Failing Religion

It is now school holidays in Turkey which means that Daughter has survived her first term in the Turkish village school.  She has survived classes where no one speaks her language.  She has navigated the social minefields of school life and made friends with kids and teachers alike.  She has gotten in trouble for talking in class, picked a fight to protect a friend and even got called into the principal’s office on one occasion.  She has also received her first Ilkogretim Orgenci Karnesi.  Her Elementary Student Report Card.

How did Daughter do?

You have probably already guessed that I am not only of those mother’s who brag about how wonderful and talented and amazing their child is.  I would rather call a spade a spade.  I will merely say that for a kid who four months ago was coasting along in a suburban school in Sydney she did pretty well.  She got a Certificate for passing the term (which is a good thing apparently).  She received 4’s and 5’s for most subjects (highest is a 5).  She got a 4 in Turkce which is pretty good considering it is not her first language.  The only subject she got a “2” in is Din Kulturu ve anlak bilgisi also known as “Religion”.

Long ago I made the decision to allow Daughter to choose her own religion when she was old enough to make an informed determination.  It is not to me as the parent to force something as important as spirituality on my child.  I always gave her the information when requested.  I took her to Sunday school classes at our local church, arranged for her to meet other Muslim families in our area and even enrolled her in Buddhism classes at Bondi.  We often attended the Hari Krishna Centre at North Sydney (best vegetarian samosa’s around) and I even explained the religion of Jedism (alright so perhaps I made her watch Star Wars with me).  I gave her the tools to learn about spirituality in her own way – and she has.  This is why a double lesson of Din must send her closer to the edge and also explains why she hates her Friday’s so much.

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I have, however, made one suggestion to her –

“Please do not argue with the Din Ogretmeni (Religion Teacher) again about Islam as this causes him to go red in the face and gesticulate in a manner that made your father laugh and made me flinch.  It also means that we do not need to make another trip up to the Principal’s Office on your behalf.  Thank you.”

Destination Anywhere . . .

Daughter and I have been discussing where we want to visit over the coming months.  I have discussed the possibility of road trip in Turkey during the summer but have also given her the option of picking somewhere outside of Turkey to visit – after all we have 3 months of vacation to fill.

Having lived in Australia for, well, forever, I have often called it the ass end of the world.  Not because the people are asses (they are not) or does it in any way resemble an ass (it does not).  Australia is the most beautiful country in the world.  No 1.  Best place ever!  I merely refer to the globe and where Australia is located on said globe.  Living in the ass end of the world means it doesn’t matter where you want to go you have to get on a plane and travel for a bloody long time to go anywhere (except for New Zealand and once you’ve done that shit you do not want to do it again).*

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Now that we have the prospect of living on Europe’s doorstep the possibilities are endless.  London is on the list (to visit my one of my oldest friends that abandoned us some years ago to live with the Poms), Greece is right next door and Italy is a mere 2 hours away.  “Where do you want to go?”

“Port Stephens.”

Port Stephens!

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Please don’t get me wrong.  I have been to Port Stephens many times over the years.  It is a lovely spot.  There is whale and dolphin watching, some great restaurants and a nice little spot for a getaway from Sydney.  A great vacation spot – but we are living in Turkey!

I had to ask her why Port Stephens?

“I have never been.”

Kids!

I have suggested that we limit the flight time to 4 hours in any direction (which I think is more than generous) and told her to get on the internet and do some research (this is always the way we do things when preparing for a holiday).  It is Daughter’s job to pick a destination to be approved by us adults and, if approved, she then needs to provide us with 5 interesting things to do in that city (and 3 of these things must be free).

She’s been in her room for a couple of hours now but just popped her head out the door –

“Would you be prepared to sleep in a hotel made entirely of ice?”

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*with apologies to my sister in law and to any other kiwi’s out there.  Love New Zealand.  Trekked it many years ago.  Beautiful place.  Great sheep.  Little cold for my liking but I prefer it hot (as we all know).  Actually I should also apologise to the English as I called them poms.  I copped a backlash a couple of weeks back on the blogosphere for enjoying a giggle written by someone about English tourists.  I will not make that mistake again.

Quince, Quinces or Quinci?

Those that know me know that I am no chef.  Never have been.  Never will be.  Sure I cook.  It is a necessity when you have a family or even when you do not have a family.  At some stage in your life everyone needs to cook.  I have lots of recipe books here, yes I brought them all over from Australia, but when I look at the photos and read the instructions in these books I scratch my head, get a very confused look on my face, throw my hands up in the air and yell “Fuck it”.

Since we arrived in Mersin I relied heavily on my mother in law for our meals.  If not her then my sister in law would always have something that I could incorporate into whatever I was attempting to cook.  Now I find it is a necessity again and I need to learn and learn fast.

Each afternoon my father in law will knock on my door and hand me some fruit that he has bought at the market (or perhaps steals from a neighbouring tree).  Fresh, crisp elma (apple), uzum (grapes) straight of the vine, muz (banana) or whatever other fruit happens to be in season at the time.  A couple of days ago he dropped in and handed me some avya.  He kept repeating to me “Avya, avya.  Good, good.” I had no idea what they were and even less idea what I was to do with them.  He looked so impressed with himself that I searched my limited Turkish for the right response, “Ben avya seviyorum.”  Of course I love avya despite not knowing what it was.

After some sleuthing I find that these strange little fruit are quince.  I have a bag of quince, quinces or quini.  What would the plural of quince be? Not sure.  Searching the internet I found a relatively simple recipe for poaching quince, quinces or quinci –  Avya Tatlisi.

I will start by saying that quince, quinces or quini are hard to the touch.  Unpleasant.  Peeled the fruit is coarse.  Unpleasant.  And believe me do not eat it uncooked.  Blugh!

Here is my final product –

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To be honest it didn’t taste that bad.  Very sweet, in fact a little too sweet for my palate.  Although originally a white fruit they slowly went pembe (pink) while simmering on the stove.  The sugar caramelised nicely and I added a vanilla bean for taste (although I do not think it needed it on reflection) and I did not burn them on the bottom.  I must say they may not look as appetising as the professionally made quince, quinces or quini but they were pretty moreish.  Daughter was not a fan but her cousins tuckered in and even asked for more.

If you are interested in attempting the recipe (after all if I can do it anyone can) have a look here.

Hopefully my father in law brings me apples next time.  I know what to do with them.

Incidentally the correct term for more than one quince is in fact quinces.  Mystery solved.

Gunaydin

I pretty much track the same steps every day when I leave the house in the morning.  First is a walk with My Hurley Dog.  I go wherever he chooses – he is in control of the walk.  The one certain on our early morning walk is that we stop for fresh bread.  One loaf for The Turk and I and the other for his father.  After I drop off the bread at home My Hurley Dog and I make our way down to the deniz (sea) for a pleasant stroll.

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I wave and call “Gunaydin” to those I know as we wander down towards the water.   I occasionally stop to have a chat (with my limited Turkish) if anyone calls me over.  As I walk down the main road I can see Daughter’s school in the distance.  She is no doubt daydreaming at her desk, pretending to learn but most likely thinking of Calum Hood or chatting with her friends.

I always stop by the vegetable market to have a quick look.  Always fresh and always delicious I might make a quick purchase before dodging may way through the fish markets.  Although the Village is predominantly a farming community it also has a large harbour and fishing industry and many of the restaurants in Mersin purchase their fish from these markets.  You need to be there early though – really early.  By the time I get there a little after 7:30 most of the best fish has already been sold leaving the lesser quality for us slowpokes.

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When I finally arrive at the waterfront I always pause for a moment.  With the early morning sun shining on the water it is a sight to behold.  No matter how crappy I feel or how down I am at the world in general looking at this scene always perks me right up.  Gorgeous water, gorgeous sunrise – unfortunately, however, the beachfront itself is not as attractive to the eye.  It is a garbage dump.

The Village is the closest beach area to the city of Mersin itself.  It’s potential as a destination for day visits by the “city dwellers”, particularly in summer.  I recently read that the Council is looking into rezoning the area for tourism but that is, I imagine, some years away.  It is disappointing that the locals do not realise the little gem that they have here under their noses and the literal goldmine that they are sitting on.

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In the meantime My Hurley Dog and I love our morning walks in the sunshine – I say sunshine as I am still waiting for rain.  The rain count since we arrived still stands at only 3 times.  Yes that’s right 3 times in 132 days although it is little a little overcast today so we might get something.  Finger’s crossed.  Maybe.

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The First Date (that wasn’t a date)

When we started packing up all of our belongings for our move to Turkey it became quite clear that The Turk is a bit of a hoarder.  The most unnecessary crap was placed in boxes and sent by cargo to Turkey with the idea that it would be useful to us when we arrived.

Fast forward six months and The Turk who is hasta (sick) at the moment has become a general pain in my arse because he is sitting at home and “helping”.  On a good day The Turk cannot sit still.  He always needs to be active and doing things.  This is not a bad thing and over the years I have trained him to “do” the washing or “do” the cleaning but when he is hasta he can be a right royal pain in my arse.  This morning he decided that he was tired of the boxes (that are hidden from the naked eye under the bed) and they had to be cleared away immediately.  Now!  Right now!

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One of the boxes contained a heap of old photos.  Most of these were of my travels but one photo that he pulled out was in a dented old frame.  The glass was missing and the photo itself was damaged and, for some inexplicable reason, has been cut up and pasted back together.  So why is this photo important?  It is, in fact, the very first photo of The Turk (introduced to me as Al Pacino – his moniker) and I together along with his friends “Antonio Banderas” and “Maradona” as well as my girlfriend Ris.

This photo was taken back in September 2000 at Artemis Hotel in Bodrum.  It our first night out – not a date (well I knew it was not a date but perhaps he did not).  It was not a successful night.  In fact it was ghastly with The Turk becoming jealous of another man’s attentions towards me and Ris and I deciding that we were going to escape then and there.  I remember us running through the streets back to our hotel fearful that this strange Turk was going to follow us.  We never went back to visit The Turk after that less than stellar evening and left Turkey happy with the knowledge that I would never have to see “Al Pacino” again.

I returned to Australia and Ris returned to London but whenever we spoke we would laugh about that night.  Nine months later I returned to Bodrum with a group of friends to spend a month with Ris.  On our first night we hit the bars on the Bodrum beachfront ready for a huge night however jet lag got the better of me and, after a few cocktails, I decided to make my way back to the hotel to sleep it off.  I was tottering down the street when suddenly The Turk was standing in front of me.  Yikes!

“Hey I remember you,” I blabbed.  “It’s Al Pacino.”

“Yes I remember you too Janey.  You left me stranded on the street with a broken heart,” came his reply.  Whatever!

The rest, my friends, is history.

Picking up the photograph The Turk walked into the bedroom and placed it on his bedside table.  “I can now remember this night forever”.

Jeeze.

Rise and Shine

School in Turkey is completely different to school in Australia.  In Australia school starts at the most civilised hour of 9 am and finishes at the very acceptable hour of 3 pm.  This allows you (and your brood) a decent sleep and leaving enough time for afternoon activities.  Here in Turkey Daughter starts school at the most uncivilised hour of 7 am and finishes at the completely unacceptable 12 noon.  This means I am dealing with a complete grump in the morning and, as for me, I can never get everything done in the few hours allocated as child free time.

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There are advantages to a Turkish education in Daughter’s mind.  Yes she loves the fact that she is at school for one hour less here in Turkey.  She now has a butt load of free time in the afternoon to run amok with her friends.  Another bonus in Daughter’s mind is the fact that each lesson seems to run for approximately 20 minutes with a 10 minute break for toilet or canteen visits (although the toilets are squat toilets and never seem to have any toilet paper which is more horrific to an 11 year old than anything she has gone through so far).

Returning to my point – Daughter has to get up at 5.40 am.  This ridiculously early start is required to give her enough time to get ready, whinge, drink a coffee(!), whinge, eat breakfast and whinge some more before her servis comes to collect her at 6.35 am.   The reality is that she whinges – a lot – in the morning.

I have tried lots of different tactics to make the morning starts a little easier on everyone.

Get her to bed early.  This is usually difficult as Turkey seems to be a country of night time frivolities.  Lots of visitors, loads of food, occasional dancing and music and Daughter being Daughter will not miss out on a party, even if she is the only one at the party.

Blackmail (also called Negotiation)

You’ve all done it – don’t lie.

Responsibility

I gave the responsibility to Daughter.  Brought her an alarm clock.  Set it and did not get out of bed to help her get ready for school.  This option failed dismally as she missed her servis three days in a row and in fact missed school twice!

H-e-e-l-l-l-p-p-p-p!

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I put it to you – how do you get your child up for school when it is pitch black outside.  How do you motivate them enough to get ready for school when they hate you or hate life or hate the world.  And finally, how do you get your child to stop hating you or hating life or hating the world!

Realisation

I came to the realisation yesterday that I have been excessively blogging as a means of ignoring my feelings.  The time that I have spent sitting at the computer (mid-morning after breakfast and prior to Daughter returning home from school) is the time that I would usually sit with my mother in law in the sunshine enjoying a cup of cay.  So here I am trying to fill this void with typing (as I am doing right now at 10.29 am).

So today I am going to walk away from the computer and perhaps have a little time to examine my feelings.  I understand the finalisation of death although I still wait for Refika to call me downstairs.  I think it is more that I loved my mother in law as an akadas (friend) as well as a motherly figure (and the fact that I had watched her smack The Turk with a stick when he pissed her off).  Her and her little gaggle of friends welcomed me into their lives and she accepted me as her daughter not her daughter in law.  Sure I was a yabanci (foreigner) but Refika always included me in her day whether it was teaching me to cook the Turkish way, visiting her sisters for a good gossip session or merely watching her favourite shows on television.

Looking out my window I can see it is yet another beautiful, sunny day in Karaduvar.  Time to close the laptop and get out there.  Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy my life.

Until next time.

My Kedi Cat

My Kedi Cat has lived a few lives since she came into this world.  Her first life was that of a stray.  Part feral, she and her mother lived in a dumpster bin behind a warehouse complex.  Caught they were taken to the Animal Welfare League which was where she began her second life when Daughter and I adopted her New Year’s Eve 2011.  She was a nasty little blighter.  She hated me with a passion.  Daughter and The Turk were accepted as her humans but me – nope – she would bite, scratch, hiss and attack me by throwing herself from the vestibule when I passed by.  I did not call her by her name Kedi (which is Turkish for cat) I called her “that bloody cat that hates me” or “that black cat that hates me” if Daughter was within earshot.  “TBC” for short.

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When we discussed moving to Turkey and taking our fur-friends I have to be honest, I did not want to bring TBC.  There are enough cats in Turkey do we really need to bring one with us?  I argued, I begged, I pleaded but to no avail.  Both The Turk and Daughter (and apparently My Hurley Dog) wanted TBC to come to Turkey too.  So putting aside the extra cost of bringing TBC to Turkey I realised that this particular cat never spends any time indoors.  In fact after we adopted her it only took her a few days before she escaped and lived in the backyard.  This of course is a new problem as we could not let her out of our home in Turkey as those Karaduvar “Kamikazi” cats (have a read about these terrors here or here)  will no doubt kill her on sight.  So what do we do?

You may recall when The Turk arrived in Mersin he immediately instructed builders to extend our balcony and it now wraps its way around the front of our apartment.  It is a good size, certainly not huge, but enough to keep My Hurley Dog and TBC out of trouble and to give them some outdoor area.  It is still not finished yet (we are now onto our second builder – don’t ask) but both My Hurley Dog and TBC spend time out there already in the sunshine, the dog helping the builders and the cat stalking birds and watching the neighbourhood cats.

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I must say that TBC has moved into her third life quite well.  I worried that she would try and escape or suicide off the balcony, but no, she is happy to sit in the sunshine or in front of the heater.  After her initial jetlag (she spent the first two weeks awake all night and sleeping all day) she has now acclimatised and other than a few crazed moments at 3am she is generally quite happy to sleep on my bed or sit with me, as she is doing right now, on my desk as I type my blog or check my emails.

That bloody cat that hates me has morphed into My Kedi Cat that I love.  My mother in law called her a princess and she was rarely wrong about anything.  Yes I agree.  A princess.

Birthday Lunch

Daughter took me out for my belated birthday lunch today.  We left the Village behind us, passed by the historical (and chaotic) Carsi and travelled west to the more European inspired area of Mersin for lunch at the new Marina.

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Arriving at the Marina is akin to arriving back in Sydney and going for a day at Darling Harbour.  Lots of sunshine, tourists, designer shops and European-styled restaurants.  Daughter picked a great looking restaurant that had good old fashioned burgers and, although it was empty when we arrived, 20 minutes into our lunch we were surrounded by a bus load of German tourists who appeared to be drinking their way around Turkey.  They were travelling from Alanya and were expecting to continue their historical tour of Turkey by visiting Tarsus this afternoon.  Honestly I cannot imagine how they will fare wandering around all the historical sites that Tarsus has to offer – I should watch the Haber (news) this evening to see if there was a group of German tourists arrested for disturbing the peace.  They were a very rowdy bunch but Daughter thought they were excellent value and befriended them.  She was having an awesome time.  She taught them some Turkish swear words and they reciprocated by teaching her some not so appropriate German.  It’s great to have a multi-lingual child!

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After lunch we spent time in the sunshine just wandering along the waterfront.  It was such a lovely afternoon – we stopped for cay at a tea house, Daughter befriended some puppies (and tried to convince me to take one home) and we brought freshly roasted chestnuts to nibble on while watching old men fishing from the wharf.  As the sun began to set on my birthday day some ominous looking clouds appeared on the horizon.  Rain?  Nah!  But we better find a dolmus just in case.

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Incidentally it has only rained four times in Mersin since September.  That’s over 120 days of sunshine.  I get quite excited when I see the clouds and the prospect of rain but it just never eventuates.  I know that Australia is sweltering in 50 degree heat and America is suffering with their “polar vortex” but I must say that winter in Mersin is extremely pleasant.  So lucky!

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No Touching Please – I’m Australian

I have never been a big fan over overfamiliarity.  No unnecessary hugging or kissing or . . . look just get out of my dance space okay?

Here in Turkey it is in fact unusual to not be overly familiar with people.  A “gunaydin” (“Good morning”) is usually accompanied with a kiss on both cheeks and a hug for good measure.  The first time it happened I stiffened like a board but now I have come to accept (albeit reluctantly) that friends or strangers alike they will come at you whether you want them to or not.

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It is also absolutely acceptable to give a kiss or a hug to a stranger’s child, which would not only be be unheard of back in Australia., you would probably be arrested for it!

The first time I took Daughter to Turkey she was 10 weeks old.  The Turk did not yet have a visa and so I was taking her to meet her father.  It was a 27 hour flight from whoa to go – Sydney/Bangkok/Istanbul/Bodrum.  By the time I reached Istanbul I was haggard.  Travelling as a single mother was extremely challenging particularly with the precious little package that I had with me.  Arriving in Istanbul I had a 4 hour wait for my connection to Bodrum.  I sat with Daughter in my arms on a chair and promptly passed out from exhaustion.  When I awoke Daughter was no longer in my arms.  She had been kidnapped by the elderly Turkish lady sitting next to me who kept her for the whole flight and at one point I wondered if she was ever going to give her back.  Luckily The Turk was waiting and she reluctantly handed Daughter over to him but not before she kissed, cuddled and thoroughly examined her.

Daughter also has her own issue with the overfamiliarity.  It seems that not only do her friends in the village school greet each other every morning with kisses and hugs it is also not unusual for a teacher to hug or kiss a student – certainly not what this Aussie kid is used to and it made me say “Yikes” when I found out!

Over the past week I have probably kissed and hugged over 1000 people which, putting aside my non-touching issues also brings up my germaphobe issues.  People – keep your hands and lips to yourself.  It’s the flu season.  I have run out of my Dettol hand sanitizer and I am now having a general melt down.  The Turk is sick, Daughter sounds like she is hocking up a lung and I am running around with my Eucalyptus spray wiping down every hard surface that they touch.