It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Looking at my various social media apps I see that Christmas is approaching rapidly.  My friends and acquaintances are starting the Christmas party rounds (my favourite part of Christmas) and are no doubt burning a hole in their credit cards purchasing presents for loved ones.  I am, of course, in a country where Christmas is not celebrated readily and, in fact, will fall on a school day much to Daughter’s horror.

“I am NOT going to school on Christmas Day!” she screeched at The Turk and I.

We both tried to talk to her, to explain the differences in culture and even to explain that her extended family just cannot afford to purchase expensive presents for her and her kin but sometimes you just cannot argue with an 11 year old girl.  To be honest I am a little disappointed with The Turk.  Christmas is an important tradition to both the Daughter and I.  It is a tradition that always brought my small family together and, even though I have moved to his country, I do want a little bit of my traditions to stay with us. 

I spent yesterday on the internet researching the traditions of Turkey at Christmas time.  What can I work with and how can I make this special for Daughter without offending anyone?  Turkey may be a predominantly Muslim country however Christian traditions are well known throughout the country.  What we call a Christmas Tree is known here as a Yilbasi Agaci (New Year Tree) and presents are usually handed over on New Years Eve.  I can definitely work with this tradition.

Noel Baba (Saint Nicholas or as we know him Father Christmas) was a bishop that lived in the 4th Century in a town called Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey).  His reputation of helping others less fortunate by giving gifts became the basis of Father Christmas and also why we hang stockings.  Another tradition that will ensure that Daughter will have a Christmas (or New Year) to remember.

I did not forget the birth of Jesus Christ either.  There is a Catholic Church in the heart of Mersin.  I passed it a few weeks ago and I made a point of inquiring about Christmas sermons.  Yes, they have them and yes, they are in English!  Another tick on my family traditions (even though we am not Catholic).

When packing up our home in Sydney I ensured that all my Christmas decorations were packed and today being 1 December I went on the search in Mersin for a suitable Christmas tree.  The Turk said it would be doubtful that I would find one but as I walked into The Forum I saw Christmas decorations everywhere!  I was thrilled.  Yes!  No doubt the marketing Gods have been hard at work within Turkey as within minutes we had located not just a tree but all sorts of decorations including fake snow, reindeer and a Santa for the roof.  The Turk reeled me in a little knowing full well that we would never have gone to this extent in Australia but I argued that this is my first Christmas away from my family and friends and I want it to be a special one.  Another argument lost so I merely purchased a small tree and some lights and, adding my already large collection of ornaments this afternoon we erected our tree and I must say it looks pretty darn good.

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Perhaps Christmas may not be in the same tradition as it was in Australia (after all it is usually 30 degrees and we hit the beach after lunch) but maybe we can make a few new traditions, some that she can continue when she has grown up and has her own buggerlugs running around.

Incidentally I have heard more Christmas songs today than I ever heard in Sydney. 

Bad Hair Day?

You are not the only one.  Everyone has them.  I have had one practically every day since I have arrived here.  But today is not about me.  It is about my Hurley dog. Hurley is a cross bichon / poodle.  Probably not the best designed dog for the Turkish lifestyle.  Regardless he is part of this family and is given a lot of love and affection from not just us but now his extended family here.

Here is a photo of my Hurley dog on any given day.  Looking a little shaggy, a little dishevelled and a little like he has been lost on a deserted island after a plane crashed and was chased by polar bears.  Wait!  Hold on a minute.  That is Hurley from the TV show Lost (which was who he was named after due to the fact that Daughter watches way too much television).  But they do look remarkably similar do they not?

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Before leaving on his journey to Turkey I had Hurley sent to the kuafor for a tidy up – does he not look fantastic!  A doggy day spa in Australia is a pampering for your doggy baby.  He is shampooed, mani/pedi and if you say you want an inch off all over – that is what you get!

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But in Turkey it is obviously a little bit different.

I had asked The Turkey (typo but now that it is written I think it should stay) to take Hurley for a tidy up as he spends his days running around in the mud on the roads and farms and, of course, we are having building work done so there is concrete and dust and, well, he just downright smelled!  So after some telephone calls The Turk and Hurley went to Mezitli (the “fancy” part of Mersin) for his doggy day spa. Should I have gone?  Perhaps.  Will I go next time?  For sure!

Here is my Hurley dog having a really bad hair day in all its glory.

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My beautiful boy has been butchered!  I should mention that it is getting colder as every day goes by and that of an evening it can get downright chilly.  So Hurley has now taken to jumping into bed with us and grabbing the blanket to make his own “nest” to keep warm.

I might need to buy him a jacket.

Lost in Translation

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Thanks to Cukurbagli’s http://cukurbagli.wordpress.com/ comment below it turns out that I still cannot speak Türkçe properly!  Finger’s crossed I chose the right translation. 

This Meme could not be further from the current predicament that I find myself in.  It is impossible to keep calm and learn Türkçe (no that is not a typo, it is the correct translation for Turkish).  Learning Türkçe is a time-consuming pain in my arse.  I am useless not just with Türkçe but with languages in general.  I can, of course, swear in many languages (I think swearing is the first thing you learn when you arrive in a country) but conversational Türkçe is proving more laborious than my pea sized brain can handle.  The Turk (in this case my husband) has suggested that I take a language course at Mersin University but this will not start for a couple of months so in the meantime I muddle through as best as I can.

It is easy for me to be confused learning this language.  From going to the market to a conversation over the fence I get embarrassed quite regularly with my phonetic blunders.  Funnily enough I do know a lot of singular words and learning the words is quite easy once you have learnt the alphabet.  I find the issue is stringing the words into a sentence.  Why? I think the correct term would be word order.  So rather than saying “where is the cat?”  It is would be, “cat where?” or in Turkish “kedi nerede”.  See my confusion.  It is a little like talking with Yoda –

“Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.”

Daughter has, of course, been going to school so is picking up conversational Türkçe quite easily.  She also has a teacher that comes to our house each evening and spends time with her to help her transition with the language and to assist with her homework.  I am impressed with Daughter’s speed at picking up the language (and a little envious) but even she finds learning Türkçe exhausting.

I laugh now at my heady statement made before I left Avustralya (sorry did you mean Australia?).  Far too often and to far too many people I stated that I could get by without any Türkçe.  It would not be necessary for me to learn the language.  Since arriving in Mersin it has become quite clear just how foolhardy I was.  There are days when I find myself deflated from the simple task of paying the water bill at the Posta (Post Office) but the gratification I feel when I see the recognition on the face of the shopkeeper or my neighbour smile when I ask how they are in their native language . . . well let me just say that it is a high five, fist pumping “boo ya!” moment for Jane!

Waiting for Rain

It was depressingly grey in Karaduvar.  The sky has been overcast with the potential of rain dangerously close.  I have been waiting for the rain to fall for a few weeks now.  The constant of dust is starting to grate on my last nerve.  It has become cold but not winter cold just overcast, kind of eastern bloc cold.  There has been some major flooding in some of the resort areas along the coast however the storms that have been pounding western Turkey have not yet made it to our neck of the woods.

Last night the rain hit – and it hit hard!

I woke at 1.00 to the sound of thunder and the immediate follow up of lightning.  As a kid I used to count the time between the thunder and lightning to see how close the storm was.  “One Mississippi, two Mississippi”.  Last night there was none of that!  It was crash and flash one after the other.  Holy crap!

Holy crap was right – I realised that my mother in laws cheese had been on our roof the last few days to dry in the sun (well in the overcast with glimpses of sunshine).  I ran upstairs to bring the cheese (now a soppy mess) in and in the process was drenched to the skin. 

Fast forward to 5.00 this morning and she was ringing my doorbell about her cheese.  Now I could have thrown it on her but . . . probably better to not do that so with my limited Turkish I yelled down to her, “Peynir, burada, evimi” (Cheese, here, my house).  I would have yelled “go back to sleep” but my Turkish is not that advanced yet.

Come 7.00 this morning and the doorbell rang again.  This time it was the builders (yes I know it is Sunday).  At this point I gave up trying to sleep so Daughter and I took Hurley for a walk.  It would have been better to have put on my swimmers and taken him for a bath but . . . well they already think I am the crazy English lady so I had better not give them any more to talk about.

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And for those of you who were concerned about the cheese it survived the night (a little worse for wear) and is now drying out on my back balcony which appears to be the only place in Karaduvar that did not get soaked by the storm last night.  It should be ready to eat early next week (fingers crossed).

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A morning routine

Breakfast is apparently the most important meal of the day.  I used to skip breakfast a LOT when I lived in Sydney.  Or it was a healthy breakfast of coke and cigarettes – yes really!  Then I found out I was Type 2 Diabetic and I pulled my head in and actually learnt about eating healthy.  I still have a lot to learn but a good breakfast and my early morning jog to the deniz is a good start.

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Now living in the Village breakfast is the first of many delicious (and healthy) meals I eat every day.  I love that everything is organic.  I love that the bread is delicious and costs the equivalent of AUD$0.25 for a loaf.  The eggs are huge and when cracked the yolk is so yellow, scrambling them is a sin!  Cucumber, tomatoes,olives and my mother in law’s cheese (https://janeyinmersin.com/2013/10/) all washed down with a glass of cay to complete our Turkish banquet.  Yesterday we made borek (lightly fried pastry with cheese) and if we make it to the market we also buy Turkish sausage (although I recently read an article in a Turkish newspaper where someone suggested that the sausage could possibly be made from horse meat.  Eeek!).

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Daughter and her cousins have already left for school by 7am so generally it is just us girls (and now, of course, The Turk) sitting in the sunshine enjoying this delicious banquet.  Actually now that The Turk has arrived we also must have corba (soup) for breakfast.  He loves his Spicy Red Lentil Soup (which I made last night) and he believes that a good breakfast is not complete without corba on the table.  The Turk also suggested this morning that I learn to make Tripe Soup but THAT is never going to happen!

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Now if only I could find some bacon . . .

Land Down Under

We all know the song and we sing it loudly when in a pub whether in Oz or anywhere else in the world.  If it comes on, you sing it loudly.  To an Aussie it is an anthem, to some more than Advance Australia Fair has ever been.  Back in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics I had a conversation with a bunch of tourists who were telling me how they were sick and tired of hearing Advance Australia Fair (jealously maybe).  I suggested Khe Sahn (thank you Don Walker and Cold Chisel) but they really couldn’t understand what Barney was saying let along what they unceremoniously called “caterwauling” by the lead singer!  Bastards!  During this conversation it turns out that everybody knows “Land Down Under” so it was agreed that evening at the pub that when an Aussie wins (which we did over and over again) then we would sing Land Down Under for the rest of the night!  I lost my voice!

For those of you who suddenly feel the need to sing I present –

Anyway coming from Australia I am now living in Karaduvar which is NOT the Land Down Under, it is the Land Of Confusion.  This morning my frustration with the language, with the everyday difficulties and with the sheer stupid is doing my head in!

The Turk has been here a week now, just one week.  Certainly not long enough to have made himself comfortable in his new home however within days (nay I mean hours) of arriving he has decided that our balcony is not large enough and he promptly instructed builders to start work to increase its size.  Oh and he also wants the garage changed.  Fuck!

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This morning I find myself making a butt load of cay (as part of your job as the property owner is to supply copious amounts of tea and water and anything else that the builder may desire (including extension cords and in this case a drill!).  I am listening to The Turk shout instructions to anyone who will listen and watch him feel very important.  I look out the window at the electrical wires that are mere metres from my outstretched arm.  With the balcony being widened I have suggested that these should be moved but have been told to “not touch them”.  Huh?

I cannot listen anymore.  I cannot question why they are using a jackhammer on my walkway nor why I keep losing electricity every 10 minutes (which is making this blog page interminably longer than necessary to complete).  I find it is better not to ask these questions.  I flip open my ipad and search through for a particular play list.  “Australia tunes” – there it is!  Glancing down at the list I find what I am looking for, hit play and wait for the chorus so I can sing at the top of my lungs:

“Do you come from a land down under?

Where women glow and men plunder?

Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?

You better run, you better take cover!

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/daily-prompt-confusion/

Juicy

A friend on mine is a great artist and prior to leaving Australia I purchased one of her paintings to hang in my new home here in Mersin.  Her painting is called “Juicy” and I do not think she will mind that I re-post it for my blog today.  You might want to check out her amazing work –

http://www.celartworks.com/

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Last weekend was the Mersin Narenciye Festivali  (Citrus Festival) in Mersin.  It seems that Mersin and its surrounding area is well known for its oranges, lemons, grapefruit, apples and any other type of fruit that you can think of.  This is a very popular weekend here in Mersin and what a great way to promote both industry and tourism to the city and yes this really is a festival not some dodgy political meeting like the one I was dragged to a couple of weeks back.

The seafront was full of orange and yellow stalls, flags and balloons.  There were exhibitions, fruit for the tasting, wares to purchase, music to dance to and even a parade.  This Festival had it all including a warm autumn day.  I saw on the internet that it is pouring rain in Sydney yet here we are in November enjoying gorgeous weather.  Nice one.

The Turk has promised me that it will get cold and that I will be whinging “like a bitch” (his words) but right now I will enjoy myself while I can.

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Meet the In-Laws

I am sitting on my balcony listening to the sounds of Karaduvar.  Below me the most prominent sound is that of my in law’s shouting at the top of their lungs.  I wander downstairs to see what today’s issue could be only to find them sitting happily in the sunshine warming their old bones. 

My mother in law, Refika calls me over, “Gel. Otur”.  Come and sit.  I sit by them and pour a glass of cay (which, to their constant horror, I put milk in).  It is quite nice in the sun but you can feel that winter is not far away and it was bloody cold this morning when I took Hurley for a walk.  I wonder if Refika invited me over to put an end to their squabble.  No, it was definitely continuing with me right beside them.  I watched them argue back and forth and although I am no expert in the Turkish language I quickly realise that the argument was about who ate the last yumurta (egg). 

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The Turk’s parents have been married for over 50 years.  Happily?  I just could not tell you, they appear resigned to the fact that they are married but I feel the same way about The Turk some days.  I look at my mother in law’s face.  Deep wrinkles may line her face and cloudy eyes are tired but she still smiles despite her illnesses.  Her scarred and callused hands tell me that she has worked very hard over her years and for probably little reward.  Hursit on the other hand is looking jolly and starts talking animatedly (and loudly due to his deafness) to me despite the fact that I can understand little of what he is saying.  Now retired his day is a repeat of the day before – a trip to the Jokey Club to place a bet on a horse, followed by long (an no doubt philosophical) debates with his friends and neighbours at the local tea house before returning home to his dinner which has been prepared by Refikia before removing himself to watch either a horse race or the news on television.  If his horse has won he will sing the night away “iyi aksamla” which is no doubt his favourite song.  Give him a few raki’s and you will hear that song until dawn!

Watching Refika and Hurşit happily argue has made me realise that The Turk and I are exactly the same!  Every conversation that we have is basically an argument (which is what happens when you mix a Turkish man with an Italian woman) and I am the first to say that I would divorce him in a heartbeat to anyone who will listen!  Does this mean that The Turk married his mother? 

Oh dear!!

The Prodigal Son

The Turk arrived home on Sunday to much fanfare and joy (well not by me but by his family).  The women folk were up at the crack of dawn to prepare for the celebration by making all of The Turk’s favourite foods including Icel Kofte, Lamachun (Turkish pizza) and lots of salads.  I kept out of it for two reasons – one, I am a terrible chef and two, I had 8 weeks’ worth of cleaning to get done in a day!  Anyone who knows me knows that I do not clean.  I watch, I hire or I think about it but the act of cleaning never actually eventuates and in the end someone else does it for me however here I have put in a pretty good effort.  I would not eat off the floor but you would not get a foot fungus in my shower that’s for sure.  Unfortunately The Turk likes his home clean so I had the day to knuckle down and get our house ship shape and ready for his arrival.

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An hour into the clean The Turk telephoned from Istanbul, “Good news, I’m hopping on a flight now.  Pick me up in an hour”.  WTF???? It was supposed to be 7.00 tonight!!  I gave up vacuuming as I would never get it finished in time and ran downstairs to let the rest of the family know.  I had to laugh when I told The Turk’s mother as the frenzied rushing became a little crazed to finish the preparations for his arrival.  I left with Hurley in tow to drive to Adana (about an hour from home) to collect The Turk stopping enroute at Metro (Costco equivalent) to buy some alcohol for the celebration.

Changing the subject for a moment the wine in Turkey is certainly not to an Aussie standard which is a shame but there are a few nice drops (although they are quite expensive due to taxes put on them by the Government).  I am yet to find an equivalent to a nice Cabernet Sauvignon but The Turk is relatively happy with the 14TL (AU$7.00) red (which is even cheaper if brought in bulk at Metro).  If any readers can give me the name of a nice Cab Sav I would forever be in your debt!

After our alcohol run we did not even have to park at the airport as waiting at the arrivals door was The Turk – definitely early and he is usually never early for anything!  He looked tired, haggard in fact!  His flight was Sydney – Singapore – London – Istanbul – Adana.  35 hours in total!  Yes there was a more direct route but he wanted the cheapest possible flight and, well, you get what you pay for after all.

So after 36 hours The Turk finally arrived home to a night of celebration.  The food here may not be presented beautifully, in fact it is on an old table with mismatched chairs and newspaper for a table cloth, but I swear I have never tasted a better kofte anywhere nor has anyone been able to beat The Turk’s mother’s lamachun.  Of course the salads are great as they are made with ingredients grown right here (and without all the chemicals).  So much work goes into making this meal but it is done with laughter and and love.  I truly believe that you can taste it in the food.

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Incidentally The Turk did question whether I knew how to use the vacuum cleaner.  I told him to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.  He just laughed.

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Welcome home.

The Week That Was

There were still two things missing in our home in Mersin.  One was The Turk but he was arriving on Pazar (Sunday).  The other was our cargo and I was starting to think that it was never going to arrive.  The belief that it is available has been hanging in the air since the first week of October but between then and now we have had public holidays, a mountain load of paperwork and numerous other issues with customs so when my brother in law called me to come downstairs with my passport early on Monday morning, well, frankly I thought it was going to be another wasted day before I would return home angry and empty handed.

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Arriving at the Free Trade Zone (Mersin Harbour) to collect the cargo my brother in law was advised that I was unable to enter the area (presumably because I do not have a penis) so I waited outside the gate in a small metal cage a-la Berlin Wall pre-1989 while my brother in law disappeared behind the fence (the promised land?) to collect the cargo on my behalf.   The hot Turkish sun beat down on my brow . . . wait really?  Yes really!  I sat in this cell for two hours in the sun (the security guards did thoughtfully bring me a chair) waiting for my brother in law to return but when he did it was with a huge smile on his face.  We had our cargo!  The back of his truck was filled with boxes and suddenly my dehydration dissipated – we had our cargo!

The hard part was over – or so I thought.

I stared at the boxes on Monday afternoon but perhaps exhaustion (and heat stroke) got the better of me and I just could not face the daunting task of unpacking.  I would get it done on Tuesday.

Tuesday came a little too quickly and I felt my nemesis better known as procrastination tapping on my shoulder.  *Sigh*

Wednesday.  I opened the boxes – I know I am running out of time and The Turk will be here soon.  I have got to put everything away today!  My sister in law Songul offered to come and help me but I chased her out the door.  No, this is my job and I will get it done today!

I do not want to talk about Thursday.

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Today is Friday and Songul just could not take any more!  She and her sisters arrived and within an hour all 26 boxes were unpacked to the sounds of laughter and chatter.  It seems all I needed to get this done was a little motivation and a little help from my friends.  Eğer bayanlar teşekkür ederim (thank you ladies).

My kitchen cupboards are full.  Daughter has her clothes and games.  Hurley has his bed and Kedi is playing in the boxes.  So now the only thing missing is The Turk.

Bring on Sunday!!!