Let’s talk about cheese

My love of cheese is legend – wait for it – ary!  Legendary!  I will eat cheese anytime, anywhere and in any manner.  I will have it for breakfast, as a snack, as a main meal, hot, cold or even as a cake.  Cheese.  Peynir.  Nom, nom nom!

Last week I was called by my mother in law down to her kitchen.  Bubbling on the stove was a huge pot of milk (which I subsequently learned was in fact yogurt).  Once boiled she strained the yogurt (separating the whey) into three parcels wrapped in clean cloth, tied it up and let it hang in the kitchen.  Cheese!  She made cheese!

I returned to her kitchen yesterday afternoon to find her mixing the cheese with red pepper paste (which we had made a few weeks earlier), dried thyme and a butt load of salt.  She rolled the cheese into balls, placed them on a large metal plate and put them in the sun on top of my garage where they will stay until they dry.

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If I ignore the flies that are constantly congregating over the cheese at the moment I am sure it will taste delicious when ready.  This spicy cheese is usually eaten in the morning with ekmek (bread), domates (tomatoes) and a drizzle of yağ (oil).

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My mother in law tells me that she has made this cheese for The Turk as it is his favourite.  Yes the prodigal son will return to her next weekend and she is very excited!  I guess I am excited too.  Daughter is currently indifferent but will probably change her tune when he actually gets here.

It’s hard to get that real good feeling about festivals sometimes

On Sunday Daughter and I were invited to a “festival” to celebrate Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day) which takes place on 29 October of each year. I have been to my fair share of festivals over the years however upon arriving at Mersin Stadium I couldn’t help but think that my sister in law and I had differing views on what a “festival” actually was. 

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After going through security (which included a pat down which I would normally reserve for the bedroom) I looked around at the “festival” that was just beginning as we arrived.  Yes there was a stage but I still had a niggling feeling that this festival was going to be slightly different – but hey, when in Rome.  Perhaps it would just be music (just as the festival gods would have intended).  I looked at the stage for instruments but these were also lacking. 

Oh dear.

Daughter did find fairy floss so all was good in the world of 11 year old girls but for me I started to think that perhaps this was going to be unlike any festival that I had been to before.

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The place was packed.  People were everywhere waving their flags and talking excitedly amongst themselves.  I mean these people were looking forward to whatever was about to happen so we sat down with my sister in law just as the Turkish National Anthem began to play.  Everyone jumped to attention and sang along – even Daughter knew the words having been at school now for nearly two months.

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The first speaker came on stage to speak.  Fair enough.  I mean it IS Turkey and I guess they really do like their speeches.  When his speech ended and the cheering dissipated another gentleman came on and gave another speech.  Then another.  And another.  What type of crazy arse festival is this?  Moreover I looked over at my sister in law and wondered what type of person would call THIS a festival?  This was no festival!  This was a political meeting and it did not look like it was going to end anytime soon.  It was a hot afternoon in the sun and thankfully I dozed off (which was a real skill considering the amount of cheering and flag waving around me).  When Daughter woke me I found out that I had been snoozing happily for about 2 hours and it was time to go home.  Thank goodness! 

I guess attending a political meeting in a Muslim country can be officially ticked off my Bucket List now . . .

Got milk?

Yesterday afternoon I found myself searching fruitlessly for fresh milk or sut as it is known in Turkish.  Milk in Karaduvar is generally sold on the shelf (UHT) and it is rare that I can find a bottle of fresh milk in the cold aisle of the local supermarket so when I saw a display of ice cold bottles of “white gold” my heart skipped a beat.  I swung on my heels towards the milk nearly wiping out a little old Turkish lady who was skulking a little too close to my prize.  I slid to a halt next to evil granny and grabbed 2 bottles exalted knowing that tomorrow morning’s Cornflakes were going to be coated in fresh, full cream dairy milk.

So last night when Daughter asked for milk before bed I ceremoniously poured her a glass and placed it lovingly before her.  “How is it?” I asked with a grin.

“It’s milk mummy,” came the reply with a roll of the eyes.

“No, it’s more than that.  It’s fresh milk.  From the market.  It’s not from the box.  They had fresh milk at the market today!”  I found my voice rising in desperation, rejecting the notion that for Daughter it was merely milk and not the precious commodity that I believed it to be.

She finished her milk and placed the glass in the sink.  “Milk mummy.  Milk”.

With that final remark she hugged me, said goodnight and left the room.

I stared at that empty glass wondering if a punishment would be going overboard.

Sitting down to breakfast this morning I had my Cornflakes and, yes, I covered them with my prized milk.  Daughter entered the kitchen and, spying the Cornflakes box, grabbed a bowl and sat down next to me.  I watched her pour the milk over her flakes.  She turned to me, “Mmm good eh?”

It took all of my will power and motherly goodness to not roll my eyes at her and say, “It’s milk Daughter. Milk”.

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The Truth about Dogs and Cats

As many of you know we couldn’t move to the other side of the world without bringing The Turk’s two favourite family members.  Hurley the dog and his best friend Kedi the cat.  There have been many times that Daughter and I have discussed the fact that The Turk loves his 4 legged family members more than the human variety.

When The Turk originally moved to Sydney he told me that I he hated animals (particularly cats) and that I had to “get rid” of my old boy Cosmo.  I promptly replied that I would be getting rid of him before I got rid of my old boy and over the years he grew somewhat affectionate towards Cosmo which accumulated into real tears when he passed away a few years ago.

Fast forward to now and we have Kedi and Hurley who have flown over in first class luxury and definitely not worse for wear (a big thanks to the staff at petfly.com.au).

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Hurley has settled in really well.  You can see his boisterous enthusiasm each morning knowing that there is so much to do with strange new things to sniff, strange new foods to taste and lots of new friends to meet.  As happy as he is being here I can see by the look on his face – he has an issue that cannot be resolved and that issue is – STRAY CATS!

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My mother in law tends to feed all the stray cats and she has accumulated 8 regulars that live in her yard.  My father in law likes to walk down to the fish market and purchase the left over fish and then brings them back for the strays (yet he, like The Turk, is the first to scream at the cats if they get under his feet).  So Hurley now has 8 cats to chase which initially was fun however the cats have banded together and started a systematic assault on Hurley.  If he doesn’t watch what he is doing, or where he is walking, or sitting, or sniffing, then a cat will throw itself kamikaze style at Hurley and the yelping by the poor dog would no doubt be heard on the other side of the Village!

Obviously a counter assault needs to take place however I do not think Hurley could undertake that by himself.  Even the neighbour’s dog is afraid of these monsters so . . . I think that counter assault is some time away.

And if you are wondering how the cat is?  Well the bloody thing spends his day sleeping wherever he may choose and then comes out at night where he makes as much noise and cause as much chaos as possible.  More than once I contemplated throwing the cat outside and let those crazy Village cats have him but, of course, I could never really do that even when its 4.00 a.m. and he is knocking all the glasses off the kitchen bench.

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The Art of Being Sick

I should have realised that this was coming.  There were warning signs after all.  The hot days had become merely pleasant and the light breeze had become blustery. A couple of nights ago I was woken by a storm that came crashing over Karaduvar and when I awoke the next morning could see the light scattering of snow that announced the change of season.

Yes I should have realised that this was coming but I didn’t . . . and now . . . it’s too late!  I am sick and I am grouchy.  I have lost my voice and I have a runny nose.  My throat hurts and my head aches.  I have chills and they are multiplying (although I am yet to lose control).  I have named this concoction of evil – the Turkish Lurgy.  I have it and I am crabby. The Turkish Lurgy is ravaging my body and I am certain that I will never recover.

“Nasilsin?”  How am I? 

Well frankly I am shit!  I look like shit and I feel like shit! 

Normally in Australia I would fight through the shit (sick).  I would soldier on with Codral and go to work, drop Daughter off at school and get on with life (spreading germs as I go).  Now, in Karaduvar, I have reverted to my alternative personality known by many as Princess Janey.  This particular personality rarely presents herself these days however if she does make an appearance people shake in their boots and run for the hills.  Daughter has lived through Princess Janey before so has sensibly decided to ignore me and went to her cousin’s house.  Hurley is sneaking around for fear of upsetting the person who feeds him and even Kedi has retreated to hiding in my wardrobe while I recuperate.

I am currently in bed surrounded by tissues and propped up by pillows.  The Turk’s mother has taken over my house and is whispering demands to family members who scuttle off to carry out her instructions post haste.  I can hear the sounds of my vacuum humming, my washing machine washing and I can detect (even with my stuffy nose) the distinct smell of chicken soup simmering on my cooktop.  Unfortunately I am finding it increasingly difficult to be gracious surrounded by all the kindness and it is just making Princess Janey even more grumpy. 

I spoke with The Turk on the telephone, “I just want to be left alone”.  “No darling, they do this because they love you.  It is the Turkish way.”

Hmph!  And so I push Princess Janey back into the recess of my mind and I smile at my mother in law when a tray is placed on my lap.  I smile at my sister in law when she hands me some Turkish syrup with instructions to take it 3 times a day.  I smile at everyone who pops in to ask me Nasilsin? and I am thankful that they do not know the word “shit”.

I think I will throw my duvet over my head and hide under here until they leave.

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Why didn’t I realise this was coming?

Sunshine and the Old City

The Festival of Kurban Bayran is finally coming to a close.  It has been a great couple of days visiting with family, lots of scrumptious banquets (I am pretty sure I have put back on the weight that I have lost over the past few weeks) and generally spending quality time with Daughter which has been lacking since we have arrived (mainly because she is zigging left with her cousins and new friends and I am zagging right attending Government offices and chasing down documents).

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So today we decided to travel by dolmus into the city of Mersin itself and spend the day exploring our new surrounds.  I have done this a few times while Daughter has been at school so I proudly asserted that I could find my way around without a map and that I would “NOT” get us lost!

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Mersin is sometimes known as the Pearl of the Mediterranean” (Akdeniz’in İncisi) although I would never call it that.  I have always been overwhelmed by Mersin with its noisy streets feeling somewhat claustrophobic with chaotic traffic and even more chaotic people rushing around to get to where they want to be but today, being the last day of Kurban Bayram, the city gave off a completely new vibe with most of the shops and businesses closed for the 4 day holiday.  I must say that I drank in the peace wandering through the alleys in the old city, passing through secret doors leading to cobbled passageways away from the main caddesi.  Unfortunately for me (and for my pride) it became quite apparent to Daughter that we were completely lost and, despite my objections to the contrary, she laughed loudly before pulling out her mobile and saving the day with Google maps!

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Even though many of the shops were closed the restaurants were all open for business so we stopped for chai before making our way to Ataturk Parki to soak up the sunshine and watch the endless parade of people passing by.  From men fishing, families picnicking and young lovers walking hand in hand it reminded me just a little of Manly Beach on a Sunday morning.  I felt a little bit homesick right then (or maybe I was hungry) so we crossed back near the mosque and found a small tantuni shop open for business with the waiters more than happy to practice their English on us both.

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Content with our day we returned home ready to spend the late afternoon on the couch, maybe dozing with a cat on my lap but as soon as we arrived Daughter was called to visit friends (zig) and I was called down to my mother in laws for cay and to chat about my day (zag).

I could definitely get used to this life!

Kurban Bayraminiz kutlu olsen!

Today is the first day of Kurban Bayrami (or Eid al-Adha) here in Turkey which is one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar and is best likened to Christmas to us heathens.  I actually had to do some research to fully understand Kurban Bayrami and why it is so important to Muslims around the world and why there has been a flurry of activity in my neighbour’s homes over the past few days.

Simply put Kurban means festival or holiday and is used to describe all national or religious holidays here.  There are two major religious holidays here in Turkiye Seker Bayram and the festival that we are celebrating now Kurban Bayram.

Kurban Bayram is a 4 1/2 day festival which takes place 70 days after Ramazan has ended.  It is known as the Festival of Sacrifice referring to the story of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismael at God’s bequest.  Pretty much the same deal as Abraham and Isaac if you are running in Christian circles.

The festival is all about charity and community.  Each family (who can afford to do so) will purchase an animal for the sacrifice and over the past few weeks there has been an abundance of animals to be found grazing on any spare parcel of land around the city.  After the animal has had its throat cut and the life-blood has drained away the meat is split into three – one third to your family, one third to your neighbour’s and one third to the poor.  It’s a lovely idea (well except for the sacrifice that is).  If you cannot afford to purchase an animal you can make a donation to an organization such as Türk Hava Kurumu and have animals slaughtered in your name. The organization will also make sure the food is correctly distributed to the poor.

I tried to find an image to add to my blog that reflected Kurban Bayram but to be honest most of the images made me a little sick and they were way too graphic for my PG brain so perhaps this cartoon will sum it up for you (although do not ask me to translate as the only thing I could understand was “Ipneye bak” which roughly means “Look at the asshole”).

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My first experience of Kurban Bayrami was many years ago when Daughter was quite young.  I remember all the wonderful cooking and the many visitors and parties.  There was a lot of love and a lot of laughter coming from all the homes you visited.  I also remember the sacrifices being made in the local park or in our case the front garden *sigh*.  My brother in law had purchased a sheep and brought it home ready for sacrifice however Daughter saw it and thought it was a pet so placed a large pink bow around its neck.  Here the sheep stayed for two days being fed and loved by Daughter.  On the third day she ran downstairs to feed her “Baa Baa” only to find it had disappeared bringing tears and tantrums by the 3 year old.  I, of course, had to explain that her pet had gone to stay on a friend’s farm although I knew full well that the sheep was currently sitting in the refrigerator upstairs in easy to handle pieces ready for his wife to package for family and friends that evening.  A word of advice for those of you visiting family during Bayram – if you are squeamish don’t open the refrigerator!

So here we are again dressed in our finest clothes (not really), ready to celebrate Kurban Bayrami with The Turk’s family.  I reminded Daughter of “Baa Baa” last night and horrified she informed me that she is not eating any meat for the next week (or possibly ever again!).  Having heard this statement a number of times in the past I merely smiled and nodded in agreement after all I can hear the preparations that are underway for tonight’s feast.  Someone remind me to go for a run tomorrow as I know I am going to eat way too much tonight – and this is just Day 1.  They will need to roll me home after 4 days of this!

During Bayram there will also be a lot of music and dancing in the streets.  From early morning until late evening men will walk through the village banging away on their davul (drum) and playing their ney (wooden flute).  If they come to your door give them a few lira.  Don’t make the same mistake I did during my first Bayram and give 10TL because they will never leave!  Similarly the local children will also visit your door during Bayram and wish you “Iyi Bayramlar” in the hope of getting some sweets so have a bag of sweeties handy for them when they knock.

Be aware that during any national holiday here in Turkey most shops, banks and government offices are closed.  Leading up to Bayrami the shopping centres 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, flights are sold out and public transport operates on a holiday schedule so you may find yourself waiting some time for a dolmus (I know I did).

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Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well

When the decision to move to the Village came I imagined the idea of a blog keeping all my friends up to date on the day to day crazy that is Turkey.  Of course since arriving I have been completely overwhelmed and have not had more than 5 minutes to myself, let alone find the time to write this blog.  So today I resolved to not leave this desk until I wrote at least a little something to let you all know what has ensued over the past few weeks.

Of course procrastination set in.  Rather than writing about our numerous visits to Turkish government offices in an attempt to get a Nüfus Cüzdanı (Turkish Identity card) I was chatting to friends back home on Skype.  Rather than blogging about Daughter’s first days in a Turkish school I was caught playing Candy Crush Saga (rather unceremoniously and with photographic evidence provided by said daughter).  And finally, rather than introducing you to my new life I generally dilly-dallied about by reading articles about procrastination!

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Yes I can safely say that I have spent most of my day doing the absolute opposite of what I had intended. I had thought it would be simple for me to write after all I have done it my entire life.  How many novels have I written (or have I started before putting them aside for other more exciting activities).  I know that many of you have encouraged me to continue to write however sitting down and talking (or blogging) about my life has proved to be an extremely daunting task!  So here I am over analysing my thoughts and rejecting each idea in the process.

It may be that I just have too much that I want to say and that all my thoughts are becoming muddled although if I am honest with myself it is more likely that I feel that my writing is not good enough for public consumption.  Having acknowledged this fact confidence in my ability to write this blog or to write anything is now at an all time low and try as I might I cannot put “pen to paper”.

What I can say to you is that we have arrived in the Village and have settled into our new home.  Having no option but to hit the ground running, we have quickly adjusted into a daily routine of school and village life.  Daughter has made many friends, is surrounded by her family and is, of course, very happy.

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I am enjoying my sea change, muddling along with the language and learning the Turkish way of life.  My mornings are blissfully my own while Daughter is at school and I can usually be found walking through the markets and using my limited Turkish skills to haggle with the vendors.  If that seems too much like hard work I will take My Hurley Dog to the deniz (sea) to watch him run along the sand and chase the wave ripple.  Walking to the sea also means a walk through the fish market and past the harbour which makes the dog quiver with excitement.  The smells and the stray cats are like manna from heaven to a dog!

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The evenings have been warm and we tend to congregate outside my mother in law’s home, eating what can only be described as a Turkish banquet while listening to music (Turkish of course), laughing and talking well into the night.

And, yes, I have gotten down and dirty making chilli paste (which was extraordinarily messy), shovelling what seemed like a never ending mountain of soil in an effort to finish the garden and attempting numerous Turkish recipes (which is more complex than an explanation of the political strife in the Middle East).

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So perhaps I have procrastinated today but I promise you that I will begin a new tomorrow and maybe tell you about my spider bite and subsequent trips to the village hospital (yikes!).

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