huge change coming in Turkey’s future.  A more conservative and religious future which will only polarise the more westernized secular Turkish person.  

What happens now?

On 28 August Erdogan will take an oath in front of Parliament in which he promises to abide by Turkey’s principle of secularism.  With his own Islamist leanings and his penchant for restricting rights such as freedom of speech may prove difficult for Erdogan to balance.

The result of the election was never in doubt but whether he will succeed as President and with his reforms still is.  In our little village, however, there was still fun to be had with one enterprising person putting himself up for vote with little placards placed around the village.  If only this vote counted.

I promise my next post will be a little brighter and giving you something more than political dribble. What is that old saying?  Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  Some such nonsense anyway.

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Presidential Election

Today Turkey will be heavily featured in the international news for its historic first Presidential election.  For the first time ordinary people will decide on a post that is normally chosen by parliament.

erdogan

There are three contenders for this position.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas.  Erdogan is, of course, the current Prime Minister of the country and will no doubt win this election today as well.  Why?  Well he is the face that people see every day in newspapers, on television.  The Turk said to me that for him Erdogan is the leader of a cult which has smothered democracy.  A rock star if you will.  He is adored by his followers and his smooth talking can turn even the most hardened head.  Erdogan has allowed religion and politics to mix and that’s not on in The Turk’s mind.  The other two contenders Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas really do not have the power to pull in the numbers that Erdogan has.  Ihsanoglu was previously the leader of the International Islamic Organisation so really isn’t that well known here in Turkey.  Selahattin Demirtas is a young Kurdish hopeful but, as Turkey was at war with the minority Kurdish only a few years ago, the fact that he is running at all is a milestone for the country I think.

So what will happen from here?  Probably nothing.  Erdogan will move into the presidential position, one of his flunkies will move into the position of Prime Minister and life will go on.  His control will continue, his opinions will be flaunted (Israel and foreign interests) sometimes to the detriment of the country but for me as a yabanci living in Turkey I just hope that Turkey continues to be a safe home for me and my family.  We will see.

Market Day

Driving with The Turk and my brother in law today I felt trapped in the truck between the two men.  There is no air con so I feel myself slowly melt into the seat wishing I was pretty much anywhere else than where I was.

It is Saturday and as such we are making a trip to the market to stock up on fruits and vegetables.  I love getting to the fresh markets in Mersin.  I used to go by dolmus (bus) but found that I was purchasing way too much and had difficulty getting everything home.  If I dared catch a taksi I would never hear the end of it so now I go with my brother in law – a much more sensible idea.

DSC00210After making my way through the vegetables I was sweating bullets and pretty sure I was not going to make it through the fruit.  Akan ran off to purchase water for relief but honestly all I needed at this point was a seat and perhaps some chocolate (which always makes things better). 

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I soldiered on as I could see the colourful fruit in the distance calling me (so to speak).  I have always been a pretty simple girl when it comes to fruit after all an apple a day keeps the doctor away but  now I find I have so many options that I cannot decide what to purchase.  Daughter loves fruit so I can go a little crazy and know that everything will be eaten.

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As a child I lived in a house where my mum believed dinner was a meat and two vegetable meal ie sausages, potatoes and beans (usually burnt) or chops, potatoes and peas (usually burnt) with a roast dinner on a Sunday.  Living here I find it difficult to remove myself from what has been stamped in my mind.  In fact now it is rare that we eat meat and between you and me the weight has dropped off me since I slowed down my meat intake!

Arriving home I looked through my stash which was quite a haul including huge bags of kirmizi biber (capsicum) , patates (potatoes), soğan (onion) and domates (tomatoes) as well as şeftali (nectarine), elma (apples), portakal (oranges), üzüm (grapes), havuç (carrots) and was lucky to find some avokado (avocados) as well (quite a rarity).  Finally I grabbed some marul (lettuce) and salatalık (cucumber) to finish things off knowing that we will enjoy lots of salads for the next few days (after all its way too hot to cook).

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Incidentally I spent a total of 15TL (about AU$7.00) and came away with a huge stash.

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Dog Tired

Growing up in a very small family we did not have the social interaction that I have now in Turkey.  There was just me, my brother, my Mum and Dad.  Just the four of us.  On occasion we socialised with our neighbours or with a few close family friends but the constant of social activity just did not exist in my world.  Even as an adult I still lived by that creed.  I would socialise with my family, my neighbours or a few close family friends.  

Now I find myself in what could possibly be described as a nightmare.  A never ending party.  Do not get me wrong – I love a good party.  I love a night out.  I love going to my friend’s house or to a neighbour’s house for dinner but I also need time for me.  Oh and I need to sleep too.

tired

No one ever seems to sleep here.  They are up at the crack of dawn (which suits me as I am usually up very early too – residual from my time working in a law firm) but as I get up early I like to retire early.  I like to watch a show, read a good book and then lights out by 10.  Some would call me “dull”.  I call myself “sensible”.  Your body needs a good 8 hours sleep after all.

With Seker Bayrami in full swing the last few days has been filled with social activity.  I have been to parties, visiting family, visiting friends, visiting cemeteries.  I have been to BBQ’s.  I have been to the beach.  Two restaurants and even a club.  I find myself going out for ice cream each night (but not before midnight) and I have not gone to bed before 3 or 4 am.  

This is not me.  I don’t know who this is but it is definitely not me.  I am shattered.  Dog tired.  I need some quiet time and I look around me at these happy, smiling faces and ask myself, “How on earth do these people keep doing this day after day after day?”  In particular the kids.  None of them go to bed before midnight.  Young or old they all stay up until whenever and run around in the darkness.  Daughter looks like hell.  Honestly.  Her and her cousins stay up all night watching movies, giggling and gossiping.  She just left now on her bike to go to a friend’s house.  She was in tears.  She was Miss Cranky Pants.  She will not admit to being tired but she is.  She stubbornly won’t listen to me or to The Turk and she pushes herself to keep up with everyone but I can see the outcome.  She is going to crash and burn.  Probably soon and I don’t think I want to be around when Daughter has her meltdown.  

I can hear The Turk talking with his sister downstairs.  They want to walk to their Aunt’s house for cay.  Yes!  Go.  Take your time.  Stay all afternoon if you like for I am going to sleep.

Goodnight.

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Festival of Sweets

The month long fast of Ramazan concludes with a three day national holday of Ramazan Bayrami (Arabic – Eid al-Fitr) and is one of the Islamic calendar’s major holidays.  This three day holiday is full of family time, fun and food! 

Ramazan Bayrami is, of course, a religious celebration.  It is a festival to restore oneself after the fasting and growth of Ramazan.  It is also called Seker Bayrami (Festival of Sweets) and the number one thing that I have learnt is to have sweets on hand.  Lots and lots of sweets.  This is to fulfil the tradition of children going around the neighbourhood wishing people a happy bayram.  As a reward they receive a sweet, a lolly or even a coin. seker

We too would visit family members and in particular the older generation.  We kiss their hand and place it on our forehead as is custom to show respect.  We greet them with “Bayrammiz Kutlu”.  We also take time to visit those who are deceased and visit the cemetery as a sign of respect.

As it is a national holiday everyone in the family has been at home which means we have had a lot of BBQ’s and outings as a group.  These few days reminds me of how Christians would celebrate Christmas and I must say that Seker Bayrami is definitely high on my list of excellent fun in Turkey. 

Be aware that during any national holiday most shops, banks and government offices are closed and leading up to Bayram the shopping centres and banks are overflowing with people stocking up on everything they will need over the coming festival days.  There is also a lot of people on the roads with family members travelling great distances to visit loved ones.  Intercity buses are packed and public transport operates on a holiday schedule so you may find yourself waiting some time for a dolmus (I know I did).  

Hey Berat! Why be an asshole?

On Wednesday Daughter and I took Daughter’s favourite cousin Tatlim to Kizkalesi for the day.  It has been a few months since our last visit to my favourite beach but this time was no quiet visit.  The beach was full.  Music was blasting from every doorway.  Restaurants and hotels were at capacity and teenage boys could be found on every street corner chatting up every female who walks past.

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After staking out our space on the packed beach Daughter and Tatlim disappeared into the water leaving me to laze away in the sunshine.  Goodness it was hot.  I did what I do best and that is watching the world go by.  Vendors were everywhere touting their goods including su (water), çay, Nescafe, misir (corn on the cob) and even balik (fish) were all on offer for a price.  There were women strutting in bikinis, old men covered in sand (a strange Turkish tradition) and little kids playing on the water’s edge under a guardian’s careful eye.   This is what living in Turkey is all about.

Tatlim had never been to the Castle on the sea so we hopped the ferry (20TL for 3 people) over to the island.  Daughter and her cousin went off to explore leaving me to thoroughly examine the mosaics (Daughter always knows how to make me happy). 

The only blight on an otherwise perfect day was the excessive amount of new graffiti that has appeared throughout the castle since my last visit.  I had noticed it before but the sheer number of tags (Daughter tells me that this is the correct terminology) throughout the castle is deeply disappointing.  The local belediye (council) is attempting to combat the problem with security guards now roaming throughout the little island but my guess is that they just cannot be everywhere at once plus their time is also spent patching up swimmers who injure themselves on the rocks surrounding the castle plus picking up garbage and cleaning up after people *sigh*.

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The thought of these idiots defacing a beautiful piece of history is repugnant to me.  It’s not just at Kizkalesi though.  I recall seeing tags on the ruins at Soli Pompeiopolis as well.  Mersin (and Turkish) authorities have been trying for a long time to cope with not just damage to antiquities but also the theft of their treasures. 

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So I write this to you Berat or Mehmet, Fatih and any other tagging asshole currently skulking around in my general vicinity.  Firstly, how stupid are you to spraypaint your name?  Dumbass.  Secondly, be thankful that it is not I who catches you because I would give you a whopping and send you home to your parents with your spray can shoved where the sun does not shine.  And no i am not joking!

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